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Disclose This

Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels ((Reuters/Eduardo Munoz))

During the campaign, when numerous women accused Donald Trump of being a sexual aggressor, his most ardent fans — and even his more transactional ones — were eager to give the GOP nominee the benefit of the doubt. Trump not only denied all the accusations, he claimed he was suing the women. He never sued.

Whatever you made of that whole sordid chapter, it was at least understandable at every level. If you believed Trump was telling the truth, it all made sense. If you believed the women, their stories made sense, too. But not only that, their lies made sense. For Trump partisans, it was easy to imagine why these accusers would lie to bring down Trump. For anti-Trump partisans, it was easy to see why he would lie about being innocent.

The storm over Stormy Daniels is different. The official Trump position, I gather, is that the story is untrue (though Trump himself has remained silent on the matter). Whether you believe him or not, that makes sense. But beyond that, it turns into a kind of logical Möbius strip. According to Michael Cohen, Trump’s self-described “fixer” lawyer, he paid out of his own pocket to get Daniels to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) about something he claims never happened. “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage,” Cohen said.

But wait a second. If what Daniels alleges is not true, then she is guilty of a crime, right? I’m no legal beagle, but if no tryst occurred, then Daniels is fabricating a story and extorting money from Trump so she’ll quit spreading her lies. Right?

Even if it’s not a crime, when those other women came forward to accuse Trump of bad behavior, the response from Team Trump was to sue — or at least threaten to sue. But in this case, they paid her 130 grand and had her sign a non-disclosure statement.

Let’s stop there for a second. An NDA agreement is kinda-sorta by definition a tool for preventing people from telling the truth. A “non-slander agreement” would be a very different thing, right? It would be like formalized, contractual blackmail. No one is going to pay me $130,000 to not disclose that Donald Trump and I went on a gay cruise together, where we drank mimosas by day and sang Cabaret long into the night, because it didn’t happen. And if I threatened to “tell my story,” Trump really could sue me for lying.

But Cohen is threatening to sue Daniels not for lying about Trump but for violating her agreement not to disclose the truth.

Meanwhile, except for the stray botty Twitter account, no one really seems to be defending Trump on the grounds that Daniels is lying, never mind that Trump would never do such a thing. But my point here isn’t to get into all the related arguments about adultery, or (the monumental) right-wing hypocrisy about adultery, or even whether or not we should care that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star. Nor is it to weigh-in on whether Cohen’s payment was a campaign contribution. It’s simply to point out how weird it is that so many people are pretending that seeking to enforce a non-disclosure agreement (which Trump didn’t sign) is a denial when, as a matter of basic logic, it’s an admission. I can understand the confusion; these are confusing times.

But the only person who seems to have really figured out how to navigate through it all with her head held high starred in such classic films as The Witches of Breastwick, Porking with Pride 2, and Trailer Trash Nurses 6.

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