June 22, 2024

Saluti Law Medi

Rule it with System

Stormy Daniels defends her credibility in battle with Trump attorney

The two women traded barbs over what the lawyer said were inconsistencies in Daniels’ description of her sexual encounter with Trump in a Nevada hotel suite

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NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s defence attorney on Thursday accused Stormy Daniels of slowly altering the details of an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, trying to convince jurors that a key prosecution witness in the former president’s hush money criminal trial cannot be believed.

“You have made all of this up, right?” lawyer Susan Necheles asked.

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“No,” Daniels shot back.

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As the jury looked on, the two women traded barbs over what Necheles said were inconsistencies in Daniels’ description of the encounter with Trump in a Nevada hotel suite. He denies the whole story.

But despite all the talk over what may have happened in that hotel room, despite the discomfiting testimony by the adult film actor that she consented to sex in part because of a “power imbalance,” the case against Trump doesn’t rise or fall on whether her account is true or even believable. It’s a trial about money changing hands — business transactions — and whether those payments were made to illegally influence the 2016 election.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal Trump Organization business records. The charges stem from paperwork such as invoices and checks that were deemed legal expenses in company records. Prosecutors say those payments largely were reimbursements to Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet.

The testimony over the past three weeks has seesawed between bookkeepers and bankers relaying the nuts and bolts of check-paying procedures and wire transfers to unflattering, seamy stories about Trump and the tabloid world machinations meant to keep them secret.

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This criminal case could be the only one against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to go to trial before voters decide in November whether to send him back to the White House. Trump has pleaded not guilty and casts himself as the victim of a politically tainted justice system working to deny him another term.

Meanwhile, as the threat of jail looms over Trump following his repeated gag order violations, his attorneys are fighting Judge Juan M. Merchan’s order and seeking a fast decision in an appeals court. If the court refuses to lift the gag order, Trump’s lawyers want permission to take their appeal to the state’s high court.

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At the same time, they also asked Merchan to modify the order so Trump could publicly respond to Daniels’ testimony and made a second request for a mistrial based on what they argued was her “extremely prejudicial testimony” that has “has nothing to do with the false business records” charges. Merchan rejected both.

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“My concern is not just with protecting Ms. Daniels or a witness who has already testified. My concern is with protecting the integrity of these proceedings as a whole,” Merchan said in refusing to change the gag order.

Turning away the mistrial request, Merchan said Trump’s lawyers had opened to door to detailed testimony about the alleged sexual encounter when they asserted in their opening statement that no sex had occurred. “Your denial puts the jury in the position of choosing who they believe.”

“The more specificity Ms. Daniels can provide about the encounter, the more the jury can weigh about whether the encounter did occur and if so, whether they choose to credit Ms. Daniels’ story,” Merchan said.

Trump fumed outside the courtroom at the end of the day.

“I’m innocent,” he said. “I’m being held in this court with a corrupt judge who’s totally conflicted.”

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

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Prosecutors have argued that the political firestorm over the “Access Hollywood” tape hastened Cohen’s payment to keep Daniels from going public with her claims that could further hurt Trump in the eyes of female voters.

The tape rattled the Republican National Committee leadership, and “there were conversations about how it would be possible to replace him as the candidate if it came to that,” according to testimony from Madeleine Westerhout, a Trump aide who was working at the RNC when the recording leaked.

Daniels was on the stand for 7 1/2 hours over two days. During questioning from prosecutors, she relayed in graphic detail what she said happened during their encounter, after the two met at a celebrity golf outing at Lake Tahoe where sponsors included the adult film studio where she worked.

Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 9, 2024. Photo by ANGELA WEISS /POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Trump scowled and shook his head through much of Daniels’ description, including how she found him sitting on the hotel bed in his underwear after she returned from the bathroom and that he did not use a condom. The judge told Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday that he could hear him “cursing audibly.”

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Trump’s lawyers sought to paint Daniels as a liar and extortionist who’s trying to take down Trump after drawing money and fame from her claims. And they say hush money payments made on his behalf were an effort to protect his reputation and family — not his campaign — by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life.

On Thursday, Necheles grilled Daniels on her description of the encounter in which she described fear and discomfort even as she consented to sex. She 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.”

Necheles suggested that her work in porn meant her story about being shocked and frightened by Trump’s alleged sexual advances was not believable.

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

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

“I came out of the bathroom and saw an older man in his underwear that I wasn’t expecting to see there,” she said.

Necheles pressed her on why she accepted the payout to keep quiet instead of going public.

“Why didn’t you do that?” she asked, wondering why Daniels didn’t hold a news conference as she had planned.

“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.

She testified that she never spoke with Trump about payment, and said she had no knowledge of whether Trump was aware of or involved in the transaction.

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

“Not directly, no,” Daniels responded.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger later asked Daniels, “Have you been telling lies about Mr. Trump or the truth about Mr. Trump?”

“The truth,” said Daniels, who also said that although she has made money since her story emerged, she also has had to spend a lot to hire security, move homes and take other precautions, and she still owes Trump hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.

“On balance, has publicly telling the truth about Mr. Trump been a net positive or net negative in your life?” Hoffinger asked.

“Negative,” Daniels replied quietly.

THURSDAY RECAP:

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.

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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.”

Trump
Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys Alina Habba, center, and Emil Bove return to the courtroom after a break at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 7, 2024. Photo by CURTIS MEANS /POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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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, Stormy
Stormy Daniels arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 09, 2024 in New York City. Photo by Michael M. Santiago /Getty Images

A GUIDE TO UNIQUE TERMS USED AT TRUMP’S NEW YORK CRIMINAL TRIAL

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Hush money, catch and kill and more: Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial is full of terms you don’t typically hear in a courtroom.

Centering on allegations Trump falsified his company’s records to conceal the nature of hush money reimbursements, it’s the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of Trump’s four indictments to go to trial. It also has some unique terminology.

The Associated Press defines these terms and more here.

WHERE DOES DANIELS FIT INTO THE HUSH MONEY TRIAL?

Porn actor Stormy Daniels will return to the witness stand in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Thursday morning.

Though she is the latest high-profile name to be called up for questioning, Daniels is key to the events and charges at the center of the criminal case against the former president.

Daniels has said that in 2006, she and Trump had sex in his hotel suite during a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf outing where her studio was a sponsor. She testified Tuesday that the encounter was “brief” but left her “shaking.”

“I just wanted to leave,” she testified.

A decade later, she was paid $130,000 in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential race to keep quiet about the encounter. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

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Michael Cohen, then Trump’s 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.

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 for redirect from prosecutors after defense attorneys grilled 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.

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