Comparing Donald Trump's hush money trial to Bill Clinton, John Edwards cases

Trump is facing charges related to a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

So-called "hush money" is not new to American politics.

Others have tried to draw a comparison with it former President Bill Clinton's settlement with Paula Jones in 1998 to end a yearslong sexual harassment lawsuit.

Here's a look at the cases, and how they are alike and how they differ.

Donald Trump's New York trial

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought a 34-count indictment against Trump in April 2023, alleging he falsified business documents to hide damaging information from coming out during the 2016 campaign.

The allegedly falsified business records, Bragg said, were meant to hide a $130,000 payment Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels to prevent her from going public with an allegation of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump -- an allegation he has long denied. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes, including lying to Congress, for his role in orchestrating the payment to Daniels.

At trial, prosecutors raised payments to other accusers -- not part of the criminal charges -- which were also meant to keep negative stories about Trump from becoming public. Other examples, Bragg said, were America Media Inc. payments to another women who alleged to have had a sexual relationship with Trump and to a doorman who peddled a false story about a child Trump allegedly had out of wedlock. David Pecker, former executive for AMI, testified about a so-called "catch and kill" scheme to bury negative news stories about Trump during the 2016 cycle.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges, and claims the legal proceeding is "election interference."

Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor, but if it is done in furtherance of another crime, it becomes a felony.

Bragg did not specify in the indictment what the other crime was, but later highlighted several laws he said were potentially applicable, including New York state election law that prohibits conspiracies to promote a candidacy by unlawful means; laws that prohibit false statements, including statements that were planned to be made to tax authorities; and federal election contribution limits.

"This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures, to silence people who had something bad about his behavior," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued in court. "It was election fraud, pure and simple."

John Edwards' federal trial

In 2011, Edwards, a Democrat, was charged with campaign finance violations for allegedly soliciting nearly $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his affair with videographer Rielle Hunter (and that he was the father of their baby) to maintain his image as a "family man" during his White House bid.

Edwards argued the donations were personal gifts from friends, not campaign contributions, and were intended to hide the affair from his wife who was battling deadly cancer, not from voters. He won acquittal on one count of receiving illegal campaign donations, and a mistrial on five other charges.

Experts previously noted the similarities between the Edwards case and the Trump case. Both involve payments to women to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

The two cases also similarly question whether the hush money payments were being used for campaign purposes or for personal reasons. Trump's team, like Edwards, has said the payment to Daniels was to spare his family embarrassment rather than influence the election.

Though there are notable differences in the two cases, including the timeline of payments. Hunter received money over an extended period of time, including after Edwards suspended his campaign, while a one-time payment was made to Daniels just ahead of Election Day.

Bill Clinton's settlement with Paula Jones

The Clinton settlement with Paula Jones offers few similarities with the current Trump trial beyond allegations of sexual misconduct.

"I don't think the Clinton case is comparable," Brett Kappel, a campaign finance law and government ethics specialist, told ABC News.

Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Clinton in 1994, alleging he propositioned her and exposed himself in a hotel room years earlier when Clinton was governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee -- an accusation he denied.

A four-year legal battle ensued, at one point reaching the Supreme Court, before a settlement was reached in 1998.

Unlike the secretive nature of hush money payments, text of the agreement was released showing Clinton paid $850,000 to end the civil lawsuit and that he continued to deny any wrongdoing.

"A settlement is not the same as a hush money payment," said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers.