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Donald Trump Trial Updates – One America News Network

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Former President Donald Trump enters Manhattan Criminal Court for the continuation of his hush money trial on April 25, 2024 in New York City. (Pool Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 12:26 PM – Friday, April 26, 2024

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City on felony charges pertaining to an alleged 2016 hush money payment to former porno actress Stormy Daniels. It is the first time in history that a former president of the United States has faced criminal prosecution.

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In April of 2023, Trump entered a not guilty plea to a 34-count indictment that accused him of allegedly fabricating business records to conceal the repayment of a hush money payment made to Daniels by his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Thursday, April 25th

8:52 A.M.:

David Pecker testified before the court on Tuesday, claiming that he had allegedly promised to act as Trump’s “eyes and ears” in 2015, notifying Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, of any stories that could harm the candidate’s chances of winning the presidency.

Cohen, who is now a fierce opponent of Trump, is anticipated to be the main witness used by the prosecution against him.

“I said, ‘I would be your eyes and ears,’” Pecker said to the court. “And then I said that anything that I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself or if I hear anything about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen.”

9:37 A.M.:

The former president stopped to address the cameras as he arrived at the courthouse before going into the courtroom.

He discussed President Biden’s campaign trip at a construction site and blasted the Democrat president while noting the weak economic growth figures that were revealed that morning. Trump also made a quick observation regarding the Supreme Court’s immunity arguments.

“I think that the Supreme Court has a very important argument before it today. I would have loved to have been there, but this judge would not allow that to happen,” Trump said to reporters. “I should be there, but he wouldn’t allow it to happen. I think he puts himself above the Supreme Court, which is unfortunate, isn’t it?”

He then reiterated his argument that previous presidents should be shielded from prosecution at the federal level. Presidents “aren’t going to take any risks, both good and bad,” if not, he stated.

9:51 A.M.:

Chris Conroy, an attorney with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, informed the judge as the hearing began that Trump had “broken the gag order,” limiting his ability to speak about the parties to the case.

At the defense table, Trump sat impassive, facing forward, while Conroy read the alleged breaches.

Conroy highlighted a question posed to Trump at a campaign rally earlier in the morning about his thoughts on Pecker’s testimony. According to Trump, he was “very nice.”

Merchan did not issue any ruling on the matter.

10:21 A.M.:

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass had resumed questioning on Tuesday after Pecker returned to the stand, focusing on the second instance of “catch and kill” that was allegedly used to suppress an unfavorable Trump article in 2016.

Trump refuted the allegation made by Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, that she had an affair with him.

Pecker said that McDougal’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, had initially told Dylan Howard, the editor of the National Enquirer, about the story.

10:43 A.M.:

Pecker stated that additional clauses included in the agreement to acquire the rights to McDougal’s narrative were meant to hide the real goal of the arrangement, which was to keep her account of an alleged affair with Trump secret.

The jury was shown the contract by the prosecutors. The aforementioned “limited life story rights” included “any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married men.” Pecker clarified that he was “referring to Donald Trump.”

In addition, McDougal granted AMI permission to use her name, likeness, and image, and she agreed to write a column for certain of the company’s periodicals.

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

The prosecutor, Steinglass, questioned whether the clauses were designed to hide the true nature of the agreement. “Yes, it was,” replied Pecker. When inquired about his plans to publish her narrative, he said, “No, we did not.”

“We purchased the story so it wouldn’t be published by any other organization,” he said later, referring to himself and Cohen. “We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign.”

11:16 A.M.:

Pecker claimed that in September 2016, after not being reimbursed the $150,000 he paid for McDougal’s story, Cohen got in touch with him and stated that Trump was interested in obtaining the rights. Upon Pecker’s inquiry, Cohen explained that “the boss” wished to maintain control over the narrative in the event that Pecker was “hit by a bus” or “the company got sold.”

According to Pecker, he promised Cohen that he would deduct $25,000 from the purchase to cover editorial costs and charge Cohen the remaining amount. Cohen, according to his testimony, “wanted the contract done yesterday.”

Pecker further stated that in order to prevent AMI from cashing a check from the Trump Organization, he wanted the transaction to go through a third party. He claimed that editors and other staff members would have concerns about such a payment.

He also claimed to have hired Investor Advisory Services, a business headed by a former AMI official, to manage the payment from Resolution Consultants, an LLC that Cohen had established.

An invoice dated September 21st, 2016, for $125,000 was presented by the prosecution to Resolution Consultants from Investor Advisory Services. According to the services description, the payment was for “agreed upon flat fee for advisory services.” According to Pecker, the money was actually paid for the rights to McDougal’s narrative.

