Trump lawyer set up a shell company to pay adult film star hush money a month before the election

The Stormy Daniels story just keeps getting wilder.

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, established a private company in Delaware in October 2016 to pay hush money to former adult film star Stephanie Clifford, according to a report Thursday. Clifford, who goes by the stage name “Stormy Daniels,” allegedly had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Cohen had paid Clifford $130,000 a month before the 2016 election in return for her agreeing not to publicly discuss her alleged encounter with Trump last week, and on Thursday, the Journal reported Cohen had done so through a private company and used pseudonyms to mask the identities of the people involved in the transaction.

Clifford was identified as “Peggy Peterson,” according to Thursday’s report, while Cohen was listed as the “authorized person” for a company called Essential Consultants LLC. (Cohen could have hired a lawyer or agent to serve as the “authorized person” for the LLC but listed himself instead.) Cohen then used a bank account linked to the entity to pay Clifford $130,000.

According to the Journal’s report, Cohen had planned to make the payment to Clifford using a private company called Resolution Consultants LLC, which he created in September 2016, but he ultimately used Essential Consultants. Cohen created Essential Consultants on October 17, 2016 and dissolved Resolution Consultants two minutes later. It’s unclear why Resolution Consultants was dissolved.

Following the original report about Cohen’s payment to Clifford last week, Cohen distributed a statement purportedly signed by Clifford denying she ever had a sexual relationship with Trump, but a number of outlets, including Slate and The Daily Beast, have reported having been in contact with Clifford during the campaign. InTouch is publishing an interview Friday with Clifford from 2011 in which she talks about having had sex with Trump. Fox News also reportedly had the story and killed it right before the election.

On Thursday, Mother Jones published a piece with more salacious details about Trump and Clifford’s alleged encounter, including the fact that Clifford once allegedly spanked Trump with a copy Forbes Magazine at his request.

The story matters beyond its juicy tidbits, though. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum wrote earlier this week, the Clifford scandal indicates that Trump is willing to lie about his encounters with women, and that the alleged story has parallels to other women’s claims that Trump assaulted them. Additionally, it suggests that Trump is vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.