Third week of evidence wraps at Trump's criminal trial

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before leaving for the day at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 10, 2024. [AFP]

Donald Trump's New York criminal trial wrapped up its third week of evidence Friday following bombshell testimony from the adult film star at the heart of the case.

Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had sex with Trump in 2006, denied she threatened him if he did not buy her silence for $130,000, a payment that prosecutors say Trump then covered up.

Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for the payment on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, when the story could have proved politically fatal.

The completion of Daniels' marathon testimony and cross-examination this week clears the way for prosecutors to call Cohen, their remaining star witness, who is expected to take the stand on Monday.

The trial is taking place just six months before the November election, when the Republican hopeful will try to defeat Democratic President Joe Biden.

During nearly eight hours over two days, Daniels walked the New York jury through the one-night stand she said she had with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament, and then the financial settlement she says ensued.

In her testimony, she described Trump's pajamas, his boxer shorts, the sexual position and that he did not wear a condom.

And while she was "not threatened verbally or physically" she said she "felt ashamed I didn't stop it, didn't say no."

These were details that the defense argued were irrelevant to the case -- but which they doubled down on and repeated during cross-examination.

Trump sat impassively for much of Daniels' testimony, apparently cursing at times, and railing against proceedings in his comments to reporters as he entered and left the Manhattan courtroom.

The jury also heard from Madeleine Westerhout, a former assistant who described Trump's involvement with all aspects of his business.

It then heard on Friday from specialists at telecoms giants AT&T and Verizon who testified about phone records, and para-legals from the prosecutor's office who recapped key evidence against Trump.

Mistrial requests

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels, and his lawyers asked the judge for a mistrial on the grounds her testimony was "extremely prejudicial" in what is essentially a financial records and election-related case.

Judge Juan Merchan denied the mistrial request on Tuesday, and a second one lodged on Thursday.

Trump's lawyers also suggested Daniels was out for the money. They accused her of appearing at strip club events promoted with a picture of Trump and the tagline "Making America Horny Again."

She said she disliked the slogan and was not responsible for it.

Merchan has imposed a gag order on Trump prohibiting him from publicly attacking witnesses and the ex-president -- who has traded insults with Daniels for years, calling her "horseface" and other crude slurs -- has not commented directly on her testimony.

Trump said on Thursday that his side had filed an appeal against the gag order in an appellate court.

His lawyers also demanded that Trump be allowed to hit back publicly at Daniels' claims about their encounter now that she was no longer a witness.

Judge Merchan denied the request to change the gag order, which Trump has been fined $10,000 for breaking.

In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He has also been charged in Florida with allegedly mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House but that case has been postponed indefinitely.