Adult film star Stormy Daniels is testifying against Trump in New York trial

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Adult film actress Stormy Daniels speaks outside federal court in New York in April 2018. She is testifying this week in the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump.

Mary Altaffer/AP

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Mary Altaffer/AP

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels speaks outside federal court in New York in April 2018. She is testifying this week in the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump.

Mary Altaffer/AP

NEW YORK — Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, is now on the witness stand, testifying in the criminal trial against former President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

She is one of two women the prosecution is alleging Trump paid off to protect his electoral prospects the first time he ran for the White House.

Trump faces 34 felony counts alleging that he falsified New York business records to conceal damaging information to influence the 2016 presidential election. Trump, who pleaded not guilty, claims the trial itself is “election interference” because of how it is disrupting his 2024 bid for president because he must be present in court every day and can’t campaign when he is.

Who is Stormy Daniels?

Daniels is an adult film actor who received a $130,000 payment from Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen in 2016 as Trump was first running for president. Daniel’s has said that she had an affair with Trump after he married Melania and just after the birth of his youngest son, Barron.

Although Trump has denied the affair, in 2018 Cohen admitted to the payments, and Trump acknowledged that Cohen represented him in the deal after at first denying it. In 2018 Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating campaign finance law, “at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” among other charges, and was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Daniels also tried to sue Trump in 2018 for defamation, but the lawsuit was dismissed. In 2023 she later tried to appeal the decision but lost that appeal, leaving her to pay Trump’s legal fees of $120,000. That same month, Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.

Earlier this year, a new documentary titled Stormy was released on Peacock, detailing her life between 2018 and 2023 and the various legal and personal challenges she’s faced since coming forward.

How does she fit in the prosecution’s case?

The payment to Daniels by Cohen received scrutiny in 2018 for potentially violating campaign finance law. Trump has long argued that the payment had nothing to do with the election and that instead he was trying to protect his marriage and family and that Cohen acted alone. But prosecutors argue that the payments violated a New York law barring illegal conspiracies to “promote” a candidate, and that a $420,000 reimbursement to Cohen was falsely described in Trump business records as a “legal retainer” to cover up the illegal payment.

In opening statements for the trial, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said they would work to show the jury how payments were calculated and disguised for tax purposes as well as evidence that “Trump is a frugal businessman … but when it came to pay Cohen back, he didn’t negotiate the price down. He doubled it, so he could disguise it as income,” Colangelo said.

A story of infidelity with a porn star would have been damaging to the campaign, Colangelo said, and Trump wanted to “prevent American voters from learning about that information before Election Day.”

“There was no retainer agreement, it was instead what they thought was a clever way to pay Cohen back without being obvious about it,” Colangelo said, detailing that Cohen submitted 11 “phony invoices” paid for by checks with “false entries” signed by Trump himself.

In his opening, defense attorney Todd Blanche spent time trying to discredit some of the prosecution’s witnesses, primarily Cohen, who has a history of perjury, and Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, noting how she has received publicity, pointing to her recent documentary, and how Trump has won a defamation lawsuit against her.

Prosecutor Colangelo also attempted to get ahead of potential criticism of Cohen’s testimony, noting that the defense is likely to discredit him. “Cohen has made mistakes in the past,” he said, adding that testimony also from Pecker and Davidson will corroborate what is said.

Who else has the jury heard from so far?

Jurors have heard from 12 witnesses so far, called by the prosecution:

David Pecker, former CEO of American Media Inc. He testified about making a deal with Trump and Cohen in 2015 to help Trump’s campaign by finding potentially damaging stories and helping to kill them.

Keith Davidson, the former lawyer for McDougal and Daniels who negotiated their payments in exchange for the rights to their stories. He testified and verified various text messages, phone calls and conversations surrounding the deals.

Hope Hicks, former Trump campaign and White House official. She testified about the campaign and Trump’s response to press reports about the payments and alleged affairs.

Jeffrey McConney, the former controller for the Trump Organization. He verified financial documents from the Trump Organization and emails facilitating the payments from Trump to Cohen.

Rhona Graff, a longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization. She testified against her former boss about how she entered McDougal’s and Daniels’ contact information into the Trump Organization’s directory. Her testimony verified Trump’s contact lists.

Gary Farro, a former banker at First Republic Bank. He testified about opening accounts for Cohen that would eventually be used to pay Daniels. He said if he had known what the accounts would be used for, he may not have ever opened them.

Robert Browning, executive director for archives for C-SPAN. He verified two 2016 Trump campaign clips and one 2017 press conference clip where Trump called Cohen a talented lawyer and where Trump called allegations from women lies.

Phillip Thompson of Esquire Deposition Solutions. He verified video and transcript of a 2022 deposition Trump gave for his civil defamation lawsuit against writer E. Jean Carroll. In a video clip played from the deposition, Trump confirms his wife is Melania Trump and his Truth Social handle, among other things.

Doug Daus, a supervising forensics analyst in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. He testified to authenticating phone data; prosecutors played a recording of Cohen and Trump in which Cohen can be heard telling Trump, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David.”

Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal in the Manhattan DA’s office. She testified to analyzing Trump’s social media posts.

Deborah Tarasoff, the accounts payable supervisor at the Trump Organization. She testified to the check and reimbursement process at the Trump Organization. She confirmed each of the invoices, vouchers and checks paid from Trump’s personal account to Cohen.

Sally Franklin, vice president of Penguin Random House, a publishing company. She verified books published about and by Trump.

Andrea Bernstein contributed to this report.