Trump trial live updates: Stormy Daniels recounts alleged sexual encounter with Trump, says he called her ‘honey bunch’

Written by on May 7, 2024

Flanked by attorneys, former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in the courtroom for his arraignment proceeding at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images)

(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. All times Eastern:

May 07, 12:42 PM
Daniels says she decided she wanted to ‘get the story out’

Stormy Daniels testified that she authorized her agent Gina Rodriguez to shop around her story in 2016.

“My motivation wasn’t money,” Daniels said. “It was to get the story out.”

“It was motivated out of fear, not money,” Daniels said, adding that her financial situation at the time was the “best it’s ever been.”

“Why didn’t you ask for more money?” Hoffinger asked about Michael Cohen’s $130,000 offer.

“Because I didn’t care about the money,” Daniels said.

May 07, 12:39 PM
Daniels says man threatened her not to discuss Trump

Stormy Daniels told jurors that she did an interview with “InTouch” in 2011 about her interactions with Trump.

In June 2011, she said a man approached her in the parking lot of a Mommy-and-Me class in Las Vegas.

According to Daniels, the man “threatened” her not to continue telling her story about her “encounter with Trump.”

Daniels said she did not report the encounter to police.

“He told me not to say anything at all, and I was scared,” Daniels said, appearing to get choked up during this testimony.

Daniels testified that this exchange, in part, prompted her to want to take down a blog post in 2011 that alleged she had had a sexual encounter with Trump.

Jurors earlier heard about the blog post during the testimony of Daniels’ then-attorney Keith Davidson, who sent a cease-and-desist letter to the blog to get the post removed.

May 07, 12:33 PM
Daniels says Trump again made advances

Daniels also testified that Trump made sexual advances toward her during a meeting in Hollywood, California.

“He kept trying to make sexual advances,” Daniels said. “Scooting closer, giving me compliments,” but she rebuffed him.

“Did he tell you to keep it confidential?” the prosecutor asked.

“Absolutely not,” Daniels responded.

At no time during any of their encounters, Daniels testified, did Trump seem concerned about getting caught or his wife finding out.

Daniels said that was the last time she saw Trump in person.

As she left, she said, Trump told her, “‘Want to get together again. I miss you.’ You know, the usual.”

Since that in-person encounter, Daniels said she got a few more phone calls from Trump, who at one point told her that she could not go on “The Apprentice.”

During their last call, Daniels said that Trump apologized after another adult film star appeared on “The Apprentice.” Daniels said she did not care.

She testified that her life in the years following her encounters with Trump were “amazing.”

She told jurors that she got a raise, directed more films, broke into mainstream film with feature film castings, became a decorated equestrian, and had a child.

May 07, 12:19 PM
Daniels recalls meeting Karen McDougal at 2007 Trump party

Stormy Daniels said she saw Trump again in January 2007 at a Hollywood party celebrating the launch of Trump Vodka.

She recalled meeting a number of Trump’s friends, including a woman named Karen. It turned out to be Karen McDougal, whose allegations of an affair were bought and buried by the National Enquirer before the 2016 election, publisher David Pecker testified earlier at trial.

“Did you know her last name then?” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked.

“No,” Daniels said, telling jurors she later learned her name was Karen McDougal.

Hoffinger asked Daniels about visiting Trump in Trump Tower — an interaction Trump assistant Rhona Graff testified about earlier in the trial.

Daniels described the meeting as “rushed” and “very, very brief.”

“It was very brief. He was very busy,” Daniels said. “It was very sort of rushed.”

When asked if Trump was worried about people seeing her in Trump Tower, Daniels said no.

“Oh, no. He introduced me to everyone,” Daniels said. “He just seemed busy.”

May 07, 12:13 PM
Daniels says Trump kept in touch with phone calls

After the Lake Tahoe encounter, Daniels said she and Trump kept in touch, with him frequently referring to her as “honey bunch.”

“It was weird,” she said.

Daniels said she continued to take Trump’s calls on the advice of her publicist, who wanted Daniels to explore the idea of going on “The Apprentice.”

When Trump would call Daniels after their encounter, she testified that she would always put him on speakerphone because she “thought it was funny.” She said “dozens and dozens of people heard me on the phone with him.”

Jurors just saw a contact in Daniels’ phone — labeled “D Trump Rhona” — for Trump’s longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff.

“If I need to get a hold of him … I need to get a hold of a woman named Rhona,” Daniels said.

Jurors heard testimony from Graff less than two weeks ago when she testified about entering a contact for Daniels in the Trump Organization’s system.

Jurors again saw the Trump Organization contact for Daniels, who confirmed the phone number was hers.

May 07, 12:08 PM
Daniels told only ‘very close’ people about encounter

Stormy Daniels testified that she met Trump the next day when he came to her hotel for an event associated with the golf tournament.

“The next day, I met him this time at my hotel at a nightclub restaurant downstairs,” Daniels said.

“I arrived and he was sitting at a booth,” Daniels said, adding Trump was sitting next to football player Ben Roethlisberger. Trump referred to Roethlisberger as “Big Ben,” according to Daniels. She said she tried on his Super Bowl ring.

“He wasn’t drinking,” Daniels noted about Trump, who famously does not drink.

Daniels said that she told “scores of people” about Trump inviting her to his suite, but she kept the information about the sexual encounter to very few people.

“The sex part I told very few, very close people,” Daniels said.

May 07, 11:59 AM
Daniels describes sexual encounter with Trump

As Stormy Daniels described how she and Trump began having sex, Trump tapped his attorney Susan Necheles again, presumably to encourage her to object. Necheles then raised an objection about details of the sex, which was sustained.

