The legal and political storm around Stormy Daniels -- and her allegations that she had an extramarital affair with President Donald Trump in the mid-2000s -- just keeps growing.
On Wednesday night we learned that Jill Martin, a lawyer for the Trump Organization based in Los Angeles, filed a document as the attorney representing "EC, LLC," which Daniels' lawsuit says stands for Essential Consultants, in an arbitration case seeking a restraining order against the porn star filed last month. Essential Consultants is the name of the LLC formed by Trump personal lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen and from which Cohen made a $130,000 payment to Daniels 11 days before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about her alleged relationship with Trump.
Martin's involvement directly contradicts Cohen's previous assertion that "neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford." (Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford.) In response to the revelation that Martin was in fact involved in the Daniels' proceedings, the Trump Organization released a statement to CNN saying she was doing so in her private capacity not as an official attorney in Trump world.
"The Trump Organization is not representing anyone and, with the exception of one of its California based attorneys in her individual capacity facilitating the initial filing ... the company has had no involvement in the matter."
The problem for Cohen and Martin -- and, yes, Trump -- is that the latest news tie to the Trump Organization is part of a broader pattern regarding the payment to Daniels. Let's walk through what we now know -- including the Martin news.
The Wall Street Journal reports in mid-January that Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about the alleged affair. Cohen made the payment via a limited liability corporation that he established in Delaware -- a state know for its lax laws on corporate transparency -- 10 days before he transferred the money to Daniels'. The LLC is known as "Essential Consultants." At the end of January, Cohen releases a statement ostensibly from Clifford denying any relationship with Trump. Asked about the statement -- and the fact that the signature on it doesn't look like Clifford's -- by late night host Jimmy Kimmel, Daniels responds: "Hmm. Ha ha." In February, Cohen confirms that he did indeed make the payment -- out of his own pocket! He also insists he acted alone -- and not at the behest of Trump or anyone in his orbit -- and that he did not believe Daniels' claim of a relationship with Trump. Cohen -- with the help of Martin -- files for a restraining order to keep Daniels silent in late February. Daniels files suit in California, alleging that Trump broke the parameters of her "hush" agreement because he never signed it. We also learn that in that document Trump is referred to as "David Dennison" and Daniels as "Peggy Peterson" in an attempt to disguise their identities. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is asked directly whether Trump knew of or authorized the payment by Cohen to Daniels. "Not that I'm aware of," she responds on March 7. "Anything beyond what I've already given you, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel." Cohen used a home equity line of credit to make the payment to Daniels. He also communicated with Daniels using his Trump Organization email address. "I sent emails from the Trump Org email address to my family, friends as well as Trump business emails," Cohen confirms. "I basically used it for everything. I am certain most people can relate." Martin's involvement in the filing of the arbitration case is revealed.
Anyone of these things -- in isolation -- might not raise eyebrows. But taken together? Here's what you have to believe if you believe the current version of the story:
Trump's longtime personal fixer took out a home equity line of credit to make a $130,000 payment to a porn star alleging an affair with Trump. Cohen created a LLC in a state legendary for its lack of corporate disclosure to make the payment, despite the fact that he didn't believe Daniels' story. He went to considerable lengths to keep Daniels from breaking the hush agreement, including filing suit against her in court -- and using a senior member of Trump Organization's legal team to do so.
Is that exactly what actually happened? Maybe. But it seems to strain credulity -- and cry out for a more fulsome response from Trump. If past is prologue, we won't get one.
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