POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Adult film star testifies in Trump hush money case

May 7, 2024, 3:25 PM | Updated: May 20, 2024, 4:20 pm

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who just testified in the Trump hush money trial....

FILE - Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the opening of the adult entertainment fair Venus in Berlin, Oct. 11, 2018. Stormy Daniels is one of several witnesses to testify in the Trump hush money trial. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Here’s 👇 the podcast of our live interview with ABC.

NEW YORK (AP) — Porn performer Stormy Daniels took the witness stand Tuesday in the historic hush money case against former president Donald Trump, who looked on as she detailed their alleged sexual encounter and the payment she got to keep it quiet.

Prosecutors allege Trump paid Daniels to keep quiet about the allegations as he ran for president in 2016. Her testimony Tuesday aired them very publicly as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee seeks to win the White House again.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels, and his lawyers unsuccessfully pushed for a mistrial midway through her testimony.

It’s the biggest spectacle yet in the first criminal trial of a former American president, now in its third week of testimony in Manhattan.

Here are some takeaways from Daniels’ testimony so far:

Who is Stormy Daniels?

Daniels is at the center of the case because she was paid $130,000 in the final weeks of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to keep quiet about what she says was an awkward and unexpected sexual encounter with Trump a decade before. He says the encounter never happened.

Prosecutors say Trump paid Daniels as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 campaign by burying negative stories about him. His lawyers have sought to show that Trump was trying to protect his reputation and family — not his campaign — by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she grew up poor in Louisiana, took ballet and wanted to be a veterinarian. She started exotic dancing in high school and appearing in adult films at age 23, eventually moving to direct more than 150 films and winning a roster of porn industry awards.

Meeting Trump

Daniels testified she first met and chatted with Trump at a 2006 Lake Tahoe celebrity golf outing where her studio was a sponsor.

He referred to her as “the smart one” and asked her if she wanted to go to dinner. Daniels testified that she accepted Trump’s invitation because she wanted to avoid dinner with her co-workers and thought it might help her career. Trump had his bodyguard get her number, she said.

When they met up later in his penthouse, she appreciated that he seemed interested in the business aspects of the industry rather than the “sexy stuff.” He also suggested putting her on his TV show, “The Apprentice,” a possibility she hoped could help establish her as a writer and director.

She left to use the bathroom and was startled to find Trump in his underwear when she returned, she said. She didn’t feel physically or verbally threatened but realized that he was “bigger and blocking the way,” she testified.

“The next thing I know was: I was on the bed,” and they were having sex, Daniels recalled. The encounter was brief but left her “shaking,” she said. “I just wanted to leave,” she testified.

Payments for silence

Daniels was asked if Trump ever told her to keep things between them confidential and said, “Absolutely not.” She said she learned in 2011 that a magazine had learned the story of their encounter and she agreed to do an interview for $15,000 to make money and “control the narrative.” The story never ran.

In 2016, when Trump was running for president, Daniels said she authorized her manager to shop the story around but did not initially receive interest from news outlets. She said that changed in October with the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about grabbing women sexually without asking permission. She said she learned that Trump’s then-lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, wanted to buy her silence.

Trump in court

Trump showed signs of what appeared to be discomfort as he heard testimony about his alleged extramarital sexual encounter.

He started the day by posting a comment — and later deleting it — on his social media network complaining that he’d “just recently been told who the witness is today” and falsely said his lawyers had no time to prepare. He’s under a gag order that prevents him from commenting publicly on witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the case.

Trump whispered frequently to his attorney during Daniels’ testimony, and his expression seemed to be pained at one point as she recounted details about the dinner she says they shared.

He shook his head and appeared to say something under his breath as Daniels testified that Trump told her he didn’t sleep in the same room as his wife.

Mistrial push

Midway through her testimony, Trump’s lawyers moved for a mistrial.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche argued that Daniels’ testimony about the alleged encounter and other meetings with him had “nothing to do with this case,” and would unfairly prejudice the jury.

The judge rejected it, and he faulted defense attorneys for not raising more of their objections while she was testifying.

Before Daniels took the stand, Trump’s lawyers had tried to stop her from testifying about the encounter’s details, saying it was irrelevant in “a case about books and records.”

Prosecutors countered Daniels’ testimony gets at what Trump was trying to hide and they were “very mindful” not to draw too much graphic detail. Before Daniels took the stand, they told the judge the testimony would be “really basic,” and would not “involve any details of genitalia.”

While the judge didn’t side with Trump’s lawyers, he acknowledged that some details were excessive. The objections could potentially be used by Trump’s lawyers if he is convicted and they file an appeal.

A jarring split screen

Trump’s appearance in court Tuesday, like all other days he’s stuck in the courtroom, means he can’t be out on the campaign trail as he runs for president a third time. It’s a frequent source of his complaints, but Daniels’ testimony in particular might underscore how much of a distraction the trial is from the business of running for president.

While Trump was stuck in a Manhattan courthouse away from voters and unable to speak for much of the day, his rival, Democratic President Joe Biden, was attending a Holocaust remembrance ceremony and condemning antisemitism.

It’s an issue Trump has sought to use against Biden in the campaign by seizing on the protests at college campuses over the Israel-Hamas war.

____

Whitehurst reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Michael Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Jake Offenhartz and Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this story.

Related: Judge finds Trump in contempt for 10th time over gag order and threatens jail

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Adult film star testifies in Trump hush money case