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Hush money trial highlights: Former Trump senior aide Hope Hicks takes the witness stand

Prior to Hicks' testimony, Trump's social media posts on the "Access Hollywood" tape and adult film actress Stormy Daniels were entered as evidence.

What to know about today's trial

  • Former White House communications director Hope Hicks, who was involved in discussions on suppressing negative stories about Trump ahead of the 2016 election, has taken the stand.
  • Douglas Daus, a forensics expert, wrapped up testimony Friday morning after delving into what he found on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's phone.
  • Keith Davidson, the lawyer for both former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, was asked yesterday about his role in scandals involving celebrities such as Hulk Hogan, Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen.
  • Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the hush money payment to Daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with him. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied a relationship with her and McDougal.
  • Here's what you missed at the trial yesterday.

This event has ended. Get live updates and the latest news in the hush money trial here.

Trump pays gag order violation fine

Adam Reiss

A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirms that Trump on Thursday paid the $9,000 fine.

He used cashier's checks paying one amount of $2,000 and another of $7,000, and it was paid to the court clerk.

Judge Merchan said that further violations could result in him imposing “an incarceratory punishment,” meaning time in jail. Merchan is expected to rule on the four outstanding gag order violations next week.

Prosecution and defense discuss possibility of cross-examination on contempt

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

After jury left, Judge Merchan discussed with the prosecution and defense the possibility of Trump being cross-examined on the gag order violations.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said he objects to that but prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued that the court found Trump in criminal contempt for violating the gag order.

Trump accuses Manhattan DA of 'letting violent crime run rampant'

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to reporters outside of the courtroom, Trump railed against the Manhattan district attorney, saying his office is "letting violent crime run rampant all over our city."

He also accused DA Alvin Bragg of attacking his company in particular, lamenting, "what they've done to people in my company, they've been after us for years."

He called the attorneys in the DA's office "radical left lunatics," and alleged that they're backed by Democratic megadonor George Soros.

Trump added, "In the meantime, you can't do anything in the country. The country is going to hell."

The terms of Trump's gag order allow him to criticize the judge and the prosecutor.

Hope Hicks testifies that Trump 'really values' Melania Trump's opinion

Trump attorney Emil Bove asked Hicks what was causing Trump stress after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

“President Trump really values Mrs. Trump’s opinion,” Hicks said, adding while Melania Trump doesn’t weigh in all the time, when she does, it’s “really meaningful.”

“I don’t think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything that happened during the campaign. He wanted them to be proud of him,” Hicks later added.

Hope Hicks is off the witness stand; trial done for the week

Adam Reiss

Hicks has finished testifying. The court was planning to end at 3:45 p.m. today because of a scheduling conflict. The judge just dismissed the jury for the day.

The lawyers have remained to discuss disagreements on the law.

Hope Hicks on Michael Cohen: He liked to call himself Mr. Fix It

Trump lawyer Emil Bove asked Hicks if Cohen wasn't part of the 2016 Trump campaign.

"No, he would try to insert himself at certain moments, but he wasn’t supposed to be on the campaign in any official capacity," she said. "There were things he did in a voluntary capacity because of his interest."

Bove also asked Hicks if Cohen went rogue and she said yes.

Hicks went on to say that Cohen liked to call himself a "fixer" or "Mr. Fix It."

"It was only because he first broke it," she said.

Hicks begins to cry on the stand

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Alexandra Marquez

As Trump's attorney Bove began to cross-examine Hicks, she began to cry.

Hicks looked off to the side, seeming to want to avoid letting anyone see her tears. Bove asked if the court should take a break and Hicks answered, "Yes, please."

She appeared to start crying when Bove brought up the fact that the Trump family gave her work opportunities.

Hope Hicks says she didn't know Michael Cohen to be a 'charitable or selfless person'

Hope Hicks said the morning after Cohen told The New York Times that he had made the payment without Trump’s knowledge, he told Hicks that Cohen made the payment to protect Trump from false allegations and never told anyone about it and did it out of the goodness of his own heart.

“I’d say that would be out of character for Michael. I did not know Michael to be an especially charitable or selfless person; he is a kind of person who seeks credit,” Hicks said.

Hicks recalls speaking to Trump when McDougal sued AMI to be released from contract

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Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Hicks was Trump's White House communications director when Karen McDougal sued to be released from her contract with AMI, the contract that barred her from speaking with others about her relationship with Trump.

She testified that on that day, Trump's executive assistant texted her, "Hey — the president wants to know if you called David Pecker again?”

