USA News

Hush money trial: Trump’s lawyers will grill tabloid publisher David Pecker

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s defense team on Friday attacked the credibility of the first prosecution witness in his trial. Shh, money matterseeking to discredit testimony detailing a scheme between Trump and a tabloid to bury negative stories in order to protect the 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

Returning to the witness stand for a fourth day, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was questioned about his memory and past statements as the defense attempted to poke holes in testimony potentially crucial to prosecutors in the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Two other witnesses followed Pecker as prosecutors built the foundation of their case involving a discreet payment of money to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who alleged a sexual relationship with Trump. Trump’s longtime executive assistant told jurors she remembered seeing Daniels in a reception area of ​​Trump Tower, although it was unclear when the visit took place.

Pecker’s testimony provided jurors with a startling insight into the supermarket tabloid’s “catch-and-kill” practice of buying the rights to stories so they never see the light of day. He is considered a key witness to support prosecutors’ theory that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by suppressing negative stories about his personal life.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, criticized the prosecution as he left the courthouse Friday after spending most of the week in his role as a criminal defendant rather than a political candidate. Trump took advantage of President Joe Biden’s remarks Friday that he was ready to debate Trump. Trump told reporters he was ready anytime and anywhere.

Under cross-examination, Trump’s lawyers appeared to lay the groundwork to argue that any dealings Trump had with Pecker were to protect Trump, his reputation and his family — not his campaign. The defense also sought to show that the National Enquirer published negative articles about Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, well before an August 2015 meeting that is at the heart of the case.

During that meeting, Pecker said he told Trump, and then Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, that he would be the “the eyes and ears” of the campaignand would inform Cohen if he heard any negative stories about Trump so they could be killed.

Under questioning by Trump’s lawyer, Emil Bove, Pecker acknowledged that there was no mention at that meeting of the term “catch and kill.” There was also no discussion at the meeting about any “financial dimension,” such as the National Enquirer paying people on Trump’s behalf for the rights to their stories, Pecker said.

Bove also confronted Pecker about statements he made to federal prosecutors in 2018 that the defense attorney said were “inconsistent” with the former publisher’s testimony.

Pecker told jurors that Trump thanked him during a 2017 visit to the White House for his help in burying two stories. But according to notes Bove read in court, Pecker told federal authorities that Trump expressed no gratitude to him during the meeting.

“Was this another mistake?” Bove asked Pecker.

Pecker stood by the account he gave in court, adding: “I know what the truth is.”

Prosecutors disputed the defense’s assertion that Trump’s deal with the National Enquirer was not unusual. Under questioning by a prosecutor, Pecker admitted that he had not previously sought information and worked with company sources on behalf of a presidential candidate, nor allowed political mobsters to have access close to internal decision-making.

“He’s the only one,” Pecker said.

The second witness called to the stand was Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime executive assistant. Graff, who began working for Trump in 1987 and left the Trump Organization in April 2021, has been described as his caretaker and right-hand man.

Graff said she believes she was the one who added Daniels and Karen McDougal’s contact information to the Trump Organization’s computer system. The women’s lists were presented to the court, with Daniels simply named in the system as “Stormy”. Graff later noted that Trump had never used computers.

Both women were paid to prevent them from reporting allegations of sexual relations with Trump to the 2016 Trump campaign. He said those claims were lies.

Trump spoke briefly to Graff as she left the witness stand. He appeared to extend his hand to her as an officer guided her away from the witness stand and past the defense table. Trump’s lawyers were on the bench, arguing with Judge Juan Merchan, when Trump stood up and engaged with Graff.

The case will resume Tuesday with the third prosecution witness, Gary Farro, a banker. Farro testified Friday about helping Cohen open a bank account for the limited liability company he used to facilitate Daniels’ payment. Farro said Cohen led him to believe that the company Essential Consultants LLC would be involved in real estate consulting.

Friday’s testimony caps off an important week in the criminal cases facing the former president as he fights to win back the White House in November.

At the same time, jurors were listening to testimony in Manhattan, before the Supreme Court on Thursday. indicated that he was likely to reject Trump’s sweeping claims that he is immune from prosecution in his 2020 election interference case in Washington. But the high court, with a conservative majority, seemed inclined to limit the periods in which former presidents could be prosecuted – a measure a decision that could benefit Trump by delaying this trial, potentially until after the November election.

In New York, Trump’s first four criminal cases to be tried — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to discreet money payments.

The charges relate to $130,000 that Trump’s company paid to Cohen on Trump’s behalf to keep Daniels to go public with her claims about a sexual relationship with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied that this meeting ever took place.

Over several days on the witness stand, Pecker described how the tabloid turned rumors into splashy stories that vilified Trump’s opponents and, just as crucially, exploited its connections to suppress sordid stories about Trump.

Trump’s lawyer focused on a 2018 non-prosecution agreement between the federal government and American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer.

The company admitted to engaging in catch-and-kill to help Trump’s campaign, and prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the company for paying McDougal $150,000 for the rights to his story about an alleged affair with Trump.

Trump’s lawyer has repeatedly suggested that Pecker may have felt pressured into accepting a deal in order to finalize a deal to sell his company to newsstand operator Hudson News Group for a proposed amount of 100 million dollars.

“To make this deal, you knew you had to clarify the investigations,” Bove said.

After a pause of several seconds, Pecker answered in the affirmative. But Pecker also said he felt “no pressure” to finalize the non-prosecution agreement to complete the transaction.

Ultimately, the deal did not come to fruition.


Richer reported from Washington.

News Source :
Gn usa

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
Back to top button