“The next thing I know I was on the bed,” Daniels said. “I had my clothes and my shoes off. I believe my bra however was still on.”

Jurors seem riveted — a few are furiously jotting down notes, but most have their eyes fixed securely on Daniels.

“Do you remember how your clothes got off?” Hoddinger asked.

“No,” Daniels said.

“Did you end up having sex with him on the bed?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Daniels said.

“Did you touch his skin?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Daniels said.

“Was he wearing a condom?” Hoffinger asked.

“No,” Daniels said.

“Was that concerning to you?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Daniels said.

Before detailing the sexual encounter, Daniels noted there was an “there was an imbalance of power” but she was not threatened.

“He was bigger and blocking the way. I was not threatened verbally or physically,” Daniels said.

When it was over, Daniels said Trump toold her, “We have to get together again soon.”

She said he never expressed any worry about his wife finding out.

May 07, 11:53 AM
‘Oh my god’ Daniels says of her reaction to Trump on bed

Stormy Daniels said that Trump was on the bed when she came out of the bathroom.

“Mr. Trump had come into the bedroom and was on the bed, basically between myself and the exit,” Daniels said.

Trump was wearing his “boxer shorts and T-shirt,” she said.

“I felt that the room spun in slow motion. I felt the blood basically leave my hand and feet,” Daniels said. “Oh my god, what did I misread to get here.”

“What was your reaction to seeing him like that?,” Hoffinger asked.

“First I was just startled, like a jump scare,” Daniels said.

“I think I blacked out,” Daniels said about her memory of the interaction. She affirmed that she was not drinking or on drugs during the exchange.

One juror, who had been writing down notes, looked up from his page and raised his eyebrows as Daniels recalled the sight of Trump on his bed.

Trump motioned to his attorney Susan Necheles to object as Daniels began to describe what transpired before the two became intimate, which she did. The judge summoned both parties to the bench.

The objection is sustained, said the judge.

May 07, 11:46 AM
Daniels describes items in suite’s bathroom

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger resumed the direct examination of Stormy Daniels, asking her if she ever used the bathroom during her time in Trump’s suite.

“I did notice the bed was unmade but there were no personal items around,” Daniels said. “There was a leather-looking toiletry bag on the counter.”

Daniels said she snooped in the bag.

“I did look and I am not proud of it,” Daniels said. “The items were Old Spice and Pert Plus. A manicure set, which was gold.”

May 07, 11:42 AM
Court resumes after break

Judge Juan Merchan resumed the proceedings by asking prosecutors to speed up Stormy Daniels’ testimony.

“The degree of detail … is just unnecessary,” Merchan said.

Daniels walked back in to the courtroom and again did not look over at Trump.

Trump had his head down, looking at papers on his desk, as she walked by.

May 07, 11:28 AM
‘You remind me of my daughter,’ Daniels says Trump told her

Stormy Daniels testified that Trump suggested she go on “The Apprentice.”

“He told me an idea — that I should go on his television show,” Daniels said.

“I said there was no way [they] would ever let me on TV,” Daniels said she responded. “I said, ‘Even you don’t have that much power.'”

“You remind me of my daughter,” Daniels said Trump responded, remaking about how people underestimate her intelligence.

“Approximately how long were you talking, in total, in the suite?” Hoffinger asked.

“Close to two hours. It was a long time,” Daniels said.

“Did you sense any red flags?” Hoffinger asked.

“No,” she said.

Court then broke for a brief recess. When Daniels exited the courtroom, she walked by Trump on her way out but did not look toward the former president.

Trump appeared to be talking with his lawyers when she walked by.

Trump then exited the courtroom for the mid-morning break, giving a fist-pump as he exited.

May 07, 11:22 AM
‘Don’t worry about that,’ Daniels says Trump said of Melania

Daniels said the topic of her and Trump’s conversation quickly turned to the “business aspects” of the porn industry.

“He asked how I got involved in the adult entertainment company,” Daniels recounted, telling the jurors that she told Trump the same story about entering the industry the jury heard at the start of his testimony.

Daniels said that Trump peppered her with questions.

“Are there any unions? Do you get residuals? How do you get paid? Do you get health insurance?. What about STDs?” Daniels recounted.

Daniels said that Trump specifically asked about her own tests for STDs.

“Every test that I have ever done … and I have never had a bad test. I never tested positive for anything,” Daniels said.

Judge Merchan asked Daniels to “slow down a little bit so the court reporter can get everything that you’re saying.”

Daniels and Trump also discussed wrestling, including Trump’s televised appearance with Vince McMahon, Daniels said.

“Oh yeah, I made him,” Daniels said eagerly about Trump’s scene with McMahon.

Daniels recalled having a “very brief” conversation with Trump about his wife Melania.

“He showed me a few pictures … and I said, ‘Oh what about your wife?'”

“Oh don’t worry about that, we don’t sleep in the same room,” she said Trump responded.

May 07, 11:18 AM
Daniels says Trump was initially in pajamas

Stormy Daniels testified that Donald Trump was still in his pajamas when she entered his suite.

“He was wearing silk or satin pajamas that I immediately made fun of him for. ‘Does Mr. Heffner know you stole his pajamas?” Daniels said.

“I told him to go change and he obliged very politely,” Daniels said, noting he retured in a dress shirt and dress pants.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Daniels to describe the hotel suite in detail — a move to possibly corroborate her testimony later.

“This hotel room was three times the size of my apartment,” Daniels said.

