That was his stunning reply aboard Air Force One when asked if he was aware of the $130,000 payment made in his name to porn actress Stormy Daniels. Up to now, he's somehow been able to follow his lawyers' advice and remain totally silent on the subject. But yesterday, he was unable to help himself and simply had to respond. But by saying that one word only, "No," he may have screwed up his presidency even more than the FBI Russia investigation.
To be clear, I don't care much about what went on between Trump and Daniels. He's done SO much worse to the country. (Not to mention probably to so many more women.) That's why I haven't written much about it here. I'm slightly interested for the sake of continued hypocrisy among his followers. But what the two did together months after his wife gave birth is between him, her, and his clearly-infuriated wife.
What does interest me, though -- and greatly -- is how this all could impact his presidency. Not just questions about campaign financing laws, but also (indeed, much more) how Trump could be deposed under oath from all this and the fact that it's brought his lawyer Michael Cohen under the eye of the Special Counsel.
And that's where the "No" comes in.
By saying, "No," that he wasn't aware of the $130,000 payment, he opened the door to several problems. After all, there are only two possibilities here: 1) he's telling the truth, and 2) he's lying.
If Trump was telling the truth, then it would seemingly make the Non-Disclosure Agreement void, and Stormy Daniels is free to talk as much as possible on what she knows about Trump and anything they discussed, along with her now having free access to releasing any electronic material she has. And that, in turn, raises the question of all the other women who had signed NDAs which now might be null and void. But further, it also causes massive problems for lawyer Cohen, because that makes his $130,000 both a violation of campaign fiance laws by $127,300 -- AND makes him at serious risk of losing his law license, having acted in such a way without the knowledge of his client. And raises the question of where the money came from (since its is virtually unbelievable that the money came from the lawyer personally), perhaps instead Russian or Chinese financial sources. All of which makes Cohen highly-vulnerable to Robert Mueller's investigation.
And if Trump was lying, well...then, we get back to the pesky problem for Trump of Daniels' attorney Michael Avenati getting him under oath for his deposition. And it's not difficult to imagine the problems that that causes for Trump. There is almost free reign for what Avenati can ask in a deposition -- for which, again, Trump would be under oath. And he either answers all of that honesty (which would clearly be a massive horror for him), or he lies. Under oath. And that's never considered A Good Thing.
All from him making the mistake of following the advice of Nancy Reagan: Just say, 'No.'"
But on top of these problems, there was an interesting discussion about the ramifications of all this on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show last night. And most interesting of all was a question that New York Times writer Jennifer Rubin asked to attorney Avenati, who was on the panel. What she said to him, and I paraphrase, was basically this --
"I've wanted to ask you this. The thought has occurred to me that Donald Trump has had a great many affairs -- over a hundred we're told in Michael Wolff's book. So, it seems to me possible, if not likely that Trump set up a slush fund to pay all these women off. Maybe of a couple million dollars, or five million or 10 million dollars. And every time that there's one of these women who makes a charge against him, Michael Cohen knows to just dip into the slush fund and pay them off. And that's why he and Trump can say that Trump didn't know about the payment -- because it's just a general slush fund that Cohen can use whenever necessary. And the problem for Trump is that while his affair with Stormy Daniels was consensual, how many of those hundred were not? Is this something you have considered"
To which attorney Avenati was low-key and circumspect in his response, but the basic gist of his answer was -- "Yes."
Boy howdy, between "No" and "Yes," it was quite a one-word day.
And all the more so, since this in turn led back to a discussion about how if there was, in fact, a slush fund then where did the money for it come from? From Trump, or some outside source, perhaps foreign? Which once again lead back to Robert Mueller and the FBI investigation, which causes massive problems for Trump, but perhaps even more for Michael Cohen, who just got thrown under the bus by his boss.
And how bizarre that, for all the investigations going on for Trump, a simple, single word could potentially end up being so profoundly problematic.