President Donald Trump on Thursday denied that he knew his attorney paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.
The payment, from Trump attorney Michael Cohen, was negotiated in October 2016 in exchange for Daniels signing a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from talking about the alleged encounter, The Wall Street Journal reported in January.
Since the report surfaced, Trump has avoided answering questions about Daniels or Cohen’s payment. He broke his silence Thursday, telling reporters on Air Force One that he did not know about the exchange.
Politico reported that when asked why Cohen would have made the payment, Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
He said he didn’t know where the money had come from. Cohen has said that he paid out of his pocket and that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Trump’s comments only served to bolster his client’s case. Daniels filed suit against Trump last month in an effort to break the nondisclosure agreement, claiming the document was invalid because it was never signed by Trump.
“The strength of our case just went up exponentially,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter Thursday after Trump’s comments surfaced. “You can’t have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it.”
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has offered to return the $130,000 as she tries to “set the record straight.” She’s said she had sex with Trump once in 2006, a few months after the birth of his youngest son, and their relationship continued for about a year. Trump married his current wife, Melania, in 2005, and their son, Barron, was born in 2006.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.