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Trump lawyer’s efforts to suppress Stormy Daniels started in 2011

Here's how President Trump became embroiled in allegations that he had a sexual encounter with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen interceded in 2011 to prevent porn star Stormy Daniels from airing her story about an alleged affair with Donald Trump, telling the agent who arranged for its publication that he could harm her career, according to a person involved in the discussions.

Randy Spears, the ex-husband of agent Gina Rodriguez, told The Washington Post he answered the phone when Cohen called ­Rodriguez after she arranged for Daniels to earn $15,000 by telling her story to a celebrity publication.

“You tell Gina that if she ever wants to work in this town again, she’ll call me immediately,” Spears said Cohen told him. He said ­Rodriguez, who declined to take Cohen’s call, contacted her lawyer instead.

Spears’s account offers the first look at the original effort by Trump’s lawyer to silence Daniels, who resurfaced again in 2016 as Trump ran for president. Cohen has acknowledged arranging a $130,000 payment in October 2016, using money from his own home equity line of credit, to ensure her silence. Cohen did not respond to questions from The Post.

In recent weeks, Daniels’s nondisclosure agreement has brought tense legal negotiations as she prepares once again to tell her story — this time, to CBS’s “60 Minutes” in a segment with Anderson Cooper tentatively scheduled for March 25. Lawyers for a Cohen company involved in the Daniels payment are trying to enforce a provision that makes Daniels liable for a $1 million penalty each time she speaks publicly about a relationship with Trump. The lawyers claimed in a federal court filing Friday that the total penalty they seek is now up to $20 million.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had first agreed to tell her story to Bauer Publications, publisher of celebrity tabloids, in 2011. She abruptly pulled out of the deal and the story was held. Bauer could not be reached Saturday.

According to Spears, the deal included a 20 percent commission for Rodriguez, a $1,500 payment to him, and, Spears believes, the same amount for Michael Mosny, who lived with Daniels about the time of the alleged interactions with Trump. All of them had previously been active in the porn industry. Rodriguez declined to comment, and Mosny, also known as Mike Moz, could not be reached.

Spears said he had to agree to a polygraph test commissioned by Bauer in 2011 to describe when he first heard of Daniels’s purported relationship with Trump. The tests were intended to bolster Daniels’s veracity, he said.

Spears, whose real name is Greg Deuschle, said Daniels first told him about an alleged affair with Trump in summer 2006, not long after the celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe where she said she met “The Apprentice” star and began a sporadic sexual relationship.

Spears and Daniels were friends at the time. They often acted together in pornographic films for an adult-film studio, Wicked Pictures.

He said he didn’t give her account much thought until 2011, when Daniels called him to ask if she should try to sell her story.

He said he set her up with ­Rodriguez, his ex-wife, who had left the porn business to start a media and talent company. He said she put the wheels in motion for the interview’s publication in Life & Style, a Bauer publication. It also owns InTouch Weekly,

In May 2011, Daniels told her story by phone to reporter Jordi Lippe-McGraw.

Spears recalled going to an office on Los Angeles’s Wilshire Boulevard for the polygraph.

“Of course if they asked me, ‘Did it happen?’ I couldn’t have answered,” Spears said. “I have no reason to believe Stormy Daniels would ever lie to me.”

He said the call from Cohen came out of the blue. He said he regarded Cohen’s comments as “trying to bully us. And Gina won’t be bullied. She ranted and raved, like ‘How dare he?’ ”

Spears listened as Rodriguez called her attorney, Keith Davidson.

After some back and forth, Spears said, Davidson urged them to back out of the arrangement. Rodriguez called off the deal. A spokesman for Davidson, who resurfaced in recent weeks as an attorney for Daniels, said he could not comment because of attorney-client privilege.

Four former Bauer employees told the Associated Press that Cohen also reached out directly to Bauer, sending an email to the general counsel saying Trump would sue if the story was printed.

“Stories were killed all the time,” said Lippe-McGraw, who left Bauer in 2015 and didn’t think much about her phone interview with Daniels until January when the Wall Street Journal ran a story saying Cohen arranged the $130,000 payment.

On Jan. 19, Life & Style’s sister publication, InTouch, ran a 5,500-word transcript of the original 2011 interview. The editor, James Heidenry, told The Post in January that the article had been in the archives for years.

“Ms. Clifford never received any money for her story from any publication,” her current attorney, Michael Avenatti, said.

Spears said he now feels torn between a president he admires and his adult-entertainment friend.

Looking back, he said he understands that Cohen was simply getting ahead of a damaging story.

“You know the game,” Spears said. “That’s the way it’s played.”