It was another bewildering chapter in the Stormy Daniels saga that has been unfurling ever since — deep breath — the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that she received a $130,000 settlement just before the 2016 presidential election to remain silent about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Following that report, which the White House dismissed and a Trump attorney denied, Daniels’s story has been fitfully told in old interviews suddenly made public, outright denials, coy acknowledgments and a publicity tour.
Now that we’ve entered the realm of denials being denied, it seems worth revisiting everything Daniels has said over the years to interviewers, associates and the public about her relationship with the man who now sits in the Oval Office.
How they met
Daniels has said she met the future commander in chief at a celebrity golf tournament in July 2006. He was a reality television star whose wife, Melania, had recently given birth to their son, Barron; she was a porn star working at a booth promoting Wicked Pictures, an adult-film company.
As she later recounted, Daniels accepted an invitation from Trump to ride around the lakefront course in his golf cart.
“That was actually my first time on a golf course, and when you’re riding around with Donald Trump in an Escalade golf cart during your first time out on a course, I’d say I was doing all right,” Daniels told Adult Video News, a trade publication.
Trump came in at No. 62 in the tournament that year, finishing just ahead of Digger Phelps, the former Notre Dame basketball coach who would introduce Trump at an Indiana rally during his presidential campaign a decade later.
Her descriptions of an affair
What happened after Daniels and Trump met has become the source of some debate. When the Journal story came out reporting that Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, had negotiated a payoff for Daniels, the White House waved it away as “old, recycled reports.” Cohen dismissed “rumors” circulating since 2011, and he released a statement bearing Daniels’s signature denying any affair and calling the settlement report “completely false.”
At least three people, though, have relayed things they said Daniels told them about the affair over the years: a political adviser who spoke with Daniels when she contemplated a U.S. Senate run in 2009, a journalist who interviewed her in 2011 and another journalist who talked with her in 2016.
Daniels’s story to these three figures remained consistent over the years. The most detailed of the accounts came in 2011, when In Touch, a celebrity magazine, said she gave a lengthy interview that remained unpublished until this month.
In Touch published a transcript of the interview after the Journal’s report about the settlement. Jordi Lippe-McGraw, the reporter In Touch said spoke with Daniels, told The Washington Post that this transcript accurately reflected the interview, which took place over the phone in May 2011. (According to In Touch’s editorial director, Daniels submitted to and passed a polygraph test as part of the reporting, and her then-husband corroborated her account and similarly passed a polygraph test.)
The In Touch transcript quotes Daniels as saying she had a sexual encounter with Trump at the tournament, then continued speaking with him on the phone or seeing him in person for about a year. She mentioned, among other things, that Trump sat riveted by “Shark Week” when it aired during her visit, discussed giving her a condo in Tampa and talked about wanting to put her on “The Apprentice,” his television show.
In 2016, as Trump had shifted from reality television personality to presidential candidate, Daniels spoke to another journalist. Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group, said he spoke with her multiple times on the phone and through text messages between August and October of 2016.
Weisberg, who published an account of his interviews, told The Washington Post that reading the In Touch transcript “was a bit uncanny.” Daniels had also mentioned the “Shark Week” anecdote to him, he said, along with sharing details about Trump wanting to put her on “The Apprentice” and get her a condo in Tampa. Weisberg said that nothing in the In Touch transcript contradicted what she told him.
The “Shark Week” anecdote drew a lot of attention when In Touch’s transcript came out, but it came up in at least one other context. In 2009, Daniels weighed running for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana, and she met with political consultants and had advisers at the time. In an email exchange among some of her advisers, one wrote, referring to Trump, that Daniels “says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘Shark Week.’ ”
(Another person who has spoken about this situation: Alana Evans, who described Daniels as her friend. She went on the “Today” show this month and said Daniels had told her about Trump chasing her through a hotel room in his underwear.)
What Daniels and Trumpworld have said since
Daniels has also denied the affair on multiple occasions. In 2011, a gossip blog posted a report claiming that Daniels and Trump had an affair, and it was aggregated by Life & Style Magazine (a sister publication of In Touch). An E! News post from October 2011 quotes Daniels as calling the story “bulls—.”
As noted above, the White House dismissed the Journal’s report about a payoff and has not commented on the story since. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, has denied the reports, and he also released a statement with Daniels’s name on it similarly saying the affair never happened.
Since the allegations of an affair and settlement emerged, Daniels has made multiple public appearances. Her first such appearance after the Journal story was earlier this month at a South Carolina strip club, where Daniels remained quiet about the reports, saying only that it was “crazy how one moment can overshadow 15 years of work.”
Daniels’s latest denial and her coy responses on television
Daniels has since weighed in on the situation in three high-profile ways: twice in television appearances and again with a statement bearing her name.
Last week, Daniels spoke to “Inside Edition” about her life since the reports, saying she had to hire security. When asked if she had a sexual relationship with Trump or was paid not to discuss it, Daniels remained silent.
This week, Daniels was taking on more prominent television appearances, highlighted by a sit-down with Jimmy Kimmel after Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Before the Kimmel appearance, a signed statement bearing Daniels’s name appeared and denied any affair with Trump. Daniels’s representative, Gina Rodriguez, confirmed the authenticity of the statement on Tuesday. (This statement denied the affair, but did not explicitly deny that she signed a nondisclosure agreement or had received a financial settlement.)
“The fact of the matter is that each party to this alleged affair denied its existence in 2006, 2011, 2016, 2017 and now again in 2018,” the statement said. “I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas owned tabloids. I am denying it because it never happened.”
Asked if he had any knowledge of this statement, Cohen told The Post to “reach out to her attorney with this inquiry.”
Daniels then went on Kimmel and left further uncertainty. When asked if she had signed it, Daniels said: “I don’t know. Did I?” She also added that the signature did not look like hers and said she did “not know where it came from.”
When Kimmel noted that if Daniels did not have a nondisclosure agreement involving Trump, she could probably acknowledge that, Daniels again played coy, saying only that Kimmel was “so smart.” Daniels also questioned the In Touch transcript, saying she did not do it “as it is written,” but then said she had not read the entire thing.
After the Kimmel interview aired, Rodriguez told The Post in an email that Daniels had “not answered any of the questions directly.” She also said Daniels signed the document in front of her and Daniels’s lawyer.
Daniels was set to have another chance to weigh in — or not — on the situation. She was originally scheduled to appear Thursday on “The View.” But a day after her Kimmel interview, Daniels backed out of the “View” appearance, an ABC representative said Wednesday.
Frances Stead Sellers contributed to this report, which has been updated with the “View” cancellation.