Trump trial live updates: Pecker reaffirms catch-and-kill was to benefit Trump

Written by on April 26, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s how the news is developing:

Apr 26, 1:30 PM
Pecker reaffirms catch-and-kill was to benefit Trump

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker reiterated the basic terms of the catch-and-kill arrangement during his redirect examination, though he acknowledged he did not use the words “catch-and-kill” during his August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower.

“Did you specifically use the word catch-and-kill during that meeting?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked.

“No, I did not,” Pecker said.

“What was your understanding of the part of the agreement that involved money?” Steinglass asked.

“It was my understanding that I would use the company’s sources to hear any information that was coming out on Mr. Trump or the campaign related specifically to women who would be selling their stories,” Pecker said, referencing a similar arrangement with then-gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“My understanding is [for] those stories that come up, I would speak to Michael Cohen and tell him that these are the stories that are going to be for sale. If we don’t buy them someone else will, and that Michael Cohen would buy them or make sure they don’t ever get published. That was my understanding from that meeting,” Pecker said.

Pecker reiterated that he did not plan to publish the Karen McDougal story — despite its value to the National Enquirer if it were true — in order to help the Trump campaign.

“That would kind of be like National Enquirer gold?” Steinglass asked.

“Yes,” Pecker responded.

“Zero intention of publishing that story?” Steinglass asked.

“That is correct,” Pecker said.

The purpose of the arrangement, according to Pecker, was to help Trump win the election.

“You killed the story because it helped the candidate Donald Trump?” Steinglass asked.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

Apr 26, 1:11 PM
Prosecutors dispute that Trump arrangement was ‘standard’

On redirect examination, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass sought to dismantle defense attorney Emil Bove’s claim that former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s actions on behalf of Donald Trump were nothing more than “standard operating procedure” in the tabloid industry.

Steinglass cited Pecker’s previous testimony that nondisclosure agreements were commonplace in the course of his work.

But, Steinglass asked, “On how many others did the CEO — meaning you — coordinate with a presidential candidate for the benefit of their campaign?”

“That was the only one,” Pecker said.

Referring to Michael Cohen’s input on AMI’s negotiation with Karen McDougal, Steinglass asked, “Is it standard operating procedure … to have a presidential candidate’s campaign person weighing in on what terms of a contract are to be amended?”

“No,” Pecker replied.

Steinglass ticked through several other matters related to Pecker’s arrangement with Trump, including whether it was common practice to offer a political candidate the opportunity to “accept or reject” stories,” or for the paper to “run attacks” on their opponents.

Each time, Pecker answered “No” — that they were not common practice.

Apr 26, 12:52 PM
Pecker testifies that Cohen was prone to exaggeration

Facing questions from Trump’s attorney, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker conceded that Michael Cohen was prone to exaggeration.

“Based on your experiences, Michael Cohen was prone to exaggeration?” Trump attorney Emil Bove asked.

“Yes,” Pecker agreed.

“Could not trust everything he said?” Bove asked, before an objection from prosecutors interrupted that line of questioning.

Earlier, Bove continued to try to highlight inconsistencies regarding the financial component of the “catch and kill” arrangement discussed at the 2015 Trump Tower meeting.

At one point, Bove pointed to statements Pecker’s attorneys previously made to federal prosecutors over information about the meeting that was included in Pecker’s non-prosecution agreement.

“Your attorneys said to the DA that ‘part of paragraph 3 was both wrong and inaccurate’ — do you remember that?” Bove asked.

“No,” Pecker said.

As the sometimes-heated cross-examination wrapped up, Pecker remained firm in his testimony.

“I’ve been truthful to the best of my recollection,” he said.

Apr 26, 12:07 PM
Defense suggests AMI’s cooperation was financially motivated

When the National Enquirer’s parent company AMI signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in New York in September 2018, AMI was negotiating to sell the Enquirer and two other tabloids to Hudson News Group for $100 million, former publisher David Pecker testified under cross-examination.

Defense attorney Emil Bove suggested the pending sale put Pecker under pressure to resolve a federal campaign finance investigation over its payment to quash stories damaging to Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions.

“You knew to finalize that deal, to consummate it, you had to clear out the investigations?” Bove asked.

“Yes,” Pecker responded. “From a timing standpoint it would have added stress to the transaction.”

On Thursday Pecker testified he had been “very worried” about the investigation. He had received a letter from the Federal Election Commission and said he called up Michael Cohen. “I said ‘I’m very worried,'” he testified.

Pecker said Cohen responded, “Why are you worried? Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General and Donald Trump has him in his pocket.”

The defense appears to be suggesting AMI cooperated with federal campaign finance investigations not because the company had done anything wrong related to the 2016 Trump campaign, but out of financial considerations in order to preserve the $100 million deal with Hudson News, which was finalized in April 2019.

Apr 26, 11:31 AM
Pecker reiterates that he didn’t want Stormy Daniels’ story

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified on cross-examination that the publication’s limited involvement in Stormy Daniels’ hush money payment was unrelated to the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where Pecker vowed to serve as the “eyes and ears” of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Pecker’s testimony on cross-examination about the Daniels story appeared consistent with his testimony yesterday about his strong desire not to be involved in the Stormy Daniels payment.

Pecker said yesterday that he did not want to be involved in the story due to concerns about reputational harm to the National Enquirer and a lack of reimbursement for the other payments he had made to suppress previous Trump stories.

“I said, we already paid $30,000 to the doorman, we paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, and I am not a bank. I am not paying out any further disbursements among us,” Pecker testified yesterday. Pecker said he instructed National Enquirer Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard to flag the Stormy Daniels story to Michael Cohen, who made the payment to Daniels himself.

Asked about Daniels’ payment on cross-examination, Pecker said that the National Enquirer’s limited involvement was unrelated to their vow to Trump.

“You did not consider the Stormy Daniels story to be part of any agreement you had in August 2015?” defense attorney Emil Bove asked.

“That is correct,” Pecker said.

“You wanted nothing to do with it?” Bove said.

“That’s correct,” Pecker said.

Pecker added that he did not “authorize” Howard to continue communicating with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson about the payment.

When Howard raised concerns to Pecker that Davidson had not yet been paid by Michael Cohen, Pecker said he was angry that Howard continued to communicate with Davidson about the story. In addition to the nature of the story — which Pecker said could endanger the National Enquirer’s relationship with its distributors — Pecker said Cohen’s delay in paying Daniels’ lawyer could result in reputational harm to the National Enquirer.

“Frankly, you were not happy to be hearing that?” Bove asked about Cohen’s delayed payment.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

“The main concern was Howard’s reputation?” Bove asked.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

Apr 26, 10:55 AM
Defense questions Pecker about Michael Cohen

David Pecker might be the only witness on the stand, but defense attorneys appear to be using the former National Enquirer publisher’s testimony to go after Michael Cohen.

Under questioning from defense attorney Emil Bove, Pecker said that Cohen at one point asked for his help getting a job with a New-Jersey based company. It wasn’t clear when exactly the request was made.

The company promptly rejected the offer, Pecker testified.

“They had no interest in Michael Cohen,” Pecker said bluntly.

