The attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels declared Thursday that “the strength of our case just went up exponentially” after President Trump spoke for the first time about a $130,000 payment made to Daniels in October 2016 in return for her silence about an alleged 2006 affair between the two.
Daniels, who recently told her story on 60 Minutes, has sued to get out of the agreement, arguing it was void because Trump didn’t sign it. Attorney Michael Avenatti also requested this week that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin publicly release the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) relating to the $130,000 hush payment, a report that “may show the money trail and disprove the claims of Mr. Cohen.”
Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, has claimed he made the payment on his own from a home equity line of credit and did so because “I truly care about him and the family.”
Trump has remained silent on Daniels’ interviews and Avenatti’s barrage of tweets and press appearances, ignoring questions from reporters as he’s walked the White House grounds. Coming back from West Virginia on Thursday, Trump popped back into the press cabin of Air Force One and was faced with an on-camera question about the payment.
“Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” Trump was asked.
“No. No. What else?” Trump replied.
“Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?”
“Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael is my attorney. And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”
“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”
“No, I don’t know,” Trump said. “No.”
The president didn’t answer a question about whether he “ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from.”
Avenatti told CNN Thursday evening that Trump breaking his silence was “like Christmas and Hanukkah all rolled into one” because “you can’t have an agreement if one party claims they knew nothing about one of the principal terms of the agreement.”
“So, the president has just shot himself in the foot, thrown his attorney basically, Michael Cohen, under the bus in the process, put him in dire straits with the state bar of New York, because according to the president now, Mr. Cohen was negotiating this agreement and doing it all on his own without consultation with the president. We don’t necessarily believe that, by the way, and we’re going to test the veracity or the truthfulness of the statement,” Avenatti added.
“We knew sooner or later he was going to crack. This is a man that is not disciplined. He’s not a disciplined client. And we knew sooner or later it was going to happen. We were patient, and lo and behold, the gift came from heaven this afternoon when he responded to this question on Air Force One, which he never should have responded to, he should have left it alone and now, he’s put himself and he’s put Mr. Cohen in a world of hurt.”
Avenatti said that if Cohen ran afoul of election laws if the hush money was an in-kind campaign contribution, he “could face felony charges in connection with that and could face serious, serious problems.”
“I think what we’ve seen over the last seven to 14 days is, an effort to effectively put Michael Cohen in the crosshairs,” the attorney continued. “The president and others are putting a lot of weight on this man’s shoulders, and they better hope that he holds up, because if he doesn’t hold up under questioning by me or Mr. Mueller, if he caves, the president and the administration should be — could be in a very, very bad place. They could pierce the attorney-client privilege based on a crime fraud exception. They are putting Michael Cohen in the crosshairs, Anderson. It’s clear as day, and I don’t think it’s going to work out well.”
Cohen has remained silent, with statements coming through his attorney David Schwartz. Avenatti goaded both on Twitter on Thursday.
“Where have the two legal geniuses of our time, Michael Cohen and David Schwartz, gone?” Avenatti tweeted. “Forced to sit down by Mr. Trump after repeatedly making a disaster of their case on national television and being mocked by every real lawyer in America?”