Schrödinger's Sex Scandal

[ Posted Thursday, March 29th, 2018 – 17:13 UTC ]

Today, we're going to take a trip down the rabbit hole with Schrödinger's (Cheshire?) cat. If that sounds like a mixed-up metaphor, that's because it is. Our fantastical journey starts off as a Charles Dodgson-style syllogism, but since it contains such circular logic it winds up being an Erwin Schrödinger-style thought experiment. Did they or didn't they? Well, until the wave function collapses into a single eigenstate, President Donald Trump's lawyer's lawyer would have us all believe that they both did and didn't, at the same time. The cat is both alive and dead, in other words. While this may be the most obscure and confusing lead paragraph I have ever personally written, such obscurity seems to be almost required these days, to talk about the growing sex scandal (or non-sex scandal) surrounding Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels.

While many have heard of the Schrödinger's cat paradox, only students of pure logic are usually familiar with the work of Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) in the field of syllogisms. Here is a sample, in case you've never seen one before:

(1)  Showy talkers think too much of themselves;

(2)  No really well-informed people are bad company;

(3)  People who think too much of themselves are not good company.

This leads, as Mr. Spock might have pointed out, to only one logical conclusion: Showy talkers are not really well-informed. And, yes, I picked that one out of the long list of Dodgson logic puzzles for obvious reasons (cough, cough... Donald Trump... cough).

Here's a tougher one, that leans more towards Schrödinger's cat's problems:

(1)  There is no box of mine here that I dare open;

(2)  My writing-desk is made of rose-wood;

(3)  All my boxes are painted, except what are here;

(4)  There is no box of mine that I dare not open, unless it is full of live scorpions;

(5)  All my rose-wood boxes are unpainted.

This leads to the obvious (if somewhat bizarre) conclusion: My writing-desk is full of live scorpions.

Speaking of problems that involve many live scorpions, we have the case of DD, PP, and the NDA. The general public is now faced with this puzzle, which involves a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), Stormy Daniels (PP), and Donald Trump (DD). The initials come from the NDA, and the abbreviations just save me a whole bunch of typing. So, are we ready? Here we go!

The paradox of DD, PP, and the $130,000

•  DD's lawyer enters into an NDA with PP, and pays her $130,000, just before the presidential election;

•  DD does not sign this NDA, but DD's lawyer and PP do;

•  NDAs are generally only enforceable if they are signed by all affected parties;

•  This NDA specifies that PP cannot publicly speak about a sexual affair she had with DD, with a penalty of a cool million bucks every time she does;

•  After the NDA's existence is revealed, PP signs a document stating that no affair between her and DD (a.k.a. Donald Trump) ever happened;

•  Trump insists that no affair ever happened;

•  Trump's lawyer insists that no affair ever happened;

•  Nowadays, Trump's lawyer's lawyer insists no affair ever happened;

•  If no affair ever happened, then the existence of the NDA is strange, because there would be nothing to talk about;

•  DD's lawyer has stated that he paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket (from a home equity loan), and that he was never reimbursed by DD's company or the Trump campaign for this expense;

•  Nowadays, DD's lawyer's lawyer says that DD himself never reimbursed DD's lawyer for the expense, either;

•  Lawyers do not, as a rule, pay hush money out of their own pockets for a client. In fact, lawyers, as a rule, do not pay out anything from their own pockets for a client without reimbursement;

•  Oh, also as a rule, lawyers do not generally pay hush money when nothing untoward happened. Why would they? It would just open the floodgates of other people lining up to get paid, who did not have affairs with DD;

•  At some point, PP starting hinting that maybe, just maybe, a sexual encounter did happen between her and DD. This was after a magazine interview with her surfaced (an interview which had occurred before the NDA was signed), where the full (and sordid) details of the encounter were fully exposed;

•  Most powerful people (DD most definitely included) will sue for libel when the facts back them up, in order to prevent lies from being printed about them;

•  Neither DD nor his lawyer (nor his lawyer's lawyer) has sued the magazine which published the PP interview for libel or defamation;

•  DD's lawyer moves to arbitration, and gets a ruling that PP cannot speak of the affair (which, again, DD's lawyer continues to insist never actually happened);

•  PP ignores the restraining order, and begins speaking about her one-night stand with DD, on national television. More details are revealed;

