The Latest | Testimony in Trump's hush money trial forges ahead with more witnesses

  • Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stormy Daniels has concluded her testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial after spending hours on the stand, recounting among other things the alleged 2006 sexual encounter with the former president that she was eventually paid to keep quiet about during the 2016 presidential election.

The former president’s attorneys aggressively sought to poke holes in Daniels’ credibility during cross−examination on Tuesday and Thursday, accusing the porn actor of — among other things — trying to extort Trump and rehearsing her testimony, which she forcefully denied.

The defense on Tuesday made a failed attempt to have a mistrial declared, arguing that Daniels’ morning testimony had “nothing to do with this case and is extremely prejudicial.”

Trump denies the two ever had sex.

Prosecutors say Trump and two of his associates orchestrated a scheme to influence the 2016 election by purchasing and then burying stories that might damage his campaign.

Daniels’ testimony is a build−up to the prosecution’s star witness Michael Cohen, who arranged the $130,000 payment to Daniels and later went to prison for orchestrating the payments and other charges.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up the hush money payments and instead recording them as legal expenses. He has pleaded not guilty.

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:

— Here is what Stormy Daniels testified happened between her and Donald Trump

— Inside the courtroom where Trump was forced to listen to Stormy Daniels

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

— 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:

TRUMP ORGANIZATION BOOKKEEPER TAKES WITNESS STAND

Rebecca Manochio, a Trump Organization bookkeeper who was formerly an assistant to former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, has taken the stand in Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

She is expected to testify about the nuts and bolts of check−paying procedures within the company.

DANIELS CONCLUDES TESTIMONY

Stormy Daniels concluded her testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial midday Thursday following the conclusion of cross−examination by the defense and a brief round of redirect questioning from prosecutors.

She has completed her testimony, given over two days in Trump’s criminal trial.

As Daniels walked off the stand and out of the courtroom, Trump turned his gaze away from her, appearing to look at a screen in front of him.

DANIELS ACKNOW

LEDGES SHE NEVER SPOKE TO TRUMP ABOUT THE HUSH MONEY PAYMENT

Stormy Daniels testified Thursday that she never spoke with Donald Trump about the $130,000 hush money payment she received from Micahel Cohen and had no knowledge of whether Trump was aware of or involved in the transaction.

“You have no personal knowledge about his involvement in that transaction or what he did or didn’t do,” Trump lawyer Susan Necheles asked.

“Not directly, no,” Daniels responded.

Upon further questioning, Daniels noted that she didn’t negotiate directly with Cohen, either, but that her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson did.

Necheles used the questions in the final moments of her cross−examination to underscore that Daniels does not know of any of the allegations underlying Trump’s charges in the case, that he falsified his company’s records to hide the true nature of reimbursement payments to Cohen.

Necheles asked Daniels if she was aware of what Trump had been indicted for, producing an uncomfortable answer that the lawyer wanted stricken from the record. Her answer: “There’s a lot of indictments.”

Daniels went on to say that she knew the charges involved business records, but when asked if she knew anything about Trump’s business records, she acknowledged: “I know nothing about his business records. No. Why would I?”

JURORS APPEAR RIVETED BY THE BACK−AND−FORTH OF CROSS−EXAMINATION

Amid the tension between Stormy Daniels and defense lawyer Susan Necheles during cross−examination in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the courtroom itself was relatively calm.

There were no audible reactions from the gallery — mostly reporters with one row of public observers — when testimony grew particularly tense Thursday morning. If anything, the drama unfolded somewhat like a Broadway show with Necheles and Daniels playing off each other.

Many jurors viewed the back and forth the way they might watch a tennis match: swiveling their heads between the lawyers’ lectern and the witness box with each question and answer. Some jurors scribbled notes, others leaned back in their chairs.

Trump watched intently.

The rest of the audience watched wide−eyed but respectful of the court’s decorum.

DANIELS INSISTS HER STORY HAS NOT CHANGED

Before a morning break in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, Stormy Daniels pushed back on suggestions by the defense that her story about their alleged sexual encounter has changed over time.

Daniels testified earlier this week that while she wasn’t physically menaced, she felt a “power imbalance” as Trump, in his hotel bedroom, stood between her and the door and propositioned her.

As for whether she felt compelled to have sex with him, she reiterated Thursday that he didn’t drug her or physically threaten her.

