Lauren Aratani

Before David Pecker took the stand on Thursday, prosecutors said that Trump had violated his gag order – which bars him from speaking publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, jurors, court staff and their relatives – four more times over the course of the week.

This brings the total violations to 14, prosecutors allege. Prosecutors said Trump had continued to talk about the witnesses, including saying that Pecker had been a “nice guy”.

“This is a message to Pecker, be nice. This is a message to others, I have a platform, and I can talk about you,’” the prosecutor Chris Conroy told Judge Juan Merchan. “It’s a message to everyone in this courtroom.”

Prosecutors said Merchan should hold Trump in contempt of court and fine him $1,000 for each violation. Merchan has yet to rule on the alleged violations.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: What to know


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My colleague Sam Levine was at the Manhattan courthouse yesterday to see Pecker’s testimony firsthand. Here are his main takeaways:

Welcome back.

David Pecker is due back on the stand in the hush-money trial of Donald Trump for a third day.

Trump’s lawyers will continue to cross-examine Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher and Trump ally, after he said earlier this week that the “catch-and-kill” schemes to buy negative stories about Trump in order to bury them was specifically about helping Trump’s 2016 campaign. He even said he nervous about whether the payment would violate campaign contribution laws.

Yesterday, Trump’s attorney Emil Bove grilled Pecker on his recollection of specific dates and meetings. Pecker insisted his testimony was based on his “best recollection of the time”.

Here’s what else happened at the trial yesterday:

  • Bove traced Pecker’s long relationship with Trump, showing how he helped his friend long before the presidential election. Pecker spoke about how he gave Trump a heads up about a negative story about Trump’s then wife, Marla Maples.

  • Trump addressed the media as he left the courtroom, describing Pecker’s testimony as “breathtaking and amazing”. “This is a trial that should’ve never happened, this is a case that should’ve never been filed and it was really an incredible, an incredible day,” he told reporters.

  • Pecker said he agreed to buy a story from the Playboy model Karen McDougal specifically to bury it so that it did not “embarrass or hurt the [Trump] campaign”. He said a $150,000 payment he agreed to make to McDougal in August 2016 was so his publication could “kill” McDougal’s story about a 10-month affair she says she had with Trump a decade earlier. The jury was shown records of the $150,000 payment, including an invoice from McDougal’s lawyer.

  • Pecker said Trump called him for advice after he became a presidential candidate, telling him “Karen is a nice girl”, and that he was worried news of the affair would hurt his campaign. “I think you should buy the story and take it off the market,” Pecker recalled telling Trump.

  • Pecker said he worked with the former National Enquirer editor-in-chief, Dylan Howard, and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to facilitate the payment. Pecker admitted that the goal of the paper’s publisher American Media Inc (AMI) was to try to prevent the story from interfering with the Trump campaign, and that he was concerned the payment could violate federal campaign finance law.

  • But Pecker said things turned sour when he ultimately backed out of the agreement. Pecker confirmed that AMI consulted with an election law attorney, and that Cohen was “very, very angry, screaming basically” about it.

  • Pecker said he received a frantic call from Howard in early October 2016, saying Stormy Daniels was trying to sell a story about her sexual relationship with Trump. He said Howard claimed Daniels wanted $120,000 for the story. Pecker said he did not want to be involved with a porn star, and that Cohen told him “the boss will be very angry with you”.

  • Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass repeatedly tied Trump’s motive for quashing the story to protecting his presidential campaign. The prosecution’s case is that it was interference in the 2016 election, which Trump won. “I made the assumption that his concern was the campaign,” Pecker said when asked if Trump ever expressed any concern for his wife and children.


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