Stormy Daniels testifies during day 13 of Trump’s New York hush money trial

As Daniels testified about her alleged affair with Trump, defence lawyers pushed unsuccessfully to declare a mistrial in the case.

Former President Donald Trump listened to testimony from adult film star Stormy Daniels during his criminal hush-money trial on May 7 [Curtis Means/AP Photo, pool]Published On 7 May 20247 May 2024

Her story is at the heart of the criminal hush-money trial against former United States President Donald Trump.

And on Tuesday, Stormy Daniels finally took the witness stand, becoming the highest profile person to date to testify in the historic New York trial.

Keep reading

list of 3 itemslist 1 of 3

The Take: Trump v United States

end of list

Trump is accused of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records pertaining to an alleged hush-money payment made to silence Daniels, an adult film star who claims she had an affair with the Republican leader.

The payment took place against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, which Trump ultimately won.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have argued that Trump tried to cover up the hush-money payment in an effort to keep information out of public sight — and avoid any damaging revelations in the final months of his presidential campaign.

Trump’s defence team, however, has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that the then-candidate was simply trying to protect his family. Trump has also denied having an affair with Daniels.

But crowds gathered outside the courtroom on Tuesday morning, as anticipation grew that Daniels herself would appear. Trump is the first US president, past or present, to face criminal charges.

Here are some of the takeaways from the 13th day of his trial:

Adult film star and director Stormy Daniels wrote about her alleged affair with Trump in the book Full Disclosure [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Hearing opens with discussion of Daniels evidence

Even before Tuesday’s hearing began, the courtroom was abuzz about the prospect that Daniels could testify. What would she say on the witness stand?

Defence lawyer Susan Necheles kicked off the proceedings with a request to Judge Juan Merchan: that Daniels be barred from discussing any “details” of her alleged affair with Trump.

Previously, Daniels had written about her version of events in the book Full Disclosure, which included explicit descriptions of the former president’s physical appearance.

The prosecution agreed that there was no need to involve “involve any details of genitalia”, but it maintained that certain specifics about the relationship between Trump and Daniels were necessary.

Judge Merchan agreed to allow limited details, insofar as to establish Daniels’s alleged affair, as he acknowledged that she might otherwise have “credibility issues”.

Lawyer Susan Necheles sits with Trump at the defence table on May 7, ahead of Stormy Daniels’s testimony [Mary Altaffer/AP Photo, Pool]

First witness speaks about Trump’s books

But before Daniels could testify, the prosecution introduced a different witness: Sally Franklin of the publishing house Penguin Random House.

Prosecutors had Franklin read excerpts of Trump’s books — How to Get Rich and Think Like a Billionaire — illustrating the former president’s hands-on approach to business transactions.

They also asked Franklin to read from sections that would suggest how Trump addresses inter-personal conflict.

“For many years, I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back,” Franklin said, reading from How to Get Rich.

Penguin Random House executive Sally Franklin testifies about what Trump wrote in his book How to Get Rich [Jane Rosenberg/Reuters]

Daniels takes the witness stand

Then came the words that many court-watchers had been waiting for: “The people call Stormy Daniels.”

Also known as Stephanie Clifford, Daniels began by explaining her upbringing in Louisiana and how she entered the adult film industry at age 23. But her testimony quickly turned to her relationship with Trump, whom she said she met in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada.

When Trump later asked her to dinner, Daniels recalled her publicist was optimistic it could be a good opportunity. “What could possibly go wrong?” she remembered the publicist saying.

She said she met Trump at his penthouse for the meal. Trump, she explained, floated the idea she could appear on his reality TV show The Apprentice.

“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.”

But when Daniels returned from a visit to the toilet, she said she found Trump stripped down to his underwear and sitting on the bed.

“At first it was just startled, like jump scare,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting someone to be there, minus a lot of clothing.”

She said she and Trump had sex, adding that, afterwards, “I just wanted to leave.”

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger speaks to Daniels on the witness stand, while displaying a photo of her and Trump together [Jane Rosenberg/Reuters]

Daniels speaks to hush-money negotiations

In her testimony, Daniels emphasised the power differential between her and Trump — and how she hoped he would make good on his offer to feature her on The Apprentice.

But eventually, it became clear that the opportunity would not come to pass.

Then, in 2011, Daniels said a website caught wind of her alleged affair with Trump, and she was offered $15,000 for an interview.

“I’d rather make the money than somebody make money off of me, and at least I could control the narrative,” she explained. The story never ran, and Daniels said she was threatened to stay silent afterwards.

In the following years, Daniels testified she did not receive much interest in her story. But that changed when Trump launched his 2016 presidential bid — and journalists unearthed an audio recording of him talking about “grabbing” women’s genitalia.

She then learned that Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen was prepared to buy her silence instead.

“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.

She added that she did not negotiate the hush-money sum of $130,000: “I didn’t care about the amount. I just wanted to get it done.”

Eric Trump attends his father’s criminal trial on March 7, tweeting his support from the courtroom and blasting the proceedings [Curtis Means/AP Photo, pool]

Defence pushes for a mistrial

After a lunch break, Trump’s defence team pushed for a mistrial to be declared, arguing that Daniels’s testimony has made it impossible for the former president to receive a fair trial.

“This is the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from,” said Trump lawyer Todd Blanche. He described Daniels’s testimony as designed to elicit “pure embarrassment” from his client, while introducing “prejudicial” evidence to the jury.

“I agree there are some things that would’ve been better left unsaid,” Judge Merchan responded. But he called on the defence team to be more proactive in voicing objections to what Daniels said.

“When you say the bell has been rung, the defense has to take some responsibility for that,” Merchan said, adding that he would have objected on several more occasions, were he in the defence team’s shoes.

Ultimately, Judge Merchan speedily quashed the request for a mistrial. “I don’t believe we’re at the point where a mistrial is warranted,” he said, allowing the day’s hearing to proceed.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies