How Trump's Lawyer's Silly Lawsuit Against Buzzfeed May Free Stormy Daniels From Her Non Disclosure Agreement

from the own-goals dept

We've written about Trump's long-term personal lawyer Michael Cohen a few times before. The first time was back in 2015 when he made a particularly stupid threat against reporters for reporting on Cohen's own stupid comments. In case you don't remember:

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.

That lawsuit never materialized.

The second time Cohen was written about here was when he did sue the press. Earlier this year he actually filed a lawsuit against Buzzfeed over Buzzfeed's decision to publish the infamous Christopher Steele dossier. As we noted, this lawsuit was particularly nonsensical, as he's suing Buzzfeed for statements in the dossier made by someone else.

But, now it appears that that lawsuit may backfire in a way so spectacular, I don't think any novelist could create a twist this diabolical.

You see, Cohen is also at the center of the whole Stormy Daniels mess. If you somehow have been under a giant rock for the past month or so, Cohen has admitted to paying $130,000 to Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford). As multiple places have reported, Daniels was apparently paid the money as part of an agreement to buy her silence over an affair she had with Donald Trump a decade or so ago. There are a huge list of important questions around all of this, including whether the whole thing violated campaign finance laws (which it very likely did).

A big part of the fight is over whether or not Daniels can really tell her story. We've noted that Trump lawyers are threatening to go to court to stop CBS from airing an interview, while Daniels' lawyers have argued that the agreement is not valid as Trump never signed it -- while also offering to pay back the $130,000 to break the agreement (which... uh... is not exactly how it works). And I won't even get into the hilariously meaningless "private" temporary restraining order that Cohen went to an arbitration firm to get, without even notifying Daniels.

Enter Buzzfeed: one of its lawyers on the Cohen case, Katherine Bolger from powerhouse law firm Davis, Wright, Tremaine, just sent a letter to Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, asking Daniels to preserve the documents at issue (i.e., the gag agreement), noting that this may be relevant to their own defense against Cohen. This suggests a plan to subpoena this information, which would likely free it from the gag order (and hand Buzzfeed one hell of a story). The preservation demand covers a lot of potentially interesting info:

This includes without limitation all relevant ESI (including but not limited to e-mail), banking records, Word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, reports, articles, books, memos, letters, calendar entries, handwritten notes, text messages, chats, phone messages, phone logs, audio recordings, or any other type of document or communication, final or draft, in either written or electronic format.

"ESI" in the above stands for "electronically stored information." The letter also asks for details of "any and all payments made by Mr. Cohen or Essential Consultants, LLC to Ms. Clifford, including but not limited to documents that would show the means by which the funds were transferred and/or the payments were made."

So why does Buzzfeed argue this is relevant to their own case? Well, because Cohen's lawsuit against Buzzfeed argues that Buzzfeed defamed him by implying that he had some role in possible Russian connections with the Trump campaign -- and Buzzfeed argues that cash payments Cohen was making to someone to silence them around the campaign is directly relevant to the questions at play in the lawsuit:

In his Complaint... Mr. Cohen asserts a claim for defamation based on an article published by Defendant BuzzFeed in January 2017 entitled "These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties to Russia".... The Article contained an embedded document file containing a 35-page colleciton of memoranda that primarily discuss Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, including alleged ties between Russia and President Trump's campaign... The memoranda in the Dossier contain certain references to Mr. Cohen that Mr. Cohen alleges falsely imply that he played a role in facilitating Russian interference in the election...

Mr. Cohen's role in President Trump's 2016 campaign, including but not limited to any payments he made or facilitated to third parties during or in connection with the campaign, is therefore directly relevant to the Action.

Who knows if this move will actually work, but if it does, that would be quite an incredible "own goal" by Cohen in which his own silly lawsuit unravels the other legal mess that he's been trying to keep under wraps. This is the kind of plot twist most novelists can only dream about (or reject for sounding to implausible to be real)...

Filed Under: donald trump, evidence, gag order, michael cohen, nda, stephanie clifford, stormy daniels, subpoena
Companies: buzzfeed


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  1. identicon
    Scote, 15 Mar 2018 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re: If Trump didn't know about the payment, then the NDA is invalid

    Cohen specifically signed as the LLC and as attorney for the LLC. The lines for Trump and Trump's attorney we're both left blank.

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