Trump hush money trial: Defense attorneys attack Stormy Daniels’ credibility

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s defense lawyers questioned Stormy Daniels Thursday about the transaction at the center of the former president’s secret trial, explaining why she accepted a $130,000 payment to stay silent about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump instead of leaving. public.

“Why didn’t you do that?” asked attorney Susan Necheles, wondering why Daniels didn’t hold a news conference when she had planned to tell reporters about the 2006 meeting, which Trump denies took place.

What you need to know about Trump’s secret trial:

“Because we were running out of time,” Daniels said.

Did she mean, Necheles asked, that she was running out of time to use this debt to make money?

Former President Donald Trump, followed by his attorney Todd Blanche, walks to speak to reporters following the day’s proceedings at his trial, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (Sarah Yenesel/Pool Photo via AP)

“To get the story out there,” Daniels replied. The negotiations took place during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, a critical moment in the case against Trump, as prosecutors say he and his allies picked up these potentially damaging stories and buried them in an illegal attempt to influence the November results. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

Daniels returned Thursday for more testimony, avoiding eye contact with the former president as she entered the Manhattan courtroom and walked to the witness stand.

Trump’s lawyers have sought to portray the porn actor as a liar and extortionist who is trying to bring down Trump after he made money and fame from his story about him.

Turning clearly to Daniels’ career as an actor, writer and director of adult films, Necheles asked, “Do you have a lot of experience making fake stories about sex seem real?”

“The sex in these movies is real, and so is the sex in this room,” Daniels responded. “The themes of the characters may be different, but the sex is real. That’s why it’s pornography, not a B movie.”

Daniels was called as a witness for the first time Tuesday, describing in detail what she says happened during their 2006 meeting.

Trump frowned and shook his head during much of Daniels’ description of their alleged sexual encounter after the two met at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe, where sponsors included the studio of adult films where she worked. At one point, the judge told defense attorneys during a side conversation — out of earshot of the jury and the public — that he could hear Trump “audibly swearing.”

Former President Donald Trump, accompanied by his attorney Todd Blanche, speaks to reporters following the day's proceedings at his trial, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York.  (Sarah Yenesel/Pool Photo via AP)

Former President Donald Trump, accompanied by his attorney Todd Blanche, speaks to reporters following the day’s proceedings at his trial, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (Sarah Yenesel/Pool Photo via AP)

Daniels testified earlier this week that although she was not physically threatened, she felt an “imbalance of power” when Trump, in her hotel room, stood between her and the door and propositioned her. .

As for whether she felt obligated to have sex with him, she reiterated Thursday that he did not drug her or physically threaten her. But, she says, “my own insecurities, at that moment, kept me from saying no. »

As Necheles continued to compare Daniels’ testimony with previous interviews, the witness insisted, “My story hasn’t changed.” »

“You’re trying to make me say it’s changed, but it hasn’t changed at all,” she said.

His testimony was an extraordinary moment in what could be the only criminal case against presumptive Republican presidential candidate stand trial before voters decide in November whether to send him back to the White House. Trump has pleaded not guilty and presents himself as the victim of a politically tainted justice system that is working to deny him another term.

While she negotiated a confidentiality agreement with Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer, Daniels also spoke with other journalists as a “back-up plan,” she testified Thursday. Necheles accused her of refusing to share the story with reporters because she wouldn’t be paid for it.

“The best alternative was for you to get money, right? » said Necheles.

Daniels said she mostly wants to get her story out there and keep her family safe.

“The best alternative was to protect my story with a paper trail so that my family would not be harmed,” responded Daniels, whose testimony ended at noon.

In the meantime, as the threat of prison looms facing Trump over his repeated violations of the hush order, his lawyers are fighting the judge’s order and seeking a quick ruling in an appeals court. If the court refuses to lift the silence, Trump’s lawyers want permission to appeal to the state’s high court.

“We’re here after two and a half weeks, and I think you’ll see some very telling things today,” Trump said in court.

In the courtroom, Necheles went through the finer points of the nondisclosure agreement, asking Daniels to confirm that she agreed to the highlighted parts. Daniels responded with terse, one-word responses: “Yes,” adding, “I signed this solely based on what my attorneys suggested.” »

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying the Trump Organization’s internal business records. The charges stem from items such as invoices and checks that were listed as legal fees in the Trump Organization’s records. Prosecutors say the payments were largely reimbursements to Cohen for the secret $130,000 payment to Daniels.

The testimony so far has made clear that at the time of the payment to Daniels, Trump and his campaign were reeling from the October 2016 release of the report. never-before-seen footage from 2005’s “Access Hollywood” in which he bragged about grabbing women’s genitals without their permission.

Prosecutors argued that the political storm sparked by the “Access Hollywood” tape accelerated Cohen’s payment to prevent Daniels from going public with her claims that could further harm Trump in the eyes of female voters.

Trump’s lawyers sought to show that Trump was trying to protect his reputation and his family — not his campaign — by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life.

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