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Second day of Stormy Daniels testimony during Trump trial

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who says she had sex with former President Trump in 2006, was the central figure once again Thursday at his New York trial.

Daniels came under harsh cross-examination before completing her testimony, which had begun Tuesday. In total, she was on the stand for roughly eight hours over those two days. (Wednesdays are a day off in the trial.)

Daniels’s allegation that she had sex with Trump at a celebrity golf event in Lake Tahoe set in chain a series of events that has led to the first criminal trial of a former president.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The alleged offenses stem from efforts to stop Daniels from telling her story in the closing stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The adult actress was paid $130,000 by Trump’s then-attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, with the intention of buying her silence. 

Cohen was later reimbursed and given a $60,000 bonus in a series of payments from Trump and a Trump trust.

Prosecutors say those reimbursements were falsely classified as legal expenses to conceal their true purpose  — to keep Daniels’s story secret and boost Trump’s chances of winning the election.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels and also denies any illegality, arguing that the payments to Cohen were indeed legal expenses.

Here are the main takeaways from Thursday’s proceedings.

Trump team seeks to hammer away at Stormy Daniels’s credibility

Most of the day was taken up with the cross-examination of Daniels by the sole female lawyer on Trump’s team, Susan Necheles.

Necheles strove hard to damage Daniels’s credibility.

She suggested Daniels had given different accounts at different times about her purported 2006 encounter with Trump; implied she is motivated by a combination of financial greed and personal animus; and appeared scornful of the idea that Daniels would have been shocked — as she has testified — to find a man on a bed after a dinner date.

Necheles focused on Daniels’s roles, as both star and director, of numerous adult movies. At one point, the lawyer said Daniels was accomplished in “making phony stories about sex appear to be real.” 

Daniels disagreed, saying “the sex in the films is very much real.”

Necheles also sought to impugn Daniels more broadly, referencing her beliefs in the supernatural. 

The Trump lawyer raised a metaphorical eyebrow about Daniels’s belief she can communicate with dead people. There was also a tale about unfounded suspicions that a house Daniels has lived in was haunted. The culprit turned out to be “a giant possum that was under the house,” Daniels acknowledged. 

Daniels stands her ground

Daniels pushed back against Trump’s team across the entirety of her testimony, both on Tuesday and Thursday.

She often did so by making reference to the former president.

Necheles, for example, drew attention to the fact that one way Daniels has capitalized upon her Trump-related notoriety is by selling merchandise online.

“Not unlike Mr. Trump,” Daniels responded.

Implied criticism of Daniels for attacking Trump on social media might also struggle to gain traction with the jury given Trump’s history of doing exactly the same.

Daniels forcibly rejected the broad thrust of Necheles’s argument — that she is an unreliable opportunist.

She accused the Trump lawyer of trying to “trick” her into saying things and of “putting words in my mouth.”

Judge refuses to change gag order to let Trump rip back at Daniels
Trump’s ability to respond to negative or mocking stories has been very limited throughout the trial — much to his displeasure.

Like any defendant, he can’t address the court unless he chooses to testify. In addition, a gag order restrains him from attacking witnesses, court officials, lawyers or the judge’s family members.

Trump’s team sought on Thursday to have the gag order amended — in essence, to enable the former president to jab back at Daniels.

Trump’s team argued that any danger of the adult film actress being intimidated had passed now that she had completed her testimony.

Judge Juan Merchan rejected that argument.

“My concern is not just with protecting Ms. Daniels or a witness who has already testified,” he said. “My concern is with protecting the integrity of these proceedings as a whole.”

Trump’s team separately sought to have a mistrial declared, on the basis that some of Daniels’s testimony was gratuitous and prejudicial to Trump.

This request — like an earlier, similar effort — was rejected by Merchan.

A window into Trump’s tweeting

It wasn’t all Daniels on Thursday. The court heard from three other witnesses — a bookkeeper at the Trump Organization, a publishing executive and Trump’s former personal secretary in the White House, Madeleine Westerhout.

None of the three delivered any real bombshells, but Westerhout’s testimony offered some interesting details about Trump’s White House. 

The court saw a list of people to whom another assistant, at the Trump Organization, told Westerhout the then-president might wish to speak.

It included tennis superstar Serena Williams, NFL legend Tom Brady and media figures including Sean Hannity and Bret Baier of Fox News.

Westerhout also provided some insights into Trump’s habit of posting on Twitter, the social platform now known as X, while in the White House. She noted that Trump aide Dan Scavino was authorized to post from Trump’s official account but that he would generally get approval before doing so.

Westerhout said she would sometimes type up Scavino’s drafts for Trump to review.

She testified there were certain words Trump liked to capitalize and noted “he liked to use exclamation points.”

Trump friends — and perceived foes — show up to court

The Trump trial has been a spectacle from the beginning.

On Thursday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) accompanied Trump in court, having declared his support and sympathy for the former president during a morning Fox News interview. 

Jeanine Pirro of Fox News, a vigorous Trump defender, was reportedly watching from an overflow room.

There were also well-known names whose presence seems much less pleasing to Trump.

The Associated Press reported that he at one stage pointed to CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, who was present in court.

The New York Times noted he “glared” in the direction of George Conway, a staunch critic once married to Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. 

The couple announced in March 2023 that they were in the final stages of a divorce. George Conway is covering the trial for The Atlantic, the Times noted.

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