Porn star in alleged Trump affair may face over $26m in damages

Ms Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, posing for pictures at the end of a striptease show in Long Island, New York, last month.
Ms Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, posing for pictures at the end of a striptease show in Long Island, New York, last month.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Porn star Stormy Daniels may face more than US$20 million (S$26.3 million) in damages for violating a "hush agreement" that requires her to remain silent about an affair she alleges she had with US President Donald Trump in 2006 and 2007.

The potential damages against Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, were disclosed last Friday in a filing in federal court in Los Angeles by Essential Consultants LLC, an entity that was set up by Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Mr Michael Cohen, in 2016 to pay her US$130,000 in exchange for her silence.

The company moved a lawsuit, filed by Ms Clifford two weeks ago in California state court against Mr Trump, to federal court, saying that neither Ms Clifford, Mr Trump nor the LLC are California residents and the amount of damages exceeds the US$75,000 limit for a case to proceed in state court. Mr Trump supports the transfer of the case between courts, according to Essential Consultants' filing.

"It could be a strategic move to intimidate them," said lawyer Joseph Rothberg. "They may be saying, 'We're not going to make it easy for you.'" Federal judges, who are appointed by the President, are perceived as somewhat more conservative than California state court judges, who are elected, according to Mr Rothberg, who is not involved in the case. On top of that, the anti-Trump sentiment in California may have played a role in the decision, Mr Rothberg said.

Ms Clifford faces US$1 million in damages for each violation of the agreement, according to Friday's filing. Essential Consultants said it will file a request at the earliest opportunity to force Ms Clifford to arbitrate the case privately rather than to litigate it in open court.

She sued on March 6 to nullify the confidentiality agreement she said she struck with Mr Cohen in October 2016, before the presidential election, to keep quiet about the alleged affair. She argues that the document is invalid because Mr Trump did not sign it, even though she took the US$130,000 offered in exchange for her silence.

Meanwhile, her lawyer Michael Avenatti told CNN that she was physically threatened and warned to remain silent about her relationship with Mr Trump. Mr Avenatti would not provide details about the threat but said his client would elaborate on it during a CBS 60 Minutes interview broadcast on March 25.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 18, 2018, with the headline 'Porn star in alleged Trump affair may face over $26m in damages'. Print Edition | Subscribe