Pecker also testified that Cohen asked for help sending paparazzi to one of his meetings, then publishing the photos in the National Enquirer.

“That would put pressure on President Trump to treat Cohen differently?” Bove asked about why Cohen wanted the paparazzi.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

Bove’s use of the term “President Trump” whenever he references his client led to a minor complaint from prosecutors this morning.

“He was not president Trump in June of 2016,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said.

Apr 26, 10:43 AM
Pecker says ‘catch and kill’ wasn’t discussed at meeting

Defense attorney Emil Bove sought to distance former President Trump from the National Enquirer’s purchase of negative stories about him and instead suggested David Pecker and Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen may have been freelancing.

Bove asked Pecker about a meeting at Trump Tower in August 2015 where Pecker previously testified he agreed to be the “eyes and ears” of the Trump campaign.

“At that meeting, the concept of catch and kill was not discussed, correct?” Bove asked.

“That’s correct,” Pecker answered.

The defense also sought to reframe the Enquirer’s $30,000 purchase of Trump World Tower doorman Dino Sajudin’s false claim that Trump fathered a love child.

Bove suggested Enquirer parent AMI purchased the story not to help the Trump campaign, but because it was an irresistible tabloid scoop.

“Sajudin threatened to go somewhere else?” Bove asked. “Yes,” Pecker responded.

“That is why you paid him $30,000?” Bove asked. “It would be too great a loss to AMI to lose the story, if true?”

“Yes,” Pecker answered.

“You could not walk away from that possibility?” asked Bove.

“Yes,” replied Pecker.

Apr 26, 10:28 AM
Pecker says arrangement supporting Trump wasn’t unusual

Trump attorney Emil Bove, continuing his cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, returned to a theme he emphasized yesterday: that the National Enquirer’s supportive arrangement with Trump was not unique, but rather “standard operating procedure.”

Bove is seeking to establish that negative stories about Donald Trump’s political opponents in the National Enquirer largely involved “information that was already in the public domain” — recycled narratives and reporting found in other outlets.

“There wasn’t much new content in those stories, was there?” Bove asked Pecker.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

“It was a business decision that it was good for the National Enquirer to run those stories,” Bove said, adding that, as a business model, it was “quick, efficient, and cost-effective” — to which Pecker agreed.

Bove cited stories about Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson as examples.

Apr 26, 9:49 AM
Defense resumes cross-examination of David Pecker

“Good morning, everyone,” Judge Juan Merchan said at the start of the proceedings. “Good morning, Mr. Trump.”

Trump did not audibly respond. The former president is sitting slightly slouched at the defense table between defense lawyers Emil Bove and Todd Blanche.

Merchan announced that the contempt hearing originally scheduled for next Wednesday — related to the four new violations of the limited gag order alleged by prosecutors — has been moved to Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Defense attorney Emil Bove has resumed his cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Apr 26, 9:43 AM
Trump bemoans cold conditions in courtroom

Before entering the courtroom for today’s proceedings, former President Donald Trump spoke to reporters, repeating his claims that Judge Juan Merchan is a “highly conflicted judge” overseeing a “rigged trial.”

Trump also expressed his annoyance about the ongoing cold conditions in the courtroom, on a day where it’s a brisk 50 degrees in lower Manhattan.

“So we have another day of court in a freezing courthouse, it’s very cold in there,” he said. “On purpose, I believe. They don’t seem to be able to get the temperature up. It shouldn’t be that complicated. But we have a freezing courthouse, and that’s fine.”

Apr 26, 8:30 AM
Cross-examination of David Pecker set to continue

Defense attorney Emil Bove is scheduled to continue his cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker this morning, on Day 8 of former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

On Thursday, under direct examination, Pecker detailed his publication’s “catch-and-kill” deal with Trump, explaining how his publication paid Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story about an alleged year-long relationship she had with Trump, then kept it under wraps so it wouldn’t “embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign.”

Under cross-examination from Bove, Pecker testified that there was “nothing wrong” with those kind of arrangements, and that they were “standard operating procedure” for publications like his, listing several politicians — including Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Arnold Schwarzenegger — for whom he had caught and killed stories.

Apr 25, 5:16 PM
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.

Apr 25, 4:40 PM
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.

Apr 25, 4:31 PM
Pecker says AMI paid to kill stories for Schwarzenegger

In his cross-examination of David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher who ran the publication’s parent company, AMI, defense lawyer Emil Bove sought to draw a contrast between AMI’s conduct with Donald Trump and its work with another celebrity-turned-politician: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Earlier today, Pecker testified about an agreement with Schwarzenegger ahead of the actor’s run for California governor. According to Pecker, Schwarzenegger agreed to serve as an editor-at-large for some of AMI’s fitness magazines in exchange for help quashing negative stories about Schwarzenegger’s past interactions with women.

“A number of women called up the National Enquirer about stories that they have to sell on different relationships or contacts and sexual harassment they felt that Arnold Schwarzenegger did,” Pecker said. “The agreement I had with Arnold was I would call him and advise him of any stories that were out there.”

Pecker described that his arrangement with Schwarzenegger — which he said resulted in an “embarrassing” investigation into AMI’s conduct — provided him with some foundational experience when he began identifying and killing stories for Trump.

“That’s how I became sensitive on this topic,” Pecker.

Pressed on cross-examination about the arrangement with Schwarzenegger, Pecker acknowledged that AMI spent its own money to kill stories about the former California governor.

“It was hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Pecker said.

“And Mr. Schwarzenegger never paid you back for that?” Bove asked.

“No, he didn’t,” Pecker said.

Pecker also testified about an effort to compel Tiger Woods to do an interview with AMI’s fitness magazines by purchasing a negative story about him as leverage.

Apr 25, 4:15 PM
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.

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

“You are aware many politicians work with the media to try to promote their image?” Bove asked.

“Yes,” Pecker responded.

“That’s standard operating procedure?” Bove again asked.

“Yes,” Pecker said.

“And sometimes when politicians are doing that, that is to try to win elections?” Bove continued.

“Right,” Pecker responded.

“Nothing wrong about that?” Bove asked.

Apr 25, 3:29 PM
‘I still consider him a friend,’ Pecker says of Trump

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker concluded his direct examination by offering kind words about the former president.

“I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me throughout my career,” Pecker said, detailing how Trump reached out to help after one of Pecker’s employees died from an anthrax attack in 2001.

“The first person who called me if I needed help was Donald Trump, and he was very helpful,” Pecker said.

Pecker confirmed that he has not spoken to Trump since early 2019, though the former president sent his regards through mutual friends who saw the former president at Mar-a-Lago.

“I thought the investigation that was going on at the same time — I thought it was inappropriate to respond or have any conversations with Mr. Trump,” Pecker said.

Pecker said he still considers Trump to be a friend.

“I have no ill will at all,” Pecker said about Trump. “Even though we haven’t spoke … I still consider him a friend.”

Apr 25, 3:17 PM
Pecker details his non-prosecution agreement with DA

When former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker received a letter from the Federal Election Commission in September 2018, “I called up Michael Cohen immediately,” Pecker said.

Cohen said he had also received a letter from the FEC — but urged Pecker not to fret.

