what the trial reveals is something very damning, in the ethical if not legal sense: namely, what kind of people Trump surrounds himself with.
There was no secret about Manafort’s record as an influence-peddler on behalf of corrupt dictators and oligarchs when he went to work for Trump. On April 13, 2016, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote a prescient article headlined: “Trump Just Hired His Next Scandal.” Trump couldn’t have cared less. His whole career, he has surrounded himself with sleazy characters such as the Russian-born mob associate Felix Sater, who served prison time for assault and later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, as well as lawyer-cum-fixer Michael Cohen, who is reportedly under investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including tax fraud.
.. These are the kind of people Trump feels comfortable around, because this is the kind of person Trump is. He is, after all, the guy who paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against him from students of Trump University. The guy who arranged for payoffs to a Playboy playmate and a porn star with whom he had affairs. The guy who lies an average of 7.6 times a day.
.. And because everyone knows what kind of person Trump is, he attracts kindred souls. Manafort and Gates are only Exhibits A and B. There is also Exhibit C: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, is facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and false statements as part of an alleged insider-trading scheme. Exhibit D is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been accused by Forbes magazine, hardly an anti-Trump rag, of bilking business associates out of $120 million.
.. In fairness, not all of Trump’s associates are grifters. Some are simply wealthy dilettantes like Trump himself
.. Among the affluent and unqualified appointees Trump has set loose on the world are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, who are somehow supposed to solve an Israeli-Palestinian dispute that has frustrated seasoned diplomats for decades. No surprise: Their vaunted peace plan remains MIA.
.. ProPublica has a mind-boggling scoop about another group of dilettantes — a Palm Beach doctor, an entertainment mogul, and a lawyer — whom Trump tasked as an informal board of directors to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. None has any experience in the U.S. military or government; their chief qualification was that they are all members of Trump’s golf club, Mar-a-Lago.
.. Beyond the swindlers and dilettantes, there is a third group of people who have no business working for Trump or any other president: the fanatics. The most prominent of the extremists was Stephen K. Bannon, the notorious “alt-right” leader who was chief executive of Trump’s campaign and a senior White House aide. He may be gone, but others remain. They include Peter Navarro, who may well be the only economist in the world who thinks trade wars are a good thing; Stephen Miller, the nativist who was behind plans to lock immigrant children in cages and bar Muslims from entering the United States, and who is now plotting to reduce legal immigration; and Fred Fleitz, the Islamophobic chief of staff of the National Security Council. They feel at home in the White House because, aside from being a grifter and a dilettante, Trump is also an extremist with a long history of racist, sexist, nativist, protectionist and isolationist utterances
One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair.
.. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”
.. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.”
.. Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,”
.. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”
.. Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods.
.. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote.
.. All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller.
.. Over the course of the affair, Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel. “No paper trails for him,” she wrote. “In fact, every time I flew to meet him, I booked/paid for flight + hotel + he reimbursed me.”
.. In July, 2006, McDougal joined Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe. At a party there, she and Trump sat in a booth with the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Trump told her that Brees had recognized her, remarking, “Baby, you’re popular.”
.. During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event.
.. Another adult-film actress, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, known as Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room
.. During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.,’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant.
.. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!”
.. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”
.. McDougal’s account, like those of Clifford and other women who have described Trump’s advances, conveys a man preoccupied with his image. McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses.
.. Trump also promised to buy McDougal an apartment in New York as a Christmas present. Clifford, likewise, said that Trump promised to buy her a condo in Tampa. For Trump, showing off real estate and other branded products was sometimes a prelude to sexual advances.
.. The decision was reinforced by a series of comments Trump made that McDougal found disrespectful, according to several of her friends. When she raised her concern about her mother’s disapproval to Trump, he replied, “What, that old hag?” (McDougal, hurt, pointed out that Trump and her mother were close in age.)
.. friend mentioned a relationship she had had with an African-American man. According to multiple sources, Trump remarked that the friend liked “the big black dick” and began commenting on her attractiveness and breast size. The interactions angered the friend and deeply offended McDougal.
..Crawford said, referring to Trump. “I said, ‘You know, if you had a physical relationship with him, that could be worth something about now.’ And I looked at her and she had that guilty look on her face.”
Having heard Trump boast on the tape about groping and kissing women without consent, this man told host Mark Halperin (oh, the irony) that the billionaire is “just like the rest of us: He likes guns, and he likes women. He had the power. He has the prestige. Why wouldn’t you take a little advantage?”
.. They probably don’t care. This adds an unusual twist to media coverage of Trump’s alleged infidelities. Most male politicians — even nonreligious ones — work to project the consummate family-man image. Disclosure of an affair often tarnishes or even shatters that image, revealing that a politician is not the person voters thought he was.
.. For example, Anthony Weiner .. John Edwards’s
.. Trump is different: He had a long history of having affairs before ever seeking political office. His affair with actress Marla Maples when he was married to Ivana Trump was a tabloid sensation. Melania Trump told GQ that Trump first sought her phone number when he was still married to Maples — at a party to which he brought a different woman as his date
.. For most of his public life, Trump’s desired image has been ladies’ man, not family man.
.. Daniels’s and McDougal’s accounts of sexual relationships, even if accurate, don’t expose anything about Trump that voters did not already know.
.. The question is not merely whether he is a cheater, but also whether he is a liar. Sleeping with a porn star and a Playboy Playmate is certainly consistent with Trump’s self-described lifestyle. His supporters might not mind such conduct, but lying — if that is what the president is doing — could be another matter. Trump never pretended to be a Puritan, but he did bill himself as a teller of hard truths and a keeper of promises.
.. Another consideration is whether Trump’s womanizing days are behind him.
.. during a period of national reckoning with sexual misconduct
.. I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me.”
.. If their stories were to draw out more recent claims, however, then the “changed man” narrative could unravel.
.. Coverage of Trump’s alleged affairs is not only about the president and his supposed partners. It is also about the standards of his backers.
Cohen created an LLC in Delaware — where LLCs don’t have to disclose their managers — and used pseudonyms to facilitate the payment to Daniels.
- Makes reference to Trump’s bodyguard, “Keith,” being his gatekeeper for all of her contacts with Trump. She says of “Keith” that she “met [him] every time I saw [Trump]. Keith was always with him.” Trump’s longtime body man is Keith Schiller.
- Also refers to another Trump aide, his secretary “Rhona.” This is Rhona Graff, who had worked for the Trump Organization for more than three decades.
- Makes a few somewhat bizarre references to Trump’s distaste for sharks. “He is obsessed with sharks,” she said. “Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities, and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ ” She added at another point that they “moved to the sofa so he could get a better view of ‘Shark Week.’ “ Soon, reporters and those on social media had found other examples of Trump’s anti-shark commentary.
.. She also was reportedly in talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” about going public during the campaign.
.. The most charitable interpretation of all of this would seem to be that someone very close to Trump paid a large sum of money to someone who was prepared to make a very serious allegation about the then-candidate.
.. if it were all true and Trump did engage in an affair with a porn star early in his marriage to Melania Trump? Would it necessarily change much of anything? It is widely known — and Trump has acknowledged — having cheated on his first wife, Ivana, with Marla Maples, who became his second wife.