When In Touch magazine ran Stormy Daniels's seven-year-old, previously unpublished interview about an alleged affair with Donald Trump, there was one detail that stuck out: Trump's preoccupation with (and hatred for) sharks. It was funny, yes, but it was also something Trump would later tweet about. How Daniels knew this personal detail about Trump years before it was in the public domain lent credence to her account, which also otherwise seemed to describe a very familiar Trump.
And now we have another years-old account of a Trump affair — and alleged coverup — that sounds conspicuously familiar.
The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow is reporting that former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal has confirmed the authenticity of an eight-page document she wrote detailing an alleged nine-month affair with Trump from 2006 to 2007. The Wall Street Journal reported shortly before the 2016 election that the publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media, had paid $150,000 for McDougal's story but never ran it. This has led to allegations that it deliberately bought the story and killed it to protect Trump, who is personal friends with AMI chief executive David Pecker.
And now we know more details of precisely what McDougal was alleging. She didn't talk in detail to Farrow, but she did confirm that she wrote the document. And the document tracks with what we've learned about previous alleged encounters Trump had with women and, in the case of Daniels, the payoff that followed.
For one, McDougal describes having always met Trump in the same bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both Daniels and Summer Zervos, the latter of whom has alleged Trump sexually assaulted her and is suing him for defamation, have also said they met Trump in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It is not clear when McDougal crafted the eight-page document, but the alleged affair happened around the same time as the alleged Daniels affair more than a decade ago. All three women seem to have independently described meeting Trump in a Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow and having him come on to them.
Farrow also notes that McDougal's account tells of how Trump regularly sent her Trump brand or related items and talked about buying her an apartment in New York. Both of those details jibe with Daniels's account, though in her case the apartment was in Tampa and she talked more about how preoccupied he was with playing up his brand to her.
But the biggest commonality between the McDougal and Daniels accounts is the alleged coverup. In the case of Daniels, Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen this week confirmed he had “facilitated” a $130,000 payment to Daniels using his personal money. He conspicuously did not deny, however, that Trump was personally party to the transaction.
In the case of McDougal, the alleged payoff is more indirect but also involves a third party tied to Trump. This isn't the first time it has been suggested that Pecker deliberately paid McDougal to keep quiet, but Farrow has emails describing the transaction. He also has on-the-record quotes from former AMI employees talking about how the company would purchase stories in order to kill them and buy the silence of the person behind them — a practice known as “catch and kill” — or to use as leverage against celebrities.
There is also a key player involved in both McDougal's and Daniels's deals: attorney Keith M. Davidson, who two months after negotiating McDougal's deal also, according to the Wall Street Journal, negotiated Daniels's nondisclosure agreement with Cohen.
Here's the key section of Farrow's piece describing this particular case of “catch and kill”:
Dozens of pages of e-mails, texts, and legal documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal how the transaction evolved. Davidson got in touch with A.M.I., and on June 20, 2016, he and McDougal met Dylan Howard, A.M.I.’s chief content officer. E-mails between Howard and Davidson show that A.M.I. initially had little interest in the story. Crawford said that A.M.I.’s first offer was ten thousand dollars.
After Trump won the Republican nomination, however, A.M.I. increased its offer. In an August, 2016, e-mail exchange, Davidson encouraged McDougal to sign the deal. McDougal, worried that she would be prevented from talking about a Presidential nominee, asked questions about the nuances of the contract. Davidson responded, “If you deny, you are safe.” He added, “We really do need to get this signed and wrapped up ...”
McDougal, who has a new lawyer, Carol Heller, told me that she did not understand the scope of the agreement when she signed it. “I knew that I couldn’t talk about any alleged affair with any married man, but I didn’t really understand the whole content of what I gave up,” she told me.
On August 5, 2016, McDougal signed a limited life-story rights agreement granting A.M.I. exclusive ownership of her account of any romantic, personal, or physical relationship she has ever had with any “then-married man.” Her retainer with Davidson makes explicit that the man in question was Donald Trump.
So now we have two women having said they met Trump in the same type of room at the same hotel, with both reportedly receiving similar amounts of money from Trump allies shortly before the 2016 election. There is plenty to unpack here when it comes to the legal implications of those alleged coverups, but the fact that both cases describe such similar events before either of them became public suggests this story isn't going away.