Via the IJR, actually he says he’s vetting more than two. But there are two at the moment whose claims appear to be on “solid ground” and who might be coming forward soon. Hopefully before he’s disbarred! (Kidding. I think?)
Think back to why Michael Cohen and Trump decided to try to enforce the hush-money agreement against Stormy Daniels. If they declined to enforce it and let her blab to the media about her relationship with Trump, that might have led other as-yet-unknown women under similar agreements to believe that they too could start chattering with impunity. Suddenly you’ve got a dam break and the minor curiosity of the Daniels saga becomes a sex scandal with many fronts. So they chose to try to shut her up — but by doing so, they inadvertently handed a media megaphone to Avenatti, who’s outfoxed them thus far decisively enough to convince those same unknown women that there’s nothing to fear if they speak up. He’ll be out there on cable news defending them too against Cohen’s Keystone Kops legal operation. If you’re looking for a strategic justification for his 24/7 media turn, that’s it. He’s playing offense relentlessly to show other women it’s safe to come forward.
The grand lesson for Trump and Cohen, I surmise, is not to cheat in the first place so that you can’t be softly extorted for hush money.
If Avenatti’s telling the truth, Trump and Cohen have two problems and potentially a third. One, obviously, is the possibility that these other hush-money payments would also qualify as unreported campaign contributions or loans, just as the Daniels payoff arguably does. It’s been noted repeatedly since Stormygate broke big that the FEC typically doesn’t treat reporting omissions as a huge deal. You may be fined but that’s no burden to someone like Trump. What’s less often noted, though, is that a distinction will be made between omissions that are due to negligence and omissions that are due to a deliberate attempt to mislead. If Stormy’s the only payoff, Trump might kinda sorta semi-plausibly argue that his failure to report Cohen’s loan was an oversight, i.e. negligence. If three women or more got payoffs that went unreported, that’s a pattern. Negligence becomes very hard to believe. The FEC would come under intense pressure to crack down and enforce its own regulations in the face of an apparent cover-up.
The other problem is the federal financial disclosure that Trump filed yesterday. He finally disclosed the loan that Cohen made to him by paying off Daniels on his behalf, but he listed the range of that debt as falling between $100,000 and $250,000. Avenatti claims in the clip, though, that both of the women he’s vetting reached hush-money settlements for sums greater than the $130,000 that Daniels got. Assuming that they were paid off in 2016, just as Daniels was, and that Cohen once again fronted the money for the payoffs, that would mean Trump’s new financial disclosure is incorrect. The debt he owed Cohen would necessarily be greater than $250,000. And again, the more payoffs there are, the harder it becomes to argue that this was an “oversight” rather than a deliberate deception — which in this case would be perjury. In fact, notes Avenatti, even if it’s true that Trump didn’t know about any payoffs, Michael Cohen himself was surely consulted during the preparation of Trump’s financial disclosure. Cohen knew who got paid off and the sums involved. Why didn’t he speak up so that the correct amounts could be disclosed?
The third problem is hypothetical but major if it were to be borne out. Paul Campos’s piece last week at New York magazine, speculating that Elliott Broidy’s Playboy mistress was actually Trump’s Playboy mistress, was a minor Internet sensation. Avenatti’s surely aware of it, as are Democrats, as is the media. All three are doubtless checking it out. If the mistress, Shera Bechard, is one of the women talking to Avenatti, that’s a big deal — because Bechard’s agreement referenced an abortion. Needless to say, if abortion enters the picture at any point of these hush-money revelations, the White House will be in a serious political fix. And since Avenatti’s obviously looking to take down Trump, even going so far as to predict he won’t finish his term, I’m sure he’s looking for women who might have that particular story to tell.
One silver lining to all this for Trump and Cohen. If any women were to come forward and it turned out that their hush-money deals were signed before June 2015, when Trump entered the presidential race, that would actually bolster the argument that Trump and Cohen were motivated to pay them to try to protect the Trump family, not for the purpose of influencing the election — which would mean they weren’t campaign contributions and therefore didn’t need to be reported to the FEC. They’d still need to be mentioned on POTUS’s financial disclosure, though, depending upon when they were made.