Trump Attacks Stormy Daniels, and Russia Inquiry, Too

Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Monday. She has accused President Trump of sending a man to physically threaten her years ago.

WASHINGTON — President Trump, confronting legal threats on multiple sides, sought on Wednesday to discredit a pornographic actress alleging a sexual encounter with him and investigators examining whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the 2016 election, saying both were dealing in fake allegations.

Mr. Trump turned to Twitter early Wednesday to deny the claim by Stephanie Clifford, the actress also known as Stormy Daniels who has said she had an affair with him in 2006, that Mr. Trump dispatched a man to physically threaten her years ago. The president called a composite sketch of the man released on Tuesday by Ms. Clifford’s lawyer “a total con job,” marking only the second time he has weighed in on the subject after weeks of frenzied news media coverage.

His tweet accompanied a post from another Twitter user, who said the man looked like Ms. Clifford’s former husband.

In a news conference later in the day, Mr. Trump again referred to the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s election interference and whether the president has obstructed justice as a “hoax.”

“This was a, really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss” in the election, he said during a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump declined to say whether he would seek to remove Mr. Mueller or Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, as he has frequently discussed doing privately. He offered only that despite speculation, he had yet to remove them.

“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months — and they’re still here,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said he had instructed his lawyers to be “totally transparent,” and he called for a quick end to the investigation.

“We are hopefully coming to the end,” he said. “It is a bad thing for our country — very, very bad thing for our country. But there has been no collusion. They won’t find any collusion. It doesn’t exist.”

Mr. Trump has said far less about the situation with Ms. Clifford. In making fun of the sketch, Mr. Trump shared it with his more than 50 million Twitter followers. And, according to Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, the president’s comments on Wednesday could lead to a defamation claim.

Mr. Trump’s representatives have denied that the two had a sexual encounter. And the president’s advisers have cautioned him not to make public comments or post tweets about the matter.

Credit...Michael Avenatti, via Associated Press

Ms. Clifford says the man in the sketch threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was with her infant daughter.

“A guy walked up on me and said to me: ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom,’” Ms. Clifford said in March during an interview aired on “60 Minutes.”

Ms. Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, are offering a $131,000 reward for the person who identifies the man in the sketch.

Ms. Clifford has said Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about the encounter, which she has said she had with Mr. Trump while he was married. The F.B.I. has been investigating Mr. Cohen for bank fraud related to this payment and other matters.

Ms. Clifford filed a lawsuit in California last month in which she claims a nondisclosure agreement she signed shortly before the 2016 presidential election was null and void because Mr. Trump never signed it.

Mr. Trump, who is known for tweeting his mind, has said little about the scandal. This month, he denied knowing about the payment Mr. Cohen made. Mr. Avenatti has said the president’s denial only helps his client’s case. In his own Twitter post on Wednesday, Mr. Avenatti appeared to regard the president’s tweet as a gift and called Mr. Trump a “completely unhinged, undisciplined opponent.”

Mr. Avenatti also tweeted on Wednesday that evidence collected in an F.B.I. raid on Mr. Cohen’s office and residences would reveal documents and recordings “showing con job after con job.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Avenatti said the president’s tweet calling the sketch a “total con job” could lead to a defamation lawsuit. Mr. Avenatti said the president “has now effectively called my client a liar” and accused Ms. Clifford of “perpetrating a con.” Mr. Avenatti said he will decide in the coming days whether to pursue a such a claim.

David A. Super, a law professor at Georgetown University, said Mr. Trump’s tweet on Wednesday was not likely to have an impact on his legal problems.

“I don’t think it hurts him,” Mr. Super said, because Mr. Trump tweeted about information that is in the public domain and does not reveal inside knowledge that only he would know.

Mr. Super said a defamation suit was probably a “stretch.” At this point, Mr. Super said, Ms. Clifford is a public figure and therefore would have to prove that Mr. Trump knew he was being dishonest or reckless when he said the sketch amounted to a “con job.”

“Of his tweets, I think it’s one of the better designed, one of the less self-destructive,” Mr. Super said.

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