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Trump says he won't enforce hush-money deal with Stormy Daniels

Trump and Cohen want to dismiss the suit, but Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti wants to make them testify under oath.
Image: Stormy Daniels leaves federal court in New York
Stormy Daniels leaves federal court in New York in April. President Donald Trump said in a court filing Saturday that he won't enforce a nondisclosure agreement with her.Craig Ruttle / AP file

WASHINGTON — The attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels said Monday that he and his client want to go forward with her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his ex-attorney Michael Cohen, even though Trump and Cohen now say they believe their hush money deal with her was invalid and have asked the court to dismiss her suit.

In a motion filed Monday opposing Trump and Cohen's motion to dismiss, Michael Avenatti wrote, "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."

Over the weekend, attorneys for Trump and Cohen filed documents indicating they do not believe their hush-money deal with Daniels is valid and will not carry out threats to sue her for breaking the agreement by discussing details of Trump's alleged affair with Daniels. Both Trump and Cohen have asked Daniels to drop her lawsuit.

In addition, an attorney for the company set up to handle the deal offered to rescind Daniels' nondisclosure agreement. The company, Essential Consultants, also scrapped a threatened $20 million lawsuit against Daniels.

The offer would remove any legal risk to Daniels stemming from her public discussion of the alleged affair and the alleged efforts to hide it. But if a court were to find that the proposal resolved the underlying controversy in her litigation with ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the development could kill efforts by Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, to try to compel the president to give sworn testimony.

Avenatti alleged Monday that Trump and Cohen's attorneys misled the court when they sought a stay in the lawsuit Daniels filed against them, and alleged "the stay was pursued for the ulterior and improper purpose of evading depositions of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump."

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year. She was paid $130,000 as part of the agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve the contract. In her suit, Daniels argued the agreement should be invalidated because Cohen signed it, but Trump did not. She has asked to be released from the agreement and for attorneys' fees and other costs.

In Saturday's court filing, Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, said the president doesn't dispute Daniels' assertion that the contract isn't valid and never considered himself as a party to the agreement.

Essential Consultants was set up by Cohen, who pleaded guilty in federal court last month to campaign-finance violations and other charges. Though Cohen originally denied having made a hush-money payment to Daniels on behalf of Trump, he told the court that he and Trump arranged payments to both Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.

In addition to the offer to quash the agreement, Essential Consultants also agreed to back off its plan to fight Daniels in private arbitration and will not pursue a lawsuit against her, Brent Blakely, an attorney for the company, said in a letter to Daniels' lawyer. Cohen had said that Daniels could owe $20 million for violating the agreement.

The company wants Daniels to repay the $130,000 she was paid, Blakely wrote.

Avenatti told The Associated Press that he did not have to accept the offer and would not settle the case without deposing Trump and Cohen. He said he was still reviewing his options but wasn't worried about the developments.

Avenatti said he thought Harder's court filing was "worthless," had "numerous problems" and "means nothing."

"We are tired of the constant delays and games being played," he said. "We want these depositions as soon as possible."

Regardless of how a court views the offer by Trump and Cohen's company to drop efforts to enforce the agreement, Avenatti has other possible legal routes to pursue the president. Daniels has filed a separate lawsuit against Trump and Cohen for defamation.