Porn star Stormy Daniels does not come from any mainstream school of feminism. When a powerful man presses her to have sex, she does not charge harassment. She charges money.
Her illicit affair with Donald Trump at a Lake Tahoe resort was wholly consensual. The actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, does not say otherwise. She’s an honest woman.
But when it became clear that her story might reflect badly on a man running for president, Daniels demanded dollars in return for not telling it. She’s either read Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” or figured out its simple-minded guidance on her own. Whichever, she clearly understood the part titled, “Maximize your options.”
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged to pay her $130,000 in hush money. But the check didn’t arrive.
When a woman holds up her part of the deal, she expects the other party to do the same. That’s only proper.
Cohen’s excuse was that the agreement was still being finalized, a transparent stalling tactic. Once the election was over, it would be easy to brush her off and not pay.
After all, Trump had what we call a reputation. As a real estate executive, it was his habit to stiff his carpenters, bartenders and plumbers, not to mention his lenders. Daniels was not about to join the coalition of the cheated.
The 2016 election was fast approaching and Daniels had to move fast. She and her lawyer turned to another “Art of the Deal” precept: “Use your leverage.”
They reportedly approached producers at ABC about Daniels possibly coming on “Good Morning America” to discuss her tryst with Trump. (It happened shortly after third-wife Melania had given birth.) And to make clear that she was ready to spill, her lawyer sent Cohen an email message reading, “Please be advised that my client deems her settlement agreement canceled and void.”
Guess what happened next. The check arrived.
Cohen insists the payment came out of his “own personal funds.” He said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign reimbursed him. If you believe that Cohen wasn’t somehow compensated, you believe a lot.
If Daniels has any regrets, it might be not having held out for the $150,000 that Karen McDougal, a former Playboy bunny, said she was paid for not talking about her nine-month affair with Trump.
That said, Daniels made out really well in ways that “The Art of the Deal” spells out. “It’s really quite simple,” Trump wrote. Publicizing a project by taking a full-page ad in The New York Times would cost him $40,000. But if The Times “writes even a moderately positive one-column story about one of my deals,” he added, “it doesn’t cost me anything, and it’s worth a lot more than $40,000.”
Stormy got her $130,000 and bottomless free publicity. And for one whose career rests on a reputation for promiscuity, it’s all upside for her.
It’s hard to say whether Stormy Daniels’ revelations could have moved enough votes to cost Trump the presidency. Stories of his piggish conduct and adulterous habits were legion, yet he retained the support of many Americans who say they value traditional morality. This is certain: Another one involving a porn actress would not have helped his cause.
And here’s one more piece of Trump advice applicable to this situation. Even after he’s made a deal, Trump explains in the book, he comes up with other approaches to making it work, “because anything can happen, even to the best-laid plans.”
Critics of Trump’s business ethics can appreciate the frontier justice element to this story. A porn actress managed to shake down the master of the shakedown.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.