In a series of tweets Thursday morning, President Donald Trump contradicted himself over past statements he’s made regarding payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. But the suggestions he made in those tweets could have larger implications, including arousing new suspicions over his possible ties to Russia.
A document made public shortly after he won the presidency, composed by former British spy Christopher Steele, made many suggestions about the Kremlin possibly having “kompromat” — that is, compromised materials — on Trump that could be used as leverage against him after he took office.
This includes the so-called “pee tape,” but also financial investments and dealings that present tremendous conflicts of interest between Trump and Russia.
Indeed, a strange pattern has emerged since the disclosure of that document of Trump seemingly taking a tough stance on Russia but coming up short on actual action against them. His military strike on Syria, which was broadcast loudly and long enough in advance to allow Russian and Syrian forces to make plans for the supposed “surprise” attack, is one such example, as is the bipartisan passage of sanctions from Congress against Russia that Trump has yet to enforce.
So what does Daniels have to do with any of this? Consider the following: Trump, in his tweets on Thursday, said that the nondisclosure agreement facilitated by his lawyer Michael Cohen “was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by [Daniels] about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair.”
There exists potential legal ramifications for Trump admitting he reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 that was paid to Daniels, including possible campaign law violations. But delving deeper, what Trump is saying here is that he was willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars during an election simply to preserve his image.
What, then, should we expect of him to do if another individual came forward trying to “extort” him? What if it wasn’t an individual, but rather a foreign entity said they would release information or media that could damage his character or image?
Not much of what Trump says should be believed in the first place — the litigious president, who frequently threatens a lawsuit at the drop of a pin against individuals he considers adversaries, doesn’t seem like the type of person who would pay out an “extortionist” scheme, as he claims Daniels is doing. We should heed Occam’s advice, and consider that the most likely scenario (Trump paid her off to stay quiet about a real affair) is also more likely the most accurate.
Yet his statements on Daniels warrant skepticism about the president regarding his statements on Russia. He’s raised two doubts in his tweets on Thursday. First, that he can’t be trusted to tell the truth, a revelation that is hardly indicative of anything new but reinforces the problem this president has with being straight with the American people.
Second, he’s admitted he’s willing to take whatever means are necessary — even paying off an individual like Daniels over what he said are false accusations — in order to keep negative rumors about him out of the public light. The American people should be asking themselves, “What else is Trump willing to do to save face?”
The president’s lack of significant action against Russia, coupled with confirmation of these two problems, should cause even the most ardent Trump supporter to question where the president’s allegiances lie. Trump values his own interests above everyone else’s — including the interests of the nation he’s meant to serve. And that could carry grave consequences for the fate of America.