By raiding Michael Cohen's office in full gangbusters style, the FBI has managed to make Donald Trump the victim

I am prurient as the next journalist, but I would have thought that the investigation into high-level potential corruption of American politics by Russian interests would have better lines of inquiry

Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 10 April 2018 13:23 BST
Donald Trump denies knowledge of lawyer's $130,000 payment Stormy Daniels

How the FBI managed to turn Donald Trump into a victim I do not know, but it seems they have done precisely that.

Actually, I do know how they’ve done it. They’ve done it by losing any sense of proportion and raiding the office of President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in full gangbusters style. It’s as if the lawyer’s offices were harbouring some Isis operatives intent on a terror attack, or maybe some vicious narco cartel boss.

Of course, Cohen’s premises were only a safe refuge of sorts for the details of the president’s relationship (or not) with Stormy Daniels.

Ostensibly, this is because of an acknowledged payment apparently made by Cohen personally to the former adult film actor (real name Stephanie Clifford), which in turn is connected with a sexual relationship (or not) between the two.

Lurid details about their encounter (if it took place), have emerged, including the bizarre detail that the 45th president (albeit long before his election) asked Daniels to spank him with a copy of a magazine (possibly Trump’s own Trump Magazine) which had his face on the cover.

I’d love to know what Sigmund Freud would have made of that bit. As to whether the presidential bottom took the treatment, her account of the episode is entertainingly detailed:

“I was like, ‘Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it.’

“And I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was like… ‘I don’t think anyone’s ever spoken to him like that, especially, you know, a young woman who looked like me.’ And I said, you know, ‘Give me that,’ and I just remember him going, ‘You wouldn’t.’ ‘Hand it over.’

“And…so he did, and I was like, ‘Turn around, drop ’em.’ So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little… you know he had underwear on and stuff, and I just gave him a couple of swats.”

Imagine if Stormy had somehow held onto that original magazine. What would it fetch on eBay (“used” collectible item)? What would the Smithsonian or the Library of Congress bid for it?

Now I am prurient as the next journalist, but I would have thought that the investigation into high-level potential corruption of American politics by Russian interests would have better lines of inquiry.

The FBI might plead that the law on campaign funding may have been broken, and they have a duty to follow that up.

Yes, and no. Ostensibly the payment of some $130,000 to Daniels as “hush money” during the 2016 presidential campaign could be construed as campaign spending, but it’s not that obvious, even if we discount the notion that it was purely a personal gesture by Trump’s lawyer.

Stormy Daniels claims she was threatened to 'leave Trump alone' over alleged affair

First, you need to ask whether it is the kind of thing people in public life might do whether they were running for office or not. Unlike many other politicians, Trump enjoyed a huge media profile long before he ever thought about the White House. He didn’t even expect to win, by all accounts.

It is perfectly in order for Trump, as with anyone else, to sign a non-disclosure agreement freely entered into with another party to avoid unpleasantness. Arguably, it had nothing to do with the election.

Second: so what if it did? The sum is, in the scheme of these things, trivial. It is the sort of sum that can be wasted on, I don’t know, ordering too many Make America Great Again baseball caps. It’s small change.

As well as that, client-lawyer confidences have a sacrosanct quality to them that has been casually violated by the FBI’s heavy-handed methods.

Plainly, the entire story revolves around Trump’s personal life, which is just that. Like the Monica Lewinsky affair before it (which after all involved a sitting – though not literally – President Clinton), you get the impression it is being used by enemies for their own agenda, with no issues of policy of national security or the integrity of the system at stake.

Even if the worst possible gloss is put on it, the Stormy Daniels affair pales into insignificance beside other American political scandals past and present.

The shame of it is that President Trump has real and legitimate questions to answer about links to Russia, which he has so far too easily dismissed as “fake news” (a phrase I notice has recently been taken up by Putin’s gang).

Apart from finding out more about how much damage that blameless magazine suffered in its brief sadomasochistic career, the Stormy Daniels affair has no significant interest.

I’ve nothing against her, so to speak, and I wish her very well, and I also feel bad that she and her child got threatened in a car park. She seems a nice, decent person who’d have been better off never meeting Donald Trump.

But it’s no longer about her. It’s about the FBI messing up its own work by diving down dead ends and chasing non-stories. At its worst, it might provoke Trump into doing something very violent in Syria to distract attention. At its best, the FBI’s clumsiness will help get him off much more serious charges.

Like I say, how the hell did that happen?

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in