Trump trial live updates: Defense rests case after Robert Costello testimony

The New York trial of Donald Trump marks the first time a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 10:24PM
Trump trial updates: Defense rests case after Costello testimony
Lauren Glassberg is live in Lower Manhattan with the latest on details from the Trump hush money trial.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Former President Donald Trump is standing trial in New York City on felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he thought might hurt his presidential campaign in 2016. It's the first of Trump's four indictments to go to trial and the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

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Prosecutors seek additional sanctions for Trump in hush money case as key witness resumes testimony

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LIVE UPDATES FROM THE TRUMP TRIAL

Information from Eyewitness News, ABC News and the Associated Press

Tuesday, May 21

Discussion of jury instruction begins

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Donald Trump's hush money trial began delving into the matter of jury instructions Tuesday afternoon during a charging conference.

"Charging conferences" about jury instructions are often highly detailed, word-by-word discussions, and the one for Trump's trial was no different. The conference began with the defense asking to insert the word "willfully" at two points in a section of the instruction having to do with federal election law, and prosecutors saying it was unnecessary.

Where things stand now

After more than four weeks of testimony, jurors in Donald Trump's hush money trial could begin deliberating as soon as next week to decide whether the former president is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Trump's lawyers rested their defense Tuesday morning without him taking the witness stand, moving the case closer to the moment the jury would begin deciding his fate.

After the defense rested, Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors the court session could run late next Tuesday to accommodate both prosecution and defense summations - the last time the jury will hear from either side.

Defense rests case

The defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial rested its case Tuesday morning without the former president taking the stand in his own defense.

"Your honor, the defense rests," Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the judge.

After the defense rested, Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors they won't be needed again in court until next Tuesday. That's when he says both sides will give their closing arguments. He suggested the court session may run late that day to accommodate summations from both sides - the defense and prosecution. Merchan told jurors he then expects his instructions to them will take about an hour, after which they can begin deliberating, possibly as early as next Wednesday.

Merchan noted that normally summations would immediately follow the defense resting its case, but he expects summations in this case will take at least a day and - given the impending Memorial Day holiday - "there's no way to do all that's needed to be done" before then.

"I'll see you in a week," Merchan said.

Prosecutors confront Costello with emails he sent to Michael Cohen

As testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial began for the day, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger showed defense witness Robert Costello an August 2018 email in which former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told him and one of his partners to stop contacting him because "you do not and never have represented me" and another lawyer did.

Asked whether he was upset that Cohen hadn't paid him, Costello said he was - and volunteered that he had replied to the message in an email that prosecutors didn't show.

Hoffinger went a step further and confronted Costello with emails he sent to Cohen in which he repeatedly dangled his close ties to Trump-ally Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of the FBI raid on Cohen's property.

In one email, Costello told Cohen: "Sleep well tonight. You have friends in high places," and relayed that there were "some very positive comments about you from the White House."

Costello testified Tuesday that "friends in high places definitely refers to President Trump."

Hoffinger also showed Costello an email he sent to his law partner noting that Giuliani was joining Trump's legal team.

"All the more reason for Cohen to hire me, because of my connection to Giuliani, which I mentioned in our meeting," Costello wrote to law partner Jeffrey Citron in the April 19, 2018, email.

Cohen says he never hired Costello.

Costello to take the stand

Witness testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial could enter its final day on Tuesday with the defense expected to rest its case after calling just a handful of witnesses. Should the defense rest its case, Judge Juan M. Merchan has said he will send the jury home until closing arguments the day after Memorial Day.

Prosecutors rested their case Monday after star witness Michael Cohen concluded his testimony. Cohen spent nearly four full days on the witness stand, placing the former president directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Among other things, Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was regularly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women's claims.

The defense's calling of attorney Robert Costello to the stand was a source of discord for lawyers on both sides, with the prosecution arguing that he shouldn't be allowed to testify at all. The judge ultimately permitted the defense to question him about two allegedly inconsistent statements in Cohen's testimony and to "offer some rebuttal" to his testimony.

A ruling on the defense's motion to dismiss the case might also come on Tuesday.

It remains unclear if Trump will testify.

The trial is in its 20th day.

Monday, May 20

Defense asks judge to dismiss case

Following the adjournment of court on Monday, the defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial asked Judge Juan M. Merchan for an order dismissing the case immediately.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche argued: "There's absolutely no evidence that the filings were false. The business records were not false. There's no disputing that Mr. Cohen provided legal services for President Trump in 2017."

Blanche further argued that prosecutors have failed to prove their case and there's no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Blanche underscored that Trump was in the White House while Michael Cohen was being repaid, far removed from the Trump Organization offices where his invoices and checks were being processed. Trump signed the checks in the White House, but he was doing so because Cohen was performing legitimate legal services for him as his personal attorney, Blanche argued.

Defense concludes its questioning of Costello

After the fireworks over Robert Costello's testimony, Trump lawyer Emil Bove tried to get at one of the main reasons he said he called the attorney to the stand: to rebut any suggestion from prosecutors that Costello was part of an effort to arm-twist Michael Cohen to stay loyal to Donald Trump.

"Mr. Costello, did you ever put any pressure on Michael to do anything?" Bove asked.

Lauren Glassberg has the latest in Lower Manhattan on the trial.

"No," Costello testified. He said he considered Cohen a client and had only his interests, not Trump's, in mind during their interactions.

Trump appeared alert and engaged, his attention focused on the witness box, during Costello's testimony. When his attorneys finished their questions, he wrote a note on a piece of paper in front of him.

Costello admonished, Judge Merchan clears courtoom

Judge Merchan briefly ordered the court officers to "clear the courtroom" after he admonished Costello for not following proper courtroom decorum-- in an exchange that ultimately prompted Merchan to ask Costello "are you staring me down?"

During his testimony, Costello had uttered the words "ridiculous" or "jeez" after a number of rulings from Merchan, prompting Merchan to send the jury out of the room to admonish Costello.

"If you don't like my ruling, you don't say geez, you don't say strike it, because I'm the only one who can strike testimony in the court....you don't give me side eye and you don't roll your eyes."

Costello said he understood.

Then, Merchan abruptly said: "Are you staring me down?"

A furious Merchan then ordered the entire courtroom cleared out.

The feed has now just popped back up with Costello back on the stand and Trump in his seat. The courtroom is being filled again.

Background on Bob Costello

Michael Cohen testified that Bob Costello offered to represent him in April 2018 after the FBI raided his hotel and office.

According to Cohen, Costello boasted about his relationship with Rudy Giuliani and offered to create a "back channel" of communications to Trump during the federal investigation.

"He also stated to me that this would be a great way to have a back channel communication to the President in order to ensure that you're still good and that you're still secure," Cohen testified.

Jurors saw multiple emails between Cohen and Costello where he referenced the back channel to Trump.

"(Giuliani) asked me to tell you that he knows how tough this is on you and your family and he will make sure to tell the President. He said thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch," Costello said in an April 2018 email to Cohen.

"Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places," Costello wrote in another email. "P.S. Some very positive comments about you from the White House."

Cohen testified that Costello's communications and Trump's comments on social media in April 2018 reassured Cohen and reinforced his loyalty to Trump.

"It let me know that I was still important to the team and stay the course, that the President had my back." Cohen told jurors last week.

However, Cohen testified that he never trusted Costello - fearing that anything he told Costello would get back to Trump - and their relationship soured in June 2018 when Cohen began considering other attorneys.

Cohen told jurors that he lied to Costello in 2018 about Trump's involvement in the McDougal and Daniels' payments.

"I didn't trust him, meaning, Bob Costello, and I was still remaining loyal to Mr. Trump," Cohen testified.

Costello, a longtime Trump ally, testified before the grand jury in March 2023 as an exculpatory witness at the request of Trump's attorneys. Costello testified for about two-and-a-half hours about his interactions with Cohen, including Cohen "talking to us while pacing like a wild tiger" and vowing "to do whatever the f--- it takes" to avoid prison.

Costello told reporters last year that Cohen is "on the revenge tour" and cannot provide reliable testimony.

"I'm trying to tell the truth to the grand jury," Costello said. "If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, then so be it. Michael Cohen is not solid evidence."

Prosecution rests its case in Trump's hush money trial

The prosecution in Donald Trump's hush money trial rested its case shortly after 3 p.m. Monday following the conclusion of Michael Cohen's testimony.

Cohen concluded his testimony after nearly four full days on the witness stand. He looked in Trump's direction as he walked out of the courtroom before a court officer directed him down the aisle.

After Cohen left the room, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told Judge Juan M. Merchan: "Your honor, the people rest."

Cohen says he has 'no doubt' that Trump signed off on Daniels payment

Back on the witness stand Monday afternoon, Michael Cohen testified that he has "no doubt" that Donald Trump gave him a final sign-off to make the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. In total, he said he spoke with Trump more than 20 times about the matter in October 2016. Some conversations were brief, while others were longer, he said, adding that they happened both by phone and in person.

Prosecutors appear to be eliciting testimony from Cohen aimed at diminishing the importance of a single phone call, which defense attorneys contend was not about the Daniels payments, but about a teenage prank caller who had been harassing Cohen.

Defense objects to possible return of C-SPAN witness

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche on Monday objected to having a C-SPAN representative return to court after prosecutors floated it in their request to show a screenshot of an October 2016 video from the network.

Blanche argued that doing so will unnecessarily prolong Donald Trump's hush money trial. He added that prosecutors are on the verge of resting their case and that the defense may rest its case Monday, too.

The defense plans to call a campaign finance expert, a lawyer who offered to represent Cohen after the FBI raided his property in 2018, and a paralegal.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said he hopes to have Robert Browning, the executive director of the C-SPAN archives, back on the witness stand on Tuesday.

Attorney Robert Costello to take the stand as defense witness

During a bench conference before the resumption of testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial, defense lawyers said they would call attorney Robert Costello to the witness stand during their defense case.

In addition to Costello, defense lawyer Todd Blanche said potentially they would also call Bradley A. Smith and a paralegal.

Costello, whose well-publicized split from Michael Cohen was chronicled in testimony last week, was invited last year to appear before the grand jury that indicted Trump after asserting that he had information that undermined Cohen's credibility.

In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, he told reporters that he came forward to provide exculpatory information about Trump and to make clear that he did not believe Cohen - who pleaded guilty to federal crimes and served time in prison - could be trusted.

The move to call Costello is risky for the defense because it could open the door to additional testimony about what Cohen alleged was a strong-armed effort by the lawyer to keep him in line during the federal hush money investigation and to deter Cohen from cooperating with prosecutors after his home, office and hotel room were raided by the FBI in 2018.

Cohen says theft from Trump Org came after his annual bonus was cut

Michael Cohen's admitted theft from the Trump Organization came after his annual holiday bonus was slashed to $50,000 from the $150,000 he usually received, he testified on Monday.

Cohen said that Donald Trump owed technology firm Red Finch $50,000 for its work artificially boosting his standing in a CNBC online poll about famous businessmen.

Cohen said he'd paid the company's owner $20,000 in cash "to placate him for the time being" after Trump had gone months without paying the bill.

Cohen said he later sought reimbursement for the full amount at the same time he was seeking payment for the money he paid Stormy Daniels. He said he kept the difference instead of paying Red Finch as a way of making up for his reduced bonus.

"I was angered because of the reduction in the bonus and so I just felt like it was self-help," Cohen said.

Cohen paid to manipulate online poll

Michael Cohen testified on Monday that he shelled out money to a tech firm to help boost Donald Trump's performance in an online CNBC poll about the most famous businessmen of the last half-century.

At first, Trump was polling near the bottom "and it upset him," Cohen said during redirect. So Cohen reached out to Red Finch, who said they could create an algorithm that would get Trump's name "to rise and rise significantly" in the poll by acquiring IP addresses to cast phony votes.

He said Trump initially wanted to finish first, but the two decided that would be suspicious. Instead, they decided to settle for ninth. But Trump refused to pay the firm after CNBC decided to nix a second round of the poll featuring the top 10 names. Trump, Cohen testified, didn't feel he'd gotten his money's worth.

When he was later reimbursed by Allen Weisselberg to pay back Red Finch, Cohen kept the proceeds for himself - an act of deception that, Cohen admitted earlier in the day, amounted to stealing from the Trump Organization.

But describing his actions to the prosecutor, Cohen defended the move. "I felt it was almost like self-help," he said.

Prosecution begins redirect by asking about reimbursement

As prosecutor Susan Hoffinger began questioning Michael Cohen during redirect on Monday, she took aim at a point that Donald Trump's defense made during their questioning: that Cohen helped Trump and his family with some legal matters in 2017, when Cohen received $420,000 from the then-president.

The sum included reimbursement for the $130,000 that Cohen had paid Stormy Daniels, according to testimony and evidence at the hush money trial.

Prosecutors say the $420,000 in payments was deceptively logged as legal expenses to disguise the Daniels deal. Trump's defense says Cohen was indeed paid for legal work, so there was no cover-up.

Cohen testified that he never billed for the work he did for Trump and his family in 2017. When Hoffinger asked whether the $420,000 was related at all to those 2017 legal endeavors, Cohen answered, "No, ma'am."

Cohen admits he stole money from Trump Organization

Michael Cohen on Monday admitted that he stole from Donald Trump's company when he pocketed tens of thousands of dollars that was earmarked as a reimbursement for money he said he shelled out to a technology firm.

The Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen for the costs under the same arrangement as his repayment for the hush money payment he made to porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Cohen had claimed he shelled out $50,000 to the tech firm, Red Finch, but during cross-examination in Trump's criminal trial he testified that he gave a company executive just $20,000 in cash and never forked over the other $30,000 that was owed.

The Trump Organization repaid Cohen $50,000 and then doubled that payment in a practice known as "grossing up" to cover taxes he'd incur by declaring the money as income rather than a tax-free reimbursement.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche noted that despite Cohen's guilty pleas in 2018 to federal charges including a campaign finance violation for the hush money payment and unrelated tax evasion and bank fraud crimes, he'd never been charged with stealing from Trump's company.

"Have you paid back the Trump Organization the money you stole from them?"

"No, sir," Cohen responded.

Trump, who had been slouched back in his seat with his eyes closed for much of the testimony, looked directly at the witness stand as Cohen made the admission about stealing.

Eric Trump, Trump's son, who is in court, posted on X: "This just got interesting: Michael Cohen is now admitting to stealing money from our company."

Defense asks Cohen about 2 calls with Trump

After walking Michael Cohen through the personal business dealings and Donald Trump-related responsibilities he was juggling in the leadup to the Stormy Daniels payment, defense lawyer Todd Blanche pointedly asked about two key phone calls Cohen said he had with Trump.

"You do have a specific recollection that, on those two phone calls, you just talked about the Stormy Daniels deal - that's it?" Blanche asked.

Yes, Cohen said, because it was personally important to him. He was about to shell out $130,000 from his own account to keep Daniels from selling her story publicly.

"My recollection is that I was speaking to him about Stormy Daniels because that is what he tasked me to take care of and that's what I had been working on," Cohen added.

The charges against Trump - falsifying business records - center on the way he ultimately reimbursed Cohen for the Daniels payment. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Cohen's cross-examination continues

Donald Trump's hush money trial has entered its final stretch as the prosecution's star witness Michael Cohen returned to the stand Monday.

In his testimony last week, Cohen placed the former president directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Among other things, Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women's claims.

Monday's proceeding began with Judge Juan M. Merchan declining to broaden the scope of testimony from a potential defense witness. He echoed his pretrial ruling that the witness, if called, can give general background on the FEC - its purpose, background and the laws it enforces - and the definitions of such terms as "campaign contribution."

Defense attorneys resumed cross-examination of Cohen with questions about his interactions with reporters and a series of questions about his business dealings and other activities in the lead-up to the payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Prosecutors have said they will rest their case once Cohen's testimony concludes, though they could call rebuttal witnesses if Trump's lawyers call their own witnesses to the stand. The defense isn't obligated to call any witnesses, and it's unclear whether the attorneys will do so. It also remains unclear whether Trump will testify.

Merchan said earlier in the day that closing arguments could take place the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

The trial is in its 19th day.

Friday, May 17

Day off from trial for Barron's graduation

Michael Cohen - prosecutors' final witness, at least for now - is expected to return to the witness stand Monday. The trial will take Friday off so Trump can attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Barron.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office has said it will rest its case once Cohen is done on the stand, though it could have an opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses if Trump's lawyers put on witnesses of their own.

The defense isn't obligated to call any witnesses, and it's unclear whether the attorneys will do so. Trump's lawyers have said they may call Bradley A. Smith, a Republican who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the Federal Election Commission, to refute the prosecution's contention that the hush money payments amounted to campaign-finance violations. Defense lawyers said they have not decided whether Trump will testify.

Thursday, May 16

Judge is sorting out trial's final stretch

Before adjourning, Judge Juan Merchan noted the challenge of managing the trial schedule with myriad upcoming off days.

There's no court Friday so Trump can attend his son's high school graduation, and an upcoming four-day weekend for Memorial Day. Court is also not in session on Wednesdays.

Depending on how long the defense case goes, it's possible the trial could shift to closing arguments as early as Tuesday. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche has said he expects to finish the cross-examination of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday morning.

Merchan said he'd like to have both sides give their summations on the same day and could start court early or end late to accommodate that. Or, he said, they may have to spill into another day.

Then, before deliberations begin, Merchan will have to instruct and charge the jury. But the timing of that could be tricky, too, he said.

"It's not ideal for there to be a big lapse in time between summations and a jury charge," Merchan said.

Talks ongoing over potential testimony from finance law expert

With court adjourned and the jury gone for the day, legal arguments are ongoing about the parameters of potential testimony from a campaign finance law expert the defense wants to call as a witness.

Former President Donald Trump's lawyers have said they may call Bradley A. Smith, a former Bill Clinton-appointed Republican Federal Election Commission member, to refute the prosecution's contention that the hush money payments at issue in the trial amounted to campaign finance violations.

Prosecutors said they have their own campaign finance expert teed up as a potential expert witness if the defense ends up calling their expert to the stand.

Judge Juan Merchan said he would take some time this weekend to "digest both sets of submission further," but suggested the potential witness's testimony would be limited to very general background information.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said no decision has been made yet on whether Trump will testify in his own defense.

Trump is charged with felony counts of falsifying business records. In order to convict him, the jury must find that he improperly logged reimbursements to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and did so with the intent to commit or hide another crime. Among those other alleged crimes, prosecutors said, were campaign finance violations.

Cross-examination of Cohen will continue Monday.

Cohen previously characterized Stormy Daniels payment as extortion

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen acknowledged telling a former prosecutor that he felt porn actor Stormy Daniels and her then-lawyer Keith Davidson were extorting Trump in seeking a $130,000 payment to keep quiet about her claim of a sexual encounter with Trump.

Cohen raised the specter of extortion during a conversation with Mark Pomerantz, who had led the Manhattan district attorney's investigation of Trump before leaving the office in 2022.

"Yes, I recall making a statement like that ... that they were extorting Mr. Trump," Cohen testified.

"In your mind, there were two choices: pay or don't pay and the story comes out," defense lawyer Todd Blanche said.

"Yes, sir," Cohen replied.

In 2018, Trump decried Daniels' claims as "false and extortionist accusations."

In her testimony last week, Daniels denied trying to extort Trump, calling the allegation "false."

Defense grills Cohen on his secret recordings

Donald Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche suggested Michael Cohen breached legal ethics when he secretly recorded himself briefing Trump in September 2016 about an arrangement to buy the rights of former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story from the National Enquirer.

