Trump's attorneys may have won 'hush money' trial by undermining credibility of Stormy Daniels' testimony

 May 26, 2024

Closing arguments are set to occur this coming week in former President Donald Trump's New York "hush money" trial, with the jury to render its verdict shortly thereafter, but Trump may have already effectively won the case about two weeks earlier.

That is when Trump's defense attorneys attacked and undermined the credibility of one of the prosecution's star witnesses, porn actress Stormy Daniels, during an at-times combative and withering cross-examination, according to an NBC News report at the time.

That included highlighting the disreputable and false nature of Daniels' chosen career, multiple inconsistencies in her testimony, her admitted desire to be paid for her disputed claims of a sexual affair with Trump, and her overt personal animus and bias against the former president, among other things.

Credibility undermined on cross-examination

During the cross-examination of Daniels roughly two weeks ago, Trump's defense attorney Susan Necheles first grilled the witness over her career as a porn actress and director and her years of "experience making phony stories about sex," which elicited snarky replies from Daniels, such as "If that story was untrue, I would’ve written it to be a lot better."

The attorney soon moved on to point out several inconsistencies in Daniels' sworn testimony with what she'd said previously about the alleged 2006 sexual encounter, including the details of what actually occurred, whether it was consensual or not, and a since-retracted 2018 statement that denied the allegations altogether, among other things.

Necheles also prompted Daniels to admit that she had sought to sell her alleged account of the affair for money and willingly accepted the $130,000 "hush money" payoff and associated nondisclosure agreement -- which she later violated -- offered by Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen to remain silent about the allegations ahead of the 2016 election.

Daniels was also pressed by the defense attorney about her obvious disdain for and bias against the target of her accusations, was further exposed for her clear financial motivations for pushing the story, and was confronted over her own public attacks against Trump that he is unable to respond to because of a one-sided gag order imposed by the presiding judge.

Legal analysts taken aback by Daniels' "disastrous" and "embarrassing" testimony that could "backfire"

In the immediate wake of Daniels' testimony, Fox News reported that legal analysts on liberal news networks like CNN and MSNBC expressed concerns that her lurid tale on the witness stand packed with salacious and unnecessarily graphic details could "backfire" and prove "disastrous" and damaging to the prosecution's case against the former president.

All of that and more, particularly her openly expressed desire to see Trump imprisoned, potentially worked to undermine her credibility with the jury and could, ironically enough, elicit sympathy for the hated defendant, according to some of those analysts.

ABC News also reported that opinions were sharply split among legal experts about the overall impact of Daniels' testimony in the case against Trump and whether it would ultimately harm or help the embattled former president.

Some experts told the outlet that the witness' "embarrassing" and unnecessary details may have offended some of the jurors while it also simultaneously revealed the underlying goal of the prosecutors to "humiliate" Trump in their otherwise "weak" case alleging falsified business records to cover up the hush money payment.

Daniels' testimony and cross-examination poses "significant risks" for both the prosecution and defense

Even The Washington Post, certainly no fan of the former president, warned in its analysis of Daniels' testimony that it was "risky" for both sides, albeit for different reasons.

The testimony "briefly raised the risk of a mistrial and left the jury to decide whether the adult film actress’s tale of secret sex should matter in a financial crimes case," especially given the new addition to Daniels' claims of the implication that the alleged tryst was not consensual -- a change in her story that defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested was "a dog whistle for rape" and intended to prejudice the jury against his client with allegations not central to the charges he faced.

"Both prosecutors and defense lawyers took significant risks in their use of Daniels’s testimony," The Post concluded. "Prosecutors opened themselves up to a possible appeal issue that could threaten a conviction, while Trump’s defense attacked Daniels on nearly every front, a tactic that could boomerang against him if the jury decides she was being bullied."

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