Trump hush money trial: Hope Hicks, former adviser, takes the stand

NEW YORK (AP) — Hope Hicksformer longtime adviser to Donald Trump, took the witness stand Friday in her criminal trial, where prosecutors are expected to question her about her knowledge of secret payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hicks, who served as White House communications director, is the first close Trump adviser to testify in the case, which accuses the former Republican president of plotting to illegally influence the 2016 election by silencing women who pretended to have sex with him.

Hicks served as press secretary for the 2016 Trump campaign and was one of the few campaign staffers to join his administration.

What you need to know about Trump’s secret trial:

Prosecutors say Hicks spoke with Trump by phone as part of a frantic effort to keep allegations of marital infidelity out of the press after the affair. infamous “Access Hollywood” tape leaked weeks before the 2016 election. In the 2005 tape, Trump bragged about kidnapping women without their permission.

Trump has denied the allegations of extramarital sex. The presumptive Republican nominee for November’s presidential election denies any wrongdoing in the matter.

Former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, has yet to take the stand. lawsuit for money. But jurors are already hearing Cohen’s words as prosecutors work to directly tie Trump to payments intended to silence women with damaging allegations about him before the 2016 election.

Former President Donald Trump leaves court Thursday, May 2, 2024, in New York, following the day’s proceedings in his secret trial. (Mark Peterson/New York Magazine via AP, Pool)

The second week of testimony in the case will conclude Friday after jurors hear a potentially crucial piece of evidence: a recording of Trump and Cohen, then his lawyer, discussing a plan to pay off a former Playboy model who claimed to have an affair with Trump. The former president denies the affair.

Prosecutors I spent the week using detailed testimony about meetings, email exchanges, business transactions and bank accounts to support their case accusing Trump of scheme to illegally influence elections. They set the stage for crucial testimony from Cohen, who paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 for his silence before he went to prison for the secret money plan.

Trump’s defense worked to make holes in credibility prosecutors’ witnesses, and show that Trump was trying to protect his reputation and his family — not his campaign — by keeping the women silent. The defense also suggested, in questioning a lawyer who represented two women in secret money negotiations, that Trump was actually the victim of extortion.

The recording released Thursday was secretly made by Cohen shortly before the 2016 election. Cohen is heard speaking to Trump about a plan to buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer in order to may it never be published. The tabloid had already bought McDougal’s story to bury it in Trump’s name.

In the recording, Cohen revealed that he spoke to Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, about “how to put it all together with funding.”

Trump can be heard responding: “What do we have to pay for this?” One hour fifty?

Trump suggested the payment be made in cash, prompting Cohen to object by saying “no” repeatedly. Trump then says “check” before the recording is cut off.

AP correspondent Donna Warder reports on the end of a second week of testimony in Donald Trump’s secret trial in New York, and the prosecution’s efforts to link Trump to payments intended to silence women with damaging allegations about him before the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors played the recording after calling to the stand Douglas Daus, a forensic analyst with the Manhattan district attorney’s office who conducted analysis on iPhones Cohen turned over to authorities during the investigation. Daus will return to the stand Friday morning, and it is not clear who will follow him.

Jurors also heard more than six hours of crucial testimony this week from Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented McDougal and Daniels in their negotiations with Cohen and the National Enquirer — the tabloid that bought and buried negative stories in an industry practice known as “catch and kill.” Davidson described Thursday being shocked that his covert efforts could have contributed to Trump’s victory in the 2016 election.

“What have we done?” Davidson ” texted the then-National Enquirer editor on election night when it became clear that Trump was going to win. “Oh my God,” the tabloid editor replied.

“It was understood that our efforts could have in some way — barring this — our activities could have in some way helped Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” Davidson told jurors.

Trump’s lawyers sought earlier in the day to mitigate the potential harm of Davidson’s testimony by getting him to acknowledge that he never had any interactions with Trump — only with Cohen. In fact, Davidson said, he had never been in the same room as Trump until his testimony.

“I have had no personal interaction with Donald Trump. It came either from my clients, from Mr. Cohen, or from another source, but certainly not from him,” Davidson said.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying the Trump Organization’s internal business records. The charges stem from items such as invoices and checks that were listed as legal fees in the Trump Organization’s filings when prosecutors said they were actually reimbursements to Cohen for the secret payment of $130,000 to Daniels.

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