Stormy Daniels said that a man threatened her after she agreed to a tell a magazine about an affair with Donald J. Trump. She said the man told her: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” Credit CBS News, via Associated Press
The pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford told “60 Minutes” that she struck a $130,000 deal for her silence about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump in the final days of the 2016 campaign because she was worried about her safety and that of her young daughter.
That concern, she told “60 Minutes” in an interview broadcast on Sunday night, was based on a threat she received in 2011 from a man who approached her in Las Vegas. She said the threat came after she sold her story about Mr. Trump for $15,000 to Bauer Publishing, which finally published the interview in its magazine InTouch early this year. Bauer had initially decided not to run it after Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened to sue.
“I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter,” she told the “60 Minutes” correspondent and CNN host Anderson Cooper. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And he leaned round and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
Ms. Clifford said she did not go to the police after the threat, but when, years later, a lawyer came to her with an offer brokered by Mr. Cohen in the final days of the presidential campaign, she took it because, “I was concerned for my family and their safety.”
Ms. Clifford’s interview — which made for the most anticipated episode of “60 Minutes” in recent memory — was something of a national event, one marked by viewing parties and “Dark and Stormy” cocktail specials at bars, a nod to her professional name, Stormy Daniels.
And it was a quintessential moment of the Trump presidency — a tabloid-ready scandal and must-see television — that carried potential legal implications for Mr. Trump and his longtime lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen. Until Sunday’s broadcast, Ms. Clifford had kept her public appearances to the strip club circuit — what she called her “Make America Horny Again” tour. But, in speaking with Mr. Cooper, she chose businesslike attire that was in keeping with the seriousness of the legal case she is making, that she had been silenced in a cover-up effort to protect the presidential prospects of Mr. Trump.
Ms. Clifford is one of two women who have recently filed suit seeking to get out of agreements they said they entered during the last stretch of the 2016 campaign to give up the rights to their stories about what they have said were affairs with Mr. Trump. The other woman, a former Playmate named Karen McDougal, sold her rights to the company that owns The National Enquirer — which never published it — and spoke to Mr. Cooper on CNN on Thursday. Representatives for Mr. Trump have denied that he had an affair with either woman.
Both cases present potentially consequential legal challenges for Mr. Trump, forming the basis of complaints that have been filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department saying that the payments constituted illegal campaign contributions.
Ms. Clifford’s appearance on “60 Minutes” showed that the effort to keep her story from public view had failed spectacularly — just as statements from Mr. Cohen that he would seek millions of dollars in damages from her for violating a hush agreement had not kept her from appearing on what is often the highest-rated program in television news.
Asked by Mr. Cooper why she was taking the legally risky route of sitting for a nationally televised interview, she said, “I was perfectly fine saying nothing at all, but I’m not O.K. with being made out to be a liar.”
Ms. Clifford had first threatened to speak out in February, after, she said, Mr. Cohen broke his part of the previously secret 2016 agreement by telling The New York Times that he had paid the $130,000 from his own pocket. He has denied Mr. Trump had an affair with Ms. Clifford.
The White House was quiet ahead of the airing of Ms. Clifford’s interview, though an ally of Mr. Trump’s, the Newsmax founder and editor in chief, Christopher Ruddy, told ABC News earlier on Sunday that Mr. Trump considered her story “a political hoax.” Mr. Trump spent the evening before the interview dining at his club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, with Mr. Cohen.
Accusations, payoffs and lawsuits: Here’s a guide to the latest White House scandal, which involves a porn star named Stormy Daniels. By DREW JORDAN on Publish Date March 9, 2018. . Watch in Times Video »
Ms. Clifford said during the interview that while she had seen Mr. Trump more than once, she had had sex with him a single time, unprotected. That happened shortly after they met at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006. (Ms. McDougal has also said that she, too, was intimate with Mr. Trump during that event.) Mr. Trump was 60 at the time; Ms. Clifford was 27.
Ms. Clifford said that Mr. Trump had invited her to his hotel suite for dinner, and that their banter began with him showing her a magazine cover featuring his photograph. “I was like, ‘Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it,”’ she said. “So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little — you know, had underwear on and stuff, and I just gave him a couple swats.”
It was done in a joking manner she said, and the flirtation — which included Mr. Trump comparing Ms. Clifford to his daughter — led to intercourse, though, she said, she had not been particularly attracted to Mr. Trump and had not wanted to have sex with him. (She said she nonetheless went along of her own accord.)
“He said that it was great,” she said, and told her he had had “a great evening, and it was nothing like he expected, that I really surprised him, that a lot of people must underestimate me — that he hoped that I would be willing to see him again, and that we would discuss the things we had talked about earlier in the evening.”
Mr. Trump, she said, had raised the possibility that he get her onto his reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice” but it would not come to be.
She said that he had invited her to his Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow in 2007 to fill her in on that promise. The entertainment for the night, she said, was a “Shark Week” documentary. Mr. Trump, she said, wanted to have sex but this time she did not go along with it, and when he did not have an answer for her about being on the show, she left. She said he told her over the phone a month later that he would not be able to get her onto the program and that was effectively the end of it.
But when her story threatened to surface again in 2016, Ms. Clifford said, her lawyer, Keith Davidson, called her. “I think I have the best deal for you,” she said Mr. Davidson told her, presenting Mr. Cohen’s offer. (Mr. Davidson had also represented Ms. McDougal.)
When Mr. Cooper said some viewers would be skeptical that Ms. Clifford had made her decision because of a threat made years earlier, she said she “didn’t even negotiate” and “just quickly said ‘yes,’ to this very, you know, strict contract, and what most people will agree with me, extremely low number.” Ms. Clifford also said that she had “turned down a large payday multiple times.”
Ms. Clifford said that she can remember the man’s face to this day and would recognize him immediately. Her new lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said earlier this month that she had been threatened, although he did not provide any details. At the time, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “Obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously, certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual.”
When the story about the payoff first broke earlier this year, Ms. Clifford had signed a statement emphatically denying that an affair had taken place. She told Mr. Cooper that she had been told that if she failed to sign it, “they can make your life hell in many different ways.” That sentiment, she indicated, was based on the terms of the agreement, not on any new threat of physical violence, though, she said, she felt both “intimidated” and “bullied.”
Lawyers for Mr. Cohen have said that Ms. Clifford faces $20 million in penalties for violating an agreement to remain quiet and that the agreement was still binding.
Ms. Clifford’s suit hinges on Mr. Avenatti’s argument that the agreement is invalid because Mr. Trump had not signed it. Mr. Cohen signed the agreement, representing the Delaware shell company Essential Consultants, through which he paid Ms. Clifford.
Mr. Cohen has denied any involvement by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign. But Mr. Avenatti, through his various media appearances, has been trying to build a case that Mr. Cohen was acting in his capacity as a lawyer at the Trump Organization when he worked on the agreement. He presented new evidence on “60 Minutes”: a FedEx envelope showing that Mr. Davidson had sent the contract to Mr. Cohen at his office at the Trump Organization, and addressed a cover letter to him in his official Trump Organization capacity.
Mr. Cooper pressed Ms. Clifford on whether she was not coming forward to cash in on her affair now that Mr. Trump had become president. She did not apologize for the extra money she says she is already making as a dancer because of the surrounding publicity, but noted that she was also opening herself up to real financial risk.