Porn star was reportedly paid to stay quiet about Trump
Published : 13 Jan 2018, 22:24:36
A lawyer for President Trump orchestrated a $130,000 payment to a pornographic-film actress in October 2016 to prevent her from going public with claims of a consensual sexual encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The reported payment came shortly before the presidential election and as the actress, Stephanie Clifford, 38, was discussing sharing her account with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the online magazine Slate, according to interviews, notes and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.
Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, said on Friday that in a series of interviews with Clifford in August and October 2016, she told him she had an affair with Trump after meeting him at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament. She told him that Michael D. Cohen, a lawyer for Trump, had agreed during the presidential campaign to pay her the $130,000 if she kept the relationship secret, Weisberg said, adding that Clifford had told him she was tempted to go public because the lawyer was late in making the payment and she feared he might back out of their agreement.
In a text message exchange that Weisberg provided to The Times, he pressed her on details of the agreement.
“Was the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen?” he asked.
“Yep!” responded Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.
She forwarded Weisberg a draft amendment to the original agreement in which the parties were referred to by pseudonym Weisberg shared it with The Times.
According to the draft, Clifford was referred to as “Peggy Peterson” and was represented by a lawyer named Keith Davidson. On the other end of the negotiations were other parties referred to as “David Dennison” and “David Delucia.” Clifford promised to send Weisberg the original paperwork. But shortly after the text message exchange, Clifford stopped responding. Weisberg said that his conversations with the actress were on the record but that he was not prepared to write the story without her consent.
ABC had been in talks with Clifford about an appearance on “Good Morning America,” but they came to an abrupt end, according to a person briefed on the negotiations.
In an email sent on Friday to The Times, Cohen did not address the $130,000 payment, but said, “These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Daniels.”
Clifford could not be reached for comment. But Cohen released a statement dated Jan. 10 and signed by Clifford in which she said that her involvement with Trump was limited to a few public appearances, and that allegations that “I had a sexual and/or romantic affair with Trump many, many, many years ago” were “completely false.”
“Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,” the statement said.
The White House issued a statement, saying, “These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”
The talks with Clifford were taking place at a delicate time for Trump, as he sought to dismiss allegations that he had mistreated women, along with questions about his fidelity. They came to pose a dire threat to his campaign after the release of an unedited “Access Hollywood” segment in which he boasted about grabbing women by the genitals uninvited and of an attempt he made to persuade a married woman to sleep with him. (At the time, he was newly married to Melania Trump, who was pregnant with their son, Barron.)
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Clifford was one of at least two women whose claims of out-of-wedlock relations with Trump were kept from public view by way of restrictive legal agreements. Around the same time that Clifford was talking to Slate, a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, sold exclusive rights to her story about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump to American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, The Journal reported shortly before the presidential election.
American Media, whose chief executive, David J. Pecker, is close with Trump, never published her story. It told The Journal at the time that it had paid to run fitness columns by McDougal and for “life rights” to any relationship she may have had to a married man. It denied it had paid to lock down a story that would have been damaging to Trump. Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, had denied that Trump had an affair or that he or his campaign had any knowledge of the talks with American Media.
McDougal was represented by the same lawyer who represented Clifford, Keith Davidson.
A Beverly Hills lawyer whose specialty is navigating “the discreet affairs of our select clientele,” Davidson has represented a number of adult-film stars and models, according to a client list that was once posted on his web site but no longer appears there. Davidson did not respond to requests for comment.-Reuters