Daniels has been looking to Hoffinger as she answered her questions, but at times reorients herself toward the jurors, engaging with them and appearing to search for eyes to make contact with. She directs her comments to them when she attempts to explain certain details.

Daniels said that once Trump changed his clothes, they passed the time before their planned dinner by talking at a table in the suite.

“He said it was a bit early. ‘Do you mind talking a bit so we can get to know each other?'” Daniels said.

Hoffinger, for a third time, asked Daniels to slow down as she recounted the contents of her conversation with Trump over dinner — which she called the “general get-to-know-you sort of things.”

Daniels said she discussed her upbringing — including whether she was married or had a boyfriend — during the discussion.

May 07, 11:11 AM
Daniels recounts going to Trump’s hotel room

Jurors were shown the contact information for Trump’s bodyguard in Daniels’ phone. It is listed as “Keith Trump.” Daniels testified she did not know his last name at the time.

“If nothing else you’ll get a great story,” Daniels recalls her then-publicist telling her when she told him Trump invited her to dinner. Daniels said she reconsidered Trump’s invitation after her then-agent encouraged her to join Trump for dinner.

“He said, ‘I think you should go. It would make a great story. He is a business guy. What could possibly go wrong?’ That was his words to me,” Daniels said.

Daniels testimony appears consistent with how she described the interaction in her 2018 book “Full Disclosure.”

Daniels said that she went to Trump’s Harrah’s resort to meet Trump and went directly to his suite per the directions of bodyguard Keith Schiller.

“The door was already open, so I walked right in,” Daniels said.

Trump, at the defense table, sat with his head cocked slightly to the left, as Daniels described details from the night they met for dinner at his hotel room.

May 07, 11:03 AM
Daniels identifies Trump in court

Asked to identify Trump in court, Stormy Daniels slightly got up from her chair to see Trump clearly.

“Navy blue jacket, second at the table,” Daniels said.

Jurors the saw a series of images, starting with a photo of Trump and Daniels together, in which Donald Trump wears a yellow shirt and red hat. Daniels smiles next to him.

Trump and defense attorney Todd Blanche were reviewing paperwork on the desk and Trump did not did not appear to look up as the photo of Daniels and him flashed on the monitor in front of him.

In the next exhibit, jurors saw a photo of Trump at the golf outing wearing the identical outfit.

Trump attorney Emil Bove, seated at the end of the defense table, whispered a message to Todd Blanche, who then appeared to relay the message to Trump.

Daniels testified that at that meeting, Trump’s body guard came to her with a proposal: “That Mr. Trump was interested in having me joining him for dinner”

“F— no,” Daniels said of her reaction, including a bleeped out expression.

“I’m sorry?” Hoffinger asked.

“No,” Daniels repeated with a laugh.

May 07, 10:55 AM
Daniels describes meeting Trump on golf course

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, shifting the topic to Trump, asked Daniels about her role at the Lake Tahoe Golf Tournament where Daniels met Trump in 2006.

“Did you meet Donald Trump on the golf course at the celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes I did,” Daniels said. “It was a very brief encounter on the course.”

Daniels testified she was 27 when she met Trump.

“I didn’t know his age, but I knew he was as old as or older than my father,” Daniels said, noting her father was 60. One juror cracked a smile.

Asked what she knew about Trump, Daniels said she knew “he was obviously a golfer and that he had a television show that I had never seen.”

Trump, sitting at the defense table, remained stoic, slouched in his chair and averting his gaze from the witness stand. He has been looking down or straight ahead at intervals, seeming to zone out and then return to attention.

May 07, 10:48 AM
Daniels ticks through her film credits

Stormy Daniels testified that she starred in her first adult film at 23 after she traveled to Los Angeles with a friend.

She said she was a background actor in a film when a producer from Wicked Films approached her. Within days she had her first contract.

“I was honestly kind of scared to do it,” Daniels said.

Daniels testified about her work producing adult films. She said she has produced over 150 films and won multiple awards.

“I was one of the youngest — if not the youngest — featured director,” Daniels said.

She also said she was in music videos for Maroon 5 and acted in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.”

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Daniels twice to slow the pace of her delivery after she raced through her film credentials.

May 07, 10:43 AM
Daniels describes her start as exotic dancer

Stormy Daniels told jurors she began dancing in clubs in high school to make money.

“[A friend] was an exotic dancer and invited me to the club to dance, and they didn’t bother checking my ID,” Daniels said, adding she could make more money in one weekend than she would “shoveling manure eight hours a day.”

Jurors appeared laser focused on Daniels as she described her upbringing — nobody looking at their monitor, only two people appear to be jotting down notes. Otherwise, all eyes on Daniels.

Daniels testified that she began posing nude in magazines when she was 21 so she could elevate her dancing career.

“If you are just a regular girl in the club … but if you were like the Playboy centerfold, you were the headliner,” Daniels said.

Trump, meanwhile, has his gaze fixed downward or straight ahead — nowhere near the witness.

He is exchanging notes with his attorney Todd Blanche.

May 07, 10:39 AM
Daniels begins with details of her background

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger began the questions by asking Stormy Daniels to tell the jury about her life.

“Tell the jury a little bit about your life growing up in Louisiana,” Hoffinger asked.

Donald Trump appeared to tilt his head slightly as Stormy Daniels walked by on her way to the witness stand. He then looked disinterested as she recounted her upbringing.

Daniels told the jury about how she was raised by her mother and grew up in a low-income household. She says she edited her high school newspaper and participated in 4-H.

