Week 3 of Trump’s Hush-Money Trial Reaches Its Explosive Finale

Michael M. Santiago/Getty
Michael M. Santiago/Getty

The third week of Donald Trump’s hush-money trial will come to a close on Friday after a second week of bombshell testimony about what prosecutors claim was a scheme to bury salacious, damaging stories about him in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

The Manhattan courtroom on Thursday heard more from Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal—both of whom claimed to have had sexual liaisons with Trump (which he denies). Jurors heard about Davidson’s shock when he realized that he may have contributed to the success of Trump’s first bid for the White House, sending a dramatic election night text to Dylan Howard, the then-editor of the National Enquirer, reading: “What have we done?”

Stormy’s Defiant Ex-Lawyer Tries to Defend Slimy Hush-Money Deal

“Oh my God,” replied Howard, who participated in the so-called “catch and kill” scheme at the Enquirer to shut down embarrassing stories about Trump. When asked in court what the exchange meant, Davidson explained that the pair had an understanding that “our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.”

The prosecution argues that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 election with the plot to prevent damaging stories from ever becoming public. Trump is specifically charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to the Trump Organization recording payments to Michael Cohen—the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s former attorney and fixer—as legal expenses. Prosecutors allege that the payments were in fact reimbursements to Cohen for a $130,000 payment he’d made to Daniels to buy her silence.

Trump denies the allegations. Cohen, a star witness for the prosecution, is yet to testify. His words, however, were nevertheless heard in the courtroom on Thursday.

First, Trump attorney Todd Blanche cited one of Cohen’s X posts while complaining to Judge Juan Merchan that the gag order put in place to stop Trump from intimidating people connected to the case was creating a situation in which everybody “can say anything they want, except for President Trump.”

By way of illustration, Blanche pointed to Cohen’s tweet, which featured a picture of Trump in court along with the caption: “Hey Von ShitzInPantz…your attacks of me stink of desperation. We are all hoping that you take the stand in your defense.

Second, Cohen’s voice was heard in court with the playing of a tape that Cohen himself secretly made. The September 2016 recording captured Cohen talking with Trump about a plan to buy McDougal’s story from the Enquirer in order to bury it for good.

Cohen could be heard saying on the recording that he’d spoken to Allen Weisselberg, the then-CFO of the Trump Organization, about “how to set the whole thing up with funding,” according to the Associated Press. “What do we got to pay for this?” Trump said in response. “One-fifty?”

The tape was played after Douglas Daus, a forensic analyst in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, was called to the stand. Daus testified about data he helped to extract from Cohen’s phones that were handed to authorities during the investigation.

Daus is set to testify again Friday morning.

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