On January 22, 2005, Donald J. Trump married Melania Knauss at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. About a year and a half later, in July 2006, while Melania was pregnant with Barron, Mr. Trump allegedly had a sexual encounter with adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, known commonly by her stage name, Stormy Daniels.
In a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine, Daniels claimed Trump invited her to dinner at his hotel suite after meeting her during the American Century celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. After dining, Daniels excused herself to use the restroom. “When I came out, he was sitting on the bed and he was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ And we started kissing.” Daniels said that, following sex, “We hung out for a little while and he just kept saying, ‘I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna call you. I have to see you again. You’re amazing. We have to get you on The Apprentice.’”
In Touch initially chose not to publish the interview and, in 2016, Daniels contacted other media outlets with her story. In October of that year, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000. The payment came to light on January 12, 2018, when the Wall Street Journal published a report in which it referred to it as “hush money.” Five days later, In Touch released its 2011 interview with Daniels. On January 22, 2018, Common Cause, a government watchdog group, filed complaints relating to the payment. A campaign finance expert for the group stated that “because the funds were paid for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential general election” they should have been reported as a campaign expense. Because the funds were paid by Cohen, they would be classified as an in-kind donation and the failure to report them would be a violation of federal election laws.
At the end of January 2018, Cohen released a letter, purportedly from Daniels, in which she claims she never had sex with Trump and never received a payout. Daniels denied the letter was from her. Two weeks later, Cohen admitted that he made the $130,000 payment to Daniels but refuted that it was done on behalf of the Trump campaign.
On February 27, claiming that a non-disclosure agreement is in place, Cohen obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent Daniels from speaking about her alleged sexual encounter with the now President of the United States. A week later, Daniels filed a suit asserting that the agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump won in arbitration in the case but this was quickly denied by Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who called the claim, “completely false” and “bogus.”
In a set of tweets on May 3, Trump wrote that Cohen was paid a “monthly retainer” that had “nothing to do with the campaign.” The president initially denied he knew about Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels but said he was later made aware of it.
The matter between Trump and Daniels is likely far from resolved. Daniels’s attorney stated he has been approached by multiple women who made claims similar to the one made by Daniels. Daniels has also filed suit against Trump for defamation after he tweeted that her accusations were a “total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”