The Irrelevance of Stormy Daniels

Is Stormy Daniels relevant? The latest attempt by progressives and their kept media allies to attack President Trump involves a purported “hush-money” payment (in politer circles, this is called a “non-disclosure” agreement) of $130,000 to Daniels, the stage name of a famous porn star, in order to conceal an alleged decade-old affair.

Extramarital dalliances of American politicians are nothing new; similar scandals involved Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, for example, though in both cases neither was fatal to their careers. From the time of the early republic, it was recognized that even politicians are only human and subject to human weaknesses and that even though it was wrong for men to be involved with women not their wives, in general such a moral lapse was a matter for resolution by family, not by politics. Sexual affairs for much of American history were treated as off-limits to public discussion, resulting, for example, in the concealment of all manner of improprieties in the private life of John F. Kennedy, even while he was president.

Misremembering Clinton’s Impeachement
This all changed, perhaps, with Bill Clinton, when, it was said, the Republicans made Clinton’s escapades with an intern the subject of impeachment proceedings against the president. For the Republicans, however, it was not Clinton’s priapic conduct that was at issue. Rather, it was his misuse of the legal process to conceal his private misconduct, involving quite provable charges that he perjured himself, tampered with witnesses, and in general obstructed justice in order both to protect his reputation and to avoid liability in a civil suit against him.

Clinton’s defenders, purportedly principled persons such as famed historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. defended that president with the suggestion that “gentlemen lie about sex,” which defense was questionable on a number of grounds, including, of course, the fact that Clinton was no gentleman. A more subtle defense was made by law professor Cass Sunstein, who claimed that it was appropriate to impeach a president for perjury or obstruction of justice which involved a grave betrayal of the interests of the state, but not for concealing mere sexual liaisons.

So, by Sunstein’s reckoning, Stormy Daniels probably should be off limits. But those attacking Trump have been asserting a claim that the payment to Daniels, and the attempt to conceal it, violate our campaign finance laws, and that as such a violation it is entirely appropriate to fault Trump with the same kind of obstruction of justice argument brought against Clinton by Republicans.

A Bit of a Stretch
Does this make any sense? The alleged $130,000 payoff to Daniels for her silence (which seems to have been a rather poor investment, since she has been anything but silent) was apparently made by Trump’s lawyer, through a Delaware LLC (a form of business entity) created perhaps for that purpose. It’s illegal for corporations (and, presumably LLCs) to make campaign contributions to individual candidates, so that if the payoff to Daniels was an attempt to prevent her from coming forward and hurting Trump’s campaign, one could (although it is a bit of a stretch) regard this money as a campaign contribution to Trump, rather than simply a private matter seeking to preserve his private reputation.

But what if the money, as Trump’s lawyer now claims, was paid by the lawyer himself? That might remove the problem of a business entity contribution to a political campaign, but our convoluted campaign laws also bar contributions of individuals to particular candidates that exceed $2,700, and the payoff to Daniels far exceeds that. It turns out, however, that if Trump personally covered the $130,000 payment, there ought to be no problem, because individuals are permitted by law to contribute unlimited amounts to their own campaigns. On the other hand, our campaign finance laws are now so difficult to comply with, that if this $130,000 came from Trump and was not adequately reported as self-financing of his campaign there might be a technical legal violation there.

The New Last Refuge
We can probably expect that soon (if it has not happened already), this Stormy Daniels matter will result not only in calls for impeachment but for a new special counsel to be appointed to investigate the president and his associates for campaign violations.

If, however, Sunstein and Schlesinger were correct, this all ought to be a matter between the president and the first lady, and not something for the political process.

What all of this really demonstrates is that Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton his efforts to overturn the results of the last administration, and his undeniable success at fulfilling his campaign promises to improve the economy, to overturn burdensome federal regulation, to increase job creation, to revise unfavorable trade agreements, and to reduce taxes—all moves that showed the ineptness of the prior administration—have made it impossible for his opponents to win political arguments against him.

Thus it is that Trump’s enemies have resorted to dubious claims of illegality to damage him. These dubious claims, of no more substance, really, than the false claims of campaign collusion with Russians should be dismissed for the distractions and hypocrisy they are.

Formerly it was patriotism that was the last refuge of the scoundrel; now it is our campaign finance laws.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

About Stephen B. Presser

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and the author of “Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law” (West Academic Publishers, 2017). In the academic year 2018-2019, Professor Presser is a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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16 responses to “The Irrelevance of Stormy Daniels

  • The hypocrisy of the Left knows no bounds. Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached for an affair, he was impeached for lying under oath, which he did, in a sexual harassment suit. At the time, since we have so many trolls here who were apparently 10 or 12, there were convictions of individuals for having consensual sex with people over whom they were bosses. The Clinton administration actually sent two women to jail for the same thing. They testified at the impeachment hearing.

