United States

Trump Hush Money Trial Day 10 Updates: Douglas Daus Begins Testimony, Davidson's Testimony Concludes

Former President Donald Trump is facing charges for paying hush money to adult film actor Stormy Daniels. Today, Judge Merchan will hear another gag order violation allegation made by the prosecution against Trump.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media at Manhattan criminal court in New York, on Thursday, May 2, 2024. AP
Introduction

A quick recap:

On Tuesday, Donald Trump was held in contempt of court and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order.

Despite prosecutors alleging 10 violations, the judge found nine, underscoring Trump's defiance of trial procedure.

Also, Jury heard two more witnesses. Witness Keith Davidson revealed a lot about the case.

Check what happened on Day 9 here.

Hearing On Gag Order Violation Begins

Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, has been accused of violating a gag order by making comments outside the courtroom, where he often speaks to reporters. In one of these monologues, Trump attacked his former attorney, Michael Cohen, as a "liar." Prosecutors Conroy urged Judge Merchan to impose a $1,000 fine for each of the four alleged violations. The alleged violations occurred prior to Merchan ordering Trump to pay a $9,000 fine for nine previous gag order violations.

Attorney Todd Blanche defended Trump's statements by invoking a recent comment by President Joe Biden forecasting "stormy weather" for Trump. However, Judge Merchan stated that Trump was not barred from responding to his Democratic rival but was not allowed to refer to foreseeable witnesses in the trial.

Blanche argued that the saturation of media coverage has made it impossible for Trump to conduct interviews without being bombarded with questions about the trial. However, Judge Merchan dismissed this argument, stating that members of the news media are not defendants in this case and that he had no authority over the media.

Michael Cohen Should Not Be Protected By Gag Order, Defense Argues

Blanche argued against the gag order, contending that Cohen's social media activities, which criticize and mock Trump, demonstrate that he doesn't require protection from it.

He cited instances of Cohen's posts on platforms like TikTok that disparage the former president, including one featuring a fabricated image of Trump in an orange superhero costume.

Judge Merchan Grows Impatient As Defense Justifies Trump's Claim Of Jury Being"95% Democrats"

Judge Merchan was frustrated when Trump's defense lawyer, Blanche, tried to justify his comments about the jury being "95% Democrats" and the area being mostly Democrat. Trump believed the trial was a "political persecution" and the location in heavily Democratic Manhattan put him at a disadvantage.

Blanche argued that Trump did not violate the gag order and that the comment was a passing reference to the overall proceedings being unfair and political. Merchan asked if Blanche violated the gag order, but Blanche explained that the comment was not directed at any specific jurors.

No Immediate Ruling On Gag Order Violation

Judge Merchan did not rule any immediate decision on the four alleged gag order violations.

Witness Keith Davidson has resumed his testimony. Davidson is the lawyer who negotiated hush money deals for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, has returned to the witness stand

Jurors See The Stormy Daniels Settlement Agreement

As Davidson resumed his testimony on Thursday, the jury was presented with the confidential settlement agreement he brokered for Stormy Daniels. Dated October 28, 2016, the agreement outlined a $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen to Daniels in exchange for her silence regarding her alleged sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

While the document used pseudonyms "Peggy Peterson" and "David Dennison" for Daniels and Trump respectively, it also contained a side letter revealing their true identities. "It is understood and agreed that the true name and identity of the person referred to as 'DAVID DENNISON' in the Settlement Agreement is Donald Trump," the document stated, with Trump's name handwritten in.

The side letter specified that only Davidson and Cohen were authorized to possess copies of the document, designating it as "ATTORNEY'S EYES ONLY." Davidson explained that this precaution was taken due to the sensitive nature of the deal.

Trump And Cohen Were "Very Upset" On WSJ Article, Davidson Testifies

Davidson testified that Trump and Cohen were "very upset" when the article exposing the McDougal arrangement was published in The Wall Street Journal. The article was published just 4 days before the 2016 presidential election.

“He was very upset that the article had been published,” Davidson said of Cohen. “He wanted to know who the source of the article was, why someone would be the source of this type of article, he was upset by the timing. He stated his boss was very upset and he threatened to sue Karen McDougal.”

On Election Night, Davidson Messaged The National Enquirer Editor "What Have We Done?"

On election night, as the realization dawned that Trump would secure victory, Davidson messaged then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard with a poignant query: "What have we done?" Howard's response, "oh my god," echoed the gravity of the moment.

During his testimony on Thursday, Davidson shed light on the exchange, describing it as a form of gallows humor amidst the unfolding events. He recounted the atmosphere of surprise and anticipation as election results trickled in, with Trump leading in the polls. Davidson acknowledged the tacit understanding that their actions may have inadvertently supported Trump's presidential campaign.

Cohen Ranted To Davidson About Trump In A Phone Conversation One Month After The 2016 Election

During a phone conversation approximately a month after the 2016 election, Cohen vented his frustrations to Davidson, expressing disbelief that he wasn't being invited to Washington D.C. and lamenting the lack of reimbursement for the $130,000 payment.

