ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Trump’s Sexual History; a Cause for Concern?

Donald Trump is famous, or maybe infamous, for his candor and seeming lack of filter when speaking. Recently, a story about the president and a pornographic actress, who uses the moniker Stormy Daniels, having an affair surfaced. While Trump and his staff denied the affair ever occurred, Trump’s lawyer did admit to paying Ms. Daniels $130,000 of his own money. Trump’s lawyer stated that he only paid Ms. Daniels to “protect Mr. Trump” and that “just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean it can’t cause harm.” And while that story has since gone cold, another woman has come forward alleging a similar affair with Mr. Trump.

Former Playboy playmate Karren McDougal has come forward alleging that she had a nine-month long affair with Mr. Trump, shortly after the birth of his son Barron. And while Mr. Trump and his administration have denied this affair, there is another suspect money trail attached. In 2016 American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, paid to acquire the rights in that story. AMI contracted with Ms. McDougal for an undisclosed amount of money and an agreement to publish columns, provide her a publicist, assist in the development of a skin care line, and assist her in a documentary on a medical issue. Ms. McDougal asserts that for the most part, AMI did not follow through on their end, but once the Stormy Daniels story came out, they were much more receptive to her.

By releasing the story, the former playmate and model has breached the contract she signed with AMI. While arguments can be made about Ms. McDougal’s understanding of the contract and the vague language used in it, they are unlikely to get her off the hook for the breach. However, barring a massive liquidated damages clause, Ms. McDougal is likely to only lose out on the money that AMI paid her. Should the Trump administration seek legal action, it would be tantamount to admitting that there is something that needs to stay private. As for AMI, they only have the contract to fall back on in seeking damages from Ms. McDougal, which will limit their ability to recover. Ms. McDougal seems to have the President in the palm of her hand, which should create concern by the American public.

More than fifteen women have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct. While I can’t make any claims as to Mr. Trump’s sexual history, if the last month is any indication, more women are likely to come forward with claims. This presents an issue for the national security of the country. If the president can be blackmailed into paying to keep certain stories quiet, whether true or not, then where does it end? If, as Mr. Trump’s lawyer asserts, they will pay to keep false stories quiet, what will stop legitimate or false claims from coming forward?

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