Former President Donald Trump did not need to mention Stormy Daniels when he claimed, in an all-caps post on his social media site Truth Social on March 18, that he “will be arrested on Tuesday.”
It was clear that Trump was referring to the percolating reports that Manhattan prosecutors were ready to take the historic step of criminally indicting a former President for the first time, following a grand jury investigation into whether he paid the adult film star hush money in 2016 to cover up an affair.
A spokesperson for Trump followed his Truth Social post with a clarification, saying Trump did not have direct knowledge of any arrest timeline when he had written that post. But members of the team working with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have indicated that they may be preparing to charge Trump with a crime related to hiding the $130,000 payment his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to Daniels in exchange for her silence before the 2016 election.
Allegations about a hush money payment over Trump’s 2006 alleged affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, have dogged Trump since January of 2018, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen paid her the $130,000 right before the election. At first, Cohen denied the affair on Trump’s behalf, and said he had paid Daniels with his own money without Trump’s involvement.
Evidence mounted that the alleged affair took place and Daniels herself spoke out about the affair and efforts to silence her afterwards. The Trump White House tried to tamp down the claims, and Trump eventually weighed in. Trump has continued to deny having an affair with Daniels and deny that any campaign money went towards paying her through Cohen.
Here are the major statements Trump has made about the Stormy Daniels payment that could be at issue in a potential indictment.
April 5, 2018
The first time Trump spoke publicly about the payment allegations, he told reporters aboard Air Force One that he did not know about the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Daniels.
When asked if he knew the source of the money, Trump said, “No, I don’t know.”
By that point, the White House had also denied that Trump ever had an affair with Daniels. Reporters asked why Cohen had paid Daniels if Trump had not had an affair with her.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump replied. “Michael’s my attorney.”
April 18, 2018
Daniels sat down for a “60 Minutes” interview in March 2018, during which she said an unknown man had threatened her and her infant child years earlier to keep quiet about her affair with Trump.
“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone, forget the story’,” Daniels said in the interview. “And he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom’.”
Trump tweeted about Daniels for the first time after she and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, released a composite sketch of that man in search of more information. “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” he wrote.
Daniels later sued Trump for defamation based on the tweet.
April 26, 2018
Trump used Daniels’ name on the record for the first time during an interview with “Fox and Friends.”
The President was describing his relationship with Cohen, his longtime fixer, whose office and hotel room were searched by the FBI on April 9. Trump said that no campaign money went towards paying Daniels. “But, Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me — like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me,” Trump said. “And, you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this… which would have been a problem. Because he’s got other things. He’s got businesses, and from what I understand they’re looking at his businesses, and I hope he’s in great shape.”
Trump also noted that Cohen took care of only a “tiny percentage of my overall legal work.”
May 3, 2018
In May, Trump posted a series of early-morning tweets confirming the existence of a non-disclosure agreement that Cohen had made with Daniels.
“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump said in the first tweet.
After referencing Cohen’s monthly retainer and “reimbursement,” Trump stated there was no campaign money involved in the agreement. Further, he suggested Daniels had violated the NDA and he planned to pursue legal action against her.
Aug. 23, 2018
By August, Cohen had pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges filed against him, including campaign finance violations through his payment to Daniels.
In an interview that “Fox & Friends” aired Aug. 23, Trump maintained the payment was “not a campaign violation. “[The payments] came from me,” he said. “And I tweeted about it. But they did not come out of the campaign.”
Cohen had said under oath that Trump instructed him to make a payment to Daniels and another woman in exchange for their silence about former affairs. But Trump contradicted this in the Fox interview, saying he only found out about both payments “later on.”
Oct. 16, 2018
Trump took to Twitter again and insulted Daniels when a federal judge dismissed her defamation suit against him.
After citing a report about the case, Trump said, “Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas. She will confirm the letter she signed! She knows nothing about me, a total con!”
Daniels had sued Trump for calling her “a total con job” in his April 18 tweet.
Jan. 23, 2023
After years of silence about the payment to Daniels, Trump obliquely discussed his own actions again in a post on Truth Social.
“With respect to the “Stormy” nonsense, it is VERY OLD & happened a long time ago, long past the very publicly known & accepted deadline of the Statute of Limitations,” Trump said. It is unclear what type of statute of limitations Trump was referring to.
He went on to seemingly reference Cohen. “I placed full Reliance on the JUDGEMENT [sic] & ADVICE OF COUNCIL [sic], who I had every reason to believe had a license to practice law, was competent, & was able to appropriately provide solid legal services. He came from a good law firm, represented other clients over the years, & there was NO reason not to rely on him, and I did,” Trump said.
March 21, 2023
Just after midnight, Trump posted a 1 minute and 35 second video on his Truth Social profile, denouncing the major investigations into his actions connected with the presidency and accusing Daniels of “extortion.”
“These four horrible, radical left Democrat investigations of your all-time favorite President, me, is just a continuation of the most disgusting witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said.
His list of grievances included past scrutiny over his relationships with Russia and Ukraine, his alleged mishandling of classified documents, and his alleged attempts to change the outcome of the 2020 election, before he referenced the Daniels matter.
“Whether it’s the Mar-a-Lago raid, or the ‘Unselect Committee’ hoax, the perfect Georgia phone call—it was absolutely perfect—or the Stormy ‘horse face’ Daniels extortion plot, they’re all sick, and it’s fake news,” Trump said. “Our enemies are desperate to stop us because they know that we are the only ones who can stop them and they know it very strongly.”
Despite losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, Trump then claimed to have won the presidency twice, urging his followers: “Now we’ve got to win a third time.”
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