But, she said, “My own insecurities, in that moment, kept me from saying no.”

Trump denies any sexual encounter happened.

Several times, defense lawyer Susan Necheles accused Daniels of altering the details of her story over time, saying at one point: “Your story has completely changed.”

Daniels insisted it has not. “You’re trying to make me say that it changed, but it hasn’t changed at all.”

NECHELES HOM

ES IN ON DANIELS’ CAREER IN PORNOGRAPHY

Donald Trump’s defense attorney zeroed in on Stormy Daniels’ career in adult films to suggest that her story about being shocked and frightened by Trump’s alleged sexual advances is not believable.

“You’ve acted and had sex in over 200 porn movies, right?” asked Necheles. “And there are naked men and women having sex, including yourself, in those movies?”

Necheles continued: “But according to you, seeing a man sitting on a bed in a T−shirt and boxers was so upsetting that you got lightheaded, the blood left your hands and feet and you felt like you were going to faint.”

Daniels replied that the experience with Trump was different from porn for several reasons — including the fact that Trump was more than twice her age, larger than her and that she was not expecting to find him undressed when she emerged from the bathroom.

“I came out of a bathroom seeing an older man that I wasn’t expecting to be there,” she said.

TRUMP’S LAWYER TRIES TO POKE HOLES IN DANIELS’ TESTIMONY

Defense lawyer Susan Necheles tried to show during cross−examination on Thursday that details from Stormy Daniels’ story of meeting Donald Trump in 2006 have changed over time, pointing to a 2011 interview in which she said the two talked “before, during and after” dinner in his hotel room, though she testified earlier this week that they never got any food.

Daniels rebuffed the idea that there was a discrepancy: saying that what she meant was that they talked during dinnertime but that she never said they actually got food, to her frustration, as she’s “very food−motivated.”

“I’ve maintained that in every interview — that we never actually ate,” she said during an extended exchange on the dinner details, and explained: “Having dinner, at least from where I’m from, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put food in your mouth. You’re going to someone’s house for dinner, it’s dinnertime.”

“The details of your story keep changing, right?” Necheles asked at one point.

“No,” Daniels said.

DANIELS ADDR

ESSES PARANORMAL EXPERIENCES AND MORE

In one of the hush money trial’s odder moments, Stormy Daniels was pressed about her experience dealing with a ghost — which may have just been a marsupial.

Asked by Trump lawyer Susan Necheles about her claim that she lived in a New Orleans home that was “haunted and the spirits attacked you,” Daniels launched into an explanation of her possible encounter.

“The house had some very unexplained activity. We brought in experts, people to measure the electromagnetic fields, religious experts, scientists,” she said. “A lot of the activity was completely debunked as a giant possum that was under the house.”

The line of questioning appeared aimed at undermining Daniels’ credibility while giving Necheles a chance to highlight that Daniels is working on a paranormal investigation show called Spooky Babes.

Necheles then turned pointedly to Daniels’ career, asking: “You have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear real?”

“The sex in those films is real, just like the sex in that room,” Daniels replied. “The character themes might be different, but the sex is very real. That’s why it’s pornography, not a B movie.”

Regarding her account of having a sexual encounter with Trump — a claim he denies — Daniels said: “If that story was not true I would’ve written it to be a lot better.”

“Because you’re a good story writer, right?” Necheles responded.

NECHELES HIGHLIGHTS DANIELS’ TRUMP−RELATED MERCHANDISE

Defense lawyer Susan Necheles pressed Stormy Daniels on her social media marketing of merchandise tied to her public persona as a Trump antagonist.

Asked about an “in celebration of new indictments” promotion from last year that offered a gift for new orders, Necheles asked whether the performer wasn’t using the circumstances to flog products.

“Not unlike Mr. Trump,” Daniels calmly retorted.

Necheles then suggested Daniels was “bragging” by offering a “Stormy Saint of Indictments” candle.

“No, I’m not bragging. I think it’s funny that a store made that for me to sell,” Daniels said.

And no, she corrected Necheles, she’s not making $40 per candle, but rather about $7.

DANIELS TO DEFENSE LAWYER: ‘YOU’RE PUTTING WORDS IN MY MOUTH’

Several times on Thursday, Stormy Daniels has taken issue with Trump lawyer Susan Necheles’ questioning.

