The $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels by the personal lawyer for Donald Trump raises the chilling possibility that Trump is subject to blackmail, according to security experts interviewed on that subject by The Washington Post on Tuesday. In fact, the experts said, if Trump were a regular government employee, he would likely fail to pass a security clearance test.
The question of whether Trump is currently being blackmailed by the Russian government has been raised repeatedly in light of allegations in the "Steele Dossier," the file compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, and which alleges deep business and personal ties between Trump and Russia.
That dossier includes allegations that Trump has engaged in sexually compromising behavior during visits to Russia, behavior that may have been captured on tape by Russian intelligence and used as leverage over Trump — in particular during his November 2013 visit when he was allegedly filmed by Russian intelligence as he enjoyed a "golden showers" urination show performed by Russian prostitutes whom Trump had hired for that purpose, in a Moscow hotel room. Whether the so-called "pee tape" exists, and if so, whether it is being used as blackmail material by the Russian government to gain control of Trump, has become one of the most publicized questions in the ongoing Russia collusion investigation.
Trump's defenders have argued that he cannot be blackmailed simply because he in the past has openly and, it appeared, happily become famous for his marital infidelities and sexual adventurism. But according to the experts quoted by the Post, the Daniels affair proves that Trump is anything but blackmail-proof.
"If you get into paying hush money, there are consequences — or at least some indication that there might be something that you don't want exposed, and therefore something that had to be looked into," former FBI Assistant Director Joseph Lewis, a 30-year FBI veteran, told the paper.
In Trump's case, not only Daniels, the adult video star, but Karen McDougal — a former Playboy Playmate of the Year — has also claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Trump, and been paid off to keep it quiet. In McDougal's case, the payment of $150,000 came through the National Enquirer, owned by Trump's close friend David Pecker.
"Would alleged relationships that Trump or his allies (as in the McDougal case) paid to cover up put Trump at similar risk?" wrote Washington Post reporter Philip Bump. "Yes, according to experts."
According to federal guidelines for obtaining a security clearance, an applicant must come up clean after an investigation into a number of personal areas — perhaps most importantly, "Sexual Behavior: 'Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include: … (c) sexual behavior that causes an individual to be vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or duress.'"
And more broadly, security clearance applicants must also pass a general investigation into "personal conduct," including, "(a) deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of relevant facts from any personnel security questionnaire, … (b) deliberately providing false or misleading information; or concealing or omitting information."
Trump's apparent attempts to sweep his alleged affairs with Daniels and McDougal under the rug, using hush money bribes and, reportedly, financial and physical threats, leave him vulnerable in both the areas off "sexual behavior" and "personal conduct," meaning that investigators looking into Trump's hypothetical security clearance would assume that Trump could be blackmailed in either of those areas.
Trump, however, was never required to pass a security clearance investigation. According to the experts consulted by The Post, the 2016 presidential election was considered Trump's security clearance inquiry, and the American electorate judged him to be a safe security risk — though at the time of the election, the public was unaware of the Daniels situation, in part because Trump or his lawyer bribed Daniels to keep the story from going public less that two weeks before the election.