Stormy Daniels‘ highly-publicized case against President Donald Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen appears to be nearing its end, nearly a year after it rocked the political and media worlds.
Daniels’ case centers on a hush agreement she signed to keep quiet about an affair she claims she had with Trump in 2006. She was paid $130,000 for her silence, as per the agreement which was made in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Daniels has been trying secure her release from the agreement’s obligations and restrictions, claiming that it is unenforceable, as Trump never signed it.
Cohen and Trump fought against Daniels for the better part of 2018, with Cohen claiming that Trump’s signature wasn’t necessary because the agreement was really between Daniels and Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, which was the source of the payment.
Now, however, with Cohen headed to federal prison—in part due to the payment to Daniels, which was deemed an illegal campaign finance violation—the case may be drawing to a conclusion, with Daniels achieving exactly what she set out to do.
In court on Tuesday, attorneys for Trump and Cohen argued that the case should be tossed out because there is no longer a reason to keep going. Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, has been stating that the president has nothing to do with the case because he never signed the agreement, and on top of that he has no intention of ever trying to enforce the agreement. Cohen’s attorney, Brent Blakely, similarly argued that the case is moot at this point, and Judge S. James Otero pointed out that both of Daniels’ opponents have produced covenants not to sue.
Blakely also said that Cohen will not try to get the $130,000 back.
Avenatti, however, was not ready to let Cohen and Trump get out that easily. He wants the case to continue, so his client can get a declaratory judgment from the court.
“For the court to condone that behavior on behalf of a felon, a convicted felon…that’s not justice your honor,” he argued. Judge Otero did not seem to be convinced, telling Avenatti he was “arguing from the heart.”
Besides wanting a declaratory judgement, Avenatti had also been trying to have the case move forward so he could question Trump at a deposition. A victory in the case would also allow Daniels to seek attorneys’ fees from Cohen and Trump. She currently owes $293,053 to Trump after her defamation case against the president was dismissed—a decision Avenatti intends to appeal.
Avenatti pointed out to Law&Crime that even if Judge Otero does dismiss the case as moot, “we could apply for attorneys fees and costs as a result of us prevailing in the case.”
The judge, who has not issued any ruling, would first have to determine whether Daniels could indeed be considered a prevailing party if the case is dismissed. Given that she is getting exactly what she wanted at the beginning of the case, there is certainly an argument to be made for this.
“This was a victory for Stormy Daniels,” Avenatti said during a press conference outside the courthouse. “Witnessing Mr. Cohen’s attorney Mr. Blakely and Donald Trump’s attorney Mr. Harder admit that there never was a valid agreement, which is exactly what we have maintained for almost a year now was truly remarkable.” He went on to say that despite opposition from Cohen and Trump, who he said “lied to the American people” about the agreement, Daniels “had the courage to come forward and challenge both of them.”
Avenatti went on to say that having Cohen and Trump’s lawyers go to court “and admit my client was right all along” was “truly shocking and gratifying.”
Law&Crime reached out to Blakely and Harder for comment, but they have yet to respond.
The litigation resulted in countless media appearances by Avenatti, which often left the Cohen and Trump teams scrambling in response. Details of the payment resulted in a guilty plea from Cohen, who will begin a three-year prison sentence in March. Cohen said he acted at Trump’s direction in making the payment to Daniels, despite Trump’s past denial of having any involvement.
The president has consistently maintained that no affair ever took place between him and Daniels.
[Image via TIME screengrab]