How Stormy Daniels Is Winning the Battle With Donald Trump

Stormy Daniels would seem to be an unlikely paragon of revolutionary female politics. But in the Trump era, it could not be any other way.

Playboy bunnies and porn stars are Trump's ideal women, who by virtue of their careers let him suspend his disbelief about women's bodily functions. They are airbrushed against age and blemish, bleached and boobjobbed into an idealized version of femininity.

As someone who provokes male desire for a living, Daniels (given name: Stephanie Clifford) exposes the lie that some men tell themselves about the inevitability of male domination, sexual and otherwise. Trump might well be less alarmed about Daniels's allegations of a thug in the parking lot, than that Stormy actually did not enjoy sex with him. (She did seem to enjoy allegedly spanking him on his underpants with his own magazine cover.)

It is likely he remembers the encounter very much differently.

When Anderson Cooper asked Daniels if she wanted to have sex with Trump, she replied, flatly: no. "I was like, 'Ugh, here we go,'" she recalled. "And I just felt like maybe it was sort of — I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, 'Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.'"

But she went along with it anyway, and said the encounter was consensual.

Daniels also has some natural political skills. Besides ace-ing her widely anticipated television appearance, Daniels's witty Tweets and salty sense of humor recall fellow Louisianans James Carville and former Gov. Edwin Edwards. Edwards famously said in 1983, "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."

In standing up to Trump and his trolling supporters, Daniels has been facing a firehose of slut-shaming and misogyny, and she has gained a following online for her snappy retorts. "Slut and whore are words used by people who feel threatened. I find power in them," she replied to one Tweeter who was using those words early this month.

On Saturday night, she frightened off someone who had made much of her enhanced breasts. "Haha! What does that say about you since they got YOUR attention? Of course, my tits are fake (I've never claimed otherwise)," she wrote. "Riding into my 60 Minutes interview on a fucking unicorn would be more believable than my boobs being all natural." The original tweeter appears to have blocked her.

"Stormy is indeed a woman of courage. She runs the risk each day of catching her anklets in her earrings," another user wrote Saturday. Daniels replied, "Whoa!!! You can call me many things BUT I never over-accessorize!"

Her elevation to female hero and possible vanquisher of Donald would all be just another comic chapter in our national Carl Hiaasen novel if Daniels's key allegations weren't so dark. She says that in 2011, after telling her Trump story to In Touch Weekly , a man approached her in a parking lot in Las Vegas. "I was going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. Taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin' all the stuff out," Daniels said. "And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone."

"I was rattled," she continued. "I remember going into the workout class. And my hands are shaking so much, I was afraid I was gonna drop her."

She stayed silent for five years, but in 2016, as Trump got nominated, the story started to bubble up again. When her manager and lawyer approached her in the month before the 2016 election with Michael Cohen's offer of $130,000, she took it and signed what she has called a hush contract that she's now trying to void. "The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety," Daniels said.

Cooper grilled lawyer Michael Avenatti about why Daniels signed false statements about the affair three times, and about his own connections to the Democrats (Avenetti once worked for Democrat operative and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel). "This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb," Avenatti pushed back. "It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy."

Daniels is a canny businesswoman, and she has admitted that she wants to profit from her connection to Trump. Besides taking a strip show — called "Make America Horny Again" — on the road, she has been making good use of her minutes of fame. "Being in the adult industry, I've developed a thick skin and maybe a little bit of a dark sense of humor," she told the Washington Post.

Trump's lawyers are threatening to sue Daniels for $20 million, for breaking the agreement. The huge damage claim is straight out of the traditional Trump legal playbook. Over the course of his business career, he has often deployed the outrageously high monetary demand in threatening lawsuits. He sued author Tim O'Brien for $5 billion after O'Brien revealed that Trump was worth far less than he claimed. A judge finally tossed the case — but not until after Trump had taken it to the appellate level. He sued Deutsche Bank for $3 billion over a loan he didn't want to repay, and he sued Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for more than $100 million after Schneiderman called his Trump University a fraud and a con.

But he has extracted millions from broken agreements before. When a Miss USA contestant, Sheena Monnin, publicly accused his pageant of being rigged, An arbitrator awarded Trump $5 million in damages — and Monnin had to pay. In Stormy Daniels's case, the high damage demand could also operate as a warning shot to keep other women — Daniels's lawyer and Steve Bannon have alleged there are more in the shadows — from breaking similar agreements.

But it's just possible that in Daniels, a woman who Trump may have expected to lie down and take it , he has met his match. Daniels's style recalls a saying attributed to another Louisiana great, Gov. Huey Long, who once observed: "I used to get things done by saying please. Now I dynamite 'em out of my path."