Live coverage: Trump trial resumes with payoff to Stormy Daniels front and center

The third day of testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records begins Thursday morning. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is expected to resume the stand, and based on where his testimony left off on Tuesday, prosecutors are likely to move directly into aspects of the incident that led to Trump’s indictment. 

Jurors have already heard how Trump, Pecker, and attorney Michael Cohen set up a “catch-and-kill” scheme to buy stories that threatened Trump’s 2016 campaign for the White House. Pecker’s testimony made clear that the scheme was not meant to protect Trump from personal scandal, but to prevent the public from hearing stories that might affect the outcome of the election. The scheme was outlined in a Trump Tower meeting that included not just Cohen, but Trump’s campaign press secretary, Hope Hicks. Pecker even noted that he would have published one of the stories directed at Trump, but would have held it until after the election.

On Thursday, it’s expected that Pecker will be questioned about the events surrounding Trump’s encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, how the National Enquirer purchased Daniels’ story, and how Daniels was persuaded to sign a non-disclosure document that kept her from revealing her relationship with Trump before the election.

Pecker will also be able to answer some of the questions at the heart of the trial, such as how Trump handled paying back the funds that were used to quiet Daniels. So far, the prosecution has been very effective in making the case that this isn’t about a personal scandal or about hush money. This is about a conspiracy to affect the results of the 2016 election by illegally covering up information from the public.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 9:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This would seem to put a large dent in the law school-worthiness of Bove’s work today.

Bove will start tomorrow w/ a real embarrassment before jury, as judge tells them Bove basically misled them in characterizing document he was supposedly using to "refresh [Pecker's] recollection." A bad way to start the day and +-undoes the solid if not very damaging work he did

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:47:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin with high praise for both sides today.

Between four trials and multiple additional hearings in GA, DC, and FL, I've seen a lot of lawyering in the Trump cases, and not all of it good. But today's direct and cross examinations of David Pecker were the sort of things you'd want to show law students.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:41:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Truthfully, when it came to what he needed to accomplish in the courtroom today, it didn’t seem that Emil Bove did that poor a job. He showed that Trump was just one of several pals of Pecker who had been given breaks when it came to holding back negative stories or playing up positive news, he reiterated that Pecker conducts intrinsically unethical checkbook journalism, and presumably, he was going somewhere with the questions about Hope Hicks.

But when it comes to dealing with Merchan, both Bove and lead attorney Todd Blanche are scoring idiot goals all around.

Merhcan to Bove: "Are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to my statement. you gave the impression there was something in the document when there wasn't. so please be more careful." not as bad as "you're losing all credibility," but not great.

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

Merchan announces he’s adding the four new instances of potential gag order violation that the prosecution brought up today to the list of Trump statements the defense has to … defend. Now everybody gets another hearing on Wednesday afternoon to deal with this. That’s supposed to be everyone’s day off from this trial, so no one is going to be happy.

But it’s a good example of how Merchan is keeping things moving along (except in making rulings about those violations).

Merchan’s anger at the end of the day was also directed at the way Bove went after Pecker. Basically, he felt that the way Bove acted as Pecker tried to refresh his memory was meant to mislead the jury into thinking that Pecker was unreliable or following a script. So the jury is going to get a special jury instruction before court begins again in the morning. 
Which it will, no matter what some knucklehead told you on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:30:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A flurry of post-trial action.

Post-trial proceedings: Prosecution accuses Trump's counsel of improper impeachment, leading to an exchange where Emil Bove tests the judge's patience. Merchan: "Mr. Bove, are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to what I'm saying."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:27:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Meanwhile, things are getting shaking-fist-at-clouds cantankerous outside the courthouse.

I am here outside NY Trump trial Courthouse and as far as I can tell only one pro Trump protester is in the vicinity The area is totally open and people are coming and going but only this gentleman bothered to show to support the former president

— Norm Eisen (#TryingTrump out now!) (@NormEisen) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:25:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The day ends with the attorneys still in a sidebar with Merchan. Pecker is off the stand. He’s expected to be back tomorrow.

