A former Playboy model who claims she had a 10-month affair with Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit to be released from a 2016 agreement to stay silent.
Like adult film actor Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal is arguing that her contract to not discuss her alleged relationship with Trump is invalid and she should be allowed to make her case in public court, not private arbitration.
McDougal is suing American Media Inc. (AMI) — the owner of the National Enquirer and Us Weekly — which paid her $150,000 in 2016 for the rights to her story, including claims that she had a relationship with Trump from 2006 to 2007.
However, the media company never published the story, and McDougal claims Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was secretly involved in negotiations with AMI, whose CEO is a friend of the president.
AMI has a reputation for buying rights to and then burying stories that might damage allies of the company's CEO, David J. Pecker.
The agreement was amended for "legitimate press inquiries," but every time a journalist has reached out to McDougal, she alleges in her lawsuit that AMI has forced her to remain silent as they feed the journalists "false information."
McDougal alleges in her lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that she was pressured by all parties, including her own lawyer, to sign the agreement, which included a promise to help jumpstart her career as a health and fitness model. Under the agreement, AMI was allegedly required to run more than 100 editorial pieces and at least two covers featuring her as part of a campaign to promote her fitness model career.
"The lawsuit filed today aims to restore [McDougal's] right to her own voice," McDougal's new lawyer, Peter K. Stris, said in a statement to the New York Times. "We intend to invalidate the so-called contract that American Media Inc. imposed on Karen so she can move forward with the private life she deserves."
An AMI spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that they have used 20 of McDougal's columns and noted her top-selling 2017 cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine as examples of their ongoing working relationship.
“We have been very proud of Karen McDougal and our work with her,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The relationship has produced good journalism and content for our publications. And until very recently, it was our understanding that Ms. McDougal was satisfied with our editorial approach to her work with AMI’s publications.
"Her lawsuit is the first time AMI has learned of her desire to go a different direction. AMI has a valid contract with Karen and we look forward to reaching an amicable resolution satisfactory to her and to AMI.”
The McDougal filing is just the latest legal woe to hit the Trump camp in recent weeks as the Clifford scandal consumes more oxygen.
A state judge in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that a lawsuit by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice who has made public accusations against Trump during the campaign about "unwanted sexual misconduct," can go forward. She's suing Trump for defamation regarding comments he made about her during the campaign.