"I don’t know if he called him [that day]," Hicks testified, adding that when she spoke to Trump after McDougal was interviewed on CNN by Anderson Cooper, "I don’t recall him mentioning Mr. Pecker in those conversations."

Cooper was in the courtroom earlier today, watching the trial.

Hicks references Madeleine Westerhout, who worked near her at the White House

Hope Hicks described how she worked in the "outer Oval Office" in a small vestibule along with Madeleine Westerhout, who was Trump's executive assistant at the White House.

Hicks is setting up potential testimony or evidence concerning Westerhout’s role in Trump’s receipt and signing of checks to Michael Cohen.

Hicks: Trump didn't want the WSJ delivered to his residence on day of McDougal story

+2

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Hicks, a longtime Trump aide, testified that the response to the Wall Street Journal story about Karen McDougal and the National Enquirer was "muted" — saying the fallout wasn't like that of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

But she added that Trump asked for the edition of the Wall Street Journal featuring that story not to be delivered to his residence.

Hope Hicks is giggling uncomfortably

Hope Hicks was just giggling uncomfortably during a line of questioning about an exchange of text messages between her and Michael Cohen after the Wall Street Journal story was published. When she took the stand, she admitted to being nervous.

Trump on Truth Social complains about evidence played in courtroom

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In a new post on Truth Social, posted shortly before the court returned from lunch recess, Trump complained about a tape played in the courtroom yesterday and discussed today.

It would seem Trump was referring to a tape in which he told Michael Cohen to use cash to pay back the National Enquirer publisher for buying Karen McDougal's story — a payment that ultimately never happened.

"The tape played yesterday and discussed today, while good for my case, was cut off at the end, in the early stages of something very positive that I was in the midst of saying. Why was it cut off???" the former president said in the post.

Hope Hicks says she can't recall conversation between Cohen and Trump after WSJ story was published

After the Wall Street Journal story was published, Hope Hicks said she believes she overheard Michael Cohen and Trump talking as they were in a car at the airport traveling to the next venue.

Hicks said they were on their way to a campaign rally after landing in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hicks said Reince Priebus was also in the car; she heard Trump but does not remember what was said.

Priebus is on the list of potential witnesses for the trial, and the prosecution has demonstrated a habit for asking one witness about an event and then coming back later with another witness to provide more details.

Hicks back on the stand

Trump is staring straight ahead as Hicks returns to the stand — watching a monitor instead of her on the stand.

Hope Hicks recalls discussion about how to push back at WSJ story on Karen McDougal

Hope Hicks said she had worked with Michael Cohen on a statement to send in response to The Wall Street Journal's forthcoming story about Karen McDougal and the National Enquirer.

Hicks initially wrote things like,“We deny each and every accusation,” but Cohen urged a different approach.

"These accusations are completely untrue and just the latest despicable attempt by the liberal media and the Clinton machine to distract the public from the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation into Secretary Clinton and her closest associates,” Cohen wrote back to her, according to an exhibit of the email text shown in court.

Hicks recalled talking with Trump, who wanted to understand what David Pecker had told Hicks previously. Trump then had input on the statement that Hicks and Cohen had been drafting, which became a denial of the accusations and said they knew nothing about the deal between McDougal and the Enquirer.

Asked how she learned the story would also include Stormy Daniels, she said the reporter told her that over the phone. She mentioned that to Trump, who wanted to know the context and to make sure there was a denial of any kind of relationship.

Former Trump aide remembers asking Jared Kushner to buy more time on a WSJ story

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Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Hicks, a former Trump aide, just testified about when she learned that the Wall Street Journal was planning to publish a story about Karen McDougal, including details that McDougal had a story that was purchased by the Enquirer about her relationship with Trump that was never published.

Hicks testified that she went to Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, with the story, hoping he could get in touch with executives at the Journal to delay publication.

Hicks recalls how she first heard of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal

Kyla Guilfoil

Adam Reiss

Kyla Guilfoil and Adam Reiss

Hicks was asked if she had heard of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and she recalled that she learned of McDougal on Nov. 4, 2016, after receiving an inquiry from a Wall Street Journal reporter about the former Playboy model and the National Enquirer.

Daniels was mentioned in that same story, she said, adding that she first heard of the adult film actress a year earlier, when "guys on a plane" were discussing her attendance at a celebrity golf tournament with a participant who played with Trump.

Hicks testified that the Wall Street Journal reporter, Michael Rothfeld, asked whether Trump or the campaign knew about McDougal, who had a story alleging that she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier, while he was married to Melania, that was purchased by the National Enquirer but was never published.

