In January we learned, thanks to The Wall Street Journal, that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Donald Trump, to the known as Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was to stop Daniels from speaking out about an alleged affair she’d had with Trump shortly after Melania Trump, his third wife, gave birth to their son, Barron.
With any previous president the story would have been explosive, but with this one, it felt relatively minor. The real scandal, it seemed, was that there was no scandal, because no one expects any better of Trump. The religious right was in the words of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Liberals rolled their eyes at right-wing hypocrisy, but ranked the affair fairly low on the list of Trump outrages.
But Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — is a clever capitalist who’s been determined to force the story of her relationship with Trump into the public eye. She has parlayed her new notoriety into a series of strip-club appearances, including two in South Florida on Friday and Saturday. More significantly, her lawyer has filed a lawsuit arguing that the nondisclosure agreement she signed is null and void because Trump himself never signed it. The suit, ingeniously, has given Daniels’s lawyer a pretext to make that agreement public.
As this drama unfolds, it’s becoming clear that, for all its sordid details, it isn’t really a sex scandal. It’s a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal. It’s salacious and absurd, but we should take it seriously. Trump’s team certainly seems to; Cohen recently to silence Daniels.