With the attorneys and Trump remaining in the room, the court may now rule on the gag order hearing. Hang in there.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:21:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of this in the last few minutes. Not sure if Trump’s team intends to say that Hicks was not there, of if they’re saying Pecker has a bad memory, or if they're accusing him of collaborating with the government.

Trump's lawyer Bove: And on August 2, 2028 you met again with the prosecutors about the August 2105 meeting Pecker: I need to see the report... Bove: You need to see a report to remember? Pecker: Yes. Bove: At no point did you mention Hope Hicks Gov't: Objection!

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:18:08 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove is now hitting Pecker on the idea that he didn’t claim Hope Hicks was at the Trump Tower meeting in his initial statements. This has generated a couple of objections and a sidebar. Pecker starts to argue with Bove, Bove gives him a document to read through.

Q: You didn't initially tell prosecutors that Hope Hicks was in aug 2015 meeting in Trump Tower, right? [it's not in 302-- ie FBI report -- of the meeting] A: correct, but-- Q: just yes or no A: no

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:14:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Not sure where Bove is going with this, other than to claim that the Trump Tower meeting was just something that happened, not a turning point.

Pecker agrees that Cohen acted as an intermediary for potentially negative stories. Bove notes that Cohen worked for Trump for at least eight years before the Trump Tower meeting.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:12:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m honestly surprised the prosecution didn’t bring this up. It could have been run through in a couple of “you’ve had other dealings with Cohen...” sentences and largely defused as fuel for the defense.

Pecker testified that Michael Cohen often asked Pecker for favors for himself, including asking Pecker to arrange paparazzi shoots of Cohen and to promote Cohen's daughter’s rock climbing.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:10:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove’s questioning has now turned to Cohen. Considering what Pecker said during the prosecution, it seems likely the defense will present Cohen as someone who was in it for himself and who was frequently lying when he claimed to be representing Trump.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:09:10 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove discovers that Pecker doesn’t just say “yes” to everything he asks.

Trump lawyer trying to suggest he rehearsed, went over material repeatedly. Pecker pretty well punctures the line of questioning: "What I said under oath was the truth. That's all I planned on doing today."

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:07:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting tales of Pecker helping out celebrities by holding back negative stories or running more favorable stories. Unclear how many more of these Bove has in his pocket.

Considering the long-time friendship between Pecker and Trump, his defense may have a pretty complete list.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:02:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why Bove brought up Ari Emanuel—his brother.

Pecker said he helped suppress a potentially negative story about Rahm Emanuel while he was running for mayor of Chicago, at Ari Emanuel's request.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:00:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of very similar statements are going past, some of them slightly worded repeats of statements already asked. Again, the idea is to make it seem that, no matter how shocking Pecker’s deal with Trump may seem, it was nothing special for National Enquirer.

Bove asks Pecker about other celebrities with whom he had a "mutually beneficial" relationship and for whom he has sought to publish positive stories or kill negative stories. You had similar relationships w/ people other than Trump? Yes. Meaning other people who you would…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:57:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker gets led through efforts AMI has made to support others in the past, including Ron Perlman, who Pecker considered a friend and media agency owner Ari Emanuel, who was embroiled in a lawsuit over supposed sexist and racist remarks in 2002.

Not sure either of these does much other than to give Bove some additional examples of Pecker refusing to run every story.

Pecker says that AMI only runs about half the stories it buys. However, what doesn’t get said, because Bove doesn’t ask, is that most of those stories that don’t get run are killed because they proved to be untrue or simply weren’t interesting enough on closer examination.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:50:29 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What Bove is doing is setting up the idea that there was nothing unusual or illegal about buying stories to hide them, and that just because it was being done to support a campaign doesn’t make any difference.

