The Stormy Daniels affair, which this week made Donald Trump the first US president ever to be criminally indicted, first reached the White House in February 2017.

“So picture this scene,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, said in congressional testimony two years later. “One month into his presidency, I’m visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time.

“It’s truly awe-inspiring, he’s showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says something to the effect of … ‘Don’t worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement cheques are coming. They were FedExed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system.’”

“As he promised, I received the first cheque for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.”

But what Cohen has described as “a biblical-level sex scandal” involving those cheques, which reimbursed a hush money payment to a porn star, had actually begun years before and has finally come to a head years later with Trump running for the White House again.

How did it all happen?

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is a star in the world of adult film. In 2006, when she was 27, she attended a celebrity golf event in Utah, where she met Donald Trump. Then 60, he was a New York real estate billionaire and a reality TV star, via the NBC show The Apprentice.

According to Daniels’ memoir, Full Disclosure, she spanked Trump with a copy of Forbes magazine featuring him on the cover. He said she reminded him of his daughter, Ivanka, and floated a slot on The Apprentice. Trump also reassured Daniels that he and his wife, Melania, who has just given birth to a son, slept in separate beds.

spotlight. In April 2018, FBI agents raided his office in New York.

“Am I El Chapo all of a sudden?” Cohen would write later of the moment.

He wasn’t a Mexican drug lord but he was a prize eagerly sought by the law: the man who knew where the bodies were buried in Trump’s world. Cohen flipped.


In August 2018, he pleaded guilty on eight federal counts including tax evasion and campaign finance violations linked to the Daniels payments. In December 2018, he was sentenced to three years in prison. The same month, Daniels was ordered to pay Trump $300,000 over a dismissed defamation suit filed by her then (now disgraced) attorney, Michael Avenatti.

But the story continued. In February 2019, in testimony to the House oversight committee, Cohen described the Daniels affair and much more.

In New York, investigations of Trump’s financial affairs continued. One Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, bequeathed an investigation to another, Alvin Bragg. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud and was jailed. No Trump indictment emerged.

Mark Pomerantz, an experienced prosecutor working for Bragg, resigned and criticised the DA for not moving against Trump, who Pomerantz said was guilty of “numerous” felonies. This February, Pomerantz released a book in which he described the Daniels payment as a “zombie case”, because it would not die.

Shortly after that, it emerged that Bragg was moving towards an indictment arising from the Daniels payment, reportedly involving falsification of business records, tax fraud and campaign finance violations.

On Thursday, news broke of an indictment, reportedly on 34 counts, covering the cheques Trump sent to Cohen.

Trump denounced the charge, complaining of political persecution.

Cohen told CNN: “It’s a lot of counts, no matter how you want to slice it. Thirty-four is a lot of counts.”

Daniels said: “Thank you to everyone for your support and love! I have so many messages coming in that I can’t respond … also don’t want to spill my champagne.”


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