Hush money to possible indictment

Hush money to possible indictment

Seventeen years ago, a silk-pajama-clad Donald Trump, then 60, allegedly had three minutes of sex with 27-year-old porn star Stormy Daniels at a Lake Tahoe, Nev., golf tournament.

Here is how a very brief encounter became a sprawling scandal which threatens to lead to the first-ever indictment of an ex-president – and created some very memorable nicknames along the way.


Trump comes to Daniels’ booth at the tournament and looks through her DVDs, then poses for a picture — which she posts to MySpace.

According to Daniels‘ version — which Trump denies — he invites her to her room, asks “Have you seen my new magazine?” (which has his portrait on the cover) and she replies: “Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it.”

He jokingly drops his pants, she delivers a couple of taps, and he starts to charm her. “Wow, you — you are special. You remind me of my daughter,” he allegedly says, showing Daniels a picture of his wife, Melania, and 4-month-old son Barron, and inviting her to stay for dinner.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump and Barron Trump.
Trump showed Daniels a picture of his wife, Melania, and then 4-month-old son Barron — telling her the couple had “separate beds.”
Getty Images

After they eat, she uses the restroom and comes out to find him sitting on the edge of the bed. “Come here,” Trump says, and the two start kissing before moving to full sex without a condom.

Three minutes later, it is over, and Trump tells Daniels: “Oh, that was just great. I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna call you. I have to see you again. You’re amazing. We have to get you on ‘The Apprentice.’”

Trump has always denied having sex with Daniels. He also denies illegal campaign payments and calls the investigation into him a “witch hunt.”


Trump announces he is running for president. Daniels’ agent cuts a $15,000 deal with InTouch magazine to tell her story of sex with politician-cum-“Apprentice” star.

She takes a lie-detector test which finds a more than 99% probability she was being truthful.

Stormy Daniels and other adult entertainers
Porn star Daniels (center) has become one of adult entertainment’s biggest names thanks to the Trump claims. She started trying to sell her story in 2011.

But when the magazine goes to the Trump Organization for comment, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen threatens to sue, and the magazine calls off the story.

Daniels gets nothing; Trump pulls out of the presidential race.

Later that year, blog The Dirty publishes a claim of Daniels and Trump having an affair, but Daniels’s own attorney sends it a cease-and-desist letter.

No other publication follows it.


With Trump running for president, Daniels’s agent tries to sell her story for $200,000 to the Nation Enquirer and others, but there are no takers.

In summer, Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal takes her story of a lengthy affair with Trump to the National Enquirer.

But instead of publishing it, they make her an offer: Keep your story secret and get $150,000, the cover of sister magazine Men’s Journal and a regular column.

Donald Trump and Karen McDougal
Karen McDougal, a Playboy centerfold, got $150,000 to keep her claim of a long affair with Trump quiet — the first of the National Enquirer’s catch-and-kill operations.

Karen McDougal
McDougal got to be on the cover of Men’s Health, a sister magazine of the National Enquirer.

She takes the so-called “catch-and-kill” deal, brokered by David Pecker, American Media Inc.’s CEO and Trump friend, who works with Cohen to get the money back.

In October, Trump is hit by the Pussygate tape, and Daniels’ agent contacts the Enquirer once again.

This time, there is even more interest in doing a catch-and-kill deal, and magazine executives contact Cohen to ask for help containing it.

Cohen talks to Trump, Pecker’s editor-in-chief Dylan Howard and Daniels’s attorney, and pays $130,00 in return for Daniels’ silence.

The deal calls Trump “David Dennison,” and Stormy signs it while shooting porn in Calabasas, Calif.

But Cohen cannot get Trump to hand over the cash — and Daniels apparently starts shopping her story again.

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen (right) was Trump’s go-to fixer and in 2016 orchestrated both catch-and-kill operations, but ended up using his own money to pay off Daniels.