“I called Michael Cohen and said to him, ‘The assignment deal is off. I’m not going forward. It’s a bad idea. I want you to rip up the agreement,’” Pecker said in his testimony. “He was very upset, screaming basically.”

“To be clear, Mr. Pecker, did AMI ever get reimbursed for the money it spent to acquire the exclusive rights of Karen McDougal’s story?” asked Steinglass, the prosecutor.

“No,” Pecker answered.

12:33 P.M.:

After a short intermission, Cohen returned to the stand, where the questions focused on what happened to the $130,000 that Cohen eventually gave to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump disputes her story.

Pecker claimed that early in October 2016, while eating dinner with his spouse, he got a “urgent call” from Dylan Howard, the editor of the National Enquirer. Howard informed him that talent agent Gina Rodriguez and McDougal’s lawyer Keith Davidson had gotten in touch with him. They were perusing Daniels’s narrative.

Howard said they could “acquire the story for $120,000 if we make the decision right now,” Howard informed Pecker. The discussion followed the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, a 2005 audio in which Trump jokingly said he could “grab [women] by the p****” after being asked how women react to men when they’re a “star.”

According to Pecker, he told Howard, “We can’t pay $120,000.”

“I said, I don’t want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star. Our largest retailer is Walmart,” he testified. “This would be very bad for the magazine, very bad for American Media and I don’t want any affiliation.” 

1:07 P.M.:

Pecker, In January 2017, claimed to have met Trump at Trump Tower during his time as the president-elect.

“I’ve never seen security like that in my lifetime,” Pecker remarked.

“He said, ‘Here is David Pecker, he is the owner and publisher of the National Enquirer. He probably knows more than the people in this room.’ Nobody laughed,” Pecker testified.

“I want to thank you for handling the McDougal situation” and the “doorman situation,” Pecker said, claiming that Trump told him that.

*Break Ends, Session Resumes*

3:02 P.M.:

After taking a break, Pecker got back up on the stand and recalled having a first in-person encounter with McDougal over lunch in August 2017.

Days before the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal made public the arrangement that McDougal signed with the National Enquirer. Pecker had testified earlier that he had consented to change their agreement so that McDougal could address the media following the publication of the WSJ article. He alleged that he arranged for her to work with a media advisor who answered to him.

Pecker claimed that McDougal discussed her career goals and the pieces she was writing at the 2017 lunch. “My standpoint was that we were complying to the agreement and that she was comfortable,” he said. “I wanted her to remain in our family, I should say.”

The prosecutor, Steinglass, then showed another headline from a January 12th, 2018, Wall Street Journal article, which read, “Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence.” The narrative represented the first official admission of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump to terminate the deal with Cohen at the beginning of March, with legal representation from now-imprisoned lawyer Michael Avenatti.

On March 23rd, 2018, McDougal spoke with CNN in an interview. Pecker claimed that after watching it that evening, Trump phoned him the following day to discuss it.

“Did you see the Anderson Cooper interview with Karen McDougal?” Trump asked, Pecker claimed. “I thought we had an agreement with Karen McDougal that she can’t give any interviews or be on any television shows.”

Pecker then claimed that he informed Trump about the amendment that permits McDougal to address the press. He alleged that Trump lost his cool and declared that he “could not understand why” he would alter the agreement.

“He was very upset, he couldn’t understand why I did it. That was basically the conversation,” Pecker said in testimony.

3:32 P.M.:

As the state concluded Pecker’s interrogation, prosecutor Steinglass asked him if he had any animosity toward Trump.

“Quite the opposite. Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me throughout my career,” Pecker answered. 

He remembered back to Trump’s response in October 2001 following the death of an AMI photo editor who died after being mailed a letter containing anthrax. It was sent to AMI’s Florida office.

“And the first person who called me, if I needed help, was Donald Trump. He was very helpful, recommended an attorney,” Pecker said. 

“So I have no ill will at all. I still consider him, even though we haven’t spoken, I still consider him a friend,” he added, looking over at Trump. “I said even though we haven’t spoken, I still consider you a friend.”

*Cross-examination by the defense begins with inquiries concerning Pecker’s past of killing stories.*

4:07 P.M.:

One of Trump’s lawyers, Emil Bove, took the lead as the defense’s cross-examination began. He asked Pecker about his early interactions with Trump and how, some thirty years ago, he started letting Trump know about unfavorable stories.

Pecker claimed that in 1998, he alerted Trump to a story for the first time. Bove claimed that Pecker had been “providing President Trump a heads up about negative publicity” for 17 years prior to the 2015 meeting in Trump Tower.

