Stormy Daniels says threats kept her quiet about alleged Trump affair until now

(CBS News/60 Minutes via AP) This image released by CBS News shows Stormy Daniels, left, during an interview with Anderson Cooper which will air on Sunday, March 25, 2018, on "60 Minutes."

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who alleges that she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, says that she was threatened for attempting to tell her story publicly and accepted money through a Trump attorney to remain silent because she was scared for her family.

In a much-anticipated “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels said she believed she was doing the right thing when she accepted $130,000 from a company linked to Trump attorney Michael Cohen to stay quiet.

The hush agreement allowed her to protect her career and her family, she said, according to a transcript of the show. And she was concerned about her family’s safety after a scary episode in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, shortly after she first tried to sell her story to a tabloid magazine.

Daniels said she was taking her infant daughter out of the car to go to a fitness class when someone approached her.

“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,’ ” Daniels told journalist Anderson Cooper. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone.”

Daniels said she didn’t know the man, and she provided no evidence to back up her claim, according to the transcript.

But she said she remained fearful over the years. After the Wall Street Journal reported on the $130,000 payment, Daniels signed what she now describes as a false statement denying the affair. In the “60 Minutes” interview, she said she signed the statement under pressure from her former lawyer and business manager.

“They made it sound like I had no choice,” she said. While there was not any threat of physical violence at the time, she said, she was worried about other repercussions. “The exact sentence used was, ‘They can make your life hell in many different ways,’” Daniels told Cooper.

“They being ...” Cooper said.

“I’m not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen,” Daniels replied.

Cohen has denied threatening Daniels. In the run-up to the “60 Minutes” broadcast, Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, said repeatedly on cable news programs that his client would talk about threats she received because of her allegations against Trump.

Cohen could not be reached immediately for comment. He told Politico earlier this month that he has “never threatened her in any way and I am unaware of anyone else doing so.”

The “60 Minutes” broadcast comes just 72 hours after former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal spoke to CNN about her own alleged affair with Trump before he was elected president. McDougal has sued to break free of a confidentiality agreement that was struck in the months before the 2016 election, for which she was paid $150,000. McDougal says she signed her contract with the parent company of the National Enquirer, which is helmed by a friend of Trump’s, and which bought her story not to publish it, but to bury it.

Both women say their relationships with Trump began in 2006 and ended in 2007 and that they were paid for their silence in the months before the 2016 presidential election.

Representatives of Trump have dismissed the allegations of McDougal and Daniels, saying that the affairs never happened and that Trump had no knowledge of any payments.

But the two prime time interviews — along with a judge’s decision this week to let a defamation lawsuit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who alleges Trump groped her, move forward — have intensified the spotlight on the president’s history with women.

Trump and his wife were 1,000 miles apart as Daniels told her story: Shortly before the interview aired on Sunday, Trump flew back to Washington from a weekend trip to Mar a Lago. First lady Melania Trump remained in Florida, where she usually spends spring break, according to a spokeswoman.

Trump complained to associates at Mar a Lago over the weekend about the attention that the media has given Daniels, according to people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels described meeting Trump at his Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2006, during a celebrity golf tournament weekend. When she asked about Melania — to whom he had been married less than two years, and with whom he had an infant son — he did not want to talk about it, Daniels said.

“He brushed it aside, said, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, you know, don’t worry about that. We don’t even — we have separate rooms and stuff.’ ”

They spent several hours together, and he told her that he wanted to get her onto the “Apprentice,” his reality television show. Then Daniels went to the bathroom, and when she returned, he was sitting on the bed.

“I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go,’ ” Daniels told “60 Minutes.” In response to questions from Cooper, she said she was not attracted to him but had gotten herself into a “bad situation.”

She said she didn’t want to have sex with Trump but considered the sex consensual.

Trump called her frequently over the next year, and she saw him a few times but they never again had sex, she said. He continued to say he wanted to get her a spot on the “Apprentice.” In July 2007, about a year after they met, he asked her to meet him at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a development related to the “Apprentice.”

They spent four hours together, with Trump touching her leg and talking about “how great it was the last time,” Daniels said. When she asked about the development, he said he would let her know the following week. She said she took her purse and left.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told her story long before Trump was elected president: In 2011, she gave an interview to the tabloid In Touch. But that interview — which allegedly sparked the threat in Las Vegas — was not published at the time. In 2016, during the final months of the presidential campaign, she again started talking to media outlets, though she did not give another interview.

Instead, she and her former lawyer struck a deal with Trump attorney Cohen, according to Daniels’ lawsuit. In late October, just days before the presidential election, Daniels was paid $130,000 in exchange for her silence, the lawsuit says. After the Wall Street Journal revealed the payment in January, In Touch published its interview with Daniels.

Beyond titillating details of a porn star’s affair with the now-president, the “60 Minutes” interview could provide new details about that alleged effort to silence Daniels. The payment has become the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

Cohen, has said that he made the payment, though he has not said what it was for. The government watchdog group Common Cause argues that the payment was intended to influence the 2016 election by silencing Daniels and therefore was an illegal in-kind contribution to Trump’s campaign. Cohen has called the Common Cause complaints “baseless.”

While her newfound status as a household name has improved her marketability, increasing her fees for strip club appearances, speaking out carries real financial risks for Daniels.

In her lawsuit filed earlier this month, she argues that the agreement she signed — which requires that she stay silent on matters related to Trump and take any dispute to secret arbitration — is null and void because Trump did not actually sign the document. But if the court holds that the agreement is valid, Daniels could owe a hefty bill.

Each violation of the agreement carries a penalty of $1 million. In court documents filed last week, Cohen said that Daniels had already breached the contract at least 20 times and that he intends to collect at least $20 million from her.

Daniels said Saturday that her work in the porn industry helped her prepare for the international attention she now faces.

“Being in the adult industry, I’ve developed a thick skin and maybe a little bit of a dark sense of humor,” she told The Washington Post. “But nothing could truly prepare someone for this.”

The Washington Post’s Breanne Deppisch and Josh Dawsey contributed.