Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen Can Testify in Trump Hush Money Case, Judge Rules

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

An attempt by Donald Trump to block Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen from testifying at his upcoming criminal trial in New York was thrown out on Monday by the judge overseeing the case.

The former president’s legal team had requested both Daniels and Cohen’s testimony be barred, saying in a filing last month that Cohen was a liar and that Daniels is an opportunist.

“Similar to Cohen, she seeks to tell contrived stories with salacious details of events she claimed occurred nearly 20 years ago,” his lawyers wrote.

But Judge Juan Merchan rejected those arguments. He found the court was unable to find a reason to keep Cohen from taking the stand just “because his credibility has been previously called into question,” while in Daniels’ case, the “probative value of the evidence is evident.”

Daniels is arguably the central figure of the case as the recipient of a $130,000 payment that Cohen gave her on Trump’s behalf in order to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter she allegedly had with him a decade prior. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up the hush money payment. He has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The payment was allegedly part of a broader “catch and kill” scheme that included a similar payment to former Playmate Karen McDougal, who will also be allowed to testify. (Trump’s lawyers had also sought to have the phrase “catch and kill” prohibited from use in the courtroom, something else Merchan rejected.) Trump has denied having affairs with both McDougal and Daniels.

A onetime doorman for Trump World Tower, Dino Saiudin, will also be allowed to testify.

The former president, however, scored two modest victories in Merchan’s order. The judge said that prosecutors would not be allowed to introduce Daniels’ lie-detector test results as evidence in court. He also, more crucially, ruled that they could not show jurors the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump made lewd and vulgar statements about women.

Prosecutors will be allowed to describe the tape’s contents, however, and question witnesses about it. The ruling, which Merchan noted he might reconsider in the future, is nevertheless a blow to the Manhattan district attorney’s office as it prepares to present a narrative that Trump scrambled to arrange the hush-money payment as he panicked about the tape’s release in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Jury selection in the case was scheduled to begin on March 25, but Merchan agreed to a 30-day delay beginning last Friday after Trump’s lawyers complained of being snowed under by a last-minute disclosure of more than 100,000 pages of evidence from prosecutors.

That decision means that the trial will begin no earlier than mid-April, though its start date could be delayed even further after a hearing on the matter that Merchan set for March 25, writing that there were still “significant questions of fact which this court must resolve.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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