The controversy over President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels reached new heights on Sunday evening when CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with the adult-film star.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, detailed the sexual liaison she says she had with Trump in 2006.
The White House has said that Daniels and other women who have made allegations about Trump’s behavior — allegations that range from consensual extramarital sex to sexual assault — are lying.
What were the main takeaways from the Daniels interview?
1. It’s deeply embarrassing — and tawdry — for Trump
It’s true — but beside the point — that many of the details in the Daniels interview had already been reported second hand.
By telling her story on camera, on a top-rated network television show, Daniels changed everything.
The interview will become “watercooler news” in a way that is not generally true of Trump’s White House personnel changes or of his battles with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE.
Therein lies the peril for the president, who often displays a thin skin in response to criticism or ridicule.
Daniels said she asked Trump to take his pants down so she could spank him with a magazine with his face on the cover — and that he did so. The clip will likely be played on a cable news loop for at least the next 24 hours.
Another eyebrow-raising detail is Daniels’s claim that Trump told her “You remind me of my daughter” — presumed to be a reference to Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpHannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump to sit for interview On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam MORE. Daniels had offered similar recollections to a magazine for a 2011 interview that was not published until earlier this year by In Touch. But “60 Minutes” is a far more prominent platform.
There were also awkward allegations about Trump’s marriage to Melania TrumpMelania TrumpRaskin: Grisham told Jan. 6 panel about 'names that I had not heard before' Grisham says former Trump officials meeting next week 'to try and stop him' Former Trump press secretary to meet Wednesday with Jan. 6 committee MORE.
At the time of the alleged affair with Daniels, in 2006, Melania Trump had recently given birth to the couple’s son, Barron Trump.
But on “60 Minutes,” Daniels told interviewer Anderson Cooper, “He brushed it aside, said, 'Oh yeah, yeah, you know, don't worry about that. We don't even— we have separate rooms and stuff.' ”
2. Daniels says she was threatened to keep quiet
Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, had previously suggested his client had been threatened but she told the story for the first time on Sunday.
In her account, the incident happened in 2011, after she had agreed to tell her version of the alleged affair to a magazine.
She said she was in a parking lot, about to go to a gym in Las Vegas, when an unknown man walked up to her and said, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”
Daniels told Cooper the man also looked at her young daughter, said she was beautiful and added, “It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
Daniels said that she “absolutely” took those words as a direct threat.
The ominous, movie-like scenario is sure to command media attention and be the focus of further journalistic digging.
That alone ensures the story won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
3. Daniels says the alleged encounter was consensual
Supporters of the president will struggle to find a silver lining in an interview that is so personally uncomfortable for Trump.
But Daniels did emphasize — twice — that her encounter with Trump was consensual.
“I was not a victim. I’ve never said I was a victim,” she said at the start of the interview.
Later, she said she had no sexual desire for Trump. But when Cooper asked whether their encounter “was entirely consensual,” Daniels responded, “Oh, yes, yes.”
Daniels's story is clearly separate from the women who have accused Trump of coercive sexual misconduct. One of those women, Summer Zervos, says Trump groped her, and got the go-ahead from a court last week to continue her suit against him for defamation.
The Daniels story revolves around alleged consensual sexual behavior between adults.
But it could prompt a reevaluation of allegations that go well beyond issues of private morality. It could also be a catalyst for more women to come forward.
4. Questions will persist for Michael Cohen
The second part of the “60 Minutes” report focused mostly on the nondisclosure agreement that Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, brokered with Daniels in the final days of the 2016 election campaign.
As part of that deal, Daniels was paid $130,000. Cohen has said he paid the money out of his personal funds. There are questions over whether that payment represented an illegal campaign contribution.
Cohen did not consent to an interview with “60 Minutes” but the media will be sure to keep picking at that thread too, further increasing the chances of the story remaining alive.
5. Silence from Trump — and an absent Melania Trump — for now
The president’s Twitter account remained silent for most of Sunday, including during the time “60 Minutes” aired on the East Coast.
The president failed to respond to shouted questions from reporters as he returned from a weekend at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.
It seems unlikely that Trump or his administration can stay silent for long, especially given the president’s proclivity for hitting back at critics or accusers.
Further fueling speculation, a pool report on Sunday evening noted that the first lady, Melania Trump, was remaining in Florida “for spring break,” rather than returning to Washington with her husband.
Meanwhile, Avenatti tweeted on Sunday morning that the interview “is not the end — it’s the beginning.”