The headline doesn’t even capture all of the craziness today involving women Trump allegedly either slept with or assaulted. NBC got a copy of the results from the polygraph test Stormy Daniels took for In Touch when she gave them the interview about Trump in 2011. (There’s even a photo of her hooked to the machine.) Results: No deception when asked if she’d had sex with the future president.
To repeat a point oft made, how will we ever go back to “normal” presidencies after this? You think four years of Mike “Zzzzzz” Pence will keep people happy after a term or two of Trumpsanity, which now comes replete with daily news reports involving porn stars and Playmates and “Apprentice” contestants who’ve had sexual contact, wanted or not, with the commander-in-chief? With Trump, you get news about Playboy bunnies. With Pence, you get news about actual bunnies.
Only one of the two suits in the news today would potentially cost Trump money but each poses the same risk to him, namely, the prospect that other women will be encouraged by the results to sue as well. Summer Zervos isn’t the only accuser whose allegations he’s denied as being politically motivated; if she can sue him for defamation presumably so can all of the other women who claim he harassed or assaulted them. As for Karen McDougal, whose notes on her alleged affair with Trump 10 years ago were published in the New Yorker last month, she’s now the second alleged mistress suing to blow up an NDA she’s under. If she and Stormy Daniels succeed, how many other women will file suit? There’s gold in them thar tabloid hills.
[Her then-lawyer Keith] Davidson informed [McDougal] that A.M.I. would buy her story but “not publish it” because of Mr. Pecker’s relationship with Mr. Trump,” the suit says. The payment would be $150,000, with Mr. Davidson and others involved on her behalf taking 45 percent. More alluring to Ms. McDougal, now a fitness specialist, was that the media company would feature her on its covers and in regular health and fitness columns, the complaint says.
As A.M.I. and Mr. Davidson pushed her to sign the deal on Aug. 5, Ms. McDougal expressed misgivings. But, her suit says, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Howard argued in an urgent Skype call that the deal to promote her would “kick start and revitalize” her career, given that she was “old now.” She was 45…
After signing the contract, Ms. McDougal grew frustrated when did not hear about columns or cover shoots for several weeks. She later figured out why. Though the agreement explicitly mentioned “a monthly column” on aging and fitness for OK! and Star, and “four posts each month” on Radar Online, it only gave A.M.I. “the right” to print them. It was not an obligation.
AMI is the parent company of the National Enquirer, owned by Trump pal David Pecker. They bought the rights to McDougal’s story about Trump so that she couldn’t discuss it publicly, then spiked it. She got $150K and, allegedly, a very soft non-promise to run her fitness columns. More importantly, McDougal claims that her own lawyer — who was also Stormy Daniels’s lawyer — misled her about what was promised to her and worked behind the scenes with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to make the deal happen. (Why Cohen didn’t do a NDA with McDougal himself, as he did with Daniels, instead of letting AMI handle it is unclear.) The reason that’s important is that it bolsters the case that AMI’s deal with McDougal was actually a campaign contribution, with the full knowledge of Trump’s own lawyer. And if it’s a campaign contribution and that contribution went undeclared then the law has been broken. That’s one of the three grounds McDougal gives for tossing out the AMI deal — it facilitated illegality therefore shouldn’t be enforced.
This is the more ominous grounds for POTUS, though:
If the court buys that argument, that the agreement is against public policy because it involves the president and potential campaign-finance wrongdoing, then any NDA Trump or his cronies entered into while he was a candidate is potentially unenforceable. Stormy Daniels would presumably be off the hook in her own NDA. So would any other woman who signed an NDA with Team Trump or AMI that we don’t know about. In fact, even if the payments made under the NDAs *aren’t* considered campaign contributions, McDougal’s argument might prevail for other reasons:
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) March 20, 2018
BuzzFeed has also instructed Daniels to retain all evidence of payments made by Michael Cohen, who’s suing BuzzFeed over allegations in the Steele dossier that they published last year. If the judge finds that the public has a right to know whether and how often the president’s lawyer is paying people for their silence because he’s caught up in another lawsuit that touches on Russiagate, every NDA Cohen arranged for Trump might be in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan:
President Trump must face a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” after a Manhattan judge ruled in a first-of-its kind decision that he could not claim immunity through his job as the nation’s commander-in-chief…
Trump had argued that presidents are shielded from civil litigation in state courts under the US Constitution’s supremacy clause, but that assertion had never been fully tested by the courts — until now…
The ruling also means that Trump will likely have to sit for a deposition in the case as Justice Schecter said the suit has merit.
The ruling is straightforward. If Paula Jones could proceed with a civil suit against Bill Clinton in federal court, as the Supreme Court famously held, there’s no obvious reason — except maybe the Supremacy Clause — why Summer Zervos can’t proceed with a civil suit against Trump in state court. Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, came forward before the election to claim that Trump had kissed her open-mouthed more than once, grabbed her breast, and rubbed his crotch against her during a meeting in his hotel room as he tried to seduce her. Trump denied everything on the campaign trail and claimed his accusers were smearing him for political or profitable reasons. Zervos and Gloria Allred filed a defamation suit more than a year ago over those comments and Trump filed a motion to dismiss. Ruling: Zervos wins because “no one is above the law.”
How many other Trump accusers could point to the folowing passage as reason not only to file defamation suits themselves but as grounds for believing they’ll make it to trial and will be able to force the president into discovery?
Question for legal eagles: If the ruling is overturned on appeal because a higher court rules that you can’t sue the president civilly in state court, couldn’t Zervos refile in federal court? She’s a California resident and, I assume, she’s demanding more than $75,000 in damages, which should mean federal diversity jurisdiction applies. I take it Allred filed suit in New York state court believing she’s more likely to get a judge there who’s anti-Trump than she is in federal court. (She’s certainly more likely to get a judge who’s less beholden to POTUS.) But even if Zervos loses, she can still cite Clinton v. Jones to take the case to federal court, right? Either way, the risk that other accusers are going to sue Trump somewhere just spiked.
Here’s Daniels’s lawyer yesterday suggesting that this may get even worse for Trump.
— The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC 📺 (@TheBeatWithAri) March 19, 2018