“He says,’ Why are you worried?’ He said, ‘Jeff Sessions is the attorney general and Donald Trump has him in his pocket,'” Pecker testified.

Pecker then described the non-prosecution agreement his company, AMI, struck with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, which included details about the catch-and-kill arrangement he had brokered with Cohen.

Pecker read for the jury passages from the non-prosecution agreement, including a reference to AMI’s deal to pay Karen McDougal — described in the agreement only as “the model” — for her story, “so as to prevent it from influencing the presidential election.”

Apr 25, 3:04 PM
‘I thought we had an agreement,’ Pecker says Trump told him

After court resumed for the afternoon session, David Pecker retook the stand.

The former National Enquirer publisher testified that six months after Donald Trump became president, Trump hosted a “thank-you dinner” for Pecker and some of his business associates.

After taking photos in the Oval Office — “Jared Kushner was there, Sean Spicer was there” Pecker said — Trump asked Pecker to walk with him along the colonnade “past the Rose Garden,” Pecker recalled. The jury saw a photo of the two men on that walk.

Trump said that on that walk, Trump asked Pecker, “How’s Karen doing?” referring to Karen McDougal, who the National Enquirer had paid to catch-and-kill her story claiming a year-long relationship with Trump.

“She’s doing well. She’s quiet. All’s going good,” Pecker recalled responding.

Eight months later, in March 2018, Pecker said Trump called him about a television interview McDougal had conducted.

“He said ‘Did you see the Anderson Cooper interview with Karen McDougal?’ I said yes. He said, ‘I thought we had an agreement with Karen that she can’t give any interviews or be on any television shows.’ So I said yes we have an agreement, but I amended it,” said Pecker, who testified earlier that he had done so following the election.

Pecker testified that Trump was very upset. “He couldn’t understand why,” Pecker said. “He couldn’t believe that I did it.”

Pecker said Trump also called him after Stormy Daniels appeared on a television interview a short while later.

“He said, ‘We have an agreement with Stormy Daniels that she cannot mention my name or do anything like this, and each time she breaches the agreement it’s $1 million penalty,'” Pecker said.

Apr 25, 1:42 PM
Pecker says ‘family was never mentioned’ as reason for killing stories

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker concluded his morning testimony by answering questions about what he perceived to be Trump’s motivation to silence negative and salacious stories about him.

“I thought it was for the campaign,” Pecker said. “His family was never mentioned.”

Pecker added that Trump’s motivation for killing stories appeared to change once he announced his run for the presidency.

“Prior to the election, if a negative story was coming out with respect to Donald Trump and we spoke about it, he was concerned about Melania Trump and Ivanka, what the family might hear or say about it, whether it was true or not,” Pecker said.

Things changed when Trump changed from a businessman to a politician, Pecker said.

“I didn’t hear or discuss that it was what [would] Melania say or what Ivanka would say or what his family would say, but the impact it would have upon the election,” Pecker said, before court recessed for the afternoon break.

As Trump left the courtroom for the lunch break, a reporter shouted him a question: “Do you still like Pecker?” They did not get a response.

Pecker’s testimony is scheduled to resume following the break.

Apr 25, 1:19 PM
‘Thank you for handling’ McDougal, Pecker says Trump told him

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that he was twice summoned to Trump Tower in the period following the 2016 election: the first time for a meeting with Michael Cohen, and the second with Donald Trump.

The first meeting began in Cohen’s office, where Cohen divulged for the first time to Pecker that he personally covered the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, and that he was concerned that he would not receive a bonus from the Trump Organization, Pecker testified.

“He (Cohen) asked me to talk to the boss on his behalf to try to help him get his bonus,” Pecker said, referring to Trump.

When Trump himself came into the room, Pecker asked to walk him back to his office — and at that time, Pecker told Trump that “Michael Cohen is very concerned about his bonus for this year, and I want you to know that he’s very loyal.”

Trump replied that Cohen had several apartments and taxi medallions, and added, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it,” Pecker said.

On Jan. 6, 2017, Pecker arrived at Trump Tower for a meeting with Trump and was escorted to his residence by Jared Kushner, he testified.

Pecker said he was ushered into the room, where Trump was surrounded by administration officials James Comey, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, and Mike Pompeo — they were “updating Mr. Trump on the Ft. Lauderdale shooting” at the airport there.

Pecker said that after the others had left, Trump turned to him.

“He (Trump) asked me how Karen [McDougal] was doing — how’s ‘our girl’ doing. I said, she’s writing her articles, she’s quiet, things are going fine.”

Trump then said, “I want to thank you for handling the McDougal situation. And then he said, I want to thank you for the doorman situation,” Pecker testified.

Upon additional questioning, Pecker testified that he took this to mean that Trump was thanking him “for not publishing any of the stories and helping the way I did.”

Apr 25, 1:07 PM
Pecker says he released McDougal from agreement after election

After the Wall Street Journal ran a story that began to uncover the catch-and-kill arrangement between National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Donald Trump and Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen, Pecker testified that he ordered National Enquirer’s Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard to contact McDougal’s lawyer to ensure that she maintained her silence.

“I didn’t know if she went off the reservation, so I asked Dylan to call Keith Davidson,” Pecker testified before he began reading through a series of text messages from the 2016.

“She’s cool. Moving forward with the [confidentiality agreement],” Howard texted Pecker.

“Excellent news,” Pecker texted back.

“One day of discomfort and back [to] the campaign issues,” Howard texted.

Days later, Trump was elected president of the United States.

“Is it fair to say that by the time of this [release from the agreement] … Mr. Trump has already been elected president?” Steinglass asked.

Apr 25, 1:00 PM
Trump was ‘very upset’ about Wall Street Journal story, Pecker says

It was November 4, 2016 — four days before the presidential election — and the Wall Street Journal ran a story that began to uncover the catch-and-kill arrangement between National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Donald Trump and Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen.

“National Enquirer Shielded Donald Trump From Playboy Model’s Affair Allegation,” the headline read.

Pecker, on the stand, testified that he soon got a call at his home from Donald Trump directly.

“Donald Trump was very upset, saying, ‘How could this happen, I thought this was under control,'” Pecker said, adding that Trump suggested it was a leak from the National Enquirer. “He was very agitated. He couldn’t understand how this could happen, and the call ended up very abruptly.”

Pecker said his company promptly issued a statement denying the story.

“Was that the truth?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked.

“No, it was not,” Pecker said.

Asked why he issued the denial, Pecker said, “I wanted to protect my company, I wanted to protect myself, and I wanted also to protect Donald Trump.”

Apr 25, 12:29 PM
‘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.

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.”

Apr 25, 11:58 AM
Pecker says he was never repaid for McDougal’s catch-and-kill

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker described his concern about Trump’s repayment for the catch-and-kill purchase of Karen McDougal’s story showing up in his company’s accounting system, and his efforts to hide it.

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 his 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.

Apr 25, 11:49 AM
‘The boss will be angry’ if the deal is off, Pecker says he was told

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker described one of the most heated moments so far during the catch-and-kill arrangement between him, Donald Trump and Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen.

“I called Michael Cohen and I said to him that the agreement we signed — the deal was off. I am not going forward, it is a bad idea,” Pecker testified. “I want you to rip up the agreement.”

