Defiant Stormy Daniels comes face to face with Trump in court for tense testimony about ‘jump scare’ hotel sex

The adult film star testified about a highly-publicised sexual encounter from 2006 at the centre of the hush money case

Alex Woodward
in Manhattan criminal court
Wednesday 08 May 2024 01:21 BST
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Stormy Daniels didn’t want to meet Donald Trump for dinner in 2006, she told a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday. A friend convinced her.

“It’ll make a great story,” she said, according to Ms Daniels. “What could possibly go wrong?”

Nearly 18 years later, the adult film star at the centre of the first-ever criminal trial of an American president testified for more than four hours, detailing her alleged sexual encounter in front of a judge and a jury, Mr Trump’s son, and Mr Trump himself, who repeatedly shook his head in disbelief.

The former president is criminally charged with falsifying business records as part of an alleged cover-up scheme to hide reimbursement payments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who wired Ms Daniels $130,000 for her silence just weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

In a pair of thick-framed glasses, Ms Daniels sat several feet away from Mr Trump, who sank in his chair and scowled or closed his eyes and muttered under his breath while she detailed a tryst she has similarly described before, including salacious details that Mr Trump’s attorneys argued were grounds for a mistrial.

But her account of the story is “precisely what the defendant did not want to become public,” according to Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger.

A courtroom sketch depicts Donald Trump watching Stormy Daniels as she testifies in a Manhattan criminal courtroom on 7 May.
A courtroom sketch depicts Donald Trump watching Stormy Daniels as she testifies in a Manhattan criminal courtroom on 7 May. (REUTERS)

At one point, Mr Trump was “cursing audibly” in disgust, according to New York Justice Juan Merchan.

“I understand that your client is upset at this poin,” he told Mr Trump’s attorneys during an off-mic sidebar conversation, according to a court transript, “but he is cursing audibly and he is shaking his head visually and that’s contemptuous. It has the potential to intimidate the witness and the jury can see that.”

Ms Daniels’ vivid testimony – often spilling out too fast for the court reporter to keep up with, and full of material that defence attorneys and the judge found objectionable – also endured fierce cross-examination from Mr Trump’s defence attorney Susan Necheles, who frequently raised her voice as she tried to get Ms Daniels to admit to lying.

At one point, as the trial prepared to adjourn for the day, Ms Necheles suggested Ms Daniels is “looking to extort money from President Trump.”

“False,” Ms Daniels fired back.

“But that’s what you did, right?” Ms Necheles replied.

“False,” said Ms Daniels.

‘Oh my god, what did I misread to get here?’

The adult entertainer has told the story of her 2006 encounter several times before, and she breezed through familiar contours of the incident in relatively light-hearted and sometimes joke-filled testimony on Tuesday.

But the circumstances of their reunion inside a courtroom were extraordinary: the Republican nominee for president was forced to listen to a story of a sexual encounter that he has spent tens of thousands of dollars to bury.

After meeting her at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006, Mr Trump, through his bodyguard, asked whether she would have dinner with him.

“F no,” she remembered thinking. “No, with an expletive in front of it.”

She ultimately agreed, thanks to her friend’s urging, and she arrived at his hotel room at Harrah’s, where he was “wearing silk or satin pyjamas,” she said.

“I said, ‘Does Mr Hefner know you stole his pyjamas?’” she told the court.

She told him to change and he “obliged.”

They chatted for roughly two hours – about her rough childhood, her relationships, the adult film industry, and “general get-to-know-you sort of things,” she said. At one point, she asked about his wife Melania, but he told her not to worry, and that they don’t sleep in the same bed, she said. Throughout the conversation, he constantly tried to “one-up” Ms Daniels by talking about himself, she said.

“At this point, I had had enough of his arrogance,” she said. “Are you always this rude? You don’t even know how to have a conversation? … He seemed to be taken aback by that.”

She swatted him “right on the butt” with a rolled-up magazine, and after that he was “much more polite,” according to Ms Daniels.

They discussed Mr Trump’s hit NBC series The Apprentice, but Ms Daniels didn’t believe that even someone as powerful as Mr Trump would be able to convince the network to hire a porn star for the show.

You remind me of my daughter,” he told her, according to Ms Daniels. “Smart, blond and beautiful, and people underestimate her as well.

She excused herself to go to the bathroom – where she found a bottle of Pert Plus shampoo, Old Spice and gold tweezers inside his toiletry case – and walked out to find him on the bed in his underwear.

A courtroom sketch depicts Donald Trump looking at a 2006 photo of himself with Stormy Daniels at a golf tournament, taken the same day he allegedly had sex with her.
A courtroom sketch depicts Donald Trump looking at a 2006 photo of himself with Stormy Daniels at a golf tournament, taken the same day he allegedly had sex with her. (REUTERS)

While sitting on the witness stand, she posed with an arm to her head and another at her waist.