"You understand it's not ethical for a lawyer to record a conversation with their client," Blanche asked Cohen, who was Trump's personal lawyer at the time.

Cohen conceded it wasn't ethical, though he noted there were some exceptions - none of which applied in his case, he said. Cohen had testified that he made the recording so he could play it for the tabloid's publisher at the time, David Pecker, to prove Trump was going to make the deal happen.

"Just so I understand, you surreptitiously recorded your client so that you could play a privileged communication for a third party?" Blanche asked Cohen.

The witness agreed.

Cohen had a propensity to secretly record his conversations, though he said the September 2016 talk was the only one he recorded with Trump.

Blanche said many of Cohen's recordings - about 40 - involved conversations he had with news reporters. Sometimes, the people Cohen was talking to would ask him if he was recording them, and he denied it, Blanche said.

Asked if he recalled that, Cohen said, "It's not illegal in New York for one party."

"Mr. Cohen, I did not ask you if you were breaking the law," Blanche responded. "I just asked you if you were surreptitiously recording people."

The day's most heated moment

Donald Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche, before court broke for lunch Thursday in the former president's hush money trial, sought to unravel Michael Cohen's claim that he spoke by phone with Trump "to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it" just days before wiring her lawyer $130,000.

Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, testified earlier in the week that he called Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016, as a way of getting ahold of Trump because he knew he'd be with him.

But Blanche noted that at the time, Cohen was dealing with harassing phone calls and had exchanged text messages with the supposed harasser just before contacting Schiller. Blanche cited text message records showing Cohen messaged Schiller at 7:48 p.m. regarding the caller, who'd identified himself as a 14-year-old boy who'd promised not to do it again.

"Who can I speak to about harassing calls to my cell and office," Cohen wrote to Schiller.

Blanche then cited phone records showing Schiller calling Cohen and leaving a voicemail at 8:01 p.m., followed by a text message stating, "call me," at 8:02 p.m. Cohen then called Schiller's number. The conversation lasted one minute and 36 seconds, phone records show.

Blanche said Cohen's claim that he was talking to Trump about the Daniels deal "was a lie because you were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about getting harassing phone calls from a 14-year-old."

"Part of it was about the phone calls, but I knew that Keith was with Mr. Trump at the time, and it was more than potentially just this," Cohen responded.

Blanche, his voice growing louder, was incredulous. After hours of slow and halting questioning, he spoke at a rapid clip as his voice rose to a new octave with a note of disbelief.

"You had enough time in that one minute and 36 seconds to update Mr. Schiller about all the problems you were having with this harassing phone call and also update President Trump on the status of the Stormy Daniels situation?"

Cohen responded that was his belief, based on records he was able to review that he said have refreshed his memory.

"Yes, I believe I was telling the truth."

"We are not asking for your belief. This jury does not want to hear what you think happened," Blanche said, even louder, prompting an objection from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

Defense argues Cohen had White House ambitions

The defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial sought Thursday to undermine Michael Cohen's repeated contention that he had no aspirations to work in the White House following Trump's election victory.

"The truth is, Mr. Cohen, you really wanted to work in the White House, correct?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked. "No sir," Cohen replied.

Blanche then referred to a series of text messages, first presented by prosecutors earlier in the week, showing private conversations he'd had in November 2016. In one message, Cohen texted his daughter that he still had a shot of becoming the president's chief of staff. Another shows Cohen telling a friend that she could serve as his assistant once he gets the position.

Reiterating his previous testimony, Cohen said that while he may have wanted to be considered as chief of staff for "ego reasons," he was seeking a role as personal attorney to the president.

"I don't think you're characterizing this correctly at all," Cohen said. "My conversations with my daughter, I wanted a hybrid position where I would still have access to President Trump but I would not be a White House employee."

What Congressional members are doing in court

Some of the lawmakers who accompanied Donald Trump to court Thursday sat in the front two rows, directly behind the former president, while others were relegated to the back of the gallery because there wasn't enough room in the rows reserved for the Trump's entourage.

Those in the front row at Trump's hush money trial appeared to look at their phones for large chunks of the morning, rather than up at the proceedings.

Earlier in the week, the former president's squad of supporters mostly donned Trump's favored look of a navy suit and red tie, a display of solidarity.

Trump himself wore the look Thursday, as did Reps. Matt Gaetz, Eli Crane and Andy Ogles. But others showed more color. Rep. Andy Biggs opted for a light gray suit, while Rep. Michael Waltz chose a bright turquoise tie.

At one point, when Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche was discussing one of Michael Cohen's past appearances before Congress, he drew a chuckle from some of the House members when he observed: "When congressmen ask you questions they tend to go on and on."

Biggs flashed a knowing grin.

Defense, Cohen quarrel over lies

Donald Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche on Thursday pushed Michael Cohen, repeatedly and emphatically, on his admission that he lied when pleading guilty to some federal charges, including tax fraud, before Judge William Pauley.

Cohen - Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, being cross-examined in the ex-president's hush money trial - does not dispute the bulk of the defense's characterizations, though he has couched some of his answers in legalistic terms. Blanche appeared intent on connecting the words "lie" and "lying" to Cohen as often as possible.

In one exchange, Blanche asked Cohen if he agreed "that when you plead guilty to a crime and you're lying, that's not accepting responsibility for your conduct?"

After Cohen expressed ambivalence, Blanche continued, "You lied, you lied to the judge when you pleaded guilty," adding: "Do you think Judge Pauley would have liked to know that you lied to him?"

Cohen initially said he wasn't sure, before conceding the point. "I am certain he would have," he said.

The court soon after broke for its morning recess. Trump, who had been sitting placidly with his arms folded across his chest, flashed a thumbs up as he left the courtroom after a reporter asked, "How's Todd doing?"

Defense focuses on Cohen's previous under-oath lies

Donald Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche grilled Michael Cohen on Thursday at the former president's hush money trial about Cohen's 2018 guilty plea to federal charges, including for lying to Congress about a Trump Tower Moscow project.

As he did when pleading guilty, Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, conceded on the witness stand that he lied to two congressional committees about his contacts with Russian officials. He also said he lied when he said he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never discussed with Trump plans to travel to Moscow to support it.

"Just related to that issue, you lied under oath, correct?" Blanche asked.

"Yes sir," Cohen said.

Blanche dug at Cohen's motivations for the admitting to prior lies to Congress. Blanche noted that Cohen has repeatedly said he lied out of loyalty to Trump.

Cohen went on to testify that he does accept responsibility for what he did.

Cross-examination of Cohen resumes

Prosecutors' star witness in the hush money case against Donald Trump was back in the hot seat Thursday as defense lawyers tried to chip away at Michael Cohen's crucial testimony implicating the former president.

The trial resumed in Manhattan with potentially explosive defense cross-examination of Cohen, whose credibility could determine the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's fate in the case.

Cohen is prosecutors' final witness - at least for now - as they try to prove Trump schemed to suppress a damaging story he feared would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign, and then falsified business records to cover it up.

The trial is in its 18th day. The defense is not expected to call many witnesses.

Cohen's credibility questioned by defense at trial

With prosecutors' hush money case against Donald Trump barreling toward its end, their star witness will be back in the hot seat Thursday as defense lawyers try to chip away at Michael Cohen's crucial testimony implicating the former president.

The trial, now in its fourth week of testimony, will resume in Manhattan with potentially explosive defense cross-examination of Cohen, whose credibility could determine the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's fate in the case.

Cohen is prosecutors' final witness - at least for now - as they try to prove Trump schemed to suppress a damaging story he feared would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign and then falsified business records to cover it up.

With the defense not expected to call many witnesses, Cohen's cross-examination is a pivotal moment for Trump's team, who must convince jurors that his once loyal attorney and fixer can't be believed. The defense has suggested that Cohen is on a mission to take down the former president and will say whatever he needs to put Trump behind bars.

Over two days on the witness stand, Cohen placed Trump directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women's claims.

Tuesday, May 14

Defense questions Cohen on past praise for Trump

Todd Blanche, an attorney for Donald Trump in his hush money trial, questioned the former president's ex-fixer Michael Cohen on when the devotion he had to Trump began declining.

Cohen said it was around the time he gave an interview to ABC News anchor George Stephanapolous in July 2018 - about two months before he pleaded guilty to federal charges. In the interview, conducted off-camera, Cohen suggested his loyalty to Trump had waned. He told Stephanapolous: "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first."

Cohen struck a similar sentiment Tuesday, testifying that his family told him to reconsider his loyalty to Trump after the FBI raided his property in April 2018. He says he came away from the conversation thinking "that it was about time to listen to them."

Blanche focused his questions on the lavish praise Cohen had for Trump when he served as his personal fixer.

Blanche asked Cohen if he had admired Trump and saw himself in him, and whether he saw the businessman as an ambitious, hardworking and innovative man. Cohen affirmed.

Blanche then asked Cohen if he had said in his 2020 memoir "Disloyal" that he was "obsessed" with Trump. Cohen said he couldn't recall having said that.

The defense attorney tried to get Cohen to square his over-the-top praise for his former boss with his stance now. As he continued to press, Cohen appeared at times to get irritated with an edge in his voice, saying several times of his past comments: "That's how I felt."

"At the time I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump," Cohen said at one point.

Cohen's cross-examination gets off to a tense start

The cross-examination of Michael Cohen got off to a predictably tense start when Todd Blanche, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, noted that though he and Cohen had never met before, that didn't stop Cohen from going on TikTok last month, after the trial had begun, and referring to him as a "crying little (expletive)."

Cohen responded: "Sounds like something I would say," prompting laughter in the courtroom.

After a prosecutor's objection, the judge summoned the attorneys to the bench and the entire question was stricken.

Cohen's cross-examination was proceeding in stop-and-start fashion thanks in part to frequent objections from the prosecution team.

Cohen will be last witness called by the prosecution

Before court resumed for the day, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the judge that Donald Trump's former laywer, Michael Cohen, would be the prosecution's last witness.

Steinglass made the disclosure during a sidebar conversation out of earshot of reporters but recorded in the official transcript.

Trump's fixer-turned-foe returned to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying in detail about how the former president was linked to all aspects of the hush money scheme prosecutors say was an illegal effort to purchase and then bury stories that threatened his 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen told jurors he lied to Congress during an investigation into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to protect Trump. He also described for jurors the April 2018 raid by law enforcement on his apartment, law firm, a hotel room where he stayed and a bank where he stashed valuables.

Cohen's life after prison and disbarment

Donald Trump's lawyers will get a chance Tuesday to question his former lawyer Michael Cohen on cross-examination in the ex-president's criminal hush money trial following a lunch break.

Before he concluded his initial testimony prior to the break, Cohen shared how he makes money now that he has served prison time and been disbarred.

Cohen said he's working now predominantly in "media and entertainment" - specifically on two podcasts on which he is frequently critical of Trump.

Cohen tried to downplay his shows' focus on Trump, testifying that "Mea Culpa" and another one he hosts on the liberal MeidasTouch network talked about the "news of the day."

"Among other topics, do you frequently discuss Mr. Trump?" prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked.

"I do," he said, his eyes shifting around.

Hoffinger also asked Cohen about two books he wrote: "Disloyal," which he described as a memoir he wrote in prison, and "Revenge," which he said was about the "weaponization" of the Justice Department against a critic of the president, referring to himself.

Cohen also testified having Stormy Daniels, the woman at the center of the hush money case, on a podcast at one point.

"I thought it would be a good time to speak to her and to 'Mea Culpa,' and to apologize," he testified.

Cohen said it was the first time he spoke with Daniels. He invited her on a podcast a second time later on.

Court upholds gag order against Trump

A New York appeals court on Tuesday upheld a gag order that bars Donald Trump from making statements against certain people connected to his criminal hush money trial, including witnesses and the judge's daughter.

The court found that Judge Juan M. Merchan "properly determined" that Trump's public statements "posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses."

Trump had asked the state's intermediate appeals court to lift or modify the gag order, which bars him from commenting publicly about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case, including the judge's family and prosecutors other than District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

A message seeking comment was left with a lawyer for Trump.

Specifically, according to the ruling, Trump challenged restrictions on his ability to comment about Matthew Colangelo, a former Justice Department official who is a part of the prosecution team, and Merchan's daughter, the head of a consulting firm that has worked for Trump's rival Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates.

At an emergency hearing last month, just days before the trial started, Trump's lawyers argued the gag order is an unconstitutional curb on the presumptive Republican nominee's free speech rights while he's campaigning for president and fighting criminal charges.

Cohen describes decision to turn against Trump

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen described at the ex-president's hush money trial Tuesday how his family persuaded him to finally turn against Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in April 2018.

Amid conversations with lawyers, including one connected to Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani, Cohen said his wife and two children made him see how sticking by Trump was detrimental.

"My family, my wife, my daughter, my son, all said to me, 'Why are you holding onto this loyalty? What are you doing? We're supposed to be your first loyalty," Cohen testified.

Cohen says he came away from the conversation thinking "that it was about time to listen to them" and show loyalty "to my wife, my son, my daughter and my country."

Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to federal charges involving the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and other, unrelated crimes and served time in federal prison. Trump bashed him on social media, writing: "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!"

Cohen testified that the tweet helped make him feel abandoned by Trump and his associates.

"It caused a lot of angst, anxiety," Cohen testified.

Cohen: 'It was Mr. Donald J. Trump himself'

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified Tuesday that a February 2018 statement he released about a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels was purposely misleading.

The statement declared, "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction." Cohen says it was "a true statement but it's deceptive. It's misleading."

Cohen said it was because it was neither the Trump Organization nor the campaign that was a part of the transaction, but the revocable trust.

"It was Mr. Donald J. Trump himself," Cohen said.

He said he made the misleading statement "in order to protect Mr. Trump, to stay on message."

Cohen testifies to crafting Daniels' hush money deal

After The Wall Street Journal reported in 2018 that Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen had arranged a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels, Cohen testified Tuesday that he felt a second, official statement from Daniels would put an end to the story once and for all.

Cohen testified at Trump's trial that he'd heard Daniels was planning to go on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show and contacted Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented Daniels in the hush money deal, about issuing a statement.

The day of Daniels' appearance, she issued a statement again denying a sexual encounter with Trump and reiterating that she had not been paid "hush money" to deny the claim.

Cohen testified that he knew the statement was false because he had helped craft it, and that he knew the payment had been made because he had paid it.

Throughout Cohen's testimony Tuesday, Trump reclined back in his chair with his eyes closed and his head tilted to the side.

Cohen: Work picked up after Daniels went public

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen said on the witness stand Tuesday at the former president's hush money trial that he did only "minimal" work for Trump in 2017 and didn't send an invoice because it wasn't enough to require payment.

The case concerned a lawsuit against Trump, later dropped, from Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," who alleged she'd been defamed. But he said work for Trump picked up in 2018. That was after porn actor Stormy Daniels went public about her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump.

"As as result of the Stormy Daniels matter and her electing to go public, Mr. Trump wanted an action to be filed" for breach of a nondisclosure agreement, Cohen said.

Cohen said he was contacted by Trump and son Eric Trump about how to go forward. Eric Trump was running day-to-day operations at the Trump Organization while his father was in the White House. Again, though, Cohen said he did not bill for the work.

Cohen earlier admitted on the stand that he lied to Congress during an investigation into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger appeared to be trying to take the sting out of an expected cross-examination likely to delve in detail into Cohen's past lies, but also to paint Cohen to the jury as a loyalist whose crimes were committed on Trump's behalf.

Trump signed the checks, Cohen testifies

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger talked Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen through the reimbursement process in the former president's hush money trial Tuesday.

Her method was an attempt to show jurors what prosecutors say was a month-by-month deception to mask the true purpose of the payments.

Cohen repeatedly read through the description on each check stub, and Hoffinger repeatedly asked him if the description on the check was false, which he affirmed. She then asked him if he recognized the thick, slashing signature on the check.

"Whose signature is it?" Hoffinger asked repeatedly.

"Donald J. Trump," Cohen said each time.

As Cohen testified, Trump leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed, sitting extremely still.

Cohen says invoice was false

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified Tuesday in the ex-president's hush money trial that an invoice for "services rendered" was a false record.

Jurors were shown 2017 correspondence between Cohen and Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization controller at the time who testified earlier in the trial as a prosecution witness.

In one email, dated Feb. 14, 2017, with the subject line "$$," Cohen asked McConney to have monthly checks for January and February made payable to him. McConney then asked for invoices so he could have the checks cut.

The invoices said for "services rendered" for January and February, but Cohen said that it was not a truthful statement that there had been "services rendered" for those months or that he had been working on a retainer fee.

"Was this invoice a false record?" asked prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

"Yes, ma'am," Cohen responded.

Cohen describes Oval Office discussion

Returning to the witness stand Tuesday, Michael Cohen testified that he discussed the hush money repayment plan with Donald Trump in the Oval Office when he visited the White House in February 2017.

"I was sitting with President Trump and he asked me if I was OK," Cohen told jurors. "He asked me if I needed money, and I said, 'All good,' because I can get a check."

Cohen testified that Trump then told him, "OK, make sure you deal with Allen," a reference to then-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, and that a check for his January and February payments was forthcoming.

Under Cohen's reimbursement arrangement, he was paid $35,000 per month for 12 months, for a total of $420,000.

During the same White House visit, Cohen posed for a picture at the lectern in the press briefing room. The photo, extracted by prosecutors from Cohen's iPhone, was shown in court.

Speaker Johnson to address 'sham'

Former President Donald Trump walked into court just before 9 a.m. Tuesday for another day of testimony from his fixer-turned-foe, Michael Cohen.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, second in the line of succession to the president, traveled with Trump in his motorcade in a politically stunning and significant show of Republican support.

Johnson is using his powerful pulpit to attack the U.S. judicial system, criticizing the courts as biased against the former president. The speaker claims the case is politically motivated by Democrats and insists Trump has done "nothing wrong."

It's a remarkable, if not unprecedented, moment in modern American politics to have the powerful House speaker, a constitutional officer, turn his political party against the U.S. system and rule of law by declaring a trial illegitimate.

Johnson's team announced he planned to address media later in the morning "outside of the ongoing sham prosecution of President Trump."

Cohen to face cross-examination

Donald Trump's fixer-turned-foe awaits a bruising round of questioning from the former president's lawyers on Tuesday after testimony that linked the celebrity client to all aspects of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was aimed at stifling stories that threatened his 2016 campaign.

Michael Cohen returns to the stand Tuesday as the prosecution's star witness, where a day earlier he delivered matter-of-fact testimony that went to the heart of the former president's trial.

"Everything required Mr. Trump's sign-off," Cohen said.

He placed Trump at the center of the hush money scheme, saying he had promised to reimburse money the lawyer had fronted for the payments and was constantly apprised of the behind-the-scenes efforts to bury stories feared to be harmful to the campaign.

"We need to stop this from getting out," Cohen quoted Trump as telling him in reference to porn actor Stormy Daniels' account of a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. The then-candidate was especially anxious about how the story would affect his standing with female voters.

A similar episode occurred when Cohen alerted Trump that a Playboy model was alleging that she and Trump had an extramarital affair. "Make sure it doesn't get released," was Cohen's message to Trump, the lawyer said. The woman, Karen McDougal, was paid $150,000 in an arrangement that was made after Trump received a "complete and total update on everything that transpired."

"What I was doing, I was doing at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump," Cohen testified.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and has denied both sexual encounters.

Monday, May 13

Cohen hides hush-money payment from his wife

Michael Cohen, the prosecution's star witness in Donald Trump's hush-money trial, said he agreed to front the money to pay off Stormy Daniels but had to hide the payment from his wife.

