I have been vaguely following the Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and Donald Trump story as just one more tawdry detail about the political world. I have a TV but no cable and almost never watch any broadcast programs mainly because the constant interruptions for commercials drive me crazy. So it takes considerable prodding for me to watch a program. The much-hyped 60 Minutes interview of Clifford was on last night and I had heard so much about it being explosive that I decided to check it out. The program was due to start at 7:00pm but the preceding basketball game went into overtime so it did not get going until after 7:30, so I got to watch a huge number of commercials.
It turned out that there was little in the interview that I had not gleaned from various snippets of news elsewhere. So once again, I had fallen for a hyped news story that did not live up to its promise. The only new item was the charge that some guy had threatened Clifford to keep silent when she was with her infant child in a parking lot.
Daniels said she was on her way to a fitness class with her infant daughter in Las Vegas in 2011 when she was accosted in the parking lot.
“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone,” she said.
In the CBS interview Daniels said she did not know the man’s identity, and she did not link him to Cohen.
Later, however, when explaining why she signed a document in 2018 that denied that any affair with Trump had taken place, she said she was told that if she didn’t “they can make your life hell in many different ways”.
Asked who “they” were, Daniels said: “I’m not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen.”
The allegation that an individual threatened Daniels with actual violence while attempting to frighten her off going public about her sexual history with Trump takes the dispute between the president and the porn star to an entirely new level.
There was one interesting moment and that was due to a question from Anderson Cooper that she said she did not want to answer and which her lawyer Michael Avenatti was also coy about, as can be seen from this portion of the transcript.
Narration: That’s not true, according to Michael Cohen, who has said only his signature was required. What was also required under the non-disclosure agreement was for Stormy Daniels to turn over all “video images, still images, email messages, and text messages” she had regarding Mr. Trump.
Anderson Cooper [to Daniels]: Did you do that?
Stephanie Clifford: I can’t answer that right now.
Anderson Cooper: You don’t want to say one way or the other if you have text messages or other items?
Stephanie Clifford: My attorney has recommended that I don’t discuss those things.
Anderson Cooper [to Avenatti]: You seem to be saying that she has some sort of text message, or video, or– or photographs. Or you could just be bluffing.
Michael Avenatti: You should ask some of the other people in my career when they’ve bet on me bluffing.
What many observers have noted is that while Trump has no hesitation about using his Twitter account to attack anyone who goes against him, and uses that medium to rouse up his ardent followers to attack the target on his behalf, he has not said anything against Clifford. This silence has become telling, like the curious incident of the dog that did not bark in the night. I don’t know if this is related to the question that Clifford and Avenatti did not answer.
One positive thing about the interview had nothing to do with Trump and that was that Clifford presented sex workers in a very positive light. She came across like a confident and articulate professional, something that may surprise those who look down on them. She was emphatic that she did not consider herself a victim but freely made her decisions when it came to sex and her career in sex work. I had already read that she was a savvy businesswoman who managed her own career well and after having seen her last night, I can well believe it. She is clearly nobody’s fool.