Stormy Daniels visits a local restaurant in downtown New Orleans, Wednesday, May 6, 2009. 
Bill Haber/AP Photo

Trump’s Stormy Daniels controversy takes an unexpected turn

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/18/18, 9:50 PM ET

Trump lawyer used shell company to pay porn star: WSJ

Michael Rothfeld, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used a private company to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Michael Rothfeld, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used a private company to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels.
When we last checked in on Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels controversy, a few core elements of the story had come into focus. It’s been widely reported, for example, that Trump’s lawyer paid a former porn star $130,000 – shortly before the 2016 presidential election – apparently in order to buy her silence about an alleged extramarital affair.

We then learned Trump’s lawyer made the payment through an LLC he quietly created in Delaware, where it’s easier to create business entities with minimal disclosures.

The story took a turn this week, when a press statement was issued in which Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, denied ever having been in a relationship with the president. And in case this story couldn’t get any weirder, last night, Daniels seemed to deny having anything to do with the statement issued in her name.

Pornographic film star Stormy Daniels on Tuesday added another twist to the did-they-or-didn’t-they saga of whether she had an affair with President Donald Trump years ago, saying she didn’t know where a denial issued in her name came from.

In a short statement attributed to Daniels and provided by her publicist on Tuesday, the actress was quoted as saying, “I am denying this affair because it never happened.”

Later Tuesday she went on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and said she had no idea where that statement came from.

Pressed on the most recent statement, Daniels seemed to hesitate, before conceding, “I do not know where it came from.” (Her lawyer, however, said after the appearance that she had, in fact, signed the statement denying the affair.)

On the same show, Jimmy Kimmel asked about a possible non-disclosure agreement, and she evaded the question. The host responded that “if you didn’t have a non-disclosure agreement, you most certainly could say you don’t have an non-disclosure agreement, yes?”

Daniels responded, “You’re so smart, Jimmy.”

At this point, I can appreciate why there may be some ambiguity about whether Trump did or did not have an extramarital affair with this adult-film star. There are several denials from those involved, but there are questions about the validity of the statements, and there’s also a 2011 interview in which Daniels described her relationship with the future president.

But here’s the thing to remember: the alleged adultery may be the salacious part of the story, but it’s not the most important angle. What matters most is the money.

While we’ve seen plenty of denials about the affair, no one’s denied the $130,000. It’s the one part of the controversy that’s received no pushback from any of the people involved.

Who paid Stormy Daniels? Where’d the money come from?