The back-and-forth Monday came as Daniels has defended her account while embarking on an aggressive campaign to break free of a nondisclosure agreement signed in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election campaign. Daniels sued the president in an effort to get out of the agreement, making her one of three women moving forward with court cases relating to Trump’s history with women.
Daniels’s story about beginning an affair with Trump after meeting him in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament has remained largely consistent through multiple interviews and accounts over several years. But since news of the $130,000 payment broke, her name has appeared on statements denying both the affair and the hush money.
When asked in the “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday why people should believe her account after these previous denials, Daniels said: “I have no reason to lie. I’m opening up myself for, you know, possible danger and definitely a whole lot of s---.”
While much of what she said in the television interview was previously described to reporters, including during a lengthy 2011 interview with InTouch Magazine, her assertion that someone threatened her that same year marked a new revelation.
“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,’ ” Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said in the interview with journalist Anderson Cooper. “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.”
According to Daniels, the encounter happened in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was heading to a fitness class. Daniels also told “60 Minutes” that she never went to the police, and she did not provide any evidence for the claim.
Cohen has previously denied threatening Daniels. Brent H. Blakely, Cohen’s attorney, dispatched a letter to Daniels’s attorney on Sunday night accusing her of saying Cohen “was responsible for an alleged thug” who visited her in 2011.
“In truth, Mr. Cohen had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any such person or incident, and does not even believe that any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred,” Blakely wrote in the letter.
In her interview, Daniels did not suggest that Cohen sent this person, whom she said she could recognize again today. However, Michael J. Avenatti, Daniels’s attorney, said the threat must have been “directed” by someone in Trump’s orbit.
“There was a specific reference by that individual to Mr. Trump,” Avenatti said Monday morning on NBC’s “Today” show. “So it’s pretty clear that it could have only come from one place and one place only.”
He added: “It had to be someone that was related or sent by Mr. Trump or Mr. Cohen. There’s no other logical explanation.”
The White House on Monday said Trump also did not believe Daniels’s claim about being threatened, adding that the president did not view any of her allegations in the interview as accurate.
“The president strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims,” Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, said during a briefing with reporters at the White House. “The only person who’s been inconsistent is the one making the claims.”
When asked how she has been inconsistent, Shah — who said Trump had dinner with Cohen over the weekend — pointed to statements Daniels had signed denying an affair. During the “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels said she signed those fearing for her family.
Avenatti did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Shah’s statements.
Cohen and others linked to Trump have previously been accused of threatening people. In 2015, the Daily Beast quoted Cohen as threatening a reporter with a lawsuit and financial ruin. BuzzFeed News reported last year that an attorney representing investors in Trump’s casino business received a call warning him that if he didn’t stop, “we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.”
Randy Spears, an old friend of Daniels’s who performed with her in many Wicked Pictures productions and helped her sell her story to Bauer Publishing, InTouch’s owner, in 2011, said she never told him about the Las Vegas threat described on “60 Minutes.”
“It could have happened and I just wasn’t privy to it,” said Spears, whose real name is Greg Deuschle.
Spears said he doubts Daniels has more evidence to produce, recalling how eager they were to substantiate the interview when it was quashed in 2011. “That would have been the perfect time to say ‘I have some texts, photos’,” Spears recalled. “She would have produced it.”
During her “60 Minutes” appearance, Daniels said she felt “intimidated” and “bullied” when she signed statements denying the affair earlier this year.
“I was concerned for my family and their safety,” she said. Daniels also said she was warned about legal issues, saying: “The exact sentence used was, ‘They can make your life hell in many different ways.’”
After the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the $130,000 payment and agreement in a January 2018 report, Cohen released a statement bearing Daniels’s signature that denied the affair and the settlement report. Another signed statement was released before Daniels appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Daniels said on “60 Minutes” that these denials were untrue but that she signed them “because they made it sound like I had no choice.” However, she did not elaborate on whether the “they” meant Cohen or her own representatives at the time. When the second statement was released, a representative for Daniels, Gina Rodriguez, told The Washington Post that it was signed in front of her and Keith Davidson, Daniels’s then-attorney.
Davidson, now Daniels’s former attorney, said in a statement that he could not speak publicly until Daniels waived attorney-client privilege, but that he looked forward to correcting the record soon.
“I am not at liberty at this time to respond in a point-by-point fashion,” he said. “Suffice to say, I do not believe that the assertions in Ms. Daniels’ ‘60 Minutes’ interview represents a fair and accurate description of the situation.”
Daniels’s account of an affair with Trump and hush money paid in the waning days of a heated election campaign has shown resilience while other scandals have come and gone. Her story has also prompted considerable interest from the public, with CBS News reporting that her “60 Minutes” appearance drew more than 22 million viewers.
The focus on Daniels’s tale comes at a tense moment for Trump, who has previously denied suggestions of impropriety with women but, so far, has refrained from publicly commenting on Daniels’s story.
The payment to Daniels is now the focus of complaints filed to the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department alleging that campaign-finance laws were broken, while the confidentiality agreement is the subject of one of three ongoing court cases that could pose headaches for the president.
A former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, last week sued the National Enquirer’s publisher for the right to speak out about her own alleged affair with Trump, which she detailed in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. The day her suit was filed, a judge ruled that a defamation lawsuit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused Trump of groping her could proceed.