Until Thursday, President Trump had remained uncharacteristically silent about Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose October 2016 nondisclosure agreement to stay silent about an alleged 2006 extramarital affair with Trump has sparked a heated legal and PR battle. And what Trump said Thursday seemed pretty innocuous. "Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?" a reporter asked him on Air Force One. "No," Trump said, adding that he did not know why his lawyer Michael Cohen paid her or where he got the money.
Still, that brief exchange was enough to make Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, do a victory dance. Avenatti and Daniels are suing Cohen and Trump to invalidate the NDA on the grounds that Trump isn't a party to the agreement. Cohen and Trump are suing Daniels for up to $20 million for breaking the NDA. "The strength of our case just went up exponentially," Avenatti tweeted. "You can't have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline."
"We think this is basically game over when it comes to our client," Avenatti told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday night. "We have a principal party to the agreement who admits, on camera, that supposedly he didn't know anything about a principal term of the agreement. Well, that means he doesn't know anything about the agreement, which means there is no agreement."
WATCH: "We think this is basically game over."@MichaelAvenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, says any confidentiality agreement is essentially dead after the president's on-camera comments on Air Force One today. #LastWord pic.twitter.com/BhT8JSAmet
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) April 6, 2018
David Super, a professor of contract law at Georgetown, largely agreed with Avenatti's assessment, telling The Washington Post that Trump's comments "largely destroy" his own argument that the nondisclosure agreement is valid. "Nothing in the contract, and nothing in his remarks, suggests that he had given Cohen the right to make binding commitments on his behalf," Super said. "With these comments, we are almost certain to see this litigation play out in a public court case rather than in private arbitration," where Trump and Cohen asked the courts to send the case on Monday. Peter Weber
President Trump's personal lawyers are having a busy week, and it's only Monday. On Sunday, Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz appealed a decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter to allow former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos to sue Trump for defamation, and on Monday, lawyers for Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen filed papers in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to force porn star Stormy Daniels into private arbitration. Daniels is suing Cohen and Trump to nullify a confidentiality agreement Daniels signed in October 2016, claiming it is invalid because Trump never signed it. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he and his client will "vigorously oppose" private arbitration and push for a hearing in open court.
We will vigorously oppose the just-filed motion by DJT and MC to have this case decided in a private arbitration, in a private conf room, hidden from the American public. This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people. #sunlight
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 2, 2018
Trump is uncharacteristically quiet about Stormy Daniels on Twitter and in public, but not behind closed doors
"After 61 weeks in the White House, President Trump has found two people he won't attack on Twitter: Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal," The New York Times says. Even recent tell-all TV interviews by his purported ex-paramours, Daniels and McDougal, didn't move Trump to counterpunch. But "privately, the president has lobbed sharp attacks at Daniels and her media tour, calling her allegations a 'hoax' and asking confidants if the episode is hurting his poll numbers," The Washington Post reports. Also, the Times adds, "he is growing increasingly frustrated with breathless, wall-to-wall news media coverage of the salacious details from the two women."
Like 22 million others, Trump watched Daniels dish about him in sometimes humiliating detail on 60 Minutes Sunday night, the Post says, and he "asked staff in the White House if they, too, had watched and wondered what they thought of it, someone who has spoken to him said." Trump said "he personally did not think Daniels appeared credible," but "inside the West Wing, senior officials believe Daniels' account to be largely credible and consider it a serious news story that could deal real and lasting damage to the president," the Post adds, citing a Trump adviser. Mostly, Trump is keeping uncharacteristically silent because he agrees with his advisers about not feeding the fire:
Trump has calculated that the salacious details from Daniels and other women now surfacing publicly will not erode his political support in any meaningful way. The president has convinced himself, said one Republican in frequent touch with the White House, that the scandal will blow over — in part because, for decades, Trump deliberately presented himself as a Manhattan millionaire playboy. ... Trump also believes his base of loyal supporters, including Christian conservatives, will not abandon him. [The Washington Post]
CNN's Chris Cuomo argues Trump's alleged affair with Stormy Daniels was already 'baked in' to his image
Anderson Cooper's interview with porn star Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with President Trump aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night, but on Monday morning, CNN's Chris Cuomo seemed underwhelmed. "I don't think that you're going to get a lot of political fallout from Donald Trump in terms of having affairs," he said. "I think that was baked in in the character analysis of him by people who voted for him." Michael Smerconish agreed. "This is consensual sex among two individuals, he noted. "He was not president of the United States. He may have a problem at home — he may need to distract the news cycle so that Melania has something else to watch today. But politically speaking, I think it's a non-starter."
"This is consensual sex among two individuals. He was not President of the United States ... Politically speaking, I think it's a non-starter": @Smerconish on porn star Stormy Daniels' "60 minutes" interview in which she talked of alleged affair with Trump https://t.co/eqvJPywoP5 pic.twitter.com/weEvDn7Q56
— New Day (@NewDay) March 26, 2018
The great meh was echoed by former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who told Cuomo he thinks "there will be less fallout than people think, because I think people have been anesthetized to these sorts of scandals. I mean, it goes all the way back to President Clinton. So for me, I think we'll talk about it, there'll be another news cycle, and then we'll move on."
