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A look back at a Stormy week in Trump criminal trial

Former President Trump came face-to-face with a porn actor, one of his White House aides and several of his employees in the third week of testimony at the former president’s criminal trial.

Prosecutors have so far called 19 witnesses to the stand, and they’ve indicated the end of their case in chief is fast approaching, potentially as soon as next week. 

The former president is accused of falsifying business records while reimbursing his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, who had paid porn actor and director Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the final days of the 2016 campaign to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. 

Trump, who denies they ever had a sexual encounter, pleaded not guilty and insists the 34 records he is charged over are truthful.

The third week of witness testimony also saw contentious back-and-forth over Trump’s gag order and his lawyers’ first two attempts at seeking a mistrial, both of which were unsuccessful. 

Here are five takeaways from the week.

Jurors hear from Stormy Daniels, but not Karen McDougal 

For nearly two days and over eight hours, Daniels spilled the salacious details of her alleged affair with Trump that is at the heart of the district attorney’s case. 

Daniels was paid $130,000 in the weeks before the 2016 election by Cohen to stay quiet about her supposed tryst a decade earlier with the then-business mogul.  

Her testimony spanned their 2006 meeting at a celebrity golf tournament to the racy details of the sexual encounter that Daniels claims she had with Trump after he invited her up to his suite for dinner. She told Trump’s New York jury about sex positions, indicated he didn’t use a condom and even described spanking the former president with a rolled-up magazine. 

Trump attorney Susan Necheles’s cross-examination of Daniels quickly grew testy as she sought to paint the porn actress as money-driven and experienced in selling bogus stories about sex thanks to her career.  

“If that story was untrue, I would’ve written it to be a lot better,” Daniels said, pushing back against the defense’s perspective of her testimony. 

Though jurors heard Daniels’s story — in all its risque detail — they will not hear from another woman, ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, whose story of an alleged affair was kept secret with the National Enquirer’s help. Prosecutors confirmed this week they don’t intend to call McDougal as a witness. 

Defense begins mistrial attempts 

For the first time in the case, Trump’s legal team this week formally requested a mistrial, citing Daniels’s detailed testimony about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. 

The first request came Tuesday afternoon, after Daniels’s first bout on the witness stand where she described meeting Trump and the lurid details about their alleged sexual encounter.

“The guardrails for this witness, answering questions from the government, were just thrown to the side,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the judge, asking him to adjourn the trial and order a new one. 

Though Merchan agreed with Trump’s attorneys that Daniels provided “too much detail,” he determined that the issue had not “reached the point where a mistrial is in order.” He admonished prosecutors and directed them to rein in her testimony. 

On Thursday, when Daniels continued her testimony under cross-examination, Trump’s counsel renewed their demand for a mistrial, citing her raunchy testimony. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass claimed prosecutors “tried very hard” to pull back on the graphic details. 

Trump’s attorneys objected to Daniels’s comment that Trump did not wear a condom, in particular. The judge again sympathized, saying he wished “those questions hadn’t been asked” and “those answers hadn’t been given.”  

But he also chided Necheles for not objecting to the comment about protection when it came up. 

“Why on earth she wouldn’t object to a mention of a condom, I don’t understand,” he said, ultimately denying their second request.   

Trump backs off attacks after judge’s gag order warning  

Trump’s gag order again played a prominent role throughout the week. 

The week began with the judge finding Trump had violated his gag order a 10th time, warning the former president he may resort to jailing him if it happens again. 

“As much as I do not want to impose a jail sanction, and I have done everything I can to avoid doing so, I want you to understand that I will, if necessary and appropriate,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump on Monday morning. 

Trump’s ability to hold back was tested when Daniels, one of Trump’s most frequent targets among the trial witnesses, took the stand the following day. 

The former president’s lawyers accused her of changing her story to insinuate her alleged sexual encounter wasn’t consensual, demanding Trump be allowed to resume speaking about her publicly when her testimony finished.  The judge rejected the request. 

Despite Trump’s visible frustration in the courtroom, the former president has shown restraint, not naming Daniels in any of his statements or responding to reporters’ shouted questions about her salacious testimony.  

“He wants to put me in jail,” Trump told reporters Friday. “And that could happen one day, and I’d be very proud to go to jail for our Constitution, because what he’s doing is so unconstitutional. There’s never been anything like this.” 

Trial gears up for Michael Cohen 

After Daniels was excused from the stand, the week began shifting toward a setup for the next expected major witness: Cohen.

Cohen is expected to begin his testimony on Monday, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. 

He is billed as prosecutors’ star witness in their attempt to directly implicate Trump in the trial. Cohen made the $130,000 hush payment to Daniels at the center of the case. 

To prepare for his appearance, prosecutors late this week called multiple witnesses who authenticated documents related to Cohen so they could be introduced into evidence. 

Those documents include Cohen’s phone records and Trump’s social media posts attacking his ex-fixer.

Prosecutors finalizing case

Prosecutors have now laid out most of the pieces of the puzzle they say make up their case. 

Jurors have learned about the hush money deals during Trump’s 2016 campaign. They’ve seen the 34 pieces of paper that correspond to the former president’s charges. And they’ve heard from key players in Trump’s orbit at the time. 

But no witness has provided testimony directly implicating Trump, which is likely what Cohen will attempt to do on the witness stand. 

There’s one more witness set to take the stand after Cohen, but that person remains a mystery.

Among the list of witnesses left likely to take the stand are key Trump 2016 campaign staff, other Trump Organization employees.

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