Daniels needed to be paid to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump, who was running for the White House in 2016. She told jurors last week that she received $130,000.

To get the money for the payment, Cohen testified that he decided to take out a home equity line of credit, in part because the bank would send him updates electronically, rather than to his home, keeping his wife out of the loop.

Cohen said that before he went to First Republic Bank to open up the account that would be used to pay Daniels, he talked to Trump to let him know the plan.

"Everything required Mr. Trump's sign off," Cohen testified. "On top of that, I wanted the money back."

On Oct. 27, 2016 - less than two weeks before the 2016 election - Cohen finalized the payments to buy Daniels' story. Immediately, he went to Trump to inform him the deal was done.

Cohen testifies about payment to Stormy Daniels

In afternoon testimony at Donald Trump's hush-money trial, Michael Cohen said he used the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur - the day of atonement - as one of many excuses to delay completing a deal with Stormy Daniels.

Daniels told jurors last week that the $130,000 she received was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier. Trump worried that the story could hurt his 2016 campaign for the White House.

Cohen testified that Trump implored him to delay finalizing the transaction and paying Daniels until after election day so he wouldn't have to pay her.

With the story about to come out, Cohen said Trump told him to finally pay up.

"He expressed to me: just do it," Cohen testified, saying Trump advised him to meet with CFO Allen Weisselberg and figure it out. Weisselberg balked at paying, however, so Cohen decided to come up with the money himself.

"I ultimately said, 'Ok, I'll pay it,'" Cohen testified.

Cohen, 57, worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017 as Trump's lawyer and fixer. After once proudly proclaimed he'd "take a bullet" for his boss, he broke with Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018.

Trump approved payments to kill negative stories, Cohen testifies

Michael Cohen's testimony in Donald Trump's hush-money trial has implicated the former president in efforts to buy and then suppress news stories about sex that he feared could hurt his 2016 White House campaign.

"You handle it," Cohen quoted Trump as telling him after learning that a doorman had come forward with a false claim that Trump had fathered a child out-of-wedlock. The Trump Tower doorman was paid $30,000 to keep the story out of the press.

A similar episode occurred after Cohen alerted Trump that Playboy model Karen McDougal had alleged that she and Trump had an extramarital affair. Cohen said Trump ordered him to "make sure it doesn't get released."

As he worked to secure funding for the $150,000 payment, Cohen said he received guidance from Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump Organization's CFO.

"Allen then said to me, if we do it from a Trump entity that kind of defeats the purpose because the point is not to have the Trump name affiliated with this at all," Cohen said he was told.

The conversation with Weisselberg happened right after he briefed Trump about the deal to acquire McDougal's story from the National Enquirer, Cohen testified.

Cohen describes how he worked to quash story about alleged affair with Playboy model

Michael Cohen, called to the stand by the prosecution in Donald Trump's hush-money trial in Manhattan, testified he went to Trump immediately after the National Enquirer alerted him to a story being peddled that alleged Trump had had an affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen recalled going to Trump's office, asking Trump if he knew McDougal or anything about the story.

Cohen said Trump then told him to make sure that the story doesn't get released.

Cohen said he communicated regularly with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and editor Dylan Howard to stop the story from getting out. He said the tabloid executives updated him regularly on their discussions and that he kept Trump apprised of developments.

Cohen said he thought the story would have a "significant" impact on Trump's presidential campaign if it became publish.

The McDougal news came on the heels of the National Enquirer paying $30,000 to squash a doorman's false rumor about Trump having a child out of wedlock.

Cohen testifies about how tabloid offered to help Trump

Michael Cohen, who is testifying for the prosecution in Donald Trump's hush-money trial in Manhattan, offered his side of an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower where former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he'd offered to look out for negative stories before they were published.

Cohen testified that Pecker offered to publish positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents. He said the publisher also offered to "keep an eye out for anything negative about Mr. Trump and that he would be able to help us know in advance what was coming out and try and stop it from coming out."

Cohen said he was seeking to harness the power of the National Enquirer to Trump's benefit, given its high visibility next to the cash registers at tens of thousands of supermarkets across the U.S.

Cohen also testified about his role in brokering a deal to buy a potentially damaging story - which claimed, falsely, that Trump had a child out of wedlock - from a Trump Tower doorman in order "to take it off the market."

Cohen, 57, worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017 as Trump's lawyer and fixer. Cohen broke with Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018. He has been a fierce critic ever since.

Michael Cohen set to take stand

The fourth week of witness testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial could be a doozy: Michael Cohen is expected to finally take the stand on Monday.

The long-anticipated testimony from Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer would follow a breathtaking buildup by prosecutors of a case that ultimately hinges on record-keeping. Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments that Cohen made as part of efforts to buy and bury stories that might hurt the former president's 2016 campaign.

Text messages, audio recordings, notes and more have all been introduced or shown to jurors in recent weeks to illustrate what prosecutors say was a scheme to illegally influence the election that year. And sometimes dramatic testimony from witnesses that included former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, ex-Trump staffers and porn actor Stormy Daniels added to the intrigue.

The prosecution could wrap its case this week after telling the judge on Friday that they expected to call just two more witnesses.

The trial is in its 16th day.

Friday, May 10

Could Weisselberg make an appearance after all?

After the jury in Donald Trump's criminal trial left for the day Friday, Judge Juan M. Merchan took up an issue related to Allen Weisselberg's absence from the trial, where he's been mentioned as a key figure in orchestrating reimbursement payments to ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Weisselberg, 76, is currently jailed at New York City's Rikers Island complex, serving a five-month sentence for lying under oath in his testimony in the state attorney general's civil fraud investigation of Trump. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced last month. His plea agreement does not require his cooperation or testimony in the criminal case.

Prosecutors weren't planning to call Weisselberg as a witness, but Merchan encouraged them to see if they can get him to court before seeking to introduce evidence to explain his absence.

"Right now it's seems to me we're trying to jump the gun. We're trying to explain why he's not here without making any effort to get him here," Merchan said.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove noted that his absense "is a very complicated issue" and may require a jury instruction about uncalled witnesses.

The reason Mr. Weisselberg is not available as a witness is that the district attorney's office "initiated a perjury prosecution in the lead up to this case," Bove said.

Prosecutors argued that subpoenaing Weisselberg to testify would probably be a waste because he remains loyal to Trump and would likely invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"If counsel prefers, we'd be willing to stipulate that Weisselberg is in jail for perjury," Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy responded.

"I think that would be one way to resolve it," Merchan said before expressing his desire for prosecutors to first see if they could summon Weisselberg to court.

Paralegal's testimony involves recording played earlier in trial

Jaden Jarmel-Schneider's testimony in Donald Trump's hush money case involves a key recording that was played in court earlier in the trial, which appears to show Trump and Michael Cohen discussing the payments made to Karen McDougal to bury her story of an alleged affair. Trump's attorneys have suggested Cohen doctored the recording, citing the fact that it cuts off abruptly.

Records show Cohen received a phone call about 22 seconds after the recording was cut off, according to Jarmel-Schneider's testimony. Prosecutors seemed to be eliciting the testimony to back up their claim that the recording wasn't edited, but was instead cut short after Cohen received an incoming call.

In a moment that enlivened a rather staid day of testimony, Trump attorney Emil Bove asked Jarmel-Schneider about the "tedious" work of going painstakingly through lengthy phone, data and other records and preparing charts from them.

"Actually, I kind of enjoyed it," the paralegal said matter-of-factly, to chuckles from the courtroom audience.

"Respect," Bove replied.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to scrutinize some papers on the table in front of him, as he had for much of the courtroom day.

Paralegal from Manhattan DA's officer returns to stand

Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal at the Manhattan district attorney's office who previously testified about procuring social media posts and other publicly available evidence, returned to the witness stand in Donald Trump's criminal trial on Friday.

During testimony in Donald Trump's criminal trial on Friday, Longstreet read into the record text messages chronicling months of discussions in 2016 between Stormy Daniels' manager Gina Rodriguez and then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard about Daniels' claim that she had once had sex with Trump.

The texts include a back-and-forth on Oct. 8, 2016, the day after Trump's infamous "Access Hollywood" tape leaked.

Rodriguez tells Howard she's aware of an offer of $250,000 for Daniels' story and that ABC's "Good Morning America" and the Daily Mail are interested in interviewing her. The next day, text messages show, Rodriguez and Howard haggled over a price for the National Enquirer to acquire the rights to Daniels' story, finally settling on $120,000.

Rather than the tabloid making the deal, Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen ended up paying Daniels $130,000 - a higher price to add compensation for a lawyer who negotiated on her behalf. The text messages add another dimension to the negotiations, which were previously discussed in testimony by former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and others.

AT&T and Verizon employees take the stand

Daniel Dixon, an AT&T employee was called to the stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial Friday morning following the conclusion of former White House aide Madeleine Westerhout's testimony.

Dixon will be authenticating some records.

AT&T records witness Daniel Dixon finished his testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial mid-morning Friday. Continuing the phone-records theme among records, Verizon worker Jennie Tomalin was called next and was expected to also testify to authenticate various phone records.

Trump often signed checks without looking at them, former aide says

Guided by Donald Trump's defense attorney, Madeleine Westerhout on Friday painted the former president as a frequent multitasker who spent large chunks of his days signing documents, sometimes without even looking at them.

"Commissions, proclamations, executive orders, memos, letters," Westerhout recalled. She said that she sometimes saw Trump put his signature to checks without reviewing them.

Still, Trump avoided using automated means of signing paperwork.

"He felt that if someone was getting his signature, they deserved his real signature, right?" Necheles asked, before a prosecution objection cut off Westerhout's answer.

Westerhout details process through which Trump received personal mail

A dry but important part of Madeleine Westerhout's testimony concerned the process by which Donald Trump received personal mail - including checks to sign - while in the White House.

It's relevant because that's how he got and signed the checks that reimbursed Michael Cohen for his $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

Westerhout's testimony and others have established that his company's staff sent the materials to an aide - at first his longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller - at their homes. Then the items would be brought to the White House, where Westerhout would bring them to Trump and send the checks them back.

Under questioning from Trump lawyer Susan Necheles, Westerhout testified Friday that the packages were sent to aides directly because it took items a long time to percolate through the White House mail system.

Under additional redirect questioning by prosecutor Becky Mangold, Westerhout denied that Trump's roundabout mail arrangement was an "end run around the White House security protocols," but rather a way to "get things to him fast."

But, Westerhout acknowledged that such letters and packages wouldn't have gone through the normal White House security screenings.

Michael Cohen expects to testify next week

The third week of testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial draws to a close Friday after jurors heard the dramatic, if not downright seamy, account of porn actor Stormy Daniels, while prosecutors gear up for their most crucial witness: Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney.

Sources tell ABC News that Cohen is expected to testify on Monday.

Daniels' story of an alleged sexual encounter with Trump was a crucial building block for prosecutors, who are seeking to show that the Republican and his allies buried unflattering stories in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential election in an effort to illegally influence the race.

Trump, who denies the sexual encounter ever happened, walked out of the court in a rage Thursday, angrily telling reporters, "I'm innocent." His attorneys pushed for a mistrial over the level of tawdry details Daniels went into on the witness stand, but Judge Juan M. Merchan denied the request.

Over more than 7 hours of testimony, Daniels relayed in graphic detail what she says happened after the two met at a celebrity golf outing at Lake Tahoe where sponsors included the adult film studio where she worked. Daniels explained how she felt surprise, fear and discomfort, even as she consented to sex with Trump.

During combative cross-examination, Trump's lawyers sought to paint Daniels as a liar and extortionist who's trying to take down the former president after drawing money and fame from her claims. Trump attorney Susan Necheles pressed Daniels on why she accepted the payout to keep quiet instead of going public, and the two women traded barbs over what Necheles said were inconsistencies in Daniels' story over the years.

"You made all this up, right?" Necheles asked Daniels.

"No," Daniels shot back.

The defense has sought to show that the hush money payments made on his behalf were an effort to protect his reputation and family - not his campaign - by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life.

After Daniels stepped down from the stand Thursday, Trump's attorneys pressed the judge to amend the gag order that prevents him from talking about witnesses in the case so he could publicly respond to what she told jurors. The judge denied that request too.

This is all before Trump and jurors are faced with Cohen, who arranged a $130,000 payout to Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges and went to prison for his role in the hush money scheme.

Thursday, May 9

Stacks of checks were sent to the White House for Trump to sign

Earlier Thursday, Trump Organization executive assistant Rebecca Manochio testified about her practice of sending batches of unsigned checks to the White House via FedEx for Donald Trump to sign from his personal account.

Westerhout provided the White House perspective on that arrangement, recounting how Trump would receive packages about twice a month - some containing one check and others with a stack about a half-inch thick. The checks were often attached to invoices stating what the payment was for.

After signing the checks, Westerhout said Trump would give them back to her and she'd sent them back to the Trump Organization using a prelabeled FedEx envelope.

At times, Westerhout said Trump would sometimes pull aside a check and ask for more information before signing. In those instances, she said she remembered Trump calling the company's then-chief finance chief "Allen Weisselberg or someone else in the Trump Organization to ask for clarification."

Manochio had testified earlier that, to her knowledge, Trump didn't speak to Weisselberg once he became president.

Ex-director of Oval Office operations takes the stand

Prosecutors in Donald Trump's hush money trial called Madeleine Westerhout - Trump's personal secretary from 2017 to 2019 and the former director of Oval Office Operations for the Trump White House from February to August 2019 - to the stand Thursday afternoon.

Before going to the White House, Westerhout worked for the Republican National Committee. She was there when Trump's infamous "Access Hollywood" tape was made public weeks before the 2016 election.

She recalled, in testimony, the tape "rattling RNC leadership" and that "there were conversations about how it would be possible to replace him as the candidate if it came to that."

After Trump won the 2016 election, Westerhout and others from the RNC began working frequently in Trump Tower to aid the transition. And late that year, she said, her boss asked whether she had any interest in working right outside the Oval Office.

"I said, 'Yes, I would. That sounds like a really cool job,'" she recalled with a smile.

Trump book publisher testifies

Tracey Menzie, a senior vice president of with HarperCollins Publishers, was briefly called to the witness stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial Thursday afternoon. HarperCollins published "Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life," a 2007 book by Trump and entrepreneur Bill Zanker.

Prosecutor Becky Mangold began questioning by having Menzie read some sections of the book specifically attributed to Trump.

Those passages discuss how he values "loyalty above everything else," punished a "disloyal" person by going "out of my way to make her life miserable" and espoused as a motto: "Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades."

Trump Organization bookkeeper takes stand

Following roughly four minutes of cross-examination after a lunch break Thursday afternoon, Rebecca Manochio finished giving testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial.

Manochio, a junior bookkeeper at the Trump Organization at the time Donald Trump was president, was responsible for sending unsigned checks for him to sign at the White House for his personal expenses.

Manochio confirmed previous testimony that Trump was the only person authorized to sign checks for his personal account and that he was not involved in signing any checks for his business because those assets had been put into a revocable trust while he was president. His son Donald Trump Jr. and then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg had authority to sign checks for the business.

Defense to renew call for a mistrial

Before breaking for lunch, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told Judge Juan M. Merchan that the defense plans to renew its call for a mistrial in the hush money case based on Stormy Daniels' testimony.

Blanche also said they will seek to prevent former Playboy model Karen McDougal from testifying and that they will make further arguments about the gag order that bars Donald Trump from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case.

Merchan said he would send the jury home at 4 p.m. and subsequently take up the defense's arguments.

Daniels acknowledges she never spoke to Trump about the hush money payment

Stormy Daniels testified Thursday that she never spoke with Donald Trump about the $130,000 hush money payment she received from Michael Cohen and had no knowledge of whether Trump was aware of or involved in the transaction.

"You have no personal knowledge about his involvement in that transaction or what he did or didn't do," Trump lawyer Susan Necheles asked.

"Not directly, no," Daniels responded.

Upon further questioning, Daniels noted that she didn't negotiate directly with Cohen, either, but that her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson did.

Necheles used the questions in the final moments of her cross-examination to underscore that Daniels does not know of any of the allegations underlying Trump's charges in the case, that he falsified his company's records to hide the true nature of reimbursement payments to Cohen.

Necheles asked Daniels if she was aware of what Trump had been indicted for, producing an uncomfortable answer that the lawyer wanted stricken from the record. Her answer: "There's a lot of indictments."

Daniels went on to say that she knew the charges involved business records, but when asked if she knew anything about Trump's business records, she acknowledged: "I know nothing about his business records. No. Why would I?"

Daniels insists her story has not changed

Before a morning break in Donald Trump's hush money trial, Stormy Daniels pushed back on suggestions by the defense that her story about their alleged sexual encounter has changed over time.

Daniels testified earlier this week that while she wasn't physically menaced, she felt a "power imbalance" as Trump, in his hotel bedroom, stood between her and the door and propositioned her.

As for whether she felt compelled to have sex with him, she reiterated Thursday that he didn't drug her or physically threaten her.

But, she said, "My own insecurities, in that moment, kept me from saying no."

Trump denies any sexual encounter happened.

Several times, defense lawyer Susan Necheles accused Daniels of altering the details of her story over time, saying at one point: "Your story has completely changed."

Daniels insisted it has not. "You're trying to make me say that it changed, but it hasn't changed at all."

Trump's lawyer tries to poke holes in Daniels' testimony

Defense lawyer Susan Necheles tried to show during cross-examination on Thursday that details from Stormy Daniels' story of meeting Donald Trump in 2006 have changed over time, pointing to a 2011 interview in which she said the two talked "before, during and after" dinner in his hotel room, though she testified earlier this week that they never got any food.

Daniels rebuffed the idea that there was a discrepancy: saying that what she meant was that they talked during dinnertime but that she never said they actually got food, to her frustration, as she's "very food-motivated."

"I've maintained that in every interview - that we never actually ate," she said during an extended exchange on the dinner details, and explained: "Having dinner, at least from where I'm from, doesn't necessarily mean you have to put food in your mouth. You're going to someone's house for dinner, it's dinnertime."

"The details of your story keep changing, right?" Necheles asked at one point.

"No," Daniels said.

Daniels to defense lawyer: 'You're putting words in my mouth'

Several times on Thursday, Stormy Daniels has taken issue with Trump lawyer Susan Necheles' questioning.

Amid questions about the financial arrangements for her documentary, Daniels accused Necheles of "trying to trick me into saying something that's not entirely true."

At another point, Daniels demanded the defense lawyer back up her claim about something she claimed Daniels had said regarding Donald Trump's arrest.

"Show me where I said I'd be instrumental in putting President Trump in jail," the witness said, steady and unflustered.

After Necheles showed Daniels a social media post she'd made that did not reflect those precise words, Daniels replied: "I don't see the 'instrumental' or 'jail.' You're putting words in my mouth."

Trump spent much of the first hour of testimony leaning back in his seat and staring straight ahead, nodding at times as his attorney called jurors' attention to social media posts by Daniels insulting him.

It was a far cry from the visible repulsion he displayed during her initial testimony to prosecutors.

Defense accuses Daniels of trying to profit off story

Defense attorney Susan Necheles resumed cross-examination of Stormy Daniels on Thursday by pressing her on why she decided to take money to keep silent about her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump instead of holding a press conference, as Daniels has said she wanted to do.

"Why didn't you do that?" Necheles asked.