Hicks said she thought she told Trump, whom she was traveling with at the time, about the inquiry before he started speaking at a rally in Ohio. She also said she forwarded the email to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner to see if he could reach Rupert Murdoch, who owned the newspaper, to buy more time before the story was published.

Trial on lunch break until 2:15 p.m.

The trial has taken a lunch break until 2:15 p.m., when Hicks will continue testifying.

Because of a conflict by one of the jurors, the testimony will end at 3:45 p.m. today.

Hope Hicks asked Michael Cohen to determine whether there was another damaging Trump tape

Hope Hicks testified that after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, she said she spoke to Michael Cohen by phone about another rumored Trump tape.

She said she asked Cohen to call a friend of his to ask if there was such a tape, and if so, when could they expect it to be published.

Hicks describes political fallout from 'Access Hollywood' tape

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Hope Hicks described some of the political fallout from the "Access Hollywood" tape, including statements from then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it "repugnant and unacceptable" and from former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney calling it "disgraceful [and] disgusting."

Hicks was also asked whether Trump was disinvited from an event hosted by then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

"I believe we were still going," Hicks answered, adding, "but there was a programming change and an effort to distance himself from Mr. Trump, so Mr. Trump made a decision to do something else." 

Hicks says 'Access Hollywood' tape pushed hurricane out of the news cycle

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Jillian Frankel

Hicks said that the news coverage of Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape was so intense, it ended up pushing news of a Category 4 hurricane out of the news cycle.

“It was intense, it dominated coverage for, I would say, the 36 hours leading up to the debate," Hicks recalled.

"We were anticipating a Category 4 hurricane around that time and no one remembers it because it was 'all Trump' in the news during that time," Hicks continued.

Consensus was 'the tape was damaging' and would cause 'a crisis,' Hicks says

Hicks testified that she had a good sense that the "Access Hollywood" tape was going to be a huge story that would dominate the news cycle for at least the next several days.

She said it was a “damaging development” for the campaign, with lots of layers that “complicated where we were trying to go in a way that was going to be hard to overcome.”

“There was consensus among us all that the tape was damaging and that this was going to be a crisis," she said.

Hope Hicks said her initial reaction to the 'Access Hollywood' tape was 'deny, deny deny'

Asked for her reaction when she learned of the "Access Hollywood" tape from the Washington Post reporter, Hicks said she was "very concerned," adding that she had only the transcript and not the tape itself.

She said she forwarded the reporter's email to other top campaign officials, including Jason Miller, David Bosse, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, writing, "Need to hear the tape to be sure, deny, deny, deny." She said she then went to speak to the group of them on the 25th floor of Trump Tower.

She conceded that her strategy of denying the conversation on the tape proved to be more difficult once the recording came out.

Hope Hicks recalls interrupting debate prep to talk about 'Access Hollywood' tape

Hicks recalls receiving the email from Washington Post journalist David Fahrenthold, which contained the transcript of the 'Access Hollywood' tape, and going to another floor to speak about it with Jason Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and maybe Chris Christie.

“Everyone was just absorbing the shock of it," Hicks testified, saying that she interrupted Trump's debate prep session to speak with his advisers about it.

When Trump read the transcript, he told Hicks, "That doesn’t sound like something I would say.”

Trump looking straight ahead

Trump, who had been watching Hicks closely, is now gazing straight ahead as she says she was “stunned” when she heard the tape and attests to her and the campaign’s concerns. 

Hicks calls it “a damaging development” that would push the campaign “backward,” a view she said was shared by the team.

She also testified that Trump thought the development wasn't something to get upset about.

Hope Hicks testifies about David Pecker and Trump discussing news stories

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Hope Hicks said that she knows David Pecker as the publisher of AMI and the editor of the National Enquirer.

"I had been introduced to him at a previous job" at Hiltzik, a public relations firm, she said, adding that she eventually reconnected with him because he was Trump's friend.

Hicks recalled a phone call between Trump and Pecker shortly after the Enquirer published a story about Ben Carson. She said she overheard the conversation, including Trump congratulating Pecker on "the great reporting."

She said she thinks Trump was praising Pecker about an investigative piece, saying that, "This is Pulitzer-worthy."

Hicks also remembered that Trump thought it was "great reporting" when the Enquirer published a story about Sen. Ted Cruz's dad being associated with Lee Harvey Oswald. Pecker testified earlier in the trial that the story was totally manufactured.

Hicks says she learned about the 'Access Hollywood' tape after a journalist emailed her

Kyla Guilfoil

Adam Reiss

Kyla Guilfoil and Adam Reiss

Hicks said she learned about the "Access Hollywood" tape after she received an email from David A. Farenthold, then a reporter at The Washington Post.