Amid questions about the financial arrangements for her documentary, Daniels accused Necheles of “trying to trick me into saying something that’s not entirely true.”

At another point, Daniels demanded the defense lawyer back up her claim about something she claimed Daniels had said regarding Donald Trump’s arrest.

“Show me where I said I’d be instrumental in putting President Trump in jail,” the witness said, steady and unflustered.

After Necheles showed Daniels a social media post she’d made that did not reflect those precise words, Daniels replied: “I don’t see the ‘instrumental’ or ‘jail.’ You’re putting words in my mouth.”

Trump spent much of the first hour of testimony leaning back in his seat and staring straight ahead, nodding at times as his attorney called jurors’ attention to social media posts by Daniels insulting him.

It was a far cry from the visible repulsion he displayed during her initial testimony to prosecutors.

DANIELS UNDERSCORES COMPENSATION SHE HAS AND HAS NOT RECEIVED

During cross−examination Thursday morning, porn actor Stormy Daniels underscored several times that she received no compensation for a “60 Minutes” interview she gave in 2018, relaying her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump. But Susan Necheles, the defense lawyer, contended that the publicity from the TV appearance led to other moneymaking opportunities, including a book deal and a strip club tour.

Daniels said she’s received $100,000 and is due another $25,000 for footage and other rights she provided to the makers of a documentary about her experiences that aired recently on the NBC streaming service Peacock.

Some of the money was used to compensate camera operators who had filmed her before the documentary’s producers got involved, she said.

Daniels said she was not paid for any interviews she gave for the documentary.

DEFENSE LAWYER GOE

S THROUGH NDA WITH DANIELS

Trump attorney Susan Necheles ran through the finer points of the nondisclosure agreement that Stormy Daniels had with Michael Cohen, asking Daniels to confirm that she agreed to highlighted portions.

Daniels responds in terse one−word answers, “Yes,” adding: “I signed this only based on what my attorneys suggested.”

Necheles confronted Daniels with two statements she signed in early 2018 denying that she ever had any sexual involvement with Trump or received money to keep quiet. She said her then−lawyer, Keith Davidson, advised her to sign it, and that she was told that Cohen was pressing him to get her to do so.

Necheles noted that by then, Trump wasn’t running for election — an apparent effort to buttress the defense’s argument that Trump’s desire to squelch what he says are false claims about his personal life wasn’t related to his political ambitions, but rather to protect his family and reputation.

“I wouldn’t know what he wanted to protect,” Daniels said.

DANIELS DENIES YELLING AT HER FORMER LAWYER

Stormy Daniels conceded Thursday that she was angry when Michael Cohen was slow to pay her the $130,000 he’d promised in exchange for her silence about a sexual encounter with Donald Trump, but she denied ever yelling at her then−lawyer Keith Davidson demanding to be paid.

“You were furious, weren’t you?” Trump lawyer Susan Necheles asked during cross−examination.

“Yes,” Daniels testified.

Necheles then played an audio recording of a phone call in which Davidson told Cohen that if he didn’t pay up, the boyfriend of Daniels’ manager might go public claiming he’d heard her on the phone screaming at Davidson to settle the case.

Davidson, relaying what the boyfriend might say about Daniels, was heard saying: “If (Trump) loses this election, we all lose all (expletive) leverage. This case is worth zero.”

Daniels denied that the third−hand imagined account of what her manager’s boyfriend might say bore any resemblance to how she actually interacted with her lawyer at the time.

“I’ve never yelled at Keith Davidson on the phone,” Daniels testified, looking at a transcript of the recording. “This specifically says Gina’s boyfriend was going to go out and tell a story.”

DEFENSE ACCUSES DANIELS OF TRYING TO PROFIT OFF STORY

Defense attorney Susan Necheles resumed cross−examination of Stormy Daniels on Thursday by pressing her on why she decided to take money to keep silent about her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump instead of holding a press conference, as Daniels has said she wanted to do.

“Why didn’t you do that?” Necheles asked.

“Because we were running out of time,” Daniels said. Did she mean, Necheles asked, that she was running out of time to use the claim to make money? “To get the story out,” Daniels countered. The negotiations were happening in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

As Daniels was negotiating her non−disclosure agreement with Michael Cohen, she testified, she was also speaking with other journalists, including an editor at Slate as a “backup” plan.

