The actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, performs at the Solid Gold Fort Lauderdale strip club on March 9, 2018 in Pompano Beach, Florida. 
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump no longer keeping his distance from Daniels scandal

Updated

In general, Donald Trump lashes out, almost instinctively, against all perceived foes. It doesn’t much matter who wrongs him – politicians, athletes, entertainers, foreign officials, et al – because the president will respond to practically any slight with an attack of his own.

Except, oddly enough, Stormy Daniels. To date, the president has said literally nothing – not even a brief tweet – about the adult-film actress who received $130,000 in hush money from his personal attorney. On this one issue, if no other, Trump has somehow managed to become the model of message discipline, maintaining total silence.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/16/18, 9:26 PM ET

Trump shows new seriousness about Stormy Daniels case

Rachel Maddow reports that Donald Trump has hired attorney Charles Harder to represent him in the Stormy Daniels legal case, and filed to move the case to a federal court, showing a new seriousness about the situation.
The president’s lawyers, however, appear to have plenty to say.

President Donald Trump and his personal attorney are trying to get a lawsuit by adult film star Stormy Daniels transferred to federal court – and they claim she’s on the hook for at least $20 million for violating a secrecy agreement signed just before the election.

An attorney for the actress accused the Trump team of “bullying tactics” for the legal maneuver, which is aimed at pushing the dispute into private arbitration.

As Rachel noted on Friday’s show, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has already sued Trump in state court, hoping to get out of the non-disclosure agreement that prevents her from talking about her alleged “intimate” relationship. It’s the president’s lawyer in this case, Charles Harder, who filed a motion to move the case to federal court, likely as a way of increasing the chances the matter will be resolved by private arbitration.

And who’s Charles Harder? He’s the lawyer who oversaw the case that put Gawker out of business.

As for the $20 million figure, the existing agreement between the porn star and the president’s legal team calls for $1 million in damages for every instance in which Daniels breaches the NDA – and according to Trump’s lawyers’ latest filing, Daniels has broken the deal at least 20 times.

All of this, by the way, represents Trump’s first direct involvement in the Daniels scandal. We’ve all suspected from the outset that the president and his alleged relationship was at the center of the story, but it’s now his name listed plainly in court filings. As the New York Times  reported:

Until now, Mr. Trump had kept his distance from the legal wrangling, leaving it to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to take the lead in refuting Ms. Clifford’s claims…. When Mr. Cohen brought a temporary restraining order seeking to silence Ms. Clifford in late February, he did so on behalf of a shell company he used to pay her through, not on behalf of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s name surfaced in one of two motions his legal team filed Friday in Los Angeles. One, in the name of the shell company, Essential Consultants, sought to move the suit to federal court from Los Angeles Superior Court, where Ms. Clifford filed the suit.

The second motion, filed on Mr. Trump’s behalf, states that he joins Essential Consultants in seeking the change of venue and ends with the statement, “Mr. Trump intends to pursue his rights to the fullest extent permitted by the law.”

The question of whether or not Trump is a party to this case has apparently now been answered.

Meanwhile, Daniels’ “60 Minutes” interview is still scheduled to air this upcoming weekend. There was some talk last week about the president’s lawyers suing CBS, but as of now, that hasn’t occurred – and even if there was such a case, it’d be a long shot.

Donald Trump and Scandals

Trump no longer keeping his distance from Daniels scandal

Updated