ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Stephanie Clifford, who performs in adult films under the name Stormy Daniels, is offering to return $130,000 to President Trump. Trump's personal lawyer paid her that money in 2016. She says it was to buy her silence about a sexual affair she had with the president a decade earlier. President Trump denies the affair, and his lawyer says Trump didn't know about the payment either. Stephanie Clifford wants to pay the money back so she can tell her story. Her lawyer is Michael Avenatti.
Thank you for joining us today.
MICHAEL AVENATTI: Thanks for having me, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Your client freely signed a nondisclosure agreement. Why is she now trying to nullify it?
AVENATTI: Because pursuant to Paragraph 8.6 of the agreement, the agreement had to be signed by all parties. And it turned out that Mr. Trump never signed the agreement. And therefore there never was a formal agreement, and the agreement is null and void.
SHAPIRO: If this is all null and void, as you say, why offer to return the $130,000? Why not just speak freely?
AVENATTI: Well, because she is seeking a resolution to this dispute. The offer that's been made is very, very reasonable. The agreements will be deemed to be null and void. She can speak her side of the story, and Mr. Trump can come forward and tell his version of events if he disagrees. And we're going to let the American people decide after they've heard both sides who to believe and who not to believe.
SHAPIRO: Based on what you're saying today it sounds like she believes she has the right to speak whether or not President Trump's lawyer accepts this offer you're making today.
AVENATTI: I think the position's very simple. We have made a very reasonable offer, and I do not understand why the president and Mr. Cohen are going to such lengths to muzzle my client and prevent her from talking to the American people. What are they afraid of?
SHAPIRO: She granted an interview to "60 Minutes" which has not yet been broadcast. Despite the agreement that she would remain silent, why did she agree to do that interview?
AVENATTI: Well, I guess she'll have to be asked. And maybe she will be when and if that interview airs.
SHAPIRO: In early January, Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, released a statement signed by your client, Stephanie Clifford. And the statement said, allegations of a sexual and a romantic affair with Mr. Trump many, many years ago were completely false. It also said, rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false. Does your client stand by those denials?
AVENATTI: Well, I think you're going to learn that when and if the interview airs.
SHAPIRO: Is it in fact a discussion of the sexual relationship that she signed a contract saying she would not discuss?
AVENATTI: Ari, I'm not going to get into the details of the interview. That's the purpose of the interview. But what I will say is this. I hope that you've asked President Trump to come on your show. And I hope you've asked him three very basic questions. Did...
SHAPIRO: We've asked him many times to come on this program.
AVENATTI: All right. Did he know about the payment to muzzle this woman? Did he know about the agreement? Did he sign the agreement? You don't need 140 characters on Twitter to answer those questions.
SHAPIRO: The letter that you sent to President Trump's lawyers says that your client will pay back the $130,000 to President Trump by wire transfer to an account designated by the president. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, says the initial payment was made from Cohen's personal account without Trump's knowledge. So why offer to pay the money directly to President Trump instead of to his lawyer?
AVENATTI: Because that assertion is ludicrous - the suggestion to the American people that this attorney went off half-cocked, negotiated this agreement, had it drafted by him in a manner that required his client's signature. And now he wants the American people to believe that Mr. Trump knew nothing about it, and that the attorney then used $130,000 of his own money from a home equity line. He borrowed the money, according to what he now claims most recently, in order to make this payment on behalf of a billionaire running for the U.S. presidency. It's absurd. It's ludicrous.
SHAPIRO: The letter says that if this settlement is nullified, then your client, Stephanie Clifford, would be able to, quote, "use and publish any text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president." Are there text messages, photos and videos?
AVENATTI: I'm not going to confirm or deny that.
SHAPIRO: Yesterday you tweeted, to be clear and dispel the rumors, the paternity language in the nondisclosure agreement is boilerplate. There are no paternity issues here. So by the same token, to be clear and dispel rumors, is the language about photos and videos boilerplate? Are there photo and video issues here?
AVENATTI: I stand by my prior answer.
SHAPIRO: Michael Avenatti, thank you for joining us today.
AVENATTI: Thank you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Michael Avenatti is the lawyer for the porn star Stephanie Clifford, who performs as Stormy Daniels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.