From The Hill
A well-known women’s rights lawyer sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trumpduring the final months of the 2016 presidential race, according to documents and interviews.
California lawyer Lisa Bloom’s efforts included offering to sell alleged victims’ stories to TV outlets in return for a commission for herself, arranging a donor to pay off one Trump accuser’s mortgage and attempting to secure a six-figure payment for another woman who ultimately declined to come forward after being offered as much as $750,000, the clients told The Hill.
The women’s accounts were chronicled in contemporaneous contractual documents, emails and text messages reviewed by The Hill, including an exchange of texts between one woman and Bloom that suggested political action committees supporting Hillary Clinton were contacted during the effort.
Bloom, who has assisted dozens of women in prominent harassment cases and also defended film executive Harvey Weinstein earlier this year, represented four women considering making accusations against Trump last year. Two went public, and two declined.
In a statement to The Hill, Bloom acknowledged she engaged in discussions to secure donations for women who made or considered making accusations against Trump before last year’s election.
“Donors reached out to my firm directly to help some of the women I represented,” said Bloom, whose clients have also included accusers of Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly.
Bloom said her goal in securing money was not to pressure the women to come forward, but rather to help them relocate or arrange security if they felt unsafe during the waning days of a vitriolic election. She declined to identify any of the donors.
And while she noted she represented sexual harassment victims for free or at reduced rates, she also acknowledged a standard part of her contracts required women to pay her commissions as high as 33 percent if she sold their stories to media outlets.
“Our standard pro bono agreement for legal services provides that if a media entity offers to compensate a client for sharing his or her story we receive a percentage of those fees. This rarely happens. But, on occasion, a case generates media interest and sometimes (not always) a client may receive an appearance fee,” she said.
“As a private law firm we have significant payroll, rent, taxes, insurance and other expenses every week, so an arrangement where we might receive some compensation to defray our costs seems reasonable to us and is agreed to by our clients,” Bloom added.
Bloom told The Hill she had no contact with Clinton or her campaign, but declined to address any contacts with super PACs that supported the Democratic presidential nominee.
Josh Schwerin, the communications director for Priorities USA Action, the largest pro-Clinton super PAC, told The Hill that the group had no relationship with Bloom and had no discussions with her about supporting Trump accusers.
One Bloom client who received financial help from Bloom was New York City makeup artist Jill Harth.
The former beauty contestant manager filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Trump in 1997 and then withdrew it under pressure. The news media discovered the litigation during the election, and Harth’s name became public in the summer of 2016. She asked Bloom to represent her in the fall after hearing Trump describe her allegations against him as false, and became a vocal critic of Trump.
“I consider myself lucky to have had Lisa Bloom by my side after my old lawsuit resurfaced. She advised me with great competence and compassion,” Harth told The Hill.
Harth said she did not originally ask Bloom for money, even though her cosmetics business suffered from the notoriety of the campaign stories about her.
But later, Bloom arranged a small payment from the licensing of some photos to the news media, and then set up a GoFundMe.com account to raise money for Harth in October 2016. “Jill put herself out there, facing off with Donald Trump. Let’s show her some love,” the online fundraising appeal set up by Bloom’s husband declared.
The effort raised a little over $2,300.
Bloom then arranged for a donor to make a larger contribution to help Harth pay off the mortgage on her Queens apartment in New York City. The amount was under $30,000, according to a source directly familiar with Harth’s situation. Public records show Harth’s mortgage was recorded as extinguished on Dec. 19, 2016.
Harth said the payments did not affect the merits of her allegations. She alleges that during a January 1993 meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the future president pushed her up against a wall and groped her, trying to get his hands up her dress.
“Nothing that you’ve said to me about my mortgage or the Go Fund Me that was created to help me out financially affects the facts or the veracity of my 1997 federal complaint against Donald J. Trump for sexual harassment and assault,” she told The Hill.
“Having to retell my experiences of Donald Trump’s harassment is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Trump has steadfastly denied assaulting or harassing women, even after a videotape surfaced in September 2016 in which he can be heard boasting that famous men like him can grab women by the genitalia without consequence. Trump has dismissed the tape as “locker room talk.”
Harth is currently writing a memoir about her whole experience, but without Bloom’s help.
Bloom acknowledged arranging financial help for Harth, who she said had lost income because of the publicity surrounding her allegations.
“She endured a tidal wave of hate for it. It was very painful for her. And as a New York City makeup artist, Jill lost jobs after she came out publicly against Donald Trump. I believed that people wanted to donate to help her, so we set up the GoFundMe account,” she told The Hill.
The Hill does not identify the names of victims of sexual assault or harassment unless they go public on their own, like Harth.
