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Donald Trump

Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks judge to throw out Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit

The request was filed the same day agents searched the lawyer’s office as part of an inquiry into potential financial crimes relating in part to the adult film star’s lawsuit 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 3:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 6:20am

Michael Cohen, the long-time lawyer of US President Donald Trump whose office was raided by federal agents on Monday, asked a federal judge to throw out a defamation claim made against him by adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Cohen asked US District Judge James Otero in Los Angeles to dismiss the allegation from a suit filed in March in which Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, seeks to get out of a non-disclosure agreement barring her from talking about an affair she said she had with Trump.

The request was filed on Monday just as Cohen’s legal troubles were multiplying well beyond a defamation claim. Investigators executed a search warrant to enter his office and a hotel room in New York as part of an inquiry into potential financial crimes that relates at least in part to Clifford’s lawsuit.

Cohen, who has denied wrongdoing, wants Otero to force the dispute into a private arbitration rather than public trial. Clifford says in her suit that Cohen defamed her by wrongfully portraying her as a liar in his public comments about the case.

Cohen’s lawyer, Brent Blakely, said in the filing that the defamation claim “appears to be a desperate attempt by plaintiff to keep at least a portion of this case out of arbitration”. He added that Clifford hasn’t suffered damages.

Clifford “has boasted that her pay has quadrupled because of the publicity of the instant lawsuit and her allegations about Mr Trump in February 2018”, the filing says.

Donald Trump says he didn’t know about his lawyer’s payment to Stormy Daniels

“We are confident the motion will be rejected,” Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said by email. On Sunday, Avenatti renewed a request for permission to depose Trump and Cohen under oath in preparation for a possible trial.

The subject of the defamation claim is a written statement issued by Cohen in February in which he said: “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr Trump.”

Clifford says the statement portrays her as a liar, while Cohen says it was hyperbole and, more important, was accurate.

“Plaintiff herself has repeatedly and specifically denied having any intimate relationship with Mr Trump, on at least three occasions,” Cohen said in the filing, citing denials Clifford made in 2011 and twice in January 2018.

But Clifford has said she was coerced into making the denials, even claiming on that someone threatened to harm her if she talked. Cohen has denied any involvement in the alleged threat.

“Plaintiff either lied then or is lying now,” Cohen said in Monday’s filing.

Cohen also argued in the filing that the defamation claim is invalid because his remark about Daniels, whom he paid US$130,000 to keep silent about the alleged affair, was backed by the First Amendment and related to “matters of public interest.”