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The attorney for Donald Trump who claims to have personally paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 as part of a settlement agreement is asking a California federal judge to compel their dispute to confidential arbitration pursuant to the terms of that contract.
Daniels claims to have had an affair with Trump during his marriage to Melania. In March, she sued, under her legal name Stephanie Clifford, claiming that he never signed their “hush agreement” and therefore she isn’t actually obligated to keep quiet about the alleged relationship.
Trump attorney Michael Cohen, through his company Essential Consultants, then filed a removal to federal court — alleging that Clifford’s breaches of the settlement so far amounted to at least $20 million in liquidated damages under the agreement.
Clifford says both she and Trump use pseudonyms in the settlement agreement; hers is Peggy Peterson and his is David Dennison. In a motion to compel arbitration filed Monday, Cohen’s attorney Brent Blakely doesn’t admit that Trump and Dennison are one and the same, but says it doesn’t matter whether “Dennison” signed the contract.
“Clifford asserts in the FAC that the Settlement Agreement was never formed because it was not signed by Mr. Trump, and thus the arbitration provision contained therein is unenforceable,” writes Blakely. “The first paragraph of the Settlement Agreement defines the parties to the agreement as EC, LLC ‘and/or’ DAVID DENNISON (DD), ‘on the one part,’ and PEGGY PETERSON (PP), ‘on the other part.’ … This provision demonstrates the parties’ intent for the Settlement Agreement to be binding once signed by EC and Clifford, and regardless of whether it was also signed by DD.”
Therefore, Blakely argues, whether or not the arbitration provision in that agreement is enforceable is an issue to be decided by an arbitrator, not the court. (Read the full motion below.)
EC initiated arbitration with Clifford in February and was granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits her from disclosing confidential information pursuant to the settlement agreement, according to the filing.
“Clifford has violated the Settlement Agreement and the TRO by, among other things, filing the Complaint and FAC in this action, and also by disclosing Confidential Information to the news media, including in a nationally televised interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, which reportedly was watched by twenty-two million viewers,” writes Blakely. “Clifford further breached the Settlement Agreement by sending her attorney of record in this action, Michael Avenatti, to participate in dozens of interviews on national television programs, wherein he has repeatedly disclosed Confidential Information.”
Avenatti issued a statement Monday in response to the filing: “We will vigorously oppose the just-filed motion by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen to have this case decided in a secret arbitration, in a private conference room, purposely hidden from the American public. This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people.”
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