Porn star Stormy Daniels says she first had sex with former President Donald Trump in 2006, after the pair met at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. At the time, 60-year-old Trump was married to his current wife, Melania; Daniels was 27. The pair saw one another at least twice more in 2007, but allegedly never slept together again.
Fast forward to 2016, when Trump won the Republican nomination for president. It was then that Michael Cohen, Trump's "fixer," called Daniels and offered to pay her $130,000 in exchange for her silence regarding the alleged affair, which Trump has continued to deny to this day. Daniels claims she took the money to protect herself and her family, and says that she felt pressured into signing a stringent non-disclosure agreement. Now, some eight years later, Manhattan prosecutors appear to be nearing an indictment in an investigation into whether Trump falsified business records when reimbursing Cohen for handling the payment to Daniels.
Her early days
Stephanie Gregory Clifford was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and adopted the pseudonym "Stormy" in high school because of her love for Mötley Crüe. "I wanted my cool new nickname to have some connection to the band. I did not like any of their names, but the bassist Nikki Sixx" has a child "named Storm. Perfect," she wrote in a now-archived portion of her website, per New York magazine.
She began stripping at 17, at which point she unofficially changed her surname to "Daniels" as an homage to the whiskey Jack Daniel's. In 2002, she entered the porn industry and has since appeared in at least 250 films, directed at least 91, and won at least 25 awards for her work both in front of and behind the camera. She has also extended her craft to Hollywood, where she was cast in minor roles in a few popular mainstream projects, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and the music video for Maroon 5's "Wake Up Call." "She's very nice and super smart and great to work with so we just kept asking her to be in all of our movies," said director Judd Apatow, who worked with Daniels on both Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
As far as romance goes, Daniels has been reportedly married four times — to porn director Bartholomew Clifford, known as Pat Myne, from 2003-2005; to Mike Moz from 2007-2009; to porn actor Brendon Miller from 2015-2018; and, most recently, to porn star Barrett Blade. She also has a daughter.
Daniels was invested in the political scene long before her apparent tryst with Trump was revealed. In 2009, she weighed a challenge to Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R), "who had been accused of engaging with a prostitute," Insider writes. At the time, she told a reporter that she didn't necessarily believe she was the right or even best person for the job; rather, "I just think I'm a better choice than the senator they already have." In the end, she decided not to pursue the seat for financial reasons.
But then, of course, in Jan. 2018, news of the hush money broke. A month later, Cohen admitted that he paid Daniels the $130,000, after initially denying that such a lump sum existed. "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," he said. "The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone." Cohen also denied the existence of an affair between the then-president and Daniels.
But Daniels' manager said that by admitting to the arrangement, Cohen was in violation of the punitive non-disclosure agreement he had made Daniels sign. "Everything is off now," the manager said, per Insider, "and Stormy is going to tell her story." The porn star later appeared in a 60 Minutes episode with Anderson Cooper that aired on March 25, 2018.
In April, Trump publicly acknowledged the existence of the payment but denied he had known about it or knew where the money had come from. Days later, the FBI raided Cohen's office and residence, where agents found "records of the $130,000 payment to Daniels and recordings of phone calls between Cohen and Daniels' lawyer," Insider reports. Then, in May, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani completely contradicted Trump's story during an appearance on Fox News, telling host Sean Hannity that Trump had repaid Cohen for the $130,000 and that the payment was legal because it was "funneled through [a] law firm."
By August, Cohen had pleaded guilty to multiple crimes and had also flipped on Trump completely, telling investigators that he had discussed the hush money payment with the president personally. Trump soon claimed that wasn't true, alleging that while the funds had come from his personal war chest and not that of his campaign, he had only heard about the payment "later on."
In Nov. 2022, about a year after Cohen's release and plenty of legal back-and-forth, the newly-appointed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg decided to revive the essentially dead investigation, which also involves a $150,000 payment Cohen had arranged for ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. A few months later, in March 2023, Trump was invited to testify before the probe's grand jury, "a signal that prosecutors are considering charges against him," per Rolling Stone; he declined the opportunity. Days later, Daniels herself met with prosecutors to answer their questions and assist as a witness in the investigation if needed. Now, both Trump's critics and supporters are waiting to see what happens next — if the White House hopeful is indeed indicted, it would represent the first criminal case ever brought against an ex-president.