•  PP now claims her statement that there was no affair was coerced, and is false;

•  PP sues DD and DD's lawyer in state court, in California;

•  DD's lawyer sues PP in federal court, asking for $20 million, for the 20 times when PP has broken the agreement;

•  PP claims several things in her lawsuit -- that DD's lawyer breached the NDA by confirming its existence, therefore the NDA is null and void, and also that DD never actually signed the NDA, meaning the NDA was always null and void;

•  While simultaneously suing PP because she was talking about the affair (which didn't exist, of course), DD's lawyer's lawyer insists that DD was never even told about the $130,000 payment or the existence of the NDA at all, until everyone heard about it in the media;

•  Lawyers -- even those mythical lawyers generous enough to make six-figure payments out of their own pockets for clients who do not reimburse them -- generally keep their clients informed about possible lawsuits against them;

•  The NDA makes guarantees of all parties involved, including PP, DD's lawyer, and DD himself. It supposedly binds each of these parties to certain standards, with penalties for breaking these promises;

•  An NDA cannot guarantee the behavior of someone who does not sign it, and indeed is purportedly not even aware of its existence.

Whew! That's a pretty baffling list of statements that are somehow supposed to be reconciled. And I've probably even left a few exercises in illogic out (to say nothing of future ones to come).

One side insists that there was no affair, the NDA was created (and the $130,000 paid) out of the goodness of Trump's lawyer's heart, to fend off a false accusation of sexual misconduct. Oh, and that even though the money was paid mere weeks before the presidential election, the payoff had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Trump was running for president at the time. Daniels has broken the NDA, since she is talking about the affair publicly, and thus owes Trump (or his lawyer) millions, even though the affair did not actually happen.

The other side claims there was an affair, the NDA was drawn up to hush it up, and the $130,000 was paid to ensure the story would never be told. Also, that the NDA was broken by Trump's lawyer, and is unenforceable anyway because Trump never signed it, even though it guarantees certain actions by Trump. And, of course, that somehow Trump footed the bill (or, at the very least, originally intended to), rather than leaving his lawyer on the hook for covering it all up.

Which seems more believable to you?

Personally, having dealt with lawyers before, it's pretty tough to conjure up a lawyer so selfless as to take out a large loan on his own home in order to pay out $130,000 to cover up an affair that didn't actually happen -- and who then didn't tell his client about the NDA or the payout, and never even asked to be reimbursed. Sounds like a lawyer straight out of Wonderland, to put it mildly.

Trump's lawyer (and his lawyer's lawyer) are essentially arguing that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. The affair between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump is in Schrödinger's box, where it simultaneously happened and didn't happen. It's impossible to tell from their legal reasoning, because at times this reasoning is based on the affair's existence, while all the while they insist publicly that no affair actually took place. How can Trump and his lawyer have suffered any legal injuries if the affair didn't happen, though? Why would they insist she not be allowed to speak of a non-event, when they could always just sue her for either slander or libel if she was indeed lying about it? Why didn't they sue the magazine which published the old Daniels interview, for that matter?

This is the world we now live in. We are down the rabbit hole indeed. A porn star is making more sense than the president of the United States. And she's much more believable, as well, because her argument has an internal logical structure that is completely absent from Trump's story. The president's legal team seems to be inhabiting some weird crossover between Wonderland and Schrödinger's cat.

Call it Schrödinger's sex scandal.

Even that's not the most bizarre aspect of the whole story, because we all have to carefully differentiate between the lawsuit involving the president and a porn star from the one involving the president and a Playboy Playmate -- which are both different from the lawsuit involving the president and a former Apprentice contestant who asserts she was sexually harassed by Trump.

We're not all living a "national nightmare" anymore, we are instead all living inside a crazy, mixed-up dream sequence (perhaps staged by Salvador Dali) -- from which we're all sincerely hoping Alice is going to wake up real soon now, so we can all return to some semblance of reality. If that's mixing too many metaphors for you, well, that's the type of week it's been, folks.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Schrödinger's Sex Scandal”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    Very clever and funny CW :)

    It would surprise me if anybody thought that the dark and Stormy night didn't happen - even if they will swear on a bible that the actually believe Trump was pure as driven snow.

    When we live in a world when a large part of our population are becoming experts in dealing with cognitive dissonance, Dali and Dodgson are their prophets (which would probably sadden both of them).