"Because we were running out of time," Daniels said. Did she mean, Necheles asked, that she was running out of time to use the claim to make money? "To get the story out," Daniels countered. The negotiations were happening in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

As Daniels was negotiating her non-disclosure agreement with Michael Cohen, she testified, she was also speaking with other journalists, including an editor at Slate as a "backup" plan.

While Daniels said she was most interested in getting her story out and ensuring her family's safety, Necheles accused her of refusing to share the story with reporters because she wouldn't be paid for it.

"The better alternative was for you to get money, right?" Necheles said.

"The better alternative was to get my story protected with a paper trail so that my family didn't get hurt," Daniels replied.

Stormy Daniels returns to the witness stand

Stormy Daniels returned to the witness stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial Thursday, two days after she spent hours recounting in sometimes graphic detail the alleged 2006 sexual encounter with the former president that she was eventually paid to keep quiet about during the 2016 presidential election.

The former president's attorneys aggressively sought to poke holes in Daniels' credibility during cross-examination, accusing the porn actor of trying to extort Trump and rehearsing her testimony - two assertions she forcefully denied. The defense also made a failed attempt to have a mistrial declared, arguing that Daniels' morning testimony had "nothing to do with this case and is extremely prejudicial."

Trump denies the two ever had sex.

Tuesday, May 7

Court adjourns for the day

Court in Donald Trump's hush money case has adjourned for the day. Proceedings will resume with Stormy Daniels returning to the stand on Thursday morning.

Trump and Daniels' demeanors were different for cross-examination

As the defense cross-examined Stormy Daniels during her testimony Tuesday afternoon, both her demeanor and Trump's stood in contrast to their respective manners when the prosecution conducted its questioning earlier in the day.

Daniels was considerably feistier on cross-examination, a contrast from her peppy, loquacious posture when she was being questioned by the prosecution. Her credibility and motives under attack, Daniels dug in at times in the face of pointed questioning from defense lawyer Susan Necheles.

Necheles worked to paint Daniels as a money-hungry liar, pointing to inconsistencies in her accounts over the years and suggesting she's taken to her role as a Trump foil - akin to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer - because it's brought her riches and relevance.

At other times, Daniels also appeared petulant or to be appealing to the jury's humanity.

Trump, meanwhile, seemed more relaxed after his lawyers started questioning Daniels, sitting back in his seat, a placid expression on his face. It was a stark contrast from Trump's tense demeanor earlier in the morning, when he scowled and shook his head through much of Daniels' description of their alleged sexual encounter, a claim he has denied.

Daniels sought to get out of NDA in 2018

Stormy Daniels testified that she sought to get out of her nondisclosure agreement in 2018 "so I could stand up for myself."

She hired Michael Avenatti, who sued Donald Trump and prevailed in getting the non-disclosure agreement nullified. Trump was ordered to pay Daniels about $100,000 in legal fees.

Daniels went on to give an interview to Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes" and wrote a book, "Full Disclosure," about her life, career and her alleged encounter with Trump.

After a prosecutor asked if she was still represented by Avenatti, Daniels said "no," and referenced his legal downfalls - including a conviction for defrauding Daniels.

Judge denies request for mistrial

Judge Juan Merchan denied the defense request for a mistrial.

"I don't believe we are at the point where a mistrial is warranted," Merchan said.

However he made clear "There are some things that would have been better left unsaid."

Merchan said the "witness was a little difficult to control" but he said "there were guardrails in place."

"I do think the court instructed the prosecution that there were certain details they couldn't get into," Merchan said. "I don't think we are at the point where a mistrial is in order."

The appropriate remedy, the judge said, is cross-examination.

By way of background, the judge, in a pretrial ruling, said Daniels was permitted because she is the appropriate predicate to the $130,000 payment and Trump's mindset while making it.

"Locating and purchasing the information from Daniels not only completes the narrative of events that precipitated the falsification of business records but is also probative of the Defendant's intent."

"The probative value of the evidence is evident," Merchan said, adding that her testimony "is inextricably intertwined with narrative of events and is necessary background for the jury."

Prosecution defends Daniel's testimony

The prosecution in Donald Trump's hush money trial defended witness Stormy Daniels testimony after defense attorneys asked for a mistrial following a lunch break on Tuesday.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked that Judge Juan M. Merchan declare a mistrial and, if a new trial is held, that Daniels be barred from testifying.

"How can we come back from this in a way that's fair to President Trump?" Blanche asked.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger countered that Daniels' testimony about the alleged sexual encounter between the porn actor and the former president goes to Trump's reasons for paying her to stay silent.

"At the end of the day, your honor, it is what the defendant was trying to hide," Hoffinger said, adding that prosecutors were "very mindful" not to elicit too much graphic detail.

"This goes directly to her credibility, which they attacked and I'm sure will continue to attack," Hoffinger said, arguing that the defense had "opened the door" for the testimony in its opening statements and prior witness questioning.

Hoffinger also disputed the defense's contention that much of Daniels' testimony was at odds with her prior statements. "This is not a new account," Hoffinger said.

Defense moves for a mistrial over Stormy Daniels testimony

Donald Trump's lawyers asked for a mistrial in his hush money case following testimony before the lunch break from porn actor Stormy Daniels that they say ran afoul of rules established for her taking the witness stand.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Daniels' testimony about the alleged sexual encounter with Trump and her detailed account of a preceding conversation and other meetings with Trump had "nothing to do with this case and is extremely prejudicial."

Blanche argued that "the court set guardrails for this testimony" but it was "just thrown to the side."

"This is the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from," he said, adding that it is also "unfair" as Trump has to go out on the campaign trail later today.

A post published to Trump's Truth Social account just before court resumed read: "THE PROSECUTION, WHICH HAS NO CASE, HAS GONE TOO FAR. MISTRIAL!"

It's the first time Trump's attorneys have sought a mistrial in the hush money case.

Mayor says NYC jail system will be ready if it has to house former president

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday during his regular briefing at City Hall that correction officers have discussed the possibility of having to house Donald Trump at Rikers Island following the latest sanctions brought against him in his hush money trial.

"We have to adjust to whatever comes our way," Adams said, declining to elaborate. "We don't want to deal with hypotheticals, but they're professionals. They'll be ready."

After fining Trump $1,000 on Monday for again violating his gag order, Judge Juan M. Merchan said he was prepared to send him to jail if the former continues violating a court mandate barring him from speaking publicly about jurors, witnesses and some others connected to the case. Trump was fined $9,000 last week for nine other violations of the order.

No outlets were interested in Daniels' story before 'Access Hollywood' tape leak, she says

Stormy Daniels said Tuesday that she was in the best financial shape of her life, directing 10 films a year, when she authorized her manager Gina Rodriguez to shop her story during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Daniels said she had no intent of approaching Michael Cohen or Donald Trump to have them purchase her story about her encounter with Trump. "My motivation wasn't money, it was to get the story out," she testified before the lunch break.

Initially, she did not receive any interest from news outlets. But that changed after the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in October 2016, a month ahead of the election.

Daniels testified that she learned from Rodriguez that Cohen, who was then Trump's attorney, was interested in purchasing her silence.

"They were interested in paying for the story, which was the best thing that could happen because then my husband wouldn't find out but there would still be documentation," Daniels said.

Daniels testified that when she was approached with Cohen's $130,000 offer: "I didn't care about the amount, I just wanted to get it done."

Daniels last saw Trump in June 2007

Stormy Daniels last saw Donald Trump in June 2007 at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, she testified on Tuesday.

She recalled spending about two hours there - highlighted by Trump's fascination with the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," which was on the television, and little news about her chances of appearing on his show, "The Apprentice."

Daniels testified that she spurned Trump's advances and that he told her, "I miss you" and wanted to get together again.

Asked if Trump ever told her to keep things between them confidential, she testified: "Absolutely not." Daniels said she spoke with Trump several more times by phone and that he eventually told her he wouldn't be able to put her on "The Apprentice." She testified that Trump told her "someone high up's wife overruled" the idea.

In her 2018 book "Full Disclosure," Daniels wrote that Trump had told her that actress Roma Downey - the wife of show producer Mark Burnett - had objected to her being on the program.

Daniels describes subsequent interactions with Trump

Stormy Daniels said Tuesday that Donald Trump's bodyguard called her the day after the encounter in the hotel suite to tell her that Trump wanted to see her again, and she agreed to meet him in a bar or club in her hotel.

She found him with NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Daniels said Trump introduced her to the football player but seemed largely preoccupied during her 10-minute visit in the loud space, she told jurors. She added that Trump said he would continue to think about the possibility of her appearing on one of his "Apprentice" shows.

Roethlisberger declined to comment on Daniels' description of the evening in her 2018 book.

After returning home the next day, Daniels told many people she'd met Trump and gone to his room but informed only a few close confidantes about the alleged sexual encounter, she said. In the months after, she said, Trump called her frequently with "an update - or non-update" on the "Apprentice" possibilities.

"He always talked about when we could get together again, did I miss him, and he always called me honeybunch," she testified, adding that she always put him on speakerphone and many of her colleagues heard the calls -- without telling him.

Daniels testifies that she had sex with Trump on bed in his hotel suite

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday that she ended up having sex with Donald Trump on the bed in his hotel suite.

After multiple discussions with the judge in the hush money case and Trump's lawyers out of the earshot of jurors, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger navigated her questioning about the encounter with exceeding caution.

She instructed Daniels to keep her answers brief and free of extra details.

Trump's lawyers repeatedly objected as Daniels described certain details, and Judge Merchan repeatedly shot down Daniels' attempts to describe the encounter in more vivid detail - striking several of her answers from the official court record.

Asked if Trump used a condom during the encounter, Daniels said, "No."

The encounter was "brief" and when it ended she was shaking, Daniels said.

"He said, 'Oh it was great, let's get together again honey bunch,'" Daniels continued. "I just wanted to leave."

Jurors looked on, riveted, as Daniels discussed the sexual encounter.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

Daniels further describes encounter with Trump

After talking with Donald Trump in his hotel suite for about two hours, Stormy Daniels testified, she went to use the bathroom. When she was finished, she said, she found Trump sitting on the bed wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

"When I exited, he was up on the bed, like this," Daniels testified, feigning reclining with her knees up in the witness stand.

"At first it was just startled, like jump scare. I wasn't expecting someone to be there, minus a lot of clothing," Daniels testified. She said it suddenly felt like the room was spinning, like blood was draining from her hands and feet.

"I thought, 'Oh my God,' what did I misread to get here?" Daniels testified. "Because the intention was pretty clear. Somebody stripped down in their underwear and posed on the bed, waiting for you."

Daniels said Trump told her: "I thought we were getting somewhere, we're talking. I thought you were serious about what you wanted. If you ever want to get out of that trailer park - I was offended because I never lived in a trailer park."

Daniels says Trump suggested putting her on 'The Apprentice'

Before a morning break in Donald Trump's criminal trial, Stormy Daniels testified that she and Trump spoke for about two hours in his hotel suite before they were supposed to go to dinner. During the conversation, she said, he dangled the idea of putting her on his TV show "The Apprentice."

Daniels testified that Trump pitched the allure of a porn star competing on the show - which had yet to spawn its celebrity version - and said it would be a chance for her to show the world that, as a writer and director, she's "more than a dumb bimbo."

Daniels said she doubted the show's network, NBC, would ever let it happen, and that she feared her lack of business acumen would make her an easy out. She said she enjoyed her work making adult films and isn't ashamed of it, but she had designs on writing and directing music videos and more mainstream productions.

"They have bigger budgets and better catering," she quipped on the witness stand.

Daniels testified that her takeaway from Trump was that "people might be able to take me serious, know that I wasn't just an airhead" and that being on the show could position her to "about what I wanted to do, which was to be taken seriously as a writer and director."

"He's like, 'this is your chance for somebody to see you and maybe give you that opportunity,'" Daniels said. "He pitched it as a win-win."

Trump greeted Daniels in his hotel suite in his pajamas, she says

When Stormy Daniels went to meet Donald Trump for dinner in 2006, she testified Tuesday, she took an elevator up to the penthouse level of the hotel where was staying per instructions from his bodyguard.

Daniels said she saw the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, outside the door and exchanged pleasantries with him before going inside.

Schiller had told her the plan was for her and Trump to go down to one of the hotel's restaurants for dinner. She said she entered a foyer with black and white tile floors, mahogany furnishings and a big floral arrangement.

She said she called Trump's name and said, "Hello," and Trump entered the foyer "wearing silk or satin pajamas that I immediately made fun of him for."

"I said, 'Does Mr. Hefner know you stole his pajamas,'" Daniels recalled, referring to the late Playboy owner. Trump then left her to quickly change into a suit. She said Trump's hotel suite was three times the size of her apartment.

Daniels testified that after Trump changed, the two of them sat down at a dining room table in the penthouse. He started asking her about her childhood and her career - probing questions about the production of adult films, how much of them is scripted versus improv, whether performers have unions and how testing for sexually transmitted diseases works in the industry.

"He was very, very interested in a lot of the business aspects of it, which I thought was very cool," as most people just ask about "the sexy stuff ... the salacious things," Daniels said.

Trump listened to Daniels' testimony with a pained expression on his face, muttering at times to lawyers on either side of him.

Daniels testifies about her career and meeting Trump

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday that she started appearing in adult films at age 23 and soon was writing and directing them, as well. She said she has directed over 150 such films and has won a roster of porn industry awards.

Daniels was upbeat and voluble on the stand, speaking over the prosecutor's questions occasionally and laughing at times as she recounted her wide-ranging resume. She was twice asked by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger to slow down so that a court stenographer could keep up.

Daniels' testimony quickly shifted to the celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe where she met Trump in 2006.

The adult film studio she worked for at the time was sponsoring one of the holes on the golf course. She told the court that she and Trump initially had a "very brief encounter" when his group passed through. She recalled him chatting to her about the adult film industry and her directing prowess, remarking that she must be "the smart one" if she was making films.

Stormy Daniels takes the stand

Prosecutors in the hush money trial of former President Donald Trump have called porn actor Stormy Daniels to the witness stand.

Daniels has alleged that she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied it.

Trump stared straight forward as Daniels entered the room, turning his head slightly in her direction as she approached the witness stand.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger led off by asking Daniels about her upbringing in Louisiana. Daniels talked about having grown up poor and wanting to become a veterinarian.

In the final weeks of Trump's 2016 Republican presidential campaign, his then-lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about what she says was an awkward and unexpected sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

Publishing executive is first witness of the day

Sally Franklin, an executive at Penguin Random House, was the first witness to take the stand Tuesday in Donald Trump's hush money trial. One of the publishing house's imprints published a couple of Trump's books, "Trump: How to Get Rich" and "Trump: Think Like a Billionaire."

Prosecutor Becky Mangold began questioning by having Franklin read excerpts from the 2004 volume "Trump: How to Get Rich" that get at Trump's approach to business.

The readings appeared to be designed to show that Trump was hands-on at his company and willing to retaliate against those he perceived to have done him wrong.

Among the excerpts: "If you don't know every aspect of what you're doing, down to the paper clips, you're setting yourself up for some unwanted surprises," and "for many years, I've said that if someone screws you, screw them back."

Testimony eventually moved on to excerpts from Trump's 2005 "Trump: Think Like a Billionaire," including sections in praise of penny-pinching ("I call it financial smarts") and keeping a close eye on bills.

As Trump lawyer Todd Blanche got his chance to cross-examine Franklin, he underscored that Trump worked with a writer on the manuscripts.

Judge to allow limited testimony about Daniels' alleged sexual encounter with Trump

Judge Juan M. Merchan will allow limited testimony about Stormy Daniels' alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump when she takes the stand in his hush money case.

Merchan agreed with the prosecution that the details will be necessary because of the porn actor's credibility concerns and past denials. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said that prosecutors intend to establish that Daniels and Trump did have intercourse but that the testimony "will not involve descriptions of genitalia" or other seamy details.

Stormy Daniels expected to appear as witness on Tuesday

An attorney for Stormy Daniels says the porn actor is expected to appear as a witness in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial Tuesday.

Daniels arrived and walked inside 100 Centre Street. She's expected to be called as a witness for the prosecution.

Apparently upon learning of her appearance, Trump posted an angry message on Truth Social that his lawyers had "no time" to prepare.

Within minutes, Trump had removed the post, likely because it risked prosecutors saying it violated the gag order.

Trump was just found in contempt Monday of violating his gag order for the 10th time and was threatened with jail.

Monday, May 6

Trump, leaving court, says he would 'sacrifice' jail for 'Constitution'

As he departed the courtroom after Day 12 of his hush money trial, Trump expressed confidence in his defense team saying they are doing "very well."

Asked about the trial's timeline after prosecutors advised Judge Merchan that they expect to wrap their case two weeks from tomorrow, Trump told reporters, "The government just says that they want you three more weeks ... that means they want to keep me off the trail for two to three weeks now."

"I thought they were going to be finished today. And they want to do three more weeks in jujitsu and play right into the judges," Trump complained. "The judges are happy about doing three more weeks."

After being warned this morning by Judge Merchan that any future violations of the limited gag order could result in jail time, the former president continued to criticize the gag order that prevents him from targeting witnesses, jurors and others involved in the case.

"I have to watch every word I tell you people -- you asked me a question, a simple question, I'd like to give it, but I can't talk about it because this judge has given me this gag order say you'll go to jail if you violate it," Trump said. "And frankly, you know what, our Constitution is much more important than jail. It's not even close. I'll do that sacrifice any day."

"The defendant has been violating the order restricting extrajudicial speech, and we don't want to have the next witnesses' names out there," Steinglass said.

"How are we doing on scheduling?" Merchan asked to conclude the day.

Steinglass told Judge Juan Merchan that the state's case will likely conclude two weeks from tomorrow.

"I would say about two more weeks," he said.

The defense's case will then follow.

Tarasoff says she never felt Trump was hiding anything

With the introduction of People's exhibit 34, a check with Donald Trump's signature, the jury has now seen all 34 allegedly falsified invoices, ledger entries and checks, concluding the direct testimony of Trump Organization staffer Deborah Tarasoff.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche then carried out a brief cross-examination, during which Trump readjusted in his chair to get a better view of Tarasoff.

"You never had any reason to believe President Trump was hiding anything, correct?" Blanche asked Tarasoff at the end of his cross.

"Correct," she answered.

Tarasoff then stepped off the witness stand. Trump looked over toward her as she exited the courtroom, but the two did not interact.

Like earlier, Tarasoff smiled at Eric Trump on her way out of the courtroom. Judge Juan Merchan then sent the jury home for the day.

DA's case should take 2 more weeks followed by defense's case

Before Judge Merchan ended the proceedings for the day, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass flagged that the DA's office plans to recall a previous witness: Manhattan DA paralegal Georgia Longstreet.

According to Steinglass, Longstreet would testify about some additional social media posts from Trump, and text messages between National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard and Stormy Daniels' agent Gina Rodriguez.

Merchan consented to the plan, as long as defense lawyers get 24 hours' notice before calling Longstreet. She will likely testify again on Thursday or Friday, Steinglass said.

Steinglass also raised concerns about defense attorneys' complaints about the limited notice about the next witness and their relevant exhibits.

"I don't like the impression being left that we are somehow sandbagging the defense," Steinglass said, defending the practice of not disclosing their next witness, given Trump's recent violations of the case's limited gag order.

Checks used to reimburse Cohen showed in court

Jurors at Donald Trump's criminal trial are getting their first look at the checks used to reimburse Michael Cohen for his $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels, including some bearing the former president's trademark signature.

