May 24th, 2024

The Latest | Defense begins cross-examination of Stormy Daniels in Trump hush money trial

By The Associated Press on May 7, 2024.

NEW YORK (AP) – As the third week of witness testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial takes place, all eyes are on Stormy Daniels, who took the stand Tuesday morning and recounted for jurors the lead-up to meeting Trump and a 2006 sexual encounter she has said the two engaged in. Trump denies the encounter took place.

The alleged sexual encounter and the $130,000 she was paid to keep silent about it during the 2016 presidential election are at the heart of the charges against the former president.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was called to the witness stand mid-morning, following testimony from a Penguin Random House executive.

Hanging in the background of Tuesday’s testimony was the question of whether Trump will be able to abide by the terms of his now twice-broken gag order that bars him from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and some others connected to the case.

Judge Juan M. Merchan on Monday found Trump in contempt of court for a second time, fining him $1,000 for a single violation and sternly warning the loquacious former president that jail time would be considered for future violations “if necessary and appropriate.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that the city’s jail system will be ready to house the former president if necessary.

Tuesday’s testimony digs further into the events and people involved in what prosecutors have said was a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and burying negative stories about the then-candidate.

The trial is in its 13th day.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments – including the payment to Daniels – recording them instead as legal expenses.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

– Read the judge’s ruling on Trump’s most recent gag order violation

– Hush money, catch and kill and more: Terms to know in Trump trial

– What Trump’s gag order means in his hush money case

– Key players: Who’s who at Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial

– The hush money case is just one of Trump’s legal cases. See the others here

Here’s the latest:

DEFENSE BEGINS CROSS-EXAMINATION OF DANIELS

Defense attorney Susan Necheles began cross-examination of Stormy Daniels Tuesday afternoon with a testy exchange about whether Daniels rehearsed her testimony, referring to a previous statement in which she said she had undergone “grueling” mock trial preparations.

Daniels said that did not amount to a rehearsal.

“The memories were hard to bring up, they were painful,” she said.

Necheles then asked Daniels’ about her feelings toward Donald Trump.

“Am I correct that you hate President Trump?” Necheles asked Daniels.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you want him to go to jail?”

“I want him to be held accountable,” Daniels said. Asked again by Necheles whether that meant going to jail, she said: “If he’s convicted.”

Necheles further pressed Daniels on the fact that she owes Trump hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees stemming from her unsuccessful defamation lawsuit – and tweeted in 2022 that she “will go to jail before I pay a penny.”

“That was me saying, “˜I will not pay for telling the truth,'” Daniels testified.

Necheles also asked about another Daniels tweet about not giving “a dime” to Trump, whom she described with a scatological term.

“You despise him, and you call him names,” Necheles said.

Daniels said that was because Trump had called her names in his own social media posts.

DANIELS SOUGHT TO GET OUT OF NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT IN 2018

Stormy Daniels testified that she sought to get out of her nondisclosure agreement in 2018 “so I could stand up for myself.”

She hired Michael Avenatti, who sued Donald Trump and prevailed in getting the non-disclosure agreement nullified. Trump was ordered to pay Daniels about $100,000 in legal fees.

Daniels went on to give an interview to Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” and wrote a book, “Full Disclosure,” about her life, career and her alleged encounter with Trump.

After a prosecutor asked if she was still represented by Avenatti, Daniels said “no,” and referenced his legal downfalls – including a conviction for defrauding Daniels.

DANIELS SAYS HER LIFE DEVOLVED INTO “˜CHAOS’ AFTER 2018 WSJ ARTICLE

The year 2017 was Stormy Daniels “best year ever,” she testified Tuesday.

She was winning professional accolades for her work writing and directing adult films, living with her daughter in a neighborhood where she was respected as a mother and her horse was competing in high-level equestrian events, she said.

Daniels testified that she was also steadfast in abiding by her nondisclosure agreement with Michael Cohen. She declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal for a story published on Nov. 4, 2016, that reported she had been in discussions to tell her story on “Good Morning America” but that nothing had come of it. She also declined when the newspaper asked her for comment before it broke the news of her hush money arrangement in 2018.

