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Why This Old Trump Scandal Is Now At The Heart Of One Of His Criminal Trials

This article is part of HuffPost’s biweekly politics newsletter. that he had sexually assaulted women and was proud of it. Bush, who by the time of the tape’s release had moved on to working as a “Today” show host, was fired.

Trump initially tried playing cool. “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” he said in a statement at the time. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

But soon afterward, he released a more nuanced response in the form of a video statement. Trump said his campaign trips around the U.S. had changed him, and he even appeared to take responsibility: “I said it, it was wrong and I apologize.”

Things appeared dire for Trump’s campaign. Some of his fellow Republicans were calling for him to drop out of the race and let his running mate, Mike Pence, lead the ticket. Others proposed trying to remove him from the ballot, but early voting was already underway, complicating the idea.

Now, Trump’s trial in New York has revealed what was allegedly going on behind the scenes. While Trump downplayed the tape in public, the pressure on his campaign in the aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” tape was so intense that it prompted him to take illegal measures, prosecutors allege. Ultimately, they say, he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star called Stormy Daniels who claimed an affair with him.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team, Trump had his personal attorney at the time, Michael Cohen, take steps to ensure no other damaging Trump stories became public.

Daniels had been trying to sell her story before the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, but found there was “very little interest,” her former attorney, Keith Davidson, testified this week.

After the tape, however, there was suddenly “tremendous” interest in Daniels, Davidson said.

It was clear to him how desperate Trump’s circumstances were in October 2016.

“Trump is fucked,” Davidson wrote to Dylan Howard, the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, in a text read aloud in court.

Davidson had worked with Howard a few months earlier to buy a similar story from ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also claimed an affair with Trump, for $150,000. He led the jurors through the process of working out a similar deal for Daniels in October 2016, although it did not go nearly as smoothly. The price for the exclusive rights to publish (or not publish) Daniels’ story was set at $130,000, which included a $10,000 payment to Davidson.

While the McDougal payout was covered by American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer helmed by Trump pal David Pecker, the company was not interested in ponying up that kind of cash again. Davidson spoke at length about frenzied conversations he had with Cohen, testifying that he thought Trump’s lawyer was giving him “excuses” in order to delay the payment to Daniels until after the election, when it would matter less if it came out. Eventually, Daniels was paid, and the story only came out through reporting by The Wall Street Journal after Trump won.

But one person knows even more about how the “Access Hollywood” tape roiled the Trump campaign — Cohen. In the coming weeks, we’re expecting to hear the star witness’s testimony as he takes the stand in front of his former boss.


May 2024