Prosecutors showed the checks Monday as they questioned Deborah Tarasoff, the Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor who processed the payments.

Most of the checks were paid out of Trump's personal account and were signed by him at the White House, Tarasoff testified.

Two other checks shown were drawn from Trump's revocable trust, which was used to hold his assets while he was president. It bore the signatures of two trustees, Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., and the Trump Organization's longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg.

The checks were logged in internal records as legal expenses arising from a retainer agreement. Prosecutors allege the payments were mislabeled to conceal Cohen's reimbursement and the underlying hush-money payment.

As prosecutor Christopher Conroy and Tarasoff plodded through a series of checks, stubs and vouchers related to the Cohen payments, Trump gestured at the tabletop monitor displaying the documents and briefly whispered with defense attorney Emil Bove.

Tarasoff describes her job, Weisselberg

Deborah Tarasoff's testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial began with her describing the nature of her job and familiarity with key figures in the Trump Organization, including Michael Cohen and two of the trial's previous witnesses, Rhona Graff and Jeffrey McConney.

Asked by prosecutor Christopher Conroy to describe Allen Weisselberg's management style, she replied, "He had his hands in everything."

By contrast, Tarasoff said her job was to pretty much follow instructions passed down from on high.

"I get approved bills, I enter them in the system, and I cut the checks," she said matter-of-factly.

Where is Weisselberg?

Like Michael Cohen, Allen Weisselberg's has been name checked numerous times during Donald Trump's hush money trial but is otherwise absent from the courtroom.

The former Trump Organization executive, described by a witness Monday as the architect of an arrangement to reimburse Cohen for a hush-money payment, is currently in jail for lying under oath in another Trump-related case.

Weisselberg, 76, was sentenced last month to five months in jail for lying under oath while testifying in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud lawsuit against Trump. He is currently serving the sentence at New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail complex.

It's his second time behind bars. The ex-chief financial officer served 100 days last year for dodging taxes on $1.7 million in company perks, including a rent-free Manhattan apartment and luxury cars. He was also ordered to pay $1 million as part of Trump's civil fraud judgment.

Weisselberg's plea agreement does not require him to testify at the hush money trial, and neither side has indicated it plans to call him as a witness.

Cohen told Congress in 2019 that it was Weisselberg who decided how to structure his reimbursement for the payment to Daniels. Cohen said Weisselberg paid the money out over 12 months "so that it would look like a retainer."

Former Trump Organization controller takes stand

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney took the stand Monday morning in Donald Trump's hush money case.

McConney worked for the company for more than three decades, retiring last year after he was granted immunity in exchange for testifying for the prosecution at the Trump Organization's New York criminal tax fraud trial. During that trial, he admitted breaking the law to help fellow executives avoid taxes on company-paid perks. The company was convicted and is appealing.

McConney, who left with $500,000 in severance, went on to testify tearfully last fall at the civil fraud trial of Trump, the company and key executives. The ex-controller said he'd been worn out by his entanglement in a litany of Trump-related investigations and legal proceedings.

"I just wanted to relax and stop being accused of misrepresenting assets for the company that I loved working for," he said at the time.

The comment that violated the gag order

The judge in Donald Trump's hush money case found on Monday that Donald Trump had violated his gag order with comments he gave to a program called "Just the News No Noise" on April 22, which is broadcast on Real America's Voice.

On the program, the former president criticized the speed at which the jury was picked and claimed it was stacked with Democrats. "The jury was picked so fast. 95 percent Democrats. The area's mostly all Democrat," he is quoted as saying.

In his ruling, Judge Juan M. Merchan said the comments "not only called into question the integrity, and therefore the legitimacy of these proceedings, but again raised the specter of fear for the safety of the jurors and of their loved ones."

The gag order bars Trump from making comments about the jurors, key witnesses and some others connected to the criminal trial.

Trump held in contempt for 10th time

Judge Juan Merchan found Monday that former President Donald Trump violated the gag order an additional and held him in contempt.

"I find you in criminal contempt for the 10th time," Merchan said, marking Trump's 10th violation.

Merchan said that the $1,000 dollar fines per violation "are not serving as a deterrent" and threatened to jail Trump moving forward.

"Mr. Trump, last thing I want to do is put you in jail, you are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well," Merchan said, directly addressing Trump. "At the end of the day I have a job to do."

Third week of witness testimony in Trump's hush money trial is set to kick off

Witness testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is set to resume Monday morning, setting the stage for an even deeper dive into the events and people involved in what prosecutors have said was a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and burying negative stories about the candidate.

The trial is in its 12th day.

Former Trump adviser Hope Hicks took the stand last week, recounting how Trump's campaign was turned upside-down following the leak of a video wherein he bragged about grabbing women without their permission.

Keith Davidson, who represented porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in hush money negotiations, also took the stand. Davidson spent hours detailing his role in securing payouts for Daniels and McDougal in exchange for their silence about previous sexual encounters they said they had with Trump.

Trump also faced a second contempt hearing over whether he had again violated his gag order over four more prospective violations. Judge Juan M. Merchan has not yet ruled on that sanctions request. Trump was fined $9,000 earlier in the week over gag order violations.

Friday, May 3

Defense to appeal judge's ruling on gag order violations

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche indicated on Friday in comments in court that the former president is appealing the judge's finding this week that he violated his gag order.

Blanche noted that the defense took particular issue with penalties for what are known as reposts - instances where Donald Trump shared someone else's post with his followers.

"We're appealing but we accept the order of the court," Blanche said.

Hicks describes Trump's emotions in wake of 'Access Hollywood' leak

Trump lawyer Emil Bove returned to the day of the "Access Hollywood" tape release in his cross-examination of Hope Hicks, asking her to characterize how Donald Trump was feeling at that moment. She obliged, giving one of her longer answers of the day Friday.

"President Trump really values Mrs. Trump's opinion and she doesn't weigh in all the time but when she does it's really meaningful to him," she said. "He really, really respects what she has to say. I think he was really concerned about what the perception of this would be and yeah I know that was weighing on him."

"I don't think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything happening in the campaign," she continued.

As she spoke, Trump appeared to nod slightly, his gaze fixed on the witness box.

Hicks recalls conversation with Trump about the Daniels payment

Before Donald Trump's lawyers began cross-examination of Hope Hicks, prosecutors asked her to describe what Trump said about a conversation he had with Michael Cohen in February 2018. That was right after Cohen told The New York Times that he - Cohen - had paid the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket.

Hicks said Trump told her that Cohen said he "felt like it was his job to protect him and that's what he was doing, and he did it out of the kindness of his own heart and he never told anybody about it."

Under questioning by prosecutor Matthew Colangelo, Hicks conceded that such an act would be "out of character" for Cohen.

"I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person," she said.

But even as Trump claimed he never knew about the payments, Hicks said, her old boss came to believe the decision to bury the story was prudent.

Hicks says Trump directed her to deny claims by Daniels and McDougal to WSJ

Hope Hicks resumed testifying after a lunch break, with a prosecutor focusing his questions on the Trump campaign's response to a Wall Street Journal story published days before Election Day in 2016 that exposed the National Enquirer's $150,000 catch-and-kill deal with Karen McDougal.

Hicks testified that Donald Trump requested that she convey to the Journal reporter who reached out for comment a denial of McDougal's claims of an affair and porn actor Stormy Daniels' claims of a sexual encounter, which were also mentioned in the article.

"The denial was from Mr. Trump for both women," Hicks testified.

As is standard practice, The Wall Street Journal contacted Hicks before publication of the article and included Hicks' statement in the story.

She read a portion of her denial, as printed in the Journal, on the witness stand: "Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, said of the agreement with Ms. McDougal: 'We have no knowledge of any of this.'"

Hicks recalled that Trump and Michael Cohen spoke by phone after the story was published, but that nothing stood out from the call. She remembered Trump being on the call while in a car traveling from an airport to a campaign event in Pennsylvania.

"I don't remember anything that was said," Hicks testified.

Hope Hicks takes the witness stand

Hope Hicks, who served as Donald Trump's 2016 campaign press secretary and went on to hold various roles in his White House, took the witness stand in his New York hush money case on Friday.

Her testimony on the trial's 11th day was the latest in a frenzied second week of witness testimony and followed that of forensic analyst Douglas Daus and paralegal Georgia Longstreet.

Trump pays gag order fine

Donald Trump has paid his $9,000 fine for violating the gag order in his hush money criminal trial.

The former president paid the penalty Thursday, ahead of a Friday deadline. Trump's legal team supplied the court clerk's office with two cashier's checks - one for $2,000 and one for $7,000.

Judge Juan M. Merchan ordered Trump to pay the fine after holding him in contempt of court and finding that posts he made online about his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, porn actor Stormy Daniels and the composition of the jury had violated the gag order.

Merchan is currently weighing a prosecution request to hold Trump in contempt again and fine him $1,000 for each of four more alleged violations from last week. Merchan has warned Trump that he could be jailed if he keeps breaching the gag order.

Trump's hush money trial enters 11th day as second week of testimony is set to wrap up

Donald Trump returned to Manhattan court on Friday as his hush money trial enters its 11th day, capping a frenzied second week of witness testimony.

Lawyer Keith Davidson concluded his testimony Thursday after spending nearly 6 1/2 hours on the stand over two days. He laid out for jurors details of his negotiations with Michael Cohen and the National Enquirer on behalf of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, not shying away from an election night realization that his efforts might have contributed to Trump's 2016 win.

Forensic analyst Douglas Daul also took the stand, testifying about what he found on Cohen's cellphone. Among other things, Daul said Cohen had nearly 40,000 contacts saved to the device.

Thursday's proceedings included a contempt hearing over whether the former president had again violated his gag order.

Merchan heard from both sides about four more prospective violations, including comments Trump made about the jury. Prosecutors said they were seeking only fines and not jail time for the potential violations. An immediate decision was not made and it was unclear when Merchan would rule.

Thursday, May 2

Expert can't fully say why Trump-Cohen recording cuts off

In his cross-examination of expert witness Douglas Daus, defense attorney Emil Bove asked Daus why the 2016 Trump-Cohen recording on Cohen's phone abruptly cuts off, attempting to raise doubts about the integrity of the recording.

Daus suggested that he heard in the recording that another call was coming in, but Daus said he could not say with certainty why the recording ended.

"You don't have firsthand knowledge of why it cuts off?" Bove said.

Bove -- a former prosecutor with plenty of experience handling cellphone extractions -- then discussed with Daus the different ways to extract a device. For a brief moment, the tone of the cross-examination shifted from tense to friendly.

Judge Merchan subsequently ended the proceedings for the day, dismissing the parties.

The proceedings are scheduled to resume tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. ET.

In 2016 recording, Cohen tells Trump of 'transfer' of 'info'

Expert witness Douglas Daus testified about a recording on Michael Cohen's phone from Sept. 6, 2016, at 10:56 a.m.

The recording, approximately two minutes long, captures a conversation between Cohen and Trump.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer for all of that info regarding our friend David," Cohen says on the call. "I am all over that, and I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time for the financing," Cohen says.

"What financing?" Trump asks.

"We'll have to pay him something," Cohen said.

The prosecution then concluded its direct examination of Daus.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Emil Bove sought to raise doubts about the integrity of the material on Cohen's phone, suggesting it had been "subject to the risk of manipulation" somewhere in the chain of custody.

Expert says Cohen had 40K phone contacts, 10 pages for Trump

Expert witness Douglas Daus walked jurors through what he found on Cohen's phones after he extracted the data -- including an astounding 39,745 contacts.

Most phones have a few hundred contacts, Daus said.

On one of Cohen's phones, he had 10 pages of contacts for Donald Trump alone, according to Daus.

On Cohen's second phone, he had 385 contacts, which is average, according to Daus.

Daus then displayed for the jury text messages between Cohen and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

"Call me," Cohen texted Hicks on November 4, 2016.

Jurors then saw a photo of Cohen in the White House briefing room which was contained on his phone. Cohen is standing behind the podium in the photo.

Jurors also saw a calendar entry on Cohen's phone called "Meeting with POTUS" on February 8, 2017.

Daus identified that Cohen's phone contained three encrypted messaging apps: WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal.

Less than an hour after jurors listened to some of Cohen's recordings of his phone calls with Keith Davidson, Daus showed the jurors the location of some of those recordings on Cohen's phone.

DA calls expert who extracted Cohen's cellphone data

Prosecutors have called their next witness: Douglas Daus, who works for the lab that processes devices for the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Daus works as an analyst in the unit of the Manhattan DA's office that handles intake and processing of electronic devices, such as a cell phone seized pursuant to a search warrant. Daus said the unit creates "extractions" of the devices, which are copies of the devices called a Cellebrite or GreyKey report.

The extraction contain "anything that is normally on a phone," according to Daus, including text messages, contacts, call history, and software.

The extraction also includes metadata, which provides a deeper record of when, where, and how a device was used.

For the Trump case, Daus conducted an analysis of two of Michael Cohen's phones -- an iPhone 6S and iPhone 7.

Daus said Cohen consented to the analysis of the devices.

On call, Cohen said Trump 'hated' that they did Daniels agreement

During defense attorney Emil Bove's re-cross examination of Stormy Daniels' former attorney Keith Davidson, jurors heard Michael Cohen on a recorded 2018 phone call telling Davidson, "And I can't even tell you how many times he said to me, 'I hate the fact that we did it.' And my comment to him was, 'But every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move.'"

Davidson said that Cohen was referring to Trump and Stormy Daniels' nondisclosure agreement.

Trump, in the courtroom, leaned forward in his chair as he read the transcript of the recordings displayed on the screen on counsel table.

Bove concluded his re-cross by getting Davidson to say again that he never met Donald Trump.

Trump stares at Alvin Bragg as DA enters courtroom

Defense attorney Emil Bove moved on to question Stormy Daniels' attorney Keith Davidson about the nondisclosure agreement Daniels had signed as part of hush money arrangement.

On the signature page, Bove pointed out how there are the initials "esq" next to Michael Cohen's signature.

"Because he's signing this agreement as a lawyer?" he asked Davidson, who agreed -- appearing to support why Trump reimbursed Cohen and marked it as a legal expense.

Bove then wrapped up his cross-examination, leading to a short break in the proceedings.

Trump remained in the courtroom, standing and speaking with his attorney Susan Necheles and legal adviser Boris Epshteyn.

When Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg entered the courtroom, Trump stared right at him and his eyes appeared to follow Bragg as the DA moved toward his seat.

Although mere feet from one another, Bragg did not appear to look at Trump.

Defense suggests Cohen never said Trump OK'd hush payment

"You used the word leverage," defense attorney Emil Bove said of the March 2018 recorded phone conversation between Stormy Daniels' attorney Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen. "And that was Ms. Daniels' goal was it not? To create leverage over President Trump?"

"No," Davidson responded.

Davidson pushed back against the timing of the call suggested by Bove.

"I think you are grossly mistaken about the dates. This is years after the settlement," Davidson said.

Jurors heard the substance of the audio recording in bits and pieces as Bove read from the transcript.

"It's the truth, Michael. You know that -- that you and I both want the truth out there," Bove read from transcript of Davidson's remarks.

According to Bove, Davidson said at the time that Cohen getting authorization from Trump for the Daniels payment was "never discussed."

As the lawyers and the judge in the case listened to the recording on headphones, Trump stared forward as he sat at the defense table. His eyes appear shut at times and he adjusted himself in his seat.

Defense attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles attempted to communicate across Trump on several occasions.

Davidson questioned on prior attempts to broker hush money deals

Defense lawyer Emil Bove pressed Keith Davidson Thursday on his understanding of extortion law, grilling him about previous instances in which he solicited money to suppress embarrassing stories, including one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan.

By the time Davidson negotiated hush money payments for McDougal and Daniels, Bove suggested to the witness, "You were pretty well versed in coming right up to the line without committing extortion, right?"

"I had familiarized myself with the law," Davidson replied.

Davidson was previously investigated by the FBI but not charged after he asked Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, to pay his client $300,000 to head off the release of the wrestling star's sex tape, portions of which ended up published by Gawker.

Bove noted Davidson also helped a client get paid $10,000 off the release of Lindsay Lohan's private medical files. He also had a role in brokering a sex tape involving early 2000s MTV personality Tila Tequila.

Davidson says Cohen told him to keep Daniels from speaking to the press

Before a short midday break, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass wrapped his questioning of Keith Davidson by asking about texts Michael Cohen sent, instructing him to prevent Stormy Daniels from doing interviews.

Cohen texted at one point that the "wise men think the story is dying" so she shouldn't do any interviews, and any statements from her should come from Davidson.

Shortly after that exchange, which was shown on courtroom monitors, Daniels declined to appear on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

In another instance, Davidson issued a statement for Daniels again denying she'd had a sexual encounter with Trump, drafting it in a Hollywood hotel suite as she was getting ready to appear on Jimmy Kimmel's late night show.

But Daniels then disavowed the statement on the show, noting that the signature on it didn't match her own.

This enraged Cohen, who threatened to sue Daniels "to hell" and sent other threatening messages, Davidson testified.

"He can be a very aggressive guy," he said.

Davidson defends 2018 denial of hush money deal

Keith Davidson went to great lengths in testimony Thursday to defend a January 2018 statement he penned on behalf of Stormy Daniels denying a news report that Michael Cohen had paid $130,000 to silence her claims of a sexual encounter with Donald Trump.

For example, the statement's claim that Daniels never had a "sexual and/or romantic affair with Donald Trump" could technically be true, Davidson contended, if you were to "hone in on the definition of romantic, sexual and affair."

"I don't think anyone has ever alleged that any interaction between she and Mr. Trump was romantic," the lawyer testified, drawing a laugh from prosecutors.

Likewise, Davidson said, the denial about hush money payments could be considered factual, since the payments made to Daniels were, legally speaking, "consideration in a civil settlement."

Trump had denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels.

'What have we done?' Davidson and tabloid editor joked on election night

When it became clear on election night in 2016 that Donald Trump would be elected president, Keith Davidson texted then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard: "What have we done?" Howard responded: "oh my god."

Explaining the message on the witness stand in Trump's hush money case Thursday, Davidson said, "This is sort of gallows humor. It was on election night as the results were coming in. There was sort of surprise among the broadcasters and others that Mr. Trump was leading in the polls and there was a growing sense that folks were about ready to call the election."

"There was an understanding that our efforts may have in some way - strike that - our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump," Davidson added.

Jurors see Stormy Daniels settlement agreement

As Keith Davidson returned to the witness stand Thursday, jurors got a look at the confidential settlement agreement he negotiated on behalf of Stormy Daniels.

Under the deal dated Oct. 28, 2016, Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claims that she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump a decade earlier.

The document referred to Daniels and Trump by pseudonyms Peggy Peterson and David Dennison, but it also contained a side letter that identified them by name.

"It is understood and agreed that the true name and identity of the person referred to as "DAVID DENNISON" in the Settlement Agreement is Donald Trump," the document stated, with Trump's name written in by hand.

The side letter said only Davidson and Cohen were to keep copies of the document, deeming it "ATTORNEY'S EYES ONLY."

Davidson testified that was done because of the sensitive nature of the deal.

No ruling from judge on sanctions as testimony continued Thursday

Prosecutors in Donald Trump's hush money trial sought additional sanctions over his out-of-court comments Thursday ahead of testimony from a lawyer who represented two women who have said they had sexual encounters with the former president.

The testimony from attorney Keith Davidson is seen as a vital building block for the prosecution's case that Trump and his allies schemed to bury unflattering stories in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Davidson is one of multiple key players expected to be called to the stand in advance of prosecutors' star witness, Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer.

