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At Trump trial, defense grills Stormy Daniels in her final day on the stand

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Trump watches as Stormy Daniels spars with defense in "hush money" trial 04:52

New York — One of the star witnesses in former President Donald Trump's trial, adult film actor Stormy Daniels, gave defiant testimony Thursday in her final day on the stand as the defense accused her of fabricating details of the alleged sexual encounter between her and Trump.

"You're trying to make me say it changed, but it hasn't changed," Daniels said in response to a question from Trump attorney Susan Necheles as Necheles sought to find discrepancies in her story.

Daniels admitted that getting money for her story was important to her, but she remained adamant that "I never asked for money from President Trump." While she reminded Necheles she was not paid for the bombshell 2018 "60 Minutes" interview, Necheles sought to show that later deals for her book, tours and reality television appearances were the result of that interview.

The $130,000 payment Daniels received from former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen ahead of the 2016 election is at the heart of the case. Prosecutors are accusing Trump of falsifying business records stemming from reimbursements for the payment. His defense attorneys have argued the money was to cover Cohen's legal fees.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche once again asked for a mistrial, saying Daniels' testimony went too far. Judge Juan Merchan swiftly denied the request.

Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts in the case. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies having sex with Daniels.

One of the other expected high-profile witnesses, Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who received a payout from the parent company of the National Enquirer in exchange for the rights to her story, will no longer be called to testify.

The trial whipsawed from Daniels' scandalous testimony to Trump Organization junior bookkeeper Rebecca Manochio, who took the stand after her. Manochio confirmed the authenticity of a series of FedEx invoices, denoting envelopes sent from company headquarters to the White House with checks to sign. A former Trump White House aide who was fired in 2019, Madeleine Westerhout, also testified Thursday, speaking about Trump's signing of checks as well as a 2017 meeting with Cohen. 

Here's how Thursday unfolded:


Sen. Rick Scott joins Trump at court

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the former chair of the Senate fundraising arm, joined former President Donald Trump in court on Thursday.

By Jacob Rosen

No photography in court on Thursday

A court officer told pool photographers that Judge Juan Merchan is no longer allowing photography in the courtroom for the rest of the trial, although the court spokesman then told photographers that he would look into the matter.

The court officers said that someone in the pool violated the court order by a photograph of Trump from the aisle, while walking into the well. The order permitted photographers to take photos only from the well itself, the officer said. 

Photographers can still take photos from the hallway outside. 

By Graham Kates

Trump enters court

Former President Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media before he appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments, on May 9, 2024 in New York City.  Getty Images

Trump entered the court on Thursday around 9:18 a.m. with attorney Todd Blanche. Scott was there but did not speak to reporters. Trump noted his attendance and said "we have other politicians here," although it's unclear what other politicians he meant. He praised Sen. Ted Cruz's recent statements about the case. 

Trump told reporters that his lawyers filed a "major motion" in appellate division over gag order. 

Trump began by criticizing Biden's decision on arms to Israel. Said: "If any Jewish person voted for Joe Biden they should be ashamed of themselves"

Said his lawyers just filed a "major motion" in appellate division over gag order.

"I think you'll see some very interesting things today," Trump told reporters. 

By Caroline Linton

Daniels back on the stand

The trial kicked back off with Stormy Daniels back on the stand. Before court started, Trump was leaning in to talk with his attorney Susan Necheles, who is handling the cross-examination of Daniels, and then with Todd Blanche. Trump seemed rather animated, and was wearing a navy suit and blue tie today.

"Good morning, Ms. Daniels, welcome back," Judge Juan Merchan said. "I remind you that you're still under oath."

Just before she was re-called, Merchan told defense attorneys they cannot ask her about a 2003 arrest that ultimately wasn't prosecuted.

"As I say all the time, anybody can be arrested, any one of us can be arrested if we step outside. It doesn't prove anything," Merchan said.

By Graham Kates

Daniels says "I never asked for money from President Trump"

The cross-examination of Daniels resumed, continuing to be as combative as Tuesday's. Trump's attorney Susan Necheles asked her about efforts to sell her story. Daniels said yes, she was trying to sell her story and also spoke to Slate, which would not pay for her story. Daniels admitted that getting money for her story was important to her. 

"I never asked for money from President Trump," Daniels said. "I never asked for money from anyone in particular. I asked for money to tell my story."