But one woman who did not go public with allegations agreed to share her documents and talk to The Hill about her interactions with Bloom if The Hill honored its commitment to maintain her anonymity.
Both that woman and Harth, who were friends, stressed that Bloom never asked them to make any statements or allegations except what they believed to be true.
Their texts and emails indicate Bloom held a strong dislike of Trump though. Bloom is the daughter of Gloria Allred, another prominent attorney who is representing a number of women who have made accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump.
In an email to the unnamed woman, Bloom said that her story was “further evidence of what a sick predator this man is,” referring to Trump.
When Harth, for instance, informed Bloom she had just made a Facebook post urging other women to come forward about Trump in October 2016, the lawyer texted back: “Wow Jill that would be amazing. 27 days until the election.”
And when a potential client abruptly backed out of a pre-election news conference in which she was supposed to allege she was sexually assaulted at age 13, Bloom turned her attention to another woman.
That woman, Harth’s friend, went back and forth for weeks with Bloom in 2016 about going public with an allegation of an unsolicited advance by Trump on the 1990s beauty contest circuit.
“Give us a clear sense of what you need and we will see if it we can get it,” Bloom texted the woman a week before Election Day.
“I’m scared Lisa. I can’t relocate. I don’t like taking other people’s money,” the woman wrote to Bloom.
“Ok let’s not do this then,” Bloom responded. “We are just about out of time anyway.”
The woman then texted back demanding to know why there was a deadline. “What does time have to do with this? Time to bury Trump??? You want my story to bury trump for what? Personal gain? See that ‘s why I have trust issues!!”
The woman told The Hill in an interview that Bloom initially approached her in early October through Harth. She said she considered coming forward with her account of an unsolicited advance by Trump solely to support her friend Harth, and not because she had any consternation with Trump, who ended the advance when she asked him to stop, she said.
The woman said Bloom initially offered a $10,000 donation to the woman’s favorite church, an account backed up by text messages the two exchanged.
“Please keep the donation offer confidential except to your pastor,” Bloom wrote the woman on Oct. 14, 2016.
When Bloom found out the woman was still a supporter of Trump and associated with lawyers, friends and associates of the future president, she texted a request that jarred the woman.
“When you have a chance I suggest you delete the August 2015 Facebook post about supporting Trump,” Bloom texted. “Otherwise the reporter will ask you how you could support him after what he did to you. Your call but it will make your life easier.”
The woman declined. “I hate to say it, but i still rather have trump in office than hillary,” the woman texted back. Bloom answered, “Ok I respect that. Then don’t change anything.”
Eventually the two decided the woman’s continued support of Trump was a benefit to her narrative if she went public with her accusations, the messages show. “I love your point about being a Trump supporter too,” Bloom texted on Oct. 14, 2016.
The text messages show the woman made escalating requests for more money.
By early November, the woman said, Bloom’s offers of money from donors had grown to $50,000 to be paid personally to her, and then even higher.
“Another donor has reached out to me offering relocation/security for any woman coming forward. I’m trying to reach him,” Bloom texted the woman on Nov. 3, 2016. Later she added, “Call me I have good news.”
The woman responded that she wasn’t impressed with the new offer of $100,000 given that she had a young daughter. “Hey after thinking about all this, I need more than $100,000.00. College money would be nice” for her daughter. “Plus relocation fees, as we discussed.”
The figured jumped to $200,000 in a series of phone calls with Bloom that week, according to the woman. The support was promised to be tax-free and also included changing her identity and relocating, according to documents and interviews.
Bloom told The Hill that the woman asked for money as high as $2 million in the conversations, an amount that was a nonstarter, but the lawyer confirmed she tried to arrange donations to the woman in the low six figures.
“She asked to be compensated, citing concerns for her safety and security and over time, increased her request for financial compensation to $2 million, which we told her was a non-starter,” Bloom told The Hill. “We did relay her security concerns to donors, but none were willing to offer more than a number in the low six figures, which they felt was more appropriate to address her security and relocation expenses.”
The woman said that when she initially talked to Bloom she simply wanted to support Harth and had no interest in being portrayed as an accuser or receiving money. But when Bloom’s mention of potential compensation became more frequent, the woman said she tried to draw out the lawyer to see how high the offer might reach and who might be behind the money.
Just a few days before the election, the woman indicated she was ready to go public with her story, then landed in the hospital and fell out of contact with Bloom.
The lawyer repeatedly texted one of the woman’s friends on Nov. 4, 2016, but the friend declined to put the woman on the phone, instead sending a picture of the client in a hospital bed.
