Home World Key takeaways from fourth day of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial | Donald Trump News

Key takeaways from fourth day of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial | Donald Trump News

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Key takeaways from fourth day of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial | Donald Trump News

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The fourth day of testimony in former United States President Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial has concluded, with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker facing several hours of cross-examination by Trump’s legal team.

Pecker answered more questions on Friday about what he has testified was a “catch-and-kill” scheme to suppress damaging information about Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential elections.

The former president has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents in connection to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican candidate, is accused of mislabelling reimbursements made to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair. Trump has denied that affair took place.

But prosecutors have said the ex-president’s alleged misdeeds were part of a larger criminal scheme to influence the 2016 vote, which Trump won over Hillary Clinton.

Friday’s hearing began with Trump lawyer Emil Bove continuing to cross-examine Pecker, one of the prosecution’s star witnesses. Two other witnesses also took the stand.

Here are six takeaways from the day in court.

Pecker grilled on editorial process, 2015 meeting

Bove, Trump’s lawyer, on Friday asked the former National Enquirer publisher about a 2015 meeting, which he had previously testified about.

Pecker had earlier said there was a discussion in that meeting about running articles about Bill and Hillary Clinton and Trump’s opponents in the Republican presidential primary.

Pecker said the moves were good for the tabloid’s business. He added that the Enquirer ran negative stories about the Clintons before it began coordinating with the Trump campaign because those stories performed well.

Bove also sought to show that much of the Enquirer’s negative coverage of Trump’s political opponents – which prosecutors had suggested was evidence of them being in cahoots – merely summarised news stories by other outlets.

Pecker said recycling information from other outlets was cost-efficient and made business sense.

Later, Bove also said the National Enquirer’s parent company – not Trump or Cohen, his then-lawyer – paid a former Trump Tower doorman $30,000 in 2015 for the rights to an unsubstantiated claim that Trump had fathered a child with an employee.

Pecker testified earlier that the Enquirer thought the tale would make for a huge tabloid story if it were accurate, but eventually concluded the story was “1,000% untrue” and never ran it. Trump and the woman involved both have denied the allegations.

Bove asked whether he would run the story if it were true. Pecker replied: “Yes.”

Term ‘catch-and-kill’ not used in 2015 meeting

Pecker also previously testified that he hatched a plan with Trump and Cohen in August 2015 for the National Enquirer to help Trump’s presidential campaign.

But, under questioning by Trump’s lawyer on Friday, Pecker acknowledged there was no mention at that meeting of the term “catch-and-kill”, which describes the practice of tabloids purchasing the rights to story so they never see the light of day.

Nor was there discussion at the meeting of any “financial dimension”, such as the National Enquirer paying people on Trump’s behalf for the rights to their stories, Pecker said.

Karen McDougal deal

The defence’s questioning then turned to a deal between the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Bove sought to get at what both McDougal’s and the Enquirer’s objectives really were in making a $150,000 agreement in 2016.

The deal gave American Media – where Pecker was CEO from 1999 to 2020 – exclusive rights to McDougal’s account of any relationship with “any then-married man”, a clause Pecker has testified was specifically about Trump. She claims they had an affair in 2006 and 2007; Trump denies it.

The contract also called for McDougal to pose for magazine covers and to produce, with a ghostwriter’s help, columns and other content on fitness and aging for various American Media titles.

Earlier this week, Pecker testified that the provision for content was essentially for a pact that was really about keeping McDougal’s story from becoming public and potentially influencing Trump’s chances at the presidency.

But on Friday, the ex-publisher said that McDougal was looking to restart her career and that American Media had pitched itself in a video conference as a venue able to help her. The company indeed ended up running more than 65 stories in her name, he said.

When American Media signed its agreement with her, “You believed it had a legitimate business purpose, correct?”, Bove asked Pecker.

“I did,” the former publisher said.

Rhona Graff, who started working for Trump in 1987 and left the Trump Organization in April 2021, was the next witness to testify after Pecker. She has been described as Trump’s gatekeeper and right hand.

Graff testified on Friday that she once saw Daniels at Trump Tower before he ran for president. She said she heard Trump say he was interested in casting her on The Apprentice, the reality TV show he hosted.

Graff also said contact information for Daniels and McDougal was maintained in the Trump Organization’s Outlook computer system.

“I never had the same day twice. It was a very stimulating, exciting, fascinating place to be,” she said of her 34 years working for the Trump Organization. Graff also described Trump as a “fair” and “respectful” boss.

Trial hears from third witness

Gary Farro, who works at Flagstar Bank as a private client adviser and was previously at First Republic Bank, which was used by Cohen, was the trial’s third witness.

Farro testified on Friday that Cohen had several personal accounts at First Republic when Farro took over the client relationship in 2015. He also detailed the banking arrangement he had with Cohen, according to US media reports of his testimony.

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

“Frankly, I didn’t find him that difficult,” he added.

Donald Trump
Trump exits Trump Tower to attend his trial at Manhattan criminal court in New York City, April 26 [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

Gag order hearing next week

Meanwhile, Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the New York case, said he plans to hold a hearing next Thursday on accusations that Trump has violated a gag order in the case.

Prosecutors have requested that Trump be punished for allegedly violating the order, which bars the ex-president from publicly criticising witnesses, some court officials and their relatives.

Trump could be fined $1,000 for each violation or jailed, though prosecutors say they are not seeking imprisonment at this point.

The trial will resume on Tuesday of next week.

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