Michael Cohen's lawyer warns Stormy Daniels: Blaming him for the thug who threatened you in 2011 is defamation

The threat is the only real piece of new information to come out of last night’s interview — the highest-rated “60 Minutes” program in 10 years, as it turns out — so naturally Team Trump/Cohen would be aggressive in responding to it. But read the transcript. Did Daniels imply anything about Cohen’s involvement? Or did Anderson Cooper and “60 Minutes”?

[Cooper:] According to Daniels, Mr. Trump called her the following month to say he’d not been able to get her a spot on Celebrity Apprentice. She says they never met again and only had sex in that first meeting in 2006. In May 2011, Daniels agreed to tell her story to a sister publication of In Touch magazine for $15,000 dollars. Two former employees of the magazine told us the story never ran because after the magazine called Mr. Trump seeking comment, his attorney Michael Cohen threatened to sue. Daniels says she was never paid, and says a few weeks later, she was threatened by a man who approached her in Las Vegas.

Stormy Daniels: I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T– taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin’ all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.” And then he was gone.

Anderson Cooper: You took it as a direct threat?

Stormy Daniels: Absolutely.

Stormy Daniels: I was rattled. I remember going into the workout class. And my hands are shaking so much, I was afraid I was gonna– drop her.

It’s Cooper, not Daniels, who implies a connection between Cohen and the Vegas thug by noting his threat to sue and the parking-lot threat in quick succession, and even that’s a stretch. He’s not accusing Cohen of having dispatched the thug, he’s making the point that Trump’s inner circle was aware of the In Touch interview when the parking-lot threat was made. If Cohen knew about it, per his threat to sue, other Trump cronies might have known as well and chosen to go a different route in pressuring Daniels. The closest Daniels comes to accusing Cohen of a violent threat is when she says she was told by her lawyer before signing the NDA in 2016 that Cohen “can make your life hell in many different ways,” but that needn’t mean anything illegal. If Cohen wins the $20 million in damages that he’s demanding from her for violating the NDA, that’ll make her life hell too.

It’s not crazy for Cooper to think Team Trump might be connected to that parking-lot threat, though. If you believe BuzzFeed, they’ve probably done it before:

When Donald Trump’s casino business went bankrupt in 2009, a lawyer whose clients stood to lose more than a billion dollars told police and the FBI that he got a menacing phone call from a man with a thick New York accent who threatened his family.

“My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids,” the caller said, according to the account that the attorney, Kristopher Hansen, gave to the Holmdel police department in New Jersey. Hansen speculated that the caller was Trump’s bodyguard.

The call was traced to a pay phone outside the theater in Manhattan where David Letterman taped his show. His guest that day? Donald Trump. Megyn Kelly reminded people on Twitter last night that Team Trump was happy to keep inciting his fans against her at a moment when they knew she was getting death threats from Trump’s most rabid fans. From November 2016:

“Michael Cohen, who is Trump’s top lawyer and executive vice president with the Trump Organization had retweeted ‘let’s gut her,’ about me,” Kelly said. “At a time when the threat level was very high, which he knew. And Bill Shine, an executive vice president of Fox, called him up to say, ‘You got to stop this. We understand you are angry but she’s got three kids and is walking around New York.’”

“And he didn’t much care,” Kelly continued. “And what Bill Shine said to Michael Cohen was, ‘Let me put it to you in terms you can understand: If Megyn Kelly gets killed it is not going help your candidate.’”

That speaks volumes about the character of the people in orbit around Trump but it still doesn’t mean Cohen was responsible for the 2011 threat to Daniels. To the extent Cohen’s lawyer is warning people about defamation, it may be because the more media attention there is to physical threats, the more reporters may start sniffing around Trump’s inner circle for other past examples of physical intimidation. That’s the one way Stormygate could go from “meh” to a real political problem for POTUS.

John Ziegler asks a fair question: Why would anyone connected to Trump have taken the risk of physically threatening Daniels in 2011, when he was still the host of “The Apprentice” and years away from a political run? What did he have to lose if In Touch ran a story about him bedding a porn star? It could be that Daniels invented that interaction to add some zest to an adultery story that no one seems to find very damaging for Trump otherwise.

Remember, though, that Michael Cohen allegedly threatened to sue In Touch at the time, according to sources at the magazine itself. Whatever his reasoning, he was concerned about the story running and succeeded in getting it spiked. If he was concerned about it, the parking-lot thug may have been concerned too. It could be that Trump and/or his cronies were worried that Daniels’s story getting out might inspire other mistresses to speak up and the publicity would begin to irritate his bosses at the time at NBC. Or, more prosaically, maybe Team Trump was just trying to protect his marriage by killing adultery accusations whenever they appeared. They wanted to spare Mrs. Trump some pain. Or they wanted to spare Mr. Trump a financial hit: “No cheating” clauses are popular in prenuptial agreements nowadays and could mean millions in damages in the event of divorce if one spouse is found to have committed adultery. It’s hard to believe Trump would allow a clause like that in his own prenup, though.

The big loser from the interview, by the way, was Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who seems to be enjoying this spectacle more than she is. Reporters this morning aren’t hiding their irritation with him, accusing him of “playing games” by teasing that mysterious DVD a few days ago that didn’t show up in the interview at all. Even Trump-hater extraordinaire Joe Scarborough seemed annoyed at him. Between that and Avenatti chirping to the “Today” show that Daniels can describe Trump’s genitalia if need be, I think his PR stunts are starting to do her more harm than good. It’s easy to be the more sympathetic figure in a contest with Trump. He seems to be trying to reduce Daniels’s advantage.