Bloom persisted, writing in a series of texts to the friend that she needed to talk to her hospitalized client because it could have “a significant impact on her life” and a “big impact on her daughter” if she did not proceed with her public statement as she had planned.
“She is in no condition for visitors,” the friend texted Bloom back.
“If you care about her you need to leave her be until she is feeling better,” the friend added in another text.
Lisa Bloom’s and Jill Harth’s statements to The Hill
Read extended excerpts from the statements that women’s rights attorney Lisa Bloom and New York businesswoman Jill Harth gave in response to The Hill’s story on payments arranged and contemplated to Donald Trump accusers during the 2016 election.
Excerpts from statement of attorney Lisa Bloom concerning her discussions arranging donors to support women considering coming forward with allegations against Donald Trump during the 2016 election:
“As I’m sure you can appreciate, as an attorney I am bound by confidentiality laws and therefore cannot answer some of your questions, but the following should address most.
“You’ll recall the very polarized and hostile atmosphere of [the] 2016 presidential election. Emotions were running high, there were incidents of violence on the campaign trail, and threats of violence were a real and abiding concern. Nonetheless, several brave women came forward to accuse Donald Trump of harassment and assault, starting with Jill Harth, the first woman to bravely speak out – months before the Access Hollywood recording was released. Jill referred a second Trump accuser to The Bloom Firm, Trump Woman Accuser #2 (“TW2”). Other women came forward as well. By October 2016, I was working with four accusers.
“In keeping with our usual practice, we vetted the women who accused Trump. For example, our vetting of the woman that we, in good faith believe is TW2, included conducting a background check, asking her for photos (which she said she had) to corroborate her story or portions thereof, review of her social media, factual research, and following up with two other women identified by TW2 to corroborate material parts of her story. To date TW2 has not retracted her story and I still believe her when she says Donald Trump assaulted her.
“Sexual assault victims are typically afraid and often change their minds about coming forward. This is particularly true when the accused is wealthy and powerful because victims realize that they are putting their own reputation and ability to earn a living on the line, should they decide to take on powerful men. Multiply that well-founded fear times 1,000 in this case. So it was understandable that TW2 very much wanted to tell her story one day, changed her mind the next day, and on, and on. My job is not to make that big decision for a victim, but to advise her of the pros and cons and help her reach her goal.
“In fact, after we vetted TW2 and agreed to represent her, we advised her of the risks of speaking out and she decided that she did not want to come forward. We respected her decision and parted ways. I wished her the best and she sent me words of appreciation.
“Ultimately, two women were willing to go on the record and two were not. On November 3, 2016, Jane Doe (Accuser #3) agreed to speak at a press conference at my office. During the lead-up to the press conference and after, she and I received multiple death and rape threats. Moments before the press conference was scheduled to begin, Jane Doe backed out. I understood why. She was afraid. My heart went out to her as did many who could understand her fear and pain. Of course I respected her decision and helped her remove herself from the narrative.
“At that point, several donors came forward with offers of financial help to ensure the safety of the women who would come forward. I was happy to relay those offers of funds for relocation to a safer community and round the clock security.”
“After the aborted November 3, 2016, press conference involving Jane Doe, TW2 contacted me again and said that she had changed her mind again and wanted to come forward. She said that she was moved by the plight of Jane Doe and wanted to speak out. She asked to be compensated, citing concerns for her safety and security and over time, increased her request for financial compensation to $2 million, which we told her was a non-starter. We did relay her security concerns to donors, but none were willing to offer more than a number in the low six figures, which they felt was more appropriate to address her security and relocation expenses.”
“After TW2 agreed to come forward again, she again changed her mind several times. We patiently talked her through the pros and cons. Ultimately, we flew to Virginia to meet with her. She was not in the hospital. She said she was at home. We invited her to meet with us at the hotel restaurant and she accepted. Ultimately, after another heartfelt discussion, she decided that she did not want to come forward, and we respected her decision.
“I can say unequivocally that we did not communicate with Hillary Clinton nor anyone from her campaign. We did not communicate with the Democratic National Committee or Perkins Coie (the DNC law firm) about the Trump accusers.
“Your questions seem to imply that we were trying to use the prospect of donor funds to entice women to come forward against their will. Nothing can be further from the truth. Some clients asked for small photo licensing fees while others wanted more to protect their security. During this difficult and stressful time for everyone involved more than one Trump accuser, including TW2, sent me many, kind appreciative messages thanking me for the sensitivity that I showed them and the time that I spent helping them weigh their options. Months later TW2 sent me more appreciative texts and even a personal gift handmade by her daughter.