She said Farenthold was requesting a comment from Trump's office on the tape, which she had not known anything about until then.

Hicks says the media team at the beginning of the 2016 campaign was just her and Trump

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Jillian Frankel

Hicks testified that when she began working for Trump in 2015 during his first campaign, the media team consisted of only the two of them.

"It was just me and Mr. Trump," Hicks said, adding there wasn't anyone better than him at communications and branding.

She said that she ran statements by Trump before sending them to the press.

"We were all just following his lead," she testified.

She went on to say that later in the general election there was a larger staff that dealt with phone calls and other needs around the office.

Hope Hicks testifies that she hasn't spoken to Trump since 2022

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

Hicks testified that she hasn't spoken to the former president since the summer or fall of 2022.

She also said that she's paying for her own lawyer and is appearing due to a subpoena.

Hope Hicks says she's 'really nervous'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabad and Adam Reiss

Hope Hicks has taken the stand and when asked for her educational background, she said she's "really nervous."

Trump is looking directly at her and appears to be closely listening.

Prosecution calls former top Trump aide Hope Hicks as next witness

Prosecutors have called Hope Hicks, who worked on Trump's 2016 campaign and in the White House, as their next witness. Before she could be brought into the room, the defense objected to her serving as a witness. The lawyers are now holding a sidebar with the judge.

After the discussion, Merchan said Hicks was coming to the courtroom. She will be the trial's ninth witness.

Trump's lawyers ask witness if she's reviewed Michael Cohen's social media

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Jillian Frankel

In his cross-examination, Trump's lawyer, Todd Blanche, asked Longstreet if she had reviewed Michael Cohen's social media as part of her work on Trump's case.

Longstreet said she had reviewed Cohen's X account and listened to some of his Mea Culpa podcast. When Blanche asked if she had listened to the entirety of the podcast, Longstreet responded, "absolutely not," drawing laughter from the courtroom.

Prosecutors admit dozens of Trump social media posts

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

Prosecutors are admitting dozens of Trump's social media posts, including some tweets from 2016 where he alluded to "made up events that never even happened," and said, "Nobody has more respect for women than me!"

Trump writes on a yellow post-it note and hands it to his lawyer

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Trump just wrote on a yellow post-it note and handed it to his lawyer, Todd Blanche, as he's making his argument in court.

This was the first time we've seen Trump do this.

Witness says she's saved 1,500 social media posts about the case

Kyla Guilfoil

Adam Reiss

Kyla Guilfoil and Adam Reiss

Longstreet testified that as part of her work, she has reviewed 5,000 to 10,000 social media posts about the case and saved 1,500 of them.

She added that she checks online sources multiple times a day, including news articles and posts on Instagram, Twitter — now known as X — LinkedIn, Facebook and Truth Social.

She said she takes screenshots of the posts, adds them to a folder and saves them with a few words to identify each one.

Next witness, a paralegal from the Manhattan D.A.'s office, takes the stand

Georgia Longstreet is the next witness to take the stand. She is a paralegal in the Manhattan district attorney’s office who worked on Trump's case for about a year and a half. She said she identified and saved public material about the case, including social media posts and news articles.

Tech expert: 'It would seem' there could be questions about reliability of evidence

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Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Daus, the forensics and tech expert, agreed with the assertion made by one of Trump's defense lawyers that questioned how reliable Michael Cohen's phone data is.

Bove, the defense lawyer, asked whether there were intervening events between 2016, when most of the texts and phone calls at issue date to, and 2023, when Daus was reviewing the phone, that would "present questions about the reliability of the evidence."

"It would seem so," Daus answered.

Bove tried to drive home that the data was all contingent on Cohen.

“We’re going to have to take Michael Cohen’s word for it, right?” Bove said.

Daus agreed.

Trump lawyer goes over timeline of Cohen's phone

Trump lawyer Emil Bove is back to examine Doug Daus of the DA’s office, who has admitted to a four-day gap between Michael Cohen’s delivery of the phones to former DA investigator Jeremy Rosenberg and their arrival in Daus’ unit.

Daus has acknowledged a gap like that is “not ideal” because you cannot confirm that the phone was secured. 

“Do you know what a factory reset is?” Bove asked Daus, who says it is equivalent to wiping the phone clean of all data.

Bove established that there was a factory reset of the first phone on Oct. 15, 2016, which suggests that there should be “further analysis” to determine how the Sept. 6, 2016, recording got onto the phone.

