Appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in October 2018, adult film star Stormy Daniels was asked to look at a lineup of mushrooms and pick the one that best resembled President Donald Trump’s penis. Daniels had become a household name overnight after it was revealed that a decade earlier, she’d had an alleged sexual relationship with Trump. And 21 months into his presidency, there she was promoting a book and talking about his junk.?
Despite the prestigious media appearances alongside her just-as-famous lawyer Michael Avenatti, Daniels was still something of a punchline: A woman derided for being openly sexual, demeaned for having an alleged affair with a married man, and paid $130,000 to keep quiet while that very man was running for president.
And yet here we are five years later, after Cohen’s stint in prison, Avenatti currently serving time, Trump on the precipice of accountability, and Daniels the last woman left standing. Now she could very well be the reason a former president is indicted for the first time in American history.
Daniels took to Twitter Sunday night to share her feelings about the man who has reportedly caused her so much pain potentially finally getting his comeuppance. “I only respond when he posts about me or talks about me on TV...and only a fraction of that,” she tweeted, likely in reference to Trump recently insulting her physical appearance. Daniels as a key player in Trump's historic potential indictment marks a shift in the years'-long narrative of Daniels’ alleged entanglement with the former president. It's a symbolic victory, at the very least, for the many women who have spoken out against Trump’s alleged bad behavior toward them.
Though Daniels alleges that her affair with Trump (which he denies) took place way back in 2006, the bombshell dropped in January 2018 when lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 hush money payment to her was made public for the first time. As the story goes, Cohen, a personal lawyer for Trump, caught wind of the fact that Daniels planned to go public with her story shortly before the 2016 election, paid her the sum and had her sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep quiet.?
It turns out Trump never signed the NDA, but did reimburse Cohen for the money. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office then opened an investigation into the shady dealings in 2018, but it wasn’t until this year that there was finally movement. Most recently, Trump was invited to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the payments made to Daniels, and suddenly things got really real, really quick.
“I’m tired of being threatened,” Daniels told the hosts of "The View" in April 2018, of Trump and his various associates. “And intimidating me and trying to say that you’ll ruin my life and take all of my money and my house or whatever — I’m sorry, I’m done. I’m done being bullied.” She later wrote in her book, “Full Disclosure,” that that was the time the “death threats against me and my family started ratcheting up.”?
As absurd as it sounds on its face that an adult film star could be the one to bring down the president, it makes absolute sense when the president in question is Trump. The business mogul turned reality TV star turned once-ruler of the free world has had a most improbable career trajectory. And even when his multiple divorces, affairs, and allegations of sexual misconduct and assault took center stage in his 2016 campaign, voters still looked at him and said that’s my guy.?
Even the infamous Access Hollywood tape couldn’t stop him: Thanks to Trump, the words “grab ‘em by the p----” permanently entered the cultural lexicon, and yet somehow the women wearing pink pussycat hats in protest became the punchline. He’s spent a lifetime describing women in grotesque terms like “crazed, crying lowlife,” “dog,” and “pig,” and famously referred to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman.” And he hasn’t shown any more respect for the women in his life: His alleged affair with Daniels took place months after his current wife and former first lady Melania Trump gave birth to their son, Barron. Ex-wife Ivanka Trump once claimed Trump raped her, though she later retracted the claim.?
Trump has groped and jeered and drummed the beat of misogyny throughout his whole life, which makes Daniels’ potential triumph feel that much sweeter, especially considering all of the other women he left in his wake.?
We know that Daniels met with New York prosecutors last week in relation to the probe against Trump, and it’s not yet clear if she’ll testify before the grand jury. But what we do know is that she’s finally able to make her voice heard and seek some semblance of justice, which is something the many other women whom Trump has allegedly demeaned or violated or attacked have not been able to seek.
A Trump indictment won’t erase the pain he’s caused for E. Jean Carroll, Summer Zervos, Natasha Stoynoff, Jill Harth, and the other women he allegedly tried to break in order to gain and maintain power. (Again, Trump denies any allegations of sexual assault or misconduct). But with Daniels at the center of what could be the first domino to fall in Trump’s many criminal investigations, there could be some small sense of female restitution.?