He’s trying to elicit testimony to support the defense theory of the case: That there’s nothing illegal about hush money payments. And that there’s nothing unusual about a campaign coordinating with friendly media entities. In the defense narrative, that's just standard operating…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:47:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker admits that the first time he heard the term “catch-and-kill” it was from the prosecution.

Bove seems to think this is a mic drop moment, giving the jury a long pause for this to sink in. But this term has been a part of journalistic ethics for some time. Among other things, it was the title of a 2019 book by Ronan Farrow.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:39:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove hitting Pecker over the idea that slanting his paper for Trump was a long-time practice, diminishing the importance of the post-Trump Tower meeting scheme. 

During cross, Bove is driving home the point that Pecker long sought to publish positive stories about Trump, because it was good for business, and hide negative ones.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:36:46 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove may not quite accuse Pecker of holding onto the doorman, McDougal, and Daniels stories to use against Trump, but that’s certainly the initial implication.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:35:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ah, here’s where Bove was going. In addition to buying stories to run, and buying stories for Trump’s catch-and-kill scheme, there was a third category: buying up stories to use them as leverage (i.e. blackmail) to convince celebrities to give interviews.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:33:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove starts off by reiterating National Enquirer’s checkbook journalism process.

"AMI wasn't a charity?" Bove asks.

"No, it was not," Pecker says.

"Part of AMI's business model was to purchase stories, correct?" Bove asked.

"Yes, it was," Pecker responded.

Bove hasn’t yet asked Pecker how many times he purchased stories to not run them, which is the critical factor in this case.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:30:05 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker closed out his answers for the prosecution with a big My Pal Donald story.

Pecker launches into a story about how, in 2001, all of his magazine offices were consolidated in one building in Boca Raton. That October, shortly after 9/11, his office received multiple anthrax letters. One of the editors at his magazine inhaled anthrax and ended up dying.…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

Trump called him to provide help by … recommending an attorney. Pecker doesn’t say if this was so he could sue the FBI.

Anyway, on to the defense.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:25:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And that’s it. The prosecution announces that it is done with Pecker for now.

Emil Bove is up to cross-examine for Trump’s defense. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:23:09 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you run a tabloid whose business is based on exaggerations, slander, and plain old lies, who could be a better mentor than Trump?

Asked if he has any ill-will toward Trump, Pecker emphatically answers in the negative. "On the contrary, [...] I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me out throughout my career."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:21:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The documents include a list of accepted facts that Pecker is now reading. Many of the items on this list seem to match things that have been in testimony this week. This could suggest that prosecutors are nearing the end of what they want from Pecker.

Jurors are reportedly still paying attention and taking notes. Good for them.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:12:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still at it. 

Prosecutors are now presenting the cooperation letter David Pecker signed to assist with the Manhattan district attorney's investigation. It is dated October 25, 2019.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:10:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker still reading through agreements with law enforcement. This can’t be exciting for the jury. I still don’t understand why the prosecution didn’t just enter the agreements as exhibits, then question Pecker about the parts they wanted to highlight.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:08:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin comes through with the explaination.

David Pecker is now reading from American Media's non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, which have been public for years but which misled the public about who exactly was involved in the alleged conspiracy to promote Trump's election. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Those documents never reflect Trump or "Individual-1"'s participation; instead, they disclose only that AMI acted in concert with "one or more members or agents" of the Trump campaign & refer to the August 2015 meeting between Pecker, Cohen & "at least one other member of the…

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:59:23 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The questioning moves from pre-election corruption to post-election dictatorship.

In 2018, Pecker received a letter from the federal election commission. He called Cohen “immediately” after receiving the letter. Pecker told Cohen he was worried. "Why are you worried?" Cohen asked. "Jeff Sessions is the AG and Donald Trump has him in his pocket," he said.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:56:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker and Steinglass are looking at AMI’s non-prosecution deal that landed Pecker on the stand the first three days of trial.  Merchan reminds jurors that they can’t use anything in the agreement as evidence against Trump. Not quite sure why the prosecution pulled out this document. Again, we’ll probably find out.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:51:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Well, come on down, queen of the podium! Welcome to the case.

