Lawyer questions Stormy Daniels' account of sex with Donald Trump

Donald Trump's lawyer sought to show inconsistencies in porn star Stormy Daniels' 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 defense 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.

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, wearing a suit and a light blue tie, switched between leaning forward and looking at a small computer monitor on the defense 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.

Daniels' 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 misbehavior. 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?"


Before a lunch break on Thursday, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the defense would renew its motion for a mistrial on the basis of Daniels' 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, like stating that Trump did not use a condom.

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

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

Daniels' 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.

The judge has fined Trump $10,000 for public comments about jurors and witnesses in the trial and said further violations of the gag order could land him in jail.

After the lunch break, prosecutors called former Trump White House aide Madeline Westerhout to testify.

Westerhout walked jurors through Trump's contact list from early 2017, which included entries for both Cohen and David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer who prosecutors have said helped the Trump campaign pay off people with potentially damaging stories to remain quiet before the 2016 election.

This is the first of four criminal cases against Trump to go to trial.