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Stormy Daniels says threats kept her quiet about alleged Trump affair until now

This image released by CBS News shows Stormy Daniels, left, during an interview with Anderson Cooper which will air on Sunday, March 25, 2018, on "60 Minutes." (Associated Press)
By Emma Brown and Frances Stead Sellers Washington Post

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who alleges that she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, says that she was threatened for attempting to tell her story publicly and accepted money through a Trump attorney to remain silent because she was scared for her family.

In a much-anticipated “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels said she believed she was doing the right thing when she accepted $130,000 from a company linked to Trump attorney Michael Cohen to stay quiet.

The hush agreement allowed her to protect her career and her family, she said, according to a transcript of the show. And she was concerned about her family’s safety after what she described as a scary episode in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, shortly after she first tried to sell her story to a tabloid magazine.

Daniels said she was taking her infant daughter out of the car to go to a fitness class when someone approached her.

“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,’ ” Daniels told journalist Anderson Cooper. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone.”

Daniels said she didn’t know the man, and she provided no evidence to back up her claim, according to the transcript.

But she said she remained fearful over the years. After the Wall Street Journal reported on the $130,000 payment, Daniels signed what she now describes as a false statement denying the affair. In the “60 Minutes” interview, she said she signed the statement under pressure from her former lawyer and business manager.

“They made it sound like I had no choice,” she said. While there was not any threat of physical violence at the time, she said, she was worried about other repercussions. “The exact sentence used was, ‘They can make your life hell in many different ways,’ ” Daniels told Cooper.

“They being …” Cooper said.

“I’m not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen,” Daniels replied.

Cohen has denied threatening Daniels. In the run-up to the “60 Minutes” broadcast, Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, said repeatedly on cable news programs that his client would talk about threats she received because of her allegations against Trump.

Neither Cohen nor his lawyer could be reached immediately for comment. He told Politico earlier this month that he has “never threatened her in any way and I am unaware of anyone else doing so.” He has also previously denied that Trump had an affair with Daniels.

Daniels’ former business manager did not comment. Her former attorney, Keith Davidson, said he cannot speak publicly until Daniels waives attorney-client privilege, but he does not believe that her assertions on “60 Minutes” “represent a fair and accurate description of the situation.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The “60 Minutes” broadcast comes just 72 hours after former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal spoke to CNN about her own alleged affair with Trump before he was elected president. McDougal has sued to break free of a confidentiality agreement that was struck in the months before the 2016 election, for which she was paid $150,000. McDougal says she signed her contract with the parent company of the National Enquirer, which is helmed by a friend of Trump’s and which bought her story not to publish it, but to bury it.

Daniels also has filed a lawsuit to break free of her hush agreement, naming Trump and the company linked to Cohen as defendants. She told “60 Minutes” that she decided to speak out “because it was very important to me to be able to defend myself.”

Representatives of Trump have dismissed the allegations, saying that the affairs never happened and that Trump had no knowledge of any payments.

But the two prime-time interviews – along with a judge’s decision this week to let a defamation lawsuit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who alleges Trump groped her, move forward – have intensified the spotlight on the president’s history with women.

Trump and his wife were 1,000 miles apart as Daniels told her story: Shortly before the interview aired, Trump flew back to Washington from a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. First lady Melania Trump remained in Florida, where she usually spends spring break, according to a spokeswoman.

Trump complained to associates at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend about the attention the media has given Daniels, according to people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

The “60 Minutes” interview began a few minutes after its scheduled 7 p.m. start time thanks to an NCAA basketball tournament game that went into overtime. On the program, Daniels described meeting Trump at his Lake Tahoe hotel room during a celebrity golf tournament weekend. When she asked about Melania – to whom he had been married less than two years and with whom he had an infant son – he did not want to talk about it, Daniels said.

“He brushed it aside, said, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, you know, don’t worry about that. We don’t even – we have separate rooms and stuff.’ ”

They spent several hours together over dinner, and he told her that he wanted to get her onto “The Apprentice,” his reality television show. Then Daniels went to the bathroom, and when she returned, he was sitting on the bed.

“I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go,’ ” Daniels told “60 Minutes.” Unlike McDougal, who professed to have loved Trump, Daniels said she was not attracted to him and had gotten herself into a “bad situation.”

Though she didn’t want to have sex with Trump, she considered the sex consensual. “I was not a victim. I’ve never said I was a victim,” she said.

Trump called her frequently over the next year, and she saw him a few times, but they never again had sex, she said. He continued to say he wanted to get her a spot on “The Apprentice.” In July 2007, about a year after they met, he asked her to meet him at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a development related to “The Apprentice.”

They spent four hours together, with Trump touching her leg and talking about “how great it was the last time,” Daniels said. When she asked about the development, he said he would let her know the following week.

She said she took her purse and left. The next month, he told her that she would not be on “The Apprentice” – and they never met again.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, gave an interview about the alleged affair to the tabloid In Touch in 2011. But that interview – which allegedly sparked the threat in Las Vegas – was not published at the time because Cohen threatened to sue, according to “60 Minutes,” relying on two former employees of the magazine. In 2016, during the final months of the presidential campaign, she again started talking to media outlets.

She was offered “a large payday multiple times” for her story but turned it down, she said on “60 Minutes.”

Instead of giving another interview, she and her former attorney struck a deal with Trump attorney Cohen, according to the “60 Minutes” interview and Daniels’ lawsuit. In late October, just days before the presidential election, she was paid $130,000 in exchange for her silence, the lawsuit says.

Beyond titillating details of a porn star’s alleged affair with the now-president, the “60 Minutes” interview explored the legal implications of the alleged effort to silence Daniels. The payment has become the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

Cohen has said that he made the payment without reimbursement, though he has not said what it was for. The government watchdog group Common Cause argues that the payment was intended to influence the 2016 election by silencing Daniels and therefore was an illegal in-kind contribution to Trump’s campaign. Cohen has called the Common Cause complaints “baseless.”

On “60 Minutes,” Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the FEC appointed by President George H.W. Bush, said he believes the payment could be seen as a campaign contribution and could create an “enormous legal mess” for Cohen and Trump. He said the problem is particularly acute for Cohen if he was not reimbursed because he far exceeded the individual legal gift limit.

Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, disputes the notion that Cohen was working in his personal capacity when he arranged the hush-money agreement.

In the “60 Minutes” segment, he said Daniels’ former lawyer sent her nondisclosure agreement to Cohen at his Trump Organization office in Trump Tower, and he showed what he said was the Fed Ex confirmation. The cover letter with that document refers to Cohen as executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization.

The White House has denied that Trump knew anything about the payment to Daniels.

Charles Harder, a lawyer representing Trump in the Daniels case, did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. Neither did representatives of the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign.

While her newfound status as a household name has improved her marketability, increasing her fees for strip club appearances, speaking out carries real financial risks for Daniels.

In her lawsuit filed earlier this month, she argues that the agreement she signed – which requires that she stay silent on matters related to Trump and take any dispute to secret arbitration – is null and void because Trump did not actually sign the document. But if the court holds that the agreement is valid, Daniels could owe a hefty bill.

Each violation of the agreement carries a $1 million penalty. In court documents filed last week, Cohen said Daniels had breached the contract at least 20 times and he intends to collect at least $20 million from her.


The Washington Post’s Breanne Deppisch and Josh Dawsey contributed.