ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This week, the accusation that President Trump had an affair more than a decade ago with an adult film actress became the subject of a lawsuit. The actress known as Stormy Daniels is suing the president so she can tell her story. The White House denies there was an affair but seemed to confirm that the president is party to an effort to keep her quiet.
NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here to help us sort through all this. Hi, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: OK, you are holding some paper in your hand that I understand is a copy of a temporary restraining order against Stormy Daniels. Tell us about this.
KEITH: Yeah. So to understand this restraining order you need to know that in late October of 2016, right before the election, Stormy Daniels signed a confidential settlement agreement where in exchange for $130,000 she agreed to remain silent about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. This was all arranged by President Trump's longtime attorney and fixer, a guy named Michael Cohen. Cohen has said repeatedly that Trump vehemently denies any relationship with Daniels.
So late last month, Daniels made it known that she wanted to tell her story. And Cohen went and secured this restraining order through a private arbitration that says that Daniels is still required to stay silent both in the media and in court filings. But then she filed suit against President Trump and Cohen. And as part of the filings there were a bunch of other documents, including that original nondisclosure agreement.
SHAPIRO: So Trump's allies are confirming the payment of $130,000 but not confirming the affair. What is the White House saying about this?
KEITH: Yeah. And Cohen essentially confirmed that he paid the money, but he isn't saying that he did it for Donald Trump. So there's that. The president himself has not weighed in. Sarah Sanders, the press secretary at the White House, was asked about the suit repeatedly yesterday at the briefing. And she's the reason we now know about this restraining order because she alluded to it. Let's hear the audio of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
STEVEN PORTNOY: You said that there's arbitration that's already been won - by whom and when?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: By the president's personal attorneys. And for details on that, I would refer you to them.
PORTNOY: But you're aware of them. So what more can you share with us?
SANDERS: I can share that the arbitration was won in the president's favor. And I would refer you to the president's outside counsel on any details beyond that.
KEITH: In the president's favor. That would be the key phrase. Cohen's attorney did not respond. Cohen himself did not respond to a request for comment. But, you know, the president wasn't technically named in the nondisclosure agreement or the restraining order. There's only an alias in there - no Donald Trump mentioned. So this is for the first time the White House acknowledging that the president is party to this effort to keep Daniels quiet.
SHAPIRO: This is so tangled. Tell us what the ramifications of that are.
KEITH: Yeah. Legally, I can't really tell you.
SHAPIRO: OK (laughter).
KEITH: But politically, so far there haven't really been any consequences for Trump as this story has spooled out in recent weeks, which is pretty remarkable given how salacious it is. But maybe that's because President Trump has all along defied norms. We've known a lot of things about him. There was that "Access Hollywood" tape that came out before he was elected. Let's just say, though, that this isn't going away. Daniels' attorney just tweeted out a picture of her with camera equipment behind her, indicating that she will be appearing on "60 Minutes."
SHAPIRO: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, never a dull moment on your beat. Thank you as always.
KEITH: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE SONG, "VICTIM LOVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.