Stormy Daniels Lawsuit Opens Door to Further Trouble for Trump

As any longtime legal hand in the capital remembers well, it was a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by an Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones, against Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment for lying about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.

.. The case of the adult film actress, Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage-name Stormy Daniels, may not get past even the first considerable obstacles. But if her court case proceeds, Mr. Trump and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, may have to testify in depositions

.. Ms. Clifford’s agreement with Mr. Cohen stipulated that they would resolve disputes in the confidential arbitration proceedings. Assuming she does not blink — and her lawyer has said she won’t — it will fall to a judge in Los Angeles, where the suit was filed, to decide whether to compel Ms. Clifford to return to arbitration or allow the case to go forward in court

.. “A lawsuit opens the door, and judges almost always allow for a plaintiff to have a fishing expedition,” said Robert S. Bennett, the Washington lawyer who represented Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones case. The questions could include, “Have you paid other people money?” he said.

.. perhaps intending to broaden it later to include claims that Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen coerced her into silence. “If that happened,” he said, “they certainly could seek to depose Trump.”

And in that case, he said, “I can certainly imagine how it might get broader.

And if it did, the wide array of Trump’s sexual interactions could be addressed

..  Ms. Clifford’s signature on the contract, and acceptance of the money, could count as a clear sign of agreement.

.. But other legal experts were struck by the sweeping nature of the nondisclosure agreement Ms. Clifford signed, and expressed skepticism that it would hold up in court. Beyond the circumstances of the alleged sexual relationship, the agreement barred her from doing anything, even indirectly, to “publicly disparage” Mr. Trump.

.. Ms. Clifford has claimed that she met Mr. Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006 and began a relationship that included sex and promises from Mr. Trump to get her on his NBC show “The Apprentice” and to give her a condominium.
.. Mr. Avenatti argues that because Mr. Trump did not sign it himself, the agreement is invalid — a point Mr. Super, the Georgetown professor, basically agreed with and Mr. Noble said might have merit.
.. The extent to which Mr. Cohen was acting on his own in striking the agreement with Ms. Clifford and paying her is crucial
.. Important factors in the case would include just how closely Mr. Cohen coordinated the payment to Ms. Clifford with Mr. Trump and whether it was intended to help the campaign avoid negative publicity.
.. But in her suit, Ms. Clifford tries to implicate Mr. Trump in the transaction, saying the offer of money was intended to buy her silence to help “ensure he won the presidential election.”
.. It could have simply been a personal matter, he said, of Mr. Trump wishing to keep a secret from his wife.

I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC

Ask me that at a cocktail party and I will talk your ear off about how the very people who had lectured us about the utter venality of workplace sexual harassment throughout the 1980s became suddenly quiescent when the malefactor was Bill Clinton.

.. How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump? And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?

I watched my fellow panelists’ eyes widen. And then the booing began.

.. I’d been dreading it for days, but when it came, I almost welcomed it. There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.

.. Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal.

.. A substantial number of people applauded. And as I was hustled out of the building by security, various supporters gave me the thumbs up sign.

.. Just before I reached the exit, a woman approached me and called my name. “That was so brave!” she told me.

She was one of my fellow panelists. I hope she’s encouraged. I am.

The Two Things That Will Determine Netanyahu’s Fate

With the Israeli police recommending that he be indicted, the prime minister is entering a major battle for political survival.

.. Twenty-one years ago, in early 1997, the Israeli police announced its recommendation that Benjamin Netanyahu, then a 47-year-old first-term prime minister, be criminally indicted for breach of public trust.

.. The attorney general in 1997—a well respected jurist beyond suspicion—decided that the case was too weak for trial. Nor did the police recommendation alone cause Netanyahu’s coalition partners to leave the government or go to new elections. And so, the 1997 police recommendation notwithstanding, Netanyahu survived politically and continued to serve until 1999, when he was defeated in the ballot box.

 .. he is entering a major, perhaps final battle for political survival.
.. Case 1000, involves a longstanding Netanyahu household practice of receiving regular gifts from a small set of multi-millionaires, some with business interests in Israel.
.. “Receiving gifts from friends is not forbidden” is the Netanyahu public defense.
.. the case reflects the widespread perception that the Netanyahu family enjoys the good life just a little too much for public servants, and often disregards norms and perhaps even the law in pursuit of perks. Netanyahu, in this regard, ushered in an age of leaders who didn’t espouse the modest, even austere image of the early-day Israeli leaders.  

