Over the last week, speculation regarding a possible Trump indictment in Manhattan has made headlines. The investigation is not new though. Officials investigating the legality of the payoff to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence have been ongoing since Trump first sought election during the 2016 Presidential race.
This case would make history as the first criminal indictment against a former American President. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is preparing to seek felony charges against Trump for his part in attempting to conceal a hush-money payment of $130,000 that hired fixer Michael D. Cohen made to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 Presidential election.
The case relies on untested legal theories which are forcing officials to tread carefully as they expect to close in over the next week. The intricacies of the case would require D.A. Bragg to connect the hush-money cover up — a violation of state law — to federal election crimes. The details of the indictment have yet to be released but experts have weighed in on the slim possibility of successfully prosecuting a former president in a case of this magnitude that is relying on unprecedented theories.
Timeline of the case:
2006: Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, has an alleged affair with Trump after meeting at a July celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Clifford exposed the details of the alleged affair in her tell-all book “Full Disclosure.” Trump denies all claims of the affair.
2011: Clifford is set to talk about the details of the alleged affair to In Touch Magazine. Longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen threatens legal action on behalf of his client should the interview be published. The article is shelved.
October 2016: In an effort to secure Clifford’s silence in the late stages of the presidential election, Cohen makes a payment of $130,000 on Trump’s behalf to Clifford. The funds were secured by Cohen through a home-equity loan, paid through a shell corporation called “Essential Consultants.” According to the Justice Department, the hush money along with additional enhancements is repaid to Cohen for a total of $420,000 through the Trump Organization. The payback was accounted as “legal expenses” in monthly installments of $35,000.
Jan. 12-14, 2018: The Wall Street Journal breaks the news of the payment in an article titled, “Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence.” Cohen insists no affair occurred but admits to the payment made to Clifford. Although he says the money came from his personal funds.
Feb. 13, 2018: Cohen denies any connection of the payment to the Trump Organization or Trump Campaign.
April 9, 2018: The FBI raids Cohen’s office and personal residence.
May 2, 2018: Rudy Giuliani contradicts the prior denial made by Trump and Cohen during an appearance with Sean Hannity on “Fox News.” Giuliani reveals Trump did reimburse Cohen for the payment but claims the payment was funneled through a law firm, making it legal and unrelated to the campaign.
Aug. 21-23, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to numerous felonies including “unlawful campaign contributions.” The New York Times reports that following his arrest Cohen pointed the finger at senior executives in the Trump Organization as having coordinated the payment. Trump claims the payment came out of his own personal funds on an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
Feb. 27, 2019: Cohen testifies before a House Committee that Trump knew about the payment made to Clifford, the cover-up meant to hide the origin of the payment and the scheme to reimburse him.
May 6, 2019: Cohen begins a three-year sentence at Otisville federal prison.
July 17, 2019: Federal investigators announce they are ending the probe into Cohen.
Aug. 1, 2019: Then-Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance issues a subpoena demanding records regarding the payment to Clifford from the Trump Organization.
Sept. 11, 2019: Cohen negotiates an agreement with Manhattan prosecutors seeking his testimony regarding Trump’s involvement in the payment.
Nov. 21, 2022: D.A. Bragg moves to revive and refocus the investigation.
Jan. 30, 2023: The D.A. presents findings before a grand jury tasked with determining if criminal charges can be brought against Trump.
March 9, 2023: Trump is offered — and declines — the opportunity to testify before a grand jury, a signal that prosecutors are considering charges against him.
March 15, 2023: Clifford meets with prosecutors to make herself a witness in the case.
March 17, 2023: Fox News reports there have been negotiations between the D.A. office and the Secret Service for how to deal with an arrest of the former president.
March 18, 2023: Trump reveals he expects to be arrested by Tuesday, March 21.
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