Stormy Daniels payoff case against ‘least impressive lover’ Trump could start to hurt


Just when we’d nearly forgotten her, Stormy Daniels is back in the papers. A New York judge, Juan Merchan, rejected Donald Trump’s plea to dismiss criminal charges against him stemming from a hush-money payment he allegedly made to the porn star in 2016. The decision from a Colombian immigrant Trump derided as a “Trump hating judge” paves the way for what will be the first criminal prosecution of a former US President. The judgment is a setback to the ex-President’s legal strategy.  But given that most consider it the least serious of the four criminal cases he faces, could the trial serve to unwittingly boost Trump’s campaign?

Trump has twice as many ongoing criminal prosecutions (four) as ex-wives (two), so here’s a quick recap of this case if you’ve lost track. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg charged the presumptive Republican nominee with 34 counts of falsifying business records, an awfully obscure felony in a bleeding heart state where illegal migrants are allowed to assault police officers and flee town, flipping the bird to the paparazzi on their way out. Ms Daniels claims she met Trump at a golf tournament in 2006 and the pair had what she described in her book as possibly the “least impressive sex” she’s ever had in a Lake Tahoe hotel room. The charges are related to an alleged $130,000 (£104,000) hush payment Daniels said she was paid by Mr Trump’s former attorney, Michael D. Cohen, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr Trump pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday.

Jury selection is set to begin on March 25 and the trial could last six weeks – and so Trump will languish in a Manhattan courtroom instead of campaigning in key states. The most damaging case against Trump – the federal election interference case in Washington – is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. In the election interference case in Georgia, a key witness testified Thursday that the top prosecutors in that case were in a romantic relationship earlier than they have acknowledged, raising questions about their credibility. Both have denied any wrongdoing. And it’s not clear when Trump’s classified documents trial in Florida will start, so it’s possible though unlikely that the Stormy case could be the only trial Trump faces before the November election.

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Ms. Daniels, who is bisexual and describes herself as a director, writer, author, and paranormal investigator, but is best known for her work in films such as Revenge of the Dildos, Da Vagina Code, and Big Boob Bonanza, may be the one who stands to gain the most from a trial and the resulting publicity. She has an Only Fans page ($14.99 per month), merchandise, $250 pep talks and Valentine’s greetings, and her own podcast with recent guests like Alva Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer who alleges that Trump assaulted her in 2016. Trump denied this vehemently, and Johnson has since abandoned her legal action against him. There’s also a new documentary about Ms Daniels’ life – Stormy – set to debut a week before the trial.

The case won’t dent Trump’s standing among the MAGA faithful, who’d follow him to Guyana to gulp pitchers of cyanide laced Kool-Aid if he asked them to. But we’re effectively in general election territory now as Nikki Haley’s campaign is about as alive as a fish flopping about on deck. Even if the Stormy case is, as Trump’s lawyers have claimed, “a discombobulated package of politically motivated charges”, the sight of him in the dock and reminders of an alleged romp could remind independent voters that the Trump show is a very sordid circus indeed.

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