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.
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.
.. 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.