Bove made Pecker go through unfavorable articles he had purged about other celebrities, such as Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pecker claimed that in order to exert pressure on Woods to agree to an interview and make an appearance on the cover of Men’s Fitness, another AMI publication, AMI purchased the rights to a story about Woods and procured unidentified photos.

Pecker added that Rahm Emanuel, the first chief of staff for President Barack Obama and later the mayor of Chicago, and actor Mark Wahlberg were two other people about whom AMI assisted in obtaining and stifling articles.

Pecker added that until the Trump probe, he had never heard the phrase “catch and kill” used to characterize the practice of buying up articles.

4:31 P.M.:

While inquiring about Pecker’s memory of the August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower and his encounters with prosecutors in the summer of 2018, Bove, Trump’s attorney, concluded the day’s proceedings.

The judge halted the trial for the day at around 4:30 p.m., seemingly due to the jurors’ growing disinterest in the testimony.

Pecker will be back on the stand early on Friday.

*There was no trial session on Wednesday, April 24th, due to the Jewish holiday of Passover.*

Tuesday, April 23rd

5:20 A.M.:

Today, prosecutors will ask Judge Juan Merchan to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt for “persistently breaking the case’s limited gag order” at the start of Day 6 of his criminal trial.

The limited gag order forbids Trump from speaking about any witnesses, jurors, or attorneys involved in the case other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The prosecution claims that Trump has broken the order at least ten times this month, and they are requesting that the judge finds him in contempt of court and fine him $10,000.

Trump’s attorneys have argued to Merchan that the former president was protecting himself from criticism and that the prosecution has not demonstrated that the posts in question were deliberate breaches of the gag order.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, is expected to testify in the hush money trial after the hearing.

6:59 A.M.:

Trump persisted in his assertion that his followers were being prevented from participating in protests outside the courthouse as he made his way into the chamber.

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

7:13 A.M.:

During the hearing to determine whether to hold Donald Trump in contempt, prosecutor Christopher Conroy stated that the allegations of his breaking the court-imposed restricted gag order “pose a very real threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings.”

Conroy added that the district attorney’s office would submit a second contempt motion later today regarding remarks Trump made to cameras on Monday regarding Michael Cohen, in addition to the ten alleged violations of the gag order.

“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,” Trump said.

10:48 A.M.:

Pecker detailed the first alleged falsehood that he “caught and killed” in 2015 as part of his deal with Donald Trump and his then-attorney Michael Cohen. The story came from a doorman at Trump Tower.

Pecker stated that “Donald Trump fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid at Trump Tower.” Trump, seated at the defense table, shook his head.

Pecker stated in his deposition that as soon as his staff learned that Dino Sajudin, the doorman, was scheming, he “immediately called Michael Cohen.” Cohen informed him that the accusation was “absolutely not true,” but Pecker claimed that he eventually went ahead and paid $30,000 for the story.

“This could be a very big story. I believe that it’s important that it should be removed from the market,” Pecker alleged that he told Cohen.

Cohen subsequently came back, according to Pecker’s testimony, claiming that the story is “absolutely not true” and that Trump “would take a DNA test”—an ostensibly recent revelation. However, Pecker insisted that it wouldn’t be necessary.

11:16 A.M.:

“Karen McDougal was a Playboy model,” said former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, 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 claimed that he informed Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, right away. At that point, he was talking to Cohen “a couple times a week,” but things quickly transformed. Pecker claimed that he discussed McDougal’s allegations “much more frequently” with Cohen.

“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.”

“Did you ever come to believe that Michael Cohen had spoken with Mr. Trump about McDougal’s claims?” asked prosecutor Josh Steinglass.

“Yes, I did,” Pecker responded before recounting a phone conversation he had with the former president.

“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…”

In the end, McDougal received $150,000 and was assured of publishing a number of workout articles in the National Enquirer.  

After the testimony, the judge adjourned.

When the jury reconvenes on Thursday, it is anticipated that they will hear additional testimony regarding McDougal from Pecker when he takes the witness stand again.

11:34 A.M.:

“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 asserted. “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.”

While he shuffled through papers, which Trump emphasized were recent news articles, the former president continued criticizing Merchan’s judicial process.

“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 asked. “I think it’s a disgrace. It’s totally unconstitutional.”

This morning, prosecutors requested a $10,000 fine for what they claim to be ten recent breaches of the restricted gag order, which forbids Trump from speaking about any other attorney other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg when discussing witnesses, jurors, or attorneys involved in the case.

The judge has not yet rendered a decision.

