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 in an effort to keep her silent about an alleged, decade-old affair with the president.
Daniels 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 Wednesday 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’s allegations since the Wall Street Journal reported in January that Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. Cohen has acknowledged making the payment from his own funds.
In the nondisclosure agreement, Daniels agreed to remain silent about Trump and a brief affair she says she had with him in 2006 when they met at a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament.
Taking questions from reporters on Air Force One recently, Trump denied having an affair with Daniels and said he did not 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. She said she was with her infant daughter when he approached her in a parking lot and warned her to leave Trump alone.
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.
“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 account about being threatened in 2011. Cohen is now under scrutiny by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, and documents from his Manhattan law office and home were recently seized by the FBI.
The White House has pushed back against Daniels’s credibility by arguing that her story has been “inconsistent,” pointing to denials that Daniels issued after the Wall Street Journal reported on 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 an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that she at first publicly denied an affair with Trump “because they made it sound like I had no choice.”
Avenatti said he believed the alleged 2011 threat must have come from someone associated with Trump’s world. After Daniels said on “60 Minutes” that she was threatened in 2011, Shah said Trump did not believe she was threatened, saying: “He just doesn’t believe. . . . There’s nothing to corroborate her claim.”
Cohen “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.