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Trump hits back at Stormy Daniels' claim he should remain party in her hush-money lawsuit

Stormy Daniels arriving for an event in Hollywood, Calif., on August 13, 2007. According to a report on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer reportedly arranged a payment of $130,000 in hush money to Daniels.

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By NANCY DILLON | New York Daily News | Published: September 15, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — Stormy Daniels is free to talk, so President Donald Trump should be free to walk, his lawyer said in a court filing Friday.

The lawyer, Charles Harder, claimed in the new paperwork that Daniels was wrong to argue earlier this week she still deserves her day in court against both the president and his former fixer Michael Cohen even though they agreed to drop a multimillion-dollar arbitration action against her.

In her Monday filing, Daniels argued through her lawyer Michael Avenatti that she has a right to prove her $130,000 hush-money deal struck shortly before the 2016 election was actually "illegal," as opposed to "never formed."

Avenatti said such a finding is necessary to protect Daniels from any attempt by Cohen to recoup the money and allow her to seek attorney's fees.

In his Friday filing, Harder said Daniels' claim, if one exists, is with Cohen and his shell company Essential Consultants, not the president.

"Mr. Trump takes no position regarding the $130,000, which Essential Consultants, LLC paid to Plaintiff. Any dispute between Plaintiff and EC regarding the $130,000 does not create an actual controversy between Plaintiff and Mr. Trump," Harder wrote.

He further argued Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is "not entitled" to any attorney's fees from Trump.

"Both (Daniels) and Mr. Trump are in agreement that Mr. Trump did not sign the Settlement Agreement, has never taken the position that he is a party to the Settlement Agreement, and has never affirmatively sought to invoke any rights under the Settlement Agreement in any action," Harder wrote.

"Even so, a dispute over attorneys' fees is not sufficient to create subject matter jurisdiction where it does not otherwise exist," he argued.

It was last weekend that Trump reversed course in the case and said in a filing he no longer sought enforcement of the 2016 privacy pact.

Trump previously tweeted his support for the arbitration action against Daniels. The about-face came after Cohen was convicted of campaign-finance violations he claims were directed by Trump and amid a stepped-up push by Avenatti to depose the president.

Harder filed paperwork last Saturday saying the president was backing down and would not bring "any action, proceeding or claim" against Daniels to keep her quiet about her claims she had a sexual liaison with Trump in 2006.

"Mr. Trump hereby stipulates that he does not, and will not, contest Ms. Clifford's assertion that the Settlement Agreement was never formed, or in the alternative, should be rescinded," Harder wrote.

On Monday, Avenatti blasted the move as an attempt to skirt scrutiny.

"We insist there be a finding of illegality as it relates to the contract," Avenatti told The New York Daily News in a Monday phone interview.

"This 'offer' by Cohen and Trump falls far short of being satisfactory. They are trying to get out from underneath the case without the true facts and evidence disclosed to the American public. Their stunt will not work," he said.

Avenatti wrote in his filing that a dismissal of Daniels' case on "mootness grounds" would not only have financial implications, it would also allow the president to continue to refute her claim he authorized the payment to "conceal information from voters in the 2016 election."

"Defendants have already received the benefit of the settlement agreement by preventing plaintiff from speaking prior to the 2016 election and thereby ensuring victory," Avenatti argued in the new paperwork.

"Mr. Cohen is a criminal. And Mr. Trump is a co-conspirator. They entered into the settlement agreement and paid the $130,000 to benefit Mr. Trump's campaign and conceal information from voters in the 2016 election," Avenatti wrote.

"The court cannot simply allow defendants to exit the case without facing any true consequences or a meaningful inquiry into the truth," Avenatti argues. "Terminating the case now after all of the lies, deceit and chicanery set forth above would be premature and would erode public confidence in the courts," he argued.

A federal judge in Los Angeles has not yet ruled on the Trump dismissal request, which followed shortly after a similar filing from Cohen last week.

In his "covenant not to sue" signed Sept. 7, Cohen said Essential Consultants reserved "the right to seek reimbursement for the $130,000."

A hearing in the case is set for Sept. 24.

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