“He was very, very, angry. Very upset, screaming basically at me. And I said, I’m not going forward with this agreement, rip it up,” Pecker said.

Pecker said Michael Cohen then brought up “the boss.”

“And Michael Cohen said, the boss is going to be very angry with you. And I said, I’m sorry, I am not going forward. The deal is off,” Pecker recounted. “And he said, I cant believe it. I’m a lawyer, I’m your friend. I don’t understand why you’re not going forward. I said I am not going forward. Period.”

Pecker did not say exactly what prompted that exchange, but he previously described at length that he was aware that the National Enquirer’s payment to Karen McDougal in order to catch and kill her story for the benefit of Trump’s campaign would amount to an illegal campaign contribution — softening his tone when he testified to this.

Apr 25, 11:05 AM
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.

Apr 25, 10:44 AM
Pecker describes $150,000 negotiations for McDougal’s story

With Donald Trump following along from the defense table, head cocked slightly to the side, David Pecker described the negotiations conducted with Karen McDougal to purchase the exclusive rights to her story about an alleged year-long relationship with Trump.

Pecker said that Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen authorized negotiations to begin, then during those negotiations, “Michael was very agitated,” constantly asking “Why is this taking so long?”

“To purchase the lifetime rights to Karen McDougal was going to cost $150,000. Plus Karen wanted to restart her career. She wanted to write for the celebrity magazines. She wanted to be on the cover of the life and fitness titles. She had a major problem when her breast implants were removed and she wanted to write about that,” Pecker testified.

Pecker said he asked Cohen, “Who is going to reimburse me for this?” He said Cohen responded “Don’t worry about it, I’m your friend the boss will take care of it.'”

When prosecutor Josh Steinglass asked Pecker who “the boss” was, Pecker answered “The boss would have been Donald Trump”

Prosecutors then displayed for the jury the contract with McDougal, dated August 5, 2016. It awarded AMI, the Enquirer’s parent company, the rights to her story of a relationship she had “with any then-married man.” Pecker said “she was referring to Donald Trump.”

Pecker testified he needed to “validate” the amount of money AMI was going to pay, so the contract included other provisions, like having McDougal write monthly columns on aging and fitness.

“With respect to campaign laws, I wanted to have the contract be a record that stipulates the services she was going to perform for American Media had a basis for it, the $150,000,” Pecker said.

“Was it your primary purpose to buy the life rights?” Steinglass asked. “Yes it was,” Pecker responded.

“Were the other provisions to disguise the true nature of this contract?” Steinglass asked. “Yes,” Pecker replied, letting out a sigh.

Apr 25, 10:18 AM
Cohen said Trump would pay to buy McDougal story, Pecker says

In June of 2016, as the National Enquirer evaluated the merits of Karen McDougal’s claim of a year-long affair with Trump, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen instructed Pecker to purchase her story — and suggested that Trump would compensate the company for the cost, according to Pecker.

Pecker recalled from the stand a conversation he had with Cohen, in which Cohen told him, “You should go ahead and buy this story.”

“So I said to him … ‘Who’s going to pay for it?” Pecker testified, saying Cohen replied, “‘Don’t worry, I’m your friend, the boss will take care of it.'”

Pecker said he interpreted that to mean that if the National Enquirer purchased the story, Trump or the Trump Organization would reimburse him.

Picking up on his testimony from Tuesday, Pecker said that when he spoke with Trump about McDougal’s story, he recalled that Trump called McDougal “a nice girl” and asked Pecker what he should do about it.

“I think you should buy this story and take it off the market,” Pecker said, explaining that he “believed the story was true. I think that it would be embarrassing to himself and also to his campaign.”

During her negotiations with the National Enquirer, McDougal represented that “she didn’t want to be the next Monica Lewinsky,” Pecker said.

Apr 25, 10:04 AM
Pecker resumes testimony about Karen McDougal

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker has resumed his testimony.

The veteran tabloid executive is fielding questions from prosecutors about how his publication handled its initial interactions with Karen McDougal, who approached the National Enquirer with allegations that she had had a year-long sexual relationship with Donald Trump.

When one of his reporters met with McDougal, the reporter found that her allegations “could be true, but she didn’t have any corroborating evidence,” Pecker said.

Apr 25, 9:57 AM
Prosecutors say Trump violated gag order four more times

Prosecutors have asked Judge Juan Merchan to hold Donald Trump in contempt for four additional violations of the court’s limited gag order over the last three days.

“He is doing what the order tells him not to do,” prosecutor Christopher Conroy said about Trump’s recent remarks about witnesses and the jury.

Conroy outlined the four alleged violations, including Trump’s hallway statements about Cohen on Monday, an interview Trump did on Monday where he made comments about the political composition of the jury pool, Trump’s interview with Philadelphia ABC station WPVI-TV where he attacked Cohen, and Trump’s remarks this morning at a construction site where he commented on David Pecker’s testimony.

“This is a message to Pecker — be nice. It is a message to others. I have a platform and I will talk about you,” Conroy said. “It is a message to everyone involved in this proceeding and this court.”

Conroy did not specify what penalty Merchan should impose. In total, prosecutors have asked to hold Trump in 14 counts of criminal contempt.

Apr 25, 9:42 AM
Court is in session

Court is underway this morning for Day 7 of Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

Trump entered the courtroom and took his usual seat at the defense table. He then whispered something to his attorney Todd Blanche, who let out a laugh.

Judge Juan Merchan gaveled in the hearing and said, “Good Morning, Mr. Trump.” Trump didn’t appear to respond.

Apr 25, 7:17 AM
Trump again complains about not being allowed to go to the Supreme Court hearing on presidential immunity

Donald Trump arrived at a New York City construction site early Thursday morning and was greeted by several dozen supporters before speaking to the media and complaining that he was not allowed to go to the Supreme Court hearing in Washington, D.C., later in the day.

“We have a big case today – this judge wouldn’t allow me to go, but we have a big case today at the Supreme Court on presidential immunity, a president has to have immunity. If you don’t have immunity, you just have a ceremonial president,” said Trump.

Trump also expressed confidence in the outcome of the hearing, saying that the Supreme Court has “very talented people, they’re very smart, they know what they’re doing.”

Apr 24, 5:17 PM
Michael Cohen says he’ll stop commenting about Trump

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen vowed to stop making public comments about the former president ahead of his likely testimony in Trump’s New York hush money case.

On his podcast and on social media, Cohen has frequently commented about the former president’s legal troubles. Trump’s lawyers have argued that the former president’s comments about Cohen — which prosecutors allege were in violation of the case’s limited gag order — were in response to political attacks by Cohen.

“Despite not being the gagged defendant, out of respect for Judge Merchan and the prosecutors, I will cease posting anything about Donald on my X (formerly Twitter) account or on the Mea Culpa Podcast until after my trial testimony. See you all in a month (or more),” Cohen said on social media on Wednesday afternoon.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche devoted a portion of his opening statement on Monday to attacking Cohen’s credibility, describing the former lawyer as a “convicted perjurer” and “admitted liar” who has an “obsession with getting Trump.”

