Stormy’s claim that she was threatened
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford told her story about her alleged affair with President Trump this week, telling CBS’s 60 Minutes that she was once threatened with harm if she ever spoke out about the relationship. Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, told Anderson Cooper that she had unprotected sex with Trump once, after meeting him at a 2006 golf tournament. Five years later, shortly after giving an unprinted interview to Bauer Publishing about the alleged affair, the porn star was in a Las Vegas parking lot with her infant daughter when “a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,’” said Clifford, 39. “Then [he] looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be shame if something happened to her mom.’”
When interest in her story resumed during the 2016 presidential campaign, Clifford said, she felt pressured into signing a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for a $130,000 payment from Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen said he paid Clifford out of his own pocket, and both he and the White House deny her allegations of an affair. Clifford declined to tell 60 Minutes whether she had evidence of a relationship with Trump, but her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, suggested she did, tweeting a photo of a CD or DVD with the caption, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this worth?” Avenatti has welcomed a legal battle with Trump, filing a motion in federal court to question the president and Cohen under oath about the alleged affair.
What the columnists said
The Stormy interview didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about Trump, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times, the man himself having long boasted about being a “disloyal husband.” But it did highlight “Trump’s thuggish way of doing business.” He has a history of using menacing phone calls and physical threats to intimidate business rivals and perceived enemies. If Clifford signed her NDA because she felt threatened, it could be declared “null and void.”
So what? said Joe Concha in TheHill.com. Stormy Daniels may be “good for ratings,” but she “won’t change any minds on Trump.” If the alleged affair did happen, it was consensual, and anyway, Trump’s supporters “didn’t vote for a choirboy but a street-fighting businessman from Queens.” Unless a real smoking gun appears, this story will fizzle out “in a few weeks.”
Don’t be so sure of that, said Michael D’Antonio in CNN.com. As the president’s former biographer, I’m impressed by the way Clifford is “outplaying Trump at his own games.” She has secured wall-to-wall media coverage, cannily backing him into a corner. Why else has Trump, a man who has personally lashed out at some 430 critics and enemies, refused to utter a peep about Stormy? Worse, Clifford’s interview has kept the spotlight on the $130,000 payout, said David Zurawik in The Baltimore Sun, a transaction that could count as an illegal campaign contribution by Cohen. Salacious as it was, “this interview spells trouble for Trump.”