Feminists Discuss Trump’s 34 Felony Counts, His Mistreatment of Women and Stormy Daniels’ Revenge

People hold signs after former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all counts at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024, in New York City. Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images)

On May 30, 2024, Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts by a New York jury. On the latest episode of On the Issues With Michele Goodwin: Fifteen Minutes of Feminism, Goodwin is joined by Moira Donegan, feminist writer and opinion columnist with the Guardian U.S., to discuss why the New York trial was about more than just “hush money”—it’s about a coverup, election interference and mistreatment of women.

Listen to the episode below, head to the episode landing page for a full transcript, or read on for some of our favorite takes from the episode.

Moira Donegan: They get word in October 2016 that there’s a story out there from a woman named Stormy Daniels. Now, Stormy Daniels is a very successful, popular pornographic film actress. She’s been in that industry for many, many years, and she says that in 2006 she met Donald Trump at a celebrity golf tournament. That he invited her to his hotel room at that tournament in Lake Tahoe and said that she might be a contestant on his television show, The Celebrity Apprentice, and then they had sex…

The presidential campaign had become newly focused on issues of Trump’s treatment of women, on his personal vulgarity and immoral private conduct. So, this, according to some people who testified at the trial like his former campaign aide Hope Hicks, caused a real panic within the campaign.

Moira Donegan: She describes an almost casting couch style situation of sexual coercion in exchange for a professional favor, for work access. She says that Trump, at that celebrity golf tournament in 2006, summoned her to his hotel room and she actually says he seemed quite interested in the business of pornography. She says that most people ask her about the sex and he was asking her about the money, which is, I thought, an interesting and telling detail.

But he also suggests very pointedly that he can get her a role on what at the time was his very successful network TV show Celebrity Apprentice. So they’re having this conversation about a potential work opportunity. She goes to the bathroom and when she comes back out of the bathroom he has taken off all his clothes. … She surmised, I think correctly, that this professional opportunity on Celebrity Apprentice would be conditioned on having sex with Trump. …

And surprise, surprise the Celebrity Apprentice gig did not pan out. He didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.

Michele Goodwin: So much of the revival of #MeToo was associated with the casting room couch. Men who’ve been in entertainment have been using this as a source of coercion and pressure against women and even girls for decades.

Moira Donegan: Stormy Daniels got $130,000 for that story in October 2016. I honestly think she was underpaid, but that’s what she took…

Paying somebody to shut up is actually not illegal… Having her sign an NDA in exchange for $130,000 was not illegal conduct. What was illegal was the coverup. This is what they always say: It’s not the underlying conduct that they get you. It’s the coverup.

So, because Donald Trump did not want this story getting out because he didn’t want anybody to know that he had had this encounter with Stormy Daniels and he did not want that going public at the time of his first presidential campaign, not only did he pay her to cover it up, he also falsified the records of that payment.

Michele Goodwin: We’re looking at decades upon decades going back nearly a century in New York of prosecuting for things just like this, including at a much lower amount.

[a reference to “Survey of Past New York Felony Prosecutions for Falsifying Business Records” from Just Security, 2023]

Moira Donegan: A lot of the attention has focused on the January 6 case and that election interference case in the 2020 election… But this Stormy Daniels hush money case was also an election interference case.

Michele Goodwin: Decades ago, in the 1930s, they began these kinds of prosecutions as a means of trying to clean up white-collar crime. Of course, we know that the Great American Depression was caused by white-collar crime, and so this idea of making sure that individuals are not able to be above the law, even if they happen to be wealthy. Clearly, the state goes after those who are not wealthy, such as the individuals who are on welfare.

Moira Donegan: This is not going to redound to Donald Trump’s political benefit. He will do what he always does, which is say that he’s a victim and attempt to fundraise… There will be more blood that he gets out of that stone, you know what I mean? But this is not good. This is not good for Donald Trump.

Moira Donegan: That sentencing hearing is just five days before the Republican National Convention. I think that there is no way that Donald Trump’s criminality does not become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign going into the summer.

Moira Donegan: I also hope that Democrats take some heart at the expressions of real jubilation and relief that we’re seeing on the streets today. People are happy and vindicated that the institution of this criminal court decided to take Donald Trump’s crime seriously and not to excuse him because he’s Donald Trump and to try and hold him accountable. I hope others of our institutions will follow.

Moira Donegan: I wanted to mention the courage of these jurors, who by all accounts took their job very seriously. They were not swayed by the theatrics in the courtroom or outside of it, which Donald Trump did his best to make this a very chaotic proceeding. And they seemed to have been conducting themselves with a lot of seriousness and awareness of the historical gravity of their position. And they also voted according to the facts and according to the law at great personal risk.

These are not people who signed up to be politicians. These are ordinary, anonymous, regular people who now, because of the nature of Trump’s fan base and his cult of personality, will be at risk of violence and harassment, and they did the right thing anyway. They voted according to the facts, according to the law, and according to their conscience in the face of that risk. I think that is a real testament to faith in the levers of this democratic system.

Moira Donegan: It is really important that Donald Trump be criminally prosecuted. I think it is really important that at least an attempt is made to use these nominal levers of legal accountability to hold somebody to account who has so flagrantly and frequently defied the law. Donald Trump has really esteemed himself to be above the law and in a lot of cases seems like our institutions have also esteemed him to be above the law. People have been afraid to go after this guy. The Manhattan DA was not afraid to do that. I think we can be very grateful that that happened.

Michele Goodwin: This is the first time that an American president has been criminally convicted. It’s an enormous responsibility in the wake of a kind of bullying atmosphere—one in which there’s been significant demeaning of individuals. Where there has been a flurry of chaos. And somehow they were able to do their job, seemingly even in a way that perhaps seemed dispassionate based on how individuals were in the courtroom described the jurors as seemingly not moved at particular times by arguments being made that might have seemed favorable to the prosecution.

Moira Donegan: The silver lining is that people were willing to hold power to account. I don’t think you have to work that hard or at least I don’t have to reach that hard to find a silver lining in this story. You know, it is shameful that any of these events happened. It is sad that somebody so unworthy of power achieved so much of it. But this is a rare, inspiring moment where institutions that have not seemed particularly strong lately showed a degree of strength. I think that’s a silver lining.

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Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.