But before the start of testimony, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney's office requested $1,000 fines for each of four comments by Trump that they say violated a judge's gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, jurors and others closely connected to the case. Such a penalty would be on top of a $9,000 fine that Judge Juan M. Merchan imposed Tuesday related to nine separate gag order violations that he found.

"The defendant is talking about witnesses and the jury in this case, one right here outside this door," prosecutor Christopher Conroy said. "This is the most critical time, the time the proceeding has to be protected."

"His statements are corrosive to this proceeding and the fair administration of justice," Conroy added.

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche countered that Trump's candidacy and the massive media attention he receives have made it impossible for him not to be asked about, or comment on, the trial.

"He can't just say no comment repeatedly. He's running for president," Blanche said.

Merchan did not immediately rule on the request for fresh sanctions, though he did indicate that he was not particularly concerned about one of the four statements flagged by prosecutors.

Trump faces additional sanctions

Donald Trump faces the prospect of additional sanctions in his hush money trial as he returns to court Thursday for another contempt hearing followed by testimony from a lawyer who represented two women who have said they had sexual encounters with the former president.

The testimony from attorney Keith Davidson is seen as a vital building block for the prosecution's case that Trump and his allies schemed to bury unflattering stories in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. He is one of multiple key players expected to be called to the stand in advance of prosecutors' star witness, Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer.

Prosecutors are seeking $1,000 fines for each of four comments by Trump that they say violated a judge's gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, jurors and others closely connected to the case. Such a penalty would be on top of a $9,000 fine that Judge Juan M. Merchan imposed on Tuesday related to nine separate gag order violations that he found.

It was not immediately clear when Merchan might rule on the request for fresh sanctions, but the prospect of further punishment underscores the challenges Trump the presidential candidate is facing in adjusting to the role of criminal defendant subject to rigid courtroom protocol that he does not control. It also remains to be seen whether any rebuke from the court will lead Trump to adjust his behavior given the campaign trail benefit he believes he derives from painting the case as politically motivated.

During a one-day break from the trial on Wednesday, Trump kept up his condemnation of the case, though stopped short of comments that might run afoul of the gag order.

"There is no crime," he told supporters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. "I have a crooked judge, is a totally conflicted judge."

Trump hits campaign trail on day off from court

Donald Trump on Wednesday will use a one-day break from his hush money trial to rally voters in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan, a day after he was held in contempt of court and threatened with jail time for violating a gag order.

His remarks will be closely watched after he received a $9,000 fine for making public statements about people connected to the case. In imposing the fine for posts on Trump's Truth Social account and campaign website, Judge Juan M. Merchan said that if Trump continued to violate his orders, he "will impose an incarceratory punishment."

The former president is trying to achieve a balancing act unprecedented in American history by running for a second term as the presumptive Republican nominee while also fighting felony charges in New York. Trump frequently goes after Merchan, prosecutors and potential witnesses at his rallies and on social media, attack lines that play well with his supporters but that have potentially put him in legal jeopardy.

Trump insists he is merely exercising his free speech rights, but the offending posts from his Truth Social account and campaign website were taken down. Merchan is weighing other alleged gag-order violations by Trump and will hear arguments on Thursday.

Cohen missed deadline to pay $130K to Stormy Daniels, Davidson says

Before a brief afternoon break in Donald Trump's hush money trial, lawyer Keith Davidson testified Tuesday that Michael Cohen missed an agreed upon deadline for sending a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

At first, Cohen offered a litany of explanations for the delay, at turns blaming broken computers, Secret Service "firewalls," and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. "The things he was saying didn't really make sense," Davidson said of Cohen.

As the excuses piled up, Davidson said he understood that Cohen "didn't have the authority to actually spend money." He eventually sent an email informing Cohen that the deal involving Daniel's story about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump was off.

Appellate court rejects Trump's request to stay hush money trial

As testimony continued in Donald Trump's hush money trial on Tuesday, a five-judge panel in New York state's mid-level appellate court rejected the former president's request for a stay of the proceedings while he appeals several pretrial rulings, including the trial judge's refusal to recuse himself.

Trump had sought the stay prior to the start of jury selection. A lone judge in the appeals court had previously rejected a request for an emergency stay halting the trial.

Pseudonyms were used to disguise parties involved in Enquirer deal, lawyer testifies

In drawing up the deal with the National Enquirer involving Stormy Daniels' story about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump, Keith Davidson testified Tuesday that he used pseudonyms to disguise the parties involved.

Stormy Daniels became Peggy Peterson and Donald Trump became David Dennison, according to Davidson.

The alliterative code names were picked, in part, because Daniels was the plaintiff and Trump was the defendant, the lawyer testified.

Asked by prosecutors in Trump's hush money case if David Dennison was a real person, Davidson said that he played on his high school hockey team.

"And how does he feel about you now?" asked prosecutor Josh Steinglass.

Davidson stifled a laugh, then answered: "He's very upset."

'He was just screaming,' lawyer testifies of first interaction with Cohen

Keith Davidson on Tuesday testified that his first interaction with Michael Cohen related to a 2011 post on a gossip blog that stated that porn actor Stormy Daniels and Trump had "some sort of physical or romantic interaction."

After the blog post was published, Davidson said, Daniels' agent Gina Rodriguez called him and said, "some jerk called me and was very, very aggressive and threatened to sue me."

Asked who the "jerk" was, Davidson said: "Michael Cohen."

Davidson testified that when he called Cohen, the ex-Trump lawyer greeted him "with a hostile barrage of insults and insinuations that went on for quite a while."

"I don't think he was accusing us of anything, he was just screaming," Davidson continued. "Finally, after he finished, I explained to him that I was calling because my client, Stormy Daniels, did not want the story up. I wanted to see if he had done anything" to try to get the story taken down.

Davidson said he eventually sent a cease-and-desist letter to the blog after the dust up with Cohen and the story was removed.

Social media posts removed

The social media posts that Judge Juan Merchan ruled violated the gag order appear to have been removed.

The Trump campaign has removed two posts from its campaign website, both involved Michael Cohen

Seven social media posts that were also found to be violations of the gag order also appear deleted as well.

The links to the Truth Social and campaign website posts now redirect to a "Not found" and a "404" error page, respectively.

Trump was ordered to remove the posts by 2:15 p.m. and pay the fine by close of business day on Friday, May 3.

No red flags about Cohen's accounts at the time, Farro says

In his cross examination of banker Gary Farro on Tuesday, defense attorney Todd Blanche underscored that Michael Cohen made no mention that the accounts he opened in October 2016 had anything to do with deals involving then-presidential candidate Donald Trump or his company.

If Cohen had done so, "I would have asked questions," Farro said.

Farro noted that he might not have opened a bank account for Cohen if he'd been told it was for what's known as a shell corporation - one that receives and sends out money but doesn't have an underlying business.

But Cohen, the banker said, told him the account was for a real estate consulting business.

Nothing about it raised "any red flags to you?" Blanche asked.

"Not based upon the answers I was given to the questions I asked," Farro said.

Farro's testimony shed light on his role in helping Cohen open a bank account that was later used to process a $130,000 wire transfer to a lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

Trump found in contempt for violating gag order

Former President Trump is in contempt for violating the gag order, Judge Juan Merchan ruled at the start of court Tuesday.

He is being fined $9,000; $1,000 for each violation. The judge said he had seven "offending posts" from Truth Social and two "offending posts" on his campaign website. The posts must be removed by 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Judge Merchan also delivered some good news from the bench: Trump can attend his son Barron's graduation on May 17.

"I don't think the May 17 date is a problem," Merchan said, noting that a jury was picked quickly and things have been moving.

Trump had previously railed against the judge, incorrectly declaring that he was being barred from attending.

Second week of testimony to resume with Farro

Donald Trump's hush money trial resumes Tuesday with testimony from the third prosecution witness, Gary Farro, a banker who helped Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts.

Cohen used one to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies.

The first week of testimony was the scene-setter for jurors: Manhattan prosecutors portrayed what they say was an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories.

For his part, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee has been campaigning in his off-hours, but is required to be in court when it is in session, four days a week.

Trial resumes on Tuesday

Former President Donald Trump's hush money trial resumes Tuesday with more testimony.

Last week, the court heard from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about his efforts to protect Trump from negative stories.

They also heard from longtime Trump assistant Rhona Graff.

This week, banker Gary Farro will return to the stand.

He says he set up an LLC, which Michael Cohen used to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump speaks after court ends for the day

Donald Trump spoke to reporters with more energy than he had in past days after spending the day in the Manhattan courtroom where his hush money trial is being held.

The former president declared that the case was politically motivated and reaffirmed his willingness to debate President Joe Biden anytime, anywhere, even Friday night or at the White House.

Trump left for the day after speaking for a few minutes and didn't take any questions from reporters on the way out of court. He's expected to head back to Florida.

4th day of witness testimony concludes

Trump exited the Manhattan courtroom where his hush money trial is being held, exhaling and with a stern expression. It marked the end of the trial's fourth day of witness testimony.

So far, prosecutors have called three witnesses.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker spent about 10 hours on the stand over the course of four days.

Then Trump's longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff answered questions for about 30 minutes.

The current witness, Cohen's former banker Gary Farro, was on the stand for a little under an hour Friday and will return when the trial resumes Tuesday, with Monday being a long-scheduled day off.

Banker explains how he helped former Trump attorney create an LLC

Gary Farro detailed the step-by-step process of helping Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen create an account for his limited liability company while testifying Friday in the Trump's hush money trial in Manhattan.

According to Farro, Cohen said Resolution Consultants, which he opened in September 2016, was related to real estate. In fact, the LLC was formed to facilitate the planned purchase of Karen McDougal's story rights from American Media. That deal never went through.

Prosecutors have shown emails in which Cohen describes the opening of the account as an "important matter."

Farro said that since the account was never funded, it was never technically opened. Instead, Cohen pivoted to starting another account for another LLC - Essential Consultants - which he used to make the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Similarly, Farro said Cohen led him to believe that firm would be involved in real estate consulting.

Prosecution calls banker as its 3rd witness

The prosecution on Friday called its third witness in former president Donald Trump's hush money trial to testify.

Gary Farro works at Flagstar Bank as a private client adviser and was previously at First Republic Bank, which was used by former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

Farro, testifying pursuant to a subpoena, said Cohen had several personal bank accounts at First Republic when Farro took over the client relationship in 2015.

"I was told that I was selected because of my knowledge and because of my ability to handle individuals that may be a little challenging," Farro said.

"Frankly, I didn't find him that difficult," he added.

Second witness, described as Trump's 'gatekeeper,' testifies

Rhona Graff, Donald Trump's longtime executive assistant, was called to the stand Friday in the former president's hush money trial in Manhattan.

Graff started working for Trump in 1987 and left the Trump Organization in April 2021. She has been described as his gatekeeper and right hand. She was among several people involved in keeping his records.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, the first prosecution witness called, testified Thursday that Graff was often the conduit for his communications with Trump, routing his calls and summoning him to a Trump Tower meeting on Jan. 6, 2017. At the meeting, the ex-publisher said, he and Trump discussed some of the hush money arrangements at issue in the case.

Graff testified that porn actor Stormy Daniels was once at Trump's offices in Trump Tower.

"I have a vague recollection of seeing her in the reception area" one time, Graff said.

The date of the visit wasn't immediately clear.

Graff said she assumed Daniels was there to discuss potentially being a contestant on one of Trump's "Apprentice"-brand shows.

"You had heard President Trump say that he thought that she would be an interesting addition" to the cast, Trump lawyer Susan Necheles asked.

"It was part of the office chatter," Graff said.

Prosecutors claw back at portrait of tabloid deal

Before breaking for lunch Friday, prosecutors in Donald Trump's hush money trial in Manhattan clawed back at the defense's contention that an arrangement with the National Enquirer wasn't unique to Trump, eliciting testimony from former publisher David Pecker that underscored the unusual nature of their deal.

"Is it standard operating procedure for AMI to be consulting with a presidential candidate's fixer about amendments to a source agreement?" Steinglass asked, using initials for the tabloid's parent company. "No," Pecker responded.

Several similar questions followed suit, with Pecker acknowledging that he had not previously sought out stories and worked the company's sources on behalf of a presidential candidate, nor allowed political fixers close access to internal decision-making.

"It's the only one," Pecker said.

Attentiveness and whispers in the courtroom

In their fourth day of hearing testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, jurors in Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York remained attentive Friday even as cross-examination turned technical.

As Pecker and Trump defense lawyer Emil Bove parsed a 2018 nonprosecution agreement between federal authorities and the Enquirer's parent company, members of the jury variously watched them, looked at the document on big screens or appeared to take notes.

Trump sat chatting and gesturing with lawyer Susan Necheles while the other lawyers had an extended conversation with Judge Juan Merchan at the bench.

After the sidebar conversation broke up for a few minutes, Trump leaned over to another of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, whispering something to him. Blanche then leaned toward Trump and covered his mouth as he whispered a response, while Bove resumed questioning Pecker.

Publisher challenged on past statements

In the most confrontational moment so far Friday in Donald Trump's hush money trial, defense lawyer Emil Bove said former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker's testimony has been inconsistent with statements to federal prosecutors in 2018.

Pecker testified that Trump thanked him for his help handling potential stories involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal and Dino Sajudin, a Trump Tower doorman, during a White House visit on Jan. 6, 2017.

But according to notes cited by Bove in court, Pecker had previously told federal authorities that Trump did not express any gratitude to him or American Media during the meeting.

Pecker stuck Friday to the story he has given in court.

"I know what the truth is," he said.

Cross-examination resumes of David Pecker

Defense lawyers in Donald Trump's hush money trial are digging Friday into assertions of the former publisher of the National Enquirer and his efforts to protect Trump from negative stories during the 2016 election.

David Pecker returned to the witness stand for the fourth day as defense attorneys tried to poke holes in his testimony, which has described helping bury embarrassing stories Trump feared could hurt his campaign.

Pecker has painted a tawdry portrait of "catch and kill" tabloid schemes - catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

The cross-examination, which began Thursday, will cap a consequential week in the criminal cases the former president is facing as he vies to reclaim the White House in November.

Trump calls day's court proceedings 'breathtaking'

Former President Trump, exiting the courtroom at the end of Day 7 of his trial, called the day's court proceedings "breathtaking."

He specifically remarked on the Supreme Court's hearing this morning on his bid for presidential immunity in his federal election interference case, which Trump was forced to miss due to his criminal trial.

"I heard the meeting was quite amazing. The justices were on their game," Trump said.

Prosecutor objects to defense questions before court is adjourned

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass alleged that defense attorney Emil Bove used a "totally improper line of questioning" during Bove's cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Judge Juan Mechan, addressing Bove, at one point raised his voice slightly, saying, "Are you missing my point? Because I don't think you are responding to what I am saying."

Merchan said that the jurors will be corrected about the alleged misimpression at the start of court tomorrow.

The judge then adjourned the day's proceedings, with court scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. ET Friday.

President Biden is making the rounds on Thursday across the state, meaning heavier traffic.

Pecker tells defense that killing stories is 'standard' procedure

Former President Trump's attorney Emil Bove began his cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker by seeking to painting Pecker and Trump's "mutually beneficially" relationship as one that had nothing to do with the election but rather had been underway for years under a "standard operating procedure."

"Seventeen years of providing President Trump with a heads-up about potentially negative publicity?" Bove asked Pecker.

"That's correct," Pecker said.

Bove asked Pecker about the first time he ever provided Trump with information -- which Pecker testified was in the 1990s and related to a negative story about Marla Maples, Trump's ex-wife.

"Fair to say that predated the Trump Tower meeting by a long time?" Bove asked of Pecker and Trump's relationship.

"Yes," Pecker said.

"A lot of interactions?" Bove asked.

"Yes," Pecker responded.

Pecker also testified about buying and suppressing stories for other individuals, such as one for former Rep. Rahm Emanuel for $20,000.

Bove also sought to show that kind of relationship between publishers and politicians was normal, saying there was "nothing wrong about" it.

Pecker says he still considers Trump a friend

Prosecutors wrapped up their questioning of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker by asking whether he bears former President Donald Trump any ill will.

"On the contrary," he said, "I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me throughout my career."

Although they haven't spoken since the FBI began investigating the hush money arrangements several years ago - Pecker said he thought it would be inappropriate for them to communicate, given the probe - "I still consider him a friend," Pecker said.

Trump looked on stoically as Pecker said so.

When asked earlier Thursday what he thought of Pecker's testimony, Trump said he was a "nice guy."

Pecker returns to the witness stand after lunch

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, did not look at Donald Trump while walking by him on his way back to the witness stand at the former president's hush money trial Thursday in New York.

Pecker testified that Trump invited him to a White House dinner in July 2017 to thank him for helping the campaign - and asked for an update on former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The Enquirer had paid McDougal for the rights to her story claiming an affair with Trump and then kept it under wraps, Pecker testified earlier.

Trump was furious when McDougal gave an interview to CNN's Anderson Cooper in March 2018, Pecker testified.

"I thought you had and we had an agreement with Karen McDougal that she can't give any interviews or be on any TV channels," Pecker testified that Trump told him by phone.

He said he explained to Trump that the agreement had been changed to allow her to speak to the press after a 2016 Wall Street Journal article about his tabloid's $150,000 payout to McDougal.

"Mr. Trump got very aggravated when he heard that I amended it, and he couldn't understand why," Pecker told jurors.

Anthony Carlo was in Lower Manhattan as testimony continued in the Trump hush money trial.

Judge sets stage for arguments on contempt

Donald Trump waved his fist as he returned to the courtroom after a lunch break in his hush money trial in New York.

He did not respond to a shouted question about the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments earlier Thursday in his bid to avoid prosecution over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Meanwhile, the judge in the New York case signed an order setting in motion arguments, not necessarily immediately, over prosecutors' request earlier in the day for more contempt findings against Trump.

Prosecutors had already asked the judge to fine Trump over 10 social media posts they say violate a gag order that bars him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors.

Thursday morning, they flagged four additional episodes, including comments at a press event earlier in the day about key witness David Pecker.

Pecker recalls meeting with Trump before inauguration

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker recalled Thursday a meeting with Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, about two weeks before his inauguration, at which they discussed former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The testimony came in Trump's hush money trial in New York shortly before the court broke for lunch.

As Pecker recalled it, Trump introduced him to a group of top aides as the National Enquirer owner and joked: "He probably knows more than anyone in this room."

After dismissing the aides, Trump asked Pecker for an update on "our girl," meaning McDougal, according to Pecker. The Enquirer had paid McDougal for the rights to her story claiming an affair with Trump, Pecker testified earlier.

Pecker said he reassured Trump that McDougal was keeping quiet, and Trump thanked him for handling the matters with McDougal and Dino Sajudin, the former doorman at one of Trump's buildings who was also paid for his claims.

"He said that the stories were very embarrassing," Pecker recalled.

Trump described as 'very upset' over Wall Street Journal story

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker recalled an irate Donald Trump calling him a day after The Wall Street Journal published an article shortly before the 2016 election.

Pecker's testimony came in his third day on the stand in Trump's hush money trial in New York, and as arguments at the Supreme Court in Washington in a separate case over Trump's presidential immunity were concluding.

The Journal article broke the news of the Enquirer's $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal for the rights to the former Playboy model's story claiming an affair with Trump.

"Donald Trump was very upset, saying, 'How could this happen? I thought you had this under control. Either you or one of your people leaked the story,'" Pecker testified.

He said he told Trump that perhaps McDougal or someone connected with her had tipped off the Journal.

