Stormy Daniels testifies in Trump hush-money trial

New York judge denies Trump legal team's request for a mistrial over testimony

Stormy Daniels is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger during Donald Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan. Reuters
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Stormy Daniels, an adult film star at the centre of former US president Donald Trump's hush-money case, entered the witness box on Tuesday in a pivotal moment in the weeks-long New York trial.

The long-time actress and director says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006 and was then paid to keep quiet about it in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Judge Juan Merchan allowed Daniels to testify about her many meetings with Mr Trump, news agencies reported, but requested she omit “details that are too salacious”.

“He always talked about when we could get together again, did I miss him, and he always called me 'Honeybunch',” she said. Daniels said she always put Mr Trump on speakerphone and many of her colleagues heard the calls.

This is the first time that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has come face to face with Mr Trump, who has spent years publicly insulting her, including while serving in the White House.

Daniels is expected to testify again on Thursday.

Mr Trump denies ever having a physical relationship with Daniels, and has pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony counts in this case.

Daniels said that she had wanted to take her story to the press in 2016, but that Mr Trump and his fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 for the piece, adding the agreement was a non-disclosure agreement.

Cohen, who has become a vocal critic of his former boss, is also expected to testify at the trial as a prosecution witness.

Daniels testified that in 2011, a few years after she had stopped talking to Mr Trump, she learnt from her agent that the story of their affair had made its way to a magazine.

She said she agreed to an interview for $15,000. The story never ran, but later that year, she was alarmed when the interview turned up on a website.

While her agent negotiated to have the article taken down, Daniels said she had been threatened to keep silent by a stranger in a Las Vegas car park.

Mr Trump's legal team on Tuesday afternoon requested a mistrial after Daniels' morning testimony on the affair and threat, saying details shared were “extremely prejudicial”, but Mr Merchan said it was not warranted.

Years later, in 2016, Daniels said she had no intent of approaching Cohen or Mr Trump to have them buy her story about her encounter with the Republican nominee.

“My motivation wasn’t money, it was to get the story out,” she testified.

Daniels testified that she learnt that Cohen, who was then Mr Trump's lawyer, was interested in buying her silence.

“They were interested in paying for the story, which was the best thing that could happen because then my husband wouldn’t find out but there would still be documentation,” Daniels said.

Daniels said that when she was approached with Cohen’s $130,000 offer, “I didn’t care about the amount, I just wanted to get it done”, AP reported.

Daniels testified that she sought to get out of her non-disclosure agreement in 2018 "so I could stand up for myself".

She hired Michael Avenatti, who sued Mr Trump and prevailed in getting the non-disclosure agreement nullified.

Mr Trump was ordered to pay Daniels about $100,000 in legal fees.

Daniels went on to give an interview to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes and wrote a book, Full Disclosure, about her life, career and her alleged encounter with Mr Trump.

Stormy Daniels says she will testify at Trump trial

Stormy Daniels says she will testify at Trump trial

During cross-examination, Daniels denied the defence's suggestion that she was “looking to extort money” from the former president and told lawyer Susan Necheles twice that the suggestion was “false".

"Am I correct that you hate President Trump?" Ms Necheles asked Daniels.

"Yes," she said.

"And you want him to go to jail?"

"I want him to be held accountable," Daniels said.

Asked again by Ms Necheles whether that meant going to jail, she said: "If he’s convicted."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump, who called Daniels "sleazebag" and "horseface" on a number of occasions, was found to once again be in contempt of court for his repeated breaches of a partial gag order.

The order is meant to prevent Mr Trump from using his huge media presence to attack witnesses, members of the jury and court staff and influence the trial.

Mr Merchan said that in addition a series of already imposed fines, Mr Trump will face the threat of prison for future breaches.

The trial is the first criminal prosecution of a US president and is one of four cases against the real estate tycoon.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 10:04 PM