Stephanie Clifford, now better known as adult film star Stormy Daniels, is ready to give up the $130,000 paid to her by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in order to be able to share her story, New York Daily News reports. This revelation comes through her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who filed a complaint this week claiming that the Non-Disclosure Agreement between Stormy and then-candidate Donald Trump is unenforceable because Trump never signed it.
The Stormy Daniels saga has its roots in 2006, when Stormy and Trump began an intimate relationship which continued “well into” the year 2007, Avenatti’s complaint alleges. After the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape which showed Trump making crude comments that many say verged on admitting sexual assault, several women came out with stories about Trump’s inappropriate conduct towards them. Lawyer and “fixer” for Donald Trump Michael Cohen got wind that Stormy was thinking of going public with her story about Trump, so he reportedly began an aggressive effort to silence Stormy and keep her from sharing her story, eventually culminating in a large cash settlement to buy the adult film actress’ silence. So strong was Cohen’s pressure that Stormy alleges that she was persuaded to lie in public about her relationship with Trump.
Out of Cohen’s efforts came the non-disclosure agreement or “Hush Agreement” as it is called throughout Stormy’s complaint. From this agreement, three characters were born: first, Essential Consultants, the LLC that Trump’s lawyer created, presumably to disguise the source of the money being paid to Stormy Daniels. Then, there were the aliases Peggy Peterson and David Denison for Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump respectively. The Hush Agreement promulgated, among other things, that neither party would be allowed to discuss the nature of the agreement publicly, that Stormy would hand over text messages and images relating to Donald Trump, and in exchange for this silence, Essential Consultants would pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels.
Stormy’s complaint alleges that since Daniel Denison, or Donald Trump, never signed the document, the agreement was not binding and thus she should be released from it. Stormy’s lawyer states that the agreement mandated that all parties in the agreement must sign in order for it to be enforceable. Despite this, Stormy still took the money and acted as if the agreement existed. This presents a problem, according to former Trump divorce lawyer Jay Goldberg.
“A study of the jury instructions says even though the signature was not there, if she took the money and acted in a way to waive his signature because she took the money, she can’t have it both ways.” Golberg told CNN host Don Lemon during an interview last Thursday. “She can’t take the money and claim the agreement was invalid.”
This seems to suggest that there is a chance for the agreement to be valid despite the lack of Donald Trump’s signature. However, the story gets more complicated if Stormy decides to give back the money. When pressed by Don Lemon, Goldberg stated that Stormy “wouldn’t give back the money,” yet her lawyer has made it clear that she is willing to do so.
There might be a way for Stormy to avoid paying back any of the money at all, however. Stormy’s complaint alleges that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen broke the Hush Agreement last February when he admitted to the press that he, not Trump, was the one who paid the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels for the NDA. This, in Avenatti’s view, effectively releases both parties from the Hush Agreement as it was an impermissible disclosure. Though if Stormy is found to have breached the contract, the Liquidated Damages provision of the contract might apply, which states that if Stormy discloses information protected by the agreement, she would have to pay $1 million for each instance she breached it. While many have commented that a court would never uphold such an unconscionable amount, Avenatti says that at least 10 people have offered to pay $1 million to Stormy so that she can share her story.
One thing remains to be seen, however: will American voters be moved by this Stormy-Trump saga, or will it be as inconsequential as the Access Hollywood tapes during the election?