The start of the testimony appears to be an effort to humanize Daniels — who the jury has heard plenty about — and make her relatable.

“I’m going to ask you to slow down a little bit,” Hoffinger said.

“I have an accent still, sorry,” Daniels said.

May 07, 10:35 AM
Stormy Daniels called to the stand

“The People call Stormy Daniels,” prosecutors announced, using using her stage name instead of her birth name, Stephanie Clifford.

Daniels entered the courtroom draped in all black and did not glance over at the former president as she ascended the short steps to the witness stand. Trump watched her as she navigated the courtroom.

Daniels said she is testifying pursuant to a subpoena. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is leading the questions.

May 07, 10:27 AM
Defense highlights ghostwriters’ role in Trump’s books

During a redirect examination of Penguin Random House VP Sally Franklin, prosecutors introduced as evidence additional portions from “Trump: How to Get Rich” to highlight Trump’s role in writing the book.

“That’s what I decided to call it, because whenever I meet people, that’s usually what they want to know from me,” Trump wrote in “How to Get Rich.” “You ask a baker how he makes bread. You ask a billionaire how he makes money.”

Franklin also read from the acknowledgements of the book, where Trump thanks his coauthor and editor for knowing him so well — and the epitaph where Trump quoted his mother.

In court and in filings, defense lawyers have highlighted Trump’s minimal role in drafting the books compared to his ghostwriters.

May 07, 10:07 AM
‘Always question invoices,’ Trump book excerpt says

Penguin Random House VP Sally Franklin continued reading quotes from another Trump book, intended by prosecutors to show in Trump’s own words how he allegedly handles his finances.

“I always try to read my bills to make sure I’m not being over charged,” an excerpt said.

“Periodically I ask my financial department for what I call my financial small shot,” one book read. “If i didn’t check up on it regularly, I would be in big financial trouble.”

“And I would have no one to blame but myself,” the book said.

Jurors appeared engaged as the former president’s book covers flashed across the monitors in front of them.

Several jurors were following along as Franklin read the excerpts.

“Always look at the numbers yourself,” Franklin read from another book.

And another one from Trump’s book “Think Like a Billionaire”: “Always question invoices.”

Defense attorney Todd Blanche concluded a short cross-examination by emphasizing that Franklin only read from selected pages from a small portion of the books.

May 07, 9:53 AM
Publisher reads quotes from Trump’s book

Jurors were shown a photo of the cover of Trump’s 2004 book, How to Get Rich: Big Deals from the Star of The Apprentice.

“How many times does the word ‘Trump’ appear on the cover of this book?” a prosecutor asked Penguin Random House VP Sally Franklin, on the witness stand.

“Three times,” Franklin said.

ABC News previously reported about prosecutors’ plan to use the quotes from Trump’s books against him at trial.

“When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can,” Franklin read from the book. “For many years I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back.”

May 07, 9:45 AM
Prosecutors call book publisher as first witness

Prosecutors have called Sally Franklin as their first witness.

Franklin works as senior vice president for Penguin Random House.

She is testifying as a custodial witness.

May 07, 9:39 AM
Defense argues against parts of Daniels’ planned testimony

Trump attorney Susan Necheles began the proceedings by renewing their request that Judge Juan Merchan preclude parts of Stormy Daniels’ planned testimony.

Necheles said that Daniels is expected to be the second witness today.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger argued that the context of the alleged 2006 sexual encounter between Daniels and Trump are important, though Daniels will not testify about that in detail.

“The details of the encounter, your honor, are important,” said Susan Hoffinger. “In terms of a sexual act, it will be very basic … how she came to have sex and how she felt about it.”

“There is just no need for those kinds of details here,” Necheles argued. “This case is a case about books and records, and we shouldn’t get into how she felt about it, what happened in the room.”

Judge Juan Metchan said he would stick with his earlier ruling allowing the testimony, but acknowledged that Daniels had “credibility issues.”

“We don’t need to know the details of the intercourse,” Merchan said. “I agree with you that she had credibility issues.”

Trump has denied that he had a sexual encounter with Daniels.

May 07, 9:32 AM
Proceedings are underway

Proceedings are underway for Day 13 of Donald Trump’s criminal trial in what is expected to be a dramatic day in the courtroom with the expected testimony of Stormy Daniels.

Trump is, as usual, seated at the defense table alongside his attorneys.

Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles flank the former president, and Emil Bove is at the far end of the table.

May 07, 9:27 AM
Trump enters courtroom

Donald Trump has entered the courtroom, looking at members of the press as he entered.

He is joined by his son Eric Trump and attorney Alina Habba.

May 07, 9:24 AM
Six members of the public are in the courtroom

In addition to approximately 70 members of the press in the courtroom, six members of the public are present in the courtroom to watch today’s testimony.

They said they learned about the opportunity to watch the trial over the last few weeks and decided to come see the testimony for themselves. Some traveled from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Brooklyn to attend the trial.

A court officer repeatedly reminded them not to fall asleep in the courtroom.

May 07, 9:17 AM
Prosecutors arrive in courtroom

Prosecutors for the Manhattan district attorney’s office have arrived in the courtroom.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg is not present at this point.

May 07, 9:08 AM
Trump arrives at courthouse

Former President Donald Trump has arrived at the lower Manhattan courthouse ahead of today’s proceedings.

Court is scheduled to get underway at 9:30 a.m. ET.

May 07, 8:24 AM
Stormy Daniels to take the stand today, sources say

Stormy Daniels, one of the state’s star witnesses, is scheduled to take the stand today, according to sources.

