After a breather on Wednesday, court was back in session in Manhattan on Thursday in the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump for allegedly falsifying business records. When last we left the saga, Stormy Daniels was busy sharing salacious tidbits with the jury at the encouragement of the prosecution and with seemingly few limitations being placed by Judge Juan Merchan.

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Trump Manhattan Trial Tuesday Evening Wrap-Up – ‘What the Hell Happened?’ Edition

Blame Game: Judge Merchan Tells Trump Defense They Should Have Objected More to Stormy Daniels’ Testimony


Daniels was back on the stand Thursday for further cross-examination by Trump’s legal team. She is…something. Here are some highlights (lowlights?) from Thursday’s testimony: 

Attempting to paint the adult film actor as not only an irrelevant witness but also an unreliable one, Trump attorney Susan Necheles — the only woman defending Trump at trial — tore into Daniels over the profit she’s made since alleging an affair with Trump, which he has denied happened. 

Across three hours of questioning over two days, the defense attorney insinuated Daniels’s work in porn made her ready to cash in. 

“You have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear to be real, correct?” Necheles asked Thursday. 

With an indignant laugh, Daniels said that’s not how she would put it. 

“I have experience memorizing dialogue, not how to have sex. … Pretty sure we all know how to do that,” she retorted. 

Circling back moments later to her accusations about Trump, Daniels quipped, “And if that story was untrue, I would’ve written it to be a lot better.”

More along those lines: 

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While Trump attorney Susan Necheles endeavored to point out inconsistencies in Daniels’ story (stories?) regarding the alleged encounter, she pulled no punches in her cross-examination — and never let it be said that the proceedings were classy: 

Necheles also portrayed Daniels as having an axe to grind against Trump, to whom she now owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees after losing a defamation lawsuit against him.

The jury saw Daniels’s repost in late March of someone calling her a “human toilet.” 

“Exactly! Making me the best person to flush the orange turd down,” she responded on social platform X, in an apparent reference to the trial. 

But to the heart of the matter — i.e., the actual crime the former president is alleged to have committed:

Daniels conceded she never spoke to Trump about her hush money and has no personal involvement in the repayment scheme that the former president is charged over. Trump nodded his head affirmatively as she remarked on her lack of knowledge about his role in the hush money deal. 

“I’m just here to answer questions about me,” Daniels told Necheles.

Oh. So we were treated to several hours of testimony regarding Old Spice and an alleged sexual encounter from 18 years ago and orange turds, but in terms of any actual proof of a commission of a crime, this witness had nothing to offer. Good to know. 

After Daniels was dismissed, the prosecution called Rebecca Manochio, a bookkeeper in the Trump Organization who worked as an assistant to CFO Allen Weisselberg. She testified she would attach personal expense invoices to checks for Trump to sign. When Trump was in the White House, she would send him 10 or 20 checks for signature at a time via FedEx. They were shipped to former Trump Organization head of security Keith Schiller, and later, after Schiller left that position, to former White House aide John McEntee. They would typically come back to her signed by Trump within a couple of days. If one wasn’t returned, she would reach out to his assistant at the White House, Madeline Westerhout, to check on the status. The signed checks were returned with the invoices still attached. Once she received them back, Manochio turned them over to Deb Tarasoff (who testified on Monday). 

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On cross-examination, Manochio confirmed that, though she did not interact personally with Trump, the only checks she sent to him for signature were those involving personal expenses. Business expenses were not handled that way. 

Next, the prosecution called Harper Collins senior vice president of production Tracey Menzies, who testified regarding Trump’s book “Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life,” part of which he narrated (for the audiobook). Portions of the book were written by a co-author, Bill Zanker. Menzies was asked by the prosecution to read certain excerpts from the book regarding the importance of loyalty and his fondness for revenge. (One wonders how the prosecution intends to tie this into the purported falsification of business records, since the charges against Trump involve that, not being the Bad Orange Man. Allegedly.)

