Attorneys defending President Donald Trump and the company of his personal legal counsel, Michael Cohen, have filed to move the lawsuit against their clients by porn star Stormy Daniels to federal court and are claiming she could owe in excess of $20 million for violating a nondisclosure agreement.
The move marks the first time attorneys for Trump himself have joined the legal action in the Daniels matter.
Attorney Charles Harder – best known for representing Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker, which resulted in its bankruptcy – is handling the case on the President’s behalf.
They allege that Daniels as many as 20 times violated the confidentiality provisions of a settlement agreement in which Cohen paid the adult film actress $130,000 through a private LLC.
In the court filing Friday, attorneys for Trump as well as Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, LLC, stated that “EC is aware of at least twenty (20) violations by Clifford of the confidentiality provisions of the Settlement Agreement.”
Daniels’ real name is Stephanie Clifford.
The initial complaint filed by Clifford’s attorney in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Trump claims the nondisclosure agreement is not valid because Cohen signed it on behalf of Trump – instead of Trump signing it himself.
In Friday’s filing, the Trump and Cohen attorneys say that since Clifford agreed to pay $1 million for “each breach,” she could owe as much as $20 million if an arbitration judge sides with Trump’s and Essential Consultants’ attorneys.
The court document also says Essential Consultants plans to file a “petition to compel arbitration.”
Cliffords’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told CNN Saturday morning that Friday was the first time that he had learned that Harder was representing the President.
Avenatti seemed unfazed by the efforts Harder and Essential Consultants to move the lawsuit from state to federal court.
“Last year, I had the largest jury verdict in the federal court where Trump et al. removed the case to. It is also one of the largest in the long history of that court,” he said in an email. “Thus, we are no strangers to that courthouse.”
Following the filing on Friday, Avenatti posted a series of tweets about the potential damages, calling the new filing “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,” he tweeted.
He then added: “The fact that a sitting president is pursuing over $20M in bogus ‘damages’ against a private citizen, who is only trying to tell the public what really happened, is remarkable. Likely unprecedented in our history. We are NOT going away and we will NOT be intimidated.”
Clifford and Trump allegedly had an affair in 2006, which is the focus of the nondisclosure agreement, according to her lawsuit against Trump. Cohen has said Trump “vehemently denies” any affair took place.
Clifford’s attorney said Cohen has continued to intimidate his client into keeping silent.
CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report.