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Stormy Daniels is an adult film star who says she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006, while he was married to Melania. Here's what you may not know about her. USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON — The lawsuit filed by adult film actress Stormy Daniels against President Trump bolsters claims that the $130,000 payment for her silence about an alleged affair likely violated federal election laws, campaign-finance watchdogs said Wednesday.

The suit’s claim that Trump knew about the payment and that it was aimed at keeping the affair from voters “confirms what we suspected,” said Paul Ryan, a top lawyer with Common Cause, one of the groups that have lodged complaints with the Federal Election Commission about the payoff.

“This is the first time we have someone involved in the transaction stating in the public record, the legal record, that Donald Trump was involved in this,” he said. If the allegations are true, the payment should have been disclosed on Trump’s federal campaign-finance reports, Ryan said.

Ryan said Common Cause officials intend to file updated complaints with federal regulators in the coming days.

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels. But his attorney Michael Cohen has acknowledged he helped arrange a $130,000 payment to the former porn star, who said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007.

Cohen did not respond to interview requests from USA TODAY. On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump has won an arbitration case in the Daniels' matter but referred further questions to "the president’s outside counsel."

Daniels' lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles, alleges that the non-disclosure agreement about her relationship with Trump wasn't valid because the then-Republican candidate never signed it.

She also claimed that Cohen began "a bogus arbitration proceeding" late last month in an effort to keep her quiet. The settlement agreement between Cohen and Daniels spells out arbitration as a way parties would resolve disputes.

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Cohen and Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, signed the agreement on Oct. 28, 2016, just days before the election. Under its terms, Daniels agreed to keep silent and is barred from selling or sharing "images and/or property and/or other confidential information" related to the alleged affair — indicating that she may have photos or other evidence.

In a Wednesday appearance on NBC’s Today Show, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti did not rule out the possibility that the ex-porn star would try to sell her story if she prevailed in court. “She’s looking to disclose the truth about what happened,” he said.

Asked whether Daniels had text messages and photos in her possession to back up her claims, Avenatti demurred. 

"That's a question Ms. Daniels will have to ultimately answer," he said. "I do know the answer, and I'm not at liberty to disclose that this morning."

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and expert on legal ethics, said Cohen's work on the settlement amounted to "normal behavior" on behalf of a client.  

"Other than the identity of the parties," he said, "it's really a plain vanilla template for a settlement with a non-disclosure obligation and an arbitration clause."

And he said Daniels' claim that the missing signature invalidates the agreement is a "weak argument."

“The fact is: She took the money, and she cashed the check," Gillers said.

 

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