Trump Trial: Insights Gained from Stormy Daniels’ Testimony

Adult film star Stormy Daniels, who reviewed the cryptic details of an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in a Nevada hotel suite, provided helpful but sometimes irrelevant context for Manhattan prosecutors.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to falsifying company records in connection with the cash payment to Ms. Daniels. He also denies having sex with her.

One of the most anticipated witnesses in the trial, his appearances at the Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday and Thursday proved dramatic.

But it is unclear whether his sometimes lengthy testimony significantly strengthened prosecutors’ case.

“He was a very sensational witness. There was a lot of evidence that was completely irrelevant,” said former Manhattan prosecutor Diana Florence.

“But at the end of the day, he adds context to the story.”

Ms. Daniels caught fire on Tuesday as she pulled off a demure look with cropped hair.

His complicated answers to prosecutors drew criticism from judge Juan Merchan, who later told the court that some of them “would have been better left unsaid.”

Trump, meanwhile, sat slumped in his seat — son Eric just two rows behind him — as Daniels described the sordid details of their alleged encounter.

The details included Trump being greeted in silk pajamas in his hotel suite and his claim that he did not use a condom when they allegedly had sex.

The testimony prompted Trump’s lawyers to file two complaints about the mistrial, which Judge Merchan denied. The judge asked prosecutors to be careful when looking at the details of the alleged sexual contact.

But ultimately, Ms. Florence said, the day in court was a “sideshow” that had little to do with the heart of the case: whether Trump broke the law by classifying profits from Ms. Daniels’ hardship payments . . such as “legal fees”.

While the hardship fee itself was not illegal, prosecutors say he tried to hide it to save his 2016 presidential bid.

“It doesn’t matter if they had intercourse or not,” Florence said, adding that Daniels’ testimony “was too long.”

Ms. Daniels ‘fights back’
But the material made for a tense few days in court, including Thursday when a defiant Ms. Daniels faced off against Trump’s high-powered lawyer, Susan Necheles. .

Necheles tried to discredit Daniels by accusing him of fabricating the alleged sexual encounter.

At one point, Necheles claimed that Daniels came up with the story as well as the scripts he wrote for the adult films in which he starred.

“The sex in those movies was very real, just like what happened to me in that [hotel] room,” replied a frustrated Ms. Daniels.

His response was to “drop the microphone,” said former Manhattan District Attorney Jeremy Saland.

“He fought back hard,” she said.

At another point, Necheles accused Ms. Daniels of lying about not eating at a Trump hotel suite the night of the alleged sexual encounter.

“Your words don’t mean what you say, do they?” she told Mrs. Daniels.

Miss Daniels stuck to the general facts of her story.

“You are trying to trick me into saying something that is not entirely true,” he later told Mrs. Necheles.

Necheles continued to ramble on, describing Mrs. Daniels as a money-hungry woman who made up details.

The strategy may have been too aggressive for the witness, who had an “air of truth,” Mr. Saland said.

“He seemed very strong and I think the defense did a bad job … really trying to dehumanize him,” he said.

Creating a ‘narrative’
Experts said Trump’s legal team may have inadvertently helped the prosecution with cross-examination.

In grilling Ms. Daniels, the defense showed exactly why Trump would have tried to cover up the sex scandal before the election — to avoid contact with a witness the defense team called “dirty,” Florence said.

“It was a sideshow to the trial — and it would be the main event right before the election,” he said.

Although Ms. Daniels seemed calmer during her second day of cross-examination, her testimony revealed some strange details about her life at times.

At one point, in order to undermine Daniels’ credibility, Necheles began demanding more information about a TV show he did about “talking with ghosts.”

Ms. Daniels explained that the show explored ghosts in her haunted Louisiana home. In the end, though, it was just “a giant opossum under the house,” he admitted.

However, the story also differed from key documents in the case.

Still, Mr. Saland said, candid answers from Ms. Daniels helped restore Trump’s motivation to repay the distressed money — and his alleged illegal cover-up.

“It was valuable because it builds a story and helps us understand how we got here,” Mr. Saland said.

“That’s why Trump paid. He’s a vehicle for the story, but he’s not the story.”

However, telling Ms. Daniels about the alleged sexual relationship years ago did her life no good, he said in court Thursday.

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