The Washington Post
A guide to case involving Trump, Stormy Daniels and a $130,000 payment
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into former president Donald Trump’s role in hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, appears to be winding down.
The case involves a $130,000 payment made during the frenetic 2016 presidential campaign, a former Trump lawyer and fixer who served time in prison, and a prosecutor who could seek criminal charges against a former president now running for office once again. Here’s a guide to the basics.
Who is Stormy Daniels and how is she tied to Trump?
Stormy Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — is an adult-film actress who told people that she had an affair with Donald Trump years before he won the presidency in 2016. In her telling, Daniels met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006 and had sex with him. Trump has denied any affair.
The issue surged into national view in 2018 when the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had negotiated a secret payment to ensure her silence on the issue shortly before the 2016 election.
Who is Michael Cohen and how does he fit into this?
Michael Cohen is a former personal lawyer for Trump who has turned into a staunch critic of the former president.
Cohen acknowledged in 2018 that he paid hush money to Daniels. That same year, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he did not know about the payment. Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor turned Trump lawyer, later said that the former president had repaid Cohen. Trump, in turn, admitted reimbursing Cohen, saying in a string of Twitter posts that the lawyer “received a monthly retainer” which was used “to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair.”
While Trump was in office, he and Cohen underwent a rather public rupture. That included Trump calling his former lawyer a “rat” and “a weak person,” while Cohen called the former president “a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”
Cohen served time in prison after pleading guilty in two criminal cases — including one that involved campaign finance violations related to Daniels and another woman who alleged an affair with Trump. In that case, Cohen’s guilty plea pointed a finger directly at Trump, saying the goal of those actions in 2016 was to influence the looming election.
What is this $130,000 payoff that keeps getting mentioned?
The $130,000 payment is how much Cohen paid Daniels, so that number will get brought up a lot in stories about the issue.
Who is investigating the issue, and what is the status?
Bragg, the elected Manhattan prosecutor, had convened a grand jury to look at business-related matters involving Trump. That included Trump’s role in the hush-money payments made to Daniels.
Bragg, a Democrat, assumed the role at the beginning of 2022, and he has faced public pressure over his office’s handling of Trump-related issues. Two veteran prosecutors in the office resigned in protest last year, feeling frustrated that Bragg would not authorize them to seek an indictment against Trump. Bragg later issued a statement saying criminal probes of Trump’s business practices were still ongoing.
The investigation into Trump’s business-related issues appeared to gain traction in recent months after seeming dormant for much of last year. Bragg convened a new grand jury this year to hear evidence focused largely on the Daniels issue.
What could happen going forward, and what kind of charges could Trump face?
Bragg is examining whether Trump broke campaign finance laws with his manner of reimbursing Cohen.
Cohen appeared before the grand jury Monday, and prosecutors have invited Trump to speak to the group as well, which could signal that the investigation is winding down.
It remains unclear whether Bragg will seek an indictment, which is a formal document outlining crimes that the grand jury believes someone committed. Legal analysts say such a criminal case could face potential hurdles, describing it as unusual for a local prosecutor to prosecute a presidential candidate for violating state campaign finance law, among other things.
A criminal case against Trump in the matter could also face another hurdle: relying at least somewhat on testimony from Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to, among other things, lying to Congress.
How has Trump responded to Daniels’s allegations and the case?
Trump has pilloried Bragg and his investigations, grouping them in with other inquiries examining the former president that he has denounced as unfair. He has also denied having an affair with Daniels and insulted her appearance.
Is this the only active investigation involving Trump?
It is not. Trump is facing investigations related to his handling of classified material at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club, and his attempts to block Joe Biden from taking office after he won the 2020 presidential election. Trump has announced that he is running for president again in 2024, and his advisers have said they are preparing to campaign while he is facing potential criminal charges.