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What's the significance of prosecutors talking to Stormy Daniels?

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's team may not need her testimony to indict Donald Trump, but they need to know what she'd say at trial.


The news of Stormy Daniels talking to Manhattan prosecutors Wednesday caught the public by surprise. After all, we were focused on key witness Michael Cohen’s second and perhaps final day of testimony in the hush money investigation.

So, you might be wondering: What’s the relevance of the porn star’s Zoom meeting with District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecutors? Don’t they have to put her before the grand jury? Aren’t they already about to indict Donald Trump anyway? What does it all mean?

Good questions.

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Strange as it is to say, even though we call it the Stormy Daniels hush money case, her testimony may not be needed to secure an indictment. Remember, whether she actually had sex with Trump (which he denies) is not a legal element of the crime of falsifying business records, a charge reportedly being considered by Bragg’s office against the former president.

That is, it’s not about the alleged affair exactly, or even paying hush money, which isn’t itself illegal. Rather, the question is whether any laws were broken in any cover-up. (Federal prosecutors down the street from the Manhattan DA at the Southern District of New York thought so, but only charged Cohen, not Trump, even though Cohen directly implicated Trump.)

Nonetheless, even if Manhattan prosecutors don’t call Daniels to testify before the grand jury, they’d still want to know what she’d say at trial if called to the stand there. For that reason, it would be a little odd for prosecutors not to have already known before this week what she would say, given the apparently mature stage of their investigation. If they weren’t already planning on speaking to her, perhaps questions arose during Cohen’s testimony that led them to reach out.

At any rate, we don’t know what prosecutors asked Daniels, or what she told them. But if Trump is indicted, take it as a sign that the meeting gave Bragg the confidence to proceed — or at least didn’t deter him.