Monday, April 22nd

4:32 A.M.: Opening Statements

The jury in Donald Trump’s New York hush money case is set to hear opening arguments this morning in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, following a week-long selection process.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s attorneys must persuade 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump engaged in repeated record-keeping violations in an attempt to “improperly influence the 2016 presidential election” in order to establish their case.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics or your feelings about a particular political issue,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said to prospective jurors. “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.”

6:26 A.M.:

According to two people familiar with the situation, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is the first witness that prosecutors from the Manhattan DA’s office intend to summon.

Pecker is the longtime CEO of American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer.

The Manhattan DA alleges that shortly after Trump declared his intention to run for president in 2016, Pecker met with him and made a commitment to serve as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by tracking down and destroying any unfavorable articles about him.

Prosecutors claim that Pecker oversaw an agreement to pay a former Trump Tower doorman $30,000 in relation to the unfounded claim that Trump “allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock” as part of the arrangement, according to prosecutors. The Manhattan DA claims that even after AMI found the accusation to be untrue and AMI paid the doorman, then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen urged that the agreement remain in place.

6:37 A.M.:

At the counsel table are three prosecutors: Susan Hoffinger, Joshua Steinglass, and Matthew Colangelo.
Seated in the gallery’s front row with about a dozen attorneys and office personnel is Bragg.

6:44 A.M.:

As he entered the courthouse for the day’s hearings, Trump continued to accuse the trial of interfering with the election, saying that it is unfairly preventing him from participating in 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 said.

6:52 A.M.:

Juror No. 9 has a problem, according to Judge Juan Merchan, who also stated that the juror “was concerned about media attention” to the case. The juror “wasn’t 100% sure” they could serve, according to Merchan.

In order to “find out what the issue is and see if this juror can continue to serve,” Merchan stated that they would talk to the juror in chambers.

The judge declared, “Juror No. 9 is going to remain with us,” following a brief interjection.

In the event that one of the 12 jurors is unable to serve, there are six backup jurors seated.

6:59 A.M.:

Judge Merchan was informed by the prosecution that the opening statements would last forty minutes.

The defendants told the judge they would require 25 minutes.

In addition, the judge declared that the court would adjourn at 12:30 p.m. ET today due to a juror who experienced dental pain and was scheduled for an urgent visit this afternoon.

Due to the Passover holiday, court was already set to end early today at 2 p.m. ET.

7:09 A.M.:

Prosecutors may question Trump on several prior legal matters if he takes the stand, according to Judge Juan Merchan’s ruling. However, the judge placed restrictions on the cases’ breadth and the depth of the questions regarding the cases’ specific facts.

Judge Merchan decided that the DA’s office could interrogate Trump on six rulings from four prior processes, including the gag order violations in his New York civil fraud case and the features of that case, as well as the verdicts in the 2018 Trump Foundation case and the E. Jean Carroll cases.

At first, Trump was to be questioned by prosecutors over six separate proceedings totaling 13 determinations.

According to Merchan, his decision has “greatly curtailed” the amount of time that prosecutors are able to talk about the case’s fundamental facts.

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

7:21 A.M.:

As the jury entered the courtroom and took their places in the jury box, Donald Trump gazed forward and did not seem to look at any of the jurors.

Judge Merchan gave a long statement describing the trial’s procedures before any of the case’s attorneys could say anything.

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

Merchan underlined that jurors ought to assume that Trump is innocent and that the prosecution bears the burden of proof. According to Merchan, a guilty verdict necessitates that every juror find that the state has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Merchan made an effort to provide the jury members with some expectations, as only two of them had prior jury service experience. Merchan informed the jurors, for instance, that the attorneys would not be making long speeches outside of the opening and closing comments.

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

7:41 A.M.-

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy,” said prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election,” the prosecutor added.

Using his lawyer Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer, Colangelo said that Trump plotted “to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about former President Trump.”

“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.”

7:49 A.M.:

“It starts with that August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors.

According to Colangelo, after a meeting between AMI president David Pecker, then-attorney Michael Cohen, and Donald Trump, the three embarked on a three-pronged “plot” to sway the 2016 election.

First, Colangelo said, “headline after headline that extolled the defendant’s virtues” would appear in the National Enquirer.

“Pecker had the ultimate say over publication decisions,” Colangelo claimed.

8:04 A.M.:

At the defense table, former President Trump subtly shook his head “no” as prosecutor Matthew Colangelo informed the jury that Trump had teamed up with Michael Cohen and David Pecker in a “conspiracy” to “help him get elected.”

When Colangelo subsequently played the “Access Hollywood” tape and claimed that it had Trump “bragging about sexual assault,” Trump once more shook his head no and pursed his lips. Then Colangelo said, “grab them by the p—-,” paraphrasing Trump from the tape.

