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Trump Hush Money Trial Day 9 Updates: Keith Davidson Reveals Many Details

Former President Donald Trump is facing charges for paying hush money to adult film actor Stormy Daniels. So far, a lot has been unfold in this case. Let us see what happens on day 9 of this historical trial.

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. AP
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Introduction

A quick recap:

Last week, the prosecution concluded former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker's cross-examination. His testimony revealed the tabloid's secretive "catch-and-kill" strategy.

Jurors heard two more witnesses on Friday. Rhona Graff, longtime executive assistant, recounted an encounter with Stormy Daniels at Trump Tower, adding another layer to the case. And Gary Farro, a banker for Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen also shared many significant details.

Despite his efforts to focus on campaign issues like the economy, the unfolding legal proceedings continue to dominate headlines, presenting a significant distraction from his intended message.

Click here for Day 8 updates.

Trump Supporters Gather Outside The Courtroom

Trump supporters gathered outside the criminal court, unfurling flags and hanging banners in their designated spot at Collect Pond Court, situated opposite the courthouse.

Supporters also cruised the streets adjacent to the courthouse in vehicles adorned with pro-Trump messages. One car carried a Trump mannequin in its rear seat. The turnout on Tuesday surpasses that of most days during the trial.

Prosecutors At Donald Trump's Hush Money Trial Zero In On The Details

Manhattan prosecutors build their case against Donald Trump, alleging an illegal scheme to silence negative stories during the 2016 campaign, with detailed testimony and evidence. Read More

Trump's Son Eric Is Present In The Court Today

This is the first time any of Trump's family members have attended his trial.

Judge Merchan Allows Trump To Attend Son Barron's Graduation

Trump's son Barron is graduating next month. Judge Juan M. Merchan has allowed Trump to attend the event.

“I don’t think the May 17 date is a problem, so Mr. Trump can certainly attend that date, attend his son’s graduation,” Merchan said.

Judge Fines Trump For Violating Gag Orders 9 Times, Warns Him Of Jail For Further Violations

Judge ruled that the former President have violated gag orders 9 times and fined him for the same. He also warned Trump that he will be jailed if he continues to violate the gag order.

Prosecutors had alleged him of violating the gag order -- which bars him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors -- 10 times, and the judge concurred in all but one of those cases.

Trump must remove the seven "offending posts" from Truth Social and the two "offending posts" from his campaign website by 2:15 p.m. today.

Judge Merchan will hold a hearing Thursday on four more alleged violations. Read More

Which Post Did Not Violate Gag Order According To Judge Merchan?

Judge Merchan found Trump in criminal contempt for nine separate court mandate violations on Truth Social and his campaign website.

He ruled Trump's April 10 post referring to Cohen and Daniels as "sleaze bags" was not a gag order violation. Judge Merchan said Trump’s contention that he was responding to previous posts by Cohen “is sufficient to give” him pause “as to whether the People have met their burden” as to that post.

But, the other nine “attack the credibility of arguably two of the more high-profile witnesses in this case.”

Gary Farro Continues Testimony

Testimony continues with Gary Farro, a banker who assisted in the opening of accounts for Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen utilized one of these accounts to secure the silence of adult film performer Stormy Daniels in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

He indicated the account, opened in October 2016 in the name of Essential Consultants LLC, would be used for real estate consulting. Farro said the bank would have asked more questions if there had been any connection to a political candidate, buying a media story, or paying a porn performer.

Gary Farro Concludes Testimony

Just a day following the establishment of the Essential Consultants LLC account on October 26, 2016, and the injection of approximately $130,000 from his personal home equity loan, Cohen promptly wired an equivalent sum to Keith Davidson, who served as legal counsel for Stormy Daniels at the time, as per documents unveiled.

This transaction occurred in the midst of the 2016 presidential election campaign, with the election itself slated for November 8.

Farro reiterated that Cohen portrayed the transaction as tied to a real estate deal—not associated with any political figure, adult film personality, or the acquisition of a media-related narrative.

“We might consider something like that a reputational risk,” Farro said.

Defense Begins Cross-Examination Of Gary Farro

Defense attorny Blanche began cross-examination of Farro and asked him to once again describe his relationship with Michael Cohen.

Farro testified that he first met Cohen in person at a meeting in Trump Tower, but primarily communicated over the phone. Farro also acknowledged that Cohen wasn’t always easy to work with.

“He was a challenging client because of his desire to get things done so quickly,” Farro said. “Ninety percent of the time it was an urgent matter.”

Defense Concludes Cross-Examination Of Banker Farro

During the cross-examination of Farro, Blanche, representing the defense, emphasized that Cohen never indicated any connection between the accounts he initiated in October 2016 and transactions involving then-candidate Trump or his enterprise.

