When reports of an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels first broke in mid-January, Donald Trump managed to avoid the worst of it, with other news stories crowding it out.
But as the weeks have gone on, Daniels has found ever-more creative ways to stay in the news, despite a nondisclosure agreement which bars her from speaking publicly about the alleged affair.
Along the way, she seems to have picked up a few techniques from the President’s media playbook to use against him. Here’s a closer look at how she’s done that.
Allude to things you cannot say
After receiving his first classified briefing as a presidential candidate, Trump said at a town hall meeting that he could tell from “the body language” of the experts that they did not agree with President Obama’s decisions. But he was cryptic about why.
“Our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow,” he said. “They call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason — what our experts said to do.”
Trump was criticized for what was seen as a breach of protocol on classified briefings, which are supposed to remain confidential. But it was a classic Trump move: alluding to things that he can’t say publicly as a way of bolstering his argument.
In the case of Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, she literally can’t say what she wants to, because the agreement she signed before the election with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen bars her from speaking about it.
But her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel in late January was a classic example of saying things you can’t say:
Use a lawsuit (or the threat of one)
“All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he told a rally in Pennsylvania.
That was another classic Trump move. He’s long used empty threats of lawsuits to counter bad publicity, though in this case he never filed a lawsuit. (In fact, when one of his accusers filed one, his lawyers argued he was too busy to respond.)
Unable to speak about her experiences with Trump due to the nondisclosure agreement she signed, Daniels took a similar approach, filing a lawsuit to have the nondisclosure agreement declared invalid because Trump never signed it.
Because litigants are allowed to explain their case, Daniels was able — again — to allude to her experiences with Trump, even citing “certain still images and/or text messages” that might involve the president, regardless of the merits of her case.
Make an offer they’ll probably refuse
With special counsel Robert Mueller seeking to interview the President as part of his probe into Russia’s election meddling, Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered offering a sit-down as long as the probe then ends within 60 days.
There’s no reason that prosecutors would agree to a deal like this, since it would tie their hands and allow some witnesses to simply wait out the clock rather than cooperate.
But it was another typical Trump stratagem: Push things forward by making an offer that you know the other side will refuse.
Daniels’ lawyer made a similar move last week when he offered to return the $130,000 payment in exchange for releasing her from the nondisclosure agreement — something Trump’s lawyer would have no reason to agree to.
In another Trumpian move, Daniels’ lawyer then basically repeated the already-ignored offer in a letter to Cohen, sparking another round of publicity.
Go after your critics on Twitter
Trump has long used his Twitter account to go after the “haters and losers,” often bestowing on his critics, opponents and even former allies mean-spirited nicknames like “sloppy Steve,” “crazy Mika” and “crooked Hillary.”
But Daniels is no slouch, either. Although she still can’t tweet about her alleged affair, she has used Twitter to go after Trump supporters who criticize her online with a savage wit.
Remember that all publicity is good publicity
In his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal,” Trump outlined his approach to publicity, which involves more than a little sensationalism.
“One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better,” he wrote. “It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”
In the wake of reports of the alleged affair and the nondisclosure agreement, Daniels took that advice to heart, making appearances at strip clubs around the country—including one just south of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The appearances have even borrowed from Trump’s campaign, using the slogans “#MAGA — Make Adult Great Again” and “Make America Horny Again” as slogans.
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