.. the biggest question might be why the President of the United States didn’t just let her talk.
.. her suit contends that she isn’t bound by the agreement, because Trump never signed it and because his lawyer Michael Cohen had spoken—and lied—about it publicly.
.. The suit also says that the Trump camp used “coercive tactics” to pressure her to stay silent
.. there had been intimations of violence
.. And yet the Clifford case is not only singularly revealing of the President’s character and his operations but also a likely harbinger of major troubles ahead.
.. Cohen said that it was his own “private transaction,” using his money, and that the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign had nothing to do with it. This never made much sense, since the Trump Organization employed him. But, even if Cohen’s story were true, it raised questions, more broadly, about where the money comes from and where it goes in Trump’s dealings.
.. President’s lawyers seem not to have considered what Clifford’s next move would be: challenging the arbitration. They had, in effect, engineered something of a win-win situation for her. Practically speaking, in order for Trump to hold Clifford to the agreement, he has to fight her in court—a process he began Friday—and come out and admit to the deal publicly.
.. CNN and the Journal reported that one of the lawyers who obtained the order was Jill Martin, another Trump Organization employee. (She was the point person in the Trump University fraud case.) A statement from the company said that, like Cohen, Martin had handled the matter only “in her individual capacity.” This paints a picture of the Trump Organization as a place where anything that the company isn’t quite supposed to do might be done as a personal favor, perhaps dressed up as an act of friendship or loyalty. It is a further sign that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s subpoena of Trump Organization business records, reported last week, might turn up a true morass.
.. With the President’s sons meeting with foreign political figures while travelling the world on business trips, with his daughter playing a diplomatic role with leaders of countries where she has commercial interests, and with his son-in-law seemingly marked as a potential recipient of foreign bribes by all and sundry, it’s important to know who pays whom, and for what.
.. The Trump team’s response to the Clifford debacle seems to have been driven by the President’s vanity, temper, and resentment. All of those have also been on display in his larger response to Mueller’s investigation, from his firing of James Comey, the F.B.I. director—an action that exposed him to possible obstruction-of-justice charges—to his apparent desire, last week, to fire Andrew McCabe
.. For a man who has built a career on bluffing and intimidation, Trump is surprisingly clumsy when it comes to those tactics, and oblivious of their costs.
.. After all, why didn’t the President sign the agreement? Did he never intend to, or could he just not be bothered? With Trump, it can be hard to tell bad will from bad lawyering. He regularly demands that his subordinates operate in accordance with what he thinks the law ought to be, rather than what it is.
.. Trump’s lawyers were considering trying to block the broadcast, now scheduled for March 25th, of an interview that Anderson Cooper conducted with Clifford for “60 Minutes.” There is no legal rationale for such prior restraint. But it wouldn’t be the first time that the President has indicated that he believes he has, or should have, the power to silence the press.
.. Then again, Trump’s circle might be trying to enforce Clifford’s confidentiality agreement not for its own sake but in order to send a message to other people, who may have signed similar agreements, about the cost of breaking them. (“In my experience, bullies have one speed and one speed only,” Avenatti told The New Yorker. “They don’t just bully one person. They bully many people.”)