It seems Stormy Daniels has finally asked herself the question the rest of us have been asking since January, when the Wall Street Journal revealed that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer had paid the porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair: Why did she settle for just $130,000?
The agreement between Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen regarding an affair alleged to have begun and ended a decade ago was made in October 2016. With the presidential election mere weeks away, couldn’t Daniels have demanded a much higher sum not to send the campaign careening completely off the rails? Perhaps Michael Wolff was right and, as he claimed in his book Fire and Fury, Trump didn’t think he’d actually win the White House; perhaps Daniels didn’t think he had a real shot either. But one could take another tack and ask why the president thought he had to pay the porn star at all. Trump famously said during the campaign, ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters’—and it’s only become harder to believe he was wrong.
The story of the president and the porn star has been, in the last week, a fast-moving one. The latest development provided the possibility of even more drama: On Monday, Daniels’s lawyer sent a letter to Trump’s lawyers, in which his client offered to return the $130,000 payment in exchange for being released from the agreement. The letter gave Trump’s team until noon Tuesday to decide and included information meant to assist in the decision process. Rendering the agreement ‘null and void’ meant Daniels would be able to ‘(a) speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the president and the attempts to silence her and (b) use and publish any text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution and/or legal liability for damages.’
Daniels hasn’t even waited for a response to begin a publicity tour. She talked to Anderson Cooper for an interview with 60 Minutes last week. Producers haven’t yet scheduled an airdate, and Daniels’s offer is contingent on Trump’s team not trying to stop the program from being broadcast. Daniels seems determined to prove her legal moves—she filed a suit last week to have the agreement declared void because Trump himself hadn’t signed it—aren’t motivated by money.60 Minutes is the kind of serious news program unlikely to pay a guest for an appearance. You can’t say that about In Touch Weekly, to which Daniels gave a detail-laden interview in 2011. (It was only released this year, after the WSJ story about the hush money was published.)
From a trashy tabloid to America’s most famous news program—Daniels seems to have come a long way. But the increased publicity will ensure she’ll still make plenty of money off her alleged affair, which she says took place shortly after Melania Trump gave birth to Barron. A hundred grand is nothing is Trump, and it’s likely not much to Stormy Daniels anymore. ‘If someone came up to you and said, “Hey, you know that job you’ve been doing, I’m going to pay you quadruple for doing it…” no one is going to say no,’ she told CNN sometime between four performances at a Florida strip club on Friday night.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of her lawyer’s letter—besides its suggestion she has ‘text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president’—is its insistence that any agreement based on it be made public within days. Might this, rather than the piddling sum of $130K, give the president pause? I doubt it. Everyone in Washington is talking about Stormy Daniels, but her story doesn’t imperil the presidency. The Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump boasted that he could grope women whether they liked it or not, didn’t stop nearly half of American voters from casting their ballots for him. Unless Daniels is far savvier than we suspect and held back stupefying specifics in her In Touch interview, nothing she reveals will tell us anything new about Donald Trump. Americans knew what kind of man he was before the election—and a lot of them gave him their stamp of approval anyway. This tempest in a DDD cup won’t do much to change his approval ratings now that he’s president either.