President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen secretly filed for arbitration in Los Angeles last week to enforce a hush-money agreement that required porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump, according to a lawsuit that Daniels filed on Tuesday.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump on Tuesday in an attempt to nullify the deal. She also sued Essential Consultants LLC, the company that Cohen formed days before the November 2016 election to pay Daniels $130,000 in hush money.
The suit, filed in state Superior Court in Los Angeles, says Cohen was trying to protect Trump by muzzling Daniels with the "bogus" arbitration proceeding.
Neither Cohen nor the White House press office responded to emails requesting comment.
Daniels has said she had sex with Trump after they met at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Karen McDougal, Playboy's 1998 Playmate of the year, has said that she, too, had a tryst with Trump at the event.
A few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Daniels sought to go public about her affair with Trump. But Trump and Cohen "aggressively sought to silence Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won," the complaint says.
Cohen prepared a draft "hush agreement" that identified Trump as "David Dennison" and Daniels as "Peggy Peterson," according to the document.
Daniels signed the document but Trump did not, "thus rendering it legally null and void and of no consequence," the complaint says.
Under the agreement, Daniels had to give Trump every copy of every text and email that she ever exchanged with him, along with all photos relating to Trump that she had. It barred Daniels from ever communicating with Trump or his family "for any reason whatsoever." It also compelled Daniels to give Cohen the names of everyone with whom she'd ever shared such correspondence or images.
She agreed she would keep confidential everything that she might know about Trump's "alleged sexual partners, alleged sexual actions or alleged sexual conduct."
Any breach of the agreement would require Daniels not just to return the $130,000, but also to pay Trump at least $1 million in damages. The deal gave Trump sole discretion to choose whether arbitration of any disputes would take place under California, Nevada or Arizona law.
The lawsuit requests a judicial declaration that the hush-money deal was invalid and unenforceable.
That would free Daniels to talk openly of her relationship with Trump after weeks of playing coy in media interviews.
When Daniels was a guest on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in January, the talk-show host read highlights from In Touch Weekly magazine's transcript of a 2011 interview with Daniels, including graphic details of her having sex with Trump. Kimmel asked Daniels whether any of it was true.
"Define true," she responded.
Last month, Cohen said he had used his own money "to facilitate a payment of $130,000" to Daniels. He said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign had reimbursed him, but made no statement on whether Trump himself had done so.
"Importantly," Daniels' complaint says, "at no time did Mr. Cohen claim Ms. Clifford did not have an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump. Indeed, were he to make such a statement, it would be patently false."
9 p.m.: This article was updated with more details on Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.
6:55 p.m.: This article was updated with background on Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen.
6:40 p.m.: This article was updated with details of the "hush agreement."