If Cohen had done so, “I would have asked questions,” Farro said.

Farro pointed out that he might have refrained from opening the account had he been informed it was for what is colloquially termed a "shell corporation"—a business entity primarily engaged in financial transactions without any substantive operational activities.

However, Cohen assured the banker that the account pertained to a legitimate real estate consulting venture.

Nothing about it raised “any red flags to you?” Blanche pressed.

“Not based upon the answers I was given to the questions I asked,” Farro said.

Prosecutors Wants To Question Trump About Gag Order Violations

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo has requested Judge Merchan to allow prosecutors to question former President Trump about his gag order violations if he chooses to testify.

The judge previously allowed prosecutors to challenge Trump's credibility by questioning him about a limited number of his recent legal setbacks. Trump has said he wants to testify, but is under no obligation. Prosecutors also requested permission to introduce evidence showing Trump orchestrated a pressure campaign against Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

Merchan did not immediately rule, but said, “the door has been opened.”

Trump's Campaign Is Using Gag Order Violation Ruling

Trump's campaign has swiftly initiated fundraising efforts following this morning's ruling, which found him in breach of the court's gag order.

“Democrat judge just ruled against me,” reads the subject line of a Tuesday morning email blast, which shares the news that, “A Democrat judge JUST HELD ME IN CONTEMPT OF COURT!”

“THEY WANT TO SILENCE ME!” the message continues, asking supporters to “STAND WITH TRUMP” by contributing money.

Next Witness Dr. Robert Browning Begins Testimony

The next witness scheduled to testify is Dr. Robert Browning, serving as the executive director of the C-SPAN archives.

Browning, responsible for overseeing the network’s extensive video archive, has been summoned to authenticate footage from a Trump campaign event. Prosecutors are summoning individuals considered as "records custodians" to substantiate the evidence presented.

The Court Sessions Will Be off for Memorial Day Weekend

Judge Merchan announced that the court will not be in session on Friday, May 24, to accommodate a juror with a morning flight. Consequently, the trial will adjourn for four consecutive days over the holiday weekend, resuming on Tuesday, May 28.

Merchan also informed jurors that court proceedings will be suspended on May 17, but did not give any reason. Trump will be attending his son Barron's high school graduation that day.

C-SPAN Clips Of Trump Played In The Courtroom

Prosecutors presented C-SPAN clips depicting Trump on the campaign trail during the closing weeks of his 2016 campaign, vehemently refuting allegations made by multiple women subsequent to the release of his infamous 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape.

At an October 14, 2016 rally in North Carolina, Trump said, "The stories are total fiction. They’re 100% made up, they never happened, they never would happen."

Another clip showcased for the jury, dated January 2017, featured Trump commending Cohen as both a skilled attorney and a close friend.

Throughout the playback of these clips, displayed on monitors throughout the courtroom, including directly in front of Trump on the defense table, he appeared stoic and unaffected.

Following the confirmation of the clips' authenticity by Browning, the custodian of C-SPAN's video collection, he was excused from the witness stand. Trump's legal team opted not to cross-examine him.

Another Witness, Phillip Thompson Will Authenticate Parts Of A Deposition Trump Gave In Another Case

The next witness to take the stand is Phillip Thompson,  an executive at a company that provides stenographers and videographers for depositions—sworn, out-of-court statements given under oath.

Thompson's testimony aims to authenticate segments of a transcript and video recording from a deposition given by Trump in one of writer E. Jean Carroll’s federal defamation lawsuits against him. These segments include Carroll's attorney questioning Trump regarding his Truth Social platform, the timeline of his marriage to Melania Trump, and his awareness of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

Carroll, a former longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and subsequently defamed her after she publicly came forward in 2019. Trump denies the allegations, asserting that nothing inappropriate occurred between them and accusing Carroll of fabricating a "hoax" to promote a book. Following two federal trials last year and this winter, juries awarded Carroll over $88 million in damages. Trump is currently appealing these rulings.

Keith Davidson, Who Represented Karen Mcdougal And Stormy Daniels In Hush Money Negotiations, Is On Witness Stand

Keith Davidson is known for his representation of individuals seeking to sell celebrity sex tapes or other compromising information.

In 2016, Davidson acted as legal counsel for McDougal, a former Playboy model, and Daniels, an adult film actress, during negotiations for hush money with the National Enquirer and Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen.

McDougal alleged a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid-2000s, while Daniels claimed a one-time sexual encounter with him in 2006. Trump refutes these allegations.

Davidson Testifies Repping McDougal Regarding Trump 

Keith Davidaon said that he met Karen McDougal 25 years ago through a friend and started representing the former Playboy model in 2016 “to provide advice and counsel as to what her rights and obligations would be regarding a personal interaction that she had.”