Cohen’s testimony is expected to be a key part of the state’s case against Trump, as prosecutors attempt to prove that Trump falsified business records as he, Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker engaged in a conspiracy to influence the 2016 election by suppressing negative stories about Trump.

Apr 23, 2:34 PM
Trump again assails judge for limited gag order

Former President Trump, addressing reporters after court was adjourned for the day, 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.”

Shuffling through a thick stack of papers, which Trump said were news articles from the past day and a half, the former president continued his criticism.

“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.”

Prosecutors this morning 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.

-Michael Pappano

Apr 23, 2:16 PM
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.

Apr 23, 2:05 PM
Pecker kept doorman under contract until after election

According to former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Michael Cohen pushed for the National Enquirer to keep doorman Dino Sajudin locked into a contract until after the 2016 election, even though the story Sajudin was shopping about Trump having a love child were untrue.

“I told Michael Cohen the story was not true. I told him that the doorman is very difficult to deal with,” Pecker testified.

Cohen had earlier encouraged Pecker to add a $1 million penalty to Sajudin’s contract if he broke the agreement and tried to shop around the story.

“He would breach this agreement and owe American Media a million dollars,” Pecker said. “It was basically a lever over him to make sure that wouldn’t happen.”

Cohen encouraged Pecker to keep Sajudin locked in, according to the former publisher.

“I am going release him one way or the other,” Pecker said he told Cohen regarding Sajudin. “He said, ‘No, release him after the election.'”

“When was he released?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Pecker.

“December 9, 2016,” Pecker said.

“After the presidential election?” Steinglass asked.

“Yes,” Pecker responded.

Apr 23, 1:48 PM
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.

Apr 23, 12:57 PM
Pecker testifies that he strategized with Steve Bannon

Donald Trump introduced David Pecker to Steve Bannon to strategize future stories about Trump’s opponents, the former National Enquirer publisher testified.

“[Trump] thought both of us could work very well together,” Pecker said of Bannon, who would go on to become chief strategist in the Trump White House.

Pecker said Bannon liked some of the National Enquirer’s past coverage and had ideas for the future.

“He liked them very much. He had some other ideas,” Pecker said, mentioning a proposed plan to book one of Pecker’s reporters on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to talk about the National Enquirer’s reporting about Hillary Clinton.

Apr 23, 12:40 PM
Plan to boost Trump was hatched in 2015, Pecker says

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s “secret arrangement” with Donald Trump and his then-attorney Michael Cohen was hatched during a “20-25 minute meeting” at Trump Tower in August of 2015, Pecker testified.

Under the arrangement, the National Enquirer would become a trumpet for Trump’s presidential ambition and a megaphone for Michael Cohen’s opposition research on Trump’s opponents, he said.

“He would send me information about Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Marco Rubio, and that was the basis for our story, and we would embellish,” Pecker testified.

He said that he kept the arrangement from all but his top people.

“I told them we were going to try and help the campaign, and to do that we would keep it as quiet as possible,” Pecker recalled telling his East and West Coast bureau chiefs.

Prosecutors showed the jury a collection of Enquirer headlines that lauded Trump and disparaged his opponents.

“Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge in Patient’s Brain,” one article said. “Donald Trump blasts Ted Cruz’s Dad for Photo with JFK Assassin,” said another, recounting classic fare from the 2016 campaign.

“After the Republican debates and based on the success that some of the other candidates had, I would receive a call from Michael Cohen and he would direct me and direct Dylan Howard which candidate and which direction we should go,” Pecker said, referring to the National Enquirer.s chief content officer.

Apr 23, 12:24 PM
Pecker says he didn’t catch-and-kill any Trump stories before 2016

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that he suspected that multiple women would come forward to shop stories about Trump during Trump’s run for president.

“In a presidential campaign, I was the person that thought there would be a lot of women who came out to sell their stories because Mr. Trump was well known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful woman,” Pecker testified. “It is very common for these women to call up a magazine like the National Enquirer to try and sell their stories. I would hear it in the marketplace through other sources that stories were being marketed.”

If those stories emerged, Pecker said he vowed that he would notify Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-personal attorney, per their agreement.

According to Pecker, most elements of their agreement — including running positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents — were “mutually beneficial” to Trump and Pecker.

“Hillary running for president and Bill Clinton’s womanizing was one of the biggest sales … for the National Enquirer,” Pecker said. ” It was easy for me to say I was going to continue running those kinds of stories for the National Enquirer.”

“It would help his campaign, but it would also help me,” Pecker said.

“As I recollect, [Trump] was pleased. Michael Cohen was pleased [about] the way I was going to handle these issues,” Pecker said.

Pecker said that prior to the 2016 election, his magazines never caught and killed any stories for Trump.

When pressed by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, Pecker acknowledged that the catch-and-kill element of the agreement — buying negative information about Trump then killing the story — was not beneficial for the National Enquirer.

“How was that going to boost sales of the National Enquirer?” Steinglass asked.

“No, that part didn’t help,” Pecker said.

Apr 23, 11:57 AM
Pecker says he was in regular contact with Cohen

Despite first meeting Michael Cohen by chance in 2000 at a bar mitzvah, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that Donald Trump first introduced him to Cohen as his personal lawyer in 2007.

Pecker said Trump asked him to begin coordinating with Cohen about any stories or rumors related to Trump or his family.

“All of the contacts that I had with Mr. Trump — now my contact should go through Michael Cohen,” Pecker said about Trump’s directive after meeting Cohen.

Pecker and Cohen would touch base monthly over the following decade, but communications ramped up after Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015, Pecker said.

“I would say a minimum of every week, and if there was an issue, it could be daily,” Pecker said about his contact with Cohen during the campaign.

Apr 23, 11:52 AM
Pecker describes ‘great relationship’ with Trump

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, back on the witness stand, pointed at Donald Trump and flashed a smile when he was asked to identify the defendant. Trump turned his chin up and grinned at his longtime friend.

“I met Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago,” Pecker said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Mr. Trump over the years.”

That relationship started in 1989 when Pecker wanted to start a magazine called Trump Style.

“He was very helpful in introducing me to other executives in New York. He would always advise me of parties or events that I would go to,” Pecker said, adding that Trump was among the first to congratulate him upon acquiring the National Enquirer.

Pecker described how Trump became a “major celebrity” after launching The Apprentice and later Celebrity Apprentice, and how the National Enquirer was there to juice Trump’s profile.

“He was always kind enough to send me the content showing the ratings and I was able to publish that,” Pecker said of their “great mutual beneficially relationship.

Pecker said he considered Trump a friend from 2015 to 2017, calling him by the familiar “Donald,” as he pursued the White House for the first time.

“After he announced his run for the presidency I saw Mr. Trump more frequently, maybe once a month,” Pecker said. The two spoke “maybe once every couple of weeks.”

Pecker recalled meeting Trump in his office when his assistant brought a batch of invoices and checks to sign.

“As I recollect the entire package was stapled together,” Pecker said.

“So you observed him reviewing an invoice and signing a check?” prosecutor Josh Steinglass asked. “That’s correct,” Pecker responded.

“I would describe him as very knowledgeable, very detail-oriented, almost as a micromanager,” Pecker said.