Bove also established that on Jan. 25, 2017, Cohen synced the phone with his laptop and loaded files onto his phone.

Trump's lawyer argues Trump's Truth Social posts can't be admitted as evidence

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Jillian Frankel

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche argued Trump's posts to his social media site, Truth Social, can't be admitted into evidence because the witness set to testify today does not have enough knowledge of the posts to prove they are Trump's.

Blanche added that there is content in these posts that are pure hearsay and without a proper foundation.

Judge corrects Trump: Gag order 'does not prohibit you from taking the stand'

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

As court got underway this morning, the judge corrected Trump's remarks from yesterday afternoon, when the former president said, "I'm not allowed to testify because of an unconstitutional gag order."

This morning, Judge Merchan reminded Trump, "As the name of the order indicates, it only applies to extrajudicial statements,” not those made in the courtroom.

Trump has long been frustrated by the gag order, which prevents him from speaking about potential witnesses in the case online or outside of the courtroom. Earlier this week, he was fined $9,000 for prior violations of the order and Merchan threatened jail time if Trump were to keep violating the order.

Trump says his team plans to file a lawsuit on the judge's gag order

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to cameras in the courthouse hallway for a few minutes, Trump said Judge Merchan is trying to take away his constitutional rights.

He said that he thinks his team will file a lawsuit today challenging the gag order’s constitutionality.

He also railed against DA Alvin Bragg and Merchan, saying they're both corrupt and a "disgrace to this country" and "this court."

"It's a cabal going on, by the way," said Trump, who added that they're trying to get Biden re-elected.

As week three of Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial wraps up, NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos joins "TODAY" to weigh in on Keith Davidson’s testimony on negotiating payoffs before the 2016 election.

Trump is heading to court

Matthew Johnson

The former president has departed Trump Tower and is on his way to the courthouse.

Sex tapes and Lindsay Lohan rehab records: Trump trial detours into tabloid scandals

Celebrity scandals became a focal point yesterday during a Trump attorney’s cross-examination of Davidson, the lawyer who represented Daniels and McDougal during the “catch and kill” scheme.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove tried to undermine Davidson’s credibility by implying he had associated himself with people who had bad reputations and seemed to suggest that Davidson engaged in extortion for celebrity gossip, a point the witness repeatedly denied.

“What does the word extortion mean to you?” Bove asked Davidson.

“It’s the obtaining of property by threat or fear or force,” Davidson said.

Read the full story here.

As Trump’s trial resumed in New York, the defense tried to discredit the lawyer who arranged payments to two women. The judge is considering more potential contempt of court violations by Trump for his comments about the case. NBC News’ Laura Jarrett reports.

Trump hush money trial to resume with a look at Cohen’s electronics

Trump‘s New York criminal trial is set to resume today with testimony from the forensic analyst who inspected data from the phones of Cohen, including text messages and secret recordings.

Daus began his testimony yesterday, revealing he found more than 39,000 contacts on Cohen’s phone, including those for Trump and his wife, Melania Trump; text messages with Trump allies, including former White House communications director Hope Hicks; photos of Cohen in the White House; and some recordings.

One of the recordings was a snippet of a conversation Cohen had with Trump in September 2016 about how they should handle repaying the National Enquirer's then-publisher, David Pecker, for the $150,000 he spent to buy the silence of McDougal. The former Playboy model has claimed she had a monthslong affair with Trump that began in 2006, an allegation Trump denies.

Read the full story here.

Secretly recorded phone calls and carefully worded denials: What you missed on Day 10 of Trump’s hush money trial

Taking the stand yesterday, an attorney for Daniels fielded questions on a litany of celebrity gossip stories as attorneys for Trump tried to paint him as an extortionist who helped leverage sex tapes into multimillion-dollar payouts.

Davidson, the lawyer who represented Daniels and McDougal — who said they had affairs with Trump and were paid to stay quiet — gave jurors crucial insight into how the payment came about. Trump has denied the claims by McDougal and Daniels.

Davidson, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented clients in settlement agreements against A-list celebrities, explained to jurors how denials he had issued in Daniels’ name were, in his opinion, truthful — as prosecutors tried to press him to admit the obfuscated the truth. 

A denial that Daniels and Trump had a romantic relationship was “technically true,” he said, under a “very, very, very fine reading of it.”

“How is that technically correct?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked.

“You’d have to hone in on the definition of ‘romantic,’ ‘Sexual,’ and ‘affair,’” said Davidson. “I don’t think anyone had ever alleged that any interaction between she and Mr. Trump was romantic.”

Read the full story here.