Much remains mysterious about the Enquirer’s actions, and in particular its connections, if any, with President Trump and the government of Saudi Arabia — a possibility that Bezos alluded to in his blog post. Both the Saudis and Trump are aggrieved at The Post, and Trump wrongly blames Bezos for the newspaper’s accurate but unflattering coverage of him. When the Enquirer’s initial article about Bezos’s extramarital relationship was published, the president gloated in a tweet: “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”
The president would obviously love to see a sale of The Post to a friendlier owner — perhaps Trump pal David Pecker, the chairman and chief executive of AMI. (One is reminded of autocrats such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have benefited from bullying media organizations into submission in their own countries.) The Enquirer was threatening Bezos in order to get him to affirm that its coverage was not “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Might the Enquirer have, at a minimum, pursued the story to curry favor with Trump?
.. This is apparently not the first time the publication has been accused of extortionate demands. Other journalists, including Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, have said they were threatened by the Enquirer’s lawyers while investigating the tabloid’s relationship with Trump. And Bezos wrote that “numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI.” These machinations are now being exposed because of Bezos’s smart and courageous decision to confront the Enquirer rather than give in. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,
.. I suspect David Pecker will rue the day that his friend Donald Trump became president — if he does not already. And he is not alone.
- Paul Manafort had a flourishing business as an international influence-peddler before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. He now faces a long stretch in prison after having been convicted of felony financial charges. Trump’s friend
- Roger Stone has now been indicted for the first time after a long career as a political dirty trickster.
- Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, has gone from well-respected general to felon.
- Michael Cohen had a cushy career as Trump’s personal lawyer before his client became president. Now Cohen, too, is a felon. Numerous other Trump associates and family members are facing, at a minimum, hefty legal bills and, at worst, serious legal exposure.
Every organization Trump has been associated with — the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump campaign, the Trump administration — is being investigated by prosecutors and lawmakers. His name, long his biggest asset, has become so toxic that bookings are down at his hotels. And Trump, a.k.a. Individual 1, faces a serious threat of prosecution once he leaves office. Before it is all over, Trump himself may regret the day he became president. His unexpected and undeserved ascent is delivering long overdue accountability for him and his sleazy associates. We have gone from logrolling to having logs rolled over — and it’s about time.
While President Trump publicly fought with women leading up the the 2016 election, in private he directed schemes to silence their stories of two alleged affairs. Here’s a timeline of Trump’s personal involvement.
In May 2011, Daniels agreed to tell her story to a sister publication of In Touch magazine for $15,000 dollars. Two former employees of the magazine told us the story never ran because after the magazine called Mr. Trump seeking comment, his attorney Michael Cohen threatened to sue. Daniels says she was never paid, and says a few weeks later, she was threatened by a man who approached her in Las Vegas.
.. Stormy Daniels: I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T– taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin’ all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.” And then he was gone.
Anderson Cooper: You took it as a direct threat?
Stormy Daniels: Absolutely.
Stormy Daniels: I was rattled. I remember going into the workout class. And my hands are shaking so much, I was afraid I was gonna– drop her.
Anderson Cooper: Did you ever see that person again?
Stormy Daniels: No. But I– if I did, I would know it right away.
Anderson Cooper: You’d be able to– you’d be able to recognize that person?
Stormy Daniels: 100%. Even now, all these years later. If he walked in this door right now, I would instantly know.
Five years later, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president.
Stormy Daniels: Suddenly people are reaching out to me again, offering me money. Large amounts of money. Was I tempted? Yes– I struggle with it. And then I get the call. “I think I have the best deal for you.”
Anderson Cooper: From your lawyer?
Stormy Daniels: Yeah.
The deal was an offer not to tell her story. It came from Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen. In return for signing this non-disclosure agreement, Cohen would pay her $130,000 dollars through a Delaware-based limited liability corporation he had established in mid-October 2016 called essential consultants. Daniels says the agreement was appealing because it meant she would receive some money but also not have to worry about the effect the revelation of the affair would have on her child who was now old enough to watch the news. She signed the agreement eleven days before the election.
Anderson Cooper: Was it hush money to stay silent?
Stormy Daniels: Yes. The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety.
Anderson Cooper: I think some people watching this are going to doubt that you entered into this negotiation– because you feared for your safety. They’re gonna think y– that you saw an opportunity.
Stormy Daniels: I think the fact that I didn’t even negotiate, I just quickly said yes to this v– very, you know, strict contract. And what most people will agree with me extremely low number. It’s all the proof I need.
Anderson Cooper: you feel like if you had wanted to go public, you could have gotten paid a lot of money to go public–
Stormy Daniels: Without a doubt. I know for a fact. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, in my heart, and some people argue that I don’t have one of those, but whatever, that I was doing the right thing. I turned down a large payday multiple times because one, I didn’t wanna kiss and tell and be labeled all the things that I’m being labeled now
.. 15 months after she signed the non-disclosure agreement, in January 2018, the Wall Street Journal published this story, quoting anonymous sources, saying that Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen had paid her for her silence. Daniels says she was not the source of the story. But once it was published, she says she was pressured by her former attorney and former business manager to sign statements that Michael Cohen released publically, denying she’d had an affair with Mr. Trump.