  2. [2] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Great article, CW! It’s odd that Trump’s attorney can broker an agreement that binds his client to specific actions without his client’s knowledge. That’s typically frowned upon by the courts.

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Great fun.

    Trump knows full well if the cat in the box is alive or dead. Therefore, the problem isn't quantum, it's bunkum. You solve a bunkum problem just as you would the quantum problem, you open the box and look inside. In bunkum mechanics, looking in the box causes a bad legal or logical case to collapse. Trump does not want the box opened. Hmmm.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    Interesting and intriguing.

    So here we already have Peggy Peterson ("PP1") and the Playboy Playmate ("PP2") each trying to nullify NDA agreements that were apparently flowing out of Trump Tower ("TT") like water. Meanwhile, PP1's lawyer recently stated that he has been contacted by 8 other potential plaintiffs ("PP3" through "PP10") with similar issues.

    I could go on. ;)

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:


    Great article, CW! It’s odd that Trump’s attorney can broker an agreement that binds his client to specific actions without his client’s knowledge. That’s typically frowned upon by the courts.

    Exactly right. If DD didn't know anything about PP's NDA agreement as his lawyer and his lawyer's lawyer have each now unequivocally stated multiple times, there is no way that DD could have voluntarily undertaken to enter into an agreement for which he had zero knowledge. Oops.

    Additionally, DD's lawyer then invoked the mandatory arbitration clause in the NDA and obtained a "Temporary Restraining Order" from an arbitrator which states that PP is precluded from "disclosing or inducing or actively inspiring anyone to disclose" any of the "Confidential Information" as defined in the Settlement Agreement, as well as from "actively inspiring anyone to disclose the fact of the commencement or pendency of this Arbitration and any details relating thereto."

    So this turn of events presents many problems, among them being:

    * Temporary Restraining Order? Hello! Since when does a private arbitrator have the right to restrain a United States citizen from doing anything?

    * This TRO amounts to an order for a US citizen to lie issued on behalf of the President of the United States of America... you know... that guy who raised his right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution.

    I don't see any way whatsoever that this plays out well for DD or DD's lawyer, and now they've forced it into federal court where they've basically assured their own misfortune, and this is the least of their worries since Gates and Flynn are singing and DD's other lawyer... or should I say ex-lawyer... floated the idea of issuing pardons to Flynn and Manafort, again all supposedly without any knowledge whatsoever of DD. *shakes head*

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    Interesting and intriguing.

    So here we already have Peggy Peterson ("PP1") and the Playboy Playmate ("PP2") each trying to nullify NDA agreements that were apparently flowing out of Trump Tower ("TT") like water. Meanwhile, PP1's lawyer recently stated that he has been contacted by 8 other potential plaintiffs ("PP3" through "PP10") with similar issues.

    I could go on. ;)

    I thought the PP was in the Moscow Hotel ... or is that PP11?

  7. [7] 
    Paula wrote:

    Excellent snark!

    It's an example of conservatives wanting their cakes and eating them too -- what they want is to be able to say one thing and do the opposite all day long, every day, while continuing to be praised for what they say and having the what they do part completely ignored. Well, that, and, when what they do creates a problem, they want Dems in general or Obama or Hillary or Nancy, specifically, to be blamed.

  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    Can I embed a bit of video?


    .@HillaryClinton steps on the @RutgersU stage to loud applause and cheers. She will be speaking with @Eagleton_RU Director Ruth Mandel.— Tamara Gitt (@tamaragitt) March 29, 2018

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    Well, here's the link to the tweet which has the video:


  10. [10] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Legal analyst Jonathan Turley:

    “He needs to get out of the litigation. It should never have started. I mean, literally, they made every wrong move they could make. It’s like a student who does worse than random selection on multiple choice answers — it’s almost a skill.”

    “What’s going to happen from this point on, the denial of (Trump’s) knowledge is going to get Michael Cohen into what is already serious trouble with the New York Bar. But they now have to deal with the fact that a lawyer gave $130,000 to a porn star without ever getting the money back. The Justice Department has already said that can be a criminal matter. If Bob Mueller pulls the president in, as he can, to question him about it, you now have an existential threat to the administration.”

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:


    I thought the PP was in the Moscow Hotel ... or is that PP11?


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