Trump trial updates: After Stormy Daniels wraps testimony, judge denies motions to declare mistrial and loosen Trump's gag order

In a courtroom sketch, New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, hands clasped in front of him, listens as Stormy Daniels testifies.
Judge Juan Merchan, in a courtroom sketch from Thursday. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

When asked by lawyers for Donald Trump whether she had made up her story about a sexual affair with the former president, adult film actress Stormy Daniels had an emphatic, one-word answer: “No!” This is Yahoo News’ succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against Trump. Here are the latest developments.

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles continued her confrontational cross-examination of Daniels on Thursday, asking her point-blank whether she had made up her story that she had sex with Trump in order to try to profit from it financially. But Daniels was unfazed, and fired back at Necheles throughout the exchange. After Daniels was finished testifying, prosecutors called two more former Trump employees and a book publisher to make their point that Trump was highly involved in nearly every detail of his business dealings.

After the jury had been excused, Judge Juan Merchan denied two motions from Trump’s lawyers, one to loosen the judge’s gag order so as to allow Trump to respond publicly to the testimony delivered by Daniels, and a second attempt to have the judge declare a mistrial on the grounds that Daniels’s answers on the witness stand were prejudicial to their client.

Stormy testimony wraps up: Continuing her cross-examination of Daniels, Necheles sought to portray her as a liar who concocted her story about having sex with Trump for financial gain. Necheles asked, “You made all this up, right?” New York Times journalists in the courtroom reported. “No!” Daniels responded. The two had several more heated exchanges during which Necheles tried to show that Daniels’s testimony during the trial was different from past accounts she had given to the media.

Rebecca Manochio, a junior bookkeeper at the Trump Organization, testified that when Trump was president, she sent checks made out to then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to two of Trump’s aides in Washington rather than directly to the president at the White House. Those checks, prosecutors allege, were reimbursements for the $130,000 hush money payment Trump made to Daniels. The aides then brought Trump the checks for his signature, an arrangement that prosecutors say was done as part of the cover-up.

Tracey Menzies, a senior vice president at HarperCollins book publishers, testified about working with Trump on his book Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life. She read quotes from the book to the jury, including, “Get the best people, and don’t trust them. Do not trust them because if you don’t know what you are doing, they are going to rob you blind.”

Madeleine Westerhout, a former executive assistant to Trump at the White House, testified about bringing Trump checks from his business to sign in the Oval Office. Jurors were also shown an email she wrote to Cohen confirming a Feb. 5, 2017, White House meeting between the two men at which, prosecutors allege, the two men discussed Trump’s reimbursement to Cohen.

Two more losses for Trump’s lawyers: With the jury dismissed for the day, Merchan heard arguments from Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors on whether he should loosen his gag order to allow Trump to comment publicly about the testimony Daniels gave over the past two days of the trial. Trump’s lawyers had argued that his comments would be limited and measured, but the judge made clear he didn’t believe they would be.

“I can’t take your word for it that ‘no no, this is going to be low key,’” Merchan said. “That’s just not the track record.”

On the question of whether to grant a defense motion for a mistrial because Daniels’s testimony in which she alleged to have had sex with Trump had been prejudicial against him, Merchan, for a second time, rejected the reasoning laid out by Trump’s lawyers.

“The more specificity Ms. Daniels can provide about the encounter, the more the jury can weigh whether the encounter did occur and if so whether they choose to credit Ms. Daniels’s story,” Merchan said, denying both motions.

Trump’s lawyers will continue their cross-examination of Westerhout on Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET.