US President Donald Trump has been indicted in relation to a corruption case involving the porn actress Stormy Daniels. While the former president has multiple ongoing criminal cases investigating his various alleged wrongdoings, the actions of one woman appear to be what could finally see Trump face his day in court.
“Thank you to everyone for your support and love!,” Daniels wrote on Twitter in reaction to the news.
Trump has denied the charges, and any suggestion of guilt or offence, but New York prosecutors are now confident that they have the evidence needed to pin charges on him.
Of all the potentially criminal things Trump has done or said, it appears that this alleged affair with a porn star is what will either end his political career or supercharge it to dangerous new levels.
It’s been nearly two decades since the pair encountered each other, with coverups, intimidation, and corruption allegedly reigning across the intervening years. Now, Daniels might have her comeuppance, striking a blow for women and marginalised people everywhere into the heart of a man who has come to represent a vicious strain of toxic masculinity.
Here’s what you need to know about “the little girl from Baton Rouge” and how she may just have brought down one of the most powerful people in the world.
Who Is Stormy Daniels?
Stormy Daniels is, of course, a stage name — which is why it’s slightly weird we all refer to her using it. Nevertheless, it’s something she herself has embraced, using the adopted name on her social media handles and as her byline of her autobiography.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is 44 years old and hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Born in 1979, the actress has said she came from an “average, lower-income household” in a “really bad neighbourhood,” describing days during her childhood when the family would go without electricity.
She began stripping at the age of 17 in Baton Rouge in 1997 and entered the adult film industry in 2000. Her stage name was inspired by her love of the band Motley Crue, whose bassist names his daughter Storm, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey. During her successful career as a performer and a director, she became a well-known personality and won numerous industry awards. She has also appeared in mainstream films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
In 2009 she became engaged in politics, launching a campaign – which she ultimately backed out of – to run against Republican senator David Vitter in 2010 on the basis that he had been linked to a prostitution ring. During the campaign, her manager’s car was bombed in an alleged intimidation attempt.
She joined the Republican party later that year, drawing attention to sex scandals within the party and claiming that “my libertarian values regarding both money and sex and the legal use of one for the other is now best espoused by the Republican Party.”
Daniels currently lives in Texas, has been married four times, and has a daughter named Caden Crain.
What Was Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels’ Relationship?
Daniels has claimed that she was introduced to Donald Trump in July of 2006 at a celebrity golf fund-raising tournament in Nevada. She has said that Trump invited her to dinner at his hotel suite and showed her photos of himself on the front cover of a golf magazine.
“And I was like, ‘Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it,'” Daniels told 60 Minutes in 2018.
“So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little – you know had underwear on and stuff – and I just gave him a couple swats,” she said.
Trump then compared Daniels to his daughter and promised to get her on his TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. When she returned from the bathroom, he had undressed and the pair engaged in consensual sex, according to Daniels. Trump also got her to sign a DVD of hers for him.
She then went on to describe in the interview that, a year later. Trump invited her to his hotel in Beverly Hills where they discussed her appearing on the show. When she declined to have sex with him again, she was later called and told he couldn’t get her on the show.
The alleged affair occurred while Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, just four months after the birth of his youngest child, Barron.
In 2011, Daniels tried to tell her story to In Touch Weekly magazine, which was corroborated by friends, but Trump’s lawyer threatened to sue the publication, according to former employees of the tabloid.
In the 2018 interview with 60 Minutes, Daniels recounts being threatened at the time by someone she claims to have been working for Trump.
“I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter…. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'” Daniels said.
“And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone.”
The interview was given as Daniels mounted a civil lawsuit against Trump in an effort to break a non-disclosure agreement between the pair. These claims relate to a 2016 agreement that was signed by Daniels and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, but not by Trump himself. Daniels’s claim rested on the fact that Trump didn’t sign the paperwork, making the NDA invalid.
As part of the deal, Daniels was given a USD$130,000 payment by Cohen.
She wrote in her book that she used the money to buy a new horse trailer and “I thought that would be the end of it.” She was also married at the time and hoped that her affair would be kept a secret from her husband.
What Was Trump Indicted for?
The 2018 lawsuit was sparked over one of Trump’s posts on Twitter in which he accused Daniels of a “con job” following the 60 Minutes interview. In court filings, much of the above information was revealed for the first time.
The NDA deal, described as “hush money”, was paid to Daniels just days before the 2016 Presidential election. While the payment of hush money, surprisingly, isn’t illegal, Cohen paid Daniels with his own finances which were then reimbursed by the Trump Organisation, via Trump personally. The reimbursements were described in financial records as ‘legal retainers’.
The organisation was actively involved in a political campaign at the time. As such, fraudulently recording political finances is a criminal offence.
Cohen was jailed in 2018 over the payments on multiple counts of violating election campaign laws. During his trial, he testified that Trump had directed him to make the payments and had reimbursed him for them. He also claimed that it wasn’t the only time he was told to pay hush money to women alleging affairs with the President.
Trump initially said he did not know about the payments, then later denied directing Cohen to make them.
These claims caught the attention of the New York District Attorney’s office, which has had an ongoing investigation into the claims since 2018. In 2022, Alvin Bragg took over as District Attorney and restarted the investigation. A grand jury investigation was established earlier this year to investigate if there was enough evidence to pursue charges against Trump over the payments to Daniels.
Daniels met with Manhattan prosecutors to answer questions about the payments from the President, agreeing to make herself a witness or provide further evidence if needed.
In February, Daniels tweeted a thank you to Trump for a post of his on Truth Social in which he described their interaction as “very old & happened a long time ago.” Daniels took this as an admission of guilt.
Thanks for just admitting that I was telling the truth about EVERYTHING. 😂 Guess I'll take my "horse face" back to bed now, Mr. former "president".
Btw, that's the correct way to use quotation marks. 💋 pic.twitter.com/VSG867kwk8
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) January 31, 2023
On Thursday, local time, the grand jury decided that there was enough evidence to charge Trump the former President was indicted.
Daniels retweeted a post from her lawyer stating that the indictment of Donald Trump wasn’t cause for joy. “The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail. No one is above the law,” she wrote.