Donald Trump has said quite a bit about his alleged extra-marital affair with Stormy Daniels, but very few of the president's claims have stood up to scrutiny. A new Wall Street Journal report puts Trump in an even worse position, explaining that Trump was "personally" involved in an effort to silence the porn star.
In a phone call, Mr. Trump instructed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order against the former adult-film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, through a confidential arbitration proceeding, one of the people said. Messrs. Trump and Cohen had learned shortly before that Ms. Clifford was considering giving a media interview about her alleged relationship with Mr. Trump, despite having signed an October 2016 nondisclosure agreement.Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohen to coordinate the legal response with Eric Trump, one of the president's sons, and another outside lawyer who had represented Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization in other matters, the people said. Eric Trump, who is running the company with his brother in Mr. Trump's absence, then tasked a Trump Organization staff attorney in California with signing off on the arbitration paperwork, these people said.
It's important to emphasize that this reporting hasn't been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News.
That said, the details in the Journal's article don't do Trump any favors. The fact that the president was directly and personally involved in trying to silence his alleged former mistress, for example, contradicts his previous assertions, and when it comes to the Daniels scandal, the number of Trump's false claims was already pretty high.
If the WSJ"s reporting is correct, we also now know that the president involved one of his adult sons, Eric Trump, in the effort to silence Daniels. That, too, is problematic: Eric Trump is supposed to be overseeing the president's private business and maintaining some kind of firewall between the Trump Organization and the Trump presidency.
This article suggests that wall has some pretty significant gaps.
And then there's the Trump Organization itself, which the WSJ reports was involved in working on the arbitration paperwork, despite having previously claimed not to be involved.
As for how the Wall Street Journal came to learn of these details, this paragraph stood out for me:
The Journal revealed on Jan. 12 that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 before the 2016 presidential election to keep silent about the alleged sexual encounter. In a phone call about a month later -- as Ms. Clifford made plans to tell her story despite the nondisclosure agreement—Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohen to enforce the contract in arbitration and indicated he would pay legal costs. "I'll take care of everything," the president said, one of the people familiar with the conversation said.
The number of people who were in a position to know these details, and share them with a reporter, is exceedingly small.