“We are a small, private civil rights firm. We do many cases pro bono — for a fee or significantly reduced rate. Our pro bono fee agreements generally say that in the unlikely event the client earns money from photo licensing or media deals, we take one third. This rarely happens, and when it does, it’s generally only a few thousand dollars. But it seems fair to us to have this possibility to help us make payroll, pay rent, insurance and other significant business costs, and our clients are happy to agree to it.
“I have spent my career representing women and some men who have been the victims of sexual harassment and assault. I am gratified at the change we are experiencing as a society where we are saying enough — and where people who have not been victims are doing what they can to support those who are. I hope that these changes will substantively alter the environment so women no longer have to put up with sexual misconduct. And I hope that those who come forward will no longer have to pay the heavy price that victims of the past had to pay. And I sincerely hope that anyone who has done these terrible things will no longer be afforded the privilege of serving the nation, regardless of political party. As I write this, I am in Washington D.C. with another pro bono client, Marion Brown, who I represented against Democratic Congressman John Conyers.”
Excerpts of Lisa Bloom statement concerning her assistance to client Jill Harth:
“I always find it curious that people question how civil rights attorneys like me get paid, when no one asks how much money Donald Trump’s lawyers make. We do many pro bono cases at my law firm, The Bloom Firm. In these cases we help people for free or at a sharply reduced rate. This was the case for all four of the Trump accusers we represented in 2016.
“Without revealing any particular client’s agreement, our standard pro bono agreement for legal services provides that if a media entity offers to compensate a client for sharing his or her story we receive a percentage of those fees. This rarely happens. But, on occasion, a case generates media interest and sometimes (not always) a client may receive an appearance fee. As a private law firm we have significant payroll, rent, taxes, insurance and other expenses every week, so an arrangement where we might receive some compensation to defray our costs seems reasonable to us and is agreed to by our clients.
“Jill Harth was the first woman to bravely speak out about sexual harassment and assault against Donald Trump — months before the Access Hollywood recording was released. She had filed a sexual harassment case against Donald Trump and had given sworn deposition testimony about his harassment of her in the 1990’s. Hence no one could claim that she was making up the story in 2016. In addition, her ex-husband was a corroborating witness to her allegations. My team and I worked hard reviewing her legal documents, conducting legal research, talking at length to Jill and witnesses, advising and advocating for her. I will not reveal the details of any of that work.
“I was proud to represent her and I still am. For months, Jill was the only woman brave enough to speak out about being sexually harassed by Donald Trump. She endured a tidal wave of hate for it. It was very painful for her. And as a New York City makeup artist, Jill lost jobs after she came out publicly against Donald Trump. I believed that people wanted to donate to help her, so we set up the GoFundMe account. Other donors reached out to my firm directly to help some of the women I represented.
“We did not communicate with Hillary Clinton nor anyone from her campaign on any of this.
“We are not assisting Jill Harth with the sale of her memoir, nor would we take any of her book sales. I do look forward to reading her book.”
Excerpts of statement of Jill Harth concerning attorney Lisa Bloom’s work on her behalf:
“Nothing that you’ve said to me about my mortgage or the Go Fund Me that was created to help me out financially affects the facts or the veracity of my 1997 federal complaint against Donald J. Trump for sexual harassment and assault. In fact, my comments about him during his candidacy were only made in response to him opening the Pandora’s box about the complaint.
“I went to a rally for Trump in January 2016 in South Carolina. We met and we had an understanding that we would let ‘sleeping dogs lie’ in regards to that old complaint. But once the media rediscovered the complaint, Donald responded to it by repeatedly denigrating and disparaging me and releasing an old National Enquirer article from the 1990’s that he planted.
“The media stole photos off my website and social media and used them without permission or payment. Lisa Bloom helped me protect my copyright for my website and to get some compensation for the photos that were already being used. Lisa Bloom guided me with who to tell my story to as it was being done anyway inaccurately without me saying a word. I was besieged by media requests then, and still am today, because Donald continues to stir the pot by supporting others who are accused of doing the same thing he has done to me. He continues to call me a liar and uses the White House as a weapon against me.
“Having to retell my experiences of Donald Trump’s harassment is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I consider myself lucky to have had Lisa Bloom by my side after my old lawsuit resurfaced. She advised me with great competence and compassion. As we were telling our stories, all of us were hit with frightening threats, hate, and lies dredged up by Trump’s investigators.
“Another accuser, who I knew and referred to Lisa, asked for monetary assistance so she could relocate. She kept changing her mind about whether she wanted to tell her story and ultimately she didn’t, which I understand. Lisa was patient and kind to her, as Lisa always was with me.”
President Trump was not married to Melania back then .. But that FAKE accuser might be the reason President Trump got himself private planes, to avoid desperate and deeply dishonest people like that.