While Daniels said she was most interested in getting her story out and ensuring her family’s safety, Necheles accused her of refusing to share the story with reporters because she wouldn’t be paid for it.

“The better alternative was for you to get money, right?” Necheles said.

“The better alternative was to get my story protected with a paper trail so that my family didn’t get hurt,” Daniels replied.

DANIELS RETURNS TO THE WITNESS STAND

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

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles resumed her cross−examination of the porn actor, continuing with a line of questioning about Daniels’ 2016 efforts to sell her story of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. He says it never happened.

TRUMP WANTS HIS GAG ORDER REMOVED

Donald Trump’s lawyers asked New York’s mid−level appeals court on Wednesday to expedite a decision on his gag order appeal.

The court did not take immediate action but set deadlines for court filings in the next two weeks. If the court refuses to lift the gag order in Trump’s hush money case, his lawyers want permission to take their appeal to the state’s high court, called the Court of Appeals.

The gag order bars the former president from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and some others in his criminal trial.

TRUMP ARRIVES IN COURT

Donald Trump has arrived in court in Manhattan and entered the courtroom with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

Scott filed into the first row of the courtroom gallery behind the defense table, joining Trump’s entourage. He spoke with Trump lawyer and spokesperson Alina Habba before taking a seat. He’s sitting next to Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten.

THE STORMY DANIELS EFFECT

Over the first few weeks of Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the scene outside the courthouse has largely settled into a routine — a few dozen members of the public, a typically small group of demonstrators and the journalists covering the day−to−day developments.

But the arrival of Stormy Daniels seems to have shifted that equilibrium.

With Daniels set to re−take the stand on Thursday, a far larger share of the public has amassed outside 100 Centre Street, alongside new ranks of media from the U.S. and abroad. A few minutes before 8 a.m., as lines swelled to their longest since the start of the trial, court officers said they had no choice but to turn people away.

Among the members of the public in line was Rose Brennan, a 63−year−old woman wearing a hand puppet meant to resemble Donald Trump. “He has accompanied me on many adventures,” she said of the puppet. “Even though I hoped he would have been retired by now.”

She said she and the puppet traveled from New Jersey, arriving outside the courthouse at 5:30 a.m. because “I just want to be a witness to history.”

A WEEK OF DEVELOPMENTS IN TRUMP’S OTHER CASES

Donald Trump is facing four criminal indictments and a civil lawsuit. You can track all of the cases here.

A Georgia appeals court on Wednesday agreed to review a lower court ruling allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to continue to prosecute the election interference case she brought against the former president.

On Tuesday, the federal judge in Florida presiding over the classified documents prosecution of Trump has canceled the May 20 trial date, postponing it indefinitely.

MEANWHILE, TRUMP LEANS INTO THE PAGEANTRY OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL TRYOUTS

As former President Donald Trump remains stuck in the courtroom listening to salacious details of an extramarital sexual encounter he denies, another spectacle is playing out in the background as his vice presidential tryouts get underway.

The dynamic was on full display in Florida at a fundraiser at his Mar−a−Lago club that doubled as a VP audition.

“This weekend, we had 15 people. ... They’re all out there campaigning,” Trump told Spectrum News 1 Wisconsin on Tuesday. “It might actually be more effective this way because, you know, every one of them thinks they could be chosen, which I guess possibly is so.”

For now, the presumptive GOP nominee is happy to revel in the attention as reporters parse his choices and prospective candidates jockey and woo him in an “Apprentice”−style competition.

TRUMP EXPECTED IN COURT AS HUSH MONEY TRIAL RESUMES

Donald Trump is expected in Manhattan court Thursday morning as witness testimony resumes in his criminal trial.

Porn actor Stormy Daniels will return to the stand after defense attorneys began grilling her during cross−examination Tuesday afternoon.

The former president spent most of Tuesday listening to Daniels tell jurors about her background and upbringing, her career in the adult entertainment industry and how it led to meeting Trump, and — ultimately — the alleged 2006 sexual encounter that resulted in a six−figure payoff in exchange for her silence a decade later during the 2016 presidential election.

It remains to be seen who will take the stand after Daniels’ concludes her testimony.

The Associated Press

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