The decision to call Daniels as a witness allows the jury to directly hear from the woman at the center of Trump’s criminal trial.

Prosecutors argue that Trump — still reeling from the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape in October 2016 — orchestrated a last-minute $130,000 hush money payment through his then-lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange for Daniels’ silence about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which the former president has denied took place.

When Trump repaid Cohen in 2017, prosecutors allege Trump falsified business records to hide the hush money payment from voters.

While the alleged criminal conduct centers on the falsification of business records, Daniels’ alleged encounter with Trump and negotiations through her former lawyer Keith Davidson are likely to be discussed during her testimony.

May 07, 8:08 AM
Trump posts about next witness, then deletes post

In a post to his social media platform this morning, former President Trump wrote, “I have just recently been told who the witness is today. This is unprecedented, no time for lawyers to prepare.”

He then deleted the post a short time later.

Prosecutors at the start of the trial asked for and received permission from Judge Juan Merchan to not reveal the identity of witnesses in the case until just before they’re scheduled to appear, in order to avoid them being targeted by remarks from Trump, who is under a limited gag order not to make statements about witnesses, jurors and others involved in the case.

“The defendant has been violating the order restricting extrajudicial speech, and we don’t want to have the next witnesses’ names out there,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said yesterday about Trump, who was fined an additional $1,000 by the judge for violating the limited gag order for a 10th time.

May 07, 7:39 AM
Proceedings to get underway on Day 13

Proceedings will get underway this morning on Day 13 of former President Trump’s criminal hush money trial.

Two longtime Trump Organization employees took the stand yesterday to testify about their roles in executing a string of 2017 payments to Michael Cohen in order to reimburse him for a $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels.

Jurors for the first time saw the business records associated with those transactions, which prosecutors say were unlawfully falsified to hide their true purpose from voters.

Prosecutors told the judge at the end of the day that the state’s case will likely take another two weeks to complete. That will be followed by the defense’s case, and then the state’s rebuttal.

May 06, 4:54 PM
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.”

May 06, 4:35 PM
DA’s case should take two 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.

“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.

May 06, 4:17 PM
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.

May 06, 4:05 PM
Jurors review evidence as Tarasoff details Cohen’s invoices

As she reentered the courtroom after the mid-afternoon break, longtime Trump Organization staffer Deborah Tarasoff, who still works at the company, patted the hand of Eric Trump, who is seated in the front row of the spectators’ gallery.

Tarasoff’s direct examination resumed, with jurors continuing to pay close attention to her testimony.

As she walked the jury through each of Michael Cohen’s invoices and the resulting ledger entries and checks — which comprise the 34 counts of the DA’s indictment — the jury members shifted their attention between Tarasoff at the witness stand, the exhibits on the screen in front of them, and prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

Many of the jurors continued to take notes as they thoroughly examined the exhibits.

Trump, sitting at the defense table, was similarly engaged with the testimony, occasionally conferring with his lawyers and examining the evidence.

May 06, 3:26 PM
Tarasoff says ‘legal expenses’ label came from invoice

Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff walked the jurors through the process for processing the invoices and checks for Michael Cohen in 2017.

The process generally began with an email from controller Jeffrey McConney, who approved the expenses.

“Please pay. Post to same g/l as last month,” McConney said in his email from March 2017.

“Please pay,” McConney emailed Tarasoff in April.

Jurors then saw the invoice processed on the Trump Organization’s general ledger, labeled as “legal expenses.”

“Where did that come from?” prosecutor Christopher Conroy asked.

“I put that in. It came from the invoice,” Tarasoff said.

For checks from the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, two people — from among either Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Allen Weisselberg — signed the check. For the checks from Donald Trump’s personal account, Donald Trump had to sign the check himself.

Some of the jurors appeared to be attentive during this testimony, watching Tarasoff explain the exhibits displayed on the screen in front of them. Others sat passively, some with their arms crossed, as the testimony continued.

May 06, 3:06 PM
Tarasoff says Cohen’s checks were sent to White House to be signed

Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff told jurors that she processed Michael Cohen’s invoices in the same manner she would process any other invoice.

“The same way everything was processed,” Tarasoff said, noting that she began processing the invoices once she got an approval email.

“Do you remember who you would get those emails from?” Conroy asked. .

“Jeffrey McConney,” Tarasoff said.

The only change in the protocol, according to Tarasoff, was that the checks from Trump’s personal account would need to be signed by Trump in Washington, D.C., so another employee would mail the check to the White House by Federal Express, Tarasoff said.

“We would send them to the White House for him to sign,” Tarasoff said.

“Even when he was in DC, no one else had authority to sign the checks?” Conroy asked.

“That’s right,” Tarasoff said.

May 06, 3:00 PM
Trump rejected checks he didn’t want to sign, Tarasoff says

Prosecutors appear to be trying to used Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff to portray Donald Trump as more than a passive player in the alleged scheme to hide Michael Cohen’s repayments from authorities.

The defense has suggested Trump is a multi-tasker who would blindly sign stacks of checks while doing untold numbers of other things. But Tarasoff said Trump would sometimes reject checks.

“If he didn’t want to sign it he didn’t sign it,” Tarasoff said.

“Did you ever see a time when he didn’t sign a check?” prosecutor Chris Conroy asked.

“He would write void on it and send it back,” Tarasoff responded, noting Trump’s distinctive signature using a black Sharpie. “That’s what he uses,” she said, drawing on her 24 years of experience at the Trump Organization.

