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Stormy Daniels Offers To Pay Back 'Hush Money' To Speak About Alleged Trump Affair

Actress Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is offering to return what she calls "hush money" to President Trump in exchange for the right to speak freely about their alleged affair.
Charley Gallay
Getty Images
Actress Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is offering to return what she calls "hush money" to President Trump in exchange for the right to speak freely about their alleged affair.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress and director who alleges she had a sexual relationship with President Trump more than a decade ago and was paid $130,000 not to talk about it, is offering to give the money back to speak freely.

In a letter, her attorney, Michael Avenatti, says Daniels "will pay $130,000 to President Trump by wire transfer, to an account designated by the president" by this Friday. Trump has never admitted knowledge of the payment to Daniels, which was made by his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump, through Cohen and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has denied that there was an affair, which by Daniels' telling took place in 2006 and 2007 when Trump was married and his son Barron was a baby.

"They should accept this proposal. It's more than fair," said Avenatti in an interview with NPR. "She'll return the money and she'll be free to speak, and in turn the president can provide his version of events and we can allow the American people to decide who's telling the truth and who's not."

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is currently bound by a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement signed in October 2016. Her lawyer's letter says she wants out of it to be able to "(a) speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the President and the attempts to silence her and (b) use and publish any text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the President that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution and/or legal liability for damages."

Avenatti says neither Cohen nor his lawyer has yet responded to the letter. And Cohen and his attorney Larry Rosen have not responded to a request for comment from NPR. It's hard to believe they will accept the offer given the lengths to which Cohen and his legal team have gone to prevent Daniels from talking, including securing a temporary restraining order in arbitration last month.

"At some point they need to stop the bleeding, I would think," Avenatti said when pressed on why an attorney associated with Trump would accept the offer. "Our entire democracy is built around the notion of free speech, competing ideas, competing debate and this situation should be no different."

Though, nondisclosure agreements are built on the idea of ensuring silence.

Last week Daniels sat for an interview with 60 Minutes, which is set to air at a future date.

BuzzFeed News is reporting that lawyers associated with Trump are considering legal action to prevent the interview from airing. In the letter to Cohen and his lawyer, Avenatti also asks that in exchange for returning the $130,000 neither Cohen nor the president "shall take action, legal or otherwise, aimed at preventing Ms. Clifford's recent interview with Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes from airing publicly."

The agreement Daniels signed in October 2016 says that if an arbitrator determines that there has been a breach, she will be obligated to pay $1 million for each breach. Asked if his client was willing to accept the $1 million penalty to have the 60 Minutes interview air if Cohen doesn't agree to her offer, Avenatti said, "I'm not going to comment on that."

Avenatti has set a deadline of noon Tuesday for Cohen and his lawyer to respond. "I hope they are going to strongly consider it and I hope they are going to accept it," he said.

This comes as the watchdog group Common Cause filed revised complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice naming Trump personally as well as Michael Cohen. Common Cause alleges that the payment to Daniels was an in-kind campaign contribution and campaign expenditure that was not reported and exceeded campaign contribution limits.

"Emerging details appear to directly link President Trump to the hush money payments to the adult film star expanding the list of apparent violations," said Common Cause Vice President Paul S. Ryan in a statement. "If the allegations prove true it is hard to argue credibly that hush money payments to cover up an affair between a presidential candidate and an adult film star, weeks before the election, were not intended to influence that election. Hush money may be commonplace in some businesses, but when it is spent to influence a federal election it must be disclosed — without exception."

Cohen and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment on these new filings either.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.