"Jesus Christ, can you believe I’m not going to Washington?" Cohen exclaimed during the call on December 9, 2016.

Davidson recounted the peculiar setting of his Christmas shopping in California, describing a store adorned with an "Alice in Wonderland"-type theme, complete with oversized rabbits and a "Cat in the Hat" on the ceiling.

Cohen continued his tirade, claiming, "I’ve saved that guy’s ass so many times, you don’t even know," while expressing frustration that Trump hadn't repaid the $130,000.

Davidson Defends His Denial Of  Hush Money Deal As True

Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Davidson, defended a January 2018 statement denying a $130,000 hush money payment to silence her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump. He argued that the statement could technically be true if the definition of romantic, sexual, and affair was defined.

Davidson also claimed that the payments made to Daniels were considered "consideration in a civil settlement." Trump denies having a sexual encounter with Daniels.

Prosecution Wraps Up Questioning Davidson

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is finished with his direct examination of Keith Davidson. The defense will start their cross-examination after the break.

Steinglass' final question to Davidson was whether he had any "stake" in the outcome of this trial? No, Davidson says.

Defense Begins Davidson's Cross-Examination

During the cross-examination, Trump lawyer Emil Bove brought forth testimony from Davidson indicating that he had never interacted with Trump directly, only with Cohen.

Davidson testified that he had never personally met Trump or been in his presence until his testimony in court on Tuesday.

He admitted being unaware of the Trump Organization's record-keeping practices, a crucial aspect of the trial, although he did receive some emails from Cohen's company email address.

According to Davidson, any impressions he had of the former president came from others.

Bove seemed to emphasize the defense's argument that Trump was not directly involved in the negotiations, suggesting that Cohen handled the hush-money matters independently. He also suggested that Davidson's testimony was irrelevant to the charges at hand, which accuse Trump of falsifying business records by categorizing reimbursement payments to Cohen as legal fees.

Defense Lawyer Bove Questions Davidson About His Understanding Of Extortion Law And Attempts To Broker Hush Money Deals

Bove questioned Davidson about his grasp of extortion law, probing into past instances where he sought money to suppress embarrassing stories, such as one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Bove suggested to Davidson that when negotiating hush-money payments for McDougal and Daniels, he was adept at skirting the line of extortion without crossing it.

"I had familiarized myself with the law," Davidson responded.

Previously, Davidson was investigated by the FBI, though not charged, after soliciting $300,000 from Hogan to prevent the release of a sex tape, portions of which were eventually published by Gawker.

Bove highlighted Davidson's involvement in securing $10,000 for a client regarding the release of Lindsay Lohan's private medical files and his role in brokering a sex tape featuring MTV personality Tila Tequila from the early 2000s.

Defense Gets Frustrated During Cross-Examination Of Keith Davidson

At times during his questioning of Davidson, Bove displayed visible frustration, raising his voice as the hush money negotiator declined to answer certain questions about his prior work securing settlements for clients to suppress embarrassing information involving other celebrities.

Twice, Bove sought Judge Juan M. Merchan's assistance to compel responses from Davidson, who either claimed not to recall the deals or asserted he wasn't authorized to discuss them. The judge declined to intervene.

When Davidson cited attorney-client privilege in response to inquiries about past agreements, Bove retorted, "We're both lawyers. I'm not here to engage in legal maneuvers with you." Bove later implied that Davidson's recollection was deliberately "fuzzy" regarding some of the more contentious settlements he had handled.

Bove's approach contrasts with that of Trump's lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, who has adopted a more subdued tone in his questioning and interactions with the judge.

Judge Refuses Defense's Request To Review And Rule In Advance Regarding Some Of Trump's Truth Social Posts

Defense lawyer Susan Necheles requested Judge Merchan to review certain articles written by legal scholars such as Jonathan Turley and rule in advance whether they would be in violation of the gag order if Trump posted them on his Truth Social account. But the judge refused to do so.

Merchan said, " “is no ambiguity, I believe, in the order,” citing an appeals court ruling upholding the commentary ban. He advised Necheles who argued that the gag order that was issued on March 26 was somewhat ambiguous. Merchan said, "when in doubt, steer clear.'

Defense Continues To Cross-Examine Davidson

Defense attorney Emil Bove directed his attention to Davidson's involvement in brokering the removal of a 2011 article from the gossip blog "The Dirty," which claimed Daniels had a sexual encounter with Trump. Bove probed Davidson about potential links between Daniels' agent and the individuals behind the post, as well as whether she sought its removal to secure a better deal elsewhere. Ultimately, Davidson opted to issue a cease and desist letter to the blog.

In the midst of his inquiry, Bove accidentally fumbled the binder containing his reference materials. "That drop was catastrophic to my binder," quipped the defense attorney as he sought to recover his composure.

