President Trump on Wednesday accused adult-film actress Stormy Daniels of a “con job” for releasing a sketch of a man she claims threatened her to remain silent about an alleged, decade-old affair with the president.
Daniels had appeared on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday and released a sketch of a man who she said approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, shortly after she had sought to sell a tabloid magazine her story alleging a brief affair with Trump.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump wrote the next morning on Twitter. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
The tweet was the first from Trump that explicitly referred to Daniels since the Wall Street Journal reported in January that Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had arranged a $130,000 payment to her shortly before the 2016 election. The payment reportedly was made to get Daniels to maintain silence about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.
Taking questions from reporters on Air Force One recently, Trump denied having an affair with Daniels and said he didn’t know about Cohen’s payment to her.
During Tuesday’s episode of “The View,” Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said he is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the man in the sketch. Late Tuesday, he posted on Twitter that the reward had been increased to $131,000 — or $1,000 more than the amount paid to Daniels as part of the confidentiality agreement with Cohen.
The drawing depicted a man whom Daniels described as being in his 30s or 40s with sharp cheekbones and wavy hair.
Avenatti took to Twitter shortly after Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning, suggesting the president has become “unhinged” over Daniels, who is suing Trump to get out of the nondisclosure agreement regarding their alleged affair.
“In my experience, there is nothing better in litigation than having a completely unhinged, undisciplined opponent who is prone to shooting himself in the foot,” Avenatti wrote. “Always leads to BIGLY problems … like new claims (i.e. defamation). LOL.”
Representatives for Trump and Cohen have said both men believe Daniels is making up her story about being threatened in 2011.
The White House has pushed back against Daniels's credibility by arguing that she has been “inconsistent” in telling her story, pointing to denials that Daniels issued after the Wall Street Journal reported on both the alleged affair and the $130,000 payment.
“The president strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said last month. “The only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims.”
Daniels said during a widely seen "60 Minutes” interview that she denied the affair “because they made it sound like I had no choice,” although she did not say whether “they” meant her own representatives or Cohen.
Avenatti said he believed the alleged 2011 threat must have come from someone associated with Trump's world. After Daniels said in a “60 Minutes” interview that she was threatened in 2011, Shah said Trump “does not” believe she was threatened, saying: “He just doesn't believe ... there's nothing to corroborate her claim.”
Cohen also “does not even believe that any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred,” Brent H. Blakely, his attorney, wrote in a letter to Daniels's attorney after the “60 Minutes” interview aired.
Frances Stead Sellers contributed to this report.