Stormy Daniels ex-lawyer in the hot seat at Trump trial

Porn star Stormy Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with Trump at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament (Ethan Miller)
Porn star Stormy Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with Trump at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament (Ethan Miller)

The lawyer who negotiated a hush money payment from Donald Trump to porn star Stormy Daniels was grilled on Thursday by the former US president's defense attorney, who suggested his activities bordered on "extortion."

Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to Daniels just days ahead of the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton.

The trial, the first ever of an ex-president, resumed on Thursday after a day off on Wednesday with prosecutors urging Judge Juan Merchan to fine Trump for more violations of a gag order he imposed to protect trial participants.

Merchan, who threatened Trump with jail time on Tuesday for further gag order violations, heard arguments from both sides but did not issue an immediate ruling.

Keith Davidson, Daniels' former attorney, then took the witness stand to continue his testimony as Trump, dressed in a dark blue suit and bright yellow tie, sat at the defense table flanked by his attorneys.

After prosecutors wrapped up their questioning, Trump's attorneys began their cross-examination of Davidson, who also represented another woman, Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had a year-long affair with Trump.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, testified last week that he purchased McDougal's story for $150,000 and then buried it, a scheme known in the industry as "catch and kill."

Trump attorney Emil Bove's questioning of Davidson quickly turned heated.

"When you were negotiating on behalf of McDougal and Daniels one of your concerns was staying on the right side of the law with regard to extortion," Bove said.

"I suppose so," Davidson replied. "I did everything I could to make sure my activities were lawful."

Bove asked Davidson about his involvement in other cases where he "extracted" money from celebrities with something to hide, citing a settlement involving the "Platoon" star Charlie Sheen.

The Los Angeles lawyer objected to the use of the word "extract" in a testy exchange.

Davidson acknowledged he was probed by federal and state investigators for alleged extortion while representing clients who had possession of a sex tape of the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. He did not end up facing any charges.

"I made a monetary demand," said Davidson, which would allow Hogan to acquire the tapes. "I made no threats to anyone."

- 'Rain legal hell' -

Prosecutors earlier walked Davidson through the hush money negotiations with Cohen and damage control efforts after media reports emerged in January 2018 about Daniels' 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Daniels issued a statement at the time denying ever having an "affair" with Trump or receiving hush money from him.

She has since said the statement was not true and she did indeed have sex with the married Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

"(Cohen) wanted her to deny the story to protect his client," Davidson said, and had threatened to "rain legal hell down" on Daniels.

Earlier Thursday, prosecutor Christopher Conroy urged Merchan to fine Trump for four new violations of the gag order barring him from publicly attacking witnesses, jurors, court staff or their relatives.

Merchan fined Trump $9,000 earlier this week for violations of his gag order.

Conroy pointed to public comments Trump has made about Cohen, who has become a vocal critic of his former boss and is expected to be a star witness in the case.

"The defendant thinks the rules should be different for him," Conroy said.

Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney, complained that President Joe Biden had spoken publicly about the trial but his client -- Biden's likely November election rival -- "can't respond."

Merchan said there was nothing in the gag order that limits what Trump can say about Biden.

Trump took advantage of Wednesday's trial break to hold campaign rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan -- blaming his legal troubles and America's ills on Biden.

Leaving court on Thursday, he denounced the case as "election interference at the highest level"

"I should be out campaigning right now," he said.

Trump also hit back at reports he has occasionally fallen asleep in court.

"Contrary to the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, I don't fall asleep," he wrote on Truth Social. "I simply close my beautiful blue eyes, sometimes, listen intensely, and take it ALL in!!!"