Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal triggered a new scandal for President Donald Trump when it reported that his lawyer, Michael Cohen, had paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a decade-old sexual relationship she had with the future president. Cohen released a statement from Daniels denying she had engaged in any “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump. But immediately other accounts emerged challenging that denial.
Slate’s Jacob Weisberg reported that in 2016, Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, told him that in 2006 she and Trump began a sexual relationship that lasted nearly a year. The Daily Beastpublished a story citing friends of Daniels saying she had told them about a fling with Trump. In Touchpublished an interview with Daniels from 2011 in which she herself described having a sexual affair with Trump. And Mother Jones has learned that Daniels years earlier talked about having had a sexual relationship with Trump—and in lurid detail. According to 2009 emails between political operatives who were at the time advising Daniels on a possible political campaign, the adult film actor and director claimed that her affair with Trump included an unusual act: spanking him with a copy of Forbes magazine.
In early 2009, Daniels announced that she was considering challenging Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican who two years earlier had been snared in a sex scandal. Vitter’s phone number was discovered in the records of the so-called D.C. Madam, who ran a prostitution ring in the nation’s capital. Vitter, who now is a lobbyist, was a prominent social conservative who opposed abortion and gay marriage. Daniels, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told reporters she wanted to highlight his hypocrisy. She offered up a potential campaign slogan: “Stormy Daniels: Screwing people honestly.”
Daniels was serious enough about running that she embarked on a May 2009 “listening tour” of the state and held discussions with local political consultants. Those conversations included coming up with possible campaign contributors. According to a May 8, 2009, email written by an operative advising Daniels, who asked not to be identified, Daniels at one point scrolled through her cellphone contacts to provide her consultants with a list of names. The email noted that the potential donors included Steve Hirsch, the founder of an adult entertainment company; Theresa Flynt, the daughter of Hustler’s Larry Flynt; Frazier Boyd, the owner of a strip club chain; and Jenna Jameson, the so-called “Queen of Porn.” Also on the list: Donald Trump.
This email was sent to Andrea Dubé, a Democratic political consultant based in New Orleans. In response, Dubé expressed surprise that Daniels was friendly with Trump. “Donald Trump?” she wrote. “In her cell phone?”
“Yep,” the other consultant replied. “She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.”
Dubé and the other consultant confirmed to Mother Jones they exchanged these emails.
The campaign consultant who wrote the email to Dubé tells Mother Jones that Daniels said the spanking came during a series of sexual and romantic encounters with Trump and that it involved a copy of Forbes with Trump on the cover.
A fall 2006 cover of Forbes does feature Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka.
In her seven-year-old interview with In Touch—which was only published this week—Daniels described Trump obsessively watching Shark Week in his hotel room during one of their visits. (In several tweets in 2013, Trump expressedstrongviews on sharks.) Daniels also noted that the first time she met Trump—at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament—he invited her to his hotel room and boastfully showed off a magazine cover featuring himself—before they had sex.
Cohen told the Wall Street Journal there had been no affair between Trump and Daniels: “These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.” But Cohen did not address the alleged $130,000 payout—a claim especially serious because it raises the issue of whether the president could be blackmailed or influenced by someone who possessed information about any untoward personal behavior he might have engaged in. So far, Daniels’ only denial of a sexual relationship with Trump has come via the statement that Cohen released in her name.
Cohen did not reply to a request for comment. Neither did Daniels, her lawyer, or her former agent. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “Would refer you back to comments given during the campaign on this. We have nothing new to add.”
According to Weisberg, Daniels in 2016 told him that her lawyer, Keith Davidson, had negotiated a hush-money arrangement with Cohen that did not include the real names of the parties, and she said she was concerned Trump was stalling on the deal and would fail to pay her. About a week before the election, Daniels stopped responding to calls and texts from Weisberg.
Fox News last year reportedly spiked a story that included an on-the-record statement from Daniels’ manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, confirming that her client had engaged in a sexual relationship with Trump.
Daniels is one of several women associated with pornography who have claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump. In 2016, porn star Jessica Drake saidthat Trump had kissed her without her consent and offered her $10,000 for sex. On November 4, 2016, the Journal reported that the National Enquirer, owned by Trump pal David Pecker, paid former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her account of a 10-month-long affair with Trump and then published no story on the purported relationship.
Image credit: Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images; MediaPunch/REX/AP