May 06, 2:56 PM
Tarasoff says CFO generally ran decisions by Trump

As the accounts payable supervisor at the Trump Organization, Deborah Tarasoff described her responsibilities in this way: “I get approved bills, I enter them in the system, and I cut the checks.”

That type of response — using as few words as she can — seems in line with her other commentary from the stand. Tarasoff has a terse sensibility.

“Do you have any sense of how many entities make up the Trump Organization?” prosecutor Christopher Conroy asked her.

“There’s a bunch,” she said.

Asked to describe the general ledger, she said: “That’s where everything goes into and they keep track of things.”

Conroy established early in his questioning that she did not necessarily have regular exposure to Donald Trump, but was an important cog in the machine of the Trump Organization — particularly as it pertains to the allegations in this trial.

“Did you just follow instructions?” Conroy asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Tarasoff told jurors that any expenses over $10,000 would need to get direct approval from either Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. or Eric. Trump.

Tarasoff added that at the time of the events in question, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg generally ran decisions by Trump directly.

May 06, 2:35 PM
Trump watches as another longtime employee takes stand

As Deborah Tarasoff took the witness stand, Donald Trump watched expressionless as another one of his longtime employees began her testimony.

Unlike controller Jeffrey McConney, who testified this morning, Tarasoff remains an employee of the Trump Organization, where she has worked for 24 years.

Tarasoff, whose legal bills are being footed by the Trump Organization, is being questioned by prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

May 06, 2:25 PM
Longtime Trump employee Deborah Tarasoff to take stand

All parties are back in the courtroom for the day’s afternoon session, where prosecutors are preparing to call longtime Trump Organization employee Deborah Tarasoff as their next witness.

Tarasoff worked as an accounts payable supervisor at the Trump Organization when Michael Cohen submitted invoices in 2017 to be reimbursed for the hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels. A direct report to controller Jeffrey McConney, Tarasoff processed and labeled the invoices as “legal expenses.”

In his opening statement, defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that Tarasoff was just following orders when she labeled the invoices.

Before Tarasoff takes the stand, defense lawyers are first objecting to the evidence prosecutors plan to introduce during her testimony.

May 06, 1:45 PM
Jurors appear engaged with accounting testimony

The day’s morning session was marked by laborious testimony about invoices, legers, and tax documents — but the jurors appeared surprisingly engaged following two weeks of testimony involving sex scandals and crisis management.

Many jurors this morning took copious notes and looked back and forth at witness Jeff McConney on the stand and the lawyers questioning him.

When the handwritten notes on Michael Cohen’s repayments appeared on the courtroom monitors, many jurors appeared lasered in. One juror placed their elbow on the armrest and rested their head on their hand, staring intently into the monitor in front of them.

But as testimony stretched into hours, and prosecutors put accounting document after accounting document onto the screen, at least some jurors’ minds appeared to wander. One juror rubbed his eyes and another slumped down in his seat, rested his cheek in his palm and sighed deeply.

“What is a 1099?” a prosecutor asked at one point, prompting a juror to rub his forehead tightly.

May 06, 1:04 PM
Under re-direct, McConney says he was following orders

Before ending his cross-examination, defense attorney Emil Bove attempted to pour cold water on a small narrative element prosecutors advanced about the location of handwritten notes containing arithmetic related to the reimbursing of Michael Cohen.

Then-CFO Allen Weisselberg, who jotted down the notes, ordered McConney to put the notes in a locked cabinet, McConney said earlier, suggesting that the document was intended to remain secret.

But Bove argued that “the reason that cabinet was locked was because the payroll book” was inside of it, containing sensitive information about employee salaries, bonuses and social security numbers.

“It’s not that these notes were particularly sensitive,” Bove said. “You locked the drawer to keep that sort of sensitive information secure?”

Furthermore, Bove asked, “Isn’t it a fact that most of the drawers in your office were locked?”

McConney confirmed this, and said he had “a lot of sensitive information” in his office.

During a brief re-direct examination, prosecutors attempted to distance McConney from the agreement to reimburse Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payment and suggest that McConney was just following orders.

“Did you participate in any conversations with Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg?” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked.

“No sir,” McConney said.

“This was all happening above your head?” Colangelo asked.

“Yes,” McConney said.

“You were told something and you did it?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes,” McConney responded.

Court subsequently recessed for the lunch break.

May 06, 12:53 PM
Defense suggests Trump’s company faced risk from bad publicity

During a rapid-fire series of questions during his cross-examination of former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney, defense attorney Emil Bove suggested that the Trump Organization faced a business risk stemming from bad publicity.

“There was a very real commercial risk to adverse publicity?” Bove asked McConney after listing some of the Trump Organization’s international holdings.

“I am not a marketing person — it’s hard for me to answer that question,” McConney responded.

McConney later conceded that negative publicity could be “bad for business.”

The line of questioning suggests the defense team could be planning to advance the argument that the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election was done to protect Trump’s business.

Defense lawyers have previously explained the arrangement as Trump attempting to shield his family from Daniel’s allegations that she and Trump had a sexual encounter.

May 06, 12:44 PM
McConney says ‘legal expenses’ were ‘part of a drop-down menu’

While prosecutors say the use of the phrase “legal expenses” to repay Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush payment amounted to an effort conceal the true nature of the payments, Trump attorney Emil Bove on cross-examination sought to frame that categorization as merely the results of the Trump Organization’s “antiquated” internal payment system.

Legal expenses were “part of a drop down menu?” Bove asked former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney.

“Yes,” McConney answered.

[The system] was a bit antiquated?,” Bove asked.

“Yes,” McConney said.

“These categories, there was a level of rigidity to them?,” Bove asked.

