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In his first comments on the topic since Stephanie Clifford, an adult film star who performs as Stormy Daniels, appeared on 60 Minutes, President Donald Trump said he did not know about the $130,000 payment his longtime lawyer has said he facilitated for her in 2016.
Asked aboard Air Force One on Thursday afternoon about whether he knew about the payment, Trump simply said, “No,” according to the White House press pool report.
The payment was made in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election as part of a settlement agreement signed by Clifford, who claims to have had a relationship with Trump more than a decade ago, and the lawyer, Michael Cohen. The existence of the agreement was first reported earlier this year by the Wall Street Journal.
Clifford's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has sued over the agreement, calling it a “hush agreement” and asking a court in California to toss it out.
Asked why his longtime lawyer — and the Trump Organization's lawyer at the time — made the payment, Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
In Clifford's lawsuit, one of the issues raised is the allegation that Cohen — based on his own statements and now echoed by the president's statements — made the payment through a company set up for the payment without his client's knowledge.
After the Wall Street Journal's initial reporting on the agreement, Cohen stated, “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
The lawsuit alleges that Cohen “violated Rule 1.8(e) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct by advancing or guaranteeing financial assistance to a client by paying $130,000 from his own personal funds to benefit his client Mr. Trump.”
Cohen is not, however, Trump's lawyer in the ongoing litigation. In that, Trump is represented by Charles Harder, the lawyer best known for representing Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker.
In the litigation, Cohen and the company, Essential Consultants, LLC, are represented by Brent Blakely.
Trump also said he did not know where the money came from and ignored a question about whether he ever set up a fund of money that Cohen could draw from.
Neither Harder nor Blakely — who are seeking to have the lawsuit resolved in private arbitration, as set forth in the agreement itself — immediately responded to a request for comment on Trump's statements.
Avenatti, however, quickly responded on Twitter, saying he looked forward to “testing the truthfulness” of Trump's claim.
Regarding Trump's comment that Cohen is his attorney, Avenatti told BuzzFeed News, “Another brilliant pick and an example of only the best and the brightest.”