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Politics

Stormy Daniels took the stand today in Trump's criminal trial in New York

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The woman at the center of the hush money scandal, Stormy Daniels, took the stand today in Trump's criminal trial in New York. It was a contentious day of testimony. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was there, and she joins us now from outside the courthouse. Andrea, as we mentioned, you were in court today. Tell us what you saw and heard.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: There have been a lot of men testifying in this trial, like AMI publisher David Pecker, Daniels' attorney, Keith Davidson, talking about buying and selling and suppressing stories by women. And then in came one of those women, Stormy Daniels, passing within feet of Trump. But neither of them looked at each other. And, of course, that is highly unusual. Everyone looks at Donald Trump when they pass him, except for the witnesses in this trial. And then Daniels told her story in the courtroom, the one that's been - there's been so much testimony about - Trump and Cohen wanting to hush.

SUMMERS: And Andrea, what did Stormy Daniels have to say?

BERNSTEIN: She testified she met Donald Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006, where the adult film company she worked for was doing a promotion. She says, through his security guard, he invited her to dinner but asked her to come up to his hotel suite first. And first, she testified, they discussed business. But after she went to use the restroom, she said she found him lying on the bed in his underwear, after which they had sex.

She said she didn't feel threatened by him, but she felt there was a power imbalance. And then afterward, she said, she felt ashamed, but stayed in touch with Trump because he dangled the possibility of a role in the "Celebrity Apprentice." There was even a moment, she testified, when she saw Trump and Karen McDougal, the other woman who received a hush money payment, at an event in LA.

SUMMERS: What was the reaction like? How did the defense react to all of this?

BERNSTEIN: So Trump has denied any relationship with Daniels. And all day, the atmosphere was tense. The defense tried to keep any discussion of sex from the jury and repeatedly objected during her testimony. Trump was extremely animated, leaning over frequently to speak to his lawyers.

And then after lunch, they asked for a mistrial. Trump attorney Todd Blanche said her testimony was, quote, "so prejudicial to President Trump and the charges that are at issue in this case, there is no remedy we can fashion to unring this bell." Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said this was exactly what Trump was trying to hide in a payoff in 2016 in advance of the election. The judge did not grant the mistrial, though he agreed there are things that were probably better left unsaid.

SUMMERS: And Andrea, what about the deal at the center of all of this, that hush money deal?

BERNSTEIN: Daniels testified in 2016, by this time represented by an agent. She decided to - she wanted to, as she said, document her story, but no one would buy it. Then came the "Access Hollywood" tape, and Michael Cohen and her lawyers came to an agreement to buy her silence. But then Cohen didn't pay up. She grew nervous he would delay until after the election and then never pay her once Trump had what he wanted, as she described it. Eventually, Cohen wired the money. She maintained her silence until 2018, after The Wall Street Journal published the story and chaos ensued.

SUMMERS: Andrea, in a few sentences, you did mention it was tense from the beginning. How did it go once the questioning began?

BERNSTEIN: The cross was pretty heated. Defense attorney Susan Necheles got Daniels to agree she hated Trump. But the testimony of her relationship has been backed up with details in this courtroom, though she's given multiple contradictory statements in the past. All that came up. Outside the courtroom, Trump said it was a very big day. All this continues Thursday.

SUMMERS: That's NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Politics
Andrea Bernstein
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