Bill Clinton Made ‘Hush Money’ Payment to Paula Jones in 1998?

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Claim:

In 1998, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones $850,000 in hush money.

On May 30, 2024, the criminal trial against former U.S. President Donald Trump over his hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels ended when the jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. For some social media users, the trial reminded them of an event from the ’90s — the sexual-misconduct scandals surrounding then-President Bill Clinton. 

One of the most prominent figures in that scandal was a woman named Paula Jones. In 1998, Clinton agreed to pay Jones $850,000 in order to settle a publicly disclosed lawsuit. Some people have attempted to draw a comparison between Clinton and Jones’ negotiated settlement with hush-money payments made by Trump. 

While the two events might initially appear similar — two former presidents paying money to women with whom they had sexual relations — it is important to acknowledge the full context surrounding the two events. When that context is taken into consideration, the two events stop looking similar.

The largest and most important difference is that Clinton and Jones mutually reached an out-of-court settlement stipulating that Jones would receive $850,000; Trump privately arranged his payments in order to keep Daniels from speaking publicly in the first place.

Trump’s payment to Daniels, made through his lawyer Michael Cohen, was a direct financial incentive to get Daniels to sign a nondisclosure agreement saying that she would not talk about the affair. The money was sent to Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal broke the story without using Daniels as a source. Daniels claimed that she was coerced to sign the nondisclosure agreement.

In Clinton’s case, Jones had already brought the lawsuit. It went through the court system for four years. Meanwhile, Jones was able to publicly talk about details of the case, and did so. The settlement paid by Clinton avoided further legal action from Jones; it was not a way to get her to stop talking about the event. 

It is also important to note that so-called “hush-money” payments are not necessarily illegal — The New York Times and other credible publications have noted that in the coverage of Trump’s trial. Trump was not charged with paying the hush money; he was charged with falsifying business records in order to hide the payment. Meanwhile, Clinton’s payment was a legal settlement — the payment was made in lieu of further legal action against Clinton over Jones’ allegations of sexual harassment.

A more apt comparison to Trump’s hush-money payment to Daniels would be the case of former Democratic Sen. John Edwards. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Edwards took around $1 million from wealthy campaign donors and paid his then-mistress Rielle Hunter to hide the affair. He was tried in federal court in 2011 for the payments, but the Department of Justice later dropped most of the charges after a mistrial.

Sources

Cooper, Anderson. Original 60 Minutes Stormy Daniels Interview: Full Video and Transcript of Anderson Cooper Discussing Daniels’ Alleged Donald Trump Affair – CBS News. 22 Aug. 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stormy-daniels-describes-her-alleged-affair-with-donald-trump-60-minutes-interview/.

“Faulty Comparisons Made between Trump, Clinton Payments.” AP News, 24 Mar. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-trump-clinton-payments-884462275128.

Hess, Amanda. “Paula Jones, Reconsidered.” The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2018. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/arts/television/paula-jones-monica-lewinsky-bill-clinton.html.

“Https://Twitter.Com/MilaLovesJoe/Status/1786127200758165952.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/MilaLovesJoe/status/1786127200758165952. Accessed 9 May 2024.

News, A. B. C. “Comparing Donald Trump’s Hush Money Trial to Bill Clinton, John Edwards Cases.” ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/comparing-donald-trumps-hush-money-trial-john-edwards/story?id=109506871. Accessed 9 May 2024.

Protess, Ben, Jonah E. Bromwich, et al. “Stormy Daniels, Who Testified About Sex With Trump, Will Return to Stand.” The New York Times, 7 May 2024. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/07/nyregion/trump-trial-stormy-daniels-testimony.html.

Protess, Ben, Kate Christobek, et al. “What to Know About the Trial Donald Trump Faces in Manhattan.” The New York Times, 9 May 2024. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/article/donald-trump-trial-what-to-know.html.

Rothfeld, Michael, and Joe Palazzolo. “Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence.” Wall Street Journal, 12 Jan. 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-arranged-130-000-payment-for-adult-film-stars-silence-1515787678.

Severson, Kim, and John Schwartz. “Edwards Not Guilty on One Count; Mistrial on Five Others.” The New York Times, 31 May 2012. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/us/edwards-jury-returns-not-guilty-verdict-on-one-count.html.

Washingtonpost.Com: Jones v. Clinton Special Report. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/jones111498.htm. Accessed 9 May 2024.

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