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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump smiles during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, weighing in directly on the Stephanie Clifford case for the first time, claimed in court papers filed by his lawyers Friday that the porn actress who alleges she had an affair with him violated a confidentiality agreement at least 20 times, exposing her to damages of at least $20 million.

Trump's lawyers filed two motions Friday in U.S. District Court in California in a public legal fight that Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, started earlier this month. That's when she sued to get out of an agreement that she had struck to be paid $130,000 to stay silent about an affair she alleges to have had with Trump starting in 2006.

Trump formally joined his legal team's response to Clifford's suit in a motion, filed Friday, to move the case from state court in Los Angeles, where Clifford filed her claim, to federal court.

Trump's reason for asking that the case be moved may involve the Federal Arbitration Act, which makes arbitration the preferred forum for resolving many kinds of disputes. Federal courts have applied that law more strictly than state courts, particularly ones in California.

Until now, Trump has kept his distance from the legal wrangling, leaving it to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to take the lead in refuting Clifford's claims. And the White House has refused to say how involved Trump was in the initial agreement with Clifford, signed in October 2016.

When Cohen filed a temporary restraining order in late February seeking to silence Clifford, he did so on behalf of a shell company through which she was paid, not on behalf of Trump.

Trump's name surfaced in one of two motions his legal team filed Friday in Los Angeles. One, in the name of the shell company, Essential Consultants, sought to move the lawsuit to federal court from Los Angeles Superior Court, where Clifford filed the suit.

The second motion, filed on Trump's behalf, states that he joins Essential Consultants in seeking the change of venue and ends with the statement, "Mr. Trump intends to pursue his rights to the fullest extent permitted by the law."

Representing Trump in his case was a new lawyer, Charles Harder, who is best known for filing the Hulk Hogan sex tape case that effectively put the gossip news site Gawker out of business roughly two years ago. Harder previously represented Melania Trump in a case against The Daily Mail.

Trump's team filed the motions one day after news broke that 60 Minutes was planning to run a segment featuring Clifford and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, on March 25. Trump's representatives have denied the allegations that he had an affair with Clifford.

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Avenatti responded late Friday that the president was engaging in "bullying tactics" aimed at moving the case "behind closed doors, outside of public view and scrutiny."

He seized on the monetary damages that the president's team indicated it was seeking. "The fact that a sitting president is pursuing over $20 million in bogus damages against a private citizen, who is only trying to tell the public what really happened, is truly remarkable -- likely unprecedented in our history," Avenatti said. He added, "We are not going away, and we will not be intimidated by these threats."

Clifford and her lawyer have drawn intense news coverage since she filed her suit. Avenatti has appeared regularly on television to reveal new details about the effort to keep Clifford quiet during the presidential campaign, which culminated in the deal for her silence in October 2016.

On Friday, for instance, Avenatti said on the MSNBC program Morning Joe that Clifford had been threatened with physical harm to stay silent about her story, though he did not say by whom or when.

Speaking on New Day on CNN, he said she would provide details on 60 Minutes, saying, "She's going to be able to provide very specific details about what happened here."

Asked about Avenatti's allegation relating to threats, the president's press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that she had "no knowledge" about it, but "obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously."

Last week Avenatti revealed that Cohen had received help from a Trump Organization lawyer in initially seeking the restraining order against Clifford. That lawyer said she was working in a personal capacity and not on the company's behalf.

Clifford had told In Touch magazine that her affair with Trump lasted several months. Her case came back into public view in October 2016, as she became concerned that the $130,000 she was promised would not come through.

Clifford's initial deal has struck legal experts over its terms, including its provision that she would be responsible for "liquidated damages" of $1 million for each breach of the agreement.

In its motion, Trump's legal team indicates that it considers her liable for $20 million, for 20 breaches that it did not detail.

In bringing Trump directly into the suit, his lawyer Harder appeared to be seeking to answer a key challenge from Clifford's lawyer, Avenatti, that in failing to sign the original deal, Trump was not bound by it.

The new motion makes clear that Trump now fully considers himself a party to it.

In this Feb. 11, 2007, file photo, adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. New documents show a top lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in legal efforts to keep adult film star Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump. The arbitration documents are signed by Trump Organization lawyer Jill A. Martin and list her address as that of Trump's golf club in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

A Section on 03/18/2018

Print Headline: Trump joins in claim that porn star violated pact

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  • TimberTopper
    March 18, 2018 at 6:43 a.m.

    LOL! In doing so he just admitted his guilt!

  • RobertBolt
    March 18, 2018 at 8:21 a.m.

    Selling his name for money is Trump's core business. We just don't yet know some of his buyers.

  • BoudinMan
    March 18, 2018 at 10:14 a.m.

    Hey, 30 per centers, the porn star trump screwed around on his wife with blackmailed your hero.

  • mrcharles
    March 18, 2018 at 2:28 p.m.

    Nor being a lawyer, is this violation like Trump violating decency & his marriage vows?.

    Ask an evangelical? They will say they are still to busy trying to figure out tthe trinity to think of family values other than just say the words.

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