Thursday, January 18, 2018

Following the money: Trump's sex, lies, and cover-ups

Trump with Stormy Daniels
Trump with Stormy Daniels

I posted on Trump’s latest sex scandal last Sunday (Jan. 14): Trump’s Troubles - WSJ reports payment for porn star’s silence. The story just keeps rolling along, collecting more dirt.

Third adult film star emerges to say married Donald Trump begged her to ‘party’ in his hotel room writes Jen Hayden at Daily Kos.

While Melania Trump was home with infant Barron Trump in 2006, Donald Trump was reportedly running around acting like a fool, seeking adult film stars to stroke his fragile ego. Stephanie Clifford, also known by her stage name “Stormy Daniels,” reportedly got a $130,000 payment from Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen only weeks before the 2016 election. Clifford was planning to detail her relationship, including her 2006 sexual encounters with a married Donald Trump. She wasn’t the only adult film star with a story to tell about Trump’s behavior at a 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Jessica Drake described her encounter, saying Trump offered her $10,000 for sex. From the Daily Beast:

“[Trump] flirted with me and invited me to walk along the golf course with him, which I did. During that time, he asked me for my phone number, which I gave to him. Later that evening, he invited me to his room. I said I didn’t feel right going alone, so two other women came with me,” said Drake in prepared remarks.

“When we entered the room, he grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission,” Drake continued. “He was wearing pajamas. A bodyguard was also present. He asked me about details on my job as an adult film star—about shooting porn, and he also asked us about our personal relationships and whether we were married or single. We answered his questions. It felt like an interview. About 30 or 45 minutes later, we left his room.”

She alleged that Trump later called her and asked, “’What do you want? How much?” and then offered her $10,000 for sex. “This is not acceptable behavior for anyone, much less a presidential candidate,” Drake said at the presser.

Jessica Drake is suddenly unable to discuss the encounter with Donald Trump because her publicist says she has now signed a nondisclosure agreement, meaning she too probably agreed to a hush-money settlement with Donald Trump. And really? He invited these women to his room and then opened the door wearing his pajamas?

Drake and Daniels are not the only ones who Trump reportedly sought to “party” with in his hotel room. A third adult film star actress is now telling her story, saying Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump himself repeatedly called her to try and convince her to come to his room for a private party. …

[Alana] Evans also described her follow-up call to Stormy Daniels the next day. You can see this portion of the interview here, but the partial transcript [from interview with Megyn Kelly] is below. …

I called because I disappeared on her the night before and I felt bad, of course. So I called and apologized for disappearing because it wasn’t like I called and told them I wasn’t coming, I literally just turned off my phone. And asked how it went and…..(giggles)….I’m sorry but the visual that I get has stuck with me this entire time. I’m glad that you guys are going to have to deal with it too. But, having her tell me the next day that when I asked, “How did it go?” and she says, “Well, picture this Donald Trump chasing me around the bedroom in his tighty whities isn’t something that you ever forget.”

Bottom line: nondisclosure agreements and hush money be damned, it seems pretty clear that Donald Trump was running around cheating on his new wife while she was home with their new baby. It’s further evidence of his decayed or nonexistent morality, along with the evangelicals and so-called “family values” Republicans that continue to stand by this cad.

The question now is, how did Donald Trump pay these women? Where did the funds come from? He’s notoriously cheap and these payouts happened in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. If campaign funds or Trump Foundation money were used to pay these women, could that be a legal problem for Trump? After all, former Sen. John Edwards was indicted and faced six felony counts for using secret campaign funds to cover up his extramarital affair.

I’ll continue with this thread in a moment. Here’s a related story from Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog): Following sex scandal, GOP governor faces pressure to resign

The details of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ (R) sex scandal make it more damaging than most. The Republican governor concedes he had an extra-marital affair, which occurred the year before he launched his campaign for statewide office, but as part of the story, Greitens is also accused of trying to blackmail his former mistress to keep their relationship secret.

Indeed, though the governor denies this part of the story, there’s an audio recording of the woman in question claiming Greitens took nude photographs of her, while she was blindfolded and her hands were tied, which was followed by an alleged verbal threat. (The recording has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News.)

The governor’s strategy, at least at first, was to respond to the scandal by keeping a low public profile, and quietly reaching out to Missouri lawmakers, hoping to salvage his career. But as an investigation into the matter gets underway – a St. Louis prosecutor began scrutinizing the allegations last week – Greitens’ efforts are facing serious headwinds. The Kansas City Star reported overnight:

At least five Republican lawmakers are calling for Gov. Eric Greitens to resign after allegations that he blackmailed a woman in an effort to keep her quiet about an extramarital affair. […]

Democratic lawmakers called for the governor to resign within hours of the initial report.

Following the money

Benen also reports that New details emerge surrounding Trump’s Stormy Daniels controversy.

It’s been nearly a week since the Wall Street Journal first reported that Donald Trump’s lawyer “arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.” The story, which was met with a series of denials that I detailed on Friday, is still producing new details.

As for why [Daniels] was willing to share this with [Slate’s Jacob] Weisberg, Daniels was reportedly concerned that Trump would betray her. The Slate piece added that Trump “had negotiated to buy her silence,” but Daniels began having conversations with the media in case the Republican failed to follow through on the alleged financial commitment. The more Trump stalled, the story went, the more Daniels shared.

Scriber: Daniels’ concern is understandable given Trump’s cheapness and stiffing of contractors.

Weisberg’s article added, “And then, about a week before the election, Daniels stopped responding to calls and text messages. A friend of hers told me Daniels had said she’d taken the money from Trump after all.”

All of which brings us back to the importance of the reports about Trump’s payment.

if there’s evidence that the president paid hush-money to a porn star, it’s a major political development. Indeed, it’s worth emphasizing that while Trump and his lawyer have made strenuous denials about the alleged affair, they’ve been more circumspect when it comes to the $130,000 payment.

It’s therefore important to know if there was such a payment, and if there was, where the money came from. Because if Trump World relied on campaign or foundation money for the alleged payment, there are important legal questions that the president and his team may need to answer.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added yesterday, “The affair itself is not that big a deal. However, the agreement to pay Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet is a very big deal. Trump’s lawyer has admitted the payment was made, but refuses to say anything more about it. How is this happening? How can the president of the United States get away with what looks like hush money paid to a mistress in the middle of an election? How is it that this isn’t front-page news until Trump tells us what it was all about and shows us the agreement?”

MightyMeerKat comments on Benen’s report: “One has to admire the difference between the Mo. Governor sex scandal, and the USA President sex scandal. The governor blackmailed his shagger. The President was blackmailed by his shagger and had to pay ransom. Gad, if a porn star can blackmail the President that easily, how much do the Russians hold over Trump’s head? …”

That (married) Trump would engage in the (alleged) trysts with porn stars speaks oodles about his moral values (or lack thereof) and highlights the hypocrisy of the GOP as the party of “family values.” But as bad as that is, it gets worse. As we learned from Watergate, often the original offense is eclipsed by the cover-up. Nixon was brought down not by petty crimes but by the attempts to conceal his role in them. So it might go with Trump. These days, unfortunately, here’s one more politician being caught with an extramarital affair. But the real story here is the cover-up and alleged payment of hush money. If that is true, as noted in the reporting by Benen, Hayden, Drum, and Weisberg, if Trump or his lawyer paid money to Drake and Daniels, then the important question, legally and politically, is where those funds came from. So what might bring Trump down is not so much the sex as it is the lies and the cover-up.

No comments:

Post a Comment