Originally Published: March 12, 2018 6 a.m.
It’s surely the dream of every red-blooded American kid to grow up and be sued by a porn star.
Remember a million years ago, when right-wing moralists assailed President Obama for diminishing the dignity of the office by putting a foot against his desk and wearing a tan suit? Good times, good times. We can’t begin to imagine what they would’ve said if Obama had been sued by a sex worker who got paid off to keep her lips zipped on the eve of his election. We can’t begin to imagine … oh what the heck, let’s just quote from the lawsuit filed Tuesday against Trump:
“Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his attorney, Mr. Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election.”
Thank you, Stormy Daniels! For awhile, I had reluctantly decided to write about chief economic adviser Gary Cohn - who quit his job while Trump was bragging about how everyone wants to work for him - but in the end, Stormy rode to the rescue. Because I know you’d rather read about a sex coverup than a policy tiff about tariffs.
Nothing reveals Trump’s unparalleled sleaze more than the ever-burgeoning Stormy story. She wants a court to void the Oct. 28, 2016 hush agreement - the one where Trump is listed by an alias, “David Dennison” - because even though she signed it, and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen signed it, Trump himself did not sign it. The signature line above the notification “DD” was left blank.
In other words, Trump is such a loser than he can’t even follow through on muzzling an extramarital mistress. The other fun fact, of course, is that Cohen paid off Stormy before the election with $130,000 of his own money, and has since reportedly complained to friends that Trump never bothered to reimburse him. Which means that hotel contractors aren’t the only people Trump stiffs.
What’s not fun, however, is the very real possibility that the coverup maneuver may well have violated federal election law. That’s hardly shocking, given the fact that Team Trump is infested with confessed and credibly accused criminals (thank you, Robert Mueller).
The date of the hush agreement (11 days before the election) and the subsequent payoff to Stormy suggest that Cohen made an “in kind” campaign contribution in an amount that far exceeds what’s legally permitted. A campaign contribution is defined as “anything of value given, loaned or advanced to influence a federal election.” Plus, Cohen’s coverup donation was made through a Delaware-based LLC set up for that express purpose.
The law says that an individual can donate no more than $5,400, and it must be funneled through a political action committee, where it’s publicly recorded. Plus, an “in kind” contribution is defined in law as “an expenditure made by any person or entity in cooperation, consultation or consult with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate’s campaign.”
So, the obvious question: Did Trump - excuse me, “David Dennison” - know about the hush agreement? Who among us actually believes he didn’t know what his own loyal lawyer was doing?
But the Trump slag heap is so high that it’s hard to focus on even the stinkiest refuse. A few congressmen have asked the FBI to investigate whether the Stormy payoff broke federal law, but the FBI appears to have its hands full trying to assist Mueller while fending off Trump’s relentless attacks on law enforcement’s independence.
Oh, how we pine for the days when Obama’s tan suit was deemed the height of disrespect for the presidency. Because one tiny provision in Stormy’s hush agreement caught my eye. It’s the subsection where she was compelled to “completely divest herself” of all communications accrued during her months-long affair with Trump - including any and all “still images.”
No, Stormy, no. Please spare us.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.