May 30th, 2024

The Latest | Judge rejects Trump’s request for mistrial over Stormy Daniels’ testimony

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:

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.”

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

PROSECUTION DEFENDS DANIELS’ TESTIMONY

The prosecution in Donald Trump’s hush money trial defended witness Stormy Daniels testimony after defense attorneys asked for a mistrial following a lunch break on Tuesday.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked that Judge Juan M. Merchan declare a mistrial and, if a new trial is held, that Daniels be barred from testifying.

“How can we come back from this in a way that’s fair to President Trump?” Blanche asked.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger countered that Daniels’ testimony about the alleged sexual encounter between the porn actor and the former president goes to Trump’s reasons for paying her to stay silent.

“At the end of the day, your honor, it is what the defendant was trying to hide,” Hoffinger said, adding that prosecutors were “very mindful” not to elicit too much graphic detail.

“This goes directly to her credibility, which they attacked and I’m sure will continue to attack,” Hoffinger said, arguing that the defense had “opened the door” for the testimony in its opening statements and prior witness questioning.

Hoffinger also disputed the defense’s contention that much of Daniels’ testimony was at odds with her prior statements. “This is not a new account,” Hoffinger said.

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.

NO OUTLETS WERE INTERESTED 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 before the lunch break.

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 also 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 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 hotel 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.

“They have bigger budgets and better catering,” she quipped on the witness stand.

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.”

TRUMP GREETED DANIELS IN HIS HOTEL SUITE IN HIS PAJAMAS, SHE SAYS

When Stormy Daniels went to meet Donald Trump for dinner in 2006, she testified Tuesday, she took an elevator up to the penthouse level of the hotel where was staying per instructions from his bodyguard.

Daniels said she saw the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, outside the door and exchanged pleasantries with him before going inside.

Schiller had told her the plan was for her and Trump to go down to one of the hotel’s restaurants for dinner. She said she entered a foyer with black and white tile floors, mahogany furnishings and a big floral arrangement.

She said she called Trump’s name and said, “Hello,” and Trump entered the foyer “wearing silk or satin pajamas that I immediately made fun of him for.”

“I said, “˜Does Mr. Hefner know you stole his pajamas,'” Daniels recalled, referring to the late Playboy owner. Trump then left her to quickly change into a suit. She said Trump’s hotel suite was three times the size of her apartment.

Daniels testified that after Trump changed, the two of them sat down at a dining room table in the penthouse. He started asking her about her childhood and her career – probing questions about the production of adult films, how much of them is scripted versus improv, whether performers have unions and how testing for sexually transmitted diseases works in the industry.

“He was very, very interested in a lot of the business aspects of it, which I thought was very cool,” as most people just ask about “the sexy stuff … the salacious things,” Daniels said.

Trump listened to Daniels’ testimony with a pained expression on his face, muttering at times to lawyers on either side of him.

DANIELS SPEAKS ABOUT AGREEING TO DINNER WITH TRUMP IN 2006

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday morning that she saw Donald Trump again after the golf round in what was known as the “gift room,” an area where the celebrity golfers collected gift bags and swag during the Lake Tahoe event. There, she said, he remembered her as “the smart one,” and asked her if she wanted to go to dinner.

She testified that Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, took her number.

Daniels said she accepted Trump’s invite because she wanted to get out of a planned dinner with her adult film company colleagues, some of whom she “didn’t want to be around – catfights,” she said with a chuckle.

She said her then-publicist suggested in a phone call that Trump’s invitation was a good excuse to duck the work dinner and would “make a great story” and perhaps help her career. “What could possibly go wrong?” she recalled the publicist saying.

DANIELS IDENTIFIES TRUMP IN COURTROOM

As is standard in court proceedings, Stormy Daniels was asked Tuesday morning if she saw Donald Trump in the courtroom and to identify him.

Before answering, Daniels shuffled in her seat for a beat, looking around the courtroom. She pointed toward Trump, describing his navy suit coat, and said he was sitting at the defense table.

Trump looked straight forward, lips pursed, as he was identified.

DANIELS TESTIFIES ABOUT HER CAREER, MEETING TRUMP

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday that she started appearing in adult films at age 23 and soon was writing and directing them, as well. She said she has directed over 150 such films and has won a roster of porn industry awards.

Daniels was upbeat and voluble on the stand, speaking over the prosecutor’s questions occasionally and laughing at times as she recounted her wide-ranging resume. She was twice asked by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger to slow down so that a court stenographer could keep up.

Daniels’ testimony quickly shifted to the celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe where she met Trump in 2006.

