NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City prosecutors have been investigating allegations that former President Donald Trump arranged to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged sexual tryst. The transaction allegedly occurred during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is deciding whether Trump should face charges in connection to the case and invited the politician to testify before the grand jury this week. Specifically, Bragg is looking at who made the payments and how they were accounted for by the Trump Organization.
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, set up the payments and was scheduled to testify about the transactions before a New York grand jury on March 13, sources told the Associated Press.
On Saturday, Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and two extramarital affairs, claimed on his social media platform that he would be arrested on Tuesday, saying it was a “political Witch-Hunt, trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party.”
Here is a breakdown of the case:
How was Trump involved in the Daniels’ payments?
Cohen said Trump ordered him to make the payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell company and was reimbursed by Trump, who claimed them as legal expenses.
Cohen also said he arranged for the publishers of the National Enquirer to pay McDougal $150,000. In exchange, the tabloid allegedly didn’t print McDougal’s story about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen also made recordings of a conversation in which he and Trump spoke about the arrangement to pay McDougal through the National Enquirer.
At one point in the recording, Cohen told Trump, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David,” a reference to David Pecker, who ran the Enquirer’s parent company at the time.
For his efforts, Cohen said he was paid $360,000 plus a $60,000 bonus, for a total of $420,000. Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments.
Could Trump be charged?
Trump could be accused of falsifying business records for claiming his reimbursement to Cohen for the hush-money payments as legal expenses, legal experts told the Associated Press. But that’s only a misdemeanor under New York law.
Even though the case is more than five years old and the statute of limitations has expired, there is a loophole in New York that the clock stops on a case when the defendant is outside the state. Trump only visited New York during his presidency and now lives mostly in Florida and New Jersey.
Federal prosecutors declined to seek a criminal charge against the then-sitting president after the National Enquirer’s owner admitted paying McDougal to help Trump. The owner was not prosecuted in exchange for his admission.
Trump’s former inner circle meets with prosecutors
In addition to Cohen, prosecutors have already talked to Trump’s former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokesperson Hope Hicks.
David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher, was spotted going into the building where the grand jury is meeting, as well as Trump Organization insiders including the company’s senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney.