Five takeaways from Stormy Daniels’ testimony at Donald Trump’s trial

May 9, 2024 - 10:15 AM
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Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks as she departs federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/File Photo)

 Stormy Daniels took the witness stand on Tuesday at Donald Trump’s criminal trial and described in lurid detail her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with the former U.S. president.

READ: Stormy Daniels: Woman at center of Trump indictment is porn star-turned-ghostbuster

Trump has pleaded not guilty to Manhattan prosecutors’ charges he falsified business records to cover up his former lawyer’s $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, for her silence before the 2016 election.

Here are five takeaways from the first day of Daniels’ testimony:

Daniels testified confidently

Daniels appeared at ease in recounting for the jury her story of a sexual encounter with Trump in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2006.

She spoke in an animated manner while describing growing up poor in Louisiana, the early days of her career in the adult film industry, and meeting Donald Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

Daniels’ tone was sometimes humorous, including while she explained her fateful decision to accept Trump’s invitation to dine with him.

“What could possibly go wrong?” she testified of her thinking.

Alleged encounter described as consensual, but uncomfortable

Daniels made clear on the witness stand that she did not decline what she described as Trump’s sexual advances in the penthouse hotel suite where he had invited her to meet for dinner.

But she said she “blacked out” before finding herself on the bed with no clothes on, though she said she had not consumed drugs or alcohol. She said Trump had dangled a role on his reality television show before making advances.

“There was an imbalance of power for sure,” Daniels testified. “But I was not threatened verbally or physically.”

Daniels’ account was detailed – maybe too detailed

In recounting the alleged encounter, Daniels mentioned details ranging from the contents of the toiletry bag in the hotel suite’s bathroom to Trump’s allegedly not wearing a condom during sex.

Trump’s lawyers asked Justice Juan Merchan to declare a mistrial, arguing such details served only to “inflame” the jury.

Merchan denied the mistrial request, but urged prosecutors to limit Daniels’ testimony.

“There were some things that probably would have been better left unsaid,” the judge said.

Daniels changed her mind about whether to tell her story

Daniels testified that she agreed to be interviewed about the tryst with InTouch magazine in 2011 because it had offered her money. But later that year, she had a lawyer ask a blog to take down an account of the story after she said she was threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot to stay quiet about Trump.

When Trump launched his campaign in 2015, Daniels said she became open to telling her story to protect herself.

“There’s a big difference between a reality TV star and somebody running for office,” Daniels said under cross-examination by Trump defense lawyer Susan Necheles.

Trump’s defense questioned Daniels’ motives

Necheles sought to highlight Daniels’ animosity toward Trump, showing jurors a 2022 tweet in which Daniels referred to Trump as an “orange turd.” Daniels replied “yes” without hesitation when Necheles asked if she hates Trump.

Necheles also asked Daniels if she wanted Trump to go to jail.

“If he is found guilty, absolutely,” Daniels responded.

—Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Additional reporting by Jack Queen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Stephen Coates