It’s become difficult to keep track of all the scandals swirling around Trump administration, even for those of us who cover them every day. Scandals are even starting to overlap and intersect each other, making it a particularly head-spinning experience to follow.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has sucked up most of the oxygen in the media for a year, and Stormy Daniels – the president’s porn star mistress who his lawyer, Michael Cohen, tried to silence with hush money – dominated headlines for much of the first half of 2018 as well.
With what ink and airtime news organizations have had left, they’ve covered the steady stream of reality-show style public firings, luxury travel scandals, and other self-inflicted drama at the White House since the very first days of the Trump era.
The Elliot Broidy scandal, meanwhile, has flown under the radar for the past two months, but it’s potentially the most destructive.
Elliott Broidy, you may or may not have read, is a millionaire Republican Party donor and fundraiser. Earlier this year, he was forced to admit to both having a sexual affair with Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard, and paying for her to have an abortion.
At the height of the Stormy Daniels coverage in early April of this year, the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s offices and home. A few days later, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about how Broidy hired Cohen to arrange a $1.6 million hush money payout and accompanying non-disclosure agreement with Brechard.
The appearance of the story so quickly after the FBI raid led many to believe that Cohen leaked the existence of Broidy’s NDA to get out in front of what was sure to be a massive scandal. But why?
Very few people knew who Elliott Broidy was before the Wall Street Journal report. And while both an affair with a Playboy model and the termination of a resulting pregnancy are certainly embarrassing revelations for a family values Republican like Broidy, he wasn’t exactly a high profile figure facing the prospect of public humiliation or catastrophic political downfall.
As Paul Waldman at the Washington Post put it, “$1.6 million is ‘Keep this out of the papers because it’ll be a huge story’ money, not ‘Don’t tell my wife’ money.”
Also curious was Broidy’s choice of Michael Cohen – someone so close to President Trump with whom he had no previous personal or business relationship – to negotiate the NDA and payment. Everything about this seemed fishy.
Many have suspected since the day the story broke that Broidy had in fact been recruited to take a fall for someone else – a Republican with a much higher profile and a history of both having extramarital affairs with women in and around the sex industry, and trying to cover them up with NDAs and hush money.
Also suspicious were the pseudonyms Cohen used for Elliott Broidy and Shera Bechard in their non-disclosure agreement: David Dennison and Peggy Peterson, respectively.
If those names sound familiar, they should. Those are the same names Cohen used for the NDA between Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. Trump apologists insist Cohen was just lazy, and legally the coincidence means nothing. Others smell a rat.
There’s certainly precedent for this kind of coverup. John Edwards, the former senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, covered up an affair and love child for months by having one of his donors take the fall publicly.
For those who have suspected President Donald Trump of similarly recruiting Broidy to do the same, they just got a massive piece of evidence to support their already well-documented theory.
The AP published a report today describing how, throughout 2017, Broidy had been using his proximity to President Trump to curry favor with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to secure lucrative defense contracts for himself and his business partner. While that story is a massive scandal in its own right, what’s particularly explosive is the confirmation of a meeting between he and President Trump at a particularly peculiar time.
The two had a private meeting on December 2nd of 2017, ostensibly to discuss his work behind the scenes with the Saudis and the UAE. Interestingly, however, it’s been long documented that Michale Cohen made the first payment of the $1.6 million hush money agreement between Broidy and Bechard on December 1st of 2017.
So on a Friday, Michael Cohen makes a payment to enforce a non-disclosure agreement between a Playboy Playmate and Elliot Broidy. On Saturday, Broidy has a private meeting with President Trump. Coincidence?
So many things about this just haven’t added up from the beginning. With today’s news, however, they’re finally starting to, just not in a way Trump’s supporters hoped they would.
Then again, few in the MAGA crowd have ever been accused of being math majors.