Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels mess began that wild weekend in Lake Tahoe

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With news that prosecutors in New York City may be ready to indict Donald Trump for his role in a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, it’s easy to wonder whether the former president would even be in this mess if he had stayed away from a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

By a number of accounts, including from Daniels, Trump “went wild” over four days at the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, according to a detailed account of that weekend by GQ. Though newly married to Melania Trump, who had given birth to their son Barron four months earlier, the 60-year-old Trump reportedly didn’t hesitate to have a sexual encounter with Daniels, as well as an alleged dalliance with Playboy model Karen McDougal, who had recently become the real estate mogul’s mistress.

Trump also reportedly tried to engage Daniels and a porn star friend, Alana Evans, in a threesome and met up with third porn star, Jessica Drake, and her two friends, and allegedly groped and kissed Drake without her permission and offered her $10,000 to have sex with him.

At the time, Trump also was riding high as a reality TV star in “The Apprentice.” He was nearly a decade away from running for president, so he may not have been thinking that his behavior that weekend at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course would have any long-term political or legal implications, according to GQ. But Trump now finds himself possibly becoming the first ever American former president to be indicted.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Manhattan prosecutors have offered Trump the chance to testify next week before a grand jury. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment “is close,” the Times said. It would be unusual for District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him.

The case focuses on the $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Attorney Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer at the time, made the payment to keep Daniels from selling her story about her alleged affair to the National Enquirer. David Pecker, the tabloid’s publisher and a longtime ally of Trump, helped broker the payment.

Pecker had already agreed to buy McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with Trump and never publish it, a practice known as “catch and kill,” the Times reported. Instead of purchasing Daniels’ story, Pecker and a top editor brokered a deal with Cohen and Daniels’ lawyer, with Cohen paying the $130,000 and Trump reimbursing him from the White House.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to a number of charges, including federal campaign finance crimes involving the hush money payment. The Manhattan case looks at whether Trump’s company falsified business records — a misdemeanor — by creating a phony retainer agreement and saying that Trump’s monthly reimbursement checks to Cohen were for legal expenses, the Times also reported.

To elevate the case to a felony, Manhattan prosecutors would need to show that Trump also intended to commit or conceal a second crime — a violation of New York state election law, the Times said. They could argue that the $130,000 payout effectively constituted an improper donation to Trump’s campaign, under the theory that it benefited his candidacy because it silenced Daniels, the newspaper reported.

In a Truth Social post Thursday, Trump said he “did absolutely nothing wrong” and referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt,” the New York Post reported. He also repeated his position that he never had an affair with Daniels. “I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels,” Trump said.

But Daniels has a very different story to tell about the 45th president and has done so on multiple occasions. So have the other women — McDougal, Drake and Evans — who had encounters with Trump that weekend or witnessed his behavior.

Trump was in Tahoe to play golf, alongside other American notables, such as NFL quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, former Olympic skier Bode Miller and entertainers Ray Romano and Cheech Marin, according to the GQ report. Daniels and Drake were there to promote their adult-film company Wicked Pictures, greeting tournament guests in a large hospitality room where goodie bags filled with DVDs and other porn-related items were handed out, GQ said.

On the second day of the tournament, Daniels said Trump visited her at the Wicked Pictures booth, picked up a goodie bag, posed for a photo with her and invited her to join him for dinner. That night, Daniels went to visit Trump at his hotel suite. In an interview with CNN, Daniels said they had sex, even though she said she didn’t really want to and wasn’t physically attracted to him.

Daniels said she felt trapped being alone in his hotel room, though she also made it clear she did not consider herself “a victim” and that the sex was “consensual.” Trump did not wear a condom, she also said.

In her 2018 memoir, “Full Disclosure,” Daniels offered graphic details about Trump’s anatomy, The Guardian reported. Daniels’ porn-star colleague, Alana Evans, told The Daily Beast she, too, was in Lake Tahoe that weekend and that Trump and Daniels repeatedly called her from his hotel room that night, asking her to “come to the party.”

The next day, Evans said, Daniels told her how Trump chased her “around his hotel room in his tighty-whities,” the Daily Beast also reported.

According to GQ, Trump wasn’t done for the night when Daniels left. He found Drake’s number and called her. She said she enlisted two friends to accompany her to his suite. Drake later became one of the more than a dozen women whose allegations of unwanted physical contact with Trump were publicized on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

During a press conference in 2016, Drake said Trump was dressed in his pajamas. She said he grilled the three women about their work in adult film and then hugged and kissed them without permission. The women left, but Drake said she later got two calls from Trump at her room, both times inviting her back to his suite. In the second call, she said he offered to pay her $10,000 and the use of his private jet if she returned, but she begged off, citing work obligations.

Daniels, meanwhile, told CNN that she stayed in touch with Trump after their liaison in Tahoe but that they didn’t have sex again.

That wasn’t the case for McDougal, who told CNN in 2018 that she had a 10-month affair with Trump that began when they met at the Playboy Mansion in June 2006, the month before the golf tournament. McDougal, a former preschool teacher, also said she met up with Trump during that Tahoe weekend, but was surprised that he also had allegedly slept with Daniels that weekend.

“My first thought is how could she have been with him when I was with him?” McDougal said of Daniels.

McDougal also told CNN that her relationship with Trump continued after that weekend in Tahoe, with them seeing each other at least five times a month at hotels, at Trump’s golf courses, and even at his apartment at Trump Tower.

“There were real feelings between the two of us,” McDougal told CNN, saying she considered that perhaps their relationship could lead to marriage. “He always told me that he loved me.”

Former President Donald Trump looks on over the 18th green during the pro-am prior to the LIV Golf Invitational- Bedminster at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, on July 28, 2022. - Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images North America/TNS

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