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Stormy Daniels Delivers Shocking Testimony About Trump, But Trial Hinges On Business Records

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

“You made it all up, didn’t you?” » asked lawyer Susan Necheles.

“No,” Daniels retorted.

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

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying the Trump Organization’s internal business records. The fees come from documents such as invoices and checks that were considered legal fees on company records. Prosecutors say those payments were largely reimbursements to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet.

Testimony over the past three weeks has veered between accountants and bankers, relaying the nuts and bolts of check and wire transfer procedures, and unflattering and sordid stories about Trump and the machinations of the tabloid world meant to keep them secret.

The 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 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.

Meanwhile, as Trump threatens jail time over his repeated violations of the hush order, his lawyers are fighting Judge Juan M. Merchan’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.

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

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

Rejecting the request for a mistrial, Merchan said Trump’s lawyers opened the door to detailed testimony about the alleged sexual encounter when they claimed in their opening statement that no sexual intercourse took place. “Your refusal puts the jury in the position of choosing who they believe.”

“The more details Ms. Daniels can provide about the encounter, the more the jury can determine whether the encounter took place and, if so, whether they choose to credit Ms. Daniels’ story,” Merchan said.

Trump fumed outside the courtroom late in the day.

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

At the time of the payment to Daniels, Trump and his campaign were reeling from the October 2016 release of previously unreleased 2005 “Access Hollywood” footage in which he bragged about grabbing women 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.

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

Daniels remained on the stand for 7 1/2 hours over two days. During questioning by prosecutors, she recounted in detail what she said happened during their meeting, after the two met at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe, where the Sponsors included the adult film studio where she worked.

Trump frowned and shook his head during much of Daniels’ description, including how she found him sitting on the hotel bed in his underwear after returning from the bathroom and that he had not used a condom. The judge told Trump’s lawyers Tuesday that he could hear him “audibly swearing.”

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

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

Necheles suggested that her work in porn meant her story of shock and awe at Trump’s alleged sexual advances was not credible.

“You’ve starred and had sex in over 200 porn films, haven’t you?” » asked Necheles. “And there are naked men and women having sex, including yourself, in these movies, right?”

Necheles continued: “But according to you, seeing a man sitting on a bed in a T-shirt and boxers was so overwhelming that you became dizzy.”

The experience with Trump was different from porn for a number of reasons, Daniels said, including the fact that Trump was more than twice her age and taller than her and she didn’t expect him to found undressed when leaving the bathroom.

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

Necheles asked her why she accepted the payment to keep quiet instead of making it public.

“Why didn’t you do that?” she asked, wondering why Daniels hadn’t held a press 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 this debt to make money?

“To get the story out there,” Daniels replied. The negotiations took place in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

She testified that she never discussed the payment with Trump and said she did not know whether Trump knew about or was involved in the transaction.

“You have no personal knowledge of his involvement in this transaction or what he did or did not do,” Necheles asked.

“Not directly, no,” Daniels replied.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger then asked Daniels, “Did you tell lies about Mr. Trump or the truth about Mr. Trump?”

“The truth,” said Daniels, who also said that while she has made money since her story came to light, she has also had to spend a lot of money hiring security guards, moving and taking other precautions, and that she still owes Trump hundreds of thousands of dollars. dollars in attorney fees.

“Overall, has publicly telling the truth about Mr. Trump been positive or negative in your life? » asked Hoffinger.

“Negative,” Daniels replied softly.