“I was under the NDA. I was respecting that, and I didn’t want to comment,” Daniels testified.

After the Journal published its story about Daniels and the payoff, her life turned into “chaos,” she testified. “I was front and foremost everywhere,” she recalled. Daniels said her family was “ostracized” from her daughter’s playgroup and her riding stable.

DANIELS TESTIFIES ABOUT COHEN PAYMENT

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday that after the deadline for the $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen came and went without the funds materializing, she authorized her then-lawyer Keith Davidson, to cancel the deal. He did, by email, according to documents shown in court. But about two weeks later, the deal was revived.

After her lawyer and agent got their cuts, Daniels said she ended up with about $96,000 of the original payment.

JUDGE REJECTS DEFENSE REQUEST FOR MISTRIAL

Judge Juan M. Merchan on Tuesday rejected a defense request for a mistrial in Donald Trump’s hush money case.

“I don’t believe we’re at the point where a mistrial is warranted,” he said.

The judge said he agreed with defense attorney Todd Blanche that porn actor Stormy Daniels said more at times than she should have, but he blamed the defense for not objecting more vigorously when she was testifying.

“I agree there are some things that would’ve been better left unsaid,” Merchan said, noting the “witness was a little difficult to control.”

Prosecutors had defended Daniels’ testimony following the mistrial request, countering that her testimony went to Trump’s reasons for paying her to stay silent – and went to Daniels’ credibility.

Merchan said there were guardrails in place and that he sustained most of the defense’s objections – but that there should have been more.

TRUMP’S LAWYERS ASK FOR MISTRIAL

Donald Trump’s lawyers asked for a mistrial in his hush money case following testimony before the lunch break from porn actor Stormy Daniels that they say ran afoul of rules established for her taking the witness stand.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Daniels’ testimony about the alleged sexual encounter with Trump and her detailed account of a preceding conversation and other meetings with Trump had “nothing to do with this case and is extremely prejudicial.”

Blanche argued that “the court set guardrails for this testimony” but it was “just thrown to the side.”

“This is the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from,” he said, adding that it is also “unfair” as Trump has to go out on the campaign trail later today.

A post published to Trump’s Truth Social account just before court resumed read: “THE PROSECUTION, WHICH HAS NO CASE, HAS GONE TOO FAR. MISTRIAL!”

It’s the first time Trump’s attorneys have sought a mistrial in the hush money case.

MAYOR SAYS NEW YORK CITY’S JAIL SYSTEM WILL BE READY IF IT HAS TO HOUSE FORMER PRESIDENT

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday during his regular briefing at City Hall that correction officers have discussed the possibility of having to house Donald Trump at Rikers Island following the latest sanctions brought against him in his hush money trial.

“We have to adjust to whatever comes our way,” Adams said, declining to elaborate. “We don’t want to deal with hypotheticals, but they’re professionals. They’ll be ready.”

After fining Trump $1,000 on Monday for again violating his gag order, Judge Juan M. Merchan said he was prepared to send him to jail if the former continues violating a court mandate barring him from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and some others connected to the case. Trump was fined $9,000 last week for nine other violations of the order.

THERE WAS NO INTEREST IN DANIELS’ STORY BEFORE “˜ACCESS HOLLYWOOD’ TAPE LEAK, SHE SAYS

Stormy Daniels said Tuesday that she was in the best financial shape of her life, directing 10 films a year, when she authorized her manager Gina Rodriguez to shop her story during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Daniels said she had no intent of approaching Michael Cohen or Donald Trump to have them purchase her story about her encounter with Trump. “My motivation wasn’t money, it was to get the story out,” she testified.

Initially, she did not receive any interest from news outlets. But that changed after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in October 2016, a month ahead of the election.

Daniels testified that she learned from Rodriguez that Cohen, who was then Trump’s attorney, was interested in purchasing her silence.

“They were interested in paying for the story, which was the best thing that could happen because then my husband wouldn’t find out but there would still be documentation,” Daniels said.

Daniels testified that when she was approached with Cohen’s $130,000 offer: “I didn’t care about the amount, I just wanted to get it done.”

