Adult-film star Stormy Daniels leaves a hearing in New York City in 2018. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
March 31 (UPI) -- A 2006 alleged affair after a celebrity golf tournament and an effort to hide it a decade later is at the core of a historic indictment of a former U.S. president, the first in history.
A supposed secret encounter between an X-rated actress and a high-powered businessman would be tawdry enough. Adding that the businessman would become president of the United States, running for another term under indictment, adds a new level of drama.
While the exact charges against former President Donald Trump remain under seal until he appears in a Manhattan courtroom, expected to happen Tuesday, the falsification of records to hide $130,000 in payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels are at the heart of the case.
Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and alleged middleman in the arrangement, has served a stint in federal prison for violating federal campaign laws in connection with the payments.
Trump, the real estate mogul and former host of the reality TV show The Apprentice, has long denied the affair and the hush-money payments. He says the charge is politically motivated.
Trump has said in the past that his reimbursement to Cohen was for legal services and he had no knowledge of the arrangement between Cohen and Daniels. Cohen had developed a reputation at the time as Trump's "fixer."
The indictment will play significantly in the upcoming presidential race as Trump remains the most popular Republican candidate to take on Democratic President Joe Biden. Trump's GOP opponents have been reluctant to use the potential indictments as fodder against the still-popular former president.
The story about Trump's affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, dates back to an interview she gave in 2011 with In Touch magazine. She said she met Trump during a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006, months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron.
Daniels said she met Trump for dinner at his invitation and they had sex in a hotel room later that night. The Wall Street Journal revived the story in 2018, reporting Daniels had received $130,000 from Trump through Cohen to keep quiet about the affair in 2016, a week before the election in which he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton.
In front of a House committee in 2019, Cohen gave Congress what he said was evidence that Trump reimbursed him for the Daniels hush-money payment, calling his former boss a "con man" and a "cheat" whom he now regrets working for. The Office of Government Ethics ruled in 2018 that the payment to Cohen was not included in Trump's 2018 financial disclosure filing and it should have been.
The same year, Cohen agreed to rescind the signed nondisclosure agreement with Daniels that they said prevented her from talking about the alleged affair.
Long court fight
Daniels has had a long court fight in the political spotlight. She has lost several cases against Trump in court and sued her former attorney Michael Avenatti for stealing money from her. Avenatti last year was sentenced to 14 years in prison on unrelated fraud charges.
In 2019, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit she filed to end the hush-money agreement, saying the issue was moot since Cohen had voluntarily ended it.
Daniels was arrested in Columbus, Ohio in 2018 while performing at an adult club. She later reached a settlement with the city after alleging the detention was politically motivated.
A federal judge also ordered Daniels to pay Trump nearly $300,000 in legal fees for a defamation lawsuit she filed against him that was eventually dismissed.
In yet another twist, the former president is accused of trying to silence a second woman.
In 2018, the publishers of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., told the U.S. Justice Department the company worked with the Trump campaign to purchase exclusives from Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also said she had an affair with Trump.
In turn, the publishers would hold the stories indefinitely, a method referred to as "catch and kill."
Meanwhile, Trump is also facing investigations over the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, interfering with the presidential vote count Georgia and the handling of classified documents that were found in his Florida home in Mar-a-Largo after he left office.