Did Trump have yet another Playboy model paid off while he was president?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post wondering if maybe Elliot Broidy wasn't actually a client of Michael Cohen. This was based on a passing comment by Michael Avenatti about Broidy not being named as one of the three clients in open court as people assumed. (He was named in the filing.)
Anyway, law professor Paul Campos at New York Magazine had the same suspicion I had. Indeed, he wonders if the Trump and Rudy show in which they admit that Trump paid off Stormy Daniels and possibly other women as well, was a PR stunt designed to get out in front of this.
He recaps the Broidy story here:
The Wall Street Journal published a story on April 13 revealing the existence of another nondisclosure agreement involving an affair between an adult entertainer and a client of Cohen’s. The NDA employed the pseudonyms David Dennison and Peggy Peterson — the same names used in the Stormy Daniels NDA — and was otherwise very similar to the Trump-Daniels agreement.
According to this newly revealed NDA, Dennison agreed to pay Peterson $1.6 million, in exchange for Peterson’s promise not to reveal the affair or her claim that Dennison had impregnated her. This NDA, like the Trump-Daniels document, was negotiated by attorneys Keith Davidson, on behalf of Peterson, and Michael Cohen, on behalf of Dennison. Payments were also delivered through Essential Consultants LLC, the same LLC created by Cohen to facilitate payments in the Stormy Daniels deal.
Whatever source revealed the existence of this NDA to the Journalalso disclosed that, according to another document in Cohen’s office, the Dennison in this agreement was not Donald Trump but rather Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser, while Peterson was Shera Bechard, Playboy’s Miss November 2010. Apparently, Bechard had been Broidy’s mistress until he got her pregnant, at which point she hired Davidson, who contacted Cohen to demand the payment of hush money.
By a stroke of good fortune, Cohen already had a sex-scandal-with-an-adult-entertainer-hush-money-NDA template in his hard drive, since he had recently drafted at least one for Donald Trump. Indeed, Cohen didn’t even bother to change the pseudonyms. (That economical use of attorney resources explained away what otherwise could have been a very awkward detail in the narrative.)
This is the story that was leaked to the Journal — and to the New York Times, and CNN, which the Journal beat to the punch by publishing it first. It has since been repeated as fact by just about every major media outlet in the country. But there are good reasons to consider whether it might not be yet another audacious lie from Trumpworld.
Let me offer an alternative explanation of the affair and the payoff. It is still just a hypothesis, but, I would argue, it fits more comfortably with what we know about the various players than the reported version of events: Donald Trump, not Elliott Broidy, had an affair with Shera Bechard. Bechard hired Keith Davidson, who had negotiated both Playboy playmate Karen McDougal’s deal with the National Enquirer and Stormy Daniels’s NDA with Trump. Davidson called Cohen, and the two of them negotiated a $1.6 million payment to Bechard.
At this point Cohen needed to find a funding source. Cohen asserts he took out a home equity loan to come up with a mere $130,000 to pay off Stormy Daniels, so it seems clear he couldn’t have fronted the $1.6 million for the Bechard deal himself. So Cohen reached out to Elliott Broidy, a very rich Republican fundraiser with several pending and highly lucrative business deals with foreign governments: deals that hinged on whether Broidy could convince the U.S. government to take various actions. By stepping up to take responsibility for the affair and to fund the seven-figure settlement, Broidy was ensuring that he could continue to peddle his influence with Trump to governments around the world. Which is to say, it was a cover-up concealing a bribe.
So, according to this hypothesis, when Cohen’s office was raided by federal prosecutors, they found documentation of what was actually a fabricated affair, concocted by Cohen and Davidson to create a justification for funneling Broidy’s money to Bechard, while creating a paper record designed to protect Trump from further exposure.
This account — as bizarre as it may seem at first glance — is actually more plausible than the story leaked to the Journal, the New York Times, and CNN.
He then goes on to lay out in great detail a boatload of circumstantial evidence including the fact that Bechard had been Hugh Hefner's girlfriend and Trump and Hef's friendship ended mysteriously at that time, Broidy's history of paying off corrupt politicians, unlike Trump, Broidy has no history of womanizing, the inexplicable contacts between the lawyers Dennison and Cohen, the fishy settlement figure and the weird idea that someone with Broidy's wealth and connections would hire a mook like Michael Cohen out of the blue to handle such a delicate matter, all of which is worth reading in detail.
He concludes with this:
Broidy’s behavior following the raid is simply inexplicable. The current assumption is that Broidy knew that his payments to Bechard (through the LLC) would eventually become public, given that they were now in the possession of the Feds. But in fact, it was far from certain that they would. Cohen’s lawyers and Trump’s lawyers were fighting to keep Cohen’s attorney-client communications confidential, and it is quite possible that Broidy’s payments would never come to light. And even if they did, he could surely deny to the press that they were his. Broidy claims to have paid $1.6 million to keep his affair with Bechard quiet. Why throw away that entire investment at the first sign that this secret might eventually be exposed? By reacting in the manner he did, Broidy ensured that what was still at the time only a worst-case scenario became an immediate certainty, as opposed to remaining a down-the-line possibility.
If this theory is correct, the press bears some of the blame for allowing a self-serving and corrupt lie to enter the public record as news. At the bottom of this whole tangled situation, there are two undeniable facts: Trump has a habit of having sex with women exactly like Bechard, and then paying them off to stay silent, and Broidy is a man who pays large sums of money, legally and illegally, to influence powerful politicians. That convergence should have set off alarm bells in the minds of journalists when someone decided, immediately after Cohen’s office was raided, to reveal the existence of an NDA between Broidy and Bechard.
But those alarm bells apparently never went off in the offices of the WSJ, the Times, or CNN. And it’s easy enough to understand why: Broidy’s confession seemed, at least under the pressures of deadline journalism, like a classic example of what lawyers call an admission against interest, that is, a statement that should be treated as presumptively true.
But what if Broidy was actually faced with the choice of either falsely confessing to impregnating Bechard or, in the alternative, candidly confessing to having paid a seven-figure bribe to the president of the United States? That would certainly explain his otherwise remarkable willingness to instantly confess to a reporter the very secret he had supposedly paid so much money to keep out of the public eye.
What is most striking about this affair is that the story leaked to the media has no evidence to support it, other than the assertions of people who have every reason to lie about it. Consider what the narrative would look like if, when the story broke, the public had learned that Cohen’s office had a copy of another NDA, that provided for the payment of $1.6 million to a Playboy playmate to buy her silence about an affair, and that Broidy had agreed to pay that sum into the very same LLC that Cohen had created to funnel the money paid to hush up Trump’s liaison with Stormy Daniels. Would anyone believe Broidy’s after-the-fact protestations that, despite all appearances, he wasn’t paying off yet another of Trump’s mistresses, as a quid pro quo to his beleaguered patron? At a minimum, one would hope the veracity of Broidy’s confession would actually have been investigated. (According to the Journal’s story, Bechard claimed that Broidy had been paying her for an exclusive sexual relationship that lasted one to two years. Such an arrangement should be easy to document.)
This payoff happened while Trump was president. If this is true, it's a shocker, even for Trump.
Campos asked Avenatti about it and he said cryptically:
“There are considerable and serious questions as to this alleged settlement. Many things about it simply do not appear to add up or pass the smell test.”
Broidy, you'll recall, was the RNC finance chairman. And he was involved in some very shady financial transactions with the middle eastern fixer George Nader who was revealed last month to have been in on the meeting in the Seychelles with Erik Prince and the Russian oligarch. This is a very tangled web.
Read the whole thing if you're intrigued. There is a lot of detail and it's quite convincing.