5:36am PT by Eriq Gardner
Donald Trump Deposition Demanded in Stormy Daniels Lawsuit
In what perhaps has already become the most famous contract dispute in political history, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti is now demanding that President Donald Trump submit to a deposition to clear up his participation in a "hush agreement" the porn star signed in the days before the 2016 election.
Daniels is alleging in her lawsuit that despite being paid $130K to remain silent about an alleged affair with Trump about a decade ago, the agreement is void because Trump never signed the deal and it violates public policy by suppressing speech on a matter of public concern.
The lawsuit was first filed in L.A. Superior Court before the defendants — Trump, his attorney Michael Cohen and a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC — had it removed to federal court. The first controversy that figures to be taken up by the judge is whether the dispute must be handled in arbitration, where court documents suggest Essential Consultants is pursuing Daniels for allegedly breaching contract by making public statements about Trump.
On late Tuesday, Avenatti filed a motion for an expedited trial and limited discovery on behalf of Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford).
Although Trump hasn't formally moved yet to compel arbitration, the mere threat of doing so has prompted Avenatti to argue that two-hour depositions of Trump and Cohen each are in order to collect facts that bear directly on the formation of the hush agreement. In particular, the motion states that depositions can clarify whether Trump is "David Dennison," the pseudonym on the agreement, whether Trump knew about the agreement, whether he knew about the $130K payment, whether he approved of Cohen's actions, whether he consented to contractual obligations imposed on him, and overall, the scope of his personal involvement to silence Daniels.
Additionally, the motion adds that discovery is needed "concerning whether there was a lawful purpose to the Agreement as a whole (or to the confidential arbitration clause more specifically) is also highly probative of whether a contract was formed.
Assuming Trump opposes the motion, the judge tasked with this case — U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero (an appointee of George W. Bush) — may address whether factual discovery is needed at this juncture or whether the issue of arbitrability can be decided by drawing inferences from the face of the pleadings.
Daniels is also requesting a jury trial within 90 days of the court order.