Columns, Opinion

Max vs. Media: The significance and insignificance of the Stormy Daniels scandal

Porn actress Stephanie Clifford, better known by her stage name “Stormy Daniels,” has soaked up the recent news cycles. Despite the North Korea relations developments and the poorly planned tariff announcements, cable news — besides Fox, of course — loves to focus on the Stormy scandal.

But Ms. Clifford is not the Monica Lewinsky to President Trump. Liberals should not make that false equivalence. Lewinsky was a subordinate to President Clinton. Even though the affair was consensual, it was wildly inappropriate and an abuse of the presidency.

The alleged Clifford-Trump affair is not significant in and of itself. Trump having an affair while married is far from the most shocking allegation against our president. It is not hard to believe that a twice-divorced crass billionaire cheated on his third wife.

However, there is significance to the cover-up of the alleged affair. There was a non-disclosure agreement to prevent Clifford from speaking out, and Jimmy Kimmel’s interview with Clifford clearly demonstrates that.

Kimmel: “I know you either do or don’t have a non-disclosure agreement, which if you didn’t have a non-disclosure agreement — do you have a non-disclosure agreement?”

Clifford: “Do I?”

Kimmel: “You can’t say. But if you didn’t, you certainly could say I don’t have a non-disclosure agreement.

Clifford: “You’re so smart Jimmy.”

The NDA is tied to a $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, paid to Clifford. Cohen admits that the payment was through a home-equity line.

Clifford, who is working her newfound mainstream fame, sued Trump last week to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement she claims prevents her from speaking publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. But Trump allegedly never signed the deal himself, which helps his case in denying the affair but also leaves room open to “free” Clifford from restraining her speech.

However, there is little importance as to whether Clifford can speak out or not. A sex scandal would most probably roll off Trump’s administration. The right-wing has already offered Trump a “mulligan” and would most likely describe any allegation as “fake news.” The real scandal is a campaign finance one. While morals might be flexible in today’s America, money will always hold power.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen told The New York Times.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary (or more accurately, chief White House liar), said that the president received an arbitration procedure, which was “won in [his] favor.”

But these statements contradict each other, because if Trump was not involved then he could not have “won” any arbitration concerning the matter. Trump could argue that he was involved in the payment as a private citizen, not in his role as a political candidate. But that would simply open him up to what is called the “Al Capone problem,” leaving him vulnerable to campaign finance violations.

Clifford signed off to giving Trump “property,” including video images, still images, emails and text messages, as part of the the NDA.

Norman Eisen, chairman of Citizens of Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, explained how this agreement violates campaign finance rules:

“Imagine what [Clifford] could get if she has texts or images. Imagine the millions she could command! So, there’s this incredibly valuable agreement, and the LLC, Essential Consultants, which Trump now appears to be a beneficiary of. That’s an asset.”

But Trump clearly never reported that asset.

Thus, while liberals clamor about the immoralities of Trump and his cozying up to the despot named Vladimir Putin, they are missing the story that could seriously validate an impeachment charge: failing to disclose financial assets.

 

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