NY v. Trump: Judge denies request for gag order modification, mistrial after Stormy Daniels testimony

Judge Juan Merchan on Thursday denied a request for a mistrial and a modification of the gag order by Trump defense attorneys, who argued that the former president should be able to defend himself against Stormy Daniels’ salacious and “prejudicial” testimony. Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche first requested a mistrial on Tuesday after Daniels’ first day on the stand but was denied. Merchan did, however, admit she was a difficult witness to control and said much of her testimony was “unnecessary” and “irrelevant” to the charges. Trump attorneys on Thursday again requested a mistrial.Blanche said that the prosecution asked Daniels “a whole host of questions” that never should have been asked, pointing to questions about the porn actress’s childhood and her alleged interaction with Trump. Blanche argued they were “things that are irrelevant to the facts of this case.” Blanche reminded that the case is not about sex, and again stressed that Daniels’ testimony was “extraordinarily prejudicial for the jury to hear.” Blanche continued that many of the questions asked by the prosecution were “prejudicial.” STORMY DANIELS’ SALACIOUS AFFAIR STORY KEEPS CHANGING BECAUSE ENCOUNTER NEVER HAPPENED, TRUMP TEAM CLAIMS”It is so dangerous, so prejudicial, it borders on a problem from the beginning,” Blanche said, adding that Daniels’ testimony and story about the alleged sexual encounter kept changing. Defense attorney Susan Necheles declared earlier Thursday that Daniels “made it up.”Meanwhile, Blanche was referring to salacious and sexually explicit questions asked of Daniels during questioning by the prosecution, stressing that the questions had nothing to do with the alleged falsification of business records — which are the only charges Trump is facing,  Prosecutor Josh Steinglass defended Daniels and her testimony, saying that it “is not a change of story.” “They’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too,” Steinglass said. Merchan explained that at each trial, evidence comes in different ways. Merchan reminded Blanche that during his opening argument, he denied Trump had a sexual encounter with Daniels. “Your denial puts the jury in a position to decide who to believe,” Merchan said, and added that the defense could have objected many times during Daniels’ testimony, “but didn’t.” With regard to one explicit detail, Merchan said he agreed that “shouldn’t have come out… but for the life of me, I don’t know why Ms. Necheles didn’t object.”Merchan told Blanche that he made decisions to strike things from the record to “protect” Trump, and said he disagrees with any changing narrative, while adding that the details “add a sense of credibility.” Merchan denied the motion. The prosecution on Thursday also said they would no longer call Playboy model Karen McDougal as a witness, who also allegedly received a hush money payment about an alleged affair with Trump. Steinglass defended the decision, saying they did not “change their minds” about calling her, and said prosecutors never formally decided if they would use her as a witness during trial. TOP 5 MOMENTS OF TRUMP TRIAL AFTER ‘SALACIOUS’ STORMY DANIELS TESTIMONYMeanwhile, Blanche also asked Merchan to modify the gag order imposed upon the former president, which blocks him from discussing court staff and witnesses. Blanche requested Trump be released to discuss Daniels. Blanche said that Trump should be able to respond to allegations of a sexual encounter in 2006 with Daniels — especially now that her testimony is complete and she is no longer an active witness. Prosecutors, however, argued that the defense “lives in an alternate reality,” and defended the gag order, saying it is working. Prosecutors also said Trump allies are making his case for him in news interviews. But Merchan denied the request, saying his “concern is not just protecting Daniels.” “My concern is protecting the integrity of these proceedings as a whole,” Merchan said, adding that the reason the gag order is in place is due to the nature of potential Trump attacks. “Your client’s track record speaks for itself,” Merchan said to Blanche. Merchan, though, said he would be mindful of witnesses using the gag order imposed upon Trump as a shield. Merchan imposed a gag order on the former president, an order he has ruled Trump to have violated at least 10 times. He has fined Trump $10,000 so far, and warned of jail time for further violations.”The last thing I want to consider is jail,” Merchan said Monday. “You are [the] former president and possibly the next president.” Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. The charges stem from a yearslong investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.The charges are related to alleged payments made ahead of the 2016 presidential election to silence Daniels about an alleged 2006 extramarital affair with Trump.Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg must convince the jury that, not only did Trump falsify business records related to alleged hush money payments, he did so in furtherance of another crime — conspiracy to promote or prevent election, which would be a felony. On their own, falsifying business records and conspiracy to promote or prevent election are misdemeanor charges. 
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