One of the Trump Organization’s top lawyers reportedly paid an adult film star $130,000 to stop her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump, who was running for president at the time of the reported payment.
Stephanie Clifford, also known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels, received the payment one month before the 2016 election, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal. The settlement was organized by Michael Cohen, one of the Trump Organization’s top attorneys, who reportedly negotiated the payment after a nondisclosure agreement had been signed.
The pair are alleged to have met during a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife, Melania. Both the White House and Cohen strongly denied that the alleged affair had ever taken place, with Cohen calling the claims “outlandish allegations.” Cohen also provided a statement to Buzzfeed that he said was signed by Stormy Daniels, denying reports of a sexual encounter with Trump.
While the question of whether or not Trump had a consensual affair with an adult film actress may be juicy gossip, it isn’t nearly as pressing as whether Clifford was paid by top Trump lawyers to keep quiet (Clifford had reportedly previously discussed revealing her relationship on ABC’s Good Morning America.) What’s more, the reports fit into a larger patter of the president denying alleged encounters — both consensual and non-consensual — and going as far as to smear those women and call them liars.
The examples are numerous, but Trump has flatly denied them all. When he was asked about the accusations during the final presidential debate, Trump said that the stories were “totally false” and that his accusers “want either fame or her [Hillary Clinton’s] campaign did it.” A month before the election he said that the “vicious claims” were fabricated and “preposterious, ludicrous, and defy truth, common sense and logic.”
Trump’s surrogates have also adopted a “deny everything” approach when it comes to sexual misconduct allegations. When the AP interviewed former crew members of The Apprentice about Trump’s alleged inappropriate behavior on set, then-campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that these “outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees, have no merit whatsoever.” When the White House was asked if all the women who had accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment since 1980 were liars, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that yes, they were.
“We’ve been clear on that from the beginning and the president has spoken on it,” Sanders said.
The reported payment to Clifford would also not be the first time that Trump has settled out of court with a woman in relation to allegations of sexual impropriety. In 1997, Jill Harth filed a sexual harassment suit against Trump, claiming he made repeated unwanted sexual advances towards her while she was in Mar-a-Lago with her partner George Houraney. As part of a confidential settlement, Harth withdrew her suit.
Trump’s former wife, Ivana Trump, has also settled with the president after previously accusing him of rape. According to NBC News, Ivana Trump needs permission from Donald Trump to speak about him.