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Trump’s Lawyers Claim Stormy Daniels Violated Confidentiality Agreement at Least 20 Times

When Mr. Cohen brought a temporary restraining order seeking to silence Ms. Clifford in late February, he did so on behalf of a shell company he used to pay her through, not on behalf of Mr. Trump.

Mr. 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 suit to federal court from Los Angeles Superior Court, where Ms. Clifford filed the suit.

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

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

Mr. 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 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,” Mr. Avenatti said. He added, “We are not going away and we will not be intimidated by these threats.”

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


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On Friday, for instance, Mr. Avenatti said on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe’’ that Ms. 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.”

A day earlier, Mr. Avenatti said that other women alleging involvement with Mr. Trump had approached his office, later adding that two of those women said they had signed nondisclosure agreements to maintain their silence. He said, however, that he had not vetted their claims.

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

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

Ms. Clifford had told inTouch that her affair with Mr. 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.

Mr. Cohen told The New York Times this year that he paid Ms. Clifford out of his own pocket, after The Wall Street Journal reported that she was paid through the shell company he created in Delaware.

That payment is the subject of criticism from the watchdog group Common Cause, which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice alleging it violated campaign finance rules.

Ms. Clifford’s initial deal has struck legal experts for its onerous terms, including its provision that she would be responsible for “liquidated damages” of $1 million for each breach of the agreement.

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


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In bringing Mr. Trump directly into the suit, Mr. Harder appeared to be seeking to answer a key challenge from Mr. Avenatti that in failing to sign the original deal, Mr. Trump was not bound by it. The new motion makes clear that Mr. Trump now fully considers himself a party to it.

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