The Wall Street Journal reports today that Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time personal lawyer—who has strangely wavered between political parties—allegedly arranged a payment of $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford in October 2016. According to WSJ's unidentified sources, Clifford (whose stage name is Stormy Daniels) alleged privately that the "sexual encounter" happened with Trump after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump married his current wife, Melania, in January 2005. The alleged encounter with Clifford was reportedly consensual.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a White House official declined to comment on the alleged payout to Clifford, but did deny the alleged affair.
“These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election,” a White House official told the Wall Street Journal.
Cohen also denied the report, referring to Clifford by her stage name.
“President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels,” Cohen told the Wall Street Journal. “This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client. You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011.”
The "first time" that Cohen intimated involved a previous 2016 report in the Wall Street Journal that claimed Clifford was having discussions with ABC’s “Good Morning America” about appearing on the show “to publicly disclose what she said was a past relationship with Mr. Trump.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen also sent a separate statement from Clifford:
“Mr. Cohen also sent a two-paragraph statement by email addressed 'TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN' and signed by 'Stormy Daniels' denying that she had a 'sexual and/or romantic affair' with Mr. Trump.
'Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,' the statement said."
However, sources close to the matter told the Wall Street Journal that there were problems once the alleged agreement was made — namely, that the payment didn’t come quickly enough, and threats were made to terminate the deal.
The first report about Clifford in the Wall Street Journal also alluded to an abrupt end to her alleged talks with ABC. “Ms. Clifford cut off contact with the network without telling her story. She didn’t respond to requests for comment," the Wall Street Journal reported.
Clifford has an intriguing past. In 2009, she announced that she was planning to run for senator in Louisiana in an effort to unseat Republican David Vitter, though she never officially ran. Later in 2009 she was arrested for domestic violence. According to NBC San Diego, Clifford allegedly hit her husband multiple times after getting upset over unpaid bills. In 2010, the 38-year-old publicly announced that she was joining the Republican party, according to the Huffington Post. The decision was made after a reported outing, funded by the Republican National Committee, to a Los Angeles lesbian bondage-themed club called Voyeur—which is now closed.
It’s worth noting that Jessica Drake, another adult-film star, alleged in October 2016 that Trump "kissed her and two other women," without consent, back in 2006. Also in October 2016, the Washington Post published the now-infamous tape of a 2005 recording where Trump made his “grab 'em by the pussy” remark. Later, Trump claimed the tape was fake, despite previously apologizing for it and despite Billy Bush corroborating witnessing the remarks.
The Wall Street Journal states that it is not known “whether Mr. Trump was aware of any agreement or payment involving [Clifford].” However, the strange timing of all the aforementioned events begs asking a bigger question: Was Cohen doing clean-up for Trump during the month just before the election? And what else did he try to hide?