Porn star Stormy Daniels is launching an online fundraising campaign to cover the legal costs of breaking free of the confidentiality agreement she made with Donald Trump’s attorney before the 2016 election.
Daniels accepted $130,000 from the attorney, Michael Cohen, 12 days before the election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual relationship with Trump more than a decade ago. Now, that once-secret deal is part of the public record, attached to her lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court against the president.
“I am attempting to speak honestly and openly to the American people about my relationship with now President Donald Trump and the intimidation and tactics used against me,” Daniels says on her new fundraising website, which became active Wednesday morning.
“But unfortunately, I do not have the vast resources to fight Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen alone,” she writes. “Thank you for supporting me.”
Cohen initially dismissed reports about the affair, though he later said he “facilitated” the $130,000 payment to Daniels using his own home equity line of credit. 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.”
The fundraising appeal is the latest move by Daniels’s new attorney, Michael Avenatti, in a sweeping public relations offensive that includes his frequent television appearances and legal maneuvers, brash comments on social media, and a yet-to-be-aired interview Daniels gave last week to CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Avenatti teased the interview Wednesday morning by posting a photo on Twitter of Daniels and journalist Anderson Cooper sitting face to face under television set lights.
Avenatti’s aggressive posture comes with financial risks. Daniels’s deal with Cohen called for private arbitration to settle any disputes and a penalty of $1 million each time the agreement is violated. Cohen, who initiated arbitration two weeks ago to obtain a temporary gag order against Daniels, has suggested he will pursue those penalties.
“I believe Mr. Avenatti’s actions and behavior has been both reckless and imprudent as it opens Ms. Clifford to substantial monetary liability, which I intend to pursue,” Cohen said told The Washington Post on Friday, using Daniels’s given name.
Daniels says on the website that she will use donations for attorney’s fees, out-of-pocket legal costs, any damages assessed against her and security costs. Avenatti cited “credible” threats against Daniels in recent days, though he would not detail those threats or her security measures. Refunds of any leftover money will be prorated under the CrowdJustice.com policy.
Avenatti told CNN last week that “at least” 10 people have offered to give Daniels $1 million so she can speak freely about her relationship with Trump.
“We could have easily gone out and secretly raised millions from a number of ‘fat cat’ donors who don’t like the president,” Avenatti told The Post on Wednesday. “But that isn’t in the spirit of what this is about.”
Frances Stead Sellers and Emma Brown contributed to this report.