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The Stormy Daniels story should be a bigger deal

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Posted: Jan 19, 2018 6:35 PM
Updated: Jan 19, 2018 6:35 PM

Donald Trump's personal lawyer formed a private company just before the 2016 election to pay $130,000 in exchange for a porn star's silence about her alleged 2006 relationship with the now-President of the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That seems like a big story, no? And yet, while it's drawn some attention -- particularly in the wake of the Journal's latest reporting Thursday about the private company -- it appears to not be moving the needle much with the public.

Why?

The short answer is I don't know.

The longer answer is also I don't know -- but I have a few ideas.

The first is that the Journal is the only mainstream media outlet with this reporting on Cohen, the payment and the private company. (CNN has not independently confirmed the details.) Cohen has denied any relationship between Trump and Daniels. There may be some trepidation -- by the media and the public -- to dive too deeply into the story given those twin realities.

The second is that it's, well, somewhat icky. A porn star. The President. Aliases. Odd details from Daniels' interview with In Touch magazine, including the President's alleged fear of sharks. (Side note: That fear makes total and complete sense to me. Sharks are terrible.)

The third -- and to my mind, the most likely -- explanation is that the American public is somewhat inured to reports about Trump's conduct with women.

Remember that during the campaign more than a dozen women came out alleging that Trump had acted inappropriately with them over the years. As did a tape in which Trump is heard insisting he can have his way with women because he is rich and powerful. Trump dismissed the tape as "locker room talk" and insisted all the women making allegations against him were liars.

Then, he won. And, whenever issues about women making allegations against him has come up in the Trump's presidency, his aides and lawyers have dismissed them as yesterday's news that voters have already decided they either don't believe or don't care about.

"The President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in December. "And this took place long before he was elected to be President. And the people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process."

While that contention is not entirely true -- according to exit polling, 50% of 2016 voters said that Trump's treatment of women bothered them "a lot" -- the fact remains that this Daniels allegation feels like more of the same for lots and lots of people. The reaction seems to be something like, "Sure, there's another allegation that Trump behaved badly. What else is new?"

While I understand that "meh" response, I think this story merits more than that. After all, the Journal is not exactly a fly-by-night media company prone to blowing things out of proportion. And its reporting makes very clear that a) Cohen formed this shell company and b) the company made a payment of $130,000 to Daniels just before the election.

Unless I've missed it, Cohen hasn't denied either of those two facts. (Denying Trump and Daniels had a relationship is not the same thing.) So, if Cohen is on the record saying the Trump-Daniels relationship is a myth, it seems to me he still owes an explanation of why he formed the company, why he did so in Delaware (a state renowned for its loose laws on corporate transparency) and, most importantly, why a $130,000 payment was made to Daniels.

Whether you like Trump or hate him, it's hard to argue that an unexplained six-figure payment from his personal lawyer to a porn star in the runup to the election doesn't warrant more attention -- and more answers -- than we are currently getting.

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