The Stormy Daniels Scandal Gets Serious

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 Family Research Council.

.. 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.

.. for 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.

.. But the 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.

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all but confirmed Trump’s involvement on Wednesday, when she said that a recent arbitration proceeding — the one that resulted in the temporary restraining order — was “won in the president’s favor.”

.. 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.

.. “The asset here is this incredibly valuable agreement with Stormy,” Eisen told me. “Imagine what she could get if she has texts or images. Imagine the millions she could command!

.. 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.”

.. The NDA does, however, show that Trump was susceptible to blackmail.

.. Steve Bannon told “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff that another Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of “a hundred women” during the campaign.

.. David Super, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told me he was surprised by how legally strong Daniels’s lawsuit seems, due to the way the original NDA was written.

.. “Any halfway competent lawyer could have drafted the contract so that he didn’t need to sign it,” Super said of Cohen and Trump. “But they didn’t do it that way.”

.. 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.



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.

The Trump-Russia Story Gets Even Weirder

Kremlin-friendly cults and hatemongers were put on prime time to keep the nation entranced, distracted, as ever more foreign hirelings would arrive to help the Kremlin and spread its vision to the world.”

.. Nothing exemplifies this more than the strange saga of Anastasia Vashukevich. She is a Belarusian woman, a self-described “sex expert,” who is now in a Thai jail and who claims, in a desperate Instagram video, to be the “the missing link in the connection between Russia and the U.S. elections.”

.. a “mildly insane” squad of activist sex workers who specialize in weird pranks, like picketing the American Embassy naked in support of Harvey Weinstein. And one of them, Vashukevich, had lots of photographs of herself and the politically powerful Deripaska on her Instagram account.

.. Rick Gates, couldn’t account for nearly $19 million that they were supposed to invest for a business controlled by Deripaska

.. Navalny told The A.P. he didn’t know what to think. “Shows like ‘Homeland’ begin to look entirely realistic when you look at what is happening in Russia now,”

The Feminist Pursuit of Good Sex

Women’s liberation should not be “about fending off men’s sexuality,” she said, “but being able to embrace your own.”

..  Younger women, also known as “Twitter feminists,”

.. There have always been liberal feminists, from Betty Friedan to Sheryl Sandberg, who wanted a seat at the table rather than to reset the table, who seek equal opportunity within existing power structures.

.. They include older feminists, who endured pats on the bottom to succeed in the workplace and who urged the movement to prioritize things like women’s economic empowerment rather than sexuality, which they considered frivolous and distracting.

.. But there are younger feminists, too, who wish #MeToo would focus on predetermined bad behavior, like rape, rather than rethink tolerated behavior, like sexual pressure, and bristle at suggestions of a connection between the two.

.. These women were absolutely pro-sex, pro-pleasure and pro-freedom.
.. if rape and harassment were political, so was bad sex.
.. In a 1980 essay, the radical feminist Alix Kates Shulman remembered that in those early sessions, “sex was a central and explosive subject to which we continually returned”; feminists “used their sexual discontents to help them understand the power relations between men and women.”
.. Mr. Ansari is alleged to have badgered a woman into going further than she wanted to .. But the instinct that it was an important article was correct.
.. The issue of consensual yet joyless and unsatisfying sex was the same one my mom and her friends were grappling with 50 years ago.
.. “Feminism is a vision of active freedom, of fulfilled desires, or it is nothing.”