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Trump lawyer got secret order muzzling Stormy Daniels on alleged tryst, her attorney says

Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, obtained a secret restraining order last week to block porn actress Stormy Daniels from speaking publicly about Trump's alleged extramarital affair with her, according to Daniels' attorney.

The order came in a private Los Angeles arbitration proceeding Cohen initiated to enforce a hush-money deal reached with Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. In return for keeping silent, Daniels received $130,000 from a Delaware shell company Cohen set up before the election.

Asked whether Trump approved the payment, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the president has "made very clear that none of these allegations are true."

"This case has already been won in arbitration," she said.

Pressed on whether Trump knew about the payment when it was made, Sanders responded: "Not that I'm aware of."

Arbitrator Jacqueline A. Connor, a retired state judge in Los Angeles, granted Cohen's request last week for a temporary restraining order to muzzle Daniels, who was not given a chance to argue against it. Connor barred Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from disclosing that the arbitration proceeding was taking place once she found out about it.

In apparent defiance of that order, Daniels, 38, filed a lawsuit against the president Tuesday seeking to void the October 2016 hush-money agreement, saying Trump never signed it. The suit accused Cohen, at the president's behest, of trying to "shut her up" to protect Trump in what her complaint called "a bogus arbitration proceeding."

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The restraining order, dated Feb. 28, was first reported Wednesday by NBC News, which posted it on its website.

Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti confirmed that it was Cohen who obtained the restraining order.

The legal wrangling cast light on the hardball tactics used by celebrities to enforce confidentiality agreements, including secret arbitration proceedings that can be tilted in favor of the famous person. The hush-money pact gave Trump sole discretion to decide whether the arbitration would take place under California, Nevada or Arizona law. Should Daniels be found to have broken the deal, she would have to return the $130,000 and pay Trump at least $1 million in damages.

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