Trump early Wednesday morning disputed Daniels's allegation that she was accosted and threatened in 2011 by a man who urged her not to disclose the alleged affair. Daniels released a sketch of the man Tuesday.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump tweeted. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
But how does he even know the man didn't exist?
Trump, of course, has shown little concern about denying things he would know little or nothing about. He routinely denies anonymous accounts that aides have provided to reporters, without possibly being able to know they didn't say the things they said. (Trump, after all, was not omniscient at last check.)
But the Daniels tweet Wednesday provided a rare glimpse into Trump's view of and potential involvement in the Daniels situation.
To this point, he has resisted whatever urge he might have had to tweet about Daniels. Even as he has hit back hard at basically any critic, he for some reason spared Daniels from that treatment — whether because of legal advice, the personal nature of the situation, or perhaps something else.
But let's assume for a second that Trump wasn't just making baseless claims about things he knew nothing about. By saying the man was “nonexistent,” Trump suggests that five years before Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election, he had knowledge of what was and wasn't being done to combat her accusations.
Daniels said in her “60 Minutes” interview last month that she was threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 after agreeing to sell her story of the alleged affair to a sister publication of In Touch magazine. “A guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'" she said. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone.”
We know based on the “60 Minutes” report that Cohen was aware of the situation back then. Two former employees of In Touch said the story never ran because Cohen, when reached for comment, threatened to sue. Two weeks later came the alleged in-person threat by an unknown individual.
So if we're to take Trump's tweet at face value, he knew how the situation was being handled in 2011 but was in the dark in 2016? It's certainly possible that Cohen decided to keep Trump out of the loop in the later case, in order for Trump to retain his plausible deniability during the presidential campaign.
But even then, the tweet doesn't entirely make sense. If Trump truly didn't know what Cohen was doing about Daniels in 2016, how would he know what Cohen or someone else wasn't doing back in 2011? If Cohen was capable of handling the Daniels situation without Trump's knowledge in 2016, why wasn't he or someone else capable of doing things Trump didn't know about in 2011? If the arrangement was for Cohen to be the fixer and to protect Trump, that plausibly could involve doing things Trump didn't know about.
Just factually speaking, there is no way for Trump to know this episode in the Las Vegas parking lot didn't happen. Cohen may have assured him that it didn't, but Trump would only be relying upon his word. And Trump's tweet certainly raises the prospect that he was well-apprised of the whole situation back in 2011. That may be the biggest takeaway here.