“With whom?” Steinglass asked.

“Donald Trump.”

Chats Of Davidson And National Enquirer Editor-In-Chief Are Displayed In The Court

Davidson promised a "blockbuster Trump story" to Dylan Howard, the editor in chief of the National Enquirer. Howard promised more than anyone for the story, and Davidson testified that he knew Howard's boss, David Pecker, and Trump were longtime friends.

The texts read: “Did he cheat on Melania?” and “Do you know if the affair was during his marriage to Melania?”, Howard asked.

“I really can’t say yet, sorry,” Davidson had replied.

Davidson testified about McDougal's claim when Steinglass questioned: “Ms. McDougal had alleged that she had a romantic affair with Donald Trump some years prior.”

McDougal alleged a romantic affair with Trump, but Trump denied this.

Davidson Testifies Trying To Sell McDougal's Story

Davidson arranged a meeting with the National Enquirer's parent company to discuss McDougal's story, but the tabloid was not interested due to McDougal's lack of documentary evidence.

A month later, Howard suggested resuming discussions, warning American Media Inc. that they needed to move quickly. McDougal was "teetering" at the time Davidson sent the message and was on the verge of signing a deal to tell her story to ABC News.

Davidson claimed he was playing the Enquirer and ABC News against each other to get the best deal for McDougal, as she didn't want to tell her story publicly.

Trump's Posts Violating Gag Order Have Been Deleted

Trump's social media that violated gag order were were deleted ahead of the judge’s 2:15 p.m. ET deadline.

Clicking on links to the previous Truth Social posts leads to a "Not found" message, whereas links to Trump's website redirects users to a 404 error page. Read More

Davidson Testifies Process Of Selling Stories To The National Enquirer

Davidson described the negotiation process involved in selling the former Playboy model's story to the tabloid empire.

In one text message presented to jurors, Davidson informed Enquirer editor Dylan Howard that "they are asking me to go back for another 25," indicating an additional $25,000. Howard responded with an expletive, stating, "Not my money. I’ll ask."

However, despite establishing a basic framework for the deal, Davidson expressed his "growing frustration with the process." At one juncture, Davidson recounted being pressured to directly contact former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, a task he had been attempting to avoid.

"I thought it was odd, certainly," Davidson remarked regarding the request to call Cohen. "I didn’t particularly like dealing with him and that’s why I was trying like hell to avoid talking to him," he added.

Davidson Describes Details Of McDougal Deal

The agreement for McDougal’s story did eventually come to fruition, Davidson testified, with the former Playboy model receiving a $150,000 payment along with the commitment of magazine covers and regular columns for publications owned by the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc.

Davidson testified that once the deal was finalized, he reached out to Cohen as a professional courtesy, given that the agreement involved his client, Donald Trump.

Although Trump wasn’t a named party to the tabloid’s arrangement with McDougal, Davidson acknowledged on Tuesday that suppressing her claims would be beneficial to Trump’s campaign.

When questioned by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass about Cohen’s response to news of the deal's completion, Davidson testified matter-of-factly: “He was pleased.”

Davidson Understood That McDougal's Story Will Never Be Published By The National Enquirer

When questioned about why American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, would purchase a story it didn't plan to publish, Davidson provided insight into two reasons he was aware of.

"One explanation I was given is they were trying to build Karen into a brand and didn’t want to diminish her reputation," he stated. "And the second was an unspoken understanding that there was an affiliation between David Pecker and Donald Trump and that AMI wouldn’t run this story, any story related to Karen, because it would hurt Donald Trump."

Davidson Describes His Interaction With Cohen

Davidson testified that his initial interaction with Michael Cohen stemmed from a 2011 post on a gossip blog alleging a physical or romantic encounter between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump.

Following the blog post, Davidson recounted that Daniels' agent, Gina Rodriguez, contacted him, describing a contentious call from someone she referred to as "some jerk" who was "very, very aggressive" and threatened legal action.

When asked to identify the individual referred to as the "jerk," Davidson replied, "Michael Cohen."

Davidson testified that upon contacting Cohen, the former Trump attorney launched into "a hostile barrage of insults and insinuations" that persisted for a considerable duration.

"Finally, after he finished, I explained to him that I was calling because my client, Stormy Daniels, did not want the story up. I wanted to see if he had done anything" to attempt to remove the story, Davidson said.

Following the altercation, Davidson stated that he, rather than Cohen, ultimately sent a cease-and-desist letter to the blog, resulting in the removal of the story.

Release Of "Access Hollywood" Tape Had "Tremendous Influence" On Stormy Daniels Story's Marketabilty

Davidson testified that the release of Trump’s 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape had a "tremendous influence" on the marketability of Daniels’ story.

