Stormy Daniels to face tough questions from Trump lawyers at trial

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 5:03 AM

By Jack Queen, Luc Cohen and Andy Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Porn star Stormy Daniels will face tough questioning from Donald Trump’s lawyers on Thursday as they try to dismantle the credibility of a woman whose story of a 2006 sexual encounter ultimately led to the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Daniels’ unflattering account of sex with Trump riveted jurors on Tuesday, and served to remind U.S. voters of the more lurid aspects of his 2017-2021 presidency as he campaigns to win back the White House this year.

But Trump’s legal team was able to punch some holes in her account.

Under questioning, Daniels admitted that she had not always told the truth about the encounter, and acknowledged that she has refused to pay Trump a judgment of more than $500,000 stemming from a failed defamation lawsuit.

Daniels also did not provide a clear explanation about why she let Trump buy her silence after she decided to go public with her account. She agreed that she hated Trump and wanted to see him imprisoned if he is found guilty.

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles accused Daniels of trying to profit off the encounter and making up parts of her story entirely. Daniels acknowledged that over the years she told some news outlets that she had sex with Trump and told others she had not.

“Isn’t it a fact that what you said depended on who would pay you money?” Necheles asked her.

Daniels said that was not the case.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to Daniels to keep quiet during his 2016 presidential bid. He has pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Prosecutors say Trump’s efforts to obscure the paper trail corrupted the 2016 election by preventing voters from learning about a story that might have informed their vote.

In a sense, Daniels’ testimony is peripheral to the case, and it may not matter much to voters who have already heard other stories of Trump’s alleged sexual misbehavior.

Trump’s lawyers argued as much on Tuesday when they unsuccessfully sought a mistrial, saying that she had “inflamed” the jury with unnecessary details like claiming that Trump did not used a condom.

Daniels’ testimony clearly frustrated Trump, who at one point appeared to call it “bullshit,” which drew a warning about witness intimidation from Justice Juan Merchan.

Merchan has already fined Trump $10,000 for talking about jurors and witnesses in the trial and has warned that further violations of a gag order that is in place could lead to imprisonment.

The case is widely seen as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. But the chances of the other three going to trial before the Nov. 5 election are growing more distant.

One federal case in Washington that accuses Trump of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden has been held up for months by the Supreme Court.

Another federal case in Florida that accuses him of mishandling classified documents has been delayed indefinitely as the judge, appointed by Trump, considers legal objections by his lawyers.

A state case in Georgia that accuses Trump of election interference likewise is on hold as an appeals court considers whether the prosecutor improperly had a romantic affair with another lawyer who is no longer on the case.

(Reporting by Jack Queen and Luc Cohen in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Bill Berkrot)