Jul 22, 2018

Trump's Bill Clinton problem

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Not since the Bill Clinton sex scandals of the 1990s has the national conversation focused on a president's personal life on so many fronts so often.

And not since the 1990s has sex been part of a federal investigation stirring calls for impeachment: Kristin Davis, known as the "Manhattan Madam" for the high-end prostitution ring she ran in the 2000s, says Robert Mueller's prosecutors have notified her that he wants to interview her — probably about her close friend, Roger Stone, she tells the WashPost.

Karen McDougal, the former Playmate who claims she had an affair with Trump, will stay in the news now that the FBI has a recording Michael Cohen secretly made of Trump, then his client, discussing payments to her.

  • Trump tweeted yesterday that the tape is "perhaps illegal" — which, as the N.Y. Times put it, "signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen."

And there may be a lot more revelations: Jonathan Swan, reporting yesterday that Michael Cohen has begun privately questioning Trump's fitness to be president, points out: "The question of what Cohen knows about Trump is now a far more compelling question than it was in the days when Cohen would tell anybody who'd listen that he'd take a bullet ... for his boss."

  • The porn star Stormy Daniels, in a blitz orchestrated by lawyer Michael Avenatti, has filed suits accusing Trump of defamation and Cohen of collusion after the lawyer paid her $130,000 just before the election in order to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
  • A BBC documentary airing in the U.S. this weekend — called "Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?," a British terms for a harasser — reports a claim that Trump once told a 17-year-old model when he was pursuing her: “Oh, great. So you’re not too old and not too young. That’s just great.”

Be smart: Beyond the morality tale, do any of these sexual transgressions hurt Trump, politically? No evidence they have so far. Truth is, they will only hurt if they lead to legal and impeachment action against Trump. 

Go deeper

Warren sees bump in national poll following Nevada debate

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren surged to 19% and second place in a CBS News/YouGov national poll released Sunday, trailing front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (28%) but edging out Joe Biden (17%) and Michael Bloomberg (13%).

Why it matters: The poll notes that only 42% of Democratic primary voters have made up their minds. While Warren underperformed in the first three states, her strong debate performance in Nevada last week may have given her campaign new life.

Pence aide says intel report of Russia helping Trump is "false information"

Marc Short. Screenshot: Fox News

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that the White House has not received intelligence that Russia is seeking to help President Trump win re-election, calling it "false information" that has been selectively leaked by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

The big picture: Short and national security adviser Robert O'Brien both dismissed reports published in the Washington Post and New York Times last week about a briefing provided by top election security official Shelby Pierson, an aide to outgoing acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Bernie's juggernaut

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in San Antonio last night with his wife, Jane. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders won so big in the Nevada caucuses that Democrats are hard-pressed to sketch a way he's not their nominee.

Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.