Trump loses second bid for mistrial in hush money case


Trump lawyer Susan Necheles cross-examines Stormy Daniels on May 9th, 2024. 

Artist: Jane Rosenberg 

A judge Thursday denied a request by Donald Trump’s lawyers for a mistrial — their second failed attempt in three days to scrap the former president’s criminal hush money trial.

Judge Juan Merchan delivered the ruling after he rejected a separate request to pare back Trump’s gag order so the former president can speak about porn star Stormy Daniels. Her testimony about alleged sex with Trump prompted both mistrial requests.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that Daniels’ descriptions of the alleged encounter were irrelevant to the case and “extraordinarily prejudicial for a jury to hear.”

Shortly before this, Blanche revealed that prosecutors “no longer” plan to call Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who allegedly had an extramarital affair with Trump, to testify.

Blanche did not state a reason for the apparent reversal by the prosecutors, who cite a $150,000 payment to McDougal by a tabloid publisher in their case accusing Trump of falsifying business records.

The debate over the mistrial and the McDougal information both took place after jurors had been excused for the day.

Daniels’ cross-examination

During her second day of testimony, Daniels said that publicly discussing her story of having sex with former President Donald Trump has been detrimental to her life.

“Negative,” Daniels testified when a prosecutor asked if telling the truth about Trump has been a “net positive” or “net negative” for her.

Daniels gave the blunt reply shortly before she was dismissed from the stand.

Daniels’ testimony at times turned combative under cross-examination from Trump attorney Susan Necheles, who grilled the adult film star about her alleged one-night stand in 2006 with the then-married businessman.

The claim is key to District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case, which centers on a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels from Trump’s then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels at one point scoffed at Necheles’ suggestion that she would ever want to tell the world about having sex with the former president.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 9, 2024.

Angela Weiss | Reuters

“Even though you had agreed that you would not discuss this supposed story and you had received a lot of money for that agreement, you then decided that you wanted to publicly say that you had sex with Donald Trump,” Necheles said.

Daniels shot back: “Nobody would ever want to publicly say that.”

At another point, Necheles told Daniels, “You have a lot of experience making phony stories about sex.”

Daniels replied, “Wow. That’s not how I would put it. The sex in the films is very much real, just like what happened to me in that room.”

She added that if her claim of sleeping with Trump was untrue, “I would’ve written it to be a lot better.”

After Daniels left court, prosecutors called Rebecca Manochio, the former assistant to ex-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.

Manochio, who still works for the company as a junior bookkeeper, briefly testified about a series of Trump Organization invoices from 2017.

Prosecutors then summoned Tracey Menzies, a senior vice president at HarperCollins Book Publishing, to the stand. Menzies read passages from the 2008 book “Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life” by Trump and Bill Zanker.

GOP Sen. slams judge’s daughter, D.A.’s wife outside court

While the trial was underway, Sen. Rick Scott appeared outside the courthouse to slam the judge’s daughter and Bragg’s wife.

“Let’s look at who’s involved in doing this,” said the Florida Republican, who had entered the courtroom alongside Trump on Thursday morning.

“The lead prosecutor was a No. 3 person that Biden — the Biden Justice Department. The judge’s daughter is a political operative and raises money for Democrats. You’ve got the lead prosecutor’s wife is a significant donor to Democrats and I think to Biden,” he said.

Stormy Daniels leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on May 09, 2024 in New York City. 

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Trump is barred by a gag order from speaking about all three of those people, in addition to witnesses, jurors, court staff members and their families. The gag order also prohibits Trump from “directing others to make public statements” about those parties.

“So this is just a bunch of Democrats saying, ‘We want to make sure that Donald Trump can’t talk,'” Scott said.

Asked if Scott was appearing at the trial because of Trump’s gag order, the senator said, “No, I’m fed up.”

Merchan has held Trump in contempt of court for violating his gag order 10 times. On Monday, the judge warned Trump that he will be put in jail if he continues to violate court orders.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

Trump is charged with falsifying business records related to a $130,000 hush-money payment made to Daniels. Prosecutors say the money was part of an unlawful scheme to benefit Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen paid Daniels for her silence about the alleged sex less than two weeks before that election, and Trump reimbursed him after taking office.

The hush money case, while often considered the least serious of the four criminal indictments Trump faces, is increasingly likely to be the only one to make it to trial before the Nov. 5 presidential election.

On Wednesday, a Georgia appeals court potentially delayed a state-level election interference case against Trump by agreeing to take up his request to disqualify his prosecutor, District Attorney Fani Willis.

On Tuesday evening, federal Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely postponed Trump’s trial on charges that he illegally took classified documents and then tried to conceal them from authorities.

A federal election interference case against Trump in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, is on hold while the Supreme Court considers whether Trump is immune from the charges because they he was president at the time the alleged crimes occurred.



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