Stormy Daniels fends off accusations she made up story of sex tryst with Trump at hush money trial

NEW YORK — Stormy Daniels, facing tough questions from Donald Trump’s defense team as she returned to the witness stand following her bombshell testimony on the alleged Lake Tahoe tryst with the former president, fended off accusations she’d made the story up.

Keying in on a central part of Daniels’ testimony about her encounter with Trump, defense lawyer Susan Necheles during hush money trial proceedings Thursday skeptically asked Daniels about having appeared in porn movies with “naked women and naked men” yet being startled by Trump on a bed in a T-shirt and boxers.

Daniels said that coming out of the bathroom to find a man twice her age “in his underwear, you’re not expecting to be there” was different.

“This was not the first time in your life someone had made a pass at you?” Necheles asked at one point.

“It is the first time they had a bodyguard standing outside the door ... and were in their underwear and were twice my age,” Daniels shot back.

She later said her “own insecurities” kept her from refusing.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges alleging he covered up a $130,000 reimbursement to fixer Michael Cohen for handling the hush money payoff to Daniels, logging it in the books as payment for legal fees.

Necheles repeatedly cast doubt on Daniels’ account, at one point asking her if she is experienced in fabricating “phony sex stories” as a porn star to which Daniels replied that the sex was “very real.”

“If this story wasn’t true, I would have written it to be a lot better,” Daniels snapped back a few moments later, to some apparent amusement from jurors.

As Daniels described how Trump sat on his hotel room couch the night of their tryst, he furrowed his brow, looking mad and a little disgusted. When there was a mention of Michael Avanatti mulling a run for president, Trump smirked.

Daniels also testified that she did not have personal knowledge about Trump’s role in the hush money payment to her and that she negotiated the payment through her lawyer.

Daniels’ cross ended with the lawyer asserting Daniels “never had an affair with President Trump” and a sustained objection.

‘The boss’ personal checks’

Next, in potentially crucial testimony, a former assistant at the Trump Org said that in 2017, she was directed to send certain checks Trump had to personally sign to the home address of his longtime personal bodyguard Keith Schiller in D.C.

Some dates of some of the checks cited aligned with those issued to Cohen in 2017 — which prosecutors say were reimbursements for hush money, and the defense claims were standard payments for legal services.

Rebecca Manochio, the longtime former executive assistant of convicted Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg, further testified that Trump didn’t always immediately sign off on checks — sometimes he had questions — and that expenses didn’t need to be handled only on paper; they could be processed electronically.

Manochio said that Trump’s former executive assistant, Rhona Graff, or Weisselberg, gave her the order and that she was never ordered to send anything else to Schiller’s.

Trump has claimed that checks he signed for Cohen in 2017 — which reimbursed him for hush money — were payment for legitimate legal fees. His lawyers said he signed what was put in front of him while busy running the country.

Going for the money

Necheles started the day hot as her cross examination of Daniels got underway Thursday morning, accusing Daniels of threatening Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

Daniels said that was “false.”

The defense attorney played audio of Michael Cohen talking with Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson in which he described Daniels as anxious to close the deal, quoting her to the fixer, “She wants this money more than you can ever imagine.”

Daniels pushed back on the idea that she was money hungry, saying that if the story were to be made public there’d be a “target on my back and my family’s.”

“I never asked for money from anyone in particular; I asked to tell my story,” she said. “... I was asking to sell my story to publications to get the truth out.”

Speaking confidently, tilted slightly toward the jury and away from Trump, Daniels said the payment for her silence was “a perfect solution.” During direct examination, she had testified that she didn’t want to deal with the fallout of the story, which she kept secret even to those closest to her for years.

Trump appeared in court looking furious, with an angry scowl. As he took his seat, he jabbed his finger at Necheles, as he spoke aggressively to the lawyer.

“Here we sit, after two and a half weeks and I think you’ll see some very revealing things today,” he told reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom before entering.

The Tahoe tryst

In a brutal day for the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s election, the adult film star on Tuesday divulged details of their infamous alleged tryst in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2006 and efforts to silence her years later.

In an at-times explicit account, Daniels described a consensual but uncomfortable sexual encounter with Trump when she was 27 after his bodyguard summoned her to his hotel room for a meal they never ate. She detailed coming out of a restroom to find Trump, then 60, sprawled out on the bed in boxers and a T-shirt and blacking out during brief sex.

The judge permitted prosecutors to elicit the graphic testimony after Trump’s lawyers called Daniels’ credibility into question in their opening statements — accusing her of extortion — in line with the strategy they’ve taken during the trial attacking the state’s witnesses.

Daniels, 45, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told jurors she agreed to stay silent about the incident more than a decade after it occurred after Trump’s then-fixer, Cohen, negotiated the $130,000 nondisclosure deal with her lawyer 11 days out from Trump’s stunning victory against Hillary Clinton.

The Louisiana native said she worried for her safety after Trump announced his candidacy, having been threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot years prior around the time she first sought to share her story with the press.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office alleges the payment to Cohen — which came in the form of checks Trump signed from his desk in the Oval Office — capped a yearslong conspiracy to promote his candidacy by unlawful means.

Prosecutors say the scheme was born at an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump, his fixer, and former tabloid publisher David Pecker, who told jurors he agreed to be the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by identifying and burying negative stories about Trump and elevating hit jobs about his opponents.

In testimony last week, jurors heard from Davidson, the lawyer who repped Daniels in hush money negotiations. He described dealing with a frantic Cohen in the waning days of the 2016 White House race, who urgently sought to contain the porn star’s allegations following the bombshell release of the “Access Hollywood” tape so soon before the election.

Trump denies all allegations and that he ever slept with Daniels. His lawyers have claimed an “obsessed” Cohen went rogue in paying her off that Trump believed he was paying his lawyer for legitimate legal services.