Morning News Brief: Stormy Daniels Interview
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Last night on CBS' "60 Minutes," Stephanie Clifford, who is better known as Stormy Daniels, described an affair she says she had with Donald Trump.
NOEL KING, HOST:
Right. The adult film actress essentially laid out a timeline of events. She said that in 2006, she had sex with Trump in his hotel room. And then there was what happened afterwards. Daniels talked about an incident in 2011. She says she felt threatened to keep quiet about her encounter with Trump.
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STORMY DANIELS: A guy walked up on me and said to me, leave Trump alone. Forget the story. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom. And then he was gone.
KING: She did eventually sign a nondisclosure agreement through Trump's lawyer. She reportedly accepted $130,000. Now, that took place right before the 2016 election. And it raises the question of whether that counts as an undisclosed campaign contribution.
GREENE: A lot of questions about this story, and CNN's Hadas Gold has been following it. She's in our studio this morning. Hi, Hadas.
HADAS GOLD: Good morning.
GREENE: You really have been following - this is - story's almost been your beat in a way recently. It's...
GOLD: Inadvertently, sure.
GREENE: So what stood out to you in this interview?
GOLD: Definitely the newest part is her discussion of the threats because the idea of their relationship we've sort of known about - she had the story in In Touch magazine. And that threat that she's talking about is in - is important to know about the date is in 2011 - after she allegedly did that unpublished interview with In Touch magazine where - she said that she was offered $50,000 to do it. She does it. That's when she did that polygraph exam. And then she says when she was approached randomly in the parking lot outside of a fitness class by this unknown person who threatened her - and that's where, really, the biggest part of this story was - from last night - was, what happened after the relationship? It was how the - pretty much what they're saying is a cover up - the alleged hush money and also these possible threats on her life.
GREENE: And she was asked at one point if she has evidence she can offer for all of this taking place. And her answer was a little strange. Like, she seemed to say maybe but didn't want to really talk about it.
GOLD: They've been very cagey about that, and you have to keep in mind that she is working with a lawyer. And she, herself, are very media savvy. And they know what they're doing when it comes to keeping the public interested and keeping the story alive. They have referenced in their lawsuit the possible existence of text messages, videos, pictures, things like that. And when asked directly last night by Anderson Cooper, she said that her lawyer told her not to talk about it at this moment.
GREENE: What happens now in terms of the legal questions here? I mean, she could face a massive fine for just giving this interview potentially, right?
GOLD: Yes. I mean, technically, according to her NDA, she faces a million dollars per infraction. And according to Cohen and his lawyers, she's already hit $20 million worth of infractions. So right now, her lawsuit is going through the legal system. And I mean, we can even see the president himself deposed in this, but there's a long way to go.
GREENE: So that's what happens next. I mean, we see what the next stage is in...
GOLD: Of her lawsuit.
GREENE: ...In her lawsuit...
GREENE: ...And whether the president's drawn in. All right. Hadas Gold from CNN who's been following this story. Hadas, thanks as always.
GOLD: Thank you.
GREENE: We appreciate it. I want to bring in NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey, Tam
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.
GREENE: So the president - no response yet to this interview and what Stormy Daniels said?
KEITH: President Trump has not directly responded. A lawyer for Michael Cohen has denied that there was a threat and sent a cease and desist. And we should say there's sort of a blanket denial from the White House and from Cohen that this relationship ever existed. But there isn't a new one. Also, a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump sent out a tweet asking people not to reference President Trump's minor child by name in news stories when at all possible. President Trump's youngest son would've been a baby at the time that this relationship occurred if it did occur.
GREENE: The first lady's obviously saying that they don't want to bring his name into any of the stories on this.
KEITH: Yeah, and there is a sort of a long-standing tradition of leaving the kids of the presidents out of the news whenever possible. And then also before the interview ever aired, Chris Ruddy, who's the CEO of Newsmax and also a friend of President Trump, was on ABC's "This Week" and issued this denial.
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CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I can only tell you what he told me. He said he thought that that much of the Stormy Daniels stuff was a political hoax. Again, those were his words.
KEITH: And Ruddy is a member of Mar-a-Lago, which is the private club where President Trump spent the weekend.