"Our call ended very abruptly. He didn't say goodbye, which was very unusual," Pecker testified.

Pecker testified that Enquirer owner American Media's response to the Journal that the company had "not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump" was a lie.

"I wanted to protect my company, I wanted to protect myself, and I wanted also to protect Donald Trump," Pecker explained on the witness stand.

The court broke for lunch shortly afterward. Trump left the courtroom without addressing reporters in the hallway.

'This story is true,' Pecker recounts being told of Stormy Daniels

"Do you know someone by the same of Stephanie Clifford?"

The question, by assistant district attorney Josh Steinglass, was the jury's introduction during the evidentiary phase of the trial to the woman whose long-denied claim of a sexual tryst with Donald Trump set in motion the alleged falsification of business records.

"Stormy Daniels is, or was, a porn star," former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker replied, using Clifford's stage name.

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FILE - Stormy Daniels arrives at an event in Berlin, on Oct. 11, 2018.
Markus Schreiber, File

Pecker was having dinner with his wife on a Saturday night in early October 2016 when he said he received an urgent call from National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.

"He said that she, she being Stormy Daniels, is trying to sell a story that she had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump, and Dylan can acquire the story for $120,000 from Keith Davidson if we made a decision right now," Pecker recalled.

In a series of text messages the jury saw, Howard told Pecker, "I know denials were made in the past but this story is true."

Pecker replied to Howard, "We can't pay 120k." The company had already paid $30,000 for the Dino Sajudin story and $150,000 for the Karen McDougal story, and Pecker recalled thinking, "I am not a bank."

In the text exchange, Howard responded, "Perhaps I call Michael and advise him and he can take it from there, and handle."

Pecker texted back, "Yes a good idea."

Pecker recalled having "a number of conversations" with Michael Cohen about Stormy Daniels. Cohen wanted Pecker to catch and kill the story.

"I said, 'I am not purchasing this story, I am not going to get involved with a porn star,'" Pecker testified he told Cohen. "He was upset and said the boss would be furious with me."

Bid for new trial denied for new trial in E. Jean Carroll case

In unrelated development, a federal judge in New York on Thursday rejected former President Trump's bid for a new trial in a defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. The ruling upheld the jury's $83 million damage award.

"Contrary to the defendant's arguments, Ms. Carroll's compensatory damages were not awarded solely for her emotional distress; they were not for garden variety harms; and they were not excessive," Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote.

"Mr. Trump's malicious and unceasing attacks on Ms. Carroll were disseminated to more than 100 million people. They included public threats and personal attacks, and they endangered Ms. Carroll's health and safety."

Pecker says he was never repaid for McDougal's catch-and-kill

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker described his concern about the way Trump's repayment for the catch-and-kill purchase of Karen McDougal's story would appear in his company's accounting system.

Pecker testified that he put a different label on the invoice to Trump attorney Michael Cohen's LLC for the repayment because he "did not want to have a payment received in the company's finance department from the Trump Organization or Michael Cohen."

"Why not?" the prosecutor asked him.

"Because I believed that that payment would raise a lot of questions and issues," Pecker testified.

Pecker also suggested he became uncomfortable with being reimbursed by Trump or Cohen after speaking with his legal counsel.

Lastly, Pecker testified about his repeated efforts to get that repayment -- which he said never happened.

"To be clear, Mr. Pecker, did AMI ever get reimbursed?" the prosecutor asked, referring to the Enquirer's parent company.

"No," Pecker answered.

Dispute over exhibits

While jurors were on a break Thursday in Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York, both sides debated disputed exhibits that prosecutors want jurors to see.

Some of the disputed evidence, which the judge is keeping out of the trial for now, involved text messages then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard exchanged with a relative around the time of Trump's 2016 election.

"At least if he wins, I'll be pardoned for electoral fraud," Howard said in one of the messages, which was read aloud in court by a prosecutor.

In another message, Howard informed his relative that Trump has "just been named president elect."

The relative's response - "Oh dear" - elicited laughter from the gallery when it was read in the courtroom.

The messages were not shown in court.

Trump's lawyers argued the messages were hearsay, not business records, and couldn't be used as evidence.

The jury then returned to hear more from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

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Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Thursday, April 25 2024.
Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP

Pecker says McDougal's story could have 'hurt the campaign'

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that he believed Donald Trump had knowledge about the $150,000 contract to buy Karen McDougal's silence regarding an alleged year-long affair.

"Do you know if anyone else besides Michael Cohen had any knowledge of this contract?" prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked.

"Yes, I believe Donald Trump did," Pecker responded.

"Was your principal purpose to suppress the story to prevent it from influencing the election?" Steinglass asked.

"Yes," Pecker said.

"Were you aware that expenditures by corporations made for the purpose of influencing an election made in coordination with or at the request of a candidate or campaign were unlawful?" Steinglass asked.

Pecker said he was aware and confirmed that the Enquirer's parent company, AMI, never reported the payment to the Federal Election Commission.

"We purchased the story so it wouldn't be published by any other organization," Pecker said.

"Why did you not want it to be published by any other organization?" Steinglass asked.

"We didn't want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign," Pecker said.

"Who is we?" Steinglass followed up.

"Myself and Michael Cohen," Pecker said.

According to Pecker, AMI agreed to the $150,000 payment on the promise that Donald Trump or the Trump Organization would reimburse AMI for the payment. He frequently followed up with Cohen about the reimbursement and got a similar answer from Cohen.

"Why are you worried? I am your friend. The boss will take care of it," Pecker said about Cohen's response.

Pecker testifies he believed McDougal affair story was true

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker took the stand Thursday in Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York and recalled receiving a telephone call from Trump during the tabloid's pursuit of former Playboy model Karen McDougal's claims of an extramarital affair.

"When I got on the phone, Mr. Trump said to me, 'Karen is a nice girl. Is it true that a Mexican group is looking to buy her story for $8 million?'" Pecker said. "I said, 'I absolutely don't believe there's a Mexican group out there looking to buy her story for $8 million.'"

Trump then asked Pecker what he should do, the ex-publisher said. Pecker testified that he told Trump, "I think you should buy the story" and keep it quiet.

"I believed the story was true," Pecker explained. "I thought it would be very embarrassing to himself and to his campaign."

Supreme Court arguments are underway

Oral arguments have begun in Donald J. Trump v. United States.

Arguing for Trump is attorney D. John Sauer. Presenting for Smith is Michael R. Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the nation's high court.

ABC News Live was providing audio from the hearing in the player above.

Trump, on trial in New York, contends president 'has to have immunity'

As Trump headed into court on Thursday morning for his ongoing trial in New York (he has pleaded not guilty), he continued to weigh in on the presidential immunity case.

"I think that the Supreme Court has a very important argument before it today," he told reporters as he entered the hallway inside a Manhattan courtroom for his hush money trial. "I would have loved to have been there but this judge would not allow me to be there."

Trump argued that the president "has to have immunity," repeating a claim that federal prosecutors and some judges have so far said would upend the rule of law.

"This has to do with a president in the future for 100 years from now," he said. "If you don't have immunity, you're not going to do anything. You're going to become a ceremonial president. It's just going to be doing nothing, you're not going to take any of the risks, both good and bad."

-ABC News' Kelsey Walsh and Michael Pappano

Hush money trial resumes as SCOTUS hears arguments in Trump's immunity trial

Donald Trump's hush money trial is set to resume Thursday, but in D.C., there is even more legal drama for the former president.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Trump is immune from federal charges for his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The outcome could determine whether Trump faces a federal trial on the four felony counts brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Back in New York City, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is just one of the witnesses that will take the stand as the prosecution continues to bring its case forward against Trump.

Later Thursday morning, Trump could learn if he violated Judge Juan Merchan's limited gag order through a series of social media posts. Prosecutors are asking the judge to fine Trump $1,000 per violation.

While the judge can impose imprisonment, the prosecution is not seeking that yet. Authorities say the Secret Service has already held meetings and started planning for what to do if the former president were to be held in contempt.

Surprise campaign stop ahead of trial

Trump made a surprise campaign stop at a Midtown construction site ahead of Thursday's trial. Supporters gathered to see and shake hands with the former president.

Phil Taitt has details from the gathering.

"I did nothing wrong. It's a political witchhunt. It's election interference, that's all it is," Trump told the crowd.

Dozens of people could be heard chanting Trump's name at the site.

Court ends for Tuesday

The jury in Donald Trump's hush money trial has been sent home for the day, with court adjourning early for the Passover holiday.

Jurors had to directly pass by Trump at the defense table as they exited just after 2 p.m. but none appeared to look in his direction.

Afterward, Trump peered at reporters in the courtroom gallery as he ambled to the hallway. He clutched the same pile of clipped papers he walked in with earlier, which Trump said were news articles from the past day and a half.

"So, I put an article on it and then somebody's name is mentioned somewhere deep in the article and I ended up in violation of the gag order," he said. "I think it's a disgrace. It's totally unconstitutional."

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Former President Donald Trump speaks after leaving Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool

Trump angrily criticized Judge Merchan and the limited gag order that was the topic of this morning's contempt hearing.

"We have a gag order, which to me is totally unconstitutional. I'm not allowed to talk but people are allowed to talk about me," Trump said. "So, they can talk about me, they can say whatever they want, they can lie. But I'm not allowed to say that. I just have to sit back and look at why a conflicted judge has ordered for me to have a gag order. I don't think anybody's ever seen anything like this."

Prosecutors asked the judge to fine Trump $10,000 for what the say are 10 recent violations of the limited gag order, which prohibits Trump from making statements about witnesses, jurors, and lawyers in the case other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The judge has yet to issue a ruling.

Trial proceedings will resume on Thursday.

Pecker testifies about Karen McDougal before court ends for day

"Karen McDougal was a Playboy model," former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker said, recalling how he learned in June 2016 "that there's a Playboy model who is trying to sell a story about a relationship that she had with Donald Trump for a year."

Pecker said he immediately called Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen to inform him. By then, he was speaking to Cohen "a couple times a week," but that soon changed. Pecker said he and Cohen spoke "much more frequently" about McDougal's claims.

"Michael was very agitated. It looked like he was getting a lot of pressure to get the answer right away," Pecker said. "He kept on calling, and each time he called he seemed more anxious."

Pecker said he assumed "Mr. Trump was asking Michael Cohen, 'Did we hear anything yet?'" Pecker said.

"Did you ever come to believe that Michael Cohen had spoken with Mr. Trump about McDougal's claims?" prosecutor Josh Steinglass asked.

"Yes I did," Pecker responded before recounting a phone conversation Pecker said he himself had with Trump.

"I said I think the story should be purchased and we should buy it," Pecker recalled telling Trump. "Mr. Trump said to me, 'I don't buy stories. Anytime you do anything like this, it always gets out.'"

Ultimately, McDougal was paid $150,000 and promised a series of exercise articles in the publication.

Following that testimony, court was adjourned.

It's expected the jury will hear more on McDougal upon Pecker's return to the witness stand, when court resumes on Thursday.

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Former president Donald Trump, left, watches as David Pecker answers questions on the witness stand, far right, from assistant district attorney Joshua Steingless.
Elizabeth Williams via AP

Pecker details catch-and-kill deal with Trump Tower doorman

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker described the very first story he "caught and killed" pursuant to his agreement with Donald Trump and his then-attorney Michael Cohen: a false story from a Trump Tower doorman in 2015.

Trump, sitting at the defense table, shook his head when Pecker laid out the allegation: that "Donald Trump fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid at Trump Tower."

Pecker testified that he "immediately called Michael Cohen" when his team got wind of those allegations being shopped by the doorman, Dino Sajudin. Cohen told him it was "absolutely not true" -- but Pecker testified he ultimately moved forward with buying the story to the tune of $30,000.

"This could be a very big story. I believe that it's important that it should be removed from the market," Pecker said he told Cohen.

Asked about Cohen's response, Pecker said: "He said the boss would be very pleased," saying he understood "the boss" to mean Donald Trump.

Pecker testified that Cohen later called back to say the story is "absolutely not true" and that Trump "would take a DNA test" -- an apparently new revelation -- but Pecker said it wouldn't be necessary.

Pecker conceded that if the story turned out to be true, it "probably would be the biggest sale" for the paper since the death of Elvis Presley.

Still, Pecker testified he would have held it until after the campaign was over.

"I would have published it after the election," Pecker said. "That was the conversation I had with Michael Cohen, and that's what we agreed to."

Ultimately, the story turned out to be untrue -- but Pecker still paid for it.

"Why are you paying $30,000 for an untrue story?" prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked while displaying the contract Pecker had with Sajudan to the jury.

"Because if the story got out to another publication, it would have been embarrassing for the campaign," Pecker said.

"So this was a way to lock it up?" Steinglass asked.

"That's correct," Pecker responded.

Pecker said he never paid to bury a story about Trump before doorman came along

David Pecker testified Tuesday that he'd never paid to bury a story about Donald Trump before Dino Sajudin, then a doorman at Trump Tower, came along.

The former National Enquirer publisher recalled calling Michael Cohen and explaining that they could purchase the doorman's silence for $30,000 by buying the exclusive rights to his story.

"He said, 'Who's going to pay for it?' I said, 'I'll pay for it,'" Pecker testified. "Then he said, 'Thank you very much.' He said, 'The boss will be very pleased.'"

In response to the prosecutor's question about who he understood "the boss" to be, Pecker replied: "Donald Trump."

Explaining why he decided to have the National Enquirer foot the bill, Pecker testified: "This was going to be a very big story."

He added that it would "probably be the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley," but noted he would've held it until after the election, citing his agreement with Cohen.

Pecker described the National Enquirer's "normal" procedure of placing Sajudin under a polygraph test to determine if his tip was legitimate, but prosecutor Joshua Steinglass stopped him before he could reveal the results, which isn't allowed in court.

Pecker said the National Enquirer hired a private investigator, sent reporters to a location where the supposed child was living and used other verification methods - ultimately learning that the story was "1,000% untrue."

"Had you ever paid a story to kill a story about Donald Trump?" Steinglass asked.

"No I had not," Pecker said.

Trump amplified dubious National Enquirer claims in 2016

David Pecker's testimony on Tuesday in Donald Trump's hush money trial provided a seamy backstory to Trump's rise from political novice to president of the United States.

With Cohen acting as a shadow editor of sorts, Pecker said he and the National Enquirer parlayed trashy rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that tarred Trump's opponents while also running pieces that boosted his image.

The articles were timed to run just as Trump's rivals were climbing in polls, and some of the allegations - such as articles falsely tying Ted Cruz's father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - entered the mainstream via cable news and conservative-leaning talk programs.

Trump himself amplified the National Enquirer's absurd allegations about Cruz's father in May 2016, telling Fox News in one interview, "His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot."

"Nobody even brings it up, I mean they don't even talk about that. That was reported and nobody talks about it," he went on.

Trump had a history in 2016 of repeating unproven and unsubstantiated stories, many from the National Enquirer, which had endorsed his candidacy. After the tabloid printed a story without evidence that claimed Cruz was having an extramarital affair, Trump praised the publication for having a "very good" record of accuracy.

Secret Service preparing if Trump is held in contempt

The U.S. Secret Service has held meetings and started planning for what to do if former President Trump were to be held in contempt and Judge Juan Merchan opted to send him to short-term confinement, officials familiar with the situation told ABC News.

Merchan on Tuesday reserved decision after a contentious hearing. Prosecutors said at this point they are seeking a fine.

"We are not yet seeking an incarceratory penalty," assistant district attorney Chris Conroy said, "But the defendant seems to be angling for that."

Officials do not necessarily believe Merchan would put Trump in a holding cell in the courthouse, but they are planning for contingencies, the officials said.

No immediate decision on potential gag order violations

Judge Juan M. Merchan said Tuesday he would not make an immediate decision on whether Donald Trump violated a gag order barring him from making public statements about witnesses in his hush money case.

Following a hearing held before witness testimony was set to resume, Merchan suggested that instead of begging for forgiveness, Trump should have asked for clarity when considering social posts or reposts that might cross the line.

Trump's lawyers had reiterated their argument that his posts about witnesses such as his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen were merely responses to political speech.

Prosecutors have sought sanctions against the former president, as well as fines of at least $3,000.

Last year, Trump was fined $15,000 for twice violating a gag order imposed at his New York civil fraud trial after he made a disparaging social media post about the judge's chief law clerk.

In 2022, Trump was held in contempt and fined $110,000 for being slow to respond to a subpoena in the investigation that led to the civil fraud lawsuit.

Lawyer says others post to Trump's Truth Social account

Todd Blanche, Donald Trump's lawyer, peeled back the curtain on the ex-president's Truth Social operation during a hearing on whether he recently violated a gag order prohibiting him from publicly attacking witnesses in his hush money case.

According to Blanche, people working with Trump will pick out articles they think his followers would like to see and then repost them to Truth Social under his name.

Blanche had argued that reposting a news article, as in some of the posts at issue, doesn't violate the gag order put in place by Judge Juan M. Merchan.

When the judge asked for citations to cases to back that supposition up, Blanche said he didn't have any, but "it's just common sense."

As Merchan grew increasingly frustrated with Blanche, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass smiled, rolled his eyes and appeared to stifle a laugh. On the opposite side, Trump sat slumped in his chair, scowling.

Blanche insisted that Trump "is being very careful to comply" with the gag order. Judge Merchan shot back: "You're losing all credibility."

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold Trump in contempt of court and to fine him at least $3,000 for the online posts in question.

What to expect on day 2 of testimony

A longtime tabloid publisher was expected Tuesday to tell jurors about his efforts to help Donald Trump stifle unflattering stories during the 2016 campaign as testimony resumes in the historic hush money trial of the former president.

David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher who prosecutors say worked with Trump and Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, on a so-called "catch-and-kill" strategy to buy up and then spike negative stories during the campaign, testified briefly Monday and will be back on the stand Tuesday in the Manhattan trial.

Also Tuesday, prosecutors are expected to tell a judge that Trump should be held in contempt over a series of posts on his Truth Social platform that they say violated an earlier gag order barring him from attacking witnesses in the case. Trump's lawyers deny that he broke the order.

Pecker's testimony followed opening statements in which prosecutors alleged that Trump had sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public, including by approving hush money payments to a porn actor who alleged an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied that.

"This was a planned, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. "It was election fraud, pure and simple."

A defense lawyer countered by attacking the integrity of the onetime Trump confidant who's now the government's star witness.

"President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney's office should not have brought this case," attorney Todd Blanche said.

Trump, after court, says payments were correctly labeled

Moments after his criminal trial adjourned for the day, Donald Trump exited the courtroom and told reporters that his payments to Michael Cohen were appropriately labeled as legal expenses.

"Actually, nobody's been able to say what you're supposed to call it," Trump told the media. "If the lawyer puts in a bill or an invoice and you pay the bill ... that's a very small little line ... it's not like you could tell a life story."

"They marked it down for a legal expense. This is what I got indicted over," Trump said.

The former president also attempted to paint his former attorney Michael Cohen as an unreliable witness and said he "wasn't very good in a lot of ways" as an attorney.

Trump's motorcade then departed the courthouse.

Testimony ends for the day

Court adjourned just after 12:30 p.m. on MOnday.

Judge Juan M. Merchan had originally planned to adjourn at 2 p.m. because of Passover but agreed to adjourn early to accommodate an alternate juror's emergency dental appointment.

Merchan plans to adjourn court on Tuesday at 2 p.m. for the holiday.