Bove Confronts Davidson By Playing A 2018 Call Recording 

When Davidson struggled to recall specific details from past conversations, Bove adopted a different approach: presenting him with audio recordings of his previous statements. Seated on the witness stand, Davidson listened intently, wearing headphones, as a 2018 conversation with Cohen played. In the recording, Davidson remarked that Daniels was experiencing "settler's remorse" regarding her deal with Cohen.

Bove interpreted these remarks as indicating Daniels' attempt to "gain leverage over Donald Trump," a claim Davidson refuted. He clarified that the conversation took place years after the settlement, when Daniels was considering a $1 million offer to nullify the agreement.

Despite the surreptitious nature of the recording, made by Cohen, Davidson admitted to harboring previous suspicions that Cohen might be recording their conversations.

Defense Concludes Cross-Examination Of Davidson

Bove wrapped up his cross-examination by highlighting the uncertainties surrounding the Stormy Daniels agreement, particularly regarding its fate after being sent to Cohen and whether Trump ever signed it. The document used a pseudonym, "David Dennison," for Trump, with a space for "DD" to sign on the signature page, but Davidson's version, presented as evidence, lacked any signature in that space.

Bove also pointed out the common practice of using pseudonyms in such agreements, citing the document's reference to Daniels as "Peggy Peterson." He reminded Davidson of similar practices, such as using a pseudonym in the Hulk Hogan case, to which Davidson eventually acknowledged, albeit hesitantly.

Prosecution Returns For Re-Direct Examination Of Davidson

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass initiated a new line of questioning for Davidson during the re-direct phase of his testimony, a customary procedure in trials. Subsequently, Bove will have an opportunity to pose additional inquiries.

Audio Recording Of Cohen And Davidson Played

In the recording, Cohen could be heard relaying a conversation he had, purportedly with Trump, to Davidson.

“I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, ‘You know, I hate the fact that we did it.’ And my comment to him was, ‘But every person that you’ve spoken to told you it was the right move,’” Cohen said in the recording.

Davidson testified that he understood the comments were referring to Trump’s regret about the settlement with Daniels.

Elsewhere in the audio, Cohen can be heard expressing concerns about his standing within Trump’s inner circle, telling Davidson: “Nobody’s thinking about Michael.”

“I mean, would you write a book? Would you break away from the entire, we’ll call it, Trump doctrine?” Cohen asked. “Would you go completely rogue?”

Davidson's Testimony Concludes

Davidson testified during a re-cross portion of his testimony, where his defense lawyer used audio recordings of conversations with Cohen in 2018 to argue that Daniels had attempted to leverage Trump's election to maximize her payday. Davidson recalls hearing Daniels screaming at him during the 2016 negotiations, urging him to settle as soon as possible, fearing she would lose leverage if Trump lost.

Forensic Analyst Douglas Daus Will Begin Testimony

The prosecutors summoned Douglas Daus to testify.

Daus, a forensic analyst from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, conducted analyses on two iPhones provided by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as part of the investigation.

Cohen Had Almost 39,745 Contacts On His Phone, Daus Says

Cohen's phone contained a staggering 39,745 contacts, according to testimony from analyst Douglas Daus.

“That is unusual. I have not seen that many contacts on a phone,” Daus remarked, noting that he typically encounters hundreds or perhaps thousands when analyzing cellphones.

Among the notable entries were multiple pages dedicated to Trump, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and the Trump Organization’s former longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg.

Daus also examined photographs stored on Cohen’s devices, including one presented in court depicting the ex-Trump lawyer standing at the lectern in the White House press briefing room in February 2017.

While Daus admitted to never meeting Cohen, he humorously remarked to prosecutor Christopher Conroy that he recognized him from watching a lot of news.

Recording Of Cohen Briefing Trump On Plan To By McDaugal Story Is Played For Jurors

The panel members were granted their initial opportunity to listen to the recording covertly made by Cohen in September 2016.

Jurors appeared captivated as they engaged with the recording, which was publicly disclosed in July 2018. Some fixed their gaze on monitors placed before them in the jury box, following along with a transcript displayed onscreen.

A visibly perturbed Trump leaned forward at the defense table, studying a transcript displayed on a monitor before him as he absorbed the recording. Occasionally, he turned to his left to converse with his attorney Todd Blanche.

On the recording, captured by Cohen via his iPhone’s Voice Memo app, the former lawyer is heard informing Trump: “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David,” referring to then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. “I’m going to do that right away.”

Cohen proceeds to mention his discussion with then-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg regarding “how to set the whole thing up with funding.” Trump then inquires: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?”

A moment later, Trump asks about the financing. Cohen replies, “We’ll have to pay him something.” Trump responds: “We’ll pay with cash.” Cohen objects, stating: “No, no, no, no, no.” Trump then says, “Check,” before the recording concludes.

Prosecutors presented the recording while interrogating a forensic analyst from the DA’s office, Douglas Daus, who extracted and examined data from two iPhones provided by Cohen to investigators.

Court Wraps Up For The Day

Judge Merchan called it a day and dismissed the jury. Douglas Daus will continue his testimony tommorow.

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