Trump Lawyer Tears Into Stormy Daniels’ Sudden Sainthood

Charly Triballeau/Getty
Charly Triballeau/Getty

Stormy Daniels’ second day on the witness stand started with a fiery clash on Thursday, as Donald Trump’s lawyer zeroed in on the glaring contradiction that the porn star now says she wanted “the truth to be printed” about her sexual affair with the politician—when instead she readily chose to be paid by him for her silence in 2016.

The panel of 18 jurors watched intently as Susan Necheles, the former president’s defense lawyer, tore into the adult-film actress/director for what she made out to be a lame attempt to recast her role in the scandal.

“In 2016 you were trying to sell your story, right?” Necheles began.

“Yes,” Daniels responded, sitting comfortably by the judge.

“At this point, you were asking for money. You wanted money from President Trump, right?” Necheles continued.

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“No... I never asked for money from President Trump... I never asked for money from anyone in particular. I asked for money to tell my story... to get the truth out,” Daniels countered.

But then Necheles pounced, her voice now carrying an air of ridicule.

“But you entered into a negotiation for a nondisclosure agreement, right?” she asked.

“My attorneys did,” Daniels said, leaning into what’s become a go-to defensive stance by trying to distance herself from the matter by blaming the lawyer who cut the deal for her.

“But that was your choice, right?” Necheles queried, leaning back against the waist-high wooden wall separating the public pews from what had become a courtroom battle arena.

“Not necessarily. I wanted to do a press conference,” Daniels said.

Until now, jurors have heard various versions of the porn star’s explanation that she had felt threatened long after the 2006 one-night stand with Trump at a golf tournament by a stranger who allegedly approached the new mom and her daughter at a parking lot in 2011 and warned her to keep quiet about the affair. That unproven detail has become the lynchpin to her subsequent story that she only sought to be paid for her story in the closing weeks of the 2016 election—when Trump was in the final stretches of his ultimately successful Republican presidential campaign—to somehow protect her in case he or anyone else would threaten her in the future.

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Necheles, who has called that entire theory into question, saw an entry into further exploring that far-fetched notion.

“So why didn’t you do that?” Necheles asked about the supposed plans to hold a press conference.

“Because we were running out of time—” Daniels started.

“You were running out of time to get money, right?” Necheles shot back.

“No, to get the story out,” Daniels said, her voice wavering.

“But you chose not to, right?” Necheles said, nodding assertively.

“I chose to be safe,” the porn star asserted.

“You chose to make money, right?” the lawyer pressed on.

“I chose to take the non-disclosure,” Daniels relented.

Thursday marked Day 2 of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s key witness on the stand during its criminal trial against Trump, the first in the country’s history involving a former American president. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of faking business records for covering up the affair by paying Daniels $130,000 through the man who was then his lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The cross-examination only got worse for her when Trump’s legal team brought up a Jan. 10, 2018, public statement Daniels released denying that the sex ever happened when she was initially confronted by journalists investigating the matter. The statement was drafted by Keith Davidson, the same Beverly Hills lawyer who negotiated the hush-money deal on her behalf—and signed by the porn star herself.

“I recently became aware that certain news outlets are alleging that I had a sexual and/or romantic affair with Donald Trump many, many, many years ago. I am stating with complete clarity that this is absolutely false,” read the signed statement, which went as far as claiming Trump was “a complete gentleman to me.”

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“Well to be clear, I did not write this,” Daniels tried to explain.

“But you signed it, right?” Necheles shot back.

And so the scrappy fight continued for nearly two hours, with Necheles keeping up the pressure. The lawyer spent considerable effort trying to squeeze some kind of explanation out of Daniels over why some details didn’t make it into the first published account about the incident, a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine that all but disappeared in the years that followed.

But the woman on the stand remained defiant, confidently rejecting every entreaty to take the bait.

“Your story has completely changed, hasn’t it?” Necheles said at one point, for what seemed like the 20th time that morning.

“No, not at all. You’re trying to make me say that it’s changed, but it hasn’t changed,” Daniels responded coolly.

The cross-examination seemed to build up to the moment when Necheles took a risky leap and engaged in a full-on ad hominem attack against Daniels for her sex industry work, casting doubt on her account of the affair by carelessly trying to form a connection between her career choice and her recollection of the incident.

“You are a, a porn actress, right?” Necheles stumbled. “And you’ve acted in more than 200 sex films, right?”

Daniels, not one ever to shy away from her career accomplishments in the porn industry, got technical: that would have to include “comps,” or “complications.”

“And you’ve written and directed 150 sex films, correct?” Necheles clarified.

“Yes,” she answered.

“So you have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear to be real, right?” Necheles said, delivering a low blow that sparked gasps and clicking throughout the courtroom.

After laughing off the suggestion, Daniels turned it right back on her.

“That’s not how I put it. The sex is very much real, just as it was in that room,” she said, referring to her one-night stand with Trump in a hotel suite near Lake Tahoe after a golf tournament.

“The sex is very real. That’s why it’s pornography and not a B movie,” she continued.

Necheles just wouldn’t let it go, pressing on with questions about Daniels’ double role in sometimes writing the scripts to her own sex movies, then memorizing the lines.

“And now you have a story about having sex with President Trump,” Necheles asked, crossing her arms as she stood in her pastel pink suit.

“And if that weren’t true, I would have written it to be a lot better,” Daniels chuckled, eliciting laughs and smiling from the jury. “I didn’t have to write this one.”

As the combative session moved into the middle of the day, Necheles’ queries started meandering as each question met stiff resistance. The final minutes of Daniels’ testimony was punctuated by a comical moment when Necheles wondered just how familiar the porn star is with the 34-count indictment that led to this trial.

“There were a lot of indictments,” Daniels mused.

But when Necheles moved to “strike” her response from the record, the judge refused—overruling the request and cementing the one-liner’s place in the official court transcript.

Shortly before 12:30 p.m., Daniels walked out with her head held high and her left hand pressed against her forest green dress. She strode tossing her shoulders left and right as she made for the exit. Her heels clacked loudly as she strode quickly from the witness stand to the side door.

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