Before Stormy, there was Summer.
Summer Zervos being one of more than a dozen women who came forward to allege that Donald Trump had treated them as he bragged he treated women on the Access Hollywood tape—without asking and with impunity. She is presently waiting for a Manhattan judge to decide whether she can proceed with a suit charging Trump defamed her by calling her a liar.
Stormy Daniels being the porn star who is giving us an ongoing lesson in perversity that has nothing to do with sex. She had what she describes as a consensual sexual relationship with Trump, but the true obscenity seems to have come into play after she saw the infamous tape and the resulting parade of victims and made it known she had a story of her own to tell.
Whether she gave in to pressure from Trump or figured an allegation of consensual sex was not so momentous or just succumbed to greed, the decision was the same. She traded silence for cash.
The date of what Daniels would call the Hush Agreement was October 28, 2016, eleven days before the election. Daniels promises in the signed document — officially the CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND MUTUAL ASSIGNMENT OF COPYRIGHT AND NON-DISPARAGEMENT AGREEMENT — not to tell anybody about the affair other than four people she had apparently already told. Second on the list is identified as Angel Ryan, but turns out to be Jessica Drake, a fellow porn star who ironically is one of the women who had come forward to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct. Drake had charged that Trump kissed and held her at the same 2006 golf tournament where Daniels says her affair with Trump began.
But the $130,000 that Daniels took only bought her silence for a time. Daniels began saying in recent weeks that the agreement was not binding—first because longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen spoke publicly about it, and then because Trump had never signed it.
On February 28, Cohen sought to re-silence Daniels by going to an arbitrator for what was termed a “confidential proceeding.” He secured a temporary restraining order that essentially told Daniels to keep her mouth shut.
Daniels responded by filing a lawsuit seeking to void the agreement. The papers — filed under her actual name, Stephanie Clifford — use a Trumpian ploy: they detail the disputed non-disclosure agreement by disclosing the very thing that was not supposed to be disclosed.
“Ms. Clifford began an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump in the Summer of 2006 in Lake Tahoe and continued her relationship with Mr. Trump well into the year 2007,” the papers state, with Summer here being a season, not to be confused with Zervos.
The guiding Trumpian principle is to use the legal system as part of a public relations campaign. The papers proceed with this aim to take an added twist, suggesting Daniels—who had a consensual relationship with Trump—has a certain kinship with the women who came forward after his bragging about grabbing women reached public attention.
“Within days of the publication of the Access Hollywood Tape, several women came forward publicly to tell their personal stories about their sexual encounters with Mr. Trump,” the papers say. “Around this time, Ms. Clifford likewise sought to share details concerning her relationship and encounters with Mr. Trump with various media outlets.”
The papers report that word of those efforts reached Trump and Cohen. The papers portray Daniels as a kind of victim.who was pressured not to hamper Trump’s effort to become the next president.
“Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his attorney Mr. Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the Presidential Election,” the papers say.
Talk about perversion. Daniels’ lawyer took it took a step further when he told news outlets that his client was not seeking a monetary settlement of the current lawsuit.
“At this point, we are well beyond that — this is a search for the truth,” the lawyer, Michael Avenatti, was quoted saying.
The truth apparently being what Daniels had been completely free to divulge before she took the hush money, thereby increasing the chances that the next president would be a man who bragged he could grab women whenever and wherever he wanted.
Attached to the lawsuit as Exhibit 1 is a copy of the agreement and the ironic inclusion of Trump accuser Jessica Drake, aka Angel Ryan, as one of those who knew of the affair. Drake’s identity was confirmed by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who also happens present Summer Zervos.
As two of the women who alleged they had been grabbed and groped by Trump, Zervos and Drake were also among those Trump branded as liars. Trump added a threat at a campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Lincoln gave his famous address. Compare Honest Abe’s immortal words to these from Dishonest Don:
"Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."
No doubt with encouragement from the attorney she and Drake share, Zervos responded to being threatened and bullied by filing a defamation suit of her own. She asked for only a token $3,000 in damages but demanding a formal retraction, which would be an equal victory for Drake and the others. She was seeking from the outset not money, but the truth.
“I will continue to speak out and tell the truth,” Zervos said in a statement.
With the suit came the possibility that Trump could be deposed and asked under oath about a more devastating truth than Daniels or any other consensual partner might present. The Zervos case involves allegations that Trump is a sex offender who groped and grabbed women without their consent.
At a hearing in early December, another longtime Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, sought to convince Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Schecter that Trump’s words at Gettysburg and elsewhere were uttered during a campaign and were therefore “political speech” protected by the First Amendment. Kasowitz also argued that a sitting president was immune from civil actions in state court and that his client was too busy, anyway, as the leader of the free world.
A judge more accustomed to routine civil disputes found herself facing huge issues such as whether anyone is above the law and whether the President enjoys any particular immunities from state statutes. She reserved decision.
That was three months ago, and any day could be the day. Schecter was not on the bench in her sixth floor courtroom in downtown Manhattan at mid-morning on Thursday and as you looked at the big empty chair and the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” high on the wall behind it, you had to hope she was back in her chambers, working on what will likely be the biggest decision of her career. She is by reputation and by all accounts an extremely conscientious and hardworking jurist.
The world was talking about Stormy and the president whom she says she helped get into office by taking hush money. One question now is where the cash came from and whether any campaign finance laws were broken.
But depending how the judge rules, the more telling truth about Trump will likely come thanks to Summer.