(Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

The many women of Donald Trump could be his undoing

President Trump could face a wave of women who are emboldened to call him out — and there may not be much he can do


Jeremy Binckes
February 17, 2018 11:00AM (UTC)

The dam of President Donald Trump's personal life may be cracking. The whole world is watching.

On Friday, a second woman came forward with claims of an decade-old affair with the president. This time it was Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year. Two months ago, the whispers of an affair came from people who knew Stephanie Clifford — better known as the adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Both alleged affairs happened after Trump was already married to Melania Trump, his current wife. One would have occurred when Melania was pregnant with Barron Trump, the couple's only child, and the other shortly after his birth.

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In both instances, Trump has been protected by the law, and by people close to him who could use the law to shield him from any accusations. In the case of McDougal, it was, according to New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow, an agreement with the publisher of the National Enquirer; in the case of Daniels, it was a $130,000 non-disclosure agreement reached with Trump's lawyer and possible fix-it man, Michael Cohen. Both agreements were signed just before the 2016 presidential election, when the women could have done maximum damage to Trump by coming forward.

But something terrible happened. Michael Cohen spoke up. He admitted to the non-disclosure agreement and the payment to Stormy Daniels, claiming the money was his own and did not come from Trump or the campaign. Daniels' representative took this as a sign that Cohen broke the NDA, and now the world waits for Daniels to speak her piece.

One unanswered question is how many more women may come forward. If Trump had affairs with two women during a brief portion of his marriage to Melania, it is not unreasonable to speculate that there may be others.

Daniels may be setting a precedent here by calling Trump's bluff. Throughout Trump's adult life, he has been a master of legal threats, but not a master of actual litigation.

Though the mogul-turned-politician has often threatened vengeful lawsuits, he's rarely followed through on actually suing people. That is perfectly illustrated by what happened in 2016, when Trump said that he would sue several women who came forward with allegations that he had assaulted them. One claimed he tried to kiss her in a Trump Tower elevator; at least two have come forward with claims that he groped them under their dresses or skirts.

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It appears from here that the president is in a no-win situation. As was pointed out this week, if either he or Cohen sues Daniels, the first question would be whether or not Cohen tried to cover up one of Trump's affairs. The second question would be whether Trump had any other affairs during that same time period.

A similar risk lies in wait for the National Enquirer, which pushed a story during the 2016 primary campaign hat the father of Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's principal rival was somehow connected to the John F. Kennedy assassination. The Enquirer also published an account alleging that Cruz had had affairs with multiple women. The Enquirer seemingly helped shield Trump by making a deal with McDougal in October 2016; was the publication also in cahoots with the GOP frontrunner to plant stories about his rival? Reporters and editors might not be able to hide behind the claim they were protecting sources here; if the directive came from the top of the Enquirer — as Farrow reported it did with the McDougal silencing — that defense wouldn't seem to apply.

This is a long way of saying that Trump's allies could face numerous difficulties if they try to enforce the provisions they put in place to silence these women.

Furthermore, none of Trump's supporters wants to see him give a deposition under oath, which would seemingly have to happen if a case went forward. Because Trump, as his biographer said last year, lies. And, under oath, lying is called perjury. Twenty years ago a president lied under oath in the middle of a sex scandal, and that led to his impeachment. If turnabout is fair play, and the pre-Oval Office sex life of a sitting president was fair play for Bill Clinton, why wouldn't it be the same for Trump?

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Even if no other women come forward with claims that Trump had sex with them, tried to have sex with them, or tried to grope them, consider what we now have. One woman who said that Trump cheated on Melania multiple times with her, another woman who sounds like she's waiting for the highest bidder to talk about her affair with Trump, and a third woman, Summer Zervos, who said that Trump groped her and tried to have sex with her, also while he was married to Melania.

The daily news cycle of the Trump administration is admittedly like being at the bottom of a trash chute, with rotten waste falling on top of us every single day. On Friday, hours after the McDougal story came out, Robert Mueller delivered 13 indictments in the Russia investigation — something a good deal more important to the country than President Trump's women.

But the Mueller investigation isn't what Melania Trump is focused on right now. According to White House pool reporters, the first lady wasn't with her husband to board Air Force One on Friday, and that wasn't a coincidence. Maybe it is time to feel embarrassed for Melania. She stood by her husband in 2016, as women came forward with accusations against him, and now she has to deal with two alleged affairs that took place during their marriage.

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Perhaps the first lady should take advice from someone who's keen on doling out relationship tips.

 


Jeremy Binckes

Jeremy Binckes is the senior news editor at Salon.com.

MORE FROM Jeremy BinckesFOLLOW jbinckes

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Karen Mcdougal Michael Cohen Stormy Daniels

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