Stormy Daniels is expected to testify at the trial

POLITICO

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump returns to his hush money trial Tuesday facing a threat of jail time for additional gag order violations as prosecutors gear up to summon big-name witnesses including porn actor Stormy Daniels.
Daniels’ testimony, even if sanitized for a courtroom setting and stripped of tell-all details, is by far the most-awaited spectacle in a trial that has toggled between tabloidesque elements and dry record-keeping details.
National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard alerted publisher David Pecker and then, at Pecker’s direction, told Cohen that Daniels was agitating to go public with her claims, prosecutors said.
Daniels had previously sought to sell her story to another celebrity gossip magazine, Life & Style, in 2011.
Pecker testified earlier in the trial that he balked at having the Enquirer pay a “catch and kill” fee for Daniels that Cohen later made.
It focused on a $130,000 payment from Cohen to Daniels and the subsequent reimbursement Cohen received.
Prosecutors are continuing to build toward their star witness, Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments.
He is expected to undergo a bruising cross-examination from defense attorneys seeking to undermine his credibility with jurors.

NEUTRAL

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump returns to his hush money trial Tuesday facing a threat of jail time for additional gag order violations as prosecutors gear up to summon big-name witnesses including porn actor Stormy Daniels.

The actor, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is “likely” to be called as a witness on Tuesday, according to Daniels’ attorney, Clark Brewster, who spoke with The Associated Press. In a later-deleted Truth Social post, Trump claimed to have “recently learned” who the witness would be on Tuesday and bemoaned the lack of prior notice.

In the final weeks of Trump’s 2016 Republican presidential campaign, his then-lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about what she says was an awkward and unexpected sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe in July 2006. Trump disputes having slept with Daniels.

Daniels’s testimony is the most anticipated event in a trial that has alternated between tabloid-style aspects and dry record-keeping details, even if it has been scrubbed for a courtroom setting and devoid of reveal-all details. Legally and politically, her turn on the witness stand will be historic. The long list of historical firsts in this case is further enhanced by courtroom testimony from an adult film actress regarding an intimate meeting she claims she had with a former US president.

The October election had left Trump and his campaign in disarray. 7, 2016, the previously unreleased 2005 “Access Hollywood” video featuring him bragging about snatching women’s genitalia without consent was made public. He spoke with Cohen and Hope Hicks, his campaign’s press secretary, by phone the next day as they sought to limit damage from the tape and keep his alleged affairs out of the press.

Cohen paid Daniels after her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, indicated she was willing to make on-the-record statements to the National Enquirer or on television confirming a sexual encounter with Trump. Editor of the National Enquirer Dylan Howard informed publisher David Pecker that Daniels was pressuring to make her claims public, according to the prosecution. Pecker then instructed Howard to inform Cohen of this information. In 2011, Daniels attempted to sell her story to Life and Style, another celebrity gossip publication.

In his earlier testimony, Pecker said that he refused to accept a later “catch and kill” fee from Cohen for Daniels, which the Enquirer was asked to pay.

Two witnesses, one of whom was a former controller for the Trump Organization, testified before the jury on Monday. He gave a dry but essential account of how the business reimbursed payments purportedly made to prevent embarrassing stories from breaking and then recorded those payments as legal expenses in a way that violated the law, according to Manhattan prosecutors.

In an effort to shed light on what they claim was a corporate records cover-up of transactions intended to safeguard Trump’s Republican presidential bid during a crucial period of the campaign, the testimony of Jeffrey McConney provided prosecutors with a crucial piece of information. It centered on a $130,000 payment that Cohen made to Daniels and the compensation that Cohen later got.

The reimbursement checks were taken out of Trump’s personal account, according to testimony from McConney and another witness. Yet even as jurors witnessed the checks and other documentary evidence, prosecutors did not elicit testimony Monday showing that Trump dictated that the payments would be logged as legal expenses, a designation that prosecutors contend was intentionally deceptive.

During cross-examination, McConney admitted that Trump had never asked him to record the reimbursements as legal costs or even raised the issue with him. Under questioning, Deborah Tarasoff, another witness, who works as an accounts payable supervisor for the Trump Organization, admitted that she did not obtain authorization from Trump to write the suspected checks.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney, questioned, “You never had any reason to believe that President Trump was hiding anything or anything like that?”.

”Correct,” Tarasoff replied.

Judge Juan M. Merchan issued a strong warning before the testimony, threatening to jail Trump for any further breaches of a gag order that prohibited him from making divisive remarks about jurors, witnesses, or anyone else with a direct stake in the outcome of the case.

Since the trial started last month, Trump has been penalized twice for breaking the gag order, the most recent being the $1,000 fine levied on Monday. Following nine infractions, he was fined $9,000, or $1,000 per infraction, last week.

“It doesn’t seem like the $1,000 fines are having the desired effect. Therefore going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Merchan said before jurors were brought into the courtroom. Trump’s statements, the judge added, “threaten to interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I have to stop letting that go. “.

As the judge delivered his decision, Trump leaned forward in his chair and scowled at him. After the judge’s remarks, Trump crossed his arms and shook his head twice.

But in his most scathing and direct rebuke, Merchan threatened jail time, but he also expressed misgivings about what he called a “last resort” action. “.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,” Merchan said. In addition to serving as the country’s previous president, you may also serve as its future leader. For me, jail is genuinely the last option for a variety of reasons. It would be disruptive to these proceedings to take that action. “.

In an interview with the television channel Real America’s Voice on April 22, Trump bemoaned the jury selection process’s haste and asserted—without providing any supporting data—that the jury was biased toward Democrats. This is the most recent instance of his abuse of power.

The prosecution is making steady progress with their main witness, Cohen, who entered a guilty plea to federal charges pertaining to the payments of hush money. It is anticipated that he will be subjected to a brutal cross-examination by defense lawyers who aim to damage his reputation among the jury.

Though he has entered a not guilty plea and denied any wrongdoing, Trump, the presumed nominee of the Republican Party for president, is accused of 34 felonies of falsifying business records in relation to the hush money payments. Of his four criminal cases, this trial is the first that a jury will hear.

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