John already wrote up the 2011 interview in InTouch that made waves this morning but let me tack on a few questions stream-of-consciousness-style.
1. Was the In Touch interview the genesis of the rumors about Trump and Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, years ago? Remember, long before he was a presidential candidate a gossip site claimed that he and Clifford had had a fling while Melania Trump was pregnant with their son. That claim appeared — ta da — in 2011. Did Clifford or one of her friends shop the story directly to the gossip site or did someone at In Touch, possibly frustrated that the magazine wasn’t going to publish it, leak it to the site?
2. Why the hell didn’t In Touch publish this story in 2016 if it had a long interview with Clifford on the record full of gory details about what Trump was like in bed? Did they forget they had it? The new issue will sell like hotcakes but it would have sold like hotcakes the week before the election too. Why didn’t they air this blockbuster dirty laundry then, especially given the inevitable fall-off of interest in Trump if he had lost?
3. Clearly Clifford herself thought Trump was going to lose the election, right? That’s the only reason I can think of for why she would have accepted $130,000 in hush money from his lawyer instead of selling her story to a magazine. She must have been getting five-figure offers from the gossip sheets in October 2016 — a surprisingly low figure given the salaciousness and potential election-changing effects the story might have had — and then leaped at TrumpWorld’s six-figure settlement. Her calculation, presumably, was that Trump would lose and then her story wouldn’t be worth anything. He’d be old news, a presidential loser, and no one would care whom he’d cheated with. Now suddenly he’s president and her story’s worth its weight in gold — and she can’t tell it because of the NDA. Imagine how much money she left on the table by gambling that he’d be defeated.
4. Or maybe I’m not giving Clifford enough credit. Maybe she did receive larger offers from the tabloids than what TrumpWorld was willing to pay her but had misgivings about embarrassing Trump and his family and potentially wrecking his presidential chances by going public. She might have taken less money because she wanted to keep quiet if at all possible. It sounds from the In Touch story like she and Trump were pleasant enough with each other (“good banter”). She wasn’t trying to get back at him for anything by shopping her story, perhaps, she was just trying to make a buck. TrumpWorld handed over 130,000 of them. Good enough.
Although if that’s what happened, we have a new mystery. According to the Daily Beast, Clifford wasn’t paid for the In Touch interview in 2011. If that’s true then what was her motivation at the time? Pure attention-seeking?
5. The In Touch story all but proves that Clifford is currently under an NDA despite her denial last week, no? If she isn’t then she has no reason not to capitalize on the buzz over the story and sit down to share juicy details with other media, either for money or to raise her public profile so that she can cash in in other ways. She was willing to talk to the press about the affair before, on the record, knowing that Trump is married and had children with another on the way. If she was willing then, logically she’d be even more willing now with a much brighter spotlight waiting for her. And yet, last week, she rushed out a statement to the media insisting that she and Trump never had a relationship. Why say that now when she’d spoken to In Touch years earlier and to reporters like Jacob Weisberg of Slate as recently as 2016? Is there any explanation except “NDA”?
6. Did Clifford … forget that she did this interview with In Touch? Or did she remember in 2016 and *that’s* why she was willing to accept hush money? She’d already given her story away for free; if she tried to monetize it by shopping it to another tabloid, In Touch could have published what she’d already given them years before and made all of the other tabloids’ offers dry up and wither away. Maybe she suspected that In Touch was going to publish it before the election and she thought her best bet to cash in was to keep quiet about it and go to Trump’s people asking for hush money. They paid up, preventing future discussions of her relationship with Trump — but not stuff that had already been told to magazines like In Touch.
7. Finally, how did Trump’s lawyer not find out that In Touch was sitting on this interview with Clifford from 2011? It could be that the magazine kept it a tightly guarded secret, but with leverage like that over the president they could have cashed in themselves with all sorts of special access to the White House. You can imagine the deal: “Give us an exclusive photo shoot of the Trumps at leisure in the White House residence or we’ll run the Clifford story.” Trump knows how the game of “catch and kill” is played; In Touch had already “caught” Clifford’s story, now he needed them to kill it. But they didn’t. Instead they blew him up today. Why? Did they make some demand of the White House for access and were rejected, and now this is their payback?
Anyway. The only way this damages POTUS is if Clifford is on record accusing him of having a tiny dong. So gravely would that wound Trump’s alpha-male vanity that he might not be able to resist tweeting a photo of said dong to try to prove her wrong. And then it’s 25th Amendment time.