8:16 A.M.:

“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury during opening statements.

The National Enquirer‘s editor at the time, Dylan Howard, had allegedly contacted Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, to let him know about Daniels and her alleged sexual relationship with the former president—a claim 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.”

“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 added.

8:30 A.M.:

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes,” said defense attorney Todd Blanche to begin the opening statements.

“The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case,” Blanche asserted.

“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.

8:38 A.M.:

Trump is “not just our former president, he’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV,” said Blanche in his continuing opening statement. “He’s also a man. He’s a husband,” Blanche said. “He’s a father.”

By using the prosecutor’s own words against him, Blanche refuted the prosecutor’s general claim that the payments made to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen were more than just retaliation for Stormy Daniels.

Blanche pointed out that although Cohen gave Daniels $130,000, Trump gave Cohen $420,000 in return. Blanche questioned, “If Trump was truly such a thrifty businessman as the prosecutors claimed, then why would he overpay that money?”

“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 insisted time and time again that Cohen was, in fact, Trump’s lawyer and was handling his legal matters, citing the fact that Michael Cohen’s email signature identified him as such.

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

8:44 A.M.:

“I have a spoiler alert,” said Blanche. “There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

Meanwhile, prosecutors have objected to Blanche’s claims that the Manhattan district attorney is trying to paint Trump and Stormy Daniels’ payments and non-disclosure agreements as “sinister” for the jury.

After the prosecution objected several times, Judge Merchan had to cut off Blanche’s opening statement. He then met with the parties in a sidebar discussion and quoted from Blanche’s opening statement.

“There is nothing illegal about entering into a non-disclosure agreement. Period,” Blanche restated after part of his opening was taken off from the record.

Blanche says that Trump’s invoices were not handled by accountants at the Trump Organization because he was “running the country.”

“‘Hey, we got this invoice. I know we are trying to cover it up here,’” Blanche said (sarcastically) regarding prosecutor claims that described how accountants received invoices from Cohen. “Absolutely not.”

Blanche also maintained that Trump had no idea how his staff handled the invoices.

“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, explaining 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.

8:50 A.M.:

Blanche, the defense lawyer, asserted in his opening remarks that Cohen is biased against Donald Trump, is obsessed with seeing Trump imprisoned, and has a lengthy history of lying.

“He has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump. I submit to you he cannot be trusted,” Blanche said.

Blanche stated that Cohen made a public statement on the internet on Sunday night expressing his “mental excitement about this trial” and the testimony he would give.

“His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” Blanche continued. “You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump by relying on the words of Michael Cohen.”

9:10 A.M.:

David Pecker, a former executive of American Media Inc., was called as the first witness by the prosecution.

The district attorney claims that Pecker, who previously oversaw the National Enquirer, conspired with Trump and his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, to allegedly stifle unfavorable news about Trump in order to “sway the 2016 election.”

9:27 A.M.:

Once referring to Donald Trump as “a personal friend of mine,” David Pecker belied the seriousness of the situation by grinning broadly as he testified as the trial’s first witness.

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass questioned Pecker about his numerous phone numbers, which he found difficult to recall.

Pecker, 72, was the National Enquirer‘s publisher, but prosecutors claimed he was “acting as a co-conspirator” in buying and burying false reports about Trump, including the false claims of a Playboy model and a doorman that the latter had a sexual relationship with. Trump has refuted both of these accusations.

Leaning forward in his chair with his arms crossed on the table, Trump, who had earlier declared that Pecker would be a “brilliant” pick to take over as editor of Time Magazine, listened.

Pecker said in court that he had the last word on whether or not to publish any story about a well-known individual.

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

9:52 A.M.:

Following his initial evidence, David Pecker left the witness stand. He’s expected back on the witness stand tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

In his brief testimony, Pecker indicated that Dylan Howard, the former chief content officer of the National Enquirer and a purported participant in the “catch-and-kill” plan, would not be able to appear because of a medical issue.

Pecker seemed to welcome both Trump and his legal team as they left the courthouse.

After that, court adjourned for the day.

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, and Secret Service personnel and employees accompanied Trump as he exited the courtroom.

Judge Merchan will convene a contempt hearing tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. ET about Trump’s alleged violations of the case’s limited gag order.

10:28 A.M.:

Shortly after the criminal trial came to a close, Donald Trump announced to the media outside the courthouse that the money he had paid to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, should have been classified as legal fees.

“Actually, nobody’s been able to say what you’re supposed to call it,” Trump told reporters. “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’s motorcade then departed the courthouse.

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