David Pecker is scheduled to return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

During his brief testimony, Pecker suggested that former National Enquirer chief content officer Dylan Howard - an alleged participant in the catch-and-kill scheme - will be unable to testify due to a medical condition.

The first witness is David Pecker

David Pecker, the National Enquirer's former publisher and a longtime friend of Donald Trump, was the first witness to take the stand in the former president's hush money trial on Monday.

Prosecutors say he met with Trump and Michael Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help the campaign identify negative stories about him.

He took the stand just after noon, sporting a charcoal suit, yellow tie and glasses. The 72-year-old now consults, including for his old employer, the company formerly known as American Media Inc.

Pecker, who once called Donald Trump "a personal friend of mine," flashed a big smile as he took the stand as the trial's first witness, belying the gravity of the moment.

Pecker cackled loudly into the microphone, jolting the room, when prosecutor Josh Steinglass, asked him about his various phone numbers that he struggled to remember.

Pecker, 72, was the publisher of the National Enquirer but prosecutors said he was "acting as a co-conspirator" in helping buy and bury damaging stories about Trump, including a doorman's false claim that Trump had fathered a love child and a Playboy model's claim of a sexual relationship with Trump, who has denied both allegations.

Defense asked jurors to use common sense

Defense attorneys concluded their opening statements in Donald Trump's hush money trial by downplaying expected testimony from porn actor Stormy Daniels, as well as emphasizing that prosecutors have not charged him with conspiracy despite describing the allegations against him as such in their opening statements.

"There's nothing illegal about what you will hear happened among the National Enquirer, AMI, David Pecker and Donald Trump," Blanche said, adding: "It's not a scheme, unless a scheme means something that doesn't matter, that's not illegal."

Blanche concluded by urging jurors to pay attention to all of the testimony and to use common sense, observing, "We're all New Yorkers here."

"If you do that, there will be a very swift 'not guilty' verdict," Blanche said.

Court subsequently took a break and Trump left the courtroom without speaking to reporters in the hallway.

Defense targets key prosecution witness, Michael Cohen

In his opening statement, defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to eviscerate Michael Cohen's credibility, saying Cohen is obsessed with Donald Trump, has a desire to see Trump incarcerated and has a propensity to lie.

"He has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump. I submit to you he cannot be trusted," Blanche said.

On Sunday night, Cohen publicly posted online that he had a "mental excitement about this trial" and the testimony he would deliver, Blanche said.

"His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump's destruction," Blanche said. "You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump by relying on the words of Michael Cohen."

todd blanche donald trump hush money trial nyc
This artist depiction shows defense attorney Todd Blanche pointing at former President Donald Trump while giving his opening statement to the jury
Elizabeth Williams

Trump had 'nothing to do,' with invoices, defense says

"I have a spoiler alert," defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors during his opening statement. "There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy."

Amid frequent objections from prosecutors, Blanche argued that the Manhattan district attorney has attempted to make the payments and non-disclosure agreements between Trump and Stormy Daniels "sinister" to the jury.

Judge Merchan had to interrupt Blanche's opening after multiple objections from prosecutors, then he met the parties at a sidebar conference, after which he struck a line from Blanche's opening.

"There is nothing illegal about entering into a non-disclosure agreement. Period," Blanche restated after the portion of his opening was struck from the record.

Trump 'did not commit any crimes,' defense tells jury

"President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes," defense attorney Todd Blanche said to begin the defense's opening statements.

"The Manhattan district attorney's office should never have brought this case," Blanche said.

"You will hear me and others refer to him as President Trump. That is a title he has earned because he was our 45th President," Blanche added.

Defense attorneys said that he had nothing to do with payments that were made to prevent stories about his sex life from being made public near the end of the 2016 presidential election.

Todd Blanche portrayed the business ledger entries at issue in the case as pro forma actions performed by a Trump Organization functionary.

Trump "had nothing to do" with the invoice, the check being generated or the entry on the ledger, Blanche said.

While prosecutors allege Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $420,000 - more than double what Cohen paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels - because the cover-up was crucial to the campaign, Blanche said the excess payments are proof that Trump had nothing to do with the scheme.

"Ask yourself, would a frugal businessman, a man who pinches pennies, repay a $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?" Blanche asked.

"President Trump had nothing to do with any of the 34 pieces of paper, the 34 counts, except that he signed the checks, in the White House, while he was running the country."

Blanche took particular issue with the prosecution's insinuation that attempting to influence an election connotes illegality.

Prosecutors say Trump paid Cohen double for hush money scheme

After the 2016 election, Donald Trump invited David Pecker, then publisher of the National Enquirer, to Trump Tower to thank him for his contribution to the campaign, prosecutors said Monday. He also invited the publisher to the inauguration and later to the White House, where a dinner was held to honor Pecker and then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.

But prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said Trump still had a few "loose ends" to tie up at the time, including reimbursing his then-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen for the payments he had given to Stormy Daniels.

"Neither Trump nor the Trump Organization could just write a check to Cohen with a memo line that said 'reimbursement for porn star pay-off,'" Colangelo said. "So they agreed to cook the books and make it look like the payment was actually income, payment for services rendered."

Colangelo added that the evidence would show that while Trump is a "very frugal businessman," when it came to reimbursing Cohen, Trump paid him double.

"This might be the only time it ever happened," Colangelo said. Trump's willingness to part with so much cash showed how important it was to him to keep the hush money scheme under wraps, the prosecutor posited.

Trump directed Cohen to make a deal with Stormy Daniels, prosecutors say

Within days of the "Access Hollywood" tape involving Donald Trump becoming public, Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors, The National Enquirer alerted Trump's then-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen that porn actor Stormy Daniels wanted to go public with her claims of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

"At Trump's direction, Cohen negotiated a deal to buy Ms. Daniels' story to prevent American voters from hearing that story before Election Day," Colangelo told jurors, referring to the scheme as a "conspiracy" and "election fraud, pure and simple."

trump nyc trial
Former president Donald Trump, center, awaits the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York
Yuki Iwamura, Pool

Colangelo told jurors in Donald Trump's criminal hush money case that The Washington Post's publication of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump was heard on a hot mic "bragging about sexual assaults," had an immediate and "explosive" impact on his presidential campaign.

Colangelo told jurors that prominent Trump allies withdrew their endorsements and condemned his language. The prosecutor said evidence would show the Republican National Committee even considered whether it was possible to replace Trump with another candidate.

Prosecution outlines 'catch-and-kill' operation

Prosecutors in Donald Trump's criminal trial honed in on what they called a "catch-and-kill" operation at the center of the allegations in the hush money case.

The plan was hatched at Trump Tower shortly after the then-presidential candidate had announced his candidacy. During that meeting, prosecutors say that David Pecker, then-publisher of the National Enquirer, agreed to "help the defendant's campaign by working as the eyes and the ears of the campaign."

Speaking of arrangements made to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to suppress her claims of a nearly year-long affair with the married Trump, Colangelo said Trump "desperately did not want this information ... become public because he was worried about its effect on the election."

Colangelo told jurors they would hear a recording Cohen made in September 2016 of himself briefing Trump on the plan to buy McDougal's story. The recording was made public in July 2018. Colangelo told jurors they would hear Trump in his own voice, saying, "What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?"

Trump tried to corrupt 2016 election, prosecutor claims

Prosecutors in Donald Trump's hush money trial said in opening statements that the former president allegedly went to great lengths to "corrupt" the 2016 presidential election.

"The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors.

Colangelo, senior counsel to the district attorney, told jurors that though the payments to Michael Cohen were labeled as legal fees pursuant to a retainer agreement, there was no retainer and there were no legal services. "The defendant falsified those business records because he wanted to conceal his and others' criminal conduct," he said.

Prosecutor begins opening statements

"This case is about a criminal conspiracy," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo began his opening statement in Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.

"The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election," the prosecutor said.

The utterance represents the first time a prosecutor has sought to implicate a former president in a crime at his trial.

Judge rules Trump can be questioned by prosecutors

Justice Juan Merchan has ruled in the Sandoval hearing that prosecutors can question Trump about multiple past court cases if he takes the stand in this case.

Merchan limited the scope of the cases and the extent to which prosecutors can question him about the facts of those cases.

The ruling is a mixed bag for Trump, who had sought to entirely block questioning on these previous issues if he takes the stand.

Trump arrives for trial

Trump arrived at the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m., minutes after castigating the case in capital letters on social media as "election interference" and a "witch hunt."

He faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records - a charge punishable by up to four years in prison - though it's not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to attempt to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

What to expect during Monday's opening statements

The arguments are expected to give the 12-person jury and the voting public the clearest view to date of the allegations at the heart of the case and insight into Trump's expected defenses. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and denies wrongdoing.

Attorneys will also introduce a colorful cast of characters who are expected to testify about the made-for-tabloids saga, including a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump and the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her to keep quiet about it.

More about the Trump hush money trial in New York

WHAT IS THE CASE ABOUT?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges that former president Donald Trump fraudulently and repeatedly falsified business records to conceal criminal conduct.

According to Bragg, Trump engaged in a scheme with his then-lawyer Michael Cohen and others to influence the 2016 election by suppressing negative information about Trump, including a $130,000 hush-money payment to suppress information about Trump's alleged sexual encounter with porn actress Stephanie Clifford a.k.a. Stormy Daniels.

After the election and while he was president, Trump authorized repaying Cohen through twelve $35,000 payments, which the Trump Organization characterized as payments for legal services pursuant to its retainer agreement with Cohen.

Those payments - which comprise the 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree - sit at the center of Bragg's criminal case.

Donald Trump's lawyers have argued that Bragg's case is a "deluded fantasy" that relies on the testimony of a convicted felon.

Defense lawyers have not yet clearly articulated a contrasting theory of the case, but recent filings suggest they plan to target the credibility of important witnesses, suggest the case was politically motivated, and argue that Trump did not intend to commit a crime.

While Trump's lawyers recently claimed they do not intend to make an advice-of-counsel defense - arguing Trump was just acting at the direction of his lawyers - they plan to highlight the involvement of lawyers in the scheme to prove Trump lacked the intent to commit crimes.

HOW LONG WITH THE TRIAL TAKE?

From the start of jury selection to a verdict, Trump's New York trial could run from six-to-eight weeks.

The schedule is subject to change and could vary based on the flow of the trial, including the need to call additional witnesses to authenticate evidence or rate of objections from the parties.

The trial will only be in session four days a week with a full-day recess on Wednesdays. We also expect that Judge Merchan will take multiple days off in observance of Passover.

WHO IS ON THE JURY?

A total of 12 jurors and six alternates have been seated as of Friday in Trump's hush money criminal trial. Two previously-selected jurors were let go on Thursday.

Here is what we know about the current 12 jurors:

Juror 1

Juror 1 -- a middle-aged salesperson from Ireland -- will serve as the case's foreman.

He lives in Harlem and said he normally gets his news from the New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. In his spare time, he said he enjoys doing "anything outdoorsy."

He once worked as a waiter but has worked in sales for the last three decades.

When asked if he was aware of Trump's other criminal cases, he responded, "I've heard of some of them."

Juror 2

The original juror 2 -- an oncology nurse -- was removed on Thursday after telling the court that enough details about her identity were reported in the media that she had friends and family contacting her to ask if she was on the case.

She was replaced as juror 2 with a male who works for an investment bank, has an MBA in finance and disclosed to the court that he read quotes from Trump's "Art of the Deal."

He said he gets his news from X, where he follows an account that reposts Trump's Truth Social posts, Michael Cohen, and an account devoted to Trump's legal and political woes.

"Except for following Michael Cohen on Twitter, I don't follow any anti-Trump organizations," he said.

Asked by ADA Steinglass if he could keep an open mind, he responded, "I'd have to wait to hear everything and see if it's compelling or not."

He lives in Midtown with his wife and enjoys hiking, music, and concerts.

Juror 3

Juror 3 is a corporate attorney who moved to New York from Oregon. He has worked at two major white-shoe law firms in New York.

He said he normally gets his news from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Google. In his spare time, he said he enjoys hiking and running.

When asked about the case, he suggested that he could infer the former president's intent without "reading his mind"; however, he was embarrassed to admit he was not very familiar with all the allegations against the former president.

"I am actually not super familiar with the other charges. I don't really follow the news that closely -- a little embarrassing to say."

Juror 4

Previously selected juror 4 -- an IT consultant who described Trump as "fascinating" -- was also excused on Thursday after prosecutors raised concerns about a legal case potentially involving his wife and his own political activity.

He was replaced Thursday with a security engineer who has lived in New York for more than a decade. He once served on a grand jury and a criminal trial jury. He is originally from California and listed his hobbies as his "children," metalworking, and carpentry.

He said he could "absolutely" be fair in the case and would not have any concerns about returning a guilty verdict.

He is not on social media and receives his news from a spattering of news outlets.

Juror 5

Juror 5 was the only potential juror who raised her hand when lawyers asked if they had ever heard of Trump's other criminal cases.

"President Trump speaks his mind," she said. "And I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking."

A lifelong New Yorker, she currently works as a middle school teacher who lives in Harlem. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and theater.

She normally gets her news from Google and TikTok, listens to inspirational podcasts, and sometimes listens to the Breakfast Club radio show. She said that she "doesn't really care for the news."

Juror 6

Juror 6 is a young software engineer.

She grew up in New York City and lives in Chelsea. She said she gets her news from the New York Times and TikTok. In her spare time, she enjoys plays, restaurants, dancing and watching TV.

"I will be fair and impartial," she said in response to a question about whether Trump's candidacy for the presidency would impact her ability to serve as a fair juror.

Juror 7

Juror 7 is the second white-shoe lawyer to serve on Trump's jury.

He currently lives on the Upper East Side and enjoys spending time outdoors and with his children. He gets his news from the New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

He has never served on a jury. He said he supported some of Trump's policies as president but disagreed with others.

"I don't know the man and I don't have opinions about him personally," he said.

Juror 8

Juror 8 is a retired wealth manager who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon. His hobbies include fly fishing, skiing, meditation and yoga.

He said he gets his news from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC and CNBC. When he paused to answer one of the questions related to having strongly held opinions about Trump, Merchan followed up with the juror.

"Do you have any opinions or beliefs that would prevent you from being impartial? Merchan asked.

"No," the juror responded.

Juror 9

Juror 9 lives in the Upper East Side and has worked as a speech therapist for five years. She said she generally does not follow the news, and while she has opinions about Trump, she could set those aside.

"I fully believe that I can follow the judge's instructions," she said when asked about her ability to apply common sense to the case.

Asked by Trump's attorney Susan Necheles if she had any opinions about Trump, she said, "He was our president, everyone knows who he is."

"I tend to not agree with a lot of his politics and his decisions as a president," she said.

Juror 10

Juror 10 has worked in commerce for a major eyewear company for the last eight years.

In his spare time, he likes the outdoors and enjoys animals. He is not married and lives with another adult who is an accountant.

Juror 11

Juror 11 is a product development manager for a multinational apparel company.

A native Californian, she's called New York home for the past 15 years. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring New York.

"I don't really follow the news," she wrote when asked where she got her information. She disclosed a close friend of hers was convicted of financial fraud.

Asked by Trump's attorney, Susan Necheles, about her feelings on the former president, she responded, "I don't have strong opinions, but I don't like his persona. How he presents himself in public."

"I don't like some of my co-workers but I don't try to sabotage their work," she said, drawing an outburst of laughter from the jury box.

Justice Merchan then asked if she could repeat herself for the record.

"I don't like some of my coworkers," she replied awkwardly, drawing more laughter.

"He seems very selfish and self-serving," she said earnestly. "I don't really appreciate that from any public servant."

She says "his integrity" and how Trump "portrays himself in public -- it's not my cup of tea."

"It sounds a bit like what you're saying is you don't like him, based on what you're saying?" Necheles asked.

"Yes," she said.

Juror 12

Juror 12 is a physical therapist who lives on the Upper East Side. She gets her news from the New York Times, USA Today and CNN, and she enjoys podcasts about sports and faith.

She enjoys running, playing tennis and paddle boarding with her husband and dog. She listens to podcasts that are faith-based or sports-related.

WHO'S EXPECTED TO TESTIFY?

Cohen, a Trump loyalist turned critic, is expected to be a key prosecution witness, as he was the one who orchestrated the payoffs. Before testifying in front of the grand jury that brought the indictment last year, Cohen said his goal was "to tell the truth" and insisted he is not seeking revenge but said Trump "needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds." Cohen served prison time after pleading guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations, for arranging the payouts to Daniels and McDougal.

Other expected witnesses include Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels alleges that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 that she didn't want, but didn't say no to. Trump says it never happened.

WHAT WILL TRUMP'S DEFENSE BE?

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has slammed the case as an effort to hurt his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment and that it was designed to stop Daniels from going public about the alleged encounter. But Trump said in 2018 it had nothing to do with the campaign.

Trump's lawyers will likely attack the case by trying to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses like Cohen and Daniels. Trump has described the two as liars, testing the limits of a gag order that the judge imposed. It seeks to curtail the president's inflammatory rhetoric about the case. Trump's lawyers are expected to paint Cohen as a con man and point to his conviction on multiple federal crimes as well as his disbarment to try to persuade jurors that he can't be believed.

Trump recently posted on social media a picture of a 2018 written statement from Daniels, in which she denied they had a sexual relationship. Not long after, Daniels recanted the statement and said that a sexual encounter had occurred. She said her denials were due to a non-disclosure agreement and that she signed the statement because the parties involved "made it sound like I had no choice."

HOW LONG COULD TRUMP BE SENTENCED IF CONVICTED?

The criminal counts against Trump are Class-E felonies - which are punishable by a maximum of four years in prison - and Merchan has discretion in sentencing if Trump is convicted.

Trump has a limited criminal history (despite his three other pending criminal cases), and similar cases suggest Trump's sentence could range from no prison time to a few years.

If Trump is convicted, Merchan could also weigh his "history and character" when determining the former president's sentence.

It is unclear if Trump, should he be convicted, would be required to report to prison before the November election.

WHY WAS THE TRIAL ADJOURNED BY 30 DAYS LAST MONTH?

Judge Merchan granted a 30-day adjournment of the case last month after defense lawyers requested discovery sanctions related to the late production by prosecutors of over 100,000 pages of potential evidence from federal prosecutors. The materials were discovered after defense lawyers subpoena federal prosecutors, and the Manhattan District Attorney promptly turned over any new materials in their possession.

While Trump's lawyers requested a longer delay or dismissal of the case, Merchan determined that Trump suffered no harm from the late production of evidence, and the DA's office met their obligations for the turnover of evidence.

"This Court finds the defendant will not suffer any prejudice as a result of the recent document production because the defendant has been given a reasonable amount of time to prepare and respond to the material," Merchan said at a March 25 hearing related to the evidence issue before setting the April 15th trial date.

WHAT ABOUT TRUMP'S OTHER CASES?

Trump's three other criminal cases have gotten bogged down in legal fights and appeals, which may mean jurors won't hear about them before the November election.

The 2020 election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith remains on hold while Trump pursues his claim that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the matter in late April.

The other case brought by Smith accuses Trump of illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The trial had been scheduled to begin in May, but the judge heard arguments last month to set a new trial date and has yet to do so.

No trial date has been set in the Georgia case accusing Trump and his allies of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Prosecutors have suggested a trial date of August, but defense attorneys are now urging an appeals court to consider whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from the prosecution over a romantic relationship she had with a former top prosecutor who recently withdrew from the case.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all three cases and says he did nothing wrong.

Infomation from ABC News and the Associated Press

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