Trump's lawyers imply Daniels' work in porn industry undermines her testimony


Adult film star Stormy Daniels returned to the stand in Donald Trump's criminal trial Thursday, pushing back during cross-examination on his defense attorney's attempts to discredit her in sometimes bizarre and uncomfortable exchanges.

Trump's attorney Susan Necheles grilled Daniels about the $130,000 nondisclosure agreement she signed with Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen near the close of the 2016 election, and tried to poke holes in her now-sworn statements about the sexual encounter she says she had with Trump, which he denies.

Necheles asked her about the number of porn films she's written and directed, and said, “You have a lot of experience making phony stories about sex.”

“Wow. That’s not how I would put it," Daniels replied. "The sex in the films is very much real, just like what happened to me in that room” with Trump. She added, "If that story was untrue, I would’ve written it to be a lot better.”

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Necheles and Daniels sparred over minor inconsistencies in her stories, including saying in a 2011 interview that Daniels and Trump had dinner together while she now maintains they never actually ate.

“I had dinner in the room, but we never got any food, and we never ate anything," Daniels said. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger noted on re-direct that the article with the 2011 interview said the piece had been "lightly edited."

Necheles also sought to dispute Daniels' claims that she was scared when she saw Trump waiting for her in bed in a t-shirt and boxers after she got out of the bathroom, implying that a porn actress wouldn't be caught off guard by someone in their underwear.

Necheles asked if it was the first time in her life someone had made a pass at her. Daniels said it was the first time with somebody "twice my age and bigger than me" who had a bodyguard outside the door.

Image: hush money trial (Elizabeth Williams / AP)
Image: hush money trial (Elizabeth Williams / AP)

“You wanted money from President Trump, right?” Necheles asked earlier in their exchange. “No,” Daniels answered. “I never asked for money from President Trump,” she said. “I never asked for money from anyone in particular, I asked for money to tell my story” in 2016 and it was Cohen who approached her attorney with the NDA. She said she thought the agreement was “a perfect solution,” giving her a paper trail and peace of mind without having to tell her story publicly.

Daniels also acknowledged that she was irate when Cohen appeared to be stalling on paying the money, but he eventually paid. Necheles also asked about a statement she signed in 2018 denying she'd had an affair with Trump after The Wall Street Journal wrote about her NDA. Daniels said her lawyer had given her the statement and told her she had to sign it. She said she decided she wanted to tell her story later that year, after Cohen began talking about her publicly.

Necheles asked about her subsequent strip club tour, which was called “Make America Horny Again.” “I did not name that tour, and I fought it tooth and nail,” she said.

Asked if she'd promised people she'd be instrumental in putting Trump in jail, Daniels said, "No." Necheles then asked her about a social media post where someone had called her a human toilet, and Daniels responded, "Exactly! Making me the best person to flush the orange turd down." Necheles asked if that meant she'd be instrumental in getting rid of him. Daniels said it was "hyperbole." "I'm also not a toilet," she said.

Necheles also asked Daniels about her belief in the paranormal, and that "she claimed to be able to speak with people’s dead relatives, right?" Daniels said it was "all entertainment." "Didn't your boyfriend question your sanity?" Necheles asked. Prosecutors objected to the question, which was sustained by the judge.

Daniels spoke more slowly and seemed more confident Thursday than on her first day in the stand, but her voice shook some when Necheles asked her about various mean tweets she's been the target of, including ones referring to her as an "aging harlot" and a “disgusting degenerate prostitute.” “When somebody attacks me I’m going to defend myself,” she said, sounding like she was on the verge of tears.

After she was done testifying, Daniels’ lawyer Clark Brewster told NBC News she was "shake" by the ordeal and "relieved" to be done.

“She was cross-examined over communications over years and having your memory challenged like that and having to respond to questions immediately with recall is not easy and it was quite an accomplishment,” Brewster said, adding “she did a remarkable job of getting her testimony across.”

Trump sat with his eyes closed for portions of Daniels' testimony. He was accompanied to court by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who left in the late morning. On his way out of court, Scott took some jabs at three people whom Trump is prevented from criticizing by the gag order in the case — Judge Juan Merchan's daughter, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's wife and prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

Scott did not name any of the three, but it was clear from his remarks — including saying "the judge's daughter is a political operative" — to whom he was referring. It's unclear if prosecutors will try to argue the comments violated the gag order. The ruling bars Trump from making "or directing others to make" comments about individual prosecutors or relatives of people involved with the case, in addition to remarks about witnesses and jurors.

Daniels testified Tuesday about the alleged 2006 tryst, which Trump has denied. Her testimony seemed to get under Trump's skin, prompting the judge to warn Trump's attorney that he would not tolerate Trump’s cursing while Daniels was on the stand.

“I understand that your client is upset at this point, but he is cursing audibly, and he is shaking his head visually, and that’s contemptuous,” state Judge Juan Merchan told Todd Blanche in a sidebar, which took place out of earshot of most of the courtroom, according to a court transcript.

“It has the potential to intimidate the witness, and the jury can see that,” he said. “You need to speak to him. I won't tolerate that.”

In addition to the sexual encounter, which Daniels said happened after she met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, she told jurors that Trump made a sexual advance in 2007, which she rejected. Four years later, she said, a mysterious man warned her to “leave Trump alone” after she gave an interview to a magazine about their first encounter. Daniels said the article never ran thanks to Trump's then-“fixer” and lawyer Cohen.

Cohen later paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claim. Trump's reimbursement of that money to Cohen is at the heart of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's criminal case against Trump, who is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the repayment. He has pleaded not guilty.

Daniels was followed on the stand by Rebecca Manochio, a Trump Organization employee who was an assistant to the company's former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. She said that after Trump went to the White House, she would FedEx checks for him to sign, and then get them to the proper person at the company when they were returned.

The DA's office is nearing its final set of witnesses. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass estimated this week that prosecutors would be done presenting their case by May 21.

Court is not in session on Wednesdays and there are no proceedings Friday of next week, so that would mean prosecutors have roughly six more days of witness testimony to present after Thursday.

While it's not clear who will testify after Daniels, Cohen is expected to take the stand at some point.