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.
Shortly after “60 Minutes” aired, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen, Brent H. Blakely, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ms. Clifford’s new lawyer, Michael Avenatti. It accused him and Ms. Clifford of defaming Mr. Cohen in relation to the threat she says she received and demanding a public apology.
“Mr. Cohen had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any such person or incident, and does not even believe that any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred,” Mr. Blakely wrote. “You and your client’s false statements about Mr. Cohen accuse him of criminal conduct and constitute, among other things, libel per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
During the interview Mr. Cooper asked Ms. Clifford why she was taking the legally risky route of sitting for a nationally televised interview. “I was perfectly fine saying nothing at all, but I’m not O.K. with being made out to be a liar,” she said.
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.
(Excerpt) Read More in: The New York Times