Stormy Daniels’ Admission On Witness Stand Sheds Light On Why Alvin Bragg Had Her Testify Against Trump

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NEW YORK — Stormy Daniels testified Thursday that she had no direct knowledge of former President Donald Trump’s involvement in the $130,000 payment made to keep her quiet about claims of an alleged affair in 2016, which is at the center of the case against him.

Daniels’ detailed testimony about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006 prompted the defense to twice motion for a mistrial, once on Tuesday and again on Thursday, though Judge Juan Merchan denied the motion both times. Still, her admission that she did not know Trump’s role in the deal highlighted that she was testifying despite being unable to speak to the core charges — that Trump falsified business records while reimbursing his former attorney Michael Cohen for the payment — suggesting she was on the witness stand for another reason.

“There was zero relevance to her testimony,” defense attorney and legal analyst Philip Holloway told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “She had no information to share about bookkeeping at the Trump Organization. All the added was a salaciousness designed to make Trump look like a womanizer and a manipulator. In a rational legal world, she would have caused a mistrial.”

Trump’s defense attorney argued Tuesday that prosecutors had only asked Daniels certain questions to “inflame the jury.”

Establishing Trump’s involvement in the payment and Cohen’s reimbursement is the key to the prosecution’s case. Daniels’ admission that she never spoke directly with Trump about the $130,000 payment came toward the end of cross-examination, after a morning of defense attorney Susan Necheles seeking to draw out inconsistencies between the story of her encounter with Trump she told on the stand and how she had previously told it, including in her 2011 interview with In Touch magazine.

Necheles sought to demonstrate Daniels was driven by twin motives: money and her hatred of Trump. She pointed to Daniels capitalizing on Trump’s indictment by pushing merchandise from her store on Twitter, highlighting items in her shop like a “Stormy Saint of Indictments” candle and a “Stormy Daniels Political Power” comic.

When asked about the core charge in the case, Daniels said she is not an attorney and doesn’t really understand what Trump is being indicted for. “There’s a lot of indictments,” she told Necheles. (RELATED: Judge Again Denies Motion For Mistrial Over Stormy Daniels Testimony)

Necheles pointed out that after the nondisclosure agreement, Daniels continued to profit from her story through a strip club tour titled “Make America Horny Again” and her documentary. “You have a lot of experience making phony stories about sex appear to be real?” Necheles asked.

“Wow,” Daniels said. “That’s not how I would put it.” If the story with Trump was untrue, Daniels said she “would have written it to be a lot better.”

In one of the stranger moments, Necheles inquired about Daniels cashing in her purported ability to speak to ghosts and the dead — and about living in a New Orleans house that was supposedly haunted, where spirits “attacked” her boyfriend.

“We brought in experts,” Daniels said of the house, explaining she brought in religious experts and people to measure the electromagnetic fields. “A lot of the activity was completely debunked as a giant possum that was under the house.”

Daniels’ time on the stand drew significant attention, with the Thursday morning press and public access lines stretching far longer than usual. But it was the other witnesses who testified Thursday who had knowledge of Trump’s bookkeeping and habits.

Rebecca Manochio, a junior bookkeeper at the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg’s former executive assistant, testified about how checks were sent for Trump to sign while he was in the White House in 2017. She explained they were sent first to the personal address of Trump’s former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, and later to former Trump aide Johnny McEntee.

Another witness called Thursday, Trump’s former White House executive assistant Madeleine Westerhout, testified that Trump on a few occasions called Weisselberg for clarification on checks he had questions about.

Westerhout also testified about his family relations and work practices, specifically noting his relationship with his wife, Melania Trump, was one of “mutual respect.”

“I just found their relationship really special,” she said, noting they laughed a lot when she came to the Oval Office and he would sometimes tell her to call Melania if he was running late. “He was my boss but she was definitely the one in charge,” Westerhout said. The defense has sought to demonstrate that payments to suppress stories prior were motivated by his concern for his family over his campaign.

Merchan dismissed the jury Thursday to allow the defense to argue two motions: one to modify the gag order to allow Trump to respond to Daniels and another renewed motion for a mistrial. He denied them both.

For the gag order, Merchan said that his concern was for “protecting the integrity” of the proceedings as a whole, noting that other witnesses will see Trump’s comments, not just Daniels. “I continue to be concerned about witnesses using the gag order as a sword instead of a shield,” Merchan said.

As to the mistrial motion, Merchan reasoned that Daniels’ testimony was relevant because the defense had denied the alleged sexual encounter in their opening statement, putting the jury in the position of having to choose who to believe. This, he said, means the prosecution needs an opportunity to “rehabilitate” Daniels’ credibility as a witness and corroborate the story.

“This isn’t a case about sex,” defense attorney Todd Blanche told the judge while making his argument. He argued that many of the prosecution’s questions were not relevant, highlighting questions about their relative height differences and whether Trump used a condom.

Merchan, as he did on Tuesday, again questioned why the defense did not raise more objections during Daniels’ testimony.

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