5 Takeaways From Trump’s Hush-Money Trial After Stormy Daniels’s Testimony

The fourth week of Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial veered from the salacious to the monotonous, and ended with a preview of a showdown coming next week: the long-awaited testimony of Mr. Trump’s fixer-turned-nemesis, Michael D. Cohen.

On Friday, Justice Juan M. Merchan asked prosecutors to tell Mr. Cohen to stop talking about Mr. Trump, after a defense lawyer told him of a recent TikTok video in which Mr. Cohen wore a shirt with a picture of Mr. Trump behind bars.

His request capped a week in which the jury heard a porn star’s lurid story of a 2006 sexual encounter with Mr. Trump but also less sensational, if potentially damning, testimony about Mr. Trump’s checks, invoices and ledgers.

The former president is accused of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to the porn actress, Stormy Daniels, just before the 2016 election, a payment meant to silence her. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and says he did not have sex with Ms. Daniels. If convicted, he could face prison or probation.

Here are five takeaways from Mr. Trump’s fourth week, and 15th day, on trial:

For almost eight gripping hours, Ms. Daniels took the jurors inside the Lake Tahoe, Nev., hotel suite where she said she and Mr. Trump had sex, a detailed account that included everything from what was in his bathroom to her conflicted feelings before and after.

Initially, her testimony meandered, leading to interruptions and a warning from Justice Merchan to avoid tangents, as well as many successful objections by defense lawyers.

But under cross-examination from Susan Necheles, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Ms. Daniels seemingly became more focused, sharply defending herself against charges that she made up her testimony and was out only for money.

By the end of her testimony, she had rebutted Mr. Trump’s denial of their sexual encounter and given jurors a clear sense of what Mr. Trump was trying to suppress before the election.

On Thursday night, Ms. Daniels continued to provoke Mr. Trump online, needling him that “real men respond to testimony by being sworn in and taking the stand in court. Oh … wait. Nevermind.”

It’s not yet clear yet whether the former president will testify.

Ms. Daniels testimony elicited strong feelings from Mr. Trump, who at one point caught the attention of the judge by muttering an expletive during Ms. Daniels’s memorable description of a playful spanking.

Justice Merchan, who has already held Mr. Trump in contempt and fined him $10,000 for breaking his gag order, privately warned his lawyers that Mr. Trump may be intimidating the witness.

“I won’t tolerate that,” Justice Merchan said, in a sidebar.

It remains unclear whether members of the jury noticed his outburst. Until then, Mr. Trump appeared to be keeping his emotions in check, often sitting with his eyes closed. He has said he does that to listen “intensely,” but the jury could also view it as indifference.

It might not have been as memorable as Ms. Daniels’s presence in court, but testimony from Trump Organization employees and others about the chain of custody of Mr. Trump’s repayment checks to Mr. Cohen was crucial to the prosecution.

It was painstaking, and sometimes dull, and included a blow-by-blow account about how checks were approved, then cut, then mailed, then signed, then returned.

But by showing the jury the paper trail, as well as phone logs and other documentary evidence, prosecutors were stitching a case without the emotional, subjective uncertainty of witnesses like Ms. Daniels.

Mr. Trump long tried to burnish his reputation with self-aggrandizing books. But the prosecution applied some of those against him this week, using his own writing to portray him as a micromanager — a man who distrusted his employees for a fear that they will “rob you blind.” That could bolster their assertion that Mr. Trump knew about the payment to Ms. Daniels and payback arrangement with Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Trump’s tendency to punch back was also evident in those excerpts, including one that espoused the policy of “an eye for an eye.” But Mr. Trump, already found to be in violation of the gag order, won’t be able to speak out against Mr. Cohen — his lawyers will. How well they tear down his opponents may be critical to their success.

Mr. Cohen will take the stand on Monday.

If the brief spectacle in court on Friday was any indication, his testimony should be passionate, prolonged and likely to trigger strong emotions from Mr. Trump.

Already, the defense is saying that Mr. Cohen is unruly, which the prosecutors acknowledged. How he performs next week could be crucial to how the jury accepts or rejects their arguments.

Prosecutors said on Friday that they may rest their case by the end of next week.

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