So *that's* why In Touch didn't run the Stormy Daniels interview in 2011

Turns out it’s because they had the worst defamation lawyer in the world, apparently.

No, no, that’s not fair. They had the worst defamation lawyer in the world in 2016. Maybe not in 2011.

A tabloid magazine held back from publishing an adult film star’s 2011 account of an alleged affair with Donald Trump after the future president’s personal lawyer threatened to sue, four former employees of the tabloid’s publisher told The Associated Press.

In Touch magazine published its 5,000-word interview with the pornographic actor Stormy Daniels on Friday — more than six years after Trump’s long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, sent an email to In Touch’s general counsel saying Trump would aggressively pursue legal action if the story was printed, according to emails described to the AP by the former employees…

Despite Clifford’s first-person details on Trump, former employees said the decision not to run the story in 2011 was a justifiable business decision because at the time because Trump didn’t have the same star appeal as more famous celebrities.

Would In Touch have won a defamation suit filed by Trump and Cohen if it had run the Daniels interview in 2011? Almost certainly. They claim she passed a polygraph. They claim that her story was corroborated by her ex-husband and a friend, both of whom also passed polygraphs. The story she told the magazine about her relationship with Trump is littered with small verifiable details that boost its credibility. To win, Trump would have had to show that the story was not just actually false but published with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity, a heavy burden under the best circumstances. In Touch would have put Daniels on the stand and would have demanded records from Trump himself to try to prove the affair. Once discovery had begun, there’s no limit to how embarrassing the story could have gotten for him. The magazine could have uncovered other affairs and used the trial to squeeze his other mistresses for details too.

But do the math. In 2011, Trump was known to the world as a louche playboy billionaire with a successful reality show. He’d been on Page Six of the tabloids near-daily for decades for his exploits with women. And he was a B-list celebrity at best. “Trump cheats with porn star” would have been the ultimate dog-bites-man scandal, not something that would have grabbed shoppers’ attention in the checkout line at the supermarket. Faced with the prospect of incurring legal expenses to defend a story that probably wasn’t going to move many copies, even knowing that Cohen was almost certainly bluffing and that they were a near-lock to win the suit, the magazine decided to put the story in a drawer. Who cares what Donald Trump is up to, right? It’s not worth the litigation hassle.

Five years later, the entire country cared what he was up to. “Trump cheats with porn star” is a non-story in 2011; “Republican presidential nominee cheats with porn star” is a monster story in 2016. WaPo asked In Touch’s editor why the magazine didn’t publish it during the campaign, when it would have been a bombshell. The editor’s answer: I … have no idea.

Why did it take more than six years to print Daniels’s account?

“I think that’s everyone’s question right now,” said James Heidenry, InTouch’s editorial director, in an interview. “I’ve only been here since November. I can’t speak to decisions that were made before then.”

Heidenry said the interview with Daniels, conducted by a former staffer, “had fallen off the radar” for the magazine’s current staff and only “rang a bell” after Daniels landed back in the news last week. InTouch has not published the recording or made it public.

Occam’s Razor: The didn’t publish in 2016 because they forgot they had the interview. They just forgot! They lost track of it in their archives. But according to the AP story linked above, that’s not true: “It wasn’t immediately clear why the magazine didn’t publish its interview during the 2016 presidential campaign despite reminders from former employees that the transcript was still available in the company’s networks, two former employees said.” It was brought to the editors’ attention and they sat on it anyway. It can’t possibly be that they thought Trump would sue and win if they’d published it before Election Day, and the money to be made from the expose on the newsstand surely would have justified the legal expenses and discovery opportunity even if he had. So why didn’t they run it? Did Cohen deliver a fat envelope to the In Touch editors around the same time he was delivering one to Daniels? Evidently not, or else In Touch wouldn’t have published the interview belatedly this week, would they?

For the moment, without more information, it’s inexplicable that they didn’t publish. And while it’s true that a “Trump cheated with porn star” scandal wouldn’t have been the worst thing alleged about him during the general election, it *might* have been a gamechanger during the Republican primaries. Probably not, admittedly; if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the Trump era it’s that social conservatives’ capacity to look the other way at his personal failings is limitless. But with Cruz, Rubio, and others still in the mix and the primary electorate much more conservative than the general electorate, it’s impossible to say. How would his GOP opponents have leveraged the Daniels story if it had come out shortly before the Iowa caucus, say? Would other women have come out of the woodwork too? Would the allegations about sexual assault have come out much earlier because of it? Too much had already happened by October 2016, and voters were already too invested in their choices for president, for it to have dramatically affected the election at that point. But if it had dropped in October 2015? I don’t know. I don’t know.

A reality check from Andy McCarthy:

Yeah, as much fun as Trump’s critics are having with the Daniels story, the blackmail opportunity it presented to enemy intel services is alarming. Remember, the reason Mike Flynn’s tenure in the White House unraveled is because the DOJ worried that the Russians would use his pre-inauguration sanctions chitchat with the ambassador as leverage over him, to extort him. Blackmail is a real concern in the upper echelons of national security; it’s why the feds require such exhaustive disclosure about debts, personal relationships, etc, in intelligence officials. They’re sniffing around for blackmail exposure. In that light, the only way to dismiss the Daniels episode as a total nothingburger is to argue that it wouldn’t have given a blackmailer any real leverage over Trump because, um, everyone assumes the worst about his character already. He can’t be extorted because he can’t be shamed. But the thing is, we know that’s not true. Per the WSJ, Daniels herself already squeezed some hush money out of TrumpWorld to keep the affair quiet. If they were willing to do that to buy her silence, what favors would they be willing to do for a blackmailer to buy his?

And by the way, who paid her the $130,000 that allegedly hushed her up? The assumption is that it was Trump himself but there’s no hard evidence of that. (In the case of Playboy model Karen McDougal, it was his friends at the Enquirer who bought her silence by paying her for an “exclusive” that never ran, not Trump himself.) Did someone else pick up the tab to try to kill Stormygate and now he owes them a favor? Was it Cohen’s own money? A donor’s? Someone else’s? Was the transfer legal?

In lieu of an exit question, watch below how Stormy Daniels’s next appearance at an adult club is being promoted. The tagline on a club poster touting her gig features a picture of her with Trump and the tagline, “He saw her live. You can too.” Daniels put out a statement last week after the WSJ scoop about hush money denying any affair with Trump but she’s been conspicuously quiet about the old In Touch interview published this week. Did the magazine invent the interview? Did she lie to the reporter she spoke with in 2011? She hasn’t said. And I assume that if she had a problem with the club promoting her supposedly nonexistent connection to Trump, she’d have spoken up and made them stop. The fact that she’s not publicly contesting the In Touch interview or the promotion suggests that she’s concluded it’s in her financial interest to be known as Trump’s mistress. (Which it is, of course.) Is she going to break her NDA and dare Cohen to sue her in the name of further cashing in on her experience?