One day after Donald Trump made his first public statements about Stormy Daniels, denying that he knew anything about the $130,000 “hush money” payment sent to Daniels by his attorney Michael Cohen, a group of Christian evangelical leaders say that they want a face-to-face meeting with Trump to talk about his involvement with Daniels.
Daniels says that she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, and that just days before the 2016 presidential election, Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about it. Trump has not yet commented publicly on the alleged affair itself, but White House spokespersons have said that he denies it took place.
Until now, Christian evangelicals—specifically, white Christian evangelicals—have supported Trump in unwavering fashion, with 81 percent of white evangelicals having voted for Trump in 2016. Despite describing themselves as “values voters,” white evangelicals as a group have shown indifference to the scandals and misconduct allegations emerging from Trump’s personal life.
In fact, shortly after the Daniels “hush money” story broke in the Wall Street Journal in January, one top conservative Christian leader, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, said that he would give Trump a “mulligan” and a “do-over” when it comes to the alleged affair with Daniels, because despite his personal foibles, Trump is willing to “punch” liberals.
Fully 70 percent of white evangelicals said that they approve of Trump’s performance in the Oval Office as recently as early March—almost two months after news of the Daniels affair and payoff became public—according to a CBS News poll. A Pew Research Center poll conducted around the same time found 80 percent of that group continuing to back Trump.
But now, according to sources who spoke to National Public Radio for a report broadcast today, white evangelical leaders are “very concerned” about the Daniels scandal, and are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Trump in Washington D.C. sometime in June.
However, according to Friday’s report, the evangelical leaders are concerned not as much with Trump’s behavior, as with how the Stormy Daniels scandal might impact Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, to be held on November 6.
Confronting the evangelicals was not the only Daniels-related headache that arose for Trump on Friday, following his public denial that he was aware of Cohen's payoff to Daniels. Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Daniels in the case, said that with Trump’s public statement, “Christmas has arrived” for him and his client. The "hush" agreement with Daniels cannot be valid, Avenatti said, if one of the parties to the agreement, Trump, had no knowldege that it existed.
Avenatti also said on Thursday that he would now refile his motion with the court to put Trump under oath in a deposition, subjecting him to cross-examination. Avenatti’s original motion to depose Trump was denied by a judge as “premature” because Trump had to be given the chance to file for an arbitration hearing regarding the non-disclosure agreement. With that agreement now apparently having been shown to be invalid, Daniels' lawsuit should proceed, and depositions scheduled.
Public domain photo by Ali Shaker/Voice of America