For any other president, allegations of an affair with a porn star and a preelection payoff to her to keep it secret would be stunning news. With President Trump, it’s a story that’s struggled to gain the spotlight, as chaos and controversy on other issues plague his administration.
Here’s a quick primer for those who haven’t had the time to follow the twists and turns of the story:
Did Stormy Daniels have an affair with President Trump?
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles that she began an ‘‘intimate relationship’’ with Trump in 2006 that continued ‘‘well into the year 2007.’’ She said the relationship included encounters in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Beverly Hills, Calif. Trump married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.
In an interview with InTouch magazine in 2011, Daniels also described a sexual encounter with Trump in Lake Tahoe. But the story did not run at the time. The magazine hasn’t said why. It eventually published a transcript of the interview early this year.
The claim is denied by Trump and the White House. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday, ‘‘The president has addressed these [allegations] directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true.”
Was Stormy Daniels paid to keep the alleged affair secret?
On Oct. 28, 2016, just days before Trump’s stunning election victory, Daniels entered into a nondisclosure agreement, accepting $130,000 for pledging not to talk about a relationship with Trump. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, has acknowledged paying Daniels.
Why do we seem to know so much already about this affair?
The nondisclosure agreement and payment were reported in the Wall Street Journal in mid-January. That was followed shortly thereafter by publication of the InTouch interview, which contained plenty of titillating details and was not subject to the nondisclosure agreement. An undaunted Daniels also gave an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” though she sidestepped direct questions.
What is the latest legal maneuvering all about?
Daniels is suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement that she signed, which would allow her to “set the record straight,” according to her attorney, Michael Avenatti.
The nondisclosure agreement, which used the names “Peggy Patterson” and “David Dennison,” was never signed by Trump. It was signed by attorney Cohen instead. Daniels’s suit argues that Trump’s failure to sign renders it “legally null and void and of no consequence.”
The legal twist that surfaced Wednesday is that the nondisclosure agreement included a clause requiring arbitration if any issues rose. Cohen sought arbitration and on Feb. 27 won a temporary restraining order.
A lawyer for Cohen said the arbitrator had found that Daniels had violated the agreement and barred her from filing her lawsuit. But Avenatti has fired back, saying he does not consider the restraining order valid and that Daniels will proceed with her lawsuit in open court.
Has Trump admitted being involved with the payment?
Cohen said in February that he had paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket. He said in a statement to The New York Times that he made a “lawful” payment out of his own pocket. He declined to answer questions, including why he made the payment and whether Trump was aware of the payment.
The question of whether Trump was aware of the agreement between “Peggy Patterson” and “David Dennison” remains up in the air.
Avenatti told NBC there was ‘‘no question’’ Trump knew about the agreement, though the lawyer didn’t offer any proof.
Sanders, the press secretary, was asked several times at the Wednesday briefing about whether Trump was aware. She said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
In answering the questions, she may also have stumbled into an inadvertent admission, CNN reported, by saying the arbitration case had been won in “the president’s favor.”