An adult-film star who was reportedly paid to remain silent about a sexual relationship with Donald Trump a decade before he became US President spoke to a journalist because she feared he would not pay up, according to a new account.
Stephanie Clifford, whose professional name is Stormy Daniels, spoke to the online magazine Slate multiple times in 2016 before breaking off contact a week before the election, Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor in chief of The Slate Group, wrote in a story published today.
In the story, Clifford is described as having "worked out an agreement for the presidential candidate to pay her a six-figure sum to keep quiet." This document would have shielded the names of the parties involved, the Slate story added.
"Daniels said she was talking to me and sharing these details because Trump was stalling on finalising the confidentiality agreement and paying her," Weisberg wrote. "Given her experience with Trump, she suspected he would stall her until after the election, and then refuse to sign or pay up."
Clifford suggested that she was keeping to herself some tabloid-ready details "that only someone who had seen him naked would know," Weisberg wrote.
Also today, Alana Evans, another adult-film star, said in a television interview on Megyn Kelly Today that Clifford had called her to invite her to a hotel room with Trump, who at the time was a reality television star.
"This was 2006, he wasn't president, there was nothing in the foreseeable future at that time that looked like that was going to be the future," Evans noted.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the Slate story or Evans' interview.
Both accounts emerged four days after the Wall Street Journal reported that not long before the 2016 presidential election, Clifford was paid US$130,000 by a lawyer for Trump to remain quiet about any relationship she had with the future president.
While not specifically responding to the alleged payout, the White House had said when the Journal's story was published that "these are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election".
The Washington Post has not been able to independently confirm this payment. The Journal reported that Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer at the Trump Organisation, arranged the payment to Clifford after negotiating the nondisclosure agreement.
Cohen has dismissed "rumours [that] have circulated time and again since 2011" and said both Trump and Clifford "vehemently denies any such occurrence". Cohen also issued a statement he said was signed by Daniels, which describes rumours about her getting "hush money from Donald Trump" as "completely false".
Keith Davidson, identified in media accounts as a lawyer representing Clifford, did not respond to a message sent to his firm seeking comment.
The Slate story adds another layer to the Journal report, which landed amid a furore over profane remarks Trump made during a meeting on immigration last week.
According to Weisberg's account, he got in touch with Clifford in the northern summer of 2016 after receiving a tip and then spoke with her multiple times on the phone and through text messages between August and October of that year.
Clifford said she had met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006 - the year after he married Melania Trump, now the first lady - and they began a relationship that lasted for nearly a year, Weisberg wrote.
Weisberg continued that Clifford did not allege any abuse, saying only that Trump had made promises he would break, such as vowing to feature her on his Apprentice television show. To try and corroborate Clifford's account, Weisberg said he spoke to three of her friends, all of whom said they knew about the relationship and "confirmed the outlines of her story".
Slate also published two pages of unsigned documents Weisberg said he received from Clifford related to the settlement that would have paid for her silence. The documents, which the Washington Post has not independently verified, are labelled: "Exhibit 'A' To The Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release; Assignment of Copyright and Non-Disparagement Agreement."
The documents list three parties at the bottom: "Peggy Peterson a.k.a. Stephanie Gregory Clifford a.k.a. Stormy Daniels," Keith M. Davidson and "David Dennison a.k.a. [blank]." Weisberg notes he never saw the main settlement, but only the two-page letter.
Clifford sought money for her story and was also motivated by "her anger about Trump's newfound opposition to abortion and gay marriage," Weisberg wrote. However, Clifford stopped responding to Slate a week before the election, and a friend said she had "taken the money from Trump after all," he wrote.
At that time, Trump's history with women was a significant factor in the campaign. In October 2016, the Washington Post published a recording from 2005 that captured Trump bragging in graphic terms about groping women. A parade of women soon emerged to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, charges that he denied during the campaign.
As the country has confronted a wave of sexual misconduct claims against high-profile men in recent months, the accusations against Trump flooded back into the news. Some of the women who had accused him had questioned why charges felled men like Harvey Weinstein while Trump was unscathed, and late last year, they made a renewed push for public attention. The White House had dismissed the allegations and said any questions were answered when Trump won the presidency.
One of Trump's accusers, a former Apprentice contestant, filed a defamation case against him due to his denials during the campaign. If a judge allows the case to proceed, lawyers could call other women to the stand to testify about their encounters with Trump.
After the Journal's story reporting the settlement last week was published, Trump and the White House assailed the publication for a different story, arguing that the newspaper deliberately misquoted one of his comments during an interview he gave to multiple reporters there. (The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp., which is led by Rupert Murdoch, who speaks privately with Trump.)
In that interview, Trump said he had good relationships with other Asian leaders dealing with North Korea. The newspaper quoted him as saying, "I probably have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un." The White House has insisted he said "I'd probably have a good relationship," rather than "I probably."
Trump, in a message posted on his Twitter account, said the Journal "knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story." The Journal said it stood by its report. (Listening to recordings released of the exchange, it is unclear whether Trump said "I" or "I'd.")
Weisberg wrote that after Clifford stopped speaking to Slate, he considered publishing her account, since she had not declared anything off the record. But Weisberg said he assumed she would disavow her account, and since he lacked independent corroboration of the confidentiality settlement, the story remained untold until this month.