Pecker testified he remembers a call with Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"Both of them said that they thought it was a good idea," Pecker said, referring to extending McDougal's contract.

Trump’s PR front was united in trying to keep his affairs hidden. That may be understandable, considering that they might have to answer questions about Trump's mistress.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:48:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That they swerved back for another question about McDougal suggests there’s still something they’re trying to get Pecker to say about the biggest case in the catch-and-kill triptych. But it’s unclear exactly what they’re going for now.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:46:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump got angry at seeing McDougal interviewed, even though this was after the election.

According to Pecker, Trump got angry after seeing Anderson Cooper interviewing McDougal. Trump said that he thought there was an agreement forbidding her from speaking to the press. Pecker replied: "Yes, we have an agreement but I amended it to allow her to speak to the press."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Trump got even angrier when he learned about the amendment. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:43:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

CNN reports questioning has moved back to a discussion of Stormy Daniels, but there have been mentions in the last few minutes around a White House dinner, discussions with both Trump and Cohen, and issues in handling McDougal that are likely to surface again.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:38:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker explaining a meeting with McDougal after she seemed upset about the pace at which the deal was moving.

Pecker said the purpose of the meeting was to make sure they were complying to the agreement. "I wanted her to remain within our (pause) family, I should say."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:36:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

All these questions about McDougal, and referring to her as “our girl,” will be hard for Trump to explain if he sticks to his prior claims. It could get 10x worse for him after McDougal testifies.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:34:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Another example of how Trump seemed to take a very personal interest in someone whose story he still claims to be false.

During the visit to the White House, Trump walked with Pecker to the Rose Garden. Trump asked, “How’s Karen doing?” It was a reference to McDougal. Pecker replied: She’s good, she’s quiet.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:31:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Some cross-story synergy for your afternoon.

Boris Epshteyn, the Trump aide who was among several people indicted Wednesday by an Arizona grand jury for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is in the courtroom.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:30:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I can’t visualize, so tidbits like this don’t really help set the scene. But I realize that most people have that internal movie rolling, so …

David Pecker returns to the witness stand. He's wearing a charcoal suit, a light pink collared shirt, and a red tie. Then the jurors file into court. Steinglass, for the prosecution, trots to the lectern to resume his direct examination.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

I do like the idea of the prosecutor “trotting.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:23:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And we’re getting underway for the afternoon.

Pecker is returning to the witness stand.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

This may not be Pecker’s last day on the stand. Prosecutors have indicated that they may not finish his questioning today, and then Trump’s team will get to cross-examine. Which at this point will likely consist of Blanche asking Pecker to prove “who’s ‘the boss’” over and over.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:36:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Something missed earlier that at least seems like it should be important.

Trump didn’t just thank Pecker for saving him from scandals through the catch-and-kill scheme, he did this in front of FBI Director James Comey.

Somehow, it seems that might have triggered some kind of alarm. But Comey might not have been able to hear it over all the self-congratulations he was handing himself for violating DOJ rules and making public statements about Hillary Clinton days before the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:14:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What did we get out of the morning? Quite a bit, actually.

Though there were moments when it seemed as if things were going to sink into a morass of agreements and shell companies, overall the questioning and answers remained pretty lively.

