In what looks like another one of President Trump’s famous legal bluffs, the president and his lawyer, Michael Cohen are petitioning to move a lawsuit brought by former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels from a Los Angeles court to a federal court. Cohen also warned Daniels that she could be liable for $20 million in damages for violating a non-disclosure agreement she had signed in October 2016.
As NBC News points out, the maneuver is likely intended to move the case into private arbitration. Trump said he would join a request to have the case heard by an arbitrator.
The filing marks the first appearance by Charles Harder, whom Trump hired to work on the Daniels case.
Trump attorney Michael Cohen, with the consent of the president, filed a “notice of removal” on Friday that contends Clifford’s suit should be moved from California state court to federal court because the parties live in different places and the amount at stake is more than $75,000.
The new paperwork showed that Trump is being represented by Charles Harder, the high-profile attorney who won a $140 million verdict for Hulk Hogan against Gawker and who has also worked for Harvey Weinstein, Jared Kushner and a constellation of Hollywood stars. He also represented Melania Trump in her successful defamation suit against the Daily Mail newspaper.
The late-Friday filing sought to move Daniels case from a state-level court to a federal court in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.
Daniels is pushing to have a judge officially declare the NDA invalid. She claims that Trump never signed it, and has offered to return the $130,000 she was paid. By having the agreement thrown out, Daniels says, she will be free to act with impunity.
According to the terms of her agreement, Daniels agreed that she could be liable for $1 million each time she violates the agreement. Cohen is claiming she violated it 20 times.
Daniels’ lawyer has accused Trump and his legal team of trying to bury the issue in arbitration.
“This is simply more of the same bullying tactics from the president and Mr. Cohen,” Avenatti said. “They are now attempting to remove this case in order to increase their chances that the matter will ultimately be decided in private arbitration, behind closed doors, outside of public view and scrutiny.”
Trump has never commented on the issue, and the White House has sought to distance him from the matter.