GREENE: OK. So hearing the denial there, but nothing from the president yet since this "60 Minutes" interview. Let me shift gears a little bit because - as this story, we're following that - there's a whole lot of change at the White House right now. I mean, oftentimes, you see staff and, you know, new faces, but this seems to be (laughter) a lot.
KEITH: (Laughter) Yes, and I take you back to Christopher Ruddy who, on ABC, also said that he was expecting a shake-up this week. More - someone else to go, and then he suggested it could be VA secretary, David Shulkin. He's somebody who's been on the most-endangered watch list of the Trump administration. And just to give a sense of where we are, we've had basically one really high-profile, major departure every week for the last three weeks - economic adviser Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state. Last week, it was H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. The president has said that he's trying to get his cabinet and his White House in a place where he likes it. We just don't know where that ends.
GREENE: Where that place is...
GREENE: ...And also looking at to see if his - is actually his policy changes - I mean, in foreign policy and a lot of other stuff. What about his legal team? Because as the special counsel investigation goes on, he's really shaking up who's advising him on the law.
KEITH: Yeah, so his legal team had been led by a man named John Dowd, a veteran Washington lawyer. John Dowd resigned late last week. Shortly after, it was announced that a man named Joe diGenova would be joining the legal team. Well, now, Joe diGenova is out before he ever really joined. And the president is citing conflicts of interest. There were problems related to diGenova's law firm with his wife. They represented - or she represented a couple of people who've been interviewed by Mueller's investigators.
GREENE: All right. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks. We appreciate it.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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GREENE: All right. Egyptians are going to the polls this morning in a presidential election.
KING: Yes, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi wants a second term. El-Sissi is a former army general, and he is pretty much guaranteed to win this election. And that's revealing a lot about life in Egypt right now.
GREENE: Well, let's go there. NPR's Jane Arraf has been, I think, at a polling station this morning. Hi, Jane.
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So what are you seeing? What does this election feel like?
ARRAF: Well, you know, this election will last three days 'cause Egypt is such a huge country. There are more than 60 million registered voters potentially. So there wasn't a huge crush this morning, but the polling station that I was at - and a lot of them are in schools - it was really very festive. People were coming with their kids. There were retired people. So after you vote, you dip your finger in ink to indicate that you voted so you can't vote again. A lot of people were dipping in two fingers, and then raising them for a victory sign. I spoke to one of the people who had just voted - retired engineer Sami Sultan (ph). And his view was that if you're a real Egyptian, as he said, you go out and vote.
SAMI SULTAN: This is the future. If we need to build the future, we need to (unintelligible) for anybody. It's not just the citizen. Anybody love this country, (unintelligible).
GREENE: Doesn't sound like people have much doubt about who's going to win.
ARRAF: No, that's absolutely true.
GREENE: Well, you mention the ink. And I mean, I think about times we have brought that up before. And it has been really emotional watching people, you know, dip their fingers in that ink and say they are doing this democratic duty and voting. Is this a democratic election in Egypt?
ARRAF: Well, that's a great question. And I think we all have a tendency to equate elections with democracy, which isn't necessarily the case. So just a tiny bit of background, we have to remember that Sissi was a military general - an army general - who led a coup against the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi. That was after protests against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. And then a year after that, Sissi was elected. So now he's running for re-election. And the big controversy here isn't so much the elections themselves, although there is a little bit about that. It's about the lack of candidates. There's only one other candidate, and he was a guy who entered the race at the very last minute because it was very clear that Sissi didn't want this to be seen as a referendum. But in fact, in many ways, it is. He's asking for people to go out and vote as a mandate for the things that he wants to accomplish.
GREENE: So I just - I think broadly about the Arab Spring. I mean, it's been - what? - seven years now, seen around the world as this big pro-democracy movement that brought down a longtime dictator, I mean, in Egypt. Is anyone saying that this doesn't feel right - to not have a more-open, democratic election in Egypt right now?
ARRAF: Well, here's the thing. There are a considerable number of people who are thinking that. And there are a considerable number of people who are saying that very quietly, but it is dangerous now to express dissent directly. And in these elections as well, one of the things we're not allowed to do when we go into these polling stations is to ask people who they voted for. So those who are opposed to this will probably stay away, and they'll probably express their protest very silently.
GREENE: All right. NPR's Jane Arraf talking to us from Egypt on election day. Jane, thanks a lot.
ARRAF: Thank you.
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