"I think there will be less fallout than people think," says Anthony Scaramucci of "60 Minutes" interview with porn star Stormy Daniels in which she discussed alleged affair with Trump. "I think people have been anesthetized to these sorts of scandals." https://t.co/b0XFHgTh6K pic.twitter.com/0B5CBCeu14
— New Day (@NewDay) March 26, 2018
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, promised CNN's Alisyn Camerota that he and Daniels are "just getting started." "We have a whole host of evidence" that Trump knew of his lawyer Michael Cohen's efforts to silence and allegedly threaten Daniels. He wouldn't say much more, but said they would release it in the "next weeks and months." Watch below. Peter Weber
Stormy Daniels' lawyer claims he and his client have "a whole host of evidence" about the affair she alleges she had with Donald Trump and the knowledge she claims Trump had about her payout to stay silent pic.twitter.com/iJN5kTNXTC
— New Day (@NewDay) March 26, 2018
Anderson Cooper says he didn't interview Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes to learn about the salacious details of the extramarital affair she said she had with President Trump in 2006. "There are many, many tawdry details which we did not include in the story because it's just, you know, that's not our interest," he told 60 Minutes Overtime's Ann Silvio after the Daniels interview aired Sunday night.
Cooper said he thought the most important parts of the interview were Daniels' story about being physically threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot — "If somebody is using intimidation tactics, physical intimidation tactics, it's probably not the first time they've done it," he noted — and the possible campaign finance violations stemming from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paying Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about the alleged affair a week before the 2016 election.
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, suggested to Cooper that the important part of the story "is about the cover-up, this is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power, and it has no place in American democracy."
Attorney Michael Avenatti disputes the notion that Michael Cohen was working in a purely personal capacity when he arranged the hush money for Stormy Daniels. pic.twitter.com/91T0ofMnjt
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018
Trevor Potter, a Republican former Federal Election Commission chairman, focused on the campaign finance angle. "The payment of the money just creates an enormous legal mess for, I think, Trump, for Cohen, and anyone else who was involved in this in the campaign." he told Cooper. "It's a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give."
Mr. Trump’s attorney says the $130K he paid was not a campaign contribution, but Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, disagrees. pic.twitter.com/Qxigc4R1l2
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018
In her much-anticipated 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday night, adult film actress Stormy Daniels told Anderson Cooper that in 2006, she had unprotected sex with President Trump after meeting him at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament, and he "knows I'm telling the truth."
Daniels, 39, said she wasn't physically attracted to Trump but the encounter was consensual and she's "not a victim." Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told Cooper that Trump said she reminded him of his daughter and that he and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, had "separate rooms and stuff." She kept in contact with him because she viewed this as a "business deal," and he promised to try to get her on The Apprentice. Their final meeting was in July 2007, and Daniels said they had sex only the one time in Lake Tahoe. Through a spokesman, Trump denied having an affair with Daniels.
“He was like, ‘wow, you are special. You remind me of my daughter.’” --Stormy Daniels says of her conversation with Mr. Trump the night they met. pic.twitter.com/Mj52gSoDbH
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018
Daniels said in 2011, she agreed to discuss the alleged affair with a sister publication of In Touch magazine for $15,000, and not long after, she was accosted in a Las Vegas parking lot while with her infant daughter. An unidentified man "walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'" she told Cooper, adding that he then looked at her daughter and said, "'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone."
This is the most evil part... "Nice baby you have... shame if something happened..."
— MJR jnr (@onetruebritt) March 25, 2018
Two former employees of the magazine told 60 Minutes that the story never ran because when In Touch asked Trump for comment, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen threatened to sue; it was a few weeks later that Daniels was approached in the parking lot. Daniels said she never went to police about the incident because she was afraid and felt "rattled." For more on her initial meeting with Trump and the nondisclosure agreement she signed with Cohen, visit CBS News. Catherine Garcia
A fashion photographer named in Stormy Daniels' nondisclosure agreement with President Trump's personal lawyer told The Daily Beast that Daniels signed it to "protect her family. She signed it because she felt intimidated."
Daniels, an adult film star who says she had an intimate relationship with Trump more than 10 years ago, signed the non-disclosure agreement with Michael Cohen just days before the 2016 presidential election, promising to keep quiet and hand over texts and images in exchange for $130,000. Daniels is now suing, saying the NDA is invalid because Trump never signed it and Cohen publicly discussed the money.
Keith Munyan, one of Daniels' longtime friends, is named in the NDA as having "confidential information" about the affair. In an interview with The Daily Beast's Kate Briquelet, Munyan said after Trump met Daniels in 2006, he would call and Daniels would put it on speakerphone so Munyan could listen in on their conversations. "He would call all the time," he said. "That man can talk about nothing for hours."
During one phone call, Trump offered to give Daniels the keys to a condo in New York City, Munyan said, and when she demurred, saying she wanted to move to Florida, he offered to get her a place in the unfinished Trump Tower in Tampa. Daniels and Trump would often go out to dinner and "discuss business," Munyan said, having "great conversations." Read more of Munyan's interview at The Daily Beast. Catherine Garcia
Adult film star Stormy Daniels has recorded an interview for 60 Minutes with CNN's Anderson Cooper, a 60 Minutes contributor, and according to BuzzFeed News, CBS plans to broadcast the interview on March 18. Also, a source told BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner, Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is "preparing to file for a legal injunction to prevent it from airing." Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, teased the interview on Thursday, then taunted Cohen over the weekend.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 8, 2018
Daniels says she had an extramarital affair with President Trump in 2006 and 2007, and Cohen has acknowledged he paid her $130,000 in October 2016 to stay silent, though he calls her claim baseless. In February, Cohen won a temporary restraining order against Daniels in arbitration — as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed — to keep her from talking. Last week, Daniels sued Trump, arguing that the nondisclosure order is null because Trump did not sign it.
As of Sunday night, CBS News told The New York Times it has not received any legal threat. "All I can say is it was never going to air tonight and I guess we will see what happens," Daniels told The Washington Post on Sunday. Legal scholars say Cohen would be taking a political risk in trying to block the 60 Minutes interview without much chance of legal success. You can read Paul Waldman's skeptical look at Trump's affair denials, and Matthew Walther's argument for the "poetic justice" of Daniels taking down Trump, at The Week. Peter Weber