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Trump lawyers try to attack motives, credibility of Stormy Daniels in hush money trial

Donald Trump's lawyer sought to show inconsistencies in porn star Stormy Daniels's various tellings of a 2006 sexual encounter she has said she had with Trump, part of an effort on Thursday to undermine her credibility as a witness.

Porn actress questioned about making money off notoriety from alleged Trump affair, which he denies

A woman wearing glasses with her hair tied up is shown walking behind metal barriers outside a building, with two men on either side of her.
Stormy Daniels, second from left, exits the courthouse in New York on Tuesday after her first day on the witness stand in a trial in which former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump is a defendant. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

Donald Trump's lawyer sought to show inconsistencies in porn star Stormy Daniels's various tellings of a 2006 sexual encounter she has said she had with Trump, part of an effort on Thursday to undermine her credibility as a witness in the first criminal trial of a sitting or former U.S. president.

Her unflattering account of a sexual encounter with Trump in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite while he was married to his wife Melania riveted jurors on Tuesday and reminded U.S. voters of some of the more lurid aspects of his 2017-2021 presidency as he campaigns to win back the White House this year.

Facing questioning on Thursday by defence lawyer Susan Necheles in a Manhattan courtroom, Daniels stuck to her account.

"You're trying to make me say that it changed, but it hasn't changed," Daniels told Necheles.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels, 45, for her silence ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election about the alleged encounter. Trump has denied ever having sex with Daniels.

In nearly four hours of cross-examination on Tuesday and Thursday, Necheles asked Daniels about her earlier testimony of the alleged encounter compared with versions in a book she wrote and interviews she gave over the years.

WATCH | Hear what Daniels had to say when the prosecution questioned her:

Stormy Daniels details alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump at hush money trial

1 month ago
Duration 0:01
Former porn star Stormy Daniels delivered explosive testimony in the hush money trial of former U.S. president Donald Trump, detailing​ the alleged 2006 sexual encounter that Trump has always denied.

She asked Daniels why in a 2018 interview to Vogue magazine she did not mention that Trump's bodyguard had been outside the hotel room where the encounter happened. Daniels on Tuesday had testified that her awareness of the bodyguard's presence contributed to a power imbalance with Trump that left her feeling uncomfortable.

"You made all this up, right?" Necheles asked Daniels at one point.

"No," Daniels said emphatically, sitting with her hands folded and legs crossed.

She said she did not provide all the details in each interview she gave and did not control which portions of her accounts that news outlets eventually published.

Daniels, wearing a black cardigan over a green dress, remained defiant in the face of the aggressive questioning and frequently snapped back at Necheles with witty retorts.

Trump looks on

Trump, wearing a suit and a light blue tie, switched between leaning forward and looking at a small computer monitor on the defence table displaying evidence, and looking directly at Daniels while his lawyer questioned her story.

Trump, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election, has called the trial a politically motivated attempt to undermine his campaign.

Prosecutors have said Trump's efforts to obscure the paper trail corrupted the 2016 election in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by preventing voters from learning about a story that might have swayed their vote.

WATCH | About That explains what's at stake in this trial:

Trump’s criminal trial: the stakes, opening arguments, key witnesses | About That

2 months ago
Duration 11:24
The criminal trial against former U.S. president Donald Trump on charges in connection with hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels is now underway. Andrew Chang explores the key witnesses in this historic case — and why the defence argues their credibility is in question.

Daniels's story of the alleged encounter has been public since 2018, and it may not matter much to voters who have already heard other stories of Trump's alleged sexual misbehaviour. The case is focused on Trump's role in an alleged cover-up of Cohen's payment.

Just before ending her cross-examination, Necheles asked Daniels if she had knowledge of Trump's business records - part of an effort to paint her testimony as irrelevant to the charges at hand.

"I know nothing about his business records, no," Daniels said. "Why would I?"

Mistrial motion renewed

Before a lunch break on Thursday, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the defence would renew its motion for a mistrial on the basis of Daniels's testimony and challenge the judge's gag order on Trump as it relates to making public comments about Daniels.

Trump's lawyers unsuccessfully sought a mistrial on Tuesday saying that Daniels had "inflamed" the jury with unnecessary details about the alleged encounter, such as stating that Trump did not use a condom.

Necheles sought to show Daniels had profited off of her story, showing jurors Daniels's social media posts advertising merchandise on her online store around the time Trump had been charged last year.

Daniels said she needs money to foot her legal bills — she owes Trump more than $500,000 from a failed defamation lawsuit that was initiated by her onetime lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is now imprisoned for defrauding her and other clients. 

"That is me doing my job," Daniels said.

Daniels's testimony on Tuesday clearly frustrated Trump, who at one point appeared to call it "bullshit," drawing a warning about witness intimidation from Justice Juan Merchan.

Merchan has fined Trump $10,000 for talking about jurors and witnesses in the trial and warned that further violations of a gag order that is in place could land him in jail.

The case is widely seen as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. But the chances of the other three — which stem from efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden and his handling of classified documents — going to trial before the election are growing more distant.

He has pleaded not guilty in all the cases.

With files from CBC News