The second week of the Trump trial ends with testimony from a former secretary and banker

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Former US President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday, April 26, 2024, in New York, US.

Jeenah Moon | Via Reuters

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.

Prosecutors called two new witnesses Friday afternoon in former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trial in New York.

The first was Trump’s personal secretary Rhona Graff. Considered by many to be the former president’s most influential gatekeeper during his years at the Trump Organization, Graff said Friday that she no longer works for Trump but that her lawyers were paid by the Trump Organization.

Graff confirmed that Trump had kept contact information for two women at the center of the hush money case: former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, an adult film star.

After Graff, prosecutors called a banker, Gary Farro, who was a senior managing director at First Republic Bank in 2016, when the hush money payment key to the Trump indictment was made.

Farro described how former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen worked with him to get $130,000 into a First Republic bank account, money that Cohen later paid to Daniels through her lawyer to buy her silence.

Graff and Farro’s testimony came after attorneys spent the morning questioning former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. The cross came after three days in which Pecker gave damning testimony for the prosecution.

Pecker’s cross-examination

Among Trump attorney Emil Bove’s questions to Pecker was whether it was standard practice for the National Enquirer, the tabloid magazine Pecker once published, to have relationships with outside sources like Trump and his then-attorney Michael Cohen. Pecker said yes.

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Pecker also seemed to confirm that for years the National Enquirer often only circulated old critical news stories, including hit pieces about former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton, who ran for president against Trump in 2016.

Pecker was later pressed about his relationship with Cohen, in an apparent attempt by Bove to suggest that the two were closer than previously known.

Bove said that in 2016, Cohen wanted Pecker to try to get him a job at a company called iPayments, and that he also sought help getting a job from businessman Mark Cuban.

Pecker confirmed that Cohen asked him to send paparazzi to a meeting between the Trump lawyer and Cuban. He will not say whether he actually sent the photographers.

The hush-money deal between Pecker’s publishing company, American Media, and McDougal also came into focus during Friday’s testimony. Bove tried to portray the financial deal as largely aimed at boosting McDougal’s media career.

Prosecutors and Pecker have described it all week as an attempt to bury McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with Trump because the story could have hurt Trump’s presidential campaign.

Pecker admitted that American Media published dozens of stories under McDougal’s byline, and he told her the value of the services portion of her agreement was worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Pecker’s testimony was also the latest example showing how close the media executive was to Trump during the campaign and the early days of his presidency.

Pecker spoke about an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with Trump and Cohen. The testimony later switched to another meeting on January 6, 2017, which Pecker attended at Trump Tower, where he saw Reince Priebus and Mike Pompeo sitting with Trump. Priebus and Pompeo would later become White House chief of staff and secretary of state, respectively, in the Trump administration.

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As he entered the courtroom Friday morning, Trump said he thought things were going “very well” during Thursday’s trial.

He also complained about how cold it is in the courtroom and what he believes are conflicts of interest with the judge. He called the procedure “a rigged process.” Trump has repeatedly made the same accusations on social media.

Pecker’s earlier testimony

Pecker testified earlier this week about the “catch and kill” scheme he devised with Trump and Cohen to buy the rights to negative tabloid stories about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and not publish them, essentially making them killed.

Pecker described how his publishing company paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman for a story he did not believe was true, and another $150,000 to McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair, which Pecker said he did believe it to be true.

Pecker also explained how, after purchasing the first two stories and not being reimbursed by Trump for them, he was unwilling to pay another $130,000 to buy the silence of Daniels, who claimed they were written a decade before he ran for office alleged that he had had a sexual encounter with Trump. president.

Pecker sat a few feet away from Trump as he spoke, and the two men occasionally looked at each other. Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying company records as part of a scheme to cover up restitution payments he ultimately made to Cohen after his lawyer and personal fixer paid the $130,000 to buy Daniels’ silence.

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Pecker also testified that he suspected that the company’s payments for the doorman’s silence and McDougal’s story could constitute campaign finance violations because they were essentially unreported contributions in support of Trump’s campaign for president.

He consulted a campaign finance lawyer about the matter, but publisher AMI, the National Enquirer’s parent company, later received a Federal Election Commission inquiry about the payments.

The company eventually admitted to campaign finance violations and paid a fine of more than 30% in 2021 $180,000 in a conciliation agreement with the FEC to settle the matter.

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