  • Pecker has now outlined his behavior in the three catch-and-kill schemes he conducted for Trump following the Trump Tower meeting with Hope Hicks and other members of the campaign. In each case, Pecker made it clear that he didn’t believe he was acting to protect Trump’s reputation, but to protect his campaign-—a critical part of the underlying conspiracy that makes Trump’s falsifying business documents into a felony offense.
  • Pecker went over how he had previously attempted to shield Arnold Schwarzenegger during his run for governor in California, and how that effort generated legal issues for the National Enquirer and parent company AMI.
  • The concern over what Karen McDougal had to say was so extensive that Cohen and Trump urged Pecker to give her what she asked for. That didn’t mean just money, but two columns and a modeling contract. Trump personally checked in on “our girl” to see that she was staying quiet. 
  • Pecker made it clear that when he appeared to get cold feet in paying McDougal, it wasn’t over concerns about whether Trump would cough up the $150,000 she had been promised. It was because he had legal counsel look over the arrangement that he, Trump, and Cohen had cooked up using a shell company to confuse the control of McDougal’s contract and that counsel sniffed something wrong.
  • It’s a good bet that wrongness is related to something AMI ran into with Schwarzenegger, considering the emphasis the prosecution brought to those acts, but Pecker was unwilling to go into details to protect himself and AMI.
  • Finally, whatever had happened with McDougal made Pecker reluctant to directly pay Stormy Daniels when that incident came up. Pecker encouraged Cohen to pay for himself, but seemed surprised that Cohen had covered Daniel’s $130,000 payment out of his own pocket.
UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:02:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lunch recess. Everyone is due back in court at 2:15 PM ET.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:01:17 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump talking to Pecker about McDougal during a private meeting.

Trump asked Pecker, “How’s our girl doing?”

Pecker said he told Trump, “She’s writing her articles. She’s quiet. She’s fine.”

This is profoundly creepy.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:55:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is Pecker after saying that Trump thanked him for covering up the McDougal and Dino the doorman stories. Every time Pecker says something like this, an angel in the DA’s office gets its wings.

Asked by the prosecutor whether Trump's concern about the stories getting out was primarily about his family or the campaign, Pecker responds: "I thought it was for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:50:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker ultimately ignored Cohen’s advice and amended the agreement with McDougal, allowing her more freedom to speak publically.

But he waited until December, more than a month after the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:48:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If there were worries that Cohen was misrepresenting what “the boss” wanted … nope. 

Pecker describes a conversation in Trump's office: "I said Michael Cohen is very concerned about his bonus for this year, and I wanted you to do that he's very loyal." He said Cohen was working very hard. "I believe that he would throw himself in front of a bus for you."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:46:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting it through my head that, as prosecutors are questioning a tabloid publisher about Trump’s affairs with a Playboy model and a porn star, more Trump attorneys are in another courtroom defending his appeal over defaming a woman he assaulted in a dressing room, and still more Trump attorneys are in front of the Supreme Court arguing that he can sell nuclear secrets or carry out political assassinations without consequence.

He truly is God’s man on Earth.+

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:42:16 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker: “I wanted to protect my company, I wanted to protect myself and I wanted also to protect Donald Trump. ”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:40:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

For those still covering the details of Trump’s body position. 

As David Pecker testified about learning of Stormy Daniels’ allegation of having sex with Donald Trump, the former president leaned back in his seat and appeared to close his eyes, per @benfeuerherd

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

Maybe he’s getting sleepy. Maybe he’s just visualizing a fond memory.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:38:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen instructed Pecker to keep McDougal under wraps despite the WSJ article which made most of her story clear.

Cohen recommended that Pecker not release McDougal. Q: Did you take that advice? A: No, I did not.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:33:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker testifies that Trump got angry when some parts of the McDougal story were published by the Wall Street Journal before the election. 

Trump accused Pecker or one of his employees of leaking.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:28:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Questions to Pecker are generating some discussion on the frustrations of practicing checkbook journalism. It seems that some of those connected to the Daniels story were good sources for Pecker’s pay-as-you-go story mill, so he didn’t want to burn those bridges. But Pecker and Cohen continued to dicker over who should pay.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:23:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The New York Times is providing a lot of reporting on Donald Trump’s interpretive courtroom dance. Trump reportedly let out a “big yawn” when the prosecution first mentioned Stormy Daniels. Since then, he has reportedly become “more animated” including motioning to his lawyers and crossing his arms.

This announcement is brought to you by the Dept. of Is That Journalism?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:19:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen tried to muscle Pecker into buying the Daniels story, once again threatening that Trump would be angry. But Pecker turned it around on Cohen, telling him to buy the story or Trump would be angry at Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:16:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Heavens forbid that something sully the sterling reputation of the National Enquirer.

