10:14am PT by Eriq Gardner
Michael Avenatti Refuses to Accept Victory in Stormy Daniels Hush Deal Lawsuit
Earlier this year, porn star Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit that demanded that the $130,000 "hush deal" she signed to remain silent about an affair with Donald Trump be deemed invalid. After her legal adversaries backed down late last week, she's now due to get what she originally demanded, and yet, it's not enough. On Monday, her attorney Michael Avenatti told a California federal court that she "vigorously opposes dismissal of this action."
A lot has happened since Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) sued Trump, his one-time personal attorney Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants LLC. Most seriously, Cohen was charged with criminal acts in connection with the hush agreement, and he pled guilty.
On Friday, Essential Consultants stated in court that it would be accepting rescission of the hush deal, along with providing Daniels with a covenant not to sue her for discussing the affair. The following day, Trump — via his lawyer — declared that he wouldn't contest the porn star's assertion that the hush deal was never formed in the first place.
"As a result, Ms. Clifford's claim against Mr. Trump for declaratory relief is moot, and the Court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide this claim," wrote Trump attorney Charles Harder.
Not so fast, responds Avenatti.
"As a preliminary matter, Defendants' sudden desire to escape having to defend this action without any meaningful consequence reflects a profoundly troubling reality — that Defendants have been shamelessly deceiving this Court and the American public for more than six months," writes Avenatti on Monday.
Perhaps highlighting the real goals in this litigation, Avenatti would like to proceed with discovery and trial (which in the most immediate sense would likely be restrained to whether the parties had agreed to arbitrate). In a supplemental statement (read here), he adds that defendants are not making "a serious concession of responsibility and liability," that Trump's own statement should be "viewed as a mere settlement offer."
Further, Daniels appears to object to the return of $130,000.
"Indeed, if the Settlement Agreement is found to be an illegal contract (as opposed to a contract that was never formed), the consideration paid under that contract would not have to be returned," continues Avenatti, noting how the other side isn't yet willing to consent to a judgment that the hush deal was "entered with the illegal aim, design, and purpose of circumventing federal campaign finance law under the Federal Election Campaign Act."
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero will have to decide whether this presents enough of a "dispute." Fact-finding without much of a live controversy isn't typical.
Avenatti has one other demand. Even though he's been presenting the hush deal as a sham that necessitates a voiding, he points to a provision of the agreement that provides for the recovery of attorneys' fees, costs and expenses to the prevailing party.
He writes, "Simply put, by failing to provide Plaintiff with all the relief she is seeking in this action, Plaintiff's case plainly cannot be mooted."