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The American Dream by Stormy Daniels | The New Yorker

Donald Trump appeared to be in a high-spirited mood Thursday morning as he entered his criminal trial in lower Manhattan. Wearing a light blue shirt and sky blue tie under a navy jacket, he looked not unlike a bright spring day, and as he passed reporters in the courtroom gallery, he pointed a gun at Greg Kelly, the conservative Newsmax anchor. , who replied with a reassuring smile. But that air of playfulness was replaced by stiff sobriety as adult film star Stormy Daniels approached the witness stand on the second day of testimony, her heels clicking loudly on the courtroom floor. The former president thrust his chin forward and focused his gaze on Daniels, who was dressed in a form-fitting green dress under a loose black jacket and glasses set atop her long blonde hair. She looked like the right manager of, say, a CPA office—attractive, bright, skilled.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is a blunt and gregarious blonde who famously nicknamed her silicon triple-D breasts «Thunder» and «Lightning». She claimed she met the future president during a 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, had less-than-average sex with him, and was paid a decade later, before the 2016 presidential election. one hundred and thirty thousand dollars to keep quiet about it. Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and fixer at the time, wired the money to Daniels, and it was then allegedly repaid to the Trump Organization, which called the amount a «retainer» for «services rendered.» Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up money laundering payments and conceal damaging information before the election; he pleaded not guilty.

One of the hallmarks of the Trump era has been its comic vulgarity since its inception. Like shiny objects waving in a toddler’s face, the former president’s sillier antics — serving fast food at a White House reception, suggesting to a seven-year-old that Santa isn’t real, staring into the face of a solar eclipse. a welcome distraction from the more sinister political realities of his administration. Trump will eventually go on trial for the serious crimes he has been accused of: his alleged illegal attempts to sway the 2020 presidential election, his role in the January 6 uprising, and his possible mishandling of classified documents. But until then, we have his secret money trial in Manhattan, which struck us as a disgusting parody of twenty-first century America. The trial gave us Trump’s former aide Hope Hicks, who broke down in tears on the witness stand and ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker told the court how hard it was to get Trump to pay him back when he caught and killed potentially damaging tabloid stories about him. And yet, this apparent diversion of the trial could also lead to the first guilty verdict of a former president in American history, with Stormy Daniels being the tool to get us there. Who would have thought that?

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Daniels, now 45, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to parents who divorced when she was very young. At the age of seventeen, she started performing at a local strip club. She became a pornographic actress in her early twenties and soon after became a screenwriter and director of adult films – a rarity for a woman at the time. In his 2018 memoir, “Full disclosureDaniels, who has been married four times and is the mother of a teenage daughter, describes her peripatetic life, moving between homes and marriages, from Louisiana to Los Angeles to Florida to Vegas to Texas. In one memorable part, she recounts how she met the heavy-metal band Pantera at the beginning of the 2000s at a club in Florida and spontaneously joined them on their tour bus for two weeks. («We were this neo-circus family,» he writes.)

But despite Daniels’ seeming flightiness, when I recently read «Full Disclosure,» what struck me most was her steadfastness and insight. Raised in the dirt by an unloving and neglectful mother—her father was largely out of the picture—Daniels was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child and managed to find solace in horseback riding and school. However, her resources were nil and she knew that the good life was also expensive. («Part of the American dream is making money,» she writes in the book. «I’m a firm believer in capitalism.») Her salvation was work. «I was a machine, getting up for work six nights a week, at least five of which were twins,» she writes of an early gig at a strip club. She was able to cleverly use her looks and sexuality to maximize her earning potential, which helped her gain the financial security that had eluded her since birth. She was nothing if not pragmatic: a natural brunette, she recalls dyeing her hair red and then blonde in an attempt to earn higher prices. (“The more blonde I am, the more work I have.”) And then there were the breasts: “I noticed that the Gold Club girls who invested in breast implants got more tips.” Her decision to follow in their footsteps it paid off immediately. (“I got a lot more tips. Instantly.”) To earn even more money as a stripper, she switched to doing nude pictures and eventually movies. (“The only way to increase your rate after you pay extra is to make movies.”) In 2002, she began starring in a Wicked Pictures production, becoming one of the studio’s contract stars and later expanding her reach to write and direct films. for the company.

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By the time Daniels met Trump in Lake Tahoe, she was twenty-seven and one of the leading stars in her field. Last Tuesday, as she began testifying in Trump’s criminal trial, Susan Hoffinger, one of the prosecutors, said she believed Trump was attracted to her business acumen. After they met at a golf tournament (Wicked Pictures sponsored one of the holes), Trump invited Daniels to meet him at his suite, where he asked her about her work in the adult film industry. «He was very interested in a lot of business aspects, which I thought was very cool,» she told the court. “He asked questions like, ‘Are there any unions? Are you getting leftovers?” “ Like my colleague Eric Lach, who was reporting in court for The New Yorkerhe told me that was the moment «the game recognized the game». After all, no one believes in capitalism more firmly than Donald Trump.

At the time, Trump was the host of the NBC program «Apprentice«, then in season five, and suggested Daniels appear on his TV show to prove, as she said on the stand, that she «isn’t just a dumb bimbo». Daniels, incredulous at first, was nonetheless intrigued and eager to explore opportunities outside the adult film industry. «It would be great for my career,» she told Hoffinger on Tuesday. But the professional discussion turned into something quite different when, according to Daniels, she came out of the bathroom in the suite and Trump was waiting for her on the bed, in boxers and a T-shirt. «Oh my god, what did I misread to get here?» she recalled thinking in court. The sexual encounter (which Trump denies took place) was consensual but completely joyless. («I was staring at the ceiling,» Daniels testified.) After she left the suite, Daniels, hoping that «The Apprentice» gig would still work out, continued to be in contact with Trump, even though she never had sex with him again. . When Trump finally told her after some time that he could not include her as a contestant on the show, she stopped taking his calls and moved on with her life.

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In 2011, Daniels learned that the story about her meeting with Trump had leaked to the press, and decided to take control of the situation so that she could at least benefit financially from it and make sure the story was accurate. She reported her evening with Trump to a gossip magazine In Touch Weeklywhich she ultimately did not disclose until 2018. (It was later reported that in 2011 Michael Cohen demanded that the story be dropped and threatened legal action if it was published; Daniels’ memoir also claims that around the same time, she carried her then- young daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot when she was approached and threatened by a man who told her to «leave Mr. Trump alone.») Years later, before the 2016 presidential election, Daniels contacted National Enquirer and tried to sell her story again. Trump didn’t need any more bad publicity after the «Access Hollywood» tape scandal and Cohen paid her to sign a nondisclosure agreement. But in 2018, Cohen himself began shopping around his account of the Trump presidency, including Daniels’ story about hush money, at which point Daniels concluded the NDA was invalid. («This dim bulb Cohen was out there selling a book in my name, but I was the only one taking this NDA seriously?» he writes in his memoir. «Can’t I speak out, profit or defend myself?») he began to speak.

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