Opinion | Hurricane Stormy

“It started with me in Louisiana when I won Louisiana, and I got fewer delegates than Ted Cruz,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump complained to The Washington Post in August of 2016. “I win a state; I get fewer votes.” At the time, Trump was rhapsodizing on his theory that the presidential election he ultimately won was somehow rigged against him. It’s a theory that, in hindsight, should present itself as a problematic deflection of his campaign’s own efforts to undermine the integrity of an election that he had appeared all but certain to lose. And it’s a theory, according to Trump’s own version of the story, that was born here in Louisiana. The truth is: Ted Cruz, from neighboring Texas, had a far better ground game in Louisiana than the New Yorker did, so he was able to easily pick up the overwhelming balance of uncommitted delegates, despite the fact that Trump had bested him in the popular vote, 41% to 38%. (And it shouldn’t be lost on anyone: The very first time Donald Trump believed that the election was rigged against him was when he won the popular vote but failed to carry the requisite number of delegates). “Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less (sic) delegates than Cruz — lawsuit coming,” Trump tweeted the day after the Louisiana primary. It was, of course, pure bluster. Donald Trump never sued the state of Louisiana, whose elections are overseen by a Republican Secretary of State, or the Louisiana Republican Party, which set the rules about how delegates would be allocated. It was one of countless times in which the current President of the United States threatened to use the courts to vindicate himself in front of a national audience, and it also adds an almost novelistic sense of irony to the ongoing saga of Louisiana-born Stormy Daniels, who is, by now, the most well-known porn star on the planet. **** Almost immediately after The Wall Street Journal broke the story- on Jan. 12th- that the President’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money only eleven days before the election, The Bayou Brief was the first to fill in a detail missing from their reporting: This was the same Stormy Daniels who had once launched a campaign for U.S. Senate against David Vitter. (To be fair, The Advocate and The Times-Picayune weren’t far behind us). Five days later, The Bayou Brief‘s Mitch Rabalais published a long-form story about the genesis, the context, and the platform of Daniels’ brief campaign for the Senate, which has been referenced by The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the BBC, among others (Mitch was interviewed just last week on NPR’s “Here and Now” about his story). A couple of weeks later, I published an in-depth interview with Paul S. Ryan, the lawyer who had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. Until now, that has been the extent of our coverage. Stormy Daniels’ allegations against President Trump and his lawyer have made for captivating national news; her recent interview on “60 Minutes” attracted the most viewers for the program in a decade, and CNN and MSNBC have covered the unfolding drama on an almost daily- if not sometimes hourly- basis. But the Louisiana media, including The Bayou Brief, has largely shied away from original reporting on Scotlandville Magnet High School’s most famous graduate, a young woman who was then known as Stephanie Gregory. The Dallas Morning News, for example, was the first and only news organization to report on her childhood and teenage years in Baton Rouge. They were the first and only publication to conduct interviews with her father and mother, from whom Daniels is understandably estranged (Daniels’ mother, who still resides in Baton Rouge, comes across as a toxic, jealous, and emotionally manipulative charlatan, a woman who expresses her undying loyalty to Donald Trump while wondering aloud why her phone calls to her daughter always go unanswered and unreturned and pondering whether she should have also pursued a career in the adult film industry). **** I mention all of this for a reason. During her interview with Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes,” Daniels confirmed two bizarre details of her encounters with Donald Trump that, until then, had just been rumors: That she spanked him with a rolled-up magazine and that they had once spent hours together watching a television documentary about sharks. If Daniels had never spoken on the record about this before, why were they even rumors in the first place? Here’s the answer: Andrea Dubé is an accomplished, young, Louisiana-based political strategist, and more than nine years ago, she served as the finance director for Stormy Daniels’ brief campaign against David Vitter. The campaign was, for lack of a better term, performance art (or maybe the better word is a “stunt”): Dubé never actually met Daniels, and Daniels wasn’t actually living in Louisiana. But Stormy Daniels, as the entire country should recognize by now, is a sophisticated operator. Even when she acted as if she would run against David Vitter, she relied on the advice of campaign professionals throughout the process, while also directing every aspect of her own message. Dubé kept meticulous records; she took notes; she committed things to memory. That was her job, after all. She’s also the reason that when millions of Americans heard Daniels speak about Shark Week and spanking, they didn’t think these were new details. But they were. More importantly, they were yet another confirmation of the credibility of those who grew up with or worked with Daniels here in Louisiana (aside from Daniels’ mother). There are other details too that have not yet been thoroughly reported: Donald Trump was at the very top of her campaign’s list of potential donors, entirely because of her relationship with him; there were promises of apartments in Florida or Louisiana. Oh, and during the middle of all of this, her campaign manager’s car was blown up by an intentionally planted firebomb. Read the entire thread by Dubé by following this tweet: https://twitter.com/AndDube/status/978084497974550530 **** Louisiana, I constantly remind myself and others, is a small state. Houston, which is an hour from our border, is twice as populous as our entire state; Dallas, about two hours from our border, is one and a half times larger. My hometown, Alexandria, has a population of 49,000. In Louisiana, that’s a big city; an hour across the state line, it’s a neighborhood. James Gill, a columnist for The Advocate with whom I generally agree, was completely wrong in his most recent diagnosis of the Stormy Daniels saga: Journalists have done their homework on her; Louisiana, after all, is a small state, and the reason her story is being told is because it actually checks out (which is why CBS sat on their exclusive interview). If you’re going to direct criticism at anyone, direct it at our own state press, which has acted bafflingly uncurious about a blockbuster story about a presidential cover-up and a woman born and raised in Baton Rouge. In the Non-Disclosure Agreement that Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen drafted, there’s a brief, boilerplate mention of “paternity information” and “alleged children;” it caught the attention of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who wondered why the language was included, generating a countless number of conspiracy theories. O’Donnell’s instincts are right, but his question is both wrong and misdirected. There is no secret love child or some great hoax about the paternity of any of his children, but there is a simple question worth asking: Ms. Daniels, did Donald Trump ever express to you his opinion on abortion?
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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar writes about the people, the politics, and the magic of Louisiana. He is the founder and publisher of the Bayou Brief and a contributing writer for the Daily Beast. Lamar is best known for his investigative reporting on public corruption, racism, and civil rights. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC, and he's been the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Advocate, and Huffington Post. Before launching the Bayou Brief, he published CenLamar, a popular blog that initially covered the drama of City Hall in his hometown of Alexandria. Lamar is a graduate of Rice University in Houston and the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Today he lives in New Orleans and is currently writing a book about the life of reputed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. Support Lamar's work on Patreon.