The adult film studio she worked for at the time was sponsoring one of the holes on the golf course. She told the court that she and Trump initially had a “very brief encounter” when his group passed through. She recalled him chatting to her about the adult film industry and her directing prowess, remarking that she must be “the smart one” if she was making films.

DANIELS BEGINS TESTIMONY BY DESCRIBING HER UPBRINGING

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money case began their questioning of Stormy Daniels on Tuesday by asking her about her upbringing in Louisiana.

Daniels first spoke about having grown up poor and said she wanted to become a veterinarian.

She testified that she did ballet growing up, and then an acquaintance got her into exotic dancing while she was in high school.

“I started dancing on the weekend, which was pretty cool because I didn’t have to miss any classes,” Daniels testified.

As Daniels describes her childhood and early work experience, Trump whispered frequently in the ear of his attorney, Todd Blanche. Otherwise, his gaze was cast down at his desk and his face expressionless.

Jurors listened attentively as Daniels testified about getting into adult films.

One juror smirked when Daniels mentioned one of the ways into the industry was by winning a contest, like “Miss Nude North America.” Many jurors took notes, alternating their gaze from Daniels on the witness stand to prosecutor Susan Hoffinger at a lectern behind the prosecution table.

STORMY DANIELS CALLED TO THE STAND

Stormy Daniels has been called to the witness stand in Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

The porn actor was paid $130,000 in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential race to keep quiet about what she says was an awkward and unexpected sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

At the time of the payment, Trump and his campaign were reeling from the Oct. 7, 2016 publication of the never-before-seen 2005 “Access Hollywood” footage – in which he boasted about grabbing women without their permission.

Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal attorney, paid Daniels through a shell corporation he created and the deal was finalized on Nov. 1, 2016, just a week before Election Day.

Prosecutors have said that payments from Trump reimbursing Cohen were falsely – and illegally – logged as legal fees to cover up their actual purpose. Trump’s lawyers contend the payments were legitimate legal expenses.

PUBLISHING EXECUTIVE IS FIRST WITNESS OF THE DAY

Sally Franklin, an executive at Penguin Random House, was the first witness to take the stand Tuesday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial. One of the publishing house’s imprints published a couple of Trump’s books, “Trump: How to Get Rich” and “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire.”

Prosecutor Becky Mangold began questioning by having Franklin read excerpts from the 2004 volume “Trump: How to Get Rich” that get at Trump’s approach to business.

The readings appeared to be designed to show that Trump was hands-on at his company and willing to retaliate against those he perceived to have done him wrong.

Among the excerpts: “If you don’t know every aspect of what you’re doing, down to the paper clips, you’re setting yourself up for some unwanted surprises,” and “for many years, I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back.”

Testimony eventually moved on to excerpts from Trump’s 2005 “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” including sections in praise of penny-pinching (“I call it financial smarts”) and keeping a close eye on bills.

As Trump lawyer Todd Blanche got his chance to cross-examine Franklin, he underscored that Trump worked with a writer on the manuscripts.

JUDGE TO ALLOW LIMITED TESTIMONY ABOUT DANIELS’ ALLEGED SEXUAL ENCOUNTER WITH TRUMP

Judge Juan M. Merchan will allow limited testimony about Stormy Daniels’ alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump when she takes the stand in his hush money case.

Merchan agreed with the prosecution that the details will be necessary because of the porn actor’s credibility concerns and past denials. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said that prosecutors intend to establish that Daniels and Trump did have intercourse but that the testimony “will not involve descriptions of genitalia” or other seamy details.

DEFENSE SEEKS TO BAR DANIELS FROM DETAILING ALLEGED TRUMP ENCOUNTER

After court got underway in Donald Trump’s criminal trial on Tuesday morning, Trump lawyer Susan Necheles asked that Stormy Daniels, who is expected to appear as a witness today, be barred from testifying about “the details” of her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Necheles said it’s irrelevant to “a case about books and records.”

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger countered that the details are important to buttress Daniels’ credibility, which the defense has questioned. Hoffinger assured Judge Juan M. Merchan that the description of the alleged sexual act would be “really basic,” and would not “involve any details of genitalia.”

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

TRUMP ADDRESSES REPORTERS ON HIS WAY INTO COURTROOM

Donald Trump spoke to reporters as he entered the courtroom Tuesday morning and read from a piece of paper he held that he said had statements of people commenting on television about the hush money case’s weakness.

He then started defending some of the actions at the heart of the case, saying that paying his lawyer and listing it as a “legal expense” is what it was.

‘We didn’t put it down as construction costs,” he said. “The legal expense that we paid was put down as legal expense. There’s nothing else you could say.”

Monday’s testimony, from Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney, had focused on whether money paid to Michael Cohen — reimbursing him for payments to Stormy Daniels — was correctly logged as a legal expense.

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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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