When Steinglass asked how Trump was with money, Pecker responded, “He was very cautious and very frugal.”

Apr 23, 11:43 AM
Secret Service has plans if Trump is confined for contempt: Sources

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 tell ABC News.

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.

There have be no discussion about what to do if Trump is convicted and sentenced to prison, they said.

“Under federal law, the United States Secret Service must provide protection for current government leaders, former Presidents and First Ladies, visiting heads of state and other individuals designated by the President of the United States,” the Secret Service said in an official statement. “For all settings around the world, we study locations and develop comprehensive and layered protective models that incorporate state of the art technology, protective intelligence and advanced security tactics to safeguard our protectees. Beyond that, we do not comment on specific protective operations.”

-Josh Margolin and Luke Barr

Apr 23, 10:56 AM
Contempt hearing ends without a ruling

The combative hearing on Trump’s alleged violations of the judge’s limited gag order ended with the judge saying he will not rule from bench on the district attorney’s motion to hold Trump in contempt, so a ruling will come later.

Before concluding the hearing, Judge Merchan told Trump attorney Todd Blanche, “You’re not offering me anything … to hang my hat on.”

The trial will resume shortly with the return of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to the witness stand.

Apr 23, 10:48 AM
‘You’re losing all credibility,’ judge admonishes defense

Judge Juan Merchan is visibly irritated with the lack of evidence presented by defense attorney Todd Blanche.

“You have presented nothing,” Merchan said. “I have asked eight or nine times; show me the exact post he was responding to.”

“You’re losing all credibility with the court,” Merchan said after Blanche suggested Trump has been careful to comply with the gag order.

Blanche attempted to represent that Trump did not intend to violate the gag order, but Merchan did not appear satisfied by the response.

“Are you testifying under oath that this is his position?” Merchan asked.

“Do you want me to put him on the stand?” Blanche asked, though Trump did not take the stand.

Merchan strongly reacted earlier when Blanche suggested there were two tiers of justice in the courtroom.

“There are two systems of justice. Mr. Weisselberg is in prison, and Mr. Cohen is a witness,” Blanche said, in reference to the former Trump Organization CFO who was sentenced to jail time for perjury.

“There are two systems of justice in this courtroom — is that what you are saying?” Merchan responded.

Apr 23, 10:41 AM
‘It’s just common sense,’ defense argues regarding Trump’s posts

The contempt hearing has turned tense as Trump attorney Todd Blanche tries to defend Trump’s posts as mere responses to attacks — but isn’t giving clear examples of how Trump was being attacked.

Instead, Blanche asked the judge why the timing of the posts mattered — prompting a strong rebuke from the judge.

“I’m asking the questions, OK?” Judge Merchan told Blanche. “Please don’t turn it around.”

Merchan continued to reprimand Blanche: “I’m asking a specific question over and over and I’m not getting an answer.”

Merchan then lamented that nearly an hour into the hearing they are still only up to reviewing post NO. 2 of 10, and the jury is set to arrive at 11 a.m. ET to resume trial proceedings.

“The people got to speak as long as they want to,” Blanche said regarding the prosecutors.

“The people were answering my questions,” Merchan retorted.

So far, Merchan has appeared skeptical of what Blanche has been arguing in defense of the posts. Blanche at times has been struggling to answer Merchan’s questions, at one point saying, “I don’t have any case law to support that. It’s just common sense.”

Apr 23, 10:31 AM
Prosecutors warn about seeking potential jail time

Donald Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche, during the contempt hearing on the limited gag order in the case, defended the former president’s comments by arguing that Trump was responding to political attacks.

“President Trump does in fact know what the gag order allows him to do and not allow him to do,” Blanche said. “There is no dispute that President Trump is facing a barrage of political attacks from all sides.”

According to Blanche, while the limited gag order prohibits statements about a witness’ potential participation in a case, Trump is allowed to make comments in response to political attacks from potential witnesses like Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

“They are talking about their very strong dislike of President Trump,” Blanche said about a post related to former Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti’s comments on Michael Cohen.

Judge Juan Merchan questioned Blanche about what exactly made Trump’s response “political” in nature.

“You believe that everything Mr. Avenatti said does not relate to the trial, but the use of the word ‘pardon’ makes it political and in a sense authorizes your client to respond?” Merchan asked.

“It’s everything. It can’t just be a single word,” Blanche responded.

“When your client is violating the gag, I expect more than one word,” Merchan said.

Conroy asked Merchan to advise Trump that for future violations of the gag order, “incarceration is an option should it be necessary.”

Apr 23, 10:08 AM
Trump’s remarks ‘pose a very real threat,’ prosecutors say

Donald Trump’s alleged violations of the court-imposed limited gag order “pose a very real threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings,” prosecutor Christopher Conroy said during the hearing on whether Trump should be held in contempt.

In addition to the ten alleged gag order violations, Conroy said the district attorney’s office would file an additional contempt motion later today about comments Trump made to cameras on Monday about Michael Cohen.

Among Trump’s comments: “Because as you know, Cohen is a lawyer — represented a lot of people over the years — now, I’m not the only one. And he wasn’t very good in a lot of ways, in terms of his representation, but he represented a lot of people.”

“And also, the things he got in trouble for were things that had nothing to do with me. He got in trouble and went to jail. This had nothing to do with me. This had to do with the taxi-cab company that he owned, which is something — and medallions and borrow money and a lot of things but had nothing to do with me. He represented a lot of people over the years.”

“And when are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen — did — in the last straw he got caught lying in the last trial. So he got caught lying — pure lying. And when are they going to look at that?”

Conroy told the judge that Trump has “violated this order repeatedly and hasn’t stopped.”

Conroy said Trump’s conduct is “all part of his plan for this trial,” accusing the former president of “conditioning his followers” by making derogatory remarks about potential witnesses.

Apr 23, 9:59 AM
Trump falsely claims his supporters can’t protest

On his way into the courtroom, Trump continued to falsely claim that his supporters were being barred from protesting outside the courthouse.

“Great Americans — people that want to come down and they want to protest at the court. And they want to protest peacefully,” he told reporters. “We have more police presence here than anyone’s ever seen for blocks. You can’t get near this courthouse.”

But as the day’s proceedings began, the park across from the New York criminal courthouse was open and nearly empty, and the area around the courthouse is not closed off.

-Mike Pappano and Brian Hartman

Apr 23, 9:37 AM
Trump arrives in court

Donald Trump has arrived in court with his usual entourage of lawyers, staff, and secret service agents.

Trump promptly took his seat alone at the counsel table as his lawyers and paralegals worked around him set up electronics for this morning’s contempt hearing, in which prosecutors will seek to have Trump held in contempt of court for repeatedly violating the case’s limited gag order.

Three prosecutors — Joshua Steinglass, Christopher Conroy, and Matthew Colangelo — are seated at the counsel table, with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and about eight members of his office seated in the first two rows of the gallery.

Bragg appears to have two security agents seated behind him, while a dozen court officers and secret service agents surround the courtroom and former president.

