Stormy Daniels: I'll give back the $130,000 if I can publish "text messages, photos, and/or videos" I may have on the president

Wait, are there photos? I don’t think there are photos. This is just a publicity stunt from a lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who seems to want to fight this battle in the media. Which makes sense strategically, apart from whether he’s enjoying the free press. The point of the NDA was to keep what happened between Trump and Daniels between Trump and Daniels; as such, the more public this gets, the tighter the squeeze becomes on Trump and Cohen. Day by day, by making a spectacle of their legal wrangling with Cohen, Daniels and Avenatti are defeating the purpose of the agreement. Now the whole country knows that the president’s lawyer is very, very eager to keep this particular woman from telling what she knows about him, and logically there can be only one reason why. Cohen should be glad that Daniels did that In Touch interview in 2011, frankly. Imagine how wild people’s imaginations would be running if she hadn’t already spilled the beans about their relationship.

The fact that she’s offering to give back the money now raises a question I’ve asked before. Why did she sign a NDA in the first place?

In the letter, which was sent to Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, early Monday, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, wrote that Ms. Clifford would wire the money into an account of Mr. Trump’s choosing by Friday…

Under Mr. Avenatti’s offer, Ms. Clifford would then be allowed to “(a) speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the President and the attempts to silence her and (b) use any publish any text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the President that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution and legal liability for damages.”…

Mr. Avenatti’s new offer requires the signatures of “all parties,’’ including that of the president.

For maximum drama, Avenatti set a deadline of noon tomorrow for Cohen to respond. Go figure that he wants the president personally involved in this transaction, raising the publicity stakes a hundredfold.

It won’t happen, needless to say, as agreeing to the offer would amount to all but acknowledging the affair between Trump and Daniels. There wouldn’t have been a hush-money deal to begin with if $130,000 was worth more to Trump and Cohen than Daniels’s silence was, so why would they accept that amount now — particularly when Trump, as president, has much more to lose from scandal two years later? Knowing how she could cash in, the least they would demand in return for freeing her to speak would be the proceeds she receives from tabloids and TV networks for interviews about her relationship with Trump. Imagine that headline: “Trump to receive million-dollar payday after Daniels tells all about his ‘junk.'” Even in our politically diseased era, the odds of it happening can’t be higher than … 50 percent, maybe? Seventy-five, tops.

“This has never been about the money,” said Avenatti to NBC but clearly that’s not true. If it was about telling the truth, Daniels could have done that anytime she wanted to up until the NDA was signed in late October 2016. (And on occasion she did, as with In Touch.) I can understand why she chose to cash in with Cohen with Election Day bearing down: Like most of the rest of America she thought Trump was going to lose the election and suddenly no one would care which porn stars he’d dallied with a decade before. She had to get something for her story while it was worth something. But that doesn’t explain all the other opportunities she had to cash in during the election. She could have sold her story during the GOP primaries, when lurid tales of Trump’s infidelity might have made some social cons think twice. She could have disrupted the GOP convention by selling her story just before it began. She could have sold it just before the first debate with Hillary. She could have sold it the day after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out, to compound Trump’s problem with women with stories of cheating. Someone would have paid her. Or she could have kept quiet, refused any offer of an NDA, and rolled the dice on a Trump upset victory over Hillary knowing that a post-election story about sex with the president rather than just a presidential loser would fetch big bucks.

But she cashed out for $130,000. Why? Maybe she found herself in a pinch financially by sheer coincidence in late 2016 and figured Trump and Cohen, having the most to lose from her going public, would be more likely to pay big money to keep her quiet.

Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Trump has considered calling her directly to ask her to stand down, if only for the sake of his marriage. That would be insane, of course, as she might tape the call and then release it to the press, blowing him up. But when the president feels the urge to communicate with a friend about something, he doesn’t always let the fact that it’s a terrible idea with potential legal implications deter him. He allegedly sent Mike Flynn a message to “stay strong” months after Flynn left the White House and came under investigation. He’s chatted about Russiagate matters in front of Hope Hicks despite legal advice that that could place her in jeopardy. He’s reportedly asked aides who’ve done interviews with Mueller’s office what they talked about. He believes, with some justification, that he can talk anyone into anything so why wouldn’t he try to charm Stormy and ask her to lighten up while his lawyers silent-scream “nooooo!” in the background? Stay tuned.