President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has moved to claim at least $20 million in damages from porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen is alleging at least 20 violations. With the recent allegations of physical threats and post-election actions, the political costs to this strategy is likely to continue to rise. Notably, Cohen is not simply pursuing damages through his limited liability corporation Essential Consultants. An attorney for Trump is now directly calling for Daniels to be forced into arbitration . . . and silence.
Below is my column on the expanding litigation over the Stormy Daniels controversy and specifically the precarious ethical position for Trump’s longtime counsel, Michael Cohen. One interest development was the move by Daniels’ counsel (and my former research assistant) Michael Avenatti to get a new judge in the Daniels case. Avenatti argued that it was inappropriate for the case to be heard by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer because she is seeking a federal judgeship from President Trump. The move was surprisingly successful and the case was transferred to Judge Howard Halm. Like Feffer, Halm was appointed by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Here is the column:
Erik Graeff, 42, is a Vancouver lawyer based in Oregon who is accused of taking a dispute with a former co-counsel to an extraordinary level in allegedly firing several shots into the Beaverton office of Terrence Hogan. No one was hit in the office but one bullet barely missed an Administrative Assistant. Graeff is reportedly a former decorated sniper in the Marines.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that a prominent lawyer and an animal shelter volunteer has been arrested in a bizarre bestiality case involving his Labrador Snoopy. Ivan DeVoren, 61, is charged with 10 felony counts of animal cruelty, 10 counts of sexual intercourse with an animal in addition to drug charges. After police found crack cocaine and other drugs in his home, they added possession charges.
DeVoren represents energy companies on regulatory challenges and compliance. He has described himself as a “lawyer and philanthropist” according to Heavy.com.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the implications of the scandals involving two women who have claimed affairs with President Donald Trump in prior years. There are real risks here for the White House which has been issuing categorical denials. Some of the greatest threats to a presidency come from the outer edges. That was the legacy of Bill Clinton whose adultery led to public dishonesty and ultimately perjury.
I recently discussed the highly problematic statement of Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, that he paid off porn star Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) out of his personal funds. This admission did not necessary end the controversy over possible campaign finance violations but did add some thorny ethical questions. One of the possible costs was to void the 2016 agreement itself. Both sides reportedly agreed not to speak publicly about the details of the agreement, but Cohen has now done so in media interviews. In response, Daniels is declaring herself free of any limitations and promising to tell her full story. There is also a story that Daniels has a dress that might have forensic evidence linking her to Trump (sound familiar?). She is reportedly shopping her story. What a mess. This is the result of a combination of bad lawyering, publicity seeking, and what appears strikingly dishonest public statements. Non-disclosure agreements are tricky things since the parties will often dance around a breach in the hopes that the other party will trip the wire in response.
The danger for Trump is that Cohen, as previously described, has left him open to an allegation similar to the one that resulted in criminal charges against John Edwards — the use of a third party to conceal an affair as a circumvention of campaign finance laws. Mueller could conceivably ask about such payments as a possible crime — putting Trump in the same position as Bill Clinton.