Takeaways from Day 14 of the Donald Trump hush money trial

Takeaways from Day 14 of the Donald Trump hush money trial
Takeaways from Day 14 of the Donald Trump hush money trial

CNN

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers continued their attack on the credibility of Stormy Daniels for several hours on Thursday, with defense attorney Susan Necheles accusing the adult film star of making up the story of having sex with Trump to make money.

Daniels pushed back on claims she was untruthful about her sexual encounter with Trump, saying that the story was true, even as she was confronted with inconsistencies in some of the small details of her account.

“If that story was untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better,” Daniels said of her encounter with Trump.

One of Trump’s former White House aides later took the stand, testing about the comings and goings in the West Wing and breaking down in tears about how she lost her job and her book that was highly positive toward the former president.

At the end of the day, the proceedings heated back up as Trump’s attorneys argued, out of the presence of the jury, for a mistrial and to lift Trump from the gag order from speaking about Daniels. Judge Juan Merchan denied both motions.

Here are the takeaways from Day 14 of the Trump hush money trial:

Daniels returned to the witness stand Thursday morning for a second day of cross examination, in which she combatively and defiantly responded to questions from Necheles and insisted her story about her sexual encounter with Trump was true. Trump has denied the affair.

01:59 – Source: CNN

Ex-prosecutor says Trump lawyer’s questions to Stormy Daniels may backfire

Trump’s attorney asked about inconsistencies in interviews Daniels gave about how her dinner with Trump was arranged, whether they had dinner and the notion that she felt threatened by Trump during the encounter.

She noted that Daniels saw men and women naked regularly through her work in adult film movies – questioning why then, allegedly seeing Trump on his bed in boxers and a T-shirt “was so upsetting that you got light-headed, the blood left your hands and feet and you almost fainted?”

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

Necheles also asked how she described the encounter, pointing to a prior interview in which she said Trump told her “come here” and they started kissing on the bed. He did say “come here,” Daniels said in response.

“You made all this up, right?” Necheles said.

“No,” Daniels responded.

Necheles continued again with the insinuation turning to Daniels’ work as a writer of adult films. “You have a lot of experience of making phony stories about sex appear to be real,” Necheles asked.

Wow,” Daniels said with a pause. “That’s not how I would put it. The sex in the films is very much real just like what happened to me in that room.”

Beyond the details of the alleged encounter itself, Trump’s attorneys and prosecutors had Daniels tell conflicting accounts of her financial situation.

Necheles continued to suggest that Daniels was making money off of saying she had sex with Trump, pointing to a tweet where she said she’d earned 1 million dollars and others where she directed her supporters to her online store after Trump was indicted.

“You’re celebrating the indictment by selling things from your store,” Necheles asked.

“Not unlike Mr. Trump,” Daniels responded.

Trump’s attorney also questioned Daniels about her “Make America Horny Again” strip club tour in 2018 – showing posters she had promoted – and about the money she made through an NBC documentary, in which the filmmakers paid for the rights to her book.

During re-direct, prosecutors had Daniels recount how telling her story also cost her, from having to move her daughter and hire security to the lawyers’ fees she was ordered to pay after she sued Trump and lost.

“On balance has your publicly told the truth about your experiences with Mr. Trump being net positive or net negative in your life?”

“Negative,” Daniels said.

Former White House aide Madeleine Westerhout described the inner-workings of Trump’s West Wing, where she worked for more than two years sitting just outside the Oval Office.

Westerhout was asked about a list of Trump’s contacts she received from his longtime Trump Organization aide Rhona Graff – a list that included everyone from television news personalities like Joe Scarborough and Jeanine Pirro (who was at the courthouse Thursday) to sports legends Serena Williams and Tom Brady.

Eventually working at a desk with a direct line of sight to the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, Westerhout explained how she learned Trump’s work habits. Trump liked sharpies, for instance, and printouts of documents. He preferred the Oxford comma. And the former president, she said, “liked speaking to people in person or on the phone.”

Asked how many people Trump would typically speak to in a day, she couldn’t cite a specific number. “A lot,” Westerhout said. He would take calls as early as 6 am and “late into the night” after she had gone to bed, she testified.

The prosecution walked Westerhout through the checks she would receive from the Trump Org. in New York, in which she described bringing Trump a manilla envelope of checks each month to sign. She then sent them back to New York.

Westerhout did not testify to direct knowledge of the checks that Trump signed to his former fixer Michael Cohen, who are cited in the charges that Trump falsified business records, but her story did add one more voice to the prosecution’s narrative that Trump was involved in signing of the checks in 2017.

When asked to explain how she left the White House in 2019, Westerhout testified that she said some things she shouldn’t have and that she was “very regretful of my youthful indiscretion.”

“I’ve grown a lot since then,” she said as she started crying.

She was still sniffling as defense started cross examination, in which Necheles asked Westerhout about the book she wrote after leaving the White House, “Off the Record.” Westerhout said she “thought it was real important to share with the American people the man that I got to know.”

“President Trump forgave you, right?” Necheles asked. “He did,” Westerhout said. “He was a really good boss.”

Westerhout also offered jurors a contrast to Daniels’ account, testing that Trump was closed to his wife Melania and his family. The former president smiled as she described Melania Trump often texting her, “Madeline, it’s past dinner time. When is my husband coming home?”

Trump’s lawyers asked Merchan both to declare a mistrial and modify the gag order against him after Daniels was off the stand. The judge rejected both requests.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked for Trump to be allowed to publicly defend himself against Daniels’ allegations, arguing the former president currently is forced to stay silent in response to the suggestion that there was a non-consensual sexual encounter between her and Trump.

Blanche argued that Daniels has changed her story by suggesting that this “completely made-up encounter with President Trump may not have been consensual.”

Yet, Blanche said, “he is not allowed to say ‘I did not do that’” for voters who are seeing media coverage of the testimony.

Merchan denied the request, saying he must protect the integrity of the proceedings and he doesn’t trust Trump not to violate an order if he were to modify it.

“The reason why the gag order is in place to begin with is precisely because of the nature of these attacks, the vitriol,” Merchan said. “These were very real, very threatening attacks on potential witnesses.”

“Your client’s track record speaks for itself here – I can’t take your word for it” that Trump will stick to disputing the facts, the judge also said.

Merchan also denied Trump’s renewed motion for a mistrial over the salacious testimony Daniels gave that his attorneys say unfairly prejudices the jury against Trump.

The judge said Trump’s outright denial of the incident and his legal team’s attack on her credibility opened the door for prosecutors to bring in Daniels’ testimony that turned salacious.

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

Merchan pointed the finger at Necheles who opted not to object to several salacious lines of questioning that the defense later used as reasons the judge should declare a mistrial.

Blanche argued that Daniels’ testimony at trial was a new version of the alleged events – a point Merchan disagreed with.

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass said Trump was aware of the “messy details” of the encounter in 2016 and that shows motivation for the hush money payment and cover up.

Blanche argued that the level of detail prosecutors elicited from Daniels went too far. But Merchan said “details like items in the bathroom, the weight of the furniture,” add a “sense of credibility if the jury chooses to believe them,” even as he acknowledged there were some details he would have preferred stayed out.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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