‘I’D RATHER MAKE THE MONEY THAN SOMEBODY MAKE MONEY OFF OF ME’

Before Donald Trump’s hush money trial recessed for lunch Tuesday, Stormy Daniels testified that in 2011 – a few years after “The Apprentice” possibility died and she had stopped talking with Trump – she learned from her agent that the story had made its way to a magazine.

She said she agreed to an interview for $15,000 because, “I’d rather make the money than somebody make money off of me, and at least I could control the narrative.”

The story never ran, but later that year, she was alarmed when an item turned up on a website.

In the interim, Daniels said, she’d been threatened to keep silent by a stranger in a Las Vegas parking lot.

Daniels has previously made that claim and produced a composite sketch of the man, which Trump called “a total con job.”

Daniels sued Trump over that comment, calling it defamatory. Her suit was dismissed in 2018, and she was ordered to pay Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys’ fees and another $1,000 in sanctions.

Daniels said her agent proposed to get the online item taken down, and it was.

DANIELS LAST SAW TRUMP IN JUNE 2007

Stormy Daniels last saw Donald Trump in June 2007 at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, she testified on Tuesday.

She recalled spending about two hours there – highlighted by Trump’s fascination with the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” which was on the television, and little news about her chances of appearing on his show, “The Apprentice.”

Daniels testified that she spurned Trump’s advances and that he told her, “I miss you” and wanted to get together again.

Asked if Trump ever told her to keep things between them confidential, she testified: “Absolutely not.” Daniels said she spoke with Trump several more times by phone and that he eventually told her he wouldn’t be able to put her on “The Apprentice.”

NEXT MEETING WITH TRUMP WAS “˜VERY BRIEF,’ DANIELS SAYS

In her testimony Tuesday, Stormy Daniels said she next saw Donald Trump for a meeting inside Trump Tower set up by his assistant, Rhona Graff. “It was very brief, he was very busy,” she remembered, describing Trump as carrying out multiple meetings at once.

At their meeting, Trump told her that he “wanted to say hi,” Daniels testified, and that he was still working on getting her on “The Apprentice.” He offered her two tickets to the Miss USA beauty pageant, which she accepted.

Graff testified earlier in the trial that she recalled seeing Daniels once at Trump’s office, but didn’t remember the date. Graff said she assumed Daniels was there to discuss potentially being a contestant on one of Trump’s “Apprentice” shows.

DANIELS SAYS SHE WANTED TO MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIP WITH TRUMP OVER POSSIBLE TV OPPORTUNITIES

In January 2007, Stormy Daniels brought two friends to a vodka release party sponsored by Donald Trump in Los Angeles, she said Tuesday. Inside a VIP booth, Daniels said she was introduced to another of Trump’s friends – a woman she later learned was Karen McDougal, a now-former Playboy model who has said she had an affair with Trump. As with Daniels’ claims, Trump has denied McDougal’s allegation.

Daniels testified that Trump repeatedly propositioned her to go home with him that night, but that she declined his advances. At the same time, she said, she didn’t want to close off the possibility of appearing on “The Apprentice,” which Trump had suggested was possible.

“I wanted to maintain that sort of relationship,” she said. “The chance to be on “˜The Apprentice’ was still up in the air, and it would’ve been great for my career.”

DANIELS DESCRIBES SUBSEQUENT INTERACTIONS WITH TRUMP

Stormy Daniels said Tuesday that Donald Trump’s bodyguard called her the day after the encounter in the hotel suite to tell her that Trump wanted to see her again, and she agreed to meet him in a bar or club in her hotel.

She found him with NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Daniels said Trump introduced her to the football player but seemed largely preoccupied during her 10-minute visit in the loud space, she told jurors. She added that Trump said he would continue to think about the possibility of her appearing on one of his “Apprentice” shows.

Roethlisberger declined to comment on Daniels’ description of the evening in her 2018 book.

After returning home the next day, Daniels told many people she’d met Trump and gone to his room but informed only a few close confidantes about the alleged sexual encounter, she said. In the months after, she said, Trump called her frequently on the “Apprentice” possibilities.

“He always talked about when we could get together again, did I miss him, and he always called me honeybunch,” she testified, adding that she always put him on speakerphone and many of her colleagues heard the calls – without telling him.