Trump’s long-time friend David Pecker (left) was CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI) and helped put together the catch-and-kill deals.
Patrick McMullan/PatrickMcMullan

Fearing Trump won’t pay up, Cohen uses his own home equity credit to get the money quickly, and sets up a shell company to send her it with less than two weeks until election day.

Cohen himself has to wait a year to be fully reimbursed: Trump writes the last check to him in the Oval Office in October 2017.


Donald Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels goes public in January.

That is thanks to a story in the Wall Street Journal, which makes clear that Daniels “appeared in about 150 adult films and was considered among the industry’s biggest stars when the then 27-year-old met Mr. Trump … “

Donald Trump's checks to Michael Cohen
Checks written to Cohen by Trump while in office are part of the evidence in the case being prepared against the ex-president.

Never one to shy from shading the truth, in February, Cohen admits that he actually made the payment but maintains, “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford [née Daniels] … ”

He also insists that it was “not a campaign contribution.”

Daniels, now repped by the soon-to-be-disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti, sues to nullify the gag agreement.

She claims, in the March lawsuit, to have been the victim of Cohen’s “intimidation and coercive tactics.”

Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels
Daniels was represented by Michael Avenatti, but the attorney is now disgraced and in prison.

Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room in 2018
Trump angrily denied sex with Daniels and allegations of a cover-up, calling it all a con.

Trump says he never signed the agreement.

The president claims to know nothing about it — even though wires were arranged through Cohen’s Trump Organization email — and steps into a defamation lawsuit from Daniels after he Tweeted that a claim of hers qualified as a “total con job.”

Trump calls her “Horse Face,””and uses the insult repeatedly, while she nicknames him “Tiny.”

FBI agents raid Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April. They find a trove of tax records and a paper trail related to the Daniels’ payments.

Trump made “Horseface” his go-to nickname for Daniels. He now uses it on his Truth Social platform.
Daniels reciprocated with “Tiny” for Trump.

Going against the grain in May, Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, maintains that his client paid back Cohen for the $130,000 doled out to Daniels.

On Twitter, Trump insists that funds “from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”

His cover blown by a phone recording — played on CNN, in July, which features Trump and Cohen talking about an impending payment to McDougal — Cohen waits a month before pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations as they pertained to the Daniels and McDougal bribes.

Rudy Giulian and Chris Cuomo
Trump used Rudy Giuliani as his Daniels attorney for a time before the former New York mayor fought for the president during his first impeachment.

Toad from Mario Kart
Daniels compared Trump’s penis to a “Super Mario” video game character.

Cooperating with the Feds, Cohen throws in an allegation that he did it all at the instruction of Trump; the Manhattan District Attorney’s office under Cyrus Vance Jr. launches an investigation of the then-sitting president.

In October, Stormy Daniels authors “Full Disclosure.” Among the more memorable allegations: “I lay there annoyed that I was getting f–ked by a guy with yellow Yeti pubes and a d— liked the mushroom character in ‘Mario Kart.’”

Soon after, making an outrageous appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Daniels demonstrates how she spanked Trump and views a selection of mushrooms.

Kimmel asks, “Which of these mushrooms, orange mushrooms, would most represent the commander in chief of the United States Military?” She picks the toad-stool.

Not only is Daniels’ defamation lawsuit tossed out of court in December, but she is also made to cover Trump’s legal expenses of $293,052. She appeals.

That same month, Cohen is sentenced to three years in federal prison and AMI acknowledges that it killed McDougal’s story in service to Trump’s campaign.

No charges are filed against the publisher.

Michael Cohen going to prison
Cohen leaves his apartment to report to prison in Manhattan in May 2019.


In May, Cohen begins serving his sentence in an Upstate NY prison.

He enters a Jewish-centric joint where the menu is said to feature matzo ball soup and gefilte fish.

Two months later, documents are uncovered that hint at Trump’s knowledge of the payments for silence.

Come August, the Trump Organization is subpoenaed, by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, for records that could tie into the suspicious payments.

