The Next Storm(y) Brewing Over Trump

On March 6th, adult film actress and performer Stephanie Clifford (who goes by the stage name of Stormy Daniels) filed a lawsuit against U.S. President Donald Trump and his representatives. The lawsuit aims to release Clifford from the October 2016 “hush agreement” that prevented her from discussing her previous relationship with Trump.

That agreement, signed by Clifford and Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen (for Essential Consultants LLC, representing Trump), gave $130,000 to Clifford in exchange for her silence on an alleged affair that began in 2006. To prevent public knowledge and further enhance privacy, the agreement uses the aliases “Peggy Peterson” (PP) for Clifford and “David Dennison” (DD) for Trump. Clifford says the agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it.

If Clifford wins the lawsuit, she would receive no direct financial compensation (in fact, she has said she will return the initial $130,000). Instead, not only would she be able to openly discuss her alleged affair with the president, but she would be able to show photographic and digital evidence, possibly verifying her claims — claims about events that Trump has repeatedly denied.

“Our aim and our messaging is very simple: We’re going to shoot straight, we’re going to provide evidence and facts, and we are are going to consistently advocate for the American people being able to make their own decisions as to who’s telling the truth and who’s lying to them,” said Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti. “[Clifford] wants a forum to tell her version of events and let the chips fall where they may.”

Although this may seem an impossible “he said, she said” scenario that might just blow over, there could also be serious ramifications. Of legal concern for Trump is his possible violation of campaign spending laws, if he did indeed use campaign funds to silence Clifford, without having reported it. It could also expose Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, to charges of fraud and ethical breaches.  

The greatest threat to Trump, however, is the litigation process, which could open him up to being deposed and having to produce documents. In fact, the case is being compared to the 1997 sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton by Paula Jones, which led to his impeachment— because he lied under oath in that litigation about his now infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Elisa Marks  (Salt Lake City)

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