Stormy Daniels says working in porn helps prepare her for scrutiny over alleged affair with Trump

Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, poses for pictures at the end of her striptease show in Gossip Gentleman club in Long Island, New York, on Feb 23, 2018.
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, poses for pictures at the end of her striptease show in Gossip Gentleman club in Long Island, New York, on Feb 23, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Ms Stormy Daniels has said that her work in the porn industry has helped her prepare for the international attention she faces on the eve of a much-anticipated television interview about her alleged affair with US President Donald Trump and the hush money she says she received to keep it quiet.

"Being in the adult industry, I've developed a thick skin and maybe a little bit of a dark sense of humour," she told The Washington Post on Saturday (March 24). "But nothing could truly prepare someone for this."

Ms Daniels is scheduled to be the star attraction of the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening, a broadcast that caps a two-week media blitz by her attorney Michael Avenatti.

As Ms Daniels' image and story have become 24/7 fodder for cable news shows, Mr Avenetti has hinted repeatedly that there are more details yet to come out - including in a tweet last Friday suggesting that he has a DVD with new information.

In a brief interview on Saturday evening, with Mr Avenatti on the line, Ms Daniels sounded upbeat, even as she acknowledged that the media circus she has attracted has changed her day-to-day life as a wife, mother and adult-film director.

"Without a doubt it's cutting into my horse show time," said Ms Daniels, who is an avid equestrian. "And time with friends."

The "60 Minutes" broadcast comes just 72 hours after former Playboy centrefold Karen McDougal spoke to CNN about her own alleged affair with Mr Trump. Ms McDougal has sued to break free of a confidentiality agreement that was struck in the months before the 2016 election, for which she was paid US$150,000.

Ms McDougal says she signed her contract with the parent company of the National Enquirer, which is helmed by a friend of Mr Trump's, and which bought her story not to publish it, but to bury it.

Both women say their relationships with Mr Trump began in 2006 and ended in 2007 and that they were paid for their silence in the months before the 2016 presidential election.

Representatives of Mr Trump have dismissed the allegations of Ms McDougal and Ms Daniels, saying that the affairs never happened and that Mr Trump had no knowledge of any payments.

But the two prime time interviews - along with a judge's decision this week to let a defamation lawsuit filed by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos, who alleges Mr Trump groped her, move forward - have intensified the spotlight on the president's history with women.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told her story long before Mr Trump was elected president: In 2011, she gave an interview to the tabloid In Touch. But the interview was not published at the time. In 2016, during the final months of the presidential campaign, she again started talking to media outlets, though she did not give another interview.

Instead, she and her former lawyer struck a deal with Mr Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, according to Ms Daniels' lawsuit. In late October, just days before the presidential election, she was paid US$130,000 in exchange for her silence, the lawsuit says. The Wall Street Journal revealed the payment in January, and In Touch published its interview with Ms Daniels not long afterwards.

Beyond titillating details of a porn star's affair with the now-president, the "60 Minutes" interview could provide new details about that alleged effort to silence Ms Daniels. The payment has become the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

Mr Cohen, has said that he made the payment, though he has not said what it was for. The government watchdog group Common Cause argues that the payment was intended to influence the 2016 election by silencing Ms Daniels and therefore was an illegal in-kind contribution to Mr Trump's campaign. Mr Cohen has called the Common Cause complaints "baseless".

While her newfound status as a household name has improved her marketability, increasing her fees for strip club appearances, speaking out carries real financial risks for Ms Daniels.

In her lawsuit filed earlier this month, she argues that the agreement she signed - which requires that she stay silent on matters related to Mr Trump and take any dispute to secret arbitration - is null and void because Mr Trump did not actually sign the document. But if the court holds that the agreement is valid, Ms Daniels could owe a hefty bill.

Each violation of the agreement carries a penalty of US$1 million (S$1.3 million). In court documents filed last week, Mr Cohen said that Ms Daniels had already breached the contract at least 20 times and that he intends to collect at least US$20 million from her.

Mr Avenatti has been seeking to build anticipation for the "60 Minutes" interview with constant television appearances and enigmatic tweets. Two days after filing a lawsuit against Mr Trump in Los Angeles Superior Court, he tweeted a photograph of himself with Ms Daniels and journalist Anderson Cooper with the Twitter handle @60Minutes and no further comment.

Later, he teased the interview with another photo - this one of Mr Cooper and Ms Daniels under a bank of TV studio lights.

Last Friday, Mr Avenetti tweeted the photograph of a DVD that he told CNN shows evidence of Ms Daniels' relationship with Mr Trump and that he called a "warning shot" to Mr Trump and his personal attorney.

Mr Avenatti has also said that his client has received personal threats because of her allegations against Mr Trump. He has said that Ms Daniels will speak about the threats in detail on "60 Minutes".

Mr Cohen has dismissed that notion, telling Politico that he has "never threatened her in any way and I am unaware of anyone else doing so".

Ms Daniels told The Post on Saturday that she has been the target of hatred on social media in recent weeks. But she said she also has been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support.

When somebody recently accused her of being a liar on Twitter, she said, she received a flood of messages with hashtags like #Ibelieveyou and #teamstormy.

"I didn't do this to get any sort of approval from anyone or recognition," she said. "I simply wanted to tell my personal truth and defend myself."