Daniels laughed when Necheles asked if she wanted to come forward because of Trump's stances on abortion and gay marriage, which she felt had changed. 

Under questioning from Necheles, Daniels admitted that she was furious when it looked like former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen wouldn't pay her on time. Necheles accused her of yelling at her attorney Keith Davidson, who had negotiated the payment, but Daniels denied she yelled at him. 

The defense played a recording of Davidson and Cohen, where Davidson said Daniels told him that he better "settle" the story because if Trump lost the election, they were going to lose all their "leverage" and it would be "worth zero." 

By Caroline Linton

Daniels: "I did 60 Minutes for free," but Trump attorney accuses her of profiting off of her story

Necheles continued to ask about payment through 2018, when Anderson Cooper interviewed Daniels on "60 Minutes." Necheles noted that Trump continued to deny any alleged sexual encounter in 2018, although there was no election in 2018. Daniels said no one mentioned to her that Trump was concerned about his family. 

Daniels insisted she wanted to get her story out there, that's why she spoke to Cooper. "I did 60 Minutes for free," she said.

But Necheles pressed Daniels on the money she made after the "60 Minutes" interview for deals such as her book, a tour and reality television appearances, accusing Daniels of profiting off of the story. 

By Caroline Linton

Stormy's tweets under the microscope

Necheles highlighted a series of tweets by Daniels that she alleged showed Daniels either belittled Trump, or attempted to profit over the case.

Daniels was shown a March tweet in which she said she's "the best person to flush the orange turd down." 

Daniels pointed out that it was responding to another person who called her a "human toilet." 

She also tried to parse Necheles' words.

"It doesn't say President Trump, it says 'orange turd.' If that's how you're going to interpret it, that's on you," Daniels said.

Necheles then showed tweets, beginning on March 30, 2023 — the day Trump was first indicted — celebrating the criminal cases against him. Some were paired with links to Daniels' merchandise store.

"You're celebrating indictments by selling things from your store," Necheles said. 

"Not unlike Mr. Trump," Daniels shot back.

By Graham Kates

Daniels insists story of Trump sexual encounter is true: "If that story was untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better"

Necheles brought up Daniels writing and directing of adult films, with Daniels answering "the sex in the films is very much real just like what happened to me in that room."

Necheles asked about the alleged encounter with Trump, with Daniels answering "if that story was untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better." 

"I'm saying I didn't make millions of dollars and I didn't write the story," she added. 

Necheles also asked Daniels about if she went over her testimony with the prosecution. "Don't forget the facts, that's all I was ever told to do," she said. 

By Caroline Linton

Necheles and Daniels tussle over whether or not it counts as "dinner" if you don't eat

Daniels testified Tuesday that when she went to Trump's hotel room, she expected to have dinner with Trump, but was never given food.

She recalled being hungry during the alleged 2006 sexual encounter.

Necheles on Thursday highlighted exchanges both during a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine and later on CNN when Daniels said she and Trump "had dinner," and that the encounter was "during dinner."

"The details of your story keep changing," Necheles said.

Daniels argued back, saying "it was dinner time."

"It was dinner, but we never got food," Daniels said, adding later, "I definitely would have talked about what I ate."

By Graham Kates

Daniels testifies about alleged sexual encounter

After questioning Daniels about the alleged dinner, Necheles moved onto the alleged sexual encounter between Trump and Daniels. Necheles repeatedly accused her of changing the story of the alleged sexual encounter.  

Daniels said she felt "shock, surprise" when she saw Trump on the bed when she came back to the hotel room, and said it was a "power shift," because she earlier felt she had "control of the situation."

She said this was the first time they were "bodyguards" outside the door, and they were "twice my age and bigger than me."

Necheles pushed Daniels that she had said she "blacked out" during the alleged sexual encounter, although Necheles said Daniels "told a different story" in 2011 to In Touch magazine.

"There were parts I didn't remember," Daniels said, adding that she does remember thinking that she hoped he wouldn't try to pay her — but she thought that if he did try to pay her, it would be a lot. 

Necheles then tried to accuse Daniels "you're making this up, right?" to which Daniels replied "no." 

Daniels said she never accused Trump of drugging her or getting her drunk, saying "the worst thing that he did was lie."

When Necheles said "your story has completely changed," Daniels responded "you're trying to make me say it changed, but it hasn't changed."

