The Stormy Daniels scandal is not gossip

In sitting down with 60 Minutes, Daniels helped to unmask a horrifying pattern of behavior by the president and his people

Stormy Daniels and Anderson Cooper.
(Image credit: CBS News/60 Minutes via AP)

A proposal: Before we dive into the story Stormy Daniels told on 60 Minutes last night, let's try, just as a rhetorical exercise, to review the story the president's attorney Michael Cohen has been telling since this story first broke.

The facts are simple: Stephanie Clifford, stage name Stormy Daniels, claims she had sex with the president back when he was a reality star in 2006. Michael Cohen wrote up a hush agreement for her to sign 11 days before the presidential election, using fake names for her and for his client. Ever the worker bee, Cohen created a shell company called Essential Consultants, and used it to pay Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket. Not a trivial amount for him, mind you; he's said he had to borrow against his home equity to pay it and was definitely not reimbursed. Subsequent reports uncovered that he used a Trump Organization email to make these curious arrangements. But — despite this and the proven involvement of a second Trump Organization lawyer, Jill Martin — Cohen maintains that he undertook this flurry of legal activity entirely on his own, without the input or knowledge of the Trump Organization, the campaign, or the presidential candidate.

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Lili Loofbourow

Lili Loofbourow is the culture critic at She's also a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor for Beyond Criticism, a Bloomsbury Academic series dedicated to formally experimental criticism. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues including The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.