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Stormy Daniels threatened with $20m in damages by Trump attorney

Edward Helmore in New York

Lawyer claims porn actor, who alleges affair with Trump, violated non-disclosure agreement as many as 20 times

An attorney for Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels, said of the threat: ‘They want to hide the truth from the American people.’ Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking $20m in damages from Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actor whose professional name is Stormy Daniels and who claims to have had an affair with the future president in 2006 and 2007.

A lawyer representing Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, claimed in federal court on Friday that Clifford had violated a non-disclosure agreement as many as 20 times.

Clifford has said she was secretly paid $130,000 to keep quiet. Cohen, who has said he was not reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign for making the payment, has not explained what the payment was for or whether Trump was aware of it.

According to Friday’s filing with the US district court for the central district of California, Cohen now plans to force the dispute from state to federal court and into closed-door arbitration.

Trump has also obtained a restraining order against Clifford.

Clifford’s counsel, Michael Avenatti, said the threat to pursue his client for millions and efforts to force the matter under the cover of anonymity amounted to bullying.

“To put it simply – they want to hide the truth from the American people. We will oppose this effort at every turn,” Avenatti said.

“The fact that a sitting president is pursuing over $20m in bogus ‘damages’ against a private citizen, who is only trying to tell the public what really happened, is truly remarkable. Likely unprecedented in our history. We are not going away and we will not be intimidated by these threats.”

The latest turn in the dispute trails what promises to be an explosive CBS 60 Minutes’ interview with Clifford, scheduled for broadcast next Sunday.

This week, Avenatti claimed six other women had similar stories to tell, two of whom were similarly under non-disclosure agreements. He also said Clifford had been threatened.

Avenatti has claimed the non-disclosure agreement signed by his client is invalid because Trump failed to sign it too. If the courts determine the NDA is valid, the actor could face a penalty of $1m for each violation.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has rejected the notion that Trump approved the payment to Clifford. The White House has also denied Trump had an affair with Daniels.