The president and the porn star
The story itself is of more than merely prurient interest. Trump and the lawyer, Michael Cohen, deny everything. But Daniels gave a 5,000-word interview to In Touch magazine in which she described her sexual encounter with Trump in very convincing detail. And the Journal, in a follow-up story, gave a step-by-step account of how Cohen allegedly made the hush-money payment.
According to the newspaper, Cohen formed a Delaware company -- taking advantage of the state's no-tell privacy laws -- called Essential Consultants LLC on Oct. 17, 2016. He then used a bank account linked to the company to pay the $130,000 into an account controlled by a lawyer representing Daniels.
As the Watergate source "Deep Throat" never actually said to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward: "Follow the money."
Where did the cash come from? One thing we learned about Trump during the campaign is that he is loath to spend his own money whenever he can spend somebody else's instead. And one thing we learned from Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury" is that another Trump lawyer "took care" of "a hundred" women during the campaign, according to Steve Bannon, the campaign's chief executive.
Let's assume Bannon was exaggerating and "a hundred" really means "several." If I were special counsel Robert Mueller, I'd want to know how much money was paid in total to the women and I'd want to make sure that no campaign funds were used, since that would be illegal.
Remember the context: On Oct. 7, 2016, the Post reported on and published the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump boasted of sexually harassing and assaulting women. Ten days later, according to the Journal, Trump's lawyer created the shell company that was allegedly used as a conduit for money to buy Daniels' silence.
Something tells me that Mueller's all-star team of white-collar prosecutors will find out if any other phantom companies were formed, if any other paramours were paid to keep quiet, and where any such money came from. And that is only the lesser of Trump's worries about the Stormy Daniels Affair.
The greater is that Melania Trump may not be as indulgent of Trump's behavior as the sanctimonious preachers who enable him.
Eugene Robinson's email address is email@example.com.
(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group