It’s been nearly seven years since the hush money payments at the centre of the historic felony indictment of Donald Trump were allegedly made to cover up reported sexual affairs with two women.
The claims in the allegations against Trump from adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and Playboy model Karen McDougal go back nearly 20 years.
As the world prepares to watch a former U.S. president set to be arraigned for the first time, here’s a look back at the case and the long, winding road to this moment.
Both Daniels and McDougal claim they met Trump in 2006, shortly after his son Baron was born. According to Daniels, the two had dinner after a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev., and had sex in Trump’s hotel room. Daniels says they remain in contact for months afterwards but were never intimate with each other again.
McDougal claims she began a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006 after he filmed an episode of his TV show The Apprentice at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. According to McDougal, Trump tried to pay her after they first had sex.
Trump later denies any sexual encounters with Daniels or McDougal took place.
McDougal has claimed in interviews years later she ended her affair with Trump in 2007 because she felt guilty.
Daniels gives an interview to In Touch magazine where she details her alleged affair with Trump. The interview transcript isn’t published until 2018, which includes an editor’s note saying Daniels’ account was corroborated by a friend, her ex-husband, and a polygraph test.
The reliability of polygraph tests is highly contentious and they are not admissible as evidence in Canadian courts.
The Associated Press reports the magazine held the story after Trump’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, threatened legal action.
Daniels later claims she was threatened by a man that same year to stay quiet about the allegations.
Trump secures the Republican nomination for president, just over a year after announcing his candidacy.
According to The New Yorker, McDougal signs an agreement with American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, giving them exclusive rights to her story about the alleged Trump affair.
McDougal receives $150,000 but her story is never published. The tactic, known as “catch-and-kill,” is reportedly used frequently by AMI chairman David Pecker, a close friend of Trump.
U.S. federal prosecutors allege Pecker struck a deal with Cohen in August 2015 to suppress negative stories about Trump through “catch-and-kill” arrangements during the campaign.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Cohen arranges a $130,000 payment to Daniels to secure her silence about the alleged affair with Trump.
As Cohen later testifies, he paid Daniels with his own money and drafted a written agreement using fake names for both Daniels and Trump. He created a shell company called Essential Consultants to facilitate the payment, according to prosecutors and Cohen himself.
While the deal is being finalized, the Washington Post releases the now-infamous Access Hollywood audio tape of Trump describing sexually assaulting women with impunity. Trump apologizes and calls the comments “locker-room banter,” but denies mounting allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
The Wall Street Journal reports the details of the agreement between AMI and McDougal regarding her story. Trump and Cohen deny the allegations.
Four days later, Trump wins the presidency.
The Wall Street Journal reports on Cohen’s deal with Daniels. Once again, Trump and Cohen give emphatic denials, though Cohen does not address the payment to Daniels.
Cohen tells the New York Times he paid Daniels using his own money and was not directed by Trump’s company or campaign to make the payment. He says Trump never reimbursed him for the payment.
The New Yorker publishes its report on McDougal’s allegations and the “catch-and-kill” deal with AMI.
McDougal sues AMI to be released from the 2016 legal agreement.
She and Daniels both sit down for television interviews to Anderson Cooper where they detail the allegations against Trump, who continues to deny them.
Trump, when asked by reporters on Air Force One if he knew about the payment to Daniels, responded, “No.” Asked why Cohen made the payment, Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”
Daniels’ lawyer at the time, Michael Avenatti, files a defamation lawsuit against Trump over statements he made disparaging Daniels and denying the allegations.
The FBI raids Cohen’s home and office as part of a federal investigation into the hush money payments.
In an ethics disclosure, Trump acknowledges reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Daniels.
Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers at the time, tells Fox News the payment to Daniels was not a campaign finance violation because the money was “funneled through a law firm” and that Cohen was repaid by Trump.
CNN airs an audio recording made by Cohen in September 2016 of Trump and Cohen appearing to discuss the payment to McDougal.
Cohen pleads guilty to criminal charges in Manhattan federal court, including campaign finance violations over the hush money payments. He testifies that Trump directed him to make the payments “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
In their indictment of Cohen, prosecutors say a candidate for federal office referred to as “Individual-1” arranged the payments. Trump was not charged with a crime. Cohen eventually confirms that Trump was Individual-1.
Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump is dismissed, with the judge ruling Trump’s statements were “hyperbolic.”
Cohen is sentenced to three years in federal prison. Pecker is revealed to have signed a non-prosecution agreement with prosecutors in order to gain immunity while acting as a witness against Cohen, where he admits AMI bought McDougal’s silence to help Trump’s campaign.
One day after being disbarred, Cohen testifies to the House Oversight Committee that Trump, as Individual-1 in the federal indictment against him, personally signed some of the cheques to Cohen in repayment for the $130,000 to Daniels.
He says Trump and Allen Weisselberg, then the CFO of the Trump Organization, allegedly arranged a deal where Cohen would receive small payments that would be made to look like lawyer fees and bonuses for Cohen’s services.
Daniels drops Avenatti as her lawyer after he is indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and bank fraud involving former clients. He also faces charges of attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike. He is later sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges.
Avenatti is charged with wire fraud over allegations he stole $300,000 from Daniels as she negotiated a book deal. He pleads not guilty. He is disbarred a month later.
Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney at the time, issues a subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush money payments.
Cohen is released from prison early due to COVID-19 concerns and ordered to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. He is briefly taken back into federal custody in July, which Cohen alleges is meant to silence his criticism of Trump and exposing aspects of their business relationship in his memoir. He is released back to home confinement later that month.
Vance’s office indicts the Trump Organization and its top financial executive on tax fraud charges. Trump himself is not charged with a crime, and the indictment contains no references to hush money payments.
Cohen’s sentence expires.
Two top prosecutors leading the probe into Trump’s business practices resign. One of the prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz, later said his resignation came after Alvin Bragg — who replaced Vance as District Attorney — indicated to him he had doubts about pursuing a case against Trump.
Bragg’s office says the investigation is ongoing.
Avenatti is convicted on wire fraud and identity theft charges for stealing from Daniels while he was her lawyer.
Avenatti is sentenced to four years in prison on top of his earlier sentences. He is scheduled for release in 2036.
The Trump Organization is found guilty of tax fraud after a trial in New York state court in Manhattan. The company is fined US$1.6 million a month later.
Bragg’s office begins presenting evidence about Trump’s alleged role in the 2016 hush money payments to a grand jury.
Manhattan prosecutors invite Trump to testify before the grand jury, which he refuses. Cohen testifies, while Daniels meets with prosecutors.
Trump claims he is due to be arrested and calls for mass protests. Bragg’s office begins receiving death threats. Republicans in Congress demand Bragg appear for testimony about the investigation, which Bragg’s office refuses.
On March 30, Bragg’s office confirms it is coordinating with Trump’s lawyers for Trump to appear for an arraignment in Manhattan after the grand jury reportedly votes to indict the former president. The specific charges remain under seal.
—with files from the Associated Press and Reuters