What Stormy Daniels revealed on the stand in Trump's hush money trial – PBS NewsHour

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What Stormy Daniels revealed on the stand in Trump's hush money trial – PBS NewsHour

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Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress at the center of the criminal hush money trial against Donald Trump, took the stand Tuesday in New York. In sometimes graphic detail, she described the sexual encounter she alleges she had with Trump and the payment she received from his lawyer to buy her silence. William Brangham discussed the volatile day in court with Andrea Bernstein of NPR.
Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
Amna Nawaz:
Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress at the center of the criminal hush money trial against former President Donald Trump, took the stand in New York City today.
William Brangham has more on the volatile day in court.
William Brangham:
That’s right, Amna.
In sometimes graphic detail, Stormy Daniels described the one sexual encounter she alleges she had with Trump and the six-figure payment she received from Trump’s lawyer to buy her silence before the 2016 election. Trump denies any sexual relationship with her.
Daniels was forcefully cross-examined by Trump’s legal team, who questioned her financial motives and her shifting stories about her encounter with the former president.
Andrea Bernstein is covering the trial for NPR, and she joins us again now.
Andrea, what did we learn from Stormy Daniels today?
Andrea Bernstein, NPR Contributor:
So it was quite a scene, because this is a trial where we have heard now testimony from David Pecker, the former publisher of “The National Enquirer,” from Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson about this deal that they set up.
And, obviously, the defendant is male. We have heard about Michael Cohen. Here was the woman at the center of it all coming forward for the first time in the courtroom to tell her story of this encounter with President Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.
And she — as you said, it was quite graphic, but she walked the jury through what happened. Trump invited her up to his suite. They were speaking. She went to use the restroom. He came in — when she came out, he was lying on the bed in his underwear, she says, and then she says they had sex.
And that is what is at the heart of all of this, hush money deals, trying to silence it, and, only now, here we are in 2024, with her testifying about something that happened in 2006.
William Brangham:
I know that Trump’s lawyers at one point, citing some of those graphic details, saying that they were prejudicial to the jury, pushed for a mistrial.
How did the judge respond to that?
Andrea Bernstein:
So Trump was about as agitated as I have seen him in this case, leaning over, talking to his lawyers, clearly very upset during all of Stormy Daniels’ testimony.
Of course, he has denied having any kind of relationship with her. After lunch, his lawyers came back and said to the judge, this is so prejudicial, all of these details. This is a case about business records. And the prosecution said, no, no, no, this is necessary to complete the narrative. This is a story about what happened. The jury needs to hear it.
In fact, it’s the story that Trump and Michael Cohen tried to keep silent. And the judge said, well, he was not going to declare a mistrial, but that he wishes that there were details that had not come out.
And in the afternoon testimony, there was a close rain kept on Stormy Daniels, although then, of course, it was the defense’s turn to cross-examine her, with the prosecution objecting. And it was a very agitated day of testimony in the courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
William Brangham:
Tell us a little bit more about that, that cross-examination, because my understanding is that Susan Necheles, Trump’s lawyer, really went at her and tried to exploit some holes in her story.
Andrea Bernstein:
Right. Right. That’s right.
I mean, the details of the encounter that Stormy Daniels laid out did sync up with what other witnesses have testified, down from sort of Trump calling her honey bunch, to the contact that she made through his executive assistant, Rhona Graff. We had heard from Rhona Graff. She had acknowledged that she’d seen Stormy Daniels in Trump Tower, entered a contact for her.
But what the defense wanted to lean into is all of the contradictory accounts that Stormy Daniels has given since this happened. And those are out there. She obviously denied the story for a long time, put a toe in the water about selling it in 2011, drew back, then made this NDA with Trump, or with Cohen, on behalf of Trump, as she understood it, in 2016, during the campaign.
She testified how anxious she was that he would never pay her and she’d have essentially no leverage after the campaign. But the defense just wanted to dwell on all of the contradictory accounts, that she’d, in fact, hated Trump, that she owed him money from an unsuccessful defamation suit she tried to bring against him.
And this all came up. And it’s going to be for the jury to sort out whether all of those contradictory counts overwhelm the other testimony corroborated about what she says happened in 2006 and then how she made this deal with the Trump campaign or with Trump through Michael Cohen in late — in — late in the campaign in 2016.
William Brangham:
So how did Daniels respond to all of that? Because, as you were saying, her story has shifted over time.
I mean, in one case, certainly, she was paid to change her story from what she alleges is the truth. How else did she defend herself to say, no, in fact, this is why my story makes sense in its totality?
Andrea Bernstein:
Well, so this cross-examination is going to consider — continue on Thursday. There’s no testimony tomorrow.
And it wasn’t — she didn’t exactly have the opportunity to say, believe what I have to believe, but she stood by the heart of her story, which is that she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006, and then decided to sell it in 2016.
And, of course, that’s all the prosecution needs. Nevertheless, the jury was treated to many statements that she had given denying that there had been an encounter. And that exists. And that is something that the prosecution will likely try to clean up when they get to redirect.
But it still exists. And it’s something that the jury will just have to consider when they go over all the evidence.
William Brangham:
All right, Andrea Bernstein, thank you so much from NPR for getting us through all this.
Andrea Bernstein:
Thank you.
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William Brangham is an award-winning correspondent, producer, and substitute anchor for the PBS NewsHour.

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