“Yes,” McConney replied.

“So if you are talking about payments to an attorney, legal expenses was the category that was used?” Bove asked.

“Yes,” McConney said.

May 06, 12:27 PM
On cross, McConney says Trump didn’t direct setup of repayments

Following the direct examination of former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney, the defense began its cross-examination by laying out one of Donald Trump’s strongest defense arguments.

“Michael Cohen was a lawyer?” defense attorney Emil Bove asked McConney.

“Sure, yes,” McConney said.

“And payments to lawyers by the Trump Organization are legal expenses, right?” asked Bove.

“Yes,” said McConney.

“President Trump did not ask you to do any of the things you just described … correct?” Bove asked.

“He did not,” McConney replied.

“And as far as you know, President Trump did not ask anyone to do those things?” Bove continued, before an objection.

“In none of the conversations that you had with Mr. Weisselberg, did he suggest that President Trump had told him to do these things?” Bove asked again.

“Allen never told me that,” McConney said.

May 06, 12:16 PM
As McConney testifies, his longtime boss sits in jail

Over the course of Jeffrey McConney’s testimony, the former Trump Organization controller has repeatedly invoked the name of his longtime boss, Allen Weisselberg, when describing the conduct and the paper trail underpinning prosecutors’ theory of the case.

He and Weisselberg ate lunch every day, McConney testified, and their offices sat beside each other in Trump Tower. At one point during his testimony, McConney said he recognized Weisselberg’s penmanship on a key exhibit because “I’ve read his handwriting for about 35 years.”

But as McConney testifies, Weisselberg sits in jail — one month into a five-month sentence after pleading guilty to two felony counts of perjury for lying under oath during his testimony in former President Trump’s civil fraud trial and during the investigation that preceded it.

Weisselberg is not expected to testify at this trial.

May 06, 12:10 PM
Jurors see tax forms Trump Organization filed for payments

Jurors saw the tax forms that the Trump Organization submitted to the Internal Revenue Service related to Michael Cohen’s reimbursement.

Jurors saw two 1099 forms — one for the $105,000 from Trump’s trust and another for the $315,000 paid from Trump’s personal account.

Former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney testified that that the company doubled Michael Cohen’s repayment to compensate for the expected taxes he would owe on the payments.

May 06, 11:53 AM
Per document, 9 of 12 payments came from Trump’s personal account

Following the mid-morning break, former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney’s testimony resumed and jurors were shown a spreadsheet called — a query voucher — that documents the twelve $35,000 payments made to Michael Cohen in 2017.

According to the exhibit, three of the payments came from Donald Trump’s trust account, totaling $105,000.

The remaining nine payments were made through Donald Trump’s personal account, totaling $315,000.

May 06, 11:25 AM
Jury shown remaining invoices for Cohen repayment

In a dry, repetitive manner, jurors were shown the invoices that Michael Cohen sent to the Trump Organization to request payment for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement — which in reality were repayments to cover his hush payment to Stormy Daniels.

The 11 invoices comprise 11 of the 34 criminal counts Trump faces.

Former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney paged through exhibits showing emails and invoices for each month over the course of the repayment schedule.

May 06, 11:15 AM
McConney suggests Trump signed Cohen checks in White House

Former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney testified that the Trump Organization switched from cutting Michael Cohen’s checks from the company trust account to cutting them from Donald Trump’s personal account when Trump was the president and living and in Washington, D.C. — something that presented a challenge.

That led to testimony that suggested checks were sent to the White House while Trump was the sitting president.

“What did that mean?” the prosecutor asked McConney.

“Somehow we would have to get a package down to the White House,” McConney responded, having testified earlier that Trump was the only person who could sign checks from his personal account.

“DJT needs to sign check” McConney worte in one email that was shown to the jury.

“The check was drawn out of President Trump’s personal account,” McConney said. “We had to get it down to the White House for the president to sign it.”

May 06, 11:07 AM
Jurors see 1st invoice for Cohen’s repayment

Former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney testified that Michael Cohen emailed an invoice to McConney for payment, which was displayed on screen for the jurors, marking the first time the jurors have seen one of the 34 records charged in this case.

“Just a reminder to get me the invoices you spoke to Allan about,” McConney had emailed Cohen.

“[Cohen] typed an invoice into his response email,” McConney testified.

The invoice Cohen sent was ultimately sent to and approved by then-CFO Allan Weisselberg, McConney testified.

In an email shown to the jury, Weisslberg clearly wrote: “ok to pay as per agreement with Don and Eric.”

Eric Trump, in the front row of the gallery, nodded yes repeatedly as the email flashed on screen.

May 06, 10:59 AM
Jury sees paper trail detailing Cohen repayment plan

The jury was shown the paper trail of handwritten notes from both controller Jeff McConney McConney and CFO Allen Weisselberg memorializing the repayment to Michael Cohen for his handling of the Stormy Daniels payment.

First, the jury saw a paper statement from Essential Consultants LLC, the shell company Cohen created to pay Daniels. Weisselberg had marked up the account with handwritten notes to outline the repayment plan.

Jurors also saw McConney’s notes on Trump-branded letterhead. They largely matched the repayment plan outlined by Weisselberg, with some additional reminders, such as ” x2 for taxes” regarding the plan to double the repayment to compensate for the taxes Cohen would owed on the payment.

Last, jurors saw an email dated Feb. 6, 2017, from McConney to Cohen with the subject line “$$.”

“Just a reminder to get me those invoices you spoke to Allen about,” McConney wrote in the email.