.. Anderson Cooper: So you signed and released– a statement that said I am not denying this affair because I was paid in hush money I’m denying it because it never happened. That’s a lie?
Stormy Daniels: Yes.
Anderson Cooper: If it was untruthful, why did you sign it?
Stormy Daniels: Because they made it sound like I had no choice.
Anderson Cooper: I mean, no one was putting a gun to your head?
Stormy Daniels: Not physical violence, no.
Anderson Cooper: you thought that there would be some sort of legal repercussion if you didn’t sign it?
Stormy Daniels: Correct. As a matter of fact, the exact sentence used was, “They can make your life hell in many different ways.”
Anderson Cooper: They being…
Stormy Daniels: I’m not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen.
.. Trevor Potter: It is. If he was then reimbursed by the president, that doesn’t remove the fact that the initial payment violated Cohen’s contribution limits. I guess it mitigates it if he’s paid back by the candidate because the candidate could have paid for it without limit.
.. Anderson Cooper: Michael Cohen has said, “Look, this had nothing to do with the election.” He would’ve made this agreement months before.
Michael Avenatti: So why didn’t he? It just slipped his mind? It’s just a coincidence that, in the waning days of the campaign, he thought to himself, “Oh, you know, I know I’ve been thinkin’ about this for years. Perhaps now is a good time to get that NDA executed with Stormy Daniels.”
.. He also says the non-disclosure agreement Stormy Daniels signed in 2016, when she was represented by a different lawyer, was FedExed to Cohen at his Trump Organization office in Trump Tower in New York.
.. The cover letter from Daniels’ previous attorney also identifies who he thought Michael Cohen was working for.
Michael Avenatti: To Mr. Cohen as executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, again– listing the 5th Avenue address. this idea that there’s a separation now between Mr. Cohen, individually, and the Trump Organization or Mr. Cohen, individually, and Donald Trump, it– it– it’s nonsense.
.. Michael Avenatti: This is about the cover-up. This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy.
.. Avenatti points to this recent court filing in which the president’s lawyers claim Daniels is already liable for damages “in excess of $20 million” for unspecified violations of her non-disclosure agreement. And in that article in Vanity Fair this past week, Michael Cohen said that when he wins damages from Stormy Daniels, “I might even take an extended vacation on her dime.”
Anderson Cooper: You’re saying they’re tryin’ to intimidate her.
Michael Avenatti: There’s no question. You threaten someone– with a $20 million lawsuit, it’s a thuggish tactic. It’s no different than what happened in the parking lot in Las Vegas.
.. Anderson Cooper: You seem to be saying that she has some sort of text message, or video, or– or photographs. Or you could just be bluffing.
Michael Avenatti: You should ask some of the other people in my career when they’ve bet on me bluffing.
.. Anderson Cooper: In college and law school, you did opposition research for Democratic political operative Rahm Emanuel. Some people looking at that would say you’re politically motivated,
.. Anderson Cooper: As a prosecutor, you wanna get leverage over somebody that you could then use to get them to give you other information on which–
.. Anderson Cooper: Paul Manafort has been charged with crimes that don’t have anything to do with Russia in some cases.
Trevor Potter: Well, and that certainly preceded the campaign. And so– clearly, the Justice Department, the deputy attorney general who is ultimately in charge of this, has determined that looking at what Manafort did in other contexts– is relevant to the investigation. And I think you can say exactly the same thing about Cohen. He was– involved– indisputably with Trump Organization activities with Russia and negotiations with the Russians. Mr. Cohen is in the middle of a place that’s of great interest to the Special Counsel.
Anderson Cooper: Is there any recent precedent for p– prosecuting somebody for an undisclosed campaign contribution?
Trevor Potter: As it happens, there is. There’s sort of a pretty spectacular one.
Former Senator John Edwards was prosecuted, but never convicted, for payments a supporter and his campaign finance chairman made a year before the 2008 election to a woman who’d had Edwards’ child.
.. Anderson Cooper: But come on. You would not sign statements one, two, three times about something which you knew to be a lie.
Michael Avenatti: If the President of the United States’ fixer made it clear to me, either directly or indirectly, that I needed to sign it, and I was in the position of Stormy Daniels, I might sign those statements
Stormy Daniels: I felt intimidated and s– honestly bullied. And I didn’t know what to do. And so I signed it. Even though I had repeatedly expressed that I wouldn’t break the agreement, but I was not comfortable lying.
Anderson Cooper: How do we know you’re telling the truth?
Stormy Daniels: ‘Cause I have no reason to lie. I’m opening myself up for, you know, possible danger and definitely a whole lot of s***.
.. Anderson Cooper: Jenna Jameson– another well-known– adult film actress said recently about you, “The left looks at her as a whore and just uses her to try to discredit the president. The right looks at her like a treacherous rat. It’s a lose-lose. Should’ve kept her trap shut.”