Team Trump’s Cross-Examination of Stormy Daniels Was Gross

“You’ve acted and had sex in over 200 porn movies, right?”

“And there are naked men and naked women having sex in those movies?”

“But according to you, seeing a man sitting on a bed in a T-shirt and boxers was so upsetting, you became light-headed and almost fainted?”

In one of the more intense stretches of Donald Trump’s hush-money case so far, Susan Necheles, one of the former president’s attorneys, victim-blamed Stormy Daniels for the alleged sexual encounter with Trump — a sexual encounter Trump’s defense team contends she made up for notoriety and financial gain — and implied that her history as a sex worker should somehow make her immune to feeling creeped out by the former president.

The Manhattan courtroom — usually filled with the sound of court officers’ footsteps, reporters’ keystrokes, and the public’s whispers — fell deathly silent during Necheles’ cross-examination on Thursday. All eyes and ears were on the witness stand as attendees watched a woman explain her feelings of defenselessness when she allegedly came out of a bathroom to find the former president half-naked in bed.

“Yes,” an appalled Daniels fired back at Necheles’ question about becoming light-headed at the sight of Trump in boxers, which she says was the first time she realized the encounter was meant to be sexual. “When you’re not expecting a man twice your age, yes.”

The alleged 2006 sexual encounter between Trump and Daniels has led nearly 20 years later to Trump becoming the first president to stand criminal trial. He is accused of illegally falsifying business records related to a payment to keep Daniels quiet about the alleged affair ahead of the 2016 election. The prosecution calling Daniels to the stand on Tuesday enraged Trump, who posted to Truth Social that his team was not given time to prepare. Trump quickly deleted the post, presumably because a gag order prohibits him from commenting on witnesses. Trump’s team requested a mistrial later on Tuesday after Daniels went into detail about the alleged encounter that Trump’s team was so nervous about going public ahead of the election. The request was denied.

Throughout her testimony, Daniels made clear that neither she nor Trump were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the alleged encounter. She called it consensual and said Trump never made her feel threatened, although she clearly felt like she had no choice but to go forward with the sexual affair.

“I felt like I just blacked out,” Daniels testified earlier in the week. She said Trump towered over her as he got up from the bed when she tried to make an exit. “He was bigger and blocking the way,” Daniels, then a 5’6” 27-year-old, said of Trump, whose bodyguard was also standing just outside the room with the doors slightly ajar.

“There was an imbalance of power for sure,” she testified.

Trump may not have made Daniels feel threatened in that moment, but he allegedly pulled what so many younger women have experienced when advanced upon by older, more powerful men. Trump asked how “serious” she was about her professional aspirations — the implication being that he could help her advance them if only she complied. “I thought you were serious about what you wanted, if you ever want to get out of that trailer park,” Daniels said Trump told her, distinctly recalling being frustrated because of how he described her birthplace.

Trump has a long history of using his power, wealth, and influence to intimidate, berate, or otherwise engage in misogynistic attacks on women. He owes former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll $83 million in a defamation lawsuit verdict that stemmed from remarks he made denying Carroll’s allegations of rape. A separate jury last year also found Trump guilty of the sexual assault. He’s constantly attacked women publicly, from his defamation of Carroll, to calling MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski a “low IQ, crazy” individual who “was bleeding badly from a face-lift,” to saying Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.” He’s also repeatedly attacked Daniels, calling her a “horseface” while maintaining that she’s lying about the affair.

Trump’s lawyers may not have been as crass as their client while cross-examining Daniels, but they portrayed her as nothing more than a money-grubbing porn star who can’t be trusted, describing her as someone who “sells” herself for money and who is thus more likely to fabricate a story about Trump.

“You were a porn actress in over 200 films,” Necheles asked Daniels, who clarified it was closer to 150 and the rest included compilations. “So you have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex seem real.”

“Wow,” Daniels incredulously retorted, taking a slight pause before continuing. “That’s not how I would put it. The sex in the films is very much real, just as what happened in that room. The sex is real, the characters may not, but the sex is very real.”

Daniels defended her line of work as an adult film writer, director, and actress in the face of Necheles’ ignorant, outdated line of questioning. “You were selling yourself to people?” Necheles would often ask. “I was not selling myself to anyone,” Daniels would respond.

Jurors were completely stone-faced during Necheles’ increasingly scapegoating questions. They were, however, amused by Daniels’ quick-witted remarks to some of Necheles’ more personal questions. “If that story was untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better,” Daniels quipped about her alleged encounter with Trump.

Necheles also likened Daniels’ story to that of someone getting hit on. “But this isn’t the first time someone’s made a pass at you?” Necheles asked. “Yes,” said Daniels, taking a beat before answering: “But it is the first time that they had a bodyguard outside their door and they were twice my age and in their underwear and bigger than me.”

Multiple times throughout the cross-examination, Necheles asked if the encounter ever even happened. “You have made all of this up, right?” Necheles asked. Each time, Daniels would respond “no,” often with amused looks from the jurors.

Necheles spent the beginning of her cross-examination recounting Daniels’ business exploits following news of the affair going public: a book contract, a nationwide tour, a documentary, a television show about paranormal activities, and her selling of merchandise capitalizing on her newfound notoriety. Daniels explained that it was “not unlike Mr. Trump,” who has been fundraising and selling merchandise around his indictments.

Daniels says that she’s undergone intense scrutiny and victim-blaming over the encounter, explaining she “felt ashamed that I didn’t stop it, that I didn’t say no.” Necheles’ line of questioning not only demonstrates a disregard of the trauma Daniels experienced — including the harassment she’s faced since coming forward — but also reflects what is so commonly employed by Trump himself. By tearing into Daniels and her profession, and scapegoating her into seeming like the perpetrator, Necheles was undermining the credibility of people who come forward about such sexual encounters. It’s sexism that only serves to protect powerful people like Trump.

After Daniels stepped down from the witness stand on Thursday, Trump’s defense team once again requested a mistrial, arguing Daniels’ testimony was highly prejudicial. They also requested Trump’s gag be amended to exclude Daniels — presumably so Trump could launch even more attacks at her. Judge Juan Merchan shut down both requests.

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