NEW YORK — Twelve days before Donald Trump won one of the most astonishing upsets in the history of the American presidency, his fixer wired $130,000 to a porn star’s lawyer.
The furtive Oct. 27, 2016, payment came at the height of the election cycle — one day before the FBI director told Congress he was reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton — and concerned an alleged tryst a decade earlier.
Stormy Daniels, an adult film star from Louisiana whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had privately described having sex with Trump at a charity golf tournament event in 2006, months after the birth of the future president’s youngest son.
Trump wanted to shut Daniels up, the fixer, Michael Cohen, would later testify.
The payment seemed to work. Trump beat Clinton and became the 45th president. At one point during Trump’s presidency, Daniels apparently signed a statement saying she neither had a sexual affair with him nor received a hush money payment.
But Cohen and Daniels would both change their stories. Daniels later provided graphic accounts of Trump pursuing her in a hotel suite in 2006 and then having sex with her.
Cohen, pleading guilty in 2018 to a battery of criminal charges, said Trump had ordered the payment to Daniels to salvage his presidential campaign, a potential crime.
Now, Trump — who denies having sex with Daniels — finds himself out of the White House and in legal peril, with the payment expected to be at the center of a case that on Thursday produced the first indictment of a former U.S. president.
Here’s a look back at the events that led to this historic moment:
Daniels meets Trump at a golf event in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He is 60; she is 27. He asks her to come to dinner at his suite, according to her account, and she agrees. He wears silk pajamas and slippers, and they have sex, she has said. “It was not romantic,” she later says in court.
Daniels meets Trump again, this time in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, where they watch “Shark Week,” and he discusses putting her on his show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” she has said. “He made me sit and watch an entire documentary about shark attacks,” she will later tell CBS News. They do not have sex.
Daniels gives a lengthy interview with a gossip magazine in which she describes meeting Trump and having sex with him five years earlier. After the interview, Daniels passes a polygraph test, according to InTouch magazine. CBS News will later report that the magazine’s publisher agreed to pay $15,000 for the interview but pulled the story when Cohen threatened to sue.
A Fox News reporter, Diana Falzone, files a story detailing an alleged affair between Trump and Daniels, according to a 2018 CNN report. The Fox News report is not published. Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson, is said to be hawking Daniels’ story to The National Enquirer.
Oct. 27, 2016
Cohen funnels $130,000 to Davidson through a shell company.
Oct. 28, 2016
Daniels signs a nondisclosure agreement carrying pseudonyms.
Nov. 8, 2016
Trump is elected president.
The Trump Organization pays Cohen $420,000 throughout 2017 in monthly installments of $35,000 checks.
Jan. 9, 2018
InTouch publishes a transcript of its years-old interview with Daniels. The magazine says that Daniels’ account of the affair was supported by one of Daniels’ friends and by her former husband.
Jan. 12, 2018
The Wall Street Journal publishes a bombshell report saying that Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment a month before the 2016 election to secure Daniels’ silence on the alleged affair. Cohen issues a statement saying that Trump “vehemently denies any such occurrence,” and a separate statement, signed by Daniels, saying that she did not have a sexual affair with Trump.
Feb. 13, 2018
Cohen provides a statement to news outlets acknowledging that he paid Daniels $130,000, but saying the money was unrelated to the 2016 campaign.
March 6, 2018
Daniels files a lawsuit in California arguing that the nondisclosure agreement should be declared legally worthless because Trump did not sign it.
March 25, 2018
CBS News publishes an interview with Daniels in which she asserts she had sex with Trump in 2006. Daniels says Trump told her during the encounter that she reminded him of his daughter and that she spanked him with a magazine that featured him on the cover.
April 9, 2018
FBI agents sweep Cohen’s office. Asked if he knew of the nondisclosure agreement, Trump tells reporters, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney.”
May 2, 2018
Rudy Giuliani, newly added to Trump’s legal team, tells Fox News that Trump repaid Cohen for the payment to Daniels, but that the payments are “perfectly legal” because “that money was not campaign money.”
Aug. 21, 2018
Cohen pleads guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations, in Manhattan Federal Court. He says he worked at Trump’s direction to pay off two women who said they had sex with Trump — Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model.
December 12, 2018
Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison.
Nov. 2, 2021
Alvin Bragg is elected Manhattan district attorney, positioning the Harvard-educated Democrat from Harlem to succeed the retiring Cy Vance Jr.
The Manhattan district attorney is said to be presenting evidence to a special grand jury about Trump’s connections to payments to Daniels.
March 9, 2023
The New York Times reports that Bragg’s office has invited Trump to testify before the grand jury, a signal that an indictment is likely.
Daniels meets with prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, her lawyer says.
Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina tells The New York Daily News that the former president will surrender if he is indicted in New York.
In a social media post, Trump inaccurately predicts he will be arrested in New York three days later, and urges his supporters to protest and “TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
Trump writes on social media that there will be “death and destruction” if he is arrested. White powder is said to be discovered in an envelope marked “Alvin” at the district attorney’s mail room in lower Manhattan.
David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher, is spotted at the district attorney’s office and apparently testifies before the grand jury for the second time.
The Manhattan grand jury votes to indict Trump.