    Again, for the 10 year olds. At this time, the country, including the Clinton administration, was convicting people of committing a crime for having consensual sex with subordinates. It was just the tip of the iceberg with the hidden parts not being consensual at all. Even after a credible accusation of rape was made by Juanita Broderick, the Left still did not care. Before listening to a Leftard about this subject make them show you were they cared then. Like with all of the “celebrities” sucking up to Harvey Weinstein, they did not care when it was one of their own.

    The idiot Leftard screamed “it is about sex” or pondered if women shouldn’t get out their “Presidential knee pads” for Clinton “keeping abortion legal”. They proclaimed that of course powerful men had lots of affairs and changed Presidential polling from “your opinion of the President” to “how the President is doing his job” because, again obviously, people saw Clinton as a complete scum bag. I saw Clinton’s attorney claim on TV that oral sex wasn’t sex. Of course, when he was asked if that is what his wife thought he said ” this isn’t about me”. An indication that, of course, he was lying.

    I never once cared who Clinton banged as President. I would not condemn even he to having sex with Hillary. But he was given a pass by the entire Left. Apply their own words to them in this regard. As far as I have heard, Trump is accused of no crime in this instance.

    If someone with the intellect of a 12 year old asks you why Clinton matters now you can educate them about how, at the time, Bill and Hill were being sold as “co-Presidents” and “two for the price of one”. By their own admission, voting for Hillary was a vote for a rapist.

    • Republican are such desperately pathetic phonies and hypocrites, no wonder they’re losing deep red seats everywhere. For the lying Trump apologists anywhere, we all remember that the Lewinsky affair began as part and parcel of Republicans going after Clinton for sexual misconduct (and land deal) allegations that predated his time in office.

      Hillary has never been accused of rape. Treason Trump has as well as assault by 20+ women. But leave it to Trumpanzees to try to blame a woman for her husband’s problems while giving a free pass to the rapist they put in the Oval Office. I hope they keep it up. The fact that a Democrat now holds Jeff Sessions’s senate seat and that pro-Obamacare Democrat Conor Lamb will now represent a 95% white Trump +20 district shows that even Trump voters are sick of the constant barrage of bs coming from his apologists.

      • we all remember that the Lewinsky affair began as part and parcel of Republicans going after Clinton for sexual misconduct


        The Republicans made me stick my penis in her mouth you Honor!

      • No, hillary was never accused of rape, but she had plenty of other felonies to make up the difference. Still a corrupt clinton, just in a different (and arguably far worse) way. But you go on with walking around with your head buried if you want.

  • It’s too bad that the professor of law did not lecture on basic contract theory; the meeting of the minds over consideration. The party of the second part accepted the consideration and the contract was complete.

    The recent injunction was apparently due to the complaint to a court of the contract being violated and evidence of a judge having reviewed the contract and subsequent evidence of its violation.


  • I knew when Donald Trump won the election that the media and Democrats in general would go all out to discredit him. While I’m not happy with everything he’s done as president, he’s a much better president than Clinton or any Democrat (except Jim Webb) would be. As for “Stormy Daniels,” she’s just out to make a name for herself. She’s looking for a book deal and a Hollywood contract (where she can screw movie moguls.) It’s all a farce.

  • Clinton’s mattered because he committed actual crimes in office. Nothing Trump has done, alleged or admitted, has been done in office, and nothing illegal has been shown.

    • Also, Blow Job Billy is a low life scumbag piece of shit who took advantage of an emotionally handicapped intern. She was above the age of consent, but not capable of giving consent.

  • When Democrats start to castigate their own over similar behavior (either sexual or campaign finance) I will start to pay attention to these concerns.

  • Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters AKA Stormie is a prostitute. She charges people money for access to her body.

    Nothing has changed here; she has just upped the price. For the Media to buy into StormyPalooza, just like they bought in to ComeyPalooza back in early 2017, shows the level of desperation they experience, along with their masters at the DNC.

    It is essential for the future of this Republic that the Dhimmicrats be kept from control of the House in 2018, because the House will be turned into an eight days a week, 25 hour per day impeachment mill to try to de-normalize Donald Trump and prevent his re-election in 2020. This is just a pre-echo of that effort.

  • And as Scott Adams pointed out, this is moving into an area of extreme cruelty to Melania as well.

    But of course you can do anything you like to conservative women. We aren’t really women, in fact we aren’t even really human.

  • What was once denounced as liberal amorality is now the new GOP talking points.
    This stupid essay the latest example.

  • Stormy is just trying to make some money until she can get back on her back again.

  • I guess everyone’s forgotten John Edwards, his girlfriend, and Bunny Mellon.

  • It just comforting to know that Trump is as much of a disgusting wretch as Bill Clinton. Honestly, that make me feel so much better about this.

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