He stated that Daniels’ agent, Gina Rodriguez, had attempted to generate interest in her story earlier in the 2016 election cycle but encountered limited success.

Describing the "Access Hollywood" tape, which cannot be presented in court, Davidson testified that it featured Trump and the show’s former host Billy Bush recorded on a "hot mic," with "some statements by both men that were troublesome."

Michael Cohen Stepped Into AMI’s Shoes,” Davidson Testified

Soon after the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked, Davidson testified, Daniels’ agent reached a deal with then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard for the tabloid to acquire the rights to her story for $120,000, but Howard backed out of the deal.

The editor instead instructed Daniels’ agent, Rodriguez, to contact Michael Cohen and finalize the deal directly with him. However, after their uncomfortable prior interaction, Rodriguez declined to engage with Cohen. She then requested Davidson to intervene and negotiate the deal with Cohen, the lawyer testified.

Davidson disclosed that he had numerous interactions with Howard over the years regarding stories. When asked if it was uncommon for Howard to direct him to negotiate with a third party like Cohen, Davidson responded: “This is the only time that ever happened.”

“In essence, Michael Cohen stepped into AMI’s shoes,” Davidson said, referring to the name of the Enquirer’s parent company at the time, American Media Inc.

Davidson testified that during negotiations with Cohen, he raised the price to $130,000—incorporating his fee for his involvement in the deal.

Stormy Daniels Became Peggy Peterson And Donald Trump Became David Dennison

In formulating the deal, Davidson revealed that he employed a pair of pseudonyms to conceal the identities of the involved parties: Stormy Daniels was referred to as Peggy Peterson, while Donald Trump was represented as David Dennison.

The lawyer testified that the choice of alliterative code names was partly based on Daniels being the plaintiff and Trump being the defendant.

When asked if David Dennison was a genuine individual, Davidson quipped that he played on his high school hockey team.

“And how does he feel about you now?” prosecutor Josh Steinglass inquired.

Davidson stifled a laugh before replying, “He’s very upset.”

Cohen Missed Deadline To Pay To Daniels, Davidson Testifies

Davidson testified that although both parties had struck a deal, the payment to Daniels failed to materialize by the agreed-upon date.

Initially, Cohen offered a series of explanations for the delay, attributing it to various factors such as malfunctioning computers, Secret Service "firewalls," and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. "The things he was saying didn’t really make sense," Davidson remarked of Cohen's excuses.

As the excuses continued, Davidson realized that Cohen "didn’t have the authority to actually spend money." Eventually, he sent an email to inform Cohen that the deal was off.

"I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election," Davidson said.

Stormy Daniels' Agent, Davidson, And Howard Discussed An "Impending Storm" Of Publicity

Following Stormy Daniels’ agreement with Michael Cohen, but with the payment outstanding, Davidson and Howard exchanged text messages regarding what the then Enquirer editor in chief termed an “impending storm” of publicity if the performer were to take her story elsewhere, as per Davidson’s testimony and trial documents.

During the exchange on October 17 and 18, 2016, Davidson conveyed to Howard his belief that Daniels and her agent had agreed to offer her story to another publication, expressing, “I think it’ll be a full-on blitz.”

"I just felt like there was going to be more than a flurry of activity. I felt like it was going to be a tornado," Davidson elucidated in court.

“If the story got out,” Steinglass inquired.

“Yes,” Davidson affirmed.

Was Michael Cohen Dealing On Trump's Behalf?

When questioned if Cohen ever disclosed whom he was representing in the negotiations with Daniels, Davidson stated that the ex-lawyer might not have explicitly mentioned he was acting on Trump’s behalf, but the implication was evident.

“Every single time I talked to Michael Cohen, he leaned on his close affiliation with Donald Trump,” Davidson remarked. “It was part of his identity. He let me know it at every opportunity he could that he was working for Donald Trump.”

Court Wraps Up For The Day

During the courtroom proceedings, the former president leaned in to observe a message displayed on a monitor positioned in front of him at the defense table. Subsequently, he whispered something to his lawyer Todd Blanche, seated to his left, as the messages scrolled across the screen—presented in the form of a spreadsheet with black text against a green background.

As Davidson continued his testimony regarding the text message, Trump and Blanche engaged in intermittent whispered exchanges.

In the October 2016 message directed to Davidson, Howard commented on Cohen’s apparent reluctance to fulfill a $130,000 payment agreement to Stormy Daniels.

“All because trump is tight,” Howard wrote in one of the messages, which Davidson interpreted as a reference to Trump’s alleged frugality. In a subsequent message, Howard remarked, “I reckon that trump impersonator I hired has more cash.”

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