Judge denies defense's motion for mistrial in Trump's hush money trial

The bulk of Thursday's hearing was primarily dedicated to two matters: a motion to modify a gag order and a request for a mistrial.
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table
Posted at 10:41 AM, May 09, 2024

Judge Juan M. Merchan has denied defense attorneys' request for a mistrial due to Stormy Daniels' testimony in Donald Trump's hush money case.

The bulk of Thursday's hearing was primarily dedicated to two matters: a motion to modify a gag order and a request for a mistrial.

The former president is banned from discussing witnesses or potential witnesses under a gag order, which he has violated several times, resulting in his being threatened with jail time. But his legal team sought permission from the judge to allow him to modify the order to discuss Daniels, arguing that it's crucial for him to respond to accusations she made while on the stand, and contending that she’s not a major witness and she's done testifying. However, the district attorney's office countered that any witness, regardless of how big or small, could still face backlash.

The judge deliberated on the arguments and ultimately decided to deny modifying the gag order.

“I can’t take your word for it … That’s not the track record. The gag order was put in place because of the nature of these attacks, the vitriol. These were very real attacks on potential witnesses,” Merchan said.

The second matter on the table was the defense’s request for a mistrial motion, which was also ultimately denied.

Trump's team argued that Daniels' testimony, particularly regarding details of the sexual encounters, including spanking and condom use, warranted a mistrial, deeming it highly prejudicial. However, the prosecution contended that such details were necessary to corroborate Daniels' account and establish her credibility.

The discussion became heated as Judge Merchan criticized the defense attorney, Susan Necheles, for failing to object when necessary during Daniels' testimony, questioning her handling of the cross-examination.

"Why on earth she wouldn't object to the mention of a condom, I don’t understand," said Merchan.

Shortly after exiting the court, Trump criticized the judge in front of reporters, calling him "corrupt."

“This judge, what he did and what his ruling was is a disgrace,” Trump said. “I'm innocent and I'm being held in this court with a corrupt judge who's totally conflicted.”

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Thursday was the second day on the stand for Daniels, who alleged she had a sexual affair with Trump prior to him becoming president.

Daniels is considered a key figure in the trial as prosecutors attempt to prove Trump illegally falsified business records to influence the 2016 presidential election by trying to cover up extramarital affairs.

The exchanges between Trump's attorney Susan Necheles and Daniels resembled a tennis match, with jurors snapping their heads back and forth as the lawyer and witness swapped responses.

Necheles tried to get the adult film actress to admit she was trying to get a big payday.

"You wanted to make money for telling your story?" Necheles asked.

"I never asked for money from anyone in particular. I asked for money to tell my story," Daniels responded.

Daniels said that after attempting to "shop" her story that she had sex with Trump, she ended up signing a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement, she claims, was signed before admitting publicly that she had sex with Trump.

Necheles tried to get Daniels to admit that Trump wanted to "protect his brand."

"I wouldn't know," she responded.

Necheles then alleged that Daniels wanted her story to become public.

"I would never want to publicly say I did that," she said, adding that she got a lot of bad publicity when she did.

Daniels also noted that telling her story has cost her, saying she has been forced to pay for security, move to a different home and pay for attorneys.

Furthermore, after Daniels left the witness stand on Thursday, defense attorney Todd Blanche announced that Karen McDougal would not be called to testify.

McDougal, a former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair with the former president and received payment to maintain confidentiality, would have been a crucial witness, as her absence from testifying now leaves Daniels as the sole woman presenting claims of being paid to conceal sexual affairs with Trump.