“At first I was just startled, like a jump scare,” she said. “I felt the blood leave my hands and my feet, almost like standing up too fast. … I just thought, Oh my god, What did I misread to get here? The intention was pretty clear.”

She “laughed, nervously,” she said.

“I just thought to myself, ‘Great, I put myself into this bad position,’” she continued. “He stood up between me and the door, not in a threatening manner … I said, ‘I gotta go.’ He said, ‘I thought we were getting somewhere.’”

She wasn’t threatened, verbally or physically, she said. They had sex on the bed. It was brief. And Ms Daniels “didn’t say anything at all,” she said.

According to Ms Daniels, as she left the hotel room, Mr Trump told her “That was great” and called her “honeybunch.”

“I told very few people that we had actually had sex,” she told the court. “I felt ashamed that I didn’t stop it, that I didn’t say no.”

‘Impossible to come back from’

A hush money arrangement nearly two decades later wasn’t motivated by money but by “fear,” she said.

She said she agreed to keep in touch with Mr Trump in the hopes of keeping alive her chance of starring on The Apprentice – which ultimately never happened.

Instead, as she expanded her career in the adult entertainment business, and as Mr Trump grew his celebrity and political profile, rumours of her encounter spread to gossip websites, culminating in an alleged incident where a man threatened her to keep quiet in a parking lot while she was holding her infant daughter.

She fielded offers for interviews but she wanted to sell her story, ensuring that she could keep control of the narrative and her safety, she told the court.

Mr Trump’s defence team argued that her testimony was designed only to “embarrass” the former president, arguing that a mistrial was the only remedy.

“This is the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from,” Mr Trump’s lead defence attorney Todd Blanche later told the judge.

“I don’t think anybody – anybody – can listen to what that witness said and think it has anything to do with the charges,” he said. “There is a very high risk of the jury not being able to focus on the evidence that actually does matter.”

Judge Merchan denied the defence motion for a mistrial, but he warned prosecutors that “there were some things that were better left unsaid.”

He said Mr Trump’s attorneys would have an opportunity to undermine her testimony under cross-examination. Ms Necheles attempted to do just that.

Ms Necheles portrayed Ms Daaniels as an opportunist and extortionist, using a scandalous story to smear Mr Trump and make money.

“Am I correct that you hate President Trump?” Ms Necheles asked.

“Yes,” said Ms Daniels.

A courtroom sketch depicts Stormy Daniels testifying about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006 on May 7.
A courtroom sketch depicts Stormy Daniels testifying about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006 on May 7. (AP)

Ms Daniels, who is now free from the hush money nondisclosure agreement under a court order, adamantly denied the defence’s characterization, vowing to hold Mr Trump “accountable” and tell the truth about an encounter that the former president has denied ever happening.

But Mr Trump’s defence team was relentless, doubting that Ms Daniels was never threatened and that the 2011 incident never happened.

“The whole story is made up, isn’t it?” Ms Necheles said.

Donald Trump appears in a criminal courtroom in Manhattan on 7 May.
Donald Trump appears in a criminal courtroom in Manhattan on 7 May. (REUTERS)

In October 2016, while Mr Trump’s presidential campaign was spiralling after the publication of a tape from 2005 that captured him bragging about grabbing women’s genitals, Mr Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen arranged a $130,000 wire transfer to Ms Daniels’ attorney, according to bank records in evidence.

A nondisclosure agreement signed by Mr Trump and Ms Daniels agreed that she would not discuss the story, or risk $1m in penalties for breaching the contract, according to documents shown in court.

Prosecutors have argued that the release of the Access Hollywood tape pushed the campaign into “damage control mode,” desperate to bury any other potentially election-killing stories – including allegations from Ms Daniels.

On 7 October, 2016, one month before election day, The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape.

Three days later, National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard contacted Mr Pecker about another woman – Ms Daniels – who also alleged an affair with Mr Trump, according to prosecutors. Cohen negotiated the deal to pay her for the rights to the story.

Mr Trump, who allegedly tried to delay paying her roughly $130,000 until after the 2016 election, ultimately agreed to the arrangement, according to prosecutors.

Cohen transferred the money from his personal home equity line of credit into a shell company’s account, according to court documents.

On 8 November, 2016, Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election.

Text messages and emails detailed the negotiations between Cohen and Ms Daniels’ attorney to keep her story out of the press, and jurors throughout the trial have also been shown a series of emails from Cohen to his banker to set up the shell company that was ultimately used to wire Ms Daniels the $130,000 payment.

According to paperwork drawing up Cohen’s “Essential Consultants LLC,” the company was being used “to collect fees for investment consulting for real estate transactions.”

On Monday, two longtime Trump Organization employees walked prosecutors through invoices, pay stubs, ledger entries and checks signed by Mr Trump – in Sharpie ink – that showed how the Trump Organization’s accountants documented Cohen’s reimbursements as “legal expenses” and for a “retainer” that prosecutors said never existed.

Ms Daniels will return to the witness stand on Thursday.

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