On Friday, President Donald Trump spoke about Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, for the first time. His words are already being used against him in court.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, included a transcript of Trump’s comments in a motion filed with the court on Sunday. Trump claimed he had no idea why his attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels’ $130,000, suggesting he had no knowledge of the contract. (Cohen has told a similar story.)
Avenatti argues that Trump’s comments draw into a question whether a contract really exists at all. A basic premise of contract law is that a valid contract requires a “meeting of the minds,” which Avenatti says is impossible if Trump doesn’t know about the contract.
Trump and a shell corporation set up by Cohen, EC LLC, is seeking to move Daniels’ lawsuit from federal court into secret arbitration, based on a provision of the contract. Avenatti now says he should have the right to depose Trump and Cohen for two hours each and obtain documents from them before the court considers that motion. The purpose of the deposition would be to see if a contract actually exists.
As a matter of basic contract law, the claim is very sound. It’s implausible for Trump to be a party to a contract he professes to know nothing about.
It’s less certain that the court will agree to allow Avenatti to conduct discovery on an expedited basis. The court rejected Avenatti’s previous motion and admonished him that his case was not the most important before the court.
If the court rejects Avenatti’s renewed motion to depose Trump, it doesn’t necessarily mean the court disagrees with his core argument. The court could decide there is enough on the face of the document (including the lack of signature) and in Trump and Cohen’s public statements to invalidate it. If that’s the case, conducting discovery before ruling on Trump’s motion to compel arbitration would be unnecessary.
Regardless of how the court rules, Avenatti seems to have some more tricks up his sleeve.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 8, 2018
Avenatti promised a “major announcement” in the coming days regarding the “thug” who approached Daniels in a parking lot in Las Vegas in 2011.