DANIELS NOTED POWER IMBALANCE BETWEEN HER AND TRUMP

Before they had sex, Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday, Donald Trump was between her and the door out of the hotel suite. She said she didn’t feel physically or verbally threatened, though she knew his bodyguard was outside the suite and there was what she perceived as an imbalance of power: Trump “was bigger and blocking the way,” she testified.

“The next thing I know was: I was on the bed,” Daniels recalled.

DANIELS TESTIFIES THAT SHE HAD SEX WITH TRUMP ON BED IN HIS HOTEL SUITE

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday that she ended up having sex with Donald Trump on the bed in his hotel suite.

After multiple discussions with the judge in the hush money case and Trump’s lawyers out of the earshot of jurors, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger navigated her questioning about the encounter with exceeding caution.

She instructed Daniels to keep her answers brief and free of extra details.

Trump’s lawyers repeatedly objected as Daniels described certain details, and Judge Juan M. Merchan repeatedly shot down Daniels’ attempts to describe the encounter in more vivid detail – striking several of her answers from the official court record.

Asked if Trump used a condom during the encounter, Daniels said, “No.”

The encounter was “brief” and when it ended she was shaking, Daniels said.

“He said, “˜Oh it was great, let’s get together again honey bunch,'” Daniels continued. “I just wanted to leave.”

Jurors looked on, riveted, as Daniels discussed the sexual encounter.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

DANIELS FURTHER DESCRIBES ENCOUNTER WITH TRUMP

After talking with Donald Trump in his suite for about two hours, Stormy Daniels testified, she went to use the bathroom. When she was finished, she said, she found Trump sitting on the bed wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

“When I exited, he was up on the bed, like this,” Daniels testified, feigning reclining with her knees up in the witness stand.

“At first it was just startled, like jump scare. I wasn’t expecting someone to be there, minus a lot of clothing,” Daniels testified. She said it suddenly felt like the room was spinning, like blood was draining from her hands and feet.

“I thought, “˜Oh my God,’ what did I misread to get here?” Daniels testified. “Because the intention was pretty clear. Somebody stripped down in their underwear and posed on the bed, waiting for you.”

Daniels said Trump told her: “I thought we were getting somewhere, we’re talking. I thought you were serious about what you wanted. If you ever want to get out of that trailer park – I was offended because I never lived in a trailer park.”

JUDGE ADMONISHES PROSECUTOR OVER EXCESSIVE DETAILS IN DANIELS TESTIMONY

Before Stormy Daniels returned to the stand after a morning break on Tuesday, the judge in Donald Trump’s hush money case admonished prosecutor Susan Hoffinger about the “degree of detail” she’s eliciting from Daniels, saying there was no need to get into the design of the floor in the hotel room foyer or the various subjects covered in her conversation with Trump.

“The degree of detail that we’re going into here is just unnecessary,” Judge Juan M. Merchan said.

DANIELS SAYS TRUMP SUGGESTED PUTTING HER ON “˜THE APPRENTICE’

Before a morning break in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, Stormy Daniels testified that she and Trump spoke for about two hours in his hotel suite before they were supposed to go to dinner. During the conversation, she said, he dangled the idea of putting her on his TV show “The Apprentice.”

Daniels testified that Trump pitched the allure of a porn star competing on the show – which had yet to spawn its celebrity version – and said it would be a chance for her to show the world that, as a writer and director, she’s “more than a dumb bimbo.”

Daniels said she doubted the show’s network, NBC, would ever let it happen, and that she feared her lack of business acumen would make her an easy out. She said she enjoyed her work making adult films and isn’t ashamed of it, but she had designs on writing and directing music videos and more mainstream productions.

Daniels testified that her takeaway from Trump was that “people might be able to take me serious, know that I wasn’t just an airhead” and that being on the show could position her to “about what I wanted to do, which was to be taken seriously as a writer and director.”

“He’s like, “˜this is your chance for somebody to see you and maybe give you that opportunity,'” Daniels said. “He pitched it as a win-win.”

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This story corrects that the year Stormy Daniels brought friends to a vodka release party sponsored by Donald Trump was 2007, not 2017.

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