President Donald Trump can’t get rid of Stormy Daniels that easily — even by giving her something she asked for.
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Daniels, filed a scathing court document Monday opposing an effort by Trump and his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to void a hush-money deal cut with her on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
That deal, for which Daniels received $130,000 from a shell company set up by Cohen, is at the center of a guilty plea Cohen made to criminal charges last month in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Avenatti blasted the Trump-Cohen bid as a transparent effort to avoid having to answer questions from him under oath in an ongoing legal saga in federal court in Los Angeles.
“Defendants’ sudden desire to escape having to defend this action without any meaningful consequences reflects a profoundly troubling reality — that Defendants have been shamelessly deceiving this Court and the American public for more than six months,” Avenatti wrote.
The White House, as well as lawyers for Cohen and Trump, did not have immediate comment.
Daniels sued Trump and Cohen earlier this year, asking a judge to declare invalid the agreement she signed in October 2016 prohibiting her from talking publicly about an affair she claims to have had with the president in 2008.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said that the deal is not valid because Trump never signed it.
Trump, who has denied the affair, and Cohen aggressively defended the suit at first. They threatened to have Daniels hit with up to $20 million in damages for violating the terms of the deal by going public with her story.
And Cohen sought a delay in being deposed by Avenatti, citing the then-ongoing criminal probe into the deal and into his business dealings by federal prosecutors in New York.
But Cohen pleaded guilty in August to tax crimes and to campaign finance violations for orchestrating payments close to the 2016 election to Daniels and to another woman, Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with Trump. McDougal was paid by the National Enquirer, the Trump-friendly supermarket tabloid, but the president also has denied they had sex.
Cohen said Trump told him to buy the women’s silence, and also admitted that the payments were made in order to influence the election.
After Cohen’s plea, Avenatti said he would push to have Trump and Cohen both deposed for Daniels’ lawsuit.
But last Friday, Cohen’s lawyer filed a court document saying it would accept the invalidation of the hush-money deal, just as Daniels was requesting. Cohen also asked for Daniels to repay the $130,000 she was paid.
Trump’s lawyer followed up on Saturday with his own filing, agreeing that the deal was void because the president never signed it.
Both Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers said that their moves rendered Daniels’ lawsuit moot and that the judge in the case should dismiss it.
Not so fast, Avenatti replied on Monday in his own court filing.
Daniels “vigorously opposes dismissal of this action,” Avenatti wrote.
Avenatti said beginning last February, Cohen and Trump, along with their attorneys and surrogates, “instituted a coordinated campaign to intimidate and bully [Daniels] into silence.”
The lawyer also said that Trump and Cohen had sought to have Daniels’ claim resolved in arbitration rather than in federal court, threatened her with monetary damages, and falsely claimed that Cohen had paid Daniels on his own, without later being reimbursed by Trump.
“After leading this Court to believe for six months that they had a good faith basis to assert that the Settlement Agreement was a valid contract, that it was not illegal, and that it had nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Court cannot simply allow the Defendants to exit the case without facing any true consequences or a meaningful inquiry into the truth,” Avenatti wrote.
“The public interest in continuing with this case is self-evident.”
Avenatti said he wants the judge in the case to set deadlines for taking depositions in the case, as well as a trial date.
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.