President Donald Trump’s decision to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels in an effort to keep her quiet about an affair they had is continuing to cause his team legal headaches. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has unveiled a new line of inquiry into the payment, seeking information from former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone, who uncovered the story in real time as it was unfolding before the 2016 election. After her then-superiors at the network shot down her reporting, the story didn’t emerge until The Wall Street Journal published an account of the pay-off the following year.
Falzone hasn’t backed down, however. After The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer published a profile of Fox News’ relationship with the Trump team that covered the incident with her Stormy Daniels reporting, she sought to be freed from a nondisclosure agreement she’d signed with the network after previous litigation involving the two of them in which Falzone had alleged gender discrimination after being demoted after uncovering the hush money.
Her lawyer Nancy Smith has asserted that she’s now effectively free from the agreement because of Cummings’ request for documents and testimony and will be complying, saying that no legally binding nondisclosure agreement trumps a government investigation. Cummings asked Salzone for:
‘All documents in you or your agent’s custody, control, or possession referring to or relating to women alleging extramarital affairs with Donald Trump, payments by the President or anyone on his behalf to silence them, or any other potential campaign finance violation’
Falzone is in a good position to have relevant documents, having determined specific details of the arrangement before the election, according to Daniels’ former lawyer Keith Davidson. He told MSNBC’s Ari Melber that Falzone had asked him for comment while initially researching the story and at the time, had information including the payment size and the corporate names used for the original agreement.
The arrangement was not legal, and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen will soon be reporting for a three-year jail term in part because of his participation in the scheme. The hush money amounted to a campaign finance law violation because prosecutors determined it constituted an effort to prop up Trump’s presidential campaign and not, as some in the Trump camp have claimed, an effort to protect the eventual president’s marriage.
Davidson himself has asserted that the hush money effort was political, as evidenced by it getting underway shortly after the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape on which Trump can be heard bragging about his supposed freedom to commit sexual assault.
Trump claimed at one point that he didn’t have anything to do with the payoff — but he did, having personally directed Cohen to come up with the money for the Daniels payment and then reimbursing him while he was in office. In connection to recent public Congressional testimony that Cohen offered before Cummings’ committee, he revealed Donald Trump’s and even Donald Trump Jr.’s signatures on the checks reimbursing him, ensuring that the Trump team’s legal vulnerability continues.