Trump trial resumes after tense week of testimony

Testimony will resume Monday morning in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, following sometimes heated and sometimes emotional testimony from major witnesses last week.

It wasn’t immediately clear whom Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office plans to call Monday as its 10th witness. The DA’s office has been keeping that information close to the vest, telling New York state Judge Juan Merchan it has concerns that Trump might post about the witnesses on social media.

Merchan found Trump in criminal contempt last week for violating a gag order barring him from making “public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.” The violations included posts about two likely witnesses, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels, both of whom are at the heart of the DA’s case.

Merchan fined Trump $9,000, which he paid Thursday, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said.

Last week brought dramatic testimony from former top Trump aide Hope Hicks and Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Daniels and Karen McDougal, women who claim they had sexual encounters with the married Trump in 2006. Trump has denied their claims. Both received six-figure payments to keep quiet about their claims during the 2016 presidential campaign.

McDougal, a former Playboy model, was paid $150,000 through National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and Cohen paid Daniels $130,000. Trump eventually repaid Cohen through payments the DA says were falsely labeled as legal fees. He has pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Hicks, a longtime former Trump aide, broke down in tears while she was answering a question about first going to work for Trump’s company in 2014. She testified that Trump told her he hadn’t known about Cohen’s payment because he’d kept it to himself. She indicated she was skeptical of that claim.

“I did not know Michael to be an especially charitable or selfless person. He is a kind of person who seeks credit,” she said. On cross-examination, she also said he’d often try to insert himself into the campaign, which annoyed campaign staffers. “He liked to call himself a ‘fixer’ or ‘Mr. Fix-it,’ and it was only because he first broke it that he was able to come and fix it,” she said.

Davidson testified about his dealings with Pecker and Cohen, who he said complained to him in December 2016 that Trump hadn’t yet reimbursed him for the hush money payment.

Davidson, who was largely monotone for most of his two days of testimony, got into some heated exchanges with Trump attorney Emil Bove, who pressed him about clients in other salacious tabloid stories he’d been involved with over the years, including a person alleged to have leaked information about actor Lindsay Lohan’s stint in rehab, clients who peddled sex tapes featuring wrestler Hulk Hogan and influencer Tila Tequila and various claims involving actor Charlie Sheen.

Davidson was evasive with his answers to Bove, saying he couldn’t remember details. “I had over 1,500 clients in my career,” he said.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said in his opening statement that Trump, Cohen and Pecker conspired in a bid to influence the 2016 election and that Trump “covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again.”

Trump attorney Todd Blanche said in his opening statement that nondisclosure agreements are legal and that there was nothing criminal about Trump’s payments to Cohen. As for the conspiracy allegations, Blanche said, “I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

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