Buzzfeed has asked adult film star Stormy Daniels to preserve all materials related to her interactions with President Trump, with whom she alleges an affair, and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The request may be a prelude to a subpoena with the potential to make such documents and images public.
The irony is, it’s Cohen himself who, after paying Daniels $130,000 for a non-disclosure agreement barring her from discussing the alleged affair, may have opened the door for Daniels to speak out—all thanks to the infamous Steele dossier.
The same Trump attorney who brokered the deal with Daniels, Michael Cohen, filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four of its staffers over publication of the so-called dossier compiling accurate, inaccurate and unproven allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Now, BuzzFeed is using Cohen’s libel suit as a vehicle to demand that Daniels preserve all records relating to her relationship with Trump, as well as her dealings with Cohen and the payment he has acknowledged arranging in 2016.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed’s lawyer wrote to Daniels’ attorney asking that the adult film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, preserve various categories of documents. Such preservation letters are often a prelude to a subpoena. If Daniels’ testimony is formally demanded in a deposition, the nondisclosure agreement would likely be no obstacle, legal experts said.
Aside from embarrassment, the big threat is that Daniels will produce evidence that proves Cohen’s payment was meant as a campaign contribution—and of Trump’s direct involvement. That’d be a nightmare scenario for the Trump camp.
The White House and Mr. Cohen repeatedly have sought to distance the president from the porn-star pact and payment. Mr. Cohen, who was employed by the Trump Organization when he brokered the deal with Ms. Clifford shortly before the 2016 presidential election, has maintained he was acting on his own and has called it a “private transaction.” Soon after Mr. Trump’s electoral victory, Mr. Cohen left the company to establish his own legal practice.
Yet, on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Trump Organization attorney is formally involved in Cohen’s efforts to keep Daniels quiet.
After Cohen admitted to the payoff in mid-February, Daniels announced that his public statements freed her from the NDA. Cohen went into damage control mode: Relying on a provision of the NDA known as an “arbitration clause,” which forces signatories to use a private arbiter rather than going to court, Cohen initiated closed-door proceedings against Daniels.
Turns out, Cohen is getting a hand from Trump Organization lawyer Jill A. Martin, who’s listed as counsel in the demand for arbitration filed with the intention of—here’s irony again—preventing Daniels from making Trump’s involvement public.
Once again, Trump and associates are doing a poor job establishing a separation of president and payoff.