Morning Briefing: If This Were ANY Other President
We apparently no longer live in a world where a President who has an affair and pays to silence that affair is considered career-ending, but while we’re all waiting to see if the government will shut down tonight (it will) and trying to cast blame on someone (Trump), can we engage in an exercise in which we pretend the world is a sane and logical place, and write about Trump’s affair as though he were any other President? I mean, honestly: I don’t really care about the affair, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I care, because that’s what Republicans would do.
Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels in her career as an adult-movie star, gave an interview with In Touch magazine this week, detailing her affair with President Donald Trump. Clifford — who arranged the date through Trump’s bodyguard — met him in his hotel room, where Trump was wearing pajama bottoms and watching television.
During the encounter, Mr. Trump spoke often of himself, bragged about his fame, and told Ms. Clifford that the reason why he didn’t “upgrade” his hairstyle is because he feared that he would lose all of his money and power. Asked about his wife, Trump only offered, “Don’t worry about her,” but didn’t specify why. The two had sex, which Ms. Clifford described as generic “one-position” sex.” She also stated that, if asked, she could describe the President’s “junk.” Trump, Clifford suggested, was smitten with her, and asked her to autograph one of her adult-film DVDs. The two did not wear protection during their sexual encounter. There are also suggestions that Trump asked her to spank him with a Forbes magazine.
Ms. Clifford continued to see Trump on occasion, including one night in which she watched hours of “Shark Week” with him. He had promised to make her a contestant on his NBC reality series, The Apprentice, but he was unable to follow through on it, suggesting to Clifford that the network had rejected her because of her profession. Soon thereafter, however, adult film star Jenna Jameson became a contestant. Trump called Clifford to explain that he had no idea that she would be on the show and apologized, calling Jameson a “bimbo.”
The affair eventually drifted after that, though the two continued to speak on occasion. Ms. Clifford, who considered a Senate run, has no animosity for Trump, although she did express frustration with him for demeaning her profession when he denied sleeping with her.
In the months before the 2016 election, the Trump campaign — through Trump’s personal attorney — paid Clifford $130,000 in exchange for not detailing her story in the media. President Trump continues to deny the affair and the pay-off.
The extramarital affair with an adult film star, though consensual, may have ramifications with Mr. Trump’s conservative, evangelical base. Democrats are also suggesting that President Trump’s willingness to offer Clifford hush money illustrates how susceptible he is to blackmail, an issue many Democrats have raised in connection with Trump and his campaign’s associations with Russia.
Extramarital affairs have also damaged or derailed the careers of past Presidents and Presidential candidates. In 1984, the once popular Democratic Senator Gary Hart had to drop out of the race when his affair was made public. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, had to answer for his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky under oath. Lies given in that deposition eventually led to impeachment proceedings. Additionally, the political ambitions of John Edwards ended once news of his extramarital affair with a staffer, while his wife was dying of cancer, became public (Edwards continued his relationship with Rielle Hunter, with whom he fathered a child, for several more years).
News of President Trump’s affair comes in the wake of multiple allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct, including assault, with at least 15 other women. This latest revelation threatens to rock the already troubled Trump Presidency, as Democrats are expected to open investigations into the nature of Trump’s payment to Clifford in the midst of a Presidential campaign. There are reports that Trump’s personal attorney created a Delaware business entity for the sole purpose of paying off Clifford. Democrats will want to know if campaign contributions were used to silence Clifford, and they are expected to pressure the President to square the blackmail payment with his denials of Russian influence, given how easily it appears that the President can be manipulated.
The President may ultimately face bigger concerns with his political base. It may not sit well with evangelicals that the leader of their party had an extramarital affair with an adult film star, especially one soon after the President’s wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son. Questions about the legitimacy of his marriage will undoubtedly surface, as well, and the First Lady will be asked if she knew about her husband’s affair and whether she knew of other affairs he may have had during their marriage. In the wake of Stephanie Clifford’s interview, the media will also want to know from the Press Secretary if Donald Trump stands by his denials.
News of the affair comes during an already tumultuous time for the President, and many are asking if his Presidency can survive yet another scandal, especially one that may have many in his party questioning the morality of their leader.