6 big takeaways from Day 14 of Trump's hush money trial

Stormy Daniels concluded nearly seven hours of dramatic testimony.

Stormy Daniels on Thursday concluded nearly seven hours of dramatic testimony centered around her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Donald Trump, oscillating between defiance and vulnerability under intense questioning from Donald Trump's defense counsel.

In a fraught cross-examination, Daniels denied allegations that she ginned up a false narrative to enrich herself, telling jurors that her interaction with Trump and subsequent notoriety had a "negative" impact on her life. Trump has steadfastly denied that any encounter took place.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Late Thursday afternoon, after Judge Juan Merchan dismissed the jury for the day, attorneys for Trump moved for another mistrial and asked the judge to modify a gag order limiting what the former president can say about Daniels in public.

Judge Merchan denied both motions.

Prosecutors also said Thursday that Karen McDougal, who was paid by the National Enquirer to suppress her claim of a year-long affair with Trump, would not testify -- meaning former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is the only key witness remaining.

Testimony resumes Friday morning with the cross-examination of former White House aide Madeleine Westerhout, whose testimony began Thursday.

Here are six big takeaways from Day 14 of the trial.

Stormy Daniels spars with Trump defense attorney

For several hours Thursday morning, Stormy Daniels exchanged jabs with Susan Necheles, an attorney for Donald Trump, as Daniels defended the veracity of her alleged night with Trump nearly two decades ago.

Necheles accused the adult film star of fabricating elements of her story and leveraging her public dispute with Trump to enrich herself -- scoring a lucrative book deal and selling #TeamStormy merchandise.

"The details of your story keep changing, right?" Necheles asked.

"No," Daniels responded.

Daniels sought to distance herself from the name of her 2018-2019 strip club tour, which a club manager in South Carolina dubbed the "Make America Horny" tour.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump watches as Stormy Daniels is questioned by defense attorney Susan Necheles during his criminal trial in Manhattan state court in New York City, May 9, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.
Former President Donald Trump watches as Stormy Daniels is questioned by defense attorney Susan Necheles during his criminal trial in Manhattan state court in New York City, May 9, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg via Reuters

"I did not name that tour and I fought it tooth and nail," Daniels said. "I have no control over how a club advertises ... I never used that tagline. I hated it."

When prosecutor Susan Hoffinger had an opportunity to question Daniels again, she concluded with this question: "On balance, has your publicly telling the truth about your experiences with Mr. Trump been net positive, or net negative?"

"Negative," Daniels said.

Necheles tries to use Daniels' porn career against her

Necheles repeatedly invoked Daniels' experience in the porn industry to question elements of her story, suggesting at one point that Daniels was well-practiced in making up stories about sex.

"You have a lot of experience of making phony stories about sex appear to be real?" Necheles asked.

"The sex in the films is very real, just like what happened to me in that room," Daniels responded. She added that if she were to fictionalize her encounter with Trump, "I would have written it to be a lot better."

Necheles also noted that Daniels had performed in as many as 200 adult films, alongside "naked men and women having sex."

"But ... seeing a man sitting on a bed in a T-shirt and boxer shorts was so upsetting that you got lightheaded, the blood left your hands and feet, and you felt like you were going to faint?" she challenged Daniels.

Daniels pushed back, justifying her reaction because, she said, in that situation you are "not expecting to see a man twice your age" in bed.

Judge again denies Trump's motion for mistrial

Judge Merchan on Thursday denied the defense's second motion for a mistrial, finding that the state appropriately questioned Daniels in the spirit of establishing her credibility.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche took issue with the graphic testimony prosecutors elicited from Daniels, including a line of inquiry about whether Trump allegedly did not wear a condom -- which Blanche called "a dog whistle for rape."

"This is not a case about sex," Blanche said. "This is extremely prejudicial testimony."

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that defense lawyers could not attack Daniels' credibility in their opening statement, then move for a mistrial after the state thoroughly questioned Daniels in order to develop her credibility with the jury.

"They're trying to have their cake and eat it too," Steinglass said.

Judge Merchan ultimately found that Daniels' testimony was necessary because Trump's lawyers continue to deny the affair occurred.

"These details add a sense of credibility if the jury chooses to believe them," Merchan said. "Your motion for a mistrial is denied."

Blanche also asked the judge to modify the limited gag order barring Trump from responding to Daniels in public, arguing that Trump should be granted "an opportunity to respond to the American people."

Merchan also denied that motion, saying, "My concern is not just with protecting Ms. Daniels or a witness who just testified. My concern is protecting these proceedings as a whole."

Former White House aide grows emotional on the stand

Madeleine Westerhout, a former director of Oval Office Operations at the White House, grew emotional on the stand, making her the second former White House aide to break down in tears during the trial after Hope Hicks did the same last week.

"I am very regretful of my youthful indiscretion," she said, explaining that she left the White House after sharing information with reporters at an off-the-record dinner.

Fighting tears, Westerhout said she had "grown a lot since then."

Before joining the Trump administration, Westerhout worked at the Republican National Committee, where she recalled the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape "rattling" Republican leaders -- saying that "there were conversations how it would be possible to replace [Trump] as the candidate if it came to that."

Westerhout's cross-examination continues Friday morning.

2 witnesses take brief turns on the stand

After Stormy Daniels concluded her testimony and stepped off the stand, prosecutors called two additional witnesses in quick succession.

Rebecca Manochio, a bookkeeper at the Trump Organization, testified about her role in mailing checks for Michael Cohen and others to Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., for his signature. She testified that she initially sent them to the home of Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, but later sent them to John McEntee, a White House aide to Trump.

Next up was HarperCollins publishing executive Tracy Menzies, who read excerpts from Trump's 2007 book, "Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life," including, "My motto is, 'Always get even.' When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades," and "I value loyalty above everything else."

Trial is on running on time, Merchan says

Judge Merchan told jurors that the trial was on pace to finish in six weeks.

Prosecutors previously suggested they could rest their case as soon as late next week, but said that it will most likely conclude early the following week. The defense will then put on its case, followed by the state's rebuttal.

The timeline of the trial could depend on how long attorneys seek to question Michael Cohen, the star witness in the case, when he takes the stand.

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