As focus continues on the $130,000 payoff at the center of a non-disclosure agreement signed (or not signed) just before the 2016 election, Buzzfeed reports Sunday that lawyers associated with President Donald Trump are "considering legal action" to stop the airing of a 60 Minutes interview between journalist Anderson Cooper and Stormy Daniels, the porn actress whose lawyer said publicly last week had an extramarital sexual relationship with Trump in 2006 while married to his current wife, Melania.
"We understand from well-placed sources they are preparing to file for a legal injunction to prevent it from airing," someone with knowledge of the legal preparations told Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner on Saturday.
In a tweet late last week, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Daniels, whose real name if Stephanie Clifford, appeared to confirm that an interview with Cooper had taken place:
In his Buzzfeed reporting published on Sunday, Geidner explained:
It was not immediately clear what legal argument the lawyers would be making to support the considered litigation, and Trump and his legal team often have threatened litigation without following through on those threats in the past.
Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney who previously was a longtime lawyer for the Trump Organization, directed questions about the possibility of litigation to Larry Rosen, who Cohen told BuzzFeed News is "my attorney handling this matter." Rosen — a partner in the firm LaRocca, Hornik, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha — acknowledged his role in the matter generally but did not comment directly on the possibility of seeking an injunction.
BuzzFeed News has learned that CBS plans to air the 60 Minutes interview with Clifford next Sunday, March 18.
An action to try to prevent the interview from airing would be the latest in a flurry of developments in a case that began just before the 2016 election when Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 in return for her silence about a sexual relationship she allegedly had with Trump in 2006. At the time, Trump was under intense pressure over comments he’d made about his treatment of women in the run-up to the vote.
In an email sent to Buzzfeed on Sunday, Avenatti stated, "Why so many steps to keep the American people from learning the truth? And to think that all this time we all thought this was a democracy where we actually valued free speech."
Meanwhile, following the story's publication, much of the reaction online looked like this:
Trump's lawyers are trying to stop "60 Minutes" from airing interview with Stormy Daniels. That's just going to make the viewership higher. pic.twitter.com/0P0HRePfc4— Karen DaltonBeninato (@kbeninato) March 11, 2018
Of course, as much as anyone might want to find other important things to talk about - and as Naomi Klein detailed in this TED Talk last week, there is absolutely no shortage of profound crises and concerns that demand our attention - Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former top aide to President Barack Obama, says there are also very serious reasons why the Stormy Daniels story cannot simply be ignored. She writes:
When you go to work in the White House, you divest yourself of your secrets for the same reason you divest yourself of your financial holdings: so people can't blackmail you. Though the emphasis on Trump's taxes may have seemed to many voters a secondary issue, the Stormy Daniels scandal shows why they mattered. If President Trump had disclosed his tax returns, like every single candidate and nominee before him, I don't believe we'd be in this pickle — the pickle of a U.S. president being sued by a porn star after his alleged affair with her, which she claims took place when his new wife had just given birth to their child.
Regardless of whether there's more to know—and I suspect there's plenty—what the Daniels saga demonstrates is that the White House officials' unwillingness to disclose their sordid pasts has compromised the security of the United States. Daniels is blackmailing Trump right now; she wants to expose her version of what happened between them. As The New York Times reported this week, Daniels claims Trump didn't sign their 2016 nondisclosure agreement; can we trust him to cross the t's and dot the i's in other situations? What other secrets might individuals or foreign governments be able to use to get the president of the United States to do what they want?
Writing in the Washington Post, Colbert I. King makes a similar argument in an op-ed titled, "I don’t care if Trump had an affair. I care about the hush money."
In addition to the serious questions about campaign finance violations, King argues there is more to it than that.
"It is about the possibility that the candidate who was elected president of the United States paid or ordered to be paid money to someone to conceal something he privately did - payoff money to keep information about him secret from the voters."
Given what is known so far, and what may ultimately come out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, says King, means the American people have every right to know how far Trump would go to keep embarrassing information from coming out.