By Caroline Linton

Necheles repeatedly accuses Daniels of "changing," fabricating story

Court sketch of Stormy Daniels testifying
Stormy Daniels is questioned by defense attorney Susan Necheles during Donald Trump's criminal trial, on May 9, 2024, in this courtroom sketch. Jane Rosenberg / REUTERS

On Tuesday, Necheles asked Daniels, "You're making this up as you sit there, right?"

And on Thursday, Necheles continued versions of that question, asking Daniels if she's changing her story, or concocting it — comparing it to adult film scenes she's written. 

In one particularly tense exchange, Necheles asked why Daniels testified she got "light-headed" at the surprise of seeing Trump in his boxers.

"You've acted and had sex in over 200 porn movies?" Necheles asked.

Daniels replied that the figure was closer to 150.

"And there are naked men and naked women having sex right?" Necheles asked.

Daniels replied that was accurate.

"But according to you seeing a man on a bed in a t-shirt and boxer shorts, that you got light headed?" Necheles said.

Daniels said if she walked out and saw her own husband, it wouldn't affect her, but the surprise of seeing "a man twice your age" unexpectedly, caught her off guard. 

By Graham Kates

Daniels says coming forward has been a net negative in her life

After defense attorneys wrapped up their cross-examination, prosecutors had a few more questions in redirect, noting that defense attorneys questioned whether fear was a part of her motivation. 

Daniels said "if you're out in the open, you're safe," but she conceded that she was happy to take the money. "We're all happy to take money," she said. 

Daniels also noted that since the interview, she has had to hire extra security, "take extra precautions for my daughter" and move to a "safe place."  "I lost the judgment and attorneys fees because my case about the NDA was thrown out and attorney's fees are automatically awarded in those kinds of instances," she added.

When asked if coming forward publicly was a net positive or negative in her life, Daniels said "negative." 

By Caroline Linton

Daniels' testimony concludes

Daniels testimony wrapped shortly before 12:30 p.m. ET. In re-cross, defense attorneys asked her about calling people names on social media. Daniels said she only does so in defense of herself.

"Same with Mr. Trump, I didn't say anything about him until he said something about me," Daniels said. She later added, "if somebody attacks me I'm going to defend myself."

She said she thought the Trump Truth Social post from Aug. 2023 "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU" was about her. Necheles later implied that the post referred to a Republican PAC that opposes Trump.

By Caroline Linton

From accounts of sex to FedEx accounts

Jane Rosenberg

Testimony during this trial frequently whipsaws from salacious to mundane, from tabloid to spreadsheet tabs.

Minutes after Daniels left the stand — after a dizzying day and a half of questions about sex, the adult film business and innuendo — a Trump Organization junior bookkeeper then took the stand. Rebecca Manochio confirmed the authenticity of a series of FedEx invoices, denoting envelopes sent from company headquarters to the White House with checks to sign.

They were first sent to Keith Schiller, Trump's longtime personal bodyguard. After Schiller left in late 2017, Trump aide John McEntee emailed Manochio to say, "I will need the boss' checks mailed to me."

Manochio said she sent checks to the White House about once per week, typically more than 10 at a time, but sometimes as few as just one. They were usually returned signed within a few days.

Prosecutors say Trump personally signed nine of the checks reimbursing Cohen for the payment to Daniels.

By Graham Kates

Trump attorney expected to ask for mistrial again

Trump attorney Todd Blanche indicated he will ask for another mistrial Thursday afternoon. He also said he will seek to block the testimony of Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who received a payout from the parent company of the National Enquirer in exchange for the rights to her story. 

There will also be an application related to the gag order. 

By Caroline Linton

Trump trial resumes with book publishing employee testifying

The Trump trial resumed Thursday afternoon with Tracey Menzies, a Senior VP of Production and Creative Operations from Harper Collins, on the stand.

By Caroline Linton

The dueling Susans

Jane Rosenberg

The jury was held at rapt attention as prosecutor Susan Hoffinger and Trump attorney Susan Necheles crossed and redirected Daniels.

The Susans are well-regarded lawyers known for their sharp elbows and trial skills. They went back and forth Thursday morning, often re-calling the same exhibits, and each other's previous questions — in particular social media posts by Daniels and Trump. 

Daniels pinballed back and forth from cooperative and friendly to curt and defensive. The jurors also seemed to ricochet as the lawyers dueled, often rising to object to each other's questions.

