On Monday, lawyers for President Trump and a shell corporation organized on his behalf, Essential Consultants LLC, tried to make a move in Stormy Daniels' Trump case that would make it a lot more difficult for the public to find out what's going on. The lawyers filed a request to move Daniels' non-disclosure agreement case to arbitration, which would essentially keep developments in the case behind closed doors. Daniels' lawyer objected to the request.
Delivered to a federal court in Los Angeles, the request to force arbitration claimed that Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, entered into the agreement willingly and in a position to change the terms, which include "binding confidential Arbitration." Lawyers for Essential Consultants LLC wrote to the court:
There is no evidence that Clifford was forced to enter into the settlement agreement, had no meaningful choice to do so, or had no choice but to accede to the terms of the arbitration clause as drafted. Clifford had the power to walk away, the power to negotiate the terms of the agreement, and only entered into the agreement after she unsuccessfully attempted to sell her story for $200,000.
Daniels sued last month to get out of the non-disclosure agreement, noting that it had not been signed by President Trump. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, instead set up Essential Consultants LLC to negotiate with Daniels and make the payout of $130,000.
On Monday, lawyers for President Trump submitted a separate document to formally join the motion pushing for arbitration, The New York Times reported.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said on Twitter that he will oppose the motion, claiming that it is an attempt by Trump and his lawyer Cohen to have the case resolved in a private conference room, "hidden from the American public."
"This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people," Cohen wrote with the hashtag #sunlight.
Daniels alleges that she had sex with Trump once in 2006 and continued a relationship for about a year. The White House has denied any affair or relationship between Trump and Daniels. After Daniels' CBS 60 Minutes interview in which she detailed her allegations, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said, "The president strongly clearly and consistently has denied these underlying claims. The only one who has been inconsistent is the one making the claims."
Daniels' lawyer further criticized the latest filing in a subsequent tweet, noting that the motion for arbitration does not include key facts about the case. Avenatti claimed the motion was "more interesting for what it DOES NOT state," noting that it doesn't mention that Cohen allegedly never discussed the agreement with Trump, that Trump did not know about the agreement, and that Trump did not pay the $130,000.
In a tweet over the weekend, Avenatti said what his client's real goal for settlement is:
We will NEVER accept any settlement, regardless of the amount of money, that does not include Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump coming 100% (meaning 100%) clean with the American people. People that say this is about money haven’t been paying attention.
The original agreement does explicitly require disputes be settled in arbitration. "Each of the Parties understands, acknowledges, and agrees that by agreeing to arbitration as provided herein, each of the Parties is giving up any right that he/she/it may have to a trial by judge or jury."
The question, then, is whether the initial agreement itself is valid. If not, as Daniels' lawyers argue, then the arbitration clause would also not apply.
Already many of the details of Trump and Daniels' alleged relationship have aired on primetime television. Even moving to arbitration now can not reseal the 60 Minutes interview.