Pecker told Howard that they couldn't pay $120,000. "I don't want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star," Pecker says he told Howard that night. Chuckles in the gallery.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:15:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The courts are a very busy place today. This is only tangentially related to the trial underway, however… 

Breaking Trump LOSES his bid for a new trial or a judgment overturning the more than $80 million verdict for E. Jean Carroll in the second trial. Ruling

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:08:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker continues to be pretty straightforward in his answers.

“Do you know of someone named Stephanie Clifford?” Steinglass asks Pecker.

Pecker replies: "Stormy Daniels was a porn star." 

So far, there’s only been one instance where Pecker claimed to not know what the prosecution was talking about. That one related to Howard mentioning an “other” thing he discussed with Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:06:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen spoke with Pecker about the tape. 

Email exhibit: After the "Access Hollywood" tape, Pecker said he spoke with Cohen and learned about the campaign's concerns about an old Radar Online article titled "Donald Trump, Playboy Man." Radar is an AMI property.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Dylan Howard then wrote that he had “deleted the article entirely.” So it appears that Pecker and Howard were even destroying existing articles to help protect Trump’s campaign.

Questions are now going to the main event — Stormy Daniels.

Daily Kos is the largest independent, progressive news outlet and activism hub in the country. Can you please support our work with a $5 monthly recurring donation?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:02:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker being asked about his knowledge of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Asked if he remembers the "Access Hollywood" tape coming out, Pecker says: "I do. It was very embarrassing, very damaging for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:01:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That Rubin post explains something that happened right before the break.

Steinglass just stood up & yelped loudly to stop Trump lawyer Emil Bove from saying something. It's not clear exactly what or why, but it seems like Steinglass was suggesting that Bove was about to describe the nature of a relationship btwn Dylan Howard & someone he was texting.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:58:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Dylan Howard was editor-in-chief at the National Enquirer. Everything we’re hearing this morning suggests that Howard and Pecker knew this was an illegal scheme to conceal information during an election at the time it was happening.

NEW: On Election Night 2016, Dylan Howard texted an unknown "first-degree relative," "At least if he wins, I'll be pardoned for electoral fraud." Fortunately for the defendant, that text has been excluded by the judge for now. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:56:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

We’re back, Pecker is back on the stand (and I’m running about 5 minutes behind, but will rectify).

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:51:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m posting all three of these Lisa Rubin quotes that cover what the jury just heard, because they go a long way to covering a misconception that I had coming into this testimony—one that I repeated in an earlier update because of what I “knew” about this case.

NEW: It has long been conventional wisdom that David Pecker did not pay Stormy Daniels himself because he was angry Trump never reimbursed him. Not so, Pecker testified. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

And if that’s not enough, here’s another Anna Bower to make it doubly clear.

Pecker did not say why he decided he no longer wanted the reimbursement. But he said he made the decision after speaking with legal counsel. [Pecker does not have to reveal the legal advice he was given during that meeting bc it's privileged.]

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:29:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The reason I can indulge in reviewing how Cohen handled McDougal and how it relates to the shell company he created for Daniels is that we went into a morning recess about ten minutes ago. I should have given a hand signal at the time.

Anyway, hustle for that next cup of coffee if you need it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:21:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The source of that anger was an agreement to transfer McDougal’s story from AMI to a shell company, Resolution Consultants, that Cohen created strictly as an oubliette for any information about Trump’s relationship with McDougal.

The equivalent of Resolution Consultants in the Stormy Daniels story was Essential Consultants, another single-purpose shell company created by Cohen.

And yes, all this is tangled and feels a couple of steps removed from the action. That’s the purpose of shell companies: to be confusing and hide motivations.

Hopefully, the jurors are still taking good notes.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:16:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The ugly end of the McDougal agreement, after Pecker got cold feet and asked Cohen to rip up the contract.

