On Sunday evening, porn star Stormy Daniels took to the airwaves of 60 Minutes to tell her riveting story. By riveting, we mean not-all-that-riveting — millions of Americans tuned in to hear her talk about facts we’d already heard. She explained that she had had consensual sex with Donald Trump shortly after the birth of Trump’s son; that she hadn’t found him attractive; that she’d been hoping that he might put her on The Apprentice (“I thought of it as a business deal”); that he watched Shark Week with her; that she felt intimidated into signing a non-disclosure agreement and lying about her relationship with him, although she couldn’t provide evidence of intimidation, and took $130,000 to keep silent. The only real revelations in this interview are Daniels’ claim that an anonymous man threatened her in 2011 after she gave In Touch magazine the story of her affair with Trump.
Several things can be true at once here:
1. Donald Trump Is Sleaze When It Comes To Women. Trump has a long history of being sleaze with women. This is not a surprising revelation, which is why it won’t impact his approval ratings in any serious way. He’s been married three times, and he’s cheated all three times. He’s bragged about his promiscuity, and treasured media coverage of it.
2. The Story About Trump’s Threat Is Somewhat Credible. The real question is whether Daniels’ story about being threatened is true. Now, there’s a reason to believe it: others have made similar claims in the past. As BuzzFeed reports:
3. Trump’s Legal Team Almost Certainly Tried To Pay Off Daniels On His Behalf. It strains credulity to believe that Trump’s personal lawyer handed $130,000 to Daniels out of the goodness of his heart. Does that amount to a campaign finance violation? Maybe, although the case is rather complex. But protestations that Michael Cohen just decided to randomly give cash to a porn star days before the election are idiotic.
4. Stormy Daniels Is Probably In It For The Money And Coverage. Similarly, it’s just not credible that Stormy Daniels has suddenly decided to “come clean” in order to show that she’s on the up-and-up. She’s reversed her story several times, each time for monetary gain. That doesn’t mean her initial story isn’t true, or that her story of being threatened is false, or that Team Trump isn’t disgusting. But it does mean that she’s no victim in this situation, other than the purported death threat. And she doesn’t claim to be Trump’s victim, either, on sexual grounds at least. She saw her sex with Trump as a “business deal” in her own words. Nothing has changed about that.
5. None Of This Is Likely To Go Anywhere. This story is going to fizzle. The reason people watched 60 Minutes is because of the prurient interest in Trump’s sex life. Nobody came to watch talk of campaign finance violations. Unless some actual evidence of threats from Team Trump beyond the legal arises, there’s no real opportunity for Democrats to oust Trump over Stormy Daniels. Nate Silver agrees:
Thus far, the strong markets efficiency theory of Trump continues to predominate. Nobody’s losing sleep over the Stormy Daniels story who wasn’t already losing sleep over Trump’s presidency. Which means this will probably blow over, barring new evidence.