America

Former White House Aide Returns to Stand in Trump’s Criminal Trial

A former White House aide who worked closely with Donald J. Trump testified on Thursday about a significant meeting between Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer that is at the center of Mr. Trump’s criminal trial, the first prosecution of a former American president.

The aide, Madeleine Westerhout, described setting up an Oval Office meeting in February 2017 between Mr. Trump and his fixer, Michael D. Cohen, where prosecutors say they discussed a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who says she had sex with Mr. Trump in 2006 at a hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nev. Mr. Cohen paid her $130,000 to stay silent about the liaison in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

Ms. Westerhout will return to the stand Friday, facing additional questions from Mr. Trump’s legal team. She took questions Thursday after two days of sometimes graphic and frequently heated testimony by Ms. Daniels. Ms. Daniels denied repeated accusations by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that she was motivated by money in divulging the sexual encounter, and that her account on the stand was inconsistent with others she has given in the past.

Ms. Daniels also offered a quick retort when Mr. Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles said she has sought to make money off the ordeal: “Not unlike Mr. Trump.”

Mr. Trump has denied having sex with Ms. Daniels and denied all wrongdoing.

Testimony later in the day from Ms. Westerhout returned the case to the dry financial records and meetings that are central to the 34 felony charges against Mr. Trump.

After the Oval Office meeting in 2017 that she described, Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen with a series of checks. They were recorded as “legal expenses” at his business, the Trump Organization, which prosecutors say was a deliberate mislabeling meant to conceal the hush-money deal.

Here’s what else to know about the trial:

  • Mistrial denied, again: After testimony on Thursday, lawyers for Mr. Trump requested for a second time that the judge, Juan M. Merchan, declare a mistrial. His lawyers argued that Ms. Daniels’s graphic testimony was prejudicial and warrants a mistrial. Justice Merchan not only denied their motion but also scolded the lawyers.

  • Motivated by money: Ms. Necheles repeatedly attacked Ms. Daniels for trying to monetize her life story by means that included a book, a tour of strip clubs and merchandise like a $40 devotional candle depicting herself as a saint. Read about this and other highlights from Thursday in our five takeaways.

  • Next witnesses: After Ms. Westerhout steps down from the witness stand, prosecutors will have only a handful of people left to question as the trial nears the end of three weeks of testimony. They include a person with a major role in the hush-money saga: Mr. Cohen.

Related Articles

Back to top button