Friday, March 09, 2018

The Stormy Daniels Scandal Gets Serious

Alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels.
Ironically, most of Donald Trump's problems are self-made and the growing scandal swirling around porn star Stormy Daniels' affair with Trump is a perfect example.  Like so many other of the Trump/Pence regime scandals, this scandal - which would upset evangelical Christians if they actually stood for what they claim - stems directly from Trump's belief that he can do whatever he wants.  A wife and small infant at home, who cares.  Ditto for possible conspiracies with Russia.  Ditto for the stream of daily lies.  The law and common morality simply mean nothing to the man.  Now, the Stormy Daniels scandal seems to be gaining steam and more and more questions grow about possible illegalities that may surround the $130,000 in hush money paid to Danils under a bizarre agreement that seemingly did not use either Daniels' or Trump's names.  A column in the New York Times looks at the mounting scandal which, if Republicans were consistent with the feigned outrage over the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, ought to be resulting in outrage.  Here are column highlights:
In January we learned, thanks to The Wall Street Journal, that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Donald Trump, arranged a $130,000 hush money payment to the pornographic film star known as Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was to stop Daniels from speaking out about an alleged affair she’d had with Trump shortly after Melania Trump, his third wife, gave birth to their son, Barron.
With any previous president the story would have been explosive, but with this one, it felt relatively minor. The real scandal, it seemed, was that there was no scandal, because no one expects any better of Trump. The religious right was willing to give him a “mulligan,” in the words of Tony Perkins, president of the [hate group] Family Research Council. Liberals rolled their eyes at right-wing hypocrisy, but ranked the affair fairly low on the list of Trump outrages.
But Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — is a clever capitalist who’s been determined to force the story of her relationship with Trump into the public eye. She has parlayed her new notoriety into a series of strip-club appearances, including two in South Florida on Friday and Saturday. More significantly, her lawyer has filed a lawsuit arguing that the nondisclosure agreement she signed is null and void because Trump himself never signed it. The suit, ingeniously, has given Daniels’s lawyer a pretext to make that agreement public.
[F]or all its sordid details, it isn’t really a sex scandal. It’s a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal. It’s salacious and absurd, but we should take it seriously. Trump’s team certainly seems to; Cohen recently obtained a temporary restraining order to silence Daniels.
Let’s start with the campaign finance piece. On Jan. 22, the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice claiming that the $130,000 payment to Daniels constituted an in-kind contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign, in violation of federal campaign law.
[T]he release of the NDA makes clear that Trump himself was a party to the agreement. If Trump authorized the $130,000 payment, it’s harder to explain away his campaign’s failure to disclose it, as required by law.                               He calls it the “Al Capone problem.” The Daniels NDA refers repeatedly to “property” that she agreed to turn over to Trump, including video images, still images, emails and text messages. Eisen argues that Trump was required to report ownership of this property, as well as any obligations he might have had to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000, in his federal financial disclosure forms. . . . . “Imagine what she could get if she has texts or images. Imagine the millions she could command! So there’s this incredibly valuable agreement, and the L.L.C., Essential Consultants, which Trump now appears to be a beneficiary of. That’s an asset.” But it’s an asset Trump didn’t reveal.
Finally, the Daniels story is germane to the overriding scandal of the Trump administration, the one involving Trump’s relationship with Russia. Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled an infamous dossier of opposition research on Trump, wrote that Russia could blackmail Trump with evidence of his “sexual perversion.” Nothing we know of Daniels confirms the dossier’s outrĂ© claims about what such perversion entailed. The NDA does, however, show that Trump was susceptible to blackmail. 
Indeed, Daniels isn’t the only woman who was allegedly paid off after an encounter with Trump. . . . . Steve Bannon told “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff that another Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of “a hundred women” during the campaign.  “It all kind of fits together in a way,” Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, said of the Daniels scandal and the Russia one. “It’s really blackmail over sex.”
Ultimately, the details of Trump’s relationship with Daniels will likely come out. . . . Should Daniels prevail in court, we might learn interesting information about the president. Among other things, the NDA forbids her from discussing Trump’s “alleged children” or “paternity information.” But the scandal will lie less in the details of Trump’s degeneracy than in the steps he and his lawyers took to cover it up. “This is early days yet in the unfolding of this scandal,” said Eisen. Like Trump himself, it’s preposterous, but it’s not going away.
I hope Daniels is successful in getting the story out.  I have no desire to see images of a naked Trump cavorting with Daniels - the very though is repulsive and vomit worthy - but I do want all of this rubbed in the faces of the evangelical Christians who threw away morality when they voted for Trump and Republicans only too willing to prostitute them self to Trump and the hideous GOP party base.  I suspect that the only person laughing about all of this is Vladimir Putin who likely has more sexual escapade bombshells in his possession.  As for Melania, I feel sorry for her, but she should have known what she was getting herself into given Trumps adulterous past. 

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