As we wait for the hearing to resume, here’s a primer on the hush-money deals.
Michael Cohen has acknowledged coordinating two hush-money payments during the 2016 election on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Thefirst, in early August, was withKaren McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1998. Thesecond, in late October, was withStormy Daniels, the former porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Early indications were that Michael Cohen’s testimony at the House today will focus more on the deal with Ms. Daniels, because Mr. Cohen personally paid her $130,000 from his home-equity line and was later reimbursed by the president, raising issues of Mr. Trump’s failure to initiallydisclosethe transaction as a loan to Mr. Cohen.
The Journal has reported that Mr. Trumpplayed a central rolein both hush money deals during the campaign. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the two deals, starting with Ms. Daniels here, and then Ms. McDougal in the next post. Mr. Trump denies having had sex with either woman.
Ms. Daniels has said she slept with Mr. Trump at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006. She tried to sell that story in 2011 to a celebrity magazine, but Mr. Cohen pressured the publication, Life & Style, to kill the story. A gossip blog, The Dirty, did print the story later that year, but was pressured to take it down by a lawyer for Ms. Daniels, Keith Davidson.
In 2016, Ms. Daniels and her agent began trying to sell the story again, for upwards of $200,000. They couldn’t get anyone to buy it, however. After theAccess Hollywood tapewas published by the Washington Post in early October, with Mr. Trump heard making lewd remarks about women, his campaign went into a tailspin. Ms. Daniels agent, Gina Rodriguez, reached out to Dylan Howard, the editor of the National Enquirer, trying to sell the story again. Ms. Daniels, through her agent, was in preliminary talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” to tell her story.
Mr. Howard and his boss, American Media Inc. chief David Pecker, contacted Mr. Cohen and put him in touch with Mr. Davidson, who was still Ms. Daniels’ lawyer. That is when Mr. Trump, smarting from the Access Hollywood tape, told Mr. Cohen to “get it done,” according to Mr. Cohen’s account to prosecutors. After a series of fits and starts, Mr. Cohen sent a $130,000 payment for Ms. Daniels from his personal home-equity line. In a nondisclosure agreement Mr. Cohen executed through a shell company called Essential Consultants, Mr. Trump was referred to as David Dennison, and Ms. Daniels as Peggy Peterson, to shield their identities.
Mr. Cohen later worked with the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, to getreimbursedby Mr. Trump for the payment through a series of monthly payments disguised as legal fees, according to prosecutors and people familiar with the matter.
The Journal reported the existence of the deal on Jan. 12, 2018.