Stormy Daniels and Harold Bornstein know how to deal with a bully. Head on.
Trump’s former physician of 35 years revealed Tuesday that, in a surprise to no one, he was not the author of the letter certifying Trump’s physical fitness for office during the campaign, a letter that read like a Trump magnetic poetry kit.
”His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” the letter read. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Bornstein came clean Tuesday. “[Trump] dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” he told CNN. “I just made it up as I went along.”
It was his second big announcement of the day. Earlier, he had told NBC News that last year, Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller and another “large man” appeared unannounced in his office. They were there, he said, to “raid” his office and haul off Trump’s medical records. He said he was scared and sad, and felt violated.
“I’ve been waiting, humiliated, for an entire year,” Bornstein told CNN. “How would you feel if you cared for someone for 35 years, they came and robbed your office?”
Stormy Daniels can relate. Daniels, who says she and Trump had a sexual encounter at a B-List celebrity golf tournament in 2006 and recently sued the president for defamation, told 60 Minutes that a man appeared by her car window one morning and said to her, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” Then, she contends, he nodded to her infant daughter in the back seat and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
The details of these two stories are clearly different. But the theme is the same: bullying. Bornstein and Daniels say that Trump or his associates tried to intimidate them into silence in strikingly similar ways.
Unfortunately for Trump, Bornstein and Daniels know how to deal with a bully. Unlike so many other victims of Trump’s behavior, from Republican presidential contenders to his own White House staff who melted in the face of hectoring on Twitter, or victims of serious alleged sexual misconduct who don’t have the money, power, or influence to take him on, Bornstein and Daniels are leveraging what they’ve got and they’re doing it well.
Bullies thrive when they’re unchecked. Many women have come forward to say Trump assaulted or sexually harassed them. They’ve made inroads. And Trump is on his heels when the subject comes up. Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, has turned up the heat further, suing Trump for defamation in a case that’s moving forward in New York. Daniels and Bornstein seem to have even more of a knack for bully slaying. They are staring Trump right in the face (and the camera) and saying the word bullies hate most: “No.”
The White House even had to acknowledge that men did show up and take documents from Bornstein’s office, corroborating Bornstein’s account. But like most bullies do, they also tried to diminish Bornstein’s story by putting the onus back on him. He is blowing the incident out of proportion, Trump allies have said. “As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president’s medical records,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday.
Trump even had to concede last week that his personal attorney Michael Cohen was representing him when Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet days before the presidential election. It was the first time Trump backed down on any of Daniels’s claims, a rare backtrack of any kind for the president.
Daniels’s claims piqued the interest of special counsel Robert Mueller, who handed off a piece of his investigation to authorities in New York. The FBI raided Cohen’s office and is now investigating him on a number of fronts. (Don’t mess with Daniels.)
Daniels and Bornstein also boost each other’s credibility. Daniels’s story about the man in the parking lot is almost cinematic. Even though she sounded credible on 60 Minutes telling it, it’s still hard to wrap your mind around something so dramatic. When does this happen in real life? She also had no concrete proof that it happened. Then Bornstein, who has no connection to her, made a similar claim about a strange man showing up to intimidate him at his office, which was then corroborated by the White House.
Neither account is proof the other happened, but together they make it harder to dismiss the idea that perhaps this is how Trump operates. It’s leadership by bullying.
As much as bullies hate to hear “no,” the only thing they hate more is hearing “no” twice.