President Donald Trump agreed to a scheme in which his lawyer Michael Cohen paid the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels $130,000 in late 2016 in order to prevent her from going public with the story of her alleged affair with Trump 10 years earlier.
The Wall Street Journal reported the payments in early 2018, and Michael Cohen testified before Congress last week about how the scheme worked, even producing signed checks for the times when Trump, as president, reimbursed Cohen for the payments. Cohen said in court, while pleading guilty last year, that Trump directed him to make the payments, which may be a felony, and Southern District of New York prosecutors are investigating that very matter.
Supporters of the president have had varying responses to the different stories related to Daniels, but one Republican Senator on Wednesday came up with a new one in a national TV interview.
Appearing on CNN (per Mediaite), Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota was asked about the payments and the checks signed by the president, and Rounds had an unusual reply.
“I think most of us have a concern whenever you have a president working through some personal matters… I honestly think this president loves his family, and it has as much to do with trying not to have public discussions about something that for him was a private matter that he didn’t want to have discussed with his family.”
Rounds added that he every time he thinks about this, he comes back to that exact issue.
Rounds also said in the CNN interview that he didn’t want to “litigate” whether the payments should be considered an illegal violation of campaign finance laws.
Trump has denied, over the last two years, that he ever had an affair with Daniels. In addition, he has also engaged in multiple lawsuits with her and even ripped her on Twitter.
In early 2018, the week Daniels gave an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes about her purported affair with Trump, a group of women who support Trump, in a focus group on CNN, per video posted to YouTube, called the Daniels story a “media plot to sink Trump,” with one woman asking why a porn star would have any credibility. Another USA Today poll of Trump voters around the same time quoted several Trump supporters with a different reaction: They believed the allegations but didn’t care.
Rounds, a former two-term governor of South Dakota, was elected the state’s junior senator in 2014.