This all played out in front of a gallery that drew some of the most famous names in media: Jake Tapper, Savannah Guthrie, Greg Kelly — who Trump waved to — and in the overflow room, Judge Jeanine Pirro.

By Pat Milton

Trump's former White House personal secretary testifies

Madeleine Westerhout, who from 2017 to early 2019 was then-President Trump's personal secretary, took the stand after Menzies.

Early in her testimony, Westerhout recalled going from working at the Republican National Committee to the White House after Trump was elected.

"My boss came up to me and said, 'Do you have any interest in sitting outside the Oval Office?' And I said, 'Yes, that sounds like a very cool job," Westerhout said, laughing. 

On May 3, Hope Hicks testified about Westerhout's role at the White House, saying she "looked after Mr. Trump's needs. Worked with various team members on his schedule. Kept his call log, took his messages, worked with him on correspondence."

By Graham Kates

Westerhout testifies about time after Access Hollywood tape became public, 2017 Trump meeting with Cohen

Westerhout was at the RNC in Oct. 2016 when the Trump Access Hollywood tape was uncovered, and she testified that she recalled the release "rattling RNC's leadership." 

"It's my recollection that there were conversations about how - if it was needed – how it would be possible to replace him as a candidate if it came to that," Westerhout said.

Westerhout testified that she worked out of Trump Tower during the transition period, and she knew Michael Cohen from around Trump Tower. 

After they got to the White House, she testified that Trump posted his own tweets but sometimes Dan Scavino would post them. Only Scavino was allowed to use it, but she said once in a while, Trump would dictate tweets to her to post. 

Prosecutors showed a lengthy list of Trump's contacts that she had, which included key Trump associates such as Allen Weisselberg, Trump family members such as Tiffany Trump and members of the media, who ranged from Joe Scarborough to David Pecker. She said she knew Pecker as a "tabloid guy." 

Texts between Westerhout and Hicks were submitted into evidence, including Hicks asking if Westerhout had spoken to Pecker. She said Trump met with Cohen in 2017. 

Westerhout also testified about the checks that were sent via FedEx, which Rebecca Manochio earlier Thursday confirmed their authenticity. Westerhout testified that to her knowledge, she saw Trump sign some of them by hand. She said she did not recall a specific time when he did not sign every check back that he received. 

Westerhout testified about when Stormy Daniels came forward about the alleged sexual encounter in 2018, she said "I remember he was very upset by it."

Westerhout broke down in tears as she described leaving the White House in 2019. She said she wrote a memoir because she wanted people to know more about the Trump she worked with, who she believes is treated unfairly.  

By Caroline Linton

Prosecution no longer intends to call Karen McDougal

After the jury was excused, Todd Blanche said the prosecution no longer intends to call Karen McDougal to the stand. McDougal is a former Playboy model who received a payout from the parent company of the National Enquirer in exchange for the rights to her story. 

Blanche had planned to ask the judge to exclude her from testifying.

Blanche also asked for Merchan to modify the gag order, so that Trump would be "allowed to respond publicly to what happened in court the last day and a half," referring to Daniels' testimony.

Prosecutor Chris Conroy instead argued the gag order is necessary for the "safety" of the witnesses as "consequences of the defendant's public attacks."

That request was denied.

"The reason the gag order is in place is because of the nature of the attacks, the vitriol… your client's track record speaks for itself," Merchan said. 

Finally, Blanche once again asked for a mistrial, saying Daniels' testimony went too far.

"This is not a case about sex, this is not a case about whether that incident took place or didn't take place," Blanche said, later adding, "whether it happened or not has nothing to do with the charges in this case."

By Graham Kates

Another mistrial motion denied

Defense attorney Todd Blanche once again asked for a mistrial, saying Daniels' testimony went too far. Judge Juan Merchan, who quickly rejected a similar motion on Tuesday, did so again on Thursday.

"This is not a case about sex, this is not a case about whether that incident took place or didn't take place," Blanche said, later adding, "whether it happened or not has nothing to do with the charges in this case."

But Merchan brought up Blanche's own opening statement while rejecting the motion, saying Blanche told the jury Trump denies ever having had a sexual encounter with Daniels.

"Your denial puts the jury in the position of having to choose who they believe," Merchan said.

He also said he reviewed his rulings surrounding Daniels' testimony and came away "satisfied" they hadn't been violated.

By Katrina Kaufman
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