President Donald Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to remove Stephanie Clifford’s lawsuit to federal court in a likely play to force the dispute into secret arbitration.
The filing is the first time Trump has appeared as a named party in Clifford’s lawsuit. Clifford appears in pornographic films under the name Stormy Daniels, and she allegedly had an affair with the president from summer 2006 to early 2007.
Clifford sued Trump attorney Michael Cohen and a Delaware shell company called Essential Consultants LLC in a state court in Los Angeles, Calif., on Mar. 6. She argues the “hush agreement” she executed with Cohen in Oct. 2016 is invalid, leaving her at liberty to publicly discuss her alleged relationship with Trump.
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With the new filing, Trump joined the lawsuit and argued the case should be heard in federal, not state court. Under a legal doctrine called diversity jurisdiction, federal courts are empowered to hear civil cases where the parties are residents of separate states and the amount of money at issue exceeds $75,000.
Trump lawyers argue the amount in controversy is $20 million, as the underlying hush agreement makes Clifford liable for $1 million for each violation of the contract. Defense attorneys claim they are aware of at least 20 violations.
The defense wants the case moved to the federal trial court in Los Angeles.
As Clifford’s lawyer Michael Avenatti noted on Twitter, the move is likely part of an effort to force the case into secret arbitration. The 2016 contract provides that all disputes arising from the agreement will be mediated in private arbitration, and federal courts generally enforce arbitration clauses strictly.
The filing today is yet another bullying tactic from the president and Mr. Cohen. They are now attempting to remove this case to federal ct in order to increase their chances that the matter will be decided in private arbitration, thus hiding the truth from the public.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 17, 2018
Cohen obtained a preliminary restraining order against Clifford from an arbitrator in late February, though she does not believe she is bound by the order.
Trump denies the alleged relationship and has not commented publicly on the ongoing litigation.
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