After months of silence about Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, Trump finally spoke.
It did not go well.
Ever since Daniels burst upon the scene, Trump has made a habit of ignoring the shouted questions of reporters as well as avoiding the topic on Twitter. But on Thursday, Trump broke with this tradition and briefly answered a couple of questions about the affair while en route from West Virginia to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One.
REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
REPORTER: Then why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No. I don’t know.
REPORTER: Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could pull from?
Trump ignored the last last question, and sought out another reporter in an effort to change the subject. But the damage was done.
Professing ignorance about the agreement with Daniels helped Trump deflect the question in the moment. But it put Cohen, his longtime attorney, in legal jeopardy. It also undermines the validity of the contract Trump is current seeking to use to silence Daniels.
The contract itself made promises to Daniels that only Trump could provide. There is an explicit provision entitled “Representations & Warranties and Agreements By DD.” (“DD” is the pseudonym for Donald Trump in the agreement. Daniels is referred to as “PP.”)
If Trump was not even aware of the agreement or Cohen’s payment to Daniels, Cohen could not have legitimately made these “Representations & Warranties” to Daniels. It gives Daniels a strong argument that Cohen committed fraud.
This could both create a legal problem for Cohen, potentially putting his law license in jeopardy, and also serve as a basis for Daniels to void the agreement. These representations by Trump are described as a “material inducement” for Daniels to enter into the agreement. If Trump was not aware of the agreement — and therefore not making these representations — Daniels can argue she was fraudulently induced to sign the agreement.
Trump, while claiming no knowledge of the agreement, is currently trying to enforce the agreement in federal court in California. Cohen has pledged to collect $20 million in damages from Daniels under the agreement. Trump’s comments today make all of that much harder.
Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, celebrated Trump’s comments on Twitter.
Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!! The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can't have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline #thanksforplaying #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 5, 2018
But what is the importance of voiding the contract if Daniels has already told her story? First, it strengthens Daniels efforts to allow her lawsuit to proceed in federal court, which could ultimately require Trump to answer the same questions under oath.
Second, the contract prohibits Daniels from releasing any photos or videos that would constitute evidence of an affair with Trump. Avenatti has hinted, although not confirmed, that Daniels has such materials. If the contract was voided, she could release the materials without fear of legal liability.