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‘Stormy Will Eat You Alive’: How a Porn Star is Making Trump World’s Lives Hell

In public and on his Twitter feed, President Trump has kept mum about L’affaire Stormy. Behind the scenes, he’s spooked.

As the 2016 presidential campaign entered its homestretch, Donald Trump and his team were drowning in the fallout of the infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” tape and the torrent of sexual assault and harassment allegations that were subsequently made against the future president.

“It was like walking through a minefield every day [in that last month],” a former Trump campaign adviser recalled to The Daily Beast.

But in that final month on the trail, there was something else weighing on Trump’s mind, even more than the assault allegations. According to three top campaign officials, speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, Trump began pressing senior staffers about the specific dates that the women were alleging that the assaults, affairs, or harassment took place.

If the date fell within the time period of the early stage of his marriage to Melania Trump—and the birth of their son Barron—Trump would suddenly care more about the story and quiz campaign aides more closely about it. Officials concluded that Trump’s true concern was not so much being accused of sexual harassment as it was, in the words of one aide, about “pissing off Melania.”

One of these accounts of a consensual relationship that drew Trump’s intensified interest was published at the website The Smoking Gun under the title, “Donald Trump And The Porn Superstar.” The piece reported on Trump’s alleged “sexual affair” with Stephanie Clifford, an adult-film actress known by her stage name, “Stormy Daniels.” Such an affair would have taken place not only while Donald and Melania Trump were newlyweds, but soon after Barron was born.

A year into the Trump era, the story of Stormy has morphed from a late-campaign nuisance into large-scale presidential crisis.

“The president may be able to fire Mr. [Robert] Mueller and others who may challenge him, but he cannot fire me, or my client. We will not be going away any time soon,” Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, told The Daily Beast. “If they [in Trumpworld] are upset about what has transpired over the last two weeks, they are really going to be upset when they see what is going to transpire over the next few months—because the last two weeks haven’t been a warm-up lap.”

Inside the chronically chaos-driven Trump White House, Stormy Daniels is a high-profile hassle and headache that now must be managed on a daily basis. According to two sources familiar with the situation, the White House press operation has at least one person whose job it is to monitor the latest developments on the Daniels front.

Senior Trump aides say they generally go out of their way not to talk to the president about the tsunami of press coverage. “Why would I talk?” one White House official asked, noting how “uncomfortable” an exercise it would be. “With everything else going on, why would I want to do that?”

Publicly, the White House strategy of handling the “Stormy situation,” aides say, is simple: Stress that the White House has previously addressed the matter, they have nothing to add, and move on to the next question.

The president’s outward-facing approach has been steadfast silence—a stark contrast to how aggressively he’s gone after women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct. When the White House press corps yells questions at him about Stormy, he stays mum. His Twitter feed has yet to address the continuous coverage of the alleged affair on cable news.

But even as the president has stayed publicly silent on the issue, he and his team have ramped up a legal effort to fight it.

Trump has hired Charles Harder, known for representing Hulk Hogan in the sex-tape lawsuit that decimated Gawker. (On March 16, Harder filed court papers announcing Trump would join Essential Consultants—the LLC his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen created to pay Daniels—and request her lawsuit change venues from Los Angeles County to federal court, as well as enter private arbitration.)

Brent Blakely, who represented Paris Hilton in a trademark lawsuit against Hallmark, was retained by both Essential Consultants and Trump. In a court filing, Blakely claimed one or both of them could seek $20 million in damages against Daniels, or $1 million per violation of her nondisclosure agreement.

And Jill Martin, a Trump Organization attorney, has signed an arbitration document for Essential Consultants. News of her apparent involvement raised eyebrows, as it seemed to contradict Cohen’s claim that President Trump wasn’t a party to the “hush agreement” and $130,000 payout to Daniels. Martin told The Wall Street Journal she filed the paperwork “in her individual capacity” until a New York-based attorney was approved to practice in California. But it also suggested that Trumpland was taking the matter increasingly seriously, no longer content to try and brush it away.

The legal escalation comes as Daniels has shown little sign of being intimidated into silence. She gave a brief, largely biographical, interview to The New York Times and is set to appear on 60 Minutes Sunday evening—an appearance Trumpworld was considering seeking an injunction to stop, according to one report.

Daniels’ attorney also has suggested that more will come after the 60 Minutes episode airs. On Thursday, Avenatti posted a cryptic Twitter photo of a compact disc in a safe, apparently hinting that Daniels may have photographic or even video evidence of her relationship with Trump.

As the Daniel’s saga has persisted in the news, pro-Trump allies outside the White House have responded with shrugs. Some even suggest that the charges maybe be part of a vast anti-Trump conspiracy.

“When I first met Donald Trump in the 1980s, he was known as a playboy. His playboy nature is baked into his candidate model today,” Michael Caputo, a Republican operative and a veteran of Trump’s presidential run, told The Daily Beast. “The same people who attempted to find and fund women who would make allegations against [Trump] in 2016, I believe, are the same forces behind the not-so-coincidental lawsuits now, initiated by Stormy Daniels.”

Caputo added that “in the end, after the entire 1990s debacle behind [Bill] Clinton and his paramours… he came out of the presidency wounded but vindicated… Donald Trump will be wounded but vindicated.”

But if anyone can take down a president, Stormy Daniels is the one, friends and colleagues argue.

“Stormy will eat you alive,” Michael Vegas, an adult performer who starred in Daniels’ “Unbridled,” told The Daily Beast. “She has a reputation in the business where people are afraid of her.” But not because of a mean streak, Vegas added. She simply knows what she wants and how to be direct.

“She’s not a numskull,” the actor said. “I believe she has the gusto and bravado to actually pull this off.” When asked what he meant, Vegas replied: “Expose the president for what he’s been doing. Expose him for his hypocrisy.”

Rachel Starr, another X-rated actress, called Daniels one of the most respected women in the porn industry but someone who’s notoriously private.

“I think it’s safe to make the assumption that she knows something,” said Starr, who maintains her neutrality when it comes to politics and Daniels’ battle with Trump. “I would find it very hard to believe that she would bring something to the public eye, to this level, if there wasn’t any substance to what she is saying.”

Even without Trump using his large bullhorn and social media presence to attack her, the pressure being placed on Daniels has been heavy. Alana Evans, who previously revealed that Trump chased Daniels around his hotel room in his tighty-whities, told The Daily Beast that she and Daniels are receiving threats from Trump supporters, angry at the soap opera engulfing the White House.

“There’s a crazy who has been sending Stormy threatening emails,” said Evans, who says the same man tried to add her on Facebook. The alleged stalker told Daniels that “he’s going to kill her at her dance appearances,” and “have his army come for her” and at one particular strip performance, “he was going to shoot her,” Evans said.

Evans, a fellow porn actress, said the industry is gloating over what Daniels has already done. And though Trump may be acting as if nothing is taking place at all, they are confident that he will, eventually, have to answer for his actions.

“She is taking him on,” Evans added. “And it’s going to be her words, if anyone’s, that takes that man down.”

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