STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, is suing the president of the United States. The complaint alleges that President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen used intimidation and coercive tactics to make Clifford sign a statement denying that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Part of this story, of course, is a $130,000 payment that the lawyer says he made to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence. We're now joined by Michael Rothfeld, one of the Wall Street Journal reporters who first revealed that payment.
Good morning, sir.
MICHAEL ROTHFELD: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What is the point of this lawsuit?
ROTHFELD: The point is that Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who goes by Stormy Daniels, is trying to get out of the contract she signed not to be able to talk about her allegation of having an affair with President Trump.
INSKEEP: And what is the basis under which she would get out of that contract?
ROTHFELD: Well, a few things she's citing. She says President Trump never signed the agreement and that he was supposed to. He was listed as David Dennison, a pseudonym, in the agreement. And there was a place for him to sign it, but he did not. She says he didn't sign it because he wanted to later be able to disavow any knowledge of the agreement if anyone found out about it, which obviously we did. And secondly, she says that Michael Cohen, the president's attorney, last month gave a statement where he acknowledged the existence of the agreement and the payment and that by doing that, he breached any confidentiality that existed.
INSKEEP: The president identified himself in this contract as David Dennison. Is that right?
ROTHFELD: Well, Michael Cohen drafted the contract. And the president was referred to as David Dennison, a pseudonym, so - or DD. But it doesn't name President Trump specifically.
INSKEEP: OK. OK. And I guess we should clarify he was not president at the time that his lawyer identified him as David Dennison, this pseudonym. So is it not an agreement if the president didn't sign it? Any idea of the legalities there?
ROTHFELD: I don't know. Michael Cohen signed it, and Stephanie Clifford signed it. And she was paid. So it's - you know, it's something that, if it were to go to court, it would have to be decided by a judge whether or not it actually has been breached.
INSKEEP: So is she seeking damages in this lawsuit or merely seeking legal clearance to speak in any way that she would like to speak?
ROTHFELD: She's not asking for damages right now. She's just asking for the agreement to be declared null and void. So presumably, yes, she wants to be able to talk about what happened between her and Mr. Trump (unintelligible).
INSKEEP: Hasn't the White House denied that there's any relationship between the president and Stephanie Clifford?
ROTHFELD: Yeah. Both the White House and Michael Cohen have repeatedly said there was - nothing happened between them.
INSKEEP: So what do you learn, ultimately, by looking at this latest complaint and this latest move by Stormy Daniels? Does this tell you anything more about the relations between Daniels and the president or anything else about this episode?
ROTHFELD: Well, some of it's come out publicly. And in In Touch magazine, there was an interview she did in 2011, where she talked about an ongoing affair in 2006, 2007. And this sort of jibes with what she told In Touch magazine. It just tells us a little more detail about what they agreed to, says that she had text messages from the president. But fundamentally, it's largely consistent with what we already knew.
INSKEEP: For someone who's been silenced, she's managed to say a lot.
ROTHFELD: She certainly has, and I guess she wants to keep doing it.
INSKEEP: Mr. Rothfeld, thanks very much.
ROTHFELD: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Michael Rothfeld of The Wall Street Journal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.