I recently discussed the highly problematic statement of Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, that he paid off porn star Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) out of his personal funds. This admission did not necessary end the controversy over possible campaign finance violations but did add some thorny ethical questions. One of the possible costs was to void the 2016 agreement itself. Both sides reportedly agreed not to speak publicly about the details of the agreement, but Cohen has now done so in media interviews. In response, Daniels is declaring herself free of any limitations and promising to tell her full story. There is also a story that Daniels has a dress that might have forensic evidence linking her to Trump (sound familiar?). She is reportedly shopping her story. What a mess. This is the result of a combination of bad lawyering, publicity seeking, and what appears strikingly dishonest public statements. Non-disclosure agreements are tricky things since the parties will often dance around a breach in the hopes that the other party will trip the wire in response.
The danger for Trump is that Cohen, as previously described, has left him open to an allegation similar to the one that resulted in criminal charges against John Edwards — the use of a third party to conceal an affair as a circumvention of campaign finance laws. Mueller could conceivably ask about such payments as a possible crime — putting Trump in the same position as Bill Clinton.
Daniels has shown herself to be a highly unreliable source for the facts leading up to the 2016 settlement. As previously discussed, she was reported to have finally and clearly denied that she had an affair with President Donald Trump. A statement was released under her signature with the help of counsel. However, in her interview with late night host Jimmy Kimmel, she seemed to suggest that it was not her signature. She left the impression that that someone faked her signature, a possible crime. In addition, if she did not have an affair with Trump, she could be liable for defamation but there are some interesting legal twists.
Kimmel asked if she had a nondisclosure agreement related to her reported relationship with Trump, Daniels replied ambiguously again with “do I?” Kimmel then noted “if you didn’t have an non-disclosure agreement you most certainly could say you don’t have an non-disclosure agreement, yes?” Daniels simply replied “you’re so smart, Jimmy.” This may be Daniels’ notion of clever but she then appeared to deny the authenticity of the signature. Kimmel noted that the signature looks different and she responded . “That doesn’t look like my signature, does it?”
The coy performance was annoying and most of us were happy to move on from the Stormy Daniels scandal. She was either lying in 2011 or in 2016 o in 2018 but it was rapidly become immaterial.
However, Daniels seems intent on milking the controversy for publicity and the claim of Cohen voiding the agreement has allowed another news cycle of speculation. Her lawyer has seemed a virtual prop in this production. After the Kimmel appearance, Keith Davidson insisted “The signature is indeed hers as she signed the statement today in the presence of me and her manager, Gina Rodriguez.” He added that “She was having fun on Kimmel and being her normal playful self.”
Now Daniels is playing again and suggesting that she will give a blockbuster interview while dangling this gold dress in a clear Lewinsky-esque reference.
If Trump’s DNA is on the dress, it would require a voluntary exam of DNA to prove it. The problem is that this is not a subject that Mueller is likely to pursue and Trump has not been pulled into a deposition like the one that Bill Clinton faced in the Paula Jones case. In other words, this is likely to generate more publicity for Daniels but not necessarily new evidence.
As for Daniels and her counsel, patience is running out on the “playful” act.