Timeline: From 'nothing to see here' to Michael Cohen's guilty pleas

Donald Trump's ex-lawyer becomes a threat to the president and faces up to five years in prison

Michael Cohen (L), former personal lawyer for US President Donald Trump, leaves federal court on August 21, 2018 in New York. - Cohen pled guilty to charges stemming from a federal investigation of his business dealings and possible campaign finance violations (Photo by Don Emmert / AFP)
Powered by automated translation

President Donald Trump's longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, once said he'd take a bullet for his boss, but on Tuesday he pleaded guilty to eight felonies and described payoffs to women at Mr Trump's direction before the 2016 election.

The development marked the pivot point in which Mr Cohen went from ally for years to a potential threat to Mr Trump. Under the agreement, Mr Cohen, 51, could get four to five years in prison at his December 12 sentencing. His account appears to implicate President Trump in a crime, though whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted is in dispute.

Key moments in how it all went down:


Mr Trump is a Republican presidential candidate and eventually the party's nominee. At the future president's direction, Mr Cohen says, he and Mr Trump arrange to pay adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 (Dh477,425) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to influence the election — presumably to keep their allegations of sexual encounters private. In entering the plea on Tuesday, Mr Cohen did not specifically name the two women or even Mr Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an "unnamed candidate." But the amounts and the dates all line up with the payments made to Daniels and Ms McDougal.


November 4, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reports that the company that owns the National Enquirer agreed to pay $150,000 to Ms McDougal for her story of an affair with Mr Trump in 2006, the year after the US leader married Melania Trump. In a statement, American Media Inc., which is supportive of Mr Trump's campaign, says it didn't buy Ms McDougal's story but rather two years' worth of columns. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks denies there had been an affair.


Nov. 8, 2016

President Trump defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton in an upset.


Jan. 12, 2018

The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels a month before the election as part of an agreement that barred her from publicly discussing their alleged 2006 affair. Mr Cohen says Mr Trump "vehemently denies any such occurrence."


Feb. 13, 2018

Cohen says that he personally paid Daniels and that he received no reimbursement from the Trump Organization or the campaign. Neither was "party to the transaction," he says. Mr Cohen says later the money came from a home equity line to an account for a personal corporation.


March 2018

Ms McDougal files a lawsuit against American Media Inc., seeking to end a contract with the company. She tells CNN that the company bought her rights to tell her story under false circumstances and then killed the story to protect Mr Trump. She also claims she had a lengthy affair with him in 2006. American Media says she's been free to tell her story since 2016. Through representatives, Mr Trump denies the affair.


April 5, 2018

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, President Trump denies knowing about the payment to Daniels. Asked why Mr Cohen made the payment, Mr Trump says, "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen."


April 9, 2018

The FBI raids Mr Cohen's office, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment to Daniels. Furious, President Trump calls the raid a "disgrace" and says the FBI "broke into" his lawyer's office. He also tweets that "Attorney-client privilege is dead!" The raid is overseen by the US attorney's office in Manhattan and is based in part on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, says Mr Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan. Mr Cohen had said he took out a personal line of credit on his home to pay Daniels days before the 2016 election without President Trump's knowledge.


April 26, 2018

Mr Trump acknowledges that Mr Cohen represented him in the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal." He tells "Fox & Friends" that "there were no campaign funds going into this which would have been a problem."


May 2, 2018

Mr Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani tells "Hannity" that the payment to Daniels had been "funneled through a law firm, and the president repaid it." He later says that proves the payments didn't violate campaign finance laws. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Mr Trump "eventually learned" about the payments.


May 4, 2018

Reporters remind Mr Trump of his previous denial of the payments to Daniels. The president blasts the media for focusing on "crap" stories like the Daniels matter and claims that "virtually everything" reported about the payments had been wrong. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweets, "How stupid do they think all of us are?"


July 20, 2018

People familiar with the investigation say Mr Cohen secretly recorded Mr Trump discussing a potential payment for Ms McDougal two months before the election. Mr Giuliani says that the payment was never made and that the brief recording shows Mr Trump did nothing wrong. In it, Mr Cohen is heard saying that he needed to start a company "for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," a possible reference to David Pecker, Mr Trump's friend and president of American Media Inc.

When Mr Cohen begins to discuss financing, the president interrupts him and asks, "What financing?"

"We'll have to pay," Mr Cohen responds.

The audio is muffled, but Mr Trump can be heard saying "pay with cash," though it isn't clear if he is suggesting to pay with cash or not to pay with cash. Cohen immediately says, "No, no, no" and Mr Trump can then be heard saying, "check."


Aug. 21, 2018

Mr Cohen pleads guilty to campaign-finance violations and other charges, saying he and Trump arranged the payment of hush money to Daniels and McDougal to influence the election.