By Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a man portrayed in a sketch released by porn star Stormy Daniels, who she said warned her to stop discussing her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump, does not exist.
In response, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti said his client would likely update a lawsuit she has filed against the president to include a charge of defamation.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had sex with Trump in 2006. She is fighting a 2016 nondisclosure agreement arranged by Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in which she was paid $130,000 to keep silent.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking at least $20 million in damages from Daniels for violations of the nondisclosure agreement.
On Tuesday, she and Avenatti released a sketch of a man whom she said had threatened her in 2011, and they offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to his identification.
Avenatti announced on Wednesday the reward had been increased to $131,000.
The picture they released showed a man with facial stubble and a chiseled jaw, who was wearing a hoodie. Daniels described him in an interview with ABC on Wednesday as “sort of handsome.”
Trump has largely remained quiet on the subject, although he told reporters earlier this month that he did not know about the payment to Daniels.
On Wednesday, in his first reference to Daniels via Twitter, he said in a post: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
In an interview with CNN, Avenatti said a defamation claim would likely be added to Daniels’ standing lawsuit.
“He’s effectively now told the American people that she is a liar, that she is a con, that she has made up this threat and this sketch,” he said. “We’re likely going to be amending our complaint – we’re looking at doing that now – to add a defamation claim directly against the president.”
The sketch was released the day after a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, where Trump attorney Cohen fought to limit the capability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized in a raid by FBI agents on his home, office and hotel room.
A source familiar with the raids said that the agents were looking for more information on payments to Daniels within materials related to Cohen’s business dealings. The raids are related to a separate investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Tim Ahmann and Rosalba O’Brien)