“Excuse me, when you look at Stormy Daniels,” Rudolph Giuliani, .. before interrupting himself to make a face. And what a face: Giuliani’s expression was, perhaps, meant to be one of knowing revulsion at Daniels, but the lopsided chaos of his features conveyed a moral contortion all his own. He had been explaining that Melania Trump believed in her husband implicitly, and so should everyone else, because he was Trump
.. Giuliani added, “I know Donald Trump. Look at his three wives, right?” It wasn’t clear if, with that questioning note, he was looking for a confirmation of the exact number of Trump’s wives. “Beautiful women, classy women, women of great substance. Stormy Daniels?” He paused to make another face
.. “But I’m sorry, I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman, or a woman of substance, or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman, and as a person. And isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation. So, Stormy, you want to bring a case? Let me cross-examine you.”
.. It is more of an honest living than some New York real-estate developers make.
.. she has also made it clear that she knew that she was taking a risk by opening herself up to this kind of attack
.. (Clifford has said that one of the new expenses she has taken on, in addition to her legal fees, is for security.)
.. Giuliani jumped in, seemingly intent on playacting the role of a beat cop from a past century, who, in dealing with the woman who comes to tell him her story, looks at what she is wearing, smirks, and turns away—or, as Giuliani suggested in his “cross-examine” remark, the role of the lawyer who has no better tactic than to try to humiliate a witness, labelling her a loose woman.
.. That is a form of sexual exploitation far more corrosive than any film that Clifford has ever made.
.. Giuliani’s comments went beyond whether Clifford could be believed to whether she could even be hurt. “Explain to me how she could be damaged,” he said. “She has no reputation. If you’re going to sell your body for money, you just don’t have a reputation.” But Clifford does not say that Trump, against whom she has filed a defamation suit (in the Southern District of New York, Giuliani’s old territory), damaged her by calling her an adult-film star. She says that he damaged her by saying, on Twitter, that her account of being threatened not to talk about their sexual encounter was “a total con job”—and that she, by implication, was a total con woman
.. when NBC asked Giuliani whether he regretted his remarks, he said that he did not, dressing up his denial with a vague reference to feminism and daughters. He also said, “I don’t have to undermine her credibility. She’s done it by lying.”
.. Giuliani, perhaps more than any of Trump’s other lawyers, has made Cohen sound like Trump’s bag man, with slush-fund-management responsibilities.
.. he corruption case against Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, was a “joke”
.. Mueller’s team was trying to “frame” Trump.
.. while the President could be impeached, “in no case” could he be indicted or subpoenaed, not even “if he shot James Comey.” There is regular speculation about when Trump might fire Giuliani. But it may be that Giuliani is the President’s lawyer because he is the kind of lawyer Trump likes.
.. Giuliani’s remarks about Clifford are more than repugnant; they are revealing. They convey a political philosophy that he and the President share
.. those who are vulnerable are meant to be wounded, and have no right to ask for respect, let alone protection. It is a bully’s declaration of open season on the weak.
.. But Stephanie Clifford is not as defenseless as Giuliani or Trump might think. She has presented a credible and strikingly strong legal case. Maybe Giuliani should be listening to her.
Stormy Daniels already has a defamation claim against President Trump based in part on his accusation that her story that she was threatened in a parking lot was false. (Trump says the claim of an affair was “false and extortionist.”) Now she has a splendid case.
Accusing someone of a crime is defamation per se, meaning no damages need to be proved. Avenatti will be entitled to depose Trump under oath to ask such nettlesome questions as:
- Did you have sexual relations with my client?
- Did you publicly deny knowledge of a settlement payment on national TV?
- Did you reimburse Michael Cohen for fronting the money?
- Did you break up the payments in monthly installments? Why?
- Have you made other payments to remain silent about adulterous affairs? How many? Did they all extort money from you, in your view? What are their names? How much did you pay out?
.. According to Daniels, Cohen strong-armed her into making a settlement. She, in other words, was the victim of a pressure campaign, not its instigator. Cohen would therefore need to answer questions that parallel inquiries for Trump. One or both might take the 5th — which many Americans would interpret as evidence one or both violated criminal campaign laws.
Avenatti has advantages over Robert S. Mueller III. Avenatti can needle Trump daily on TV, a tactic that already pushed Trump to lie publicly about his knowledge of the settlement. Avenatti can not be fired by Trump. Pursuant to the Paula Jones case, Daniels’s lawyer unquestionably has the right to depose Trump under oath.
There is delicious karma in this happening to Trump, who bludgeoned Hillary Clinton during the campaign for allegedly helping her husband to falsely smear women who accused the philandering president of sexual conduct. We reach karmic overload when we note that Trump has spent a lifetime threatening to and actually filing lawsuits alleging defamation.
Avenatti said he is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the man’s identification. The sketch showed a man Daniels described as being in his 30s or 40s with sharp cheekbones and wavy hair.
.. The alleged incident came after Daniels tried to sell her story of an affair with Trump to Bauer Publishing. She was interviewed in May 2011 and provided graphic details about their alleged meeting. The story was quashed, according to former Bauer employees, after Cohen threatened to sue.
.. Daniels said she did tell other people about the threat, including family members, friends and people with whom she worked, but she did not identify any of them.
Hansen represented a group of investors in Trump’s casino company, which was going bankrupt (potentially costing the investors $1.25 billion in defaulted debt). Hansen told the local police department that the caller threatened his wife and children:
My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.
According to Leopold, the FBI found Hansen’s account credible enough that they gave him a portable recording device and asked him to record any other calls he got. Meanwhile, they traced the number that had shown up on Hansen’s BlackBerry back to a Manhattan phone booth across the street from the theater that hosted The Late Show With David Letterman— on which Trump taped an appearance a few hours after the call was made.
.. Four men prevented Hatixbe Bajrushi and her son from leaving. Matthew Calamari, the hulking head of security, shoved the boy. Trump’s brother-in-law, James Grau, barked questions, demanding to know why they were there. Michael Nicoll, another guard, pushed them back when they tried to leave. Grau snatched her purse and passed it to Calamari, Nicoll, and Domenic Pezzo to rifle through.[…]
Calamari threatened to harm the family if they spoke to police about what happened, according to the lawsuit. After 90 minutes, the police arrived and the Bajrushis were freed.
None of the security guards named in the lawsuit were charged, although FBI special agents told BuzzFeed News that two of them were questioned as “persons of interest.”
Because neither of these allegations resulted in criminal charges, much less convictions, they’re not proof of anything. But they bear a resemblance to some aspects of Daniels’s story: the threatening phone calls, the willingness to threaten or harm children. At the very least, they’re evidence that she’s not the first person to accuse Trump surrogates of acting like B-movie thugs.
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
Lawsuit threats from Trump lawyers aren’t unusual, but “What I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting … I’m going to mess your life up” goes beyond a simple lawsuit threat.
.. What’s really interesting is that Cohen hasn’t publicly denied threatening to make Daniels’s life hell in 2018. What he is denying is being involved in sending the thug to intimidate Daniels in 2011 — something Daniels isn’t actually accusing him of.
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.”