The revelation that Stormy Daniels was threatened with physical harm over her claims against President Donald Trump could invalidate the nondisclosure agreement, trigger possible criminal charges -- and bring down his presidency.
Attorney Michael Avenatti told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, was threatened with physical harm but refused to say whether the threat came from Trump or one of his associates.
"If Stormy Daniels comes out and says she was physically -- let's say that again, physically threatened arm -- by either the president himself or somebody close, that -- and it seems to be credible, that in and of itself would bring down this presidency," said MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch.
Host Joe Scarborough said he wasn't so sure, because it would depend on whether Republican lawmakers would hold Trump accountable.
"Step back, we're not watching a movie -- it's stunning," Deutsch said. "What happened here 15 minutes ago is nothing short of stunning."
"It changes the dynamic," agreed co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Scarborough and Brzezinski, who've known the president for years, said they had reason to believe the threat was made by a close associate of Trump's -- and that Daniels wasn't the only victim of such threats.
"Mika and I have reason to believe that it may be somebody closely associated with the president, so this is not some supporter, some random supporter," Scarborough said.
"We've heard of a pattern like this that we've seen never actually seen ourselves, but being close to the inner Trump circle," Brzezinski added.
"If this is somebody in the inner circle, if it's a henchman, somebody like that -- that will bring down this presidency," said Deutsch, who's also known Trump for years. "This is physical harm to a woman. This is not sex, this is not groping."
Scarborough said he was shocked that Avenatti answered Brzezinski's question about the alleged threat, but he said the revelation explained so much about why Daniels chose to come forward with her claims against the president.
"That had to be something at the heart of her more allegations and one of the reasons why she's so insistent on coming forward now, because either Donald Trump or somebody close to Donald Trump physically threatened her and told her to be quiet or else harm would come to her," Scarborough said.
The panelists agreed that Avenatti seemed to suggest he and Daniels would be able to document the threat in their March 25 "60 Minutes" interview, and Brzezinski explained why the allegation was such a bombshell.
"We're talking about this president, President Trump, who's very vocal about his conquests with women, or whatever you want to call it, throughout his entire career, and a porn star who, sex is a part of her career, so what would the sex be?" Brzezinski said. "Why that would be a story at this point? I think what we're looking another now is what happened after and whether or not she was threatened by the president of the United States."
MSNBC analyst John Heilemann put the claims into historical context, and he suggested Daniels was potentially the victim of extortion.
"The notion that she was not just paid off but was essentially forced to take the payment," Heilemann said, "and she was told that she had to take the money and shut up or she would be physically harmed, that in the last two weeks in a presidential campaign, where the stakes are who's going to win the presidency in a month of October surprises, when Donald Trump is facing multiple allegations of assault and sexual harassment, that is a gargantuan story."