There have been quite a few reports over the last couple of days on Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels controversy, so let’s take a look at what we’ve learned. NBC News, for example, reported last night:
A top lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in trying to enforce a secrecy agreement that adult film star Stormy Daniels signed in exchange for $130,000 before the 2016 election, new documents show.
Jill A. Martin, whose LinkedIn profile says she is assistant general counsel for the company, last month signed two legal papers linked to a temporary restraining order against the actress, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
At issue is the “hush agreement” intended to silence Daniels, and while we’ve known for a while about the NDA, the Wall Street Journal noted that these new documents “for the first time tie President Donald Trump’s flagship holding company to the continuing effort to silence a former adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump.”
The president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, created an LLC shortly before the 2016 presidential election in order to facilitate the $130,000 payment to the porn star, buying her silence. But we now know it was also a Trump Organization lawyer who was recently involved in arbitration proceedings intended to ensure Daniels’ silence.
NBC News’ report added that Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, argued that Jill Martin’s signature on the paperwork “is another piece of evidence that Trump knew about the nondisclosure agreement, the payment and the more recent efforts to stop his client from talking.”
And while I don’t think the revelations definitely show what, exactly, the president knew, the larger point is that the connections are growing, linking Trump’s lawyer, Trump’s business, Trump’s alleged former mistress, and the effort to keep her quiet.
What else have we learned of late? Quite a bit, actually. Politico reported late yesterday that BuzzFeed “may have found a legal opening” for Daniels and her lawyers to exploit.
The same Trump attorney who brokered the deal with Daniels, Michael Cohen, filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four of its staffers over publication of the so-called dossier compiling accurate, inaccurate and unproven allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Now, BuzzFeed is using Cohen’s libel suit as a vehicle to demand that Daniels preserve all records relating to her relationship with Trump, as well as her dealings with Cohen and the payment he has acknowledged arranging in 2016.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed’s lawyer wrote to Daniels’ attorney asking that the adult film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, preserve various categories of documents. Such preservation letters are often a prelude to a subpoena. If Daniels’ testimony is formally demanded in a deposition, the nondisclosure agreement would likely be no obstacle, legal experts said.
* Daniels’ case trying to get out of her current agreement was transferred to a new judge this week, since the previous judge is seeking a federal judgeship from Donald Trump.
* The adult-film actress has also begun an online fundraising campaign to cover her legal bills. Around the same time, Daniels said she’s prepared to pay back the $130,000 she received, though there’s no reason to think that would make much of a difference to Trump World, which still doesn’t want her to talk about the alleged relationship.
* In addition to her interview several years ago with In Touch magazine, Daniels apparently referenced her alleged affair with Trump during a 2007 radio interview.
* It’s unclear when, or if, Daniels’ “60 Minutes” interview will air, but as best as I can tell, Trump’s lawyers have not filed suit against CBS News, at least not yet, and even if they did, such a case probably wouldn’t go well.
* And Vox published a piece this week that the D.C. political establishment should stop “tittering in embarrassment and recognize that there is a serious scandal here.” The piece added, “[T]he fact remains that the American people have a right to know whether the president, his associates, and the businesses he controls violated campaign finance law. We also have a right to know whether he is habitually in the business of cutting large checks to buy ex-lovers’ silence and, thus, how broadly susceptible to blackmail or other forms of exploitation he may be.”