Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who said she had an affair with future President Donald Trump in 2006, is suing the president's lawyer, adding another dimension to this already complicated political and legal drama.
On Monday, Daniels added Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime attorney, to her pending lawsuit in a California federal court, according to The Washington Post. Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) claims that Cohen defamed her by implying that she had been dishonest regarding her alleged past affair with Trump. The porn star has claimed as far back as 2011 that she had slept with Trump and now claims on top of that that she signed a nondisclosure agreement and was paid $130,000 to stay quiet about what had happened. She now argues that the agreement was invalid because Trump himself never signed it.
It's more than just the case of a porn star though. This case could possibly determine in open court whether the president and the White House lied when it denied that Trump had been unfaithful.
The defamation claim is based on Cohen telling reporters on Feb. 13 that while he had used his personal money to pay $130,000 to Daniels, this did not confirm that she had had an affair with Trump. While not directly attacking Daniels, the porn star's attorney argues that the statement constituted defamation, due to the implication that she had been dishonest.
Daniels' amended complaint also argued that, because the $130,000 payment she received could have amounted to an in-kind campaign contribution that was never reported, Trump's legal team does not have the right to force the controversy between himself and Daniels into private arbitration. If they do so, according to Daniels, that would help them conceal a possibly illegal activity.
In the midst of this controversy, Trump himself has remained uncharacteristically quiet, due mainly to his advisers successfully convincing him that he would have more to lose than gain by denouncing Daniels, according to The Washington Post. The biggest effect has been on the president's family, where the reports about his affair with Daniels have been rumored to have taken a toll on his marriage to First Lady Melania Trump. Privately, the president has also expressed concern to aides that the scandal would hurt his polling numbers, insisting that he doesn't find Daniels attractive and denouncing the whole matter as a "hoax."
The ongoing dilemma with Daniels is also taking a toll on the Republican Party as a whole. At a time when the GOP is already at risk of losing a number of House and Senate seats in the 2018 midterm elections — or perhaps even losing control of Congress altogether — Trump's continued scandals involving Daniels and allegations of collusion with the Russian government have become an albatross around candidates' necks, according to The New York Times. When Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Penn., announced that he would join more than 30 other Republican House members in not seeking reelection, he explicitly stated that it was because of his inability to shake off Trump's problems.
"If I had a town hall this week, it would be question after question. Do you believe him or do you believe her? Why don’t you believe her?’" Costello explained.
Virginia Republican political strategist J. Tucker Martin was even more bleak in his assessment.
"It’s a political Catch-22. Candidates can’t win without their base. But what it takes to satisfy a pro-Trump base in 2018 will make Republican candidates in many states unacceptable to large swaths of the electorate," Martin told the Times.
Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC. MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa
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