White House: Trump thinks Stormy Daniels lied about threat

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington in September. Cohen is challenging porn actress Stormy Daniel's unsubstantiated charge someone tied to Trump threatened her with physical harm if she went public with her story about a tryst with Trump years ago.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais ~ Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Monday said President Donald Trump has consistently denied the allegations leveled by porn star Stormy Daniels in her "60 Minutes" interview, and said Trump does not believe her claim she was threatened to stay quiet over their alleged affair.

White House spokesman Raj Shah declined to say whether the president had actually watched the Sunday broadcast. But he nonetheless said Trump does not believe "any of the claims that Ms. Daniels made last night in the interview are accurate."

"The president strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims, and the only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims," he said.

In the interview, Daniels said she'd slept with Trump once, shortly after now-first lady Melania Trump gave birth to the president's youngest son. She also said a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, when she was with her infant daughter, and threatened her with physical harm if she went public with her story.

In a letter late Sunday night, an attorney for Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, demanded Daniels publicly apologize to his client for suggesting he was involved in her intimidation.

"In truth, Mr. Cohen had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any such person or incident, and does not even believe any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred," wrote Brent H. Blakely. He said Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, should "cease and desist from making any further false and defamatory statements about my client."

Daniels, in response, filed a revised federal lawsuit accusing Cohen of defamation. The suit now alleges Cohen made a false statement damaging Daniels' reputation when he released a statement in February intimating she was lying.

Daniels told "60 Minutes" she had consensual sex once with the future president, providing a few salacious details but little new evidence of the encounter.

In a round of television interviews Monday morning, Avenatti said he was holding back certain details of the alleged affair, including the contents of a CD or DVD he tweeted a picture of last week, for strategic reasons. "It would make no sense for us to play our hand as to this issue, and we're not going to do it right now," he said on NBC's "Today" show.

Daniels received a $130,000 payment days before the 2016 presidential election for her silence and has sought to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed. Cohen has said he paid the $130,000 out of his pocket while asserting Trump never had sex with the porn actress.

"He knows I'm telling the truth," Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, said of Trump. She said she was not coerced to have sex and "I was not a victim."

Previously, Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment.

During Monday's briefing, Shah said neither the White House nor Trump had violated campaign finance laws restricting political contributions.

"The White House didn't engage in any wrongdoing," Shah said of Trump's behavior, adding there was "nothing to corroborate" Daniels' intimidation claims.

Avenatti insisted the threat "had to have come from someone associated with Mr. Trump," but acknowledged he had no direct evidence implicating Trump or his lawyer.

Trump has been uncharacteristically silent on the allegations. He complained in a tweet Monday about "So much Fake News," but has not confronted the allegations head-on. A spokeswoman for the first lady said she is "focused on being a mom and is quite enjoying spring break at Mar-a-Lago while working on future projects."

But Daniels was on Trump's mind this weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, where he had dinner Saturday night with Cohen at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Mar-a-Lago member Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, told ABC Sunday Trump told him "much of the Stormy Daniels stuff" is a "political hoax."

In the interview, Daniels described a sexual encounter with Trump beginning with him talking about himself and showing her an issue of a magazine with his picture on the cover.

She said she ordered him to drop his pants and, in a playful manner, "I just gave him a couple swats." At one point she said he told her: "Wow, you -- you are special. You remind me of my daughter."

The interview gave the show its biggest audience in a decade, with slightly more than 22 million viewers tuning in, according to Nielsen company estimates.

Daniels is not the only woman accusing Trump. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal told Cooper in a CNN interview broadcast Thursday her affair with Trump began at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2006.

McDougal has filed suit in Los Angeles seeking to invalidate a confidentiality agreement with American Media Inc., the company owning the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. It paid her $150,000 during the 2016 presidential election for the rights to her story. It never ran.

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