In February, President Donald Trump personally commanded his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to stop adult-film star Stormy Daniels from speaking out about their alleged sexual encounter, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper said that Trump, 72, told Cohen, 53, on the phone to seek a restraining order against Daniels, 39, through “a confidential arbitration proceeding.” The president allegedly made the move after learning that Daniels was planning to give media interviews about her alleged sexual relationship with The Apprentice star, even though she had signed a nondisclosure agreement in October 2016. Trump has denied having an affair.
Sources told the outlet that the Trump Organization was also allegedly involved in trying to silence Daniels. According to the Journal, Trump directed Cohen to speak to his son Eric Trump — who is running the company along with Donald Jr. — and two lawyers associated with the Trump Organization about the legal response efforts.
The Trump Organization has previously denied being involved with the hush agreement, as has the White House, which claimed it was a private arrangement between Cohen and Daniels.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, reps from the White House directed PEOPLE to Trump’s outside counsel, Jay Sekulow, for comment. Sekulow and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
In February, news broke that Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election to stay quiet. Despite denying any sexual encounters with Daniels, the president allegedly told Cohen to “enforce the contract” and that he’d take on any necessary costs during a February conversation. “I’ll take care of everything,” Trump said, sources told the paper. He also admitted he reimbursed Cohen for the payment.
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Cohen and Trump also allegedly discussed the matter for a second time on the phone a few days later in the office of outside lawyer Lawrence Rosen, who has previously represented the Trumps and their business. Rosen allegedly asked a Trump Organization lawyer, Jill Martin, to sign off on arbitration paperwork filed on Feb. 22. He told her Eric Trump asked for her to be involved, the Journal reports.
In an earlier statement to the Journal, which sources told the outlet Eric Trump approved, Martin said she acted individually without any influence from the Trump Organization when filing the documents.
Daniels filed a civil suit against the president on March 6, claiming that the nondisclosure agreement she signed to allegedly keep quiet about their affair was invalid because Trump never signed it. (Cohen reportedly did on Trump’s behalf.) In court documents filed in Los Angeles and publicly shared by her lawyer Michael Avenatti on Twitter, Daniels states that she and Trump had multiple sexual encounters, including at a July 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe and “well into the year 2007.”
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“As a result of Ms. Clifford’s efforts aimed at publicly disclosing her story and her communications with various media outlets, Ms. Clifford’s plans came to the attention of Mr. Trump and his campaign, including Mr. Michael Cohen,” the lawsuit alleged.
“Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his attorney Mr. Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the Presidential Election,” the documents claimed. “Mr. Cohen subsequently prepared a draft non-disclosure agreement and presented it to Ms. Clifford and her attorney (the ‘Hush Agreement’).”