Cyrus Vance Jr.
Manhattan DA Cy Vance entered the Daniels drama in 2019, four years before Trump would predict he was about to be arrested.
Getty Images

Trump’s tax returns are subpoenaed in September. Trump appeals to keep his records out of Vance’s hands. Two courts turn him down, and, in November, he takes his case to the Supreme Court.


Cohen gets early release thanks to COVID and is promptly spotted by The Post at Le Bilboquet for a late dinner, breaching his curfew.

He tweets he is writing a tell-all book, and is summoned to a meeting with a probation officer who says his release conditions now include a ban on publishing a book, tweeting and talking to the press. 

Daniels has repeatedly told her story through the years — including to Anderson Cooper on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in 2018, its highest-rated episode of the year.

When he balks Cohen is thrown into solitary — and only released when a federal judge overturns the ban and calls it retaliation. In October, Cohen details the Stormy pay-off in number one bestseller “Disloyal: A Memoir.” Trump tweets his review: Cohen is “a convicted lier … who may be going back to jail for an even longer time.

Vance marks Trump leaving office by hiring consultants to help the Trump case. Days later, the Supreme Court orders Mazars to hand his tax returns to Vance, fueling belief that prosecutors are focused on other charges for Trump.

Inside the Manhattan DA’s office there is chaos. One hired gun, Mark Pomerantz, theorizes about charging Trump with money-laundering while calling him the victim of extortion.  Three career prosecutors leave, citing “gaps” in the evidence. 

And Vance charges the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, its CFO, with tax fraud in June — making it look like the Stormy probe is stalling.

But then a prosecution gets a shot in the arm: Vance starts presenting evidence to a grand jury in November, and leaves office with his team taking over.


Progressive Alvin Bragg — who boasted of going after Trump’s charitable foundation in 2018 — takes over as Manhattan District Attorney and immediately convenes a meeting with the Trump-Daniels team. 

Alvin Bragg at court in Manhattan
Alvin Bragg is now heading the Manhattan District Attorney’s office after it was thrown into chaos by him flip-flopping on prosecuting Trump.
Steven Hirsch

When he questions their case’s strength, top prosecutors Carey Dunne — who ran it from the start — and Pomerantz both quit. Pomerantz’s leaked, blistering resignation letter says Trump “committed multiple felonies.” 

The grand jury ends with no charges, and the case appears to be effectively over. Trump’s lawyer thanks Bragg for “an apolitical decision.” 

Stormy Daniels’ litigation with Trump ends with her owing him $300,000 and vowing not to pay “Tiny” a penny. 


Bragg and Trump start the year united, both trying — and failing — to stop a tell-all book by Pomerantz which calls Bragg gun-shy and Trump a criminal.  

But the unity is shattered when Bragg impanels a grand jury, with Pecker as the first known witness and other Trump fixtures, including his onetime Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway, spotted outside the courthouse.

Scene outside Manhattan courthouse
Manhattan’s court house has become the focus for intense security after Trump called for protests from his followers, although few initially turned up.
Getty Images

Furious, Trump steps up attacks on “racist” Bragg, highlighting New York’s crime problem and botched bail reform. 

And Trump slams “serial liar” Cohen, who is clearly the key witness, returning repeatedly after first testifying on March 13. Between testifying, the convicted liar gives liberal networks like MSNBC a running commentary. 

On March 18, Trump proclaims he will be “arrested” on Tuesday March 21 and demands his supporters protest, dramatically increasing pressure on the probe and putting the NYPD on high alert. 

Stormy’s three minutes of fame gets another extension as Trump calls her “Horseface” again. She puts the attention to work, promoting her OnlyFans account and personal appearances and hawking signed merchandise while dissing “Tiny.” 

And in Florida, Trump does much the same:Hhis campaign rakes in $1.5 million between claiming he will be arrested on Tuesday 21 and the day passing without indictment. 

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