“I sent Michael an email to send us the invoices — at least the invoice for that month,” McConney testified.

May 06, 10:48 AM
McConney’s notes show Cohen’s repayment schedule

Former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney’s handwritten notes from a conversation with then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg memorialize a monthly reimbursement schedule to Michael Cohen that prosecutors allege was ultimately falsified to keep voters in the dark about the hush payment to Stormy Daniels.

“We were going to wire the funds monthly from Mr. Trump’s personal account,” McConney said.

Cohen was to be paid $35,000 each month for twelve months. “That was just math,” McConney said.

McConney calculated the monthly payment based the $130,000 wire to Keith Davidson, Daniels’ attorney, plus $50,000 to the IT consulting company Red Finch.

Cohen doubled the $180,000 total.

“Michael recorded $360,000 for tax purposes,” McConney said. There was an addition $60,000 to be paid as a bonus after “Michael was complaining his bonus wasn’t large enough.”

May 06, 10:34 AM
McConney says Weisselberg told him about reimbursing Cohen

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney testified about how he learned about the need to reimburse Michael Cohen in 2017.

“Allen [Weisselberg, the CFO] said, ‘We have to get some money to Michael — reimburse Michael,” McConney said. “He tossed a pad toward me and I started taking notes on what he said. That’s how I found out about it.”

McConney said that the money included Cohen’s bonus for the year and “some other money he was owed.” Prosecutors allege that the payment reimbursed Cohen in part for his $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Asked to describe Cohen’s role in the company, McConney responded, “He said he was a lawyer.”

May 06, 10:27 AM
McConney says only Trump could sign personal checks

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney testified that Donald Trump was the only one who could sign checks that were cut from his personal checking account.

“Who had signature authority for checks from the DJT account?,” he was asked.

“Just President Trump,” McConney responded.

But McConney also testified that in 2017 there were multiple individuals who could have signed checks that cut from the revocable trust, including Eric Trump and then-CFO Allan Weisselberg.

“For checks under $10,000 any of them [could sign],” McConney said. “Over $10,000 needed two signatures”

Eric Trump, who is seated in the first row, did not react when his name was repeatedly mentioned from the witness stand. He continued staring at the monitor to his left.

May 06, 10:21 AM
McConney tells story of Trump saying, ‘You’re fired’

Trump once told McConney, “You’re fired” — but it was just a “teaching moment,” the former Trump Organization controller testified.

McConney shared an anecdote from early in his tenure at the Trump Organization, in the late 1980s — which might have foreshadowed the iconic catchphrase Trump later brandished on his reality TV show, The Apprentice.

“I would hand-deliver the [cash position] report to him once a week,” McConney explained.

On one of those occasions, McConney said he entered Trump’s office while Trump was on the phone. After he dropped off the report, McConney said he turned to leave. Trump asked whoever he was on the phone with to “hold on.”

“Jeff, you’re fired,” he said Trump told him, before turning back to his conversation on the phone.

McConney said he waited until Trump rang off. When he did, he said, “Jeff, you’re not fired. But my cash balances went down since last week.”

“It was a teaching moment,” McConney said. “Just because someone is asking for money, negotiate with ’em, talk to ’em — don’t just do it mindlessly.”

Trump, sitting at the defense table, appeared to flash a smile as McConney relayed the anecdote.

May 06, 10:08 AM
McConney says he worked daily with CFO Allen Weisselberg

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo began his questioning of former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney, who is testifying under subpoena. McConney said the Trump Organization is paying for his attorneys in this matter.

McConney, who oversaw the company’s general ledger and managed the accounting department, told jurors that he directly reported to Allen Weisselberg, the former Trump Organization CFO, from “the day I was hired until the day he left.”

McConney told jurors that he interacted with Weisselberg on a daily basis.

“Other than having lunch everyday, whenever I needed to. His office was next to mine,” McConney said.

May 06, 9:53 AM
DA calls ex-Trump Organization comptroller as next witness

Prosecutors have called as their next witness Jeffrey McConney, the former longtime controller at the Trump Organization.

McConney served as the Trump Organization’s controller for over 20 years before leaving the company with a $500,000 severance payment amid multiple criminal and civil investigations. He was among the Trump Organization executives who, along with Trump himself, was found liable earlier this year for committing a decade of business fraud.

Prosecutors have said he allegedly received and processed nearly a dozen fraudulent invoices from Michael Cohen to reimburse him for paying Stormy Daniels a $130,000 hush money payment just days ahead of the 2016 election.

May 06, 9:38 AM
Judge again holds Trump in contempt, threatens jail time

Judge Juan Merchan has found former President Trump violated the limited gag in the case for a 10th time and has held him in contempt.

“I find you in criminal contempt for the 10th time,” Merchan said.

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,” Merchan said.

May 06, 9:30 AM
Trump enters courtroom

Trump has entered the courtroom, carrying a stack of papers in his hand.

The former president is joined for the second time by his son Eric Trump, who is sitting in the front row of the gallery next to Trump lawyer Alina Habba, who is in court for the first time.

Prosecutors have also filed into the courtroom.

May 06, 7:36 AM
3rd week of testimony to begin

The third week of testimony in former President Trump’s criminal hush money trial gets underway this morning.

Jurors on Friday heard the completion of Hope Hicks’ testimony, as the former top Trump aide recounted the 2016 Trump campaign’s reaction to the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, and also said she felt it would have been out of character for Michael Cohen to have made the $130,000 Stormy Daniels hush money payment on his own.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning with testimony from the prosecution’s next witness.

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