Stormy Daniels concludes testimony in Trump hush-money trial

Defence says adult film star claimed affair with former president for money, but she says she was trying to gain safety by sharing her story

Stormy Daniels leaves Manhattan Criminal Court after testifying at former US president Donald Trump's trial. AFP
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Stormy Daniels, the adult film director and actress who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump and was paid to keep quiet about it, on Thursday completed her testimony as a witness in the former president's New York criminal trial.

Mr Trump's legal team grilled Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, over the transaction at the centre of the hush-money case, AP reported.

They asked why she accepted the $130,000 payment to cover up an alleged intimate encounter with Mr Trump instead of going public.

“Why didn’t you do that?” lawyer Susan Necheles asked.

She was referring to a news conference Daniels had planned about the 2006 encounter, which Mr Trump denies ever happened.

Daniels said: “Because we were running out of time.”

Did she mean, Ms Necheles asked, that she was running out of time to use the claim to make money?

“To get the story out,” Daniels said.

The negotiations over the payment happened in the final weeks of the former president's 2016 campaign, a critical point in the case against Mr Trump.

Prosecutors claim that he and his allies took several potentially damaging stories and buried them in an illegal effort to influence the election.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for the alleged $130,000 payment to Daniels, and payments to other people for their stories.

Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing.

Daniels testified on Tuesday and Thursday, avoiding eye contact with the former president as she walked into the Manhattan courtroom and made her way to the witness box.

Mr Trump's lawyers sought to suggest that Daniels was out for money, AFP reported, cashing in on her story in a book for which the defence claimed she received $800,000.

She said she was most interested in getting her story out and ensuring her family’s safety.

“The better alternative was to get my story protected with a paper trail so that my family didn’t get hurt,” Daniels said.

As Ms Necheles continued comparing Daniels’s testimony with past interviews, the witness insisted: “My story hasn’t changed.

“You’re trying to make me say that it changed but it hasn’t changed at all.”

The New York case is now expected to be the only criminal case against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to go to trial before American voters head to the polls this November.

Meanwhile, the threat of jail looms over Mr Trump after his repeated gag order breaches.

His lawyers are fighting the judge’s order and seeking a fast decision in an appeals court.

If the court refuses to lift the gag order, Mr Trump’s lawyers want permission to take their appeal to the state’s high court.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 8:13 PM