President Donald Trump’s disgraced former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is trying to rescind the $130,000 hush money deal he struck with porn star Stormy Daniels to tamp down reports about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, but a lawyer for Daniels says the move seems to be aimed at preventing full disclosure about Trump’s role in the agreement.
Cohen submitted a filing to a federal court in Los Angeles on Friday renouncing the contract and promising he will take no action to enforce it, although he said he might still try to recover the $130,000 Daniels received under the pact struck just days before the 2016 presidential election.
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The move came less than three weeks after Cohen appeared before a federal judge in Manhattan and admitted his guilt on eight felony charges, including one that said the payment to Daniels violated federal campaign finance law because it was intended to aid Trump’s presidential bid.
Cohen’s latest action effectively concedes part of a lawsuit Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — filed against Cohen and Trump in March seeking to void the contract. However, Daniels’ outspoken attorney Michael Avenatti said Friday that he views the legal tactic as a way of obscuring the truth.
“Michael Cohen is back to playing games and trying to protect Donald Trump. He is now pulling a legal stunt to try and ‘fix it’ so that we can’t depose Trump and present evidence to the American people about what happened,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter. “He is not a hero nor a patriot. He deserves what he gets.
“The “offer” is DOA. We have been anticipating this for months…..Let me be clear – my client and I will never settle the cases absent full disclosure and accountability. We are committed to the truth. And we are committed to delivering it to the American people. #Basta”
Citing public policy grounds, courts typically refuse to enforce contracts aimed at facilitating criminal activity, so the contract with Daniels may have been doomed anyway in the wake of Cohen’s plea. It was also something of a dead letter, since Daniels appeared on “60 Minutes” in March and detailed the alleged sexual dalliance.
The move by Cohen’s lawyers Friday does not appear to affect a part of the lawsuit accusing Cohen of defamation over a statement he made earlier this year allegedly suggesting Daniels was lying about her interactions with Trump.
Attorneys for Cohen and Trump had moved to force the case into arbitration, but the judge froze all action in the case while the criminal investigation against Cohen unfolded.
Last month, prior to Cohen’s plea, the judge extended the stay through mid-September. A scheduling hearing on the suit is currently set for September 24.
A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a message Friday seeking comment on the latest developments.