Apr 23, 8:20 AM
Day 6 of trial to start with contempt hearing

Day 6 of Donald Trump’s criminal trial will begin with a hearing in front of Judge Juan Merchan in which prosecutors will seek to have the former president held in contempt for repeatedly violating the limited gag order in the case.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump violated the limited gag order — which prohibits statements about witnesses, jurors, and lawyers in the case other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — on at least 10 separate occasions this month, and have asked the judge to hold him in contempt of court and fine him $10,000.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors have not proven the posts in question were willful violations of the gag order, telling Merchan that the former president was defending himself from attacks by the likely witnesses.

Following the hearing, testimony in the hush money trial is scheduled to resume with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on the stand. Prosecutors believe he is key to understanding Trump’s motivation for paying off Stormy Daniels so damaging information did not seep into the 2016 campaign.

Apr 22, 1:28 PM
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.

-Michael Pappano

Apr 22, 12:52 PM
Court wraps for day, Pecker to return tomorrow

David Pecker stepped off the witness stand after his initial testimony. He is scheduled to return to the witness stand tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET.

During his brief testimony, Pecker suggested that former National Enquirer Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard — an alleged participant in the catch-and-kill scheme alleged by prosecutors — will be unable to testify due to a medical condition.

Pecker appeared to greet Trump and his lawyers as he exited the courtroom.

Court subsequently wrapped for the day.

Trump left the courtroom flanked by Secret Service agents and staffers, as well as Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten.

Judge Merchan is scheduled to hold a contempt hearing about Trump’s alleged violations of the case’s limited gag order tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Apr 22, 12:27 PM
David Pecker takes the stand for prosecution

David 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.

Trump, who once said Pecker would make a “brilliant” choice as editor of Time magazine, listened while leaning forward in his chair, arms crossed on the table, an unhappy look on his face.

Pecker testified that he had final say whether to publish any story involving a famous person.

“I had the final say of the celebrity side of the magazine,” Pecker said. “We used checkbook journalism. We paid for stories.”

Pecker is testifying pursuant to a subpoena. He has also secured a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Apr 22, 12:10 PM
Prosecutors call David Pecker as 1st witness

Prosecutors have called former American Media Inc. executive David Pecker as their first witness.

The DA alleges that Pecker, who oversaw the National Enquirer, engaged in a conspiracy with Trump to help influence the 2016 election by killing negative stories about Trump.

Apr 22, 11:50 AM
Michael Cohen obsessed with ‘getting Trump,’ defense claims

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.

Apr 22, 11:47 AM
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.

Blanche’s opening has come off more casual and off-the-cuff than the state’s opening, with Blanche improvising and posing hypotheticals to argue that accountants at the Trump Organization did not run the invoices by Trump as he was “running the country.”

“‘Hey, we got this invoice. I know we are trying to cover it up here,'” Blanche said sarcastically about how prosecutors described how accountants received invoices from Cohen. “Absolutely not.”

According to Blanche, Trump was unaware of how the invoices were processed by his employees.

“President Trump has nothing to do — nothing to do — with the invoice, with the check being generated, or with the entry on the ledger,” Blanche said, arguing that Trump was busy “in the White House while he was running the country.”

“The reality is that President Trump is not on the hook — criminally responsible — for something Michael Cohen might have done years after the fact. The evidence will prove otherwise,” Blanche said.

Apr 22, 11:38 AM
‘None of this was a crime,’ defense attorney says

Donald Trump is “not just our former president, he’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV,” said defense attorney Todd Blanche in his opening statement.

“He’s also a man. He’s a husband,” Blanche said. “He’s a father.”

Blanche pushed back on the DA’s overall allegation that the payments to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen were weren’t only payback for Stormy Daniels by using the prosecutor’s own words against him.

Blanche noted that Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels, but that Trump paid back Cohen a total of $420,000. If Trump really was a frugal businessman, as prosecutors said, why would he overpay that money, Blanche asked.

“Ask yourself, would a frugal businessman, a man who pinched his pennies, repay a $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?” Blanche asked.

Blanche repeatedly reiterated that Cohen truly was an attorney for Trump and was doing legal work for him, pointing out that Michael Cohen’s own email signature noted he was Trump’s attorney.

“None of this was a crime,” Blanche said, saying the 34 counts against Trump “are really just 34 pieces of paper.”

Apr 22, 11:30 AM
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.

Apr 22, 11:26 AM
Prosecutor says jury can believe Cohen despite mistakes

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury, during his opening statement, “During this trial you’re going to hear a lot about Michael Cohen.”

Trump’s former personal attorney, Cohen is a key witness — perhaps the only one that will testify to Donald Trump’s intent when he agreed to pay Stormy Daniels hush money.

The defense “will go to great lengths” to convince the jury Cohen is not credible, Colangelo said.

He acknowledged that Cohen had earlier lied regarding the matter. “He lied about it to protect his boss,” Colangelo said. “You will also learn that Michael Cohen has a criminal record.”

Colangelo told jurors they can believe Cohen despite his past mistakes.

“Cohen’s testimony will be backed up by testimony from other witnesses you will hear from, including David Pecker, Keith Davidson. It will be backed up by an extensive paper trail. And it will be backed up by Donald Trump’s own words,” the prosecutor said.

Colangelo concluded by saying, “This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up, an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of a presidential election and then the steps that Donald Trump took to conceal that election fraud. At the end of the case we are confident you will have no reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is guilty of falsifying business records.”

Apr 22, 11:16 AM
‘It was election fraud, pure and simple,’ prosecutor says

“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury during opening statements as he outlined the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and how it was logged by the Trump Organization

Dylan Howard, then editor of the National Enquirer, had called Trump attorney Michael Cohen to inform him about Daniels and the story that she had of a sexual liaison with Trump, which the former president has long denied.

“Cohen then discussed the situation with Trump who is adamant that he did not want the story to come out,” Colangelo said. “it could have been devastating to his campaign.”

At the time, Trump and the campaign were “deeply concerned” about the “Access Hollywood” video, the prosecutor said. Cohen wired the $130,000 to Daniels’ lawyer to keep her quiet.

“Cohen made that payment at Donald Trump’s direction and for his benefit and he did it with the special goal of influencing the election
This was not spin or communications strategy. This was a planned, coordinated long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election to help DT get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad about his behavior. It was election fraud, pure and simple,” Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:10 AM
‘Access Hollywood’ tape was ‘explosive,’ prosecutors claim

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo read aloud part of the transcript of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape to jurors.

“You can do anything,” Colangelo slowly read to the jurors, quoting Trump from the tape. “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”

According to Colangelo, the October 2016 release of the tape had an “immediate and explosive” impact on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Seeing and hearing a candidate in his own words, in his own voice, with his own body language … has a much greater impact on voters than words on paper,” Colangelo said. “The campaign went on immediate damage control mode to blunt the impact of the tape.”

The campaign was concerned about the impact it might have on Trump voters or even the possibility that Trump could lose the Republican nomination one month out from the election, according to Colangelo.

“The Republican National Committee even considered whether it was too late to replace their own nominee,” Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:04 AM
Trump, listening to openings, shakes his head

Former President Trump, sitting at the defense table, softly shook his head “no” when prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jurors that Trump formed a “conspiracy” with Michael Cohen and David Pecker to “help him get elected.”