Pecker says of Cohen's reaction: "He was very very angry, very upset, screaming at me basically." [...] "Cohen said, 'The Boss is going to be very angry at you.'" But Pecker said he stuck to his guns: "I said I'm not going forward. The deal is off."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:13:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of what’s going on now is talking about how, despite that Trump Tower meeting and despite Cohen’s assurances, Pecker had a hard time getting repaid by Trump. This is important because when it came time to buy Stormy Daniel’s story, Pecker was no longer willing to float Trump what amounted to a campaign protection loan.

That’s why Cohen ended up having to shoulder the expense, and why Trump made his illegal payments to Cohen, not Pecker.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:06:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The Washington Post with more details on what McDougal was offered for this story that Trump denies.

Pecker said she wanted to write for celebrity magazines and wanted to be on the cover of some health and fitness publications. She also wanted to launch a fitness clothing line and a beauty products company, and that she wanted to be an anchor for red carpet events, according to Pecker.

Pecker said he told Cohen he didn’t have a problem with what McDougal was asking, but asked again, “who is going to reimburse me for this?”

McDougal had Trump over a barrel, and both she and Pecker knew it. She got an entire wish list of items to keep her silent during the campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:02:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jesse McKinley at The New York Times.

David Pecker is now describing Trump’s interest in obtaining boxes of material regarding Karen McDougal, saying that Trump was worried about what would happen if Pecker got “hit by a bus” or his company was sold. Trump “did not want someone else to potentially publish those stories.”

That’s a whole heaping lot of concern over something Trump says wasn’t true. It’s going to be interesting to see which way Trump tilts his head when McDougal takes the stand later in this trial.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:58:52 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Yes, he is watching closely. Head tilted to the right.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:57:15 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker is being asked to look at additional paperwork. Other than the court TV show joy of watching each item held up and asking for it to be entered into evidence, the jury isn’t likely getting a lot out of this part/

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:54:59 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass asks a question that goes directly to those 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Steinglass is asking whether Pecker was aware that corporations making campaign expenditures in coordination with a campaign without disclosing them was unlawful.

Yes, Pecker says.

Pecker also confirms the transaction was not reported under campaign finance obligations.

That seems like a big whoopsie from someone who just testified that he had structured McDougal’s contract after running into problems during Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:50:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Again, this was about protecting the campaign. The prosecution is never going to tire of leading Pecker back to this point, because that underlying conspiracy is at the core of their case.

Pecker: "We didn't want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Pecker then says that he would not have purchased the story at the price McDougal demanded if Cohen hadn’t promised that Trump would pay for it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:47:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker reiterates that for the National Enquirer, McDougal’s story was “a very, very large purchase.”

On a threat level, Cohen and Trump seemed to have rated this story the one that might create the most potential damage.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:45:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jurors seem to be staying engaged. Not only are heads swiveling back and forth as Steinglass questions Pecker, there have also been reports that jurors are back to making lengthy notes.

The biggest group waiting for them at the door of the courtroom may be literary agents.

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UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:38:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Make everything clear to the jury.

Question from Conroy: Q: Do you know whether anyone other than Michael Cohen had knowledge of this contract? A: Yes, I believe Donald Trump did.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:36:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why the prosecution made that side trip into discussing Pecker’s deal with Schwarzenegger before bringing out McDougal’s contract—there’s a direct connection.

Because Pecker had found himself in some hot water after he paid then-Governor Schwartzenegger's housekeeper in exchange for the Terminator's continued association with two of his fitness titles--and after Arnold was running for governor.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Again, the prosecution is underscoring that this isn’t about protecting Trump’s personal reputation. It was about protecting his chances in the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:31:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is not exactly subtle.

