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Who is Stormy Daniels, woman at the center of the Trump hush money trial?

Daniels has said on social media she expects to take the stand as a prosecution witness
A combination photo shows adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaking in New York City, and then- U.S. President Donald Trump speaking in Washington, Michigan, U.S. on April 16, 2018 and April 28, 2018 respectively. Reuters
A combination photo shows adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaking in New York City, and then- U.S. President Donald Trump speaking in Washington, Michigan, U.S. on April 16, 2018 and April 28, 2018 respectively. Reuters

Adult film star Stormy Daniels has built a lucrative business empire around her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Donald Trump and earned legions of fans for her breezy retorts to those who cast her as an immoral woman.

The alleged encounter is now at the center of the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president, scheduled to start on Monday at New York state court in Manhattan.

Trump is accused of covering up his reimbursement to former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Daniels to buy her silence before the 2016 election about the alleged sexual encounter, which took place while he was married to his third wife, Melania.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment, and denies the encounter.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said on social media she expects to take the stand as a prosecution witness. Trump’s lawyers unsuccessfully sought to block her testimony, claiming she would tell “contrived stories.”

Daniels, 45, has embraced her role as a key antagonist to the Republican challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov 5 election.

In a documentary streaming service Peacock launched on March 18, Daniels said being at the center of the scandal and receiving frequent vitriolic attacks from Trump supporters online had taken a toll on her emotionally.

That has not stopped her from frequently mocking Trump as well as critics of her line of work.

“A major network has spent a lot of money making a documentary about me AND I get to testify against tiny!” she wrote in an apparent reference to Trump in a Feb 6 social media post.

“Look at me! Living the American dream while doing a job I love!” Daniels wrote in the reply on the social media platform X to a user who insulted her.

The case’s lurid nature has prompted criticism across the political spectrum that the charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office are not as serious as Trump’s other state and federal criminal cases, which focus on his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of government documents.

Bragg has countered that the case is about Trump’s alleged scheme to corrupt the 2016 election.

 Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks as she departs federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US on April 16, 2018. Reuters
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks as she departs federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US on April 16, 2018. Reuters

Paranormal investigator, horse farmer

Daniels is an author, director and media personality. In 2020, she launched her own reality TV show, “Spooky Babes,” in which she searches haunted houses as a “paranormal investigator,” and she once flirted with a US Senate bid as a Democrat-turned-Republican.

She has said her childhood was marred by sexual assault and poverty. Growing up in Louisiana with a single mother, “we were just trash. And my mom was a train wreck, and my clothes didn’t fit, and I was poor and I smelled,” Daniels told Vice News in 2021.

Daniels said she had been a straight-A student and editor of her high school newspaper when she left home and started stripping to support herself.

She continued working in adult entertainment after graduating from high school and began her career in adult films in 2002, according to the Vice News interview. Daniels soon began winning industry awards and landed roles in TV shows and films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”.

Prosecutors say the October 2016 payment to Daniels came after a leaked “Access Hollywood” clip in which Trump boasted about forcing himself on women, saying that as a celebrity, he could “grab ’em by the pussy” (A remark he later downplayed as “locker room talk.”).

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The tape prompted concern in his campaign about his standing with female voters, prosecutors say.

Trump’s lawyers have said he made the payment to spare himself, his company and his family from embarrassment, not to help his campaign.

Daniels is married to a fellow adult film star, and has a young daughter and a horse farm. The Peacock documentary showed Daniels learning that her daughter had gotten straight A’s in school while she was away filming an interview about Trump shortly after his indictment last year.

“Instead of being there with her,” Daniels said, “I’m here talking about an ex-president’s penis.”

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Donald Trump

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