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UPDATED: Trump Admin. Declares Arbitration Victory Against Porn Star Stormy Daniels

In a live White House press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared victory in a legal battle President Donald Trump is fighting with porn star Stormy Daniels through arbitration. Wait, what? Arbitration is a way of resolving disputes (usually privately) outside of the courts. Trump’s spokesperson is apparently claiming that the Daniels matter has already been resolved through the arbitration process, even though Daniels filed a public lawsuit on Tuesday crying foul about the arbitration process and asking an actual court to review it.

“The arbitration was won in the president’s favor. I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel” for further details, Sanders said in response to follow-up questions about the situation. Sanders at several times repeated Trump’s statements that the allegations made by Daniels were not true.

Questions about the Stormy Daniels situation were sprinkled throughout the on-camera press briefing. 

Sanders was later asked whether President Trump knew of the payment said to have been made by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to a shell company, and from the company to Stormy Daniels, in return for Daniels’ silence about the alleged sexual affair. Trump’s knowledge of that transaction, or his lack thereof, are critical in determining whether he played a role in possible campaign finance law violations, which we have previously analyzed (report 1, report 2). Here’s how the exchange went. We’ve edited it a bit for clarity:

Reporter:  When I asked about that payment to the president, you have said, that, “not that I am aware of.” Have you asked the president this question?

[Sanders asked for clarification, probably because the question erroneously referenced a payment “to” the president, not “from” the president.]

Reporter:  You [were] asked about whether the president knew about this payment his longtime lawyer made to, facilitated rather, to Stormy Daniels. You have said then, and again today, ‘not that you were aware of.’  Have you asked the president this question?

Sanders: Yeah. I’ve had conversations with the president about this, and as I outlined earlier, that, this case had already been won in arbitration, and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he has denied all of these allegations.

Reporter:  Is there a reason why you’re not answering the actual substance of the question on the payment itself, because it’s come up a few times now.

Sanders:  I believe I’ve addressed this question pretty extensively, and ongoing litigation, I’m not going to comment any further than I already have.

A later follow-up question sought to link the Stormy Daniels situation to the now-infamous Billy Bush tape. Sanders warned about “conflating” the issues, then conflated the issues. Again, we’ve edited the exchange a wee bit for clarity:

Reporter:  We heard a tape of the president with Billy Bush, and now we hear about Stormy Daniel, and you’re saying it’s not true. What should the American public believe, and what does the president want the American people to believe after hearing that before the election, and now this?

Sanders:  The president has denied these allegations. We’ve addressed this. The American people were are aware of this; [they] voted for the president. I don’t have anything more to add.

Sanders refused to comment on another question about whether Cohen was reimbursed for the payments he claims to have made to the shell company which in turn paid Daniels. Cohen claimed he was not reimbursed by the Trump organization or by the Trump campaign, the reporter said, but asked whether alleged $214,000 payments by the campaign to a law firm which represents Cohen were meant as reimbursement. Sanders said she could not speak on behalf of the campaign and referred the question to the campaign.

Law&Crime sought a response to Sanders’ statements from an attorney representing Daniels. That response is available here.

Read our other coverage of the legal implications of the Stormy Daniels situation here.

This piece began as a breaking news report. It has since been substantially updated.

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