It was one of the most notable reactions from Trump as he sits and listens to prosecutors lay out their story of the case.

Colangelo then brought up the “Access Hollywood” tape and said it showed Trump “bragging about sexual assault,” Trump shook his head no again, pursing his lips. He did not react when Colangelo, quoting Trump on the tape, said, “grab them by the p—-.”

Earlier, as Colangelo brought up a former Trump doorman who was he said was paid off as part of the alleged catch-and-kill scheme, Trump — looking annoyed — leaned over and tapped his lawyer Todd Blanche. When Colangelo said the doorman was paid $30,000 to bury his story, Trump raised his eyebrows and grabbed onto a pen.

The former president has been passing notes and sliding papers between Blanche and attorney Emil Bove, and leaning side-to-side, whispering to them. Blanche at one point pulled out his own sticky note and slid a note back to Trump.

At other times he has hardly seemed engaged at all, slumping in his red leather chair looking straight forward with no facial expression, or fidgeting with his head tilting back and forth. At one point during jury instructions he let out a yawn.

Apr 22, 10:48 AM
Prosecutor alleges 3-prong conspiracy

“It starts with that August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors about the alleged conspiracy, in his opening statement.

Following a meeting between Donald Trump, his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, and AMI executive David Pecker, the three engaged in a three-prong conspiracy to help influence the 2016 election, according to Colangelo.

First, the National Enquirer would run “headline after headline that extolled the defendant’s virtues,” according to Colangelo.

“Pecker had the ultimate say over publication decisions,” Colangelo said, adding that Trump edited, killed, and suggested the cover of the magazine.

Second, the National Enquirer would run negative stories attacking Trump’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primary, such as attacks on Ben Caron or Marco Rubio.

Third, the “core of the conspiracy” was killing negative stories about Trump — evolving into the catch-and kill scheme, Colangelo said.

“The National Enquirer ran these stories as part of the conspiracy launched after the Trump Tower meeting,” he said.

Apr 22, 10:40 AM
‘This case is about a criminal conspiracy,’ prosecutor says

“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.

Colangelo said Trump schemed with his attorney Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker “to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about former President Trump.”

Trump slouched in his seat the defense table, listening.

“The defendant said in his business records that he was paying Cohen for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement. But those were lies,” Colangelo said. “The defendant was paying him back for an illegal payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the election.”

Apr 22, 10:21 AM
Trump is ‘presumed to be innocent,’ judge tells jury

Donald Trump faced forward and did not appear to make eye contact with any jurors as they entered the courtroom and took their seats in the jury box.

Before any of the lawyers in the case could speak a word, Judge Merchan launched into a lengthy speech outlining how the trial will work.

“We are about to begin the trial of People of the State of New York v. Donald Trump,” Merchan told the 12 jurors and six alternates.

Merchan emphasized that the burden of proof rests on the prosecutors and that jurors should presume that Trump is innocent. A guilty verdict requires that each juror determines that the state proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, Merchan said.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Merchan said. “It is not sufficient to prove that the defendant is probably guilty.”

Merchan attempted to set expectations for the jurors, only two of which have ever served on a jury before. For example, Merchan told the jurors not to expect the lawyers to launch into lengthy speeches outside of the opening and closing statements.

“That happens in TV and in movies, but it doesn’t happen in real trials,” Merchan said.

Apr 22, 10:09 AM
Judge issues mixed ruling on cross-examination of Trump

Judge Juan Merchan ruled that if Trump takes the stand, prosecutors can question him about a number of previous legal issues — but the judge 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.

Judge Merchan ruled that Trump can be questioned by the DA’s office on six determinations from four previous proceedings, including aspects of his New York civil fraud case and the gag order violations there, as well as both E. Jean Carrol verdicts and the Trump foundation case.

Prosecutors had originally asked to question Trump about six different proceedings with 13 total determinations.

Merchan said with his ruling, he has “greatly curtailed” how much prosecutors can discuss the underlying facts of those cases.

“The court cautions the defendant that this Sandoval ruling is a shield, not a sword,” Merchan said.

Apr 22, 9:59 AM
Schedule set for today’s proceedings

Prosecutors told Judge Merchan that they need 40 minutes for their opening statements.

Defense attorneys told the judge they need 25 minutes.

The judge also announced that court will break at 12:30 p.m. ET today, after a juror had a toothache and got an emergency appointment this afternoon.

Court had already been scheduled to end early today, at 2 p.m. ET, due to the Passover holiday.

Apr 22, 9:52 AM
Issue with Juror No. 9 is resolved

Judge Juan Merchan announced there is an issue with Juror No. 9 — who, according to Merchan, “was concerned about media attention” of the case. According to Merchan, the juror “wasn’t 100% sure” they could serve.

Merchan said they would speak to the juror in chambers to “find out what the issue is and see if this juror can continue to serve.”

After a brief sidebar, the judge announced: “Juror No. 9 is going to remain with us.”

There are six alternate jurors seated in case any of the 12 jurors cannot serve.

Apr 22, 9:44 AM
Trump tells reporters it’s a ‘sad day in America’

On his way into the courtroom for the day’s proceedings, Trump once again alleged that the trial constitutes election interference, claiming that the proceedings are unfairly keeping him off the campaign trail.

“Everybody knows that I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it’s very unfair,” he told reporters.

“It’s a very, very sad day in America,” he said. “I can tell you that.”

The former president is seated at the defense table between his lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove.

Apr 22, 9:37 AM
Proceedings are underway

The proceedings are underway in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial. Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are both in the courtroom.

Three prosecutors — Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo, and Susan Hoffinger — are seated at the counsel table.

Bragg is seated in the front row of the gallery with approximately a dozen lawyers and staff from his office.

Apr 22, 9:26 AM
Ex-National Enquirer publisher to be 1st witness, say sources

The first witness prosecutors with the Manhattan DA’s office plan to call is former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

ABC News previously reported that prosecutors planned to call Pecker as a witness, but sources now say he’s expected to be the first witness to take the stand.

Pecker served as the longtime chief executive of American Media Inc., which published the National Enquirer.

Shortly after Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign, Pecker met with Trump and agreed to act as the “eyes and ears” of the campaign by looking out for and killing negative stories about Trump, according to the Manhattan DA.

As part of the arrangement, Pecker allegedly directed a deal to pay $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman regarding the false allegation that Trump allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock, prosecutors say. Then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen allegedly insisted that the deal stay in place even after AMI discovered the allegation was false, and AMI paid the doorman, according to the Manhattan DA.

Apr 22, 5:55 AM
Attorneys to present opening statements in historic trial

After a week-long selection process, the jurors in Donald Trump’s New York hush money case will hear opening statements Monday in the first criminal trial of a former United States president.

To prove their case, lawyers for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg need to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump repeatedly falsified records related to unlawfully influencing the 2016 presidential election.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics or your feelings about a particular political issue,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told potential jurors on Thursday. “It’s not a referendum on the Trump Presidency, a popularity contest, or any indication of who you plan to vote for this fall. This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Trump’s lawyers are expected to focus their efforts on going after the credibility of prosecution witnesses, suggesting the case itself is politically motivated and arguing the former president never intended to commit a crime.

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