BY JOHN SOLOMON AND ALISON SPANN – 12/15/17
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 Trump during 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.
Bloom hopped on a plane from California to come see the woman on the East Coast, according to the text messages and interviews.
The next day, the woman finally reconnected with Bloom and informed her she would not move forward with making her allegations public. Bloom reacted in a string of text messages after getting the news.
“I am confused because you sent me so many nice texts Wednesday night after my other client wasted so much of my time and canceled the press conference,” Bloom texted on Nov. 5, 2016. “That meant a lot to me. Thursday you said you wanted to do this if you could be protected/relocated. I begged you not to jerk me around after what I had just gone through.”
A little later, she added another text. “You have treated me very poorly. I have treated you with great respect as much as humanly possible. I have not made a dime off your case and I have devoted a great deal of time. It doesn’t matter. I could have done so much for you. But you can’t stick to your word even when you swear you will.”
After the woman was released from the hospital, she agreed to meet Bloom at a hotel on Nov. 6, just two days before Trump unexpectedly defeated Clinton.
The woman told The Hill in an interview that at the hotel encounter, Bloom increased the offer of donations to $750,000 but still she declined to take the money.
The woman texted Bloom that day saying she didn’t mean to let her lawyer down.
“You didn’t let me down,” Bloom texted back. “You came and spoke to me and made the decision that’s right for you. That’s all I wanted.”
Bloom confirmed to The Hill that she flew to Virginia to meet with the woman after she had changed her mind several times about whether to go public with her accusations against Trump.
“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,” Bloom told The Hill.
Bloom said the donor money was never intended “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,” she said.
Bloom declined to identify the name of any donors who would have provided money for women making accusations against Trump.
Harth and the woman who decided not to go public said they never were given any names of donors.
But Bloom told the woman who declined to come forward that she had reached out to political action committees supporting Clinton’s campaign.
“It’s my understanding that there is some Clinton Super Pack [sic] that could help out if we did move forward,” the woman wrote Bloom on Oct. 11, 2016. “If we help the Clinton campaign they in turn could help or compensate us?”
Bloom wrote back, “Let’s please do a call. I have already reached out to Clinton Super PACs and they are not paying. I can get you paid for some interviews however.”
The woman who ultimately declined to come forward with Bloom told The Hill that she stayed silent for an entire year afterward because she did not want to call attention to her family.
She said she supported Trump in 2016, and that he she held no resentment about the early 1990s advance because Trump stopped it as soon as she asked him.
She said she remains friends with many people associated with the president to this day, including one of his best personal friends and a lawyer who works for one of the firms representing Trump.
The woman said, however, no one associated with the Trump White House or the president forced her to come forward or made any offers to induce her to talk to The Hill. She said she agreed to do so only after she became disgusted to learn this past October that Bloom had agreed to work in defense of Weinstein.
“I couldn’t understand how she could say she was for people like me and then represent someone like him. And then all the money stuff I knew about. I just became frustrated,” she said.
Bloom dropped her representation of Weinstein as the accusations piled up against him, telling Buzzfeed that it had been a “colossal mistake.”
Nearly from the beginning, Bloom made clear to the woman she would have to pay her law firm a commission on any fees the attorney arranged from media outlets willing to pay for the woman’s story, according to a copy of a contract as well as a text message sent to the woman.
“Outlets with which I have good relationships that may pay for your first on camera interview, revealing your name and face: Inside Edition, Dr. Phil, LawNewz.com,” Bloom texted the woman just weeks before Election Day. “My best estimate of what I could get for you would be $10-15,000 (less our 1/3 attorney fee).”
“If you are interested I would recommend Inside Edition or Dr. Phil as they are much bigger. Dr. Phil is doing a show on Trump accusers next Tuesday in LA and would fly you here and put you up in a nice hotel, and pay for your meals as well, with your daughter if you like,” Bloom’s text added. “Media moves very quickly so you need to decide and then once confirmed, you need to stick to it.”
Representatives of “Inside Edition” and “Dr. Phil” said they did not pay any Trump accusers for appearances last year.
Bloom’s firm sent the woman a “media-related services” contract to represent her for “speaking out against Donald Trump” that laid out business terms for selling a story in the most direct terms.
“You will compensate the Firm thirty-three percent (33%) of the total fee that you collect, whether the media deal or licensing fees is for print, Internet, radio, television, film or any other medium,” Bloom’s proposed contract, dated Oct. 10, 2016, read. The woman said she signed the contract.
When Bloom found out in early November that the woman and the friend had discussions with CBS News about doing an interview on their own, the lawyer texted back: “CBS does not pay for stories.”
A little later Bloom sent another text suggesting the arrangements she was making could be impacted by the unauthorized media contacts. “You and your friends should not be shopping the story it will come back to bite you,” Bloom texted. “And this whole thing we have worked so hard to make happen will go away.”