These are indeed the two key questions about Stormy Daniels and others similarly situated to Donald Trump:
1. How many other sexual partners has Trump paid hush money to?
2. How many foreign intelligences services know about one or more of those women?
As we’ve discussed before, the stock answer that Donald Trump “can’t be blackmailed” is very obviously false — if it was true, we’d have his tax returns. But it’s also clear that there are things about these stories he doesn’t want public, and in context that’s a serious issue:
Now obviously nobody seriously believed that Trump was chaste and pure as the driven snow before we heard from Daniels. He’s never really tried to sell himself as a family man in the traditional sense, and wears the hypocrisy of his political commitment to abortion restrictions and abstinence only sex education very lightly. All that said, for one reason or another Trump is clearly quite committed to trying to prevent his former partners from discussing their dalliances in public. He and his associates are willing to put cash on the line for this, threaten massive legal consequences, and perhaps even engage in acts of physical intimidation.
Trump has secrets that Trump regards as worth keeping.
And while that put Daniels under pressure, it means that entities with more power and sophistication than an adult film actress can use those secrets to put pressure on Trump. The president has successfully cultivated an image as so flaky and incompetent, that his many baffling decisions on the world stage — from leaking Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister to undercutting his own administration’s policy on Qatar to mysteriously leaving Japan off a list of allies exempted from steel tariffs — generally get written off as evidence that Trump is flaky and incompetent, rather than being actively manipulated by foreign actors.
Like everyone else, I am on some level merely curious as to whether there are embarrassing facts — or, even more embarrassing, tapes or photos — about the president’s sex life. But precisely because a lot of people would be interested in embarrassing material about the president’s sex life — and because Trump, a very image conscious person, could be very worried about that interest — the existence of embarrassing secrets could well be a national security crisis for the country.
If Trump is in the habit of making these kind of payments, we need to have a full account of it. And the sooner the better.
It’s a very real scandal even leaving aside the fact the payments to Daniels themselves may well be illegal.