The prosecution then called Westerhout to the stand. In her role as a personal assistant to Trump and former director of Oval Office Operations, Westerhout essentially acted as a gatekeeper. She sat directly outside the Oval Office and worked closely with Trump for two-and-a-half years. She described Trump as detail-oriented and liking to keep things organized. When she assumed the role, she asked his former assistant, Rhona Graff, for a list of his closest contacts so that she wouldn’t have to bug Graff repeatedly for their information. The list included:

David Pecker, Bill O’Reilly, Charles Kushner, Matt Calamari, Jack Nicklaus, Tiffany Trump, Joe Scarborough, Nelson Peltz, Phil Ruffin, Lou Rinaldi, Jeanine Pirro, Ike Perlmutter, Robert Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry, Allen Weisselberg, Steve Wynn, Serena Williams, Ari Emanuel, David Friedman, Jerry Falwell, Sean Hannity, Tom Barrack, Tom Brady, Pam Bondi.

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Westerhout was asked about Trump’s process for signing checks for personal expenses:

“Checks were sent from the Trump Organization to an employee at the White House and I brought them in for the president to sign,” Westerhout testifies.

She says she would take a manila folder with a stack of checks to Trump when she received them. “I didn’t really dig around in the folder but I believe there were invoices attached to some of the checks sometimes,” she adds.

She says it was “consistent” that the checks were regularly sent, adding, “maybe twice a month.”

Asked how many checks she would receive at a time, Westerhout says, “Sometimes there was one, sometimes there was a stack, maybe half an inch thick. I never counted them.”

“I can’t speak to the ones I didn’t see him sign,” she says.

Westerhout said after Trump signed the checks, “he would give the folder back to me” and she would put them in a pre-labeled FedEx envelope to send back to the Trump Organization.

Westerhout offered an interesting insight into Trump’s relationship with his wife, Melania. 

“There was really no one else that could put him in his place too. He was my boss but she was definitely the one in charge. I just remember that… thinking that their relationship was really special. They laughed a lot when she came into the Oval Office,” she added.

On cross-examination, Westerhout was asked about the book she wrote after she left her job at the White House. 

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“I thought it was real important to share with the American people the man that I got to know,” she says, tearing up again.

“I don’t think he’s treated fairly and I wanted to tell that story.”

Westerhout also was asked on cross about the “Access Hollywood” tape and, in particular, Trump’s reaction to it. 

Defense attorney Susan Necheles is asking about the “Access Hollywood” tape and notes there was consternation. “There was always some event that everybody said that’s it, he’s not gonna win?” she asks. “Yeah,” Madeleine Westerhout says.

“And everybody around would be freaking out?” Necheles asks. “Yeah.”

“Not President Trump?” she followed up. “No,” Westerhout says.

After Westerhout’s testimony, the jury was excused. 

The prosecution confirmed they would not be calling Karen McDougal to testify, mooting Trump’s defense team’s intended motion to exclude her as a witness. Trump’s attorneys then took up two issues with the court: 1) a request to modify the gag order so that Trump could respond to Stormy Daniels; 2) a second motion for mistrial in light of Daniels’ testimony. Merchan denied both motions. 

As to the gag order, Trump attorney Todd Blanche contended that Daniels was allowed to testify in court to a different version of her purported encounter with Trump, one that implied it was not consensual, and that Trump should have the opportunity to defend himself against that implication. The prosecution contended that Trump’s own words in his book show that he is vindictive against his enemies. (Since you can’t see my eyes right now, let me assure you, they’re rolling back in my head.) Merchan said that modifying the gag order at this point could undermine the “integrity of the proceedings.” 

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With regard to the second motion for mistrial:

After several more hours of testimony from Daniels on Thursday, Trump’s team again moved for a mistrial and were again shot down by the judge. After stating that he’d reviewed Tuesday’s testimony and his prior rulings and was satisfied that they had not been violated, he asserted that Trump’s attorneys “opened the door” to Daniels providing details regarding the purported encounter when they denied in their opening statement that any sex had taken place between Daniels and Trump.


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DENIED: Trump Team’s Second Request for Mistrial Shot Down in Manhattan Case


Here’s some added flavor as to how that discussion went: 

Yep. It’s a circus. Stay tuned — there will be another installment in the saga on Friday.

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