Karen McDougal, the former Playboy centerfold model who alleges she had a 10-month romantic affair with Donald Trump, pushed back tonight against White House claims that there was no truth to her allegations of a previous relationship with the president.
"I think somebody's lying," McDougal told CNN. "And I can tell you, it's not me."
McDougal’s interview –- after a decade of silence -- comes just two days after she filed a lawsuit in state court in California, seeking to invalidate a contract she signed with American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. In August 2016, AMI purchased the rights to McDougal's story in exchange for $150,000 and a deal for her to write columns and appear on covers of fitness magazines owned by AMI.
But AMI never published a story about her alleged affair with Trump.
She's alleging in court filings that AMI colluded with her former attorney and Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to purchase her story with the purpose of burying it in advance of the election. AMI has denied the allegations.
McDougal told CNN's Anderson Cooper that her first intimate encounter with Trump came in 2006, soon after she met the New York real-estate tycoon at the Playboy mansion during a taping there of his reality series, "The Apprentice." At the time, Trump had recently married the now-first lady Melania Trump, and the couple had an infant son.
"I was attracted to him," McDougal said. "He's a nice looking man. I liked his charisma."
Not long after that first meeting, McDougal said, Trump arranged for his personal bodyguard to bring her to a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where McDougal said the pair had their first date -– and first intimate encounter.
When it was over, McDougal said, Trump tried to hand her some money.
"And, I mean, I just had this look," she told CNN. "I don't even know how to describe it. The look on my face must have been so sad because I had never been offered money like that before, number one. But, number two, I thought, 'Does he think I am in this for money, or why I am here tonight? Or is this a normal thing? I didn't know.'
"But I looked at him and I said, 'That's not me, I am not that kind of girl.' And he said, 'Oh, you're really special.'"
McDougal’s interview with CNN comes amid a tumultuous period for the president, who's also facing a legal challenge from the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels. She's seeking to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement so she can speak freely about her own alleged affair with Trump. The president also is dealing with a civil lawsuit from Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who's claiming Trump defamed her after she accused him of groping and kissing her against her will in 2007.
Earlier this week, a New York state judge rejected Trump's efforts to have the Zervos case dismissed. And Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Cohen less than two weeks before the 2016 election, has given an interview to CBS News' "60 Minutes" scheduled to air Sunday.
The payments to Daniels and McDougal have also raised questions about possible violations of federal election laws. Liberal advocacy groups have asked the Federal Elections Commission to investigate. Cohen has said that the payment to Daniels was legal and came from his personal funds.
In the interview Thursday night, McDougal claimed that she is a lifelong Republican who voted for Trump and that she has no financial motivation for speaking out. She said she would be willing to return the $150,000 she received from AMI. "I just want my rights back," she told CNN.
A White House spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News last month that Trump denies having an affair with the ex-Playboy model: "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal."
McDougal alleges in court documents that AMI failed to live up to the deal they signed with her and that the company never intended to publish a story about her alleged affair with Trump. She's alleging that the publisher instead engaged in the practice of "catching and killing" an unfavorable story about Trump. According to McDougal’s suit, AMI decided "they would buy the story not to publish it, because [AMI CEO David Pecker] was a close friend of Mr. Trump."
"AMI lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me," McDougal said in a statement Tuesday. "I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives and its lawyers."
She acknowledges in her lawsuit that the incentives offered to her in the deal seemed like the best outcome at the time, but she changed her mind after word of the deal began to leak.
"Ms. McDougal thought [naively] that such a deal could give her the best of all worlds," her lawsuit states. Her "private story could stay private, she could make some money, and she could revitalize her career. What she did not realize was that she would end up treated as a puppet by powerful men colluding to achieve their own financial and political ends."
McDougal's new attorney, Peter Stris, told ABC News anchor David Muir this week on "Good Morning America", that "it has only recently come out through reporting and other sources, that there was wholesale collusion between David Pecker's company, Karen's own lawyer and Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's fixer. So this is a very new development."
McDougal's former attorney, Keith Davidson, who also negotiated a non-disclosure agreement for Stormy Daniels, did not respond to a request for comment.
AMI has rebuked McDougal's claims in statements to ABC News, asserting that the company has not made a final decision about whether to publish her allegations of an affair with Trump, insisting the company isn't preventing McDougal from talking.
"At this time, no editorial decision has been finalized as to if, when, or how her story may be published. The story is more valuable today than it was two years ago, and our editorial judgments often reflect that value," AMI said in a statement.
The company also says that it has published more than 20 of McDougal’s columns and featured her in photoshoots and on a magazine cover. Pursuant to an amendment to her original agreement, AMI said, McDougal is free to respond to legitimate press inquiries about her alleged affair with the president.
McDougal’s attorney told Muir this week that his client didn't fully understand the agreement she signed and now simply wants to regain control of her story.
"She has no interest in making money," Stris said. "She wants out of this contract, not for opportunistic reasons but because she wants to get out from under the thumb of a huge company that is essentially controlling her life. She's going to speak once, she's going to set the record straight, and then she wants to go back to a normal, private life."