"This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy." —Michael Avenatti, attorneyIn a long-awaited interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, adult film star Stormy Daniels detailed a brief sexual relationship she says she had with President Donald Trump and potentially-illegal efforts and threats made by Trump and his associates to keep her quiet about the affair.
Five years after Daniels's single sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, she was offered $15,000 to tell her story to In Touch magazine. The story never ran because Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened legal action against the publication—and weeks later, Daniels was threatened with physical harm by someone she had never met.
Not long after the magazine story was killed, Stormy Daniels says she was threatened by a man who approached her in Las Vegas. “A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’” pic.twitter.com/JMskKQiYCi
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018
"I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter," she told Anderson Cooper. "And 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."
The encounter left Daniels shaken. She said it caused her to deny that the affair took place when a gossip website published a story about it later that year, and when various outlets offered her money to go public when Trump announced his run for president, she refused.
Daniels said she was later relieved to be offered $130,000 by Trump's lawyer in October 2016, just before the presidential election, in order to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) promising to keep quiet about the story.
"I turned down a large payday multiple times...I didn't wanna take away from the legitimate and legal, I'd like to point out, career that I've worked very hard to establish. I did not want my family and my child exposed to all the things that she's being exposed to right now," she said.
After the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell story alleging her affair with Trump this past January, Daniels said she was again pressured by Trump's team to deny that it had ever happened. Daniels also says she was warned "they" could make her "life hell in many different ways," if she didn't sign a statement refuting the Journal's story.
"I felt intimidated and honestly bullied," said Daniels. "And I didn't know what to do. And so I signed it."
"This is about the cover-up," said Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, in the "60 Minutes" segment. "This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy."
Attorney Michael Avenatti disputes the notion that Michael Cohen was working in a purely personal capacity when he arranged the hush money for Stormy Daniels. pic.twitter.com/91T0ofMnjt
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018
Former FEC chairman Trevor Potter noted that Daniels's story is also about the $130,000 payment made to Daniels just before the election. Cohen has claimed the money came from his personal funds and that he paid it due to his concern for Trump, and not to influence the election. Avenatti calls the claim "laughable," while Potter and watchdog groups argue that the payment could still be a major ethics violation.
"It's a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give," said Potter, now president of the Campaign Legal Center. "And if he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret."
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating "episodes involving Michael Cohen," leading to speculation that the payment he made to Daniels could have implications for Mueller's probe of the Trump campaign.