May 24th, 2024

The Latest | Stormy Daniels takes the witness stand in Trump’s 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 who will be called next and whether the former president 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.

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

Before Monday’s testimony began, Judge Juan M. Merchan 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.”

Two people tied to the Trump Organization took the stand on Monday – former controller Jeffrey McConney and accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff – elaborating on a key piece of the charges against Trump: Michael Cohen’s reimbursement for the $130,000 Daniels payment.

Tuesday’s witness testimony is set to dig 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:

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, 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.

ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM TRUMP’S BOOKS ENTERED INTO THE RECORD

Over the objections of defense attorneys, prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Tuesday introduced additional excerpts from one of his books, “How to Get Rich,” including an epigraph from Trump’s mother and a page thanking the book’s co-writer, Meredith McIver.

The line of questioning seems designed to undercut the defense’s suggestion, made on cross-examination, that the books were written by a ghostwriter, with little involvement from Trump.

“Are quotes attributed to an author’s mother typically written by a ghost writer or the author?” Mangold asked.

“The author,” Franklin replied.

TRUMP’S SON COMPLAINS ABOUT HUSH MONEY CASE

While sitting in court Tuesday morning, Donald Trump’s son Eric posted on the social platform X about his father’s hush money trial, calling it “unbelievable” that a former president and current presidential candidate “is being tried for 34 felonies (based on a bookkeepers entry who never spoke with the President and sat in New York while he was in the Oval Office 240 miles away from Washington DC).”

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 STORMY 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.

TRUMP POSTS ABOUT NYC CONGESTION PRICING WHILE EN ROUTE TO COURTHOUSE

Donald Trump has arrived at court in lower Manhattan for the 13th day of his hush money trial.

Ahead of his arrival, Trump dove back into local New York City news, posting on his social media network a complaint about a plan to charge a $15 toll to most drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district. “What office tenant or business would want to be here with this tax,” Trump said.

STORMY DANIELS IS EXPECTED TO APPEAR TUESDAY AS A WITNESS

An attorney for Stormy Daniels says the porn actor is expected to appear as a witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Tuesday.

Clark Brewster tells The Associated Press that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is “likely” to be called as a witness in the trial on Tuesday.

Trump said earlier Tuesday that he was “recently told” who the witness would be on Tuesday and complained he should’ve been given more notice.

PROSECUTION IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass on Monday afternoon told Judge Juan M. Merchan in Donald Trump’s hush money trial that the prosecution’s case is proceeding ahead of schedule.

Steinglass said he estimates being finished with calling witnesses two weeks from Tuesday. While there’s the possibility of rebuttal witnesses, the estimate is related to the primary portions of the trial.

Once the prosecution is done, Trump’s lawyers can then call their witnesses.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT TRUMP’S GAG ORDER VIOLATIONS?

The judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial fined him $1,000 on Monday for again violating a gag order barring him from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and some others connected to the case.

Judge Juan M. Merchan warned Trump that additional gag order violations could potentially result in jail time.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well,” Merchan said. “There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings.”

While prosecutors flagged four prospective violations, Merchan only concurred with one – comments that Trump gave to a program called “Just the News No Noise” on April 22, which is broadcast on Real America’s Voice.

On the program, Trump criticized the speed at which the jury was picked and claimed it was stacked with Democrats. “The jury was picked so fast. 95 percent Democrats. The area’s mostly all Democrat,” he is quoted as saying.

Trump was fined $9,000 last week for nine earlier violations of the order.

TRUMP TO RETURN TO COURT FOR 13TH DAY OF TRIAL

Donald Trump was set to return to the courthouse in lower Manhattan on Tuesday for the 13th day of his hush money trial.

The third week of witness testimony began on Monday with two people tied to the Trump Organization taking the stand to elaborate on the hows and whys of Michael Cohen’s financial reimbursement for a $130,000 hush money payment paid to lawyer Keith Davidson in exchange for porn actor Stormy Daniels’ silence about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years earlier.

During the course of testimony, jurors saw notes, bank statements and other documents related to the financial reimbursement that is at the heart of the charges against the former president.

The 34 felony counts of falsifying business records accuse Trump of labeling the money paid to Cohen in his company’s records as legal fees. Prosecutors contend that by paying him income and giving him extra to account for taxes, the Trump executives were able to conceal the reimbursement.

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