.. Case 2000, involves the media, and it is in many ways far more troubling. Netanyahu has been media-focused and media-savvy, more than any other Israeli leader.
.. he Madrid peace conference of 1991. He was armed with perfect English, a baritone voice, and an American style of speaking, replete with well-crafted sound-bites, visual gimmicks, and—a novelty in 1990s Israel—an interest in the minutiae of interviews: how to apply makeup and which camera angle to choose for best effect.
.. He seemed then to be part of a wave of young, attractive American-style politicians around the democratic world, such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroder, even if ideologically he was much closer to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl.
.. Over the decades, he has paid a great deal of attention to message management, and, increasingly, to management of the media itself.
.. In 2007, however, something dramatic changed. The main newspapers in Israel suddenly found themselves outmatched in their own game: a new publication, Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”) appeared on Israeli streets. Rather than a hostile tone toward Netanyahu, Israel Hayom (also known as the Bibi-paper) propagated an adoring tone toward Netanyahu and his family, and a hostile one toward Olmert, the center, and the left. Israel Hayom’s cover price was unbeatable: 0.00 shekels.
.. No one suffered more from the entry of Israel Hayom than the old papers, chief among them Yediot Ahronot. The Israeli public took up the free publication; when Netanyahu became prime minister Israel Hayom also adopted a positive, optimistic tone about the direction of the country, and all this at no financial cost to the reader. It became the mostly widely read publication, dethroning Yediot Ahronot after many years, and causing havoc throughout the press scene.
.. Case 2000 surrounds a shocking revelation: a tape recording unearthed in a separate investigation of apparent negotiations between Netanyahu and the publisher of Yediot Ahronot. The purported deal was a detente between the two warring factions: the publisher, Noni Mozes, would provide more favorable coverage for Netanyahu in his paper, and Netanyahu would limit the circulation of the competitor Israel Hayom to weekdays, leaving the lucrative weekend editions to Yediot Ahronot.
.. Netanyahu has claimed that he was just bluffing; there was no real quid-pro-quo, merely a proof of precisely what Netanyahu had been saying all these years: The media moguls were out to get him
.. the deal never came to fruition
.. the police claim, Netanyahu was not bluffing; he convened parliamentarians to see what legislation might be promoted to limit his own ally publication and looked into implementing the deal. He was, they claim, conspiring to use his official position to the benefit of a commercial entity in exchange for a political favor. If a correct interpretation of the facts, that is bribery.

.. Netanyahu has now publicly acknowledged that the “Israel Hayom bill” (not Iran, or the Palestinians, or economic affairs) was the reason for calling the elections
.. Some members of his own party would hope that he resign without an election, meaning that one of them
would replace him temporarily.
.. He may point to the letter of Israeli law, which does not require a prime minister’s resignation until conviction (despite precedent to the contrary
.. Israelis are correct, however, that the string of corruption cases in the past two decades have brought a new a level of shamelessness to Israeli political life.
.. If his term ends in the coming year it will be because he is forced to: most likely his partners eventually force him to resign, or the voting public opts for someone holding a broom.

Trump Would Be Crazy to Sit with Mueller. Mueller Would Be Crazy to Insist.

Why the special counsel probably won’t subpoena the president.

In the end, Trump will not agree to a voluntary interview. Mueller has the authority to subpoena him to appear before the grand jury, but for a variety of strategic reasons should be reluctant to do so.

.. Trump and his allies are now racing to undermine the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation in the hope of muting the impact of its results. The longer the investigation takes, the more successful Trump’s campaign is likely to be. Mueller, therefore, would be well advised to weigh the burden of the time-consuming and distracting litigation that Trump would launch to block a subpoena against the limited value of Trump’s testimony and move on.

.. Clinton resisted sitting down with Ken Starr until the independent counsel obtained a subpoena. They then negotiated to allow Clinton to testify for four hours from the White House with his lawyer present and the grand jury connected by video.

.. Prior presidents also feared the political damage from appearing uncooperative with law enforcement. Trump has worked furiously to build political support for his resistance to cooperation and appears confident that his base and core supporters in Congress will insulate him from political consequences.

.. Mueller—because of the importance of obtaining spontaneous answers, asking follow-up questions and observing the witness’s demeanor—will not agree to anything less than live questioning.

.. Moreover, the precedent set by issuing a subpoena could be abused by less scrupulous prosecutors than Mueller to sully a president for political purposes.

.. Trump will respond to a grand jury subpoena with a protracted legal challenge that will go to the Supreme Court. At the very least, he is likely to challenge the constitutionality of the special counsel’s appointment; argue that Mueller has exceeded his authority by investigating tangential matters; urge the court to impose limits on the scope, time, place and manner of the questioning; and contend that much of the information the grand jury will seek is covered by executive privilege. Mueller is likely to prevail, but victory will take time and distract his team from wrapping up the investigation, while giving Trump endless opportunities to denounce the “witch hunt.”

.. Although taking the Fifth could be politically embarrassing, grand jury secrecy might prevent the public from learning of it.