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Wall Street Journal: Trump’s lawyer arranged $130,000 in hush money for an ex-porn star

The October 2016 payment was reportedly so she wouldn’t allege an affair with Trump.

Michael Cohen in Trump Tower.
Drew Angerer/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

At the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer reportedly arranged a payment of $130,000 to a former porn star, so she’d stay silent about an alleged affair she’d had with Trump.

That’s according to a new story by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, published Friday. They write that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged the payment to Stephanie Clifford, who went by the stage name “Stormy Daniels,” so she wouldn’t appear on national television to discuss her history with Trump in October 2016.

In a statement to the Journal, Cohen said, “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels” [sic]. However, he did not deny arranging the payment.

Cohen also sent the Journal a statement signed by “Stormy Daniels” denying an affair with Trump, and claiming that “rumors” that she received “hush money” from Trump “are completely false.”

However, the Journal reporters appear to have obtained specifics about the payment. Citing “people familiar with the matter,” they write that the payment was sent to Daniels through her lawyer Keith Davidson, and that money was sent to Davidson’s “client-trust account at City National Bank in Los Angeles.”

Though a report like this would be a massive scandal for any ordinary politician — and though the alleged affair occurred after Trump’s marriage to his third wife, Melania — it’s unclear if it will have much of an impact on Trump politically.

The thrice-married mogul has never exactly presented himself as squeaky-clean on sexual matters — indeed, his history of infidelity has been well-known for decades. And his core supporters have proven willing to ignore myriad admitted or alleged scandalous conduct from him so far.

Furthermore, though Trump has been dogged with accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct from more than a dozen women, it should be noted that this alleged affair seems to have been consensual.

Still, it’s not every day that you hear the US president might have paid hush money to a porn star.

Rumors about a possible Trump-Daniels affair swirled before the election

Rumors of an encounter between Trump and Daniels circulated before the election. In October 2016, the Smoking Gun’s William Bastone posted a photo of the two of them together, taken during a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada in 2006. He also reported that Daniels had “confided to friends that she engaged in a sexual affair with Trump.”

Additionally, an author at the gossip website The Dirty had posted a thinly sourced item alleging the affair back in 2011.

None of this seemed all that solid. But the reported existence of a hefty secret payment from Trump’s team to Daniels makes all this appear more plausible. It seems unlikely that the famously stingy Trump would pay her so much unless he did have something to hide.

However, Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen has put out a letter purportedly signed by Daniels that denies any “sexual” or “romantic” affair with Trump. The letter adds, “Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false.”

Correction: This article originally misidentified the publication behind the October 2016 article.