A top Trump Organization attorney filed a secret legal document to keep Stormy Daniels from talking about her purported affair with President Trump, deepening links between Trump’s company and the effort to silence the porn star.
The Trump Organization rapidly distanced itself from the document, filed as component of confidential arbitration proceedings in Los Angeles on Feb. 22. The document was made public Wednesday evening by CNN and the Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post confirmed its authenticity with Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels.
In a statement, the Trump Organization emphasized that the company is not representing anyone in the Daniels dispute and “has no involvement in the matter.”
But the document suggests that one of its attorneys was involved in the arbitration proceeding to prevent Daniels from revealing more details about her alleged affair with Trump, which she says started at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. The White House has suggested that Trump prevailed in the recent arbitration ruling.
The document adds a new twist to the saga of Daniels, who claims she was secretly paid to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump just weeks before his election in November 2016. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who worked at the Trump Organization through the election, has said he paid $130,000 to Daniels out of his own pocket, dipping into a home equity line of credit. He has said there was no involvement by Trump’s company or Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The Trump company says Jill A. Martin, a lawyer with the Trump Organization, filed the document in her personal capacity while awaiting permission for another lawyer, not connected to the company, to practice in California. That lawyer, Larry Rosen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Daniels has sued Trump in an effort to break free from a confidentiality agreement that prohibits her from speaking about her alleged affair with Trump. Her deal came two weeks before the election and imposed stiff monetary penalties for speaking about the relationship.
Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, has acknowledged making that payment. He has insisted that he was not reimbursed for the payment by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has rejected the notion that Trump approved the payment to Daniels, saying, “None of these allegations are true.”
But late last month, after the $130,000 payment became the subject of media scrutiny, Martin signed documents demanding that Daniels enter into private arbitration with Cohen.
Martin is based at the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, according to California bar records, and her LinkedIn profile says she serves as vice president and assistant general counsel for the Trump Organization.
While the documents do not show that the Trump Organization was involved in the initial payment to Daniels in 2016, they do show that a high-ranking official at the company played a role in efforts to keep the porn star from telling her story now.
Five days after Martin’s filing, Cohen obtained a temporary restraining order from the arbitrator, preventing Daniels from speaking publicly about the alleged affair.
The notion that Cohen’s efforts to silence Daniels were walled off from Trump and the Trump Organization “is a complete and utter fiction,” Avenatti said Wednesday night on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Cohen “expects the American people to believe that he spent all of this time and energy, hours upon hours, doing all of this work, and the president never knew anything about it, and no one in the Trump Organization ever knew anything about it,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti has said that his goal is to “shed light” on Daniels’s side of the story. He has shown a willingness to surface secret documents, including the original hush agreement Daniels signed in 2016 and that Avenatti contends is invalid because it does not have Trump’s signature.
Under that hush agreement, disputes must be settled by private arbitration, in which filings are not entered into the public record. The penalty for breaking the agreement is set at $1 million per violation.
Cohen has previously said that Avenatti was exposing Daniels to financial risk and that he intends to pursue damages.
Martin, the Trump Organization lawyer who signed the arbitration documents, is a Trump loyalist who was a vocal supporter of Trump after revelations that he had once boasted about grabbing women. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“None of us would ever imagine he would do something like this,” Martin said on CNN in October 2016. “It’s just completely inconsistent with his character and our own personal experiences, so because of that I believe him when he says he didn’t do anything disproportionate with women.”
Also during the presidential campaign, Martin told talk show host Larry King that Trump “does promote women more than I’ve seen in other huge companies,” describing him as “a champion of women succeeding in business.”
Contacted in 2015 for an article about women who had worked closely with Trump, Cohen put forward Martin, who was 35 at the time. Martin, who said she had joined the Trump Organization five years earlier, described Trump as helping to advance her career. When a case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Martin said she expected Trump to ask a more experienced male lawyer to argue for the company. But Trump picked her. “He said, ‘Jill, you’ll do great,’ ” she recalled. “He pushed me when I needed it.”