President Trump’s lawyer secretly obtained a temporary restraining order last week to prevent a pornographic film star from speaking out about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump, according to legal documents and interviews.
The order, issued by an arbitrator in California and reviewed by The New York Times, pertained to the actress Stephanie Clifford, who had been paid $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election in what she calls a “hush agreement.” In recent weeks, she had prepared to speak publicly about Mr. Trump, claiming his lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had broken the agreement.
The details of the order emerged on Wednesday after the White House’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that Mr. Trump’s lawyer had won an arbitration proceeding against Ms. Clifford, who goes by the name of Stormy Daniels.
Ms. Sanders’s statement put the White House in the middle of a story that Mr. Trump and his lawyer had been trying to keep quiet for well over a year. The turn of events created the spectacle of a sitting president using legal maneuvers to avoid further scrutiny of salacious accusations of an affair and a payoff involving the porn star.
Although Ms. Clifford said their relationship was consensual, the issue is particularly sensitive to Mr. Trump, whose campaign was dogged by allegations of groping and his boast of grabbing women’s crotches.
Ms. Clifford filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday asserting that the nondisclosure agreement that accompanied the $130,000 payment was void because Mr. Trump never signed it.
Ms. Sanders said that the president had denied having an affair with Ms. Clifford or making the payment himself. She added that she was not aware of whether Mr. Trump knew about the payment to Ms. Clifford at the time.
“I’ve had conversations with the president about this,” Ms. Sanders said. “This case has already been won in arbitration, and there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he has denied all these allegations.”
Lawrence S. Rosen, a lawyer representing Mr. Cohen, said in a statement on Wednesday that an arbitrator, who “found that Ms. Clifford had violated the agreement,” barred her from filing her lawsuit and making other disclosures of confidential information.
Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said that he did not consider the restraining order, dated Feb. 27, valid, and that his client would proceed with her lawsuit in open court. “This should be decided publicly,” he said.
The White House’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Wednesday that the president’s lawyer had won an arbitration proceeding against the actress. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
Ms. Clifford’s nondisclosure contract, made public through her lawsuit, calls for disagreements to be settled through confidential, binding arbitration. The lawsuit was filed a week after Mr. Cohen initiated arbitration proceedings, but the court papers did not say what was at issue or refer to the restraining order.
The contract gives Mr. Trump the right to seek financial penalties of more than $1 million in arbitration should Ms. Clifford break or threaten to break her agreement to stay silent. It also gives him the right to obtain an injunction barring her from speaking while disputes are considered in arbitration or open court. Those terms prompted Ms. Clifford to change her plans about going public, according to two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak about it.