Exhibit: The deal with Karen McDougal. The contract purchased the "Limited Life Story Rights" for "any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married man."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:30:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The contract was signed the first week of August, five months before Election Day. McDougal didn’t just get the money, but a two-year contract for columns in two AMI magazines.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:28:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass has brought out McDougal’s contract with AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:24:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The prosecution has moved on to asking Pecker about other incidents where he got involved in a political campaign. Pecker says Arnold Schwarzenegger called during his run for governor and Pecker agreed to refuse to publish stories from women who came forward about affairs with the would-be governator. At least one of those stories ended up being published in the LA Times.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:20:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Much of the questioning that’s gone in in the last few minutes has been around the issue of payment for the McDougal story. While Cohen began by saying that Trump would take care of it, he later told Pecker that “you should pay,” which concerned Pecker because not only was it a sizable chunk of money, McDougal was asking to appear in other publications controlled by Pecker’s company, AMI. Cohen eventually came back around to saying that “the boss” would take care of it, but this took several calls with Pecker and with others at AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A reminder of why Pecker was so concerned about hanging McDougal $150,000 to bury her story. On Tuesday, Pecker testified that the $30,000 he paid to quiet the “Trump’s secret love child” story was already way above what the National Enquirer normally paid. Pecker’s first offer to McDougal was just $10,000.

Trump really wanted this story buried.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:09:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Politico with more details on the latest gag order violations by Trump. That includes speaking directly about Pecker’s testimony.

Conroy told the judge: “This is a message to Pecker: Be nice. It’s a message to others: I have a platform and I can talk about you and I can say things like this, or I can say things like I said about Cohen.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:07:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

You can almost hear The Godfather theme playing every time there is a quote from Cohen.

Pecker says Michael Cohen told him: "You should go ahead and buy this story." "I am going to have Dylan Howard negotiate the terms," Pecker said he responded, before asking: "Who's going to pay for it?" Cohen: "Don't worry. I'm your friend. The Boss will take care of it."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:05:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jonah Bromwich at The New York Times:

Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, is now asking David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher, about a call he had with Trump about Karen McDougal … Steinglass is reminding [jurors] that it happened, and reemphasizing that Trump himself was personally involved, this time with more details. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:03:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

According to The Washington Post, Trump made an announcement on the way into court that seems aimed at winning over those fickle New Yorkers. Trump told reporters that he plans to hold a rally in Madison Square Garden that will honor police officers. Or maybe firefighters. Or maybe teachers.

It seems unlikely that Madison Square Garden knows anything about this rally.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:01:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The opening round of questions to Pecker are centered on the case of model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump that lasted for over ten months. As CNN reports, McDougal had more than one offer for her story, but Michael Cohen encouraged Pecker to buy it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:58:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Before the jury came in, Merchan talked with both defense and prosecution. Prosecutors insisted that Trump continues to break the gag order by talking about witnesses and threatens the jury be insisting that Merchan hurried to seat “95% Democrats.” Still no ruling from Tuesday’s gag order hearing.

Now: Prosecutor Chris Conroy files ANOTHER order to show cause to hold Trump in contempt for "four violations in the last three days" of the gag order.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:53:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The jury has entered and Pecker is heading back to the stand.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:49:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

One source you won’t be hearing this morning is MSNBC’s Katie Phang. That’s because Phang is in Washington this morning for that other court proceeding. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning on Trump’s claim of total immunity. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:46:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Just a few choice examples of the things David Pecker ‘s publication cranked out in 2016. Was National Enquirer enough to sway the results of the election? Maybe. Considering the razor-thin margins that determined the outcome, there were half a dozen issues, any one of which could have made the difference. 

It took everything falling Trump’s way for him to get that last-minute nudge across the line, and Pecker was shoving all the way.

Good morning from New York. On Day 1 on the stand, David Pecker described how he turned his tabloid empire into the Trump campaign's "eyes and ears": promoting him, attacking his rivals, and silencing "women selling stories." The ex-AMI chief's testimony resumes today. 🧵

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:44:11 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you’re shocked to find that court is actually in session today, that’s probably because you listened to some knucklehead who said there would be no court on Thursday because he didn’t notice an update to the schedule that happened a week ago.

Sorry about that.

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