The Stormy Daniels saga is more than just a sex scandal

This isn't about tabloid gossip -- it's about the rule of law.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 27:  Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2018 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 27, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 27: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2018 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 27, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Over the last few months, we’ve learned about the relationship between Donald Trump, the President of the United States, and Stormy Daniels, an adult film star. It’s easy to see how this story generates headlines, but it’s more than just a sex scandal. There are serious legal issues involved that are connected to the most fundamental principles of American democracy.

To recap, the adult film star — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford —  claimed in a new law suit filed Tuesday that a non-disclosure agreement she had with Donald Trump over their alleged affair is invalid because he never signed it. Daniels also claims this “Hush Agreement,” which reportedly paid Daniels $130,000 right before the 2016 election, was meant to help Trump’s campaign by keeping this information from the public. 

Advertisement

If everything in Daniels’ new lawsuit is true, withholding such information from the public is a violation of federal law, according to Paul Seamus Ryan, the Vice President of Policy and Litigation at watchdog nonprofit Common Cause. He told ThinkProgress that Americans have the legal right to know who is attempting to influence the election.

“This was a big payment, $130,000 payment, to keep information away from voters that voters probably would have cared about when they were walking into the election booth back in November of 2016,” Ryan said. Common Cause filed a complaint calling on the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate the $130,000 payment.

Ryan explained that another potential violation is based on Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen claiming he paid Daniels himself. Any money designed to influence a candidate is considered a campaign contribution, which is legally capped at $2,700.

“We don’t know where this $130,000 came from,” Ryan said. “If it came from anyone other than Donald Trump himself, then it was an illegally large, or perhaps an illegal corporate, political contribution.”

Advertisement

The secrecy and the lack of disclosure surrounding the Stormy Daniels case violates laws that were specifically designed to prevent corruption in American politics.

“Here, it’s pretty clear that there was a big payment made to influence the election and it wasn’t disclosed by Team Trump. No one is above the law, not even President Trump,” Ryan said. “That’s why we need an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission to get to the bottom of where this money came from, why it wasn’t disclosed and to hold the president and his team accountable.”