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Trump trial highlights: Lawyer for porn actress who alleged Trump affair testifies about hush money deal

The defense began cross-examination before lunch, grilling the attorney on other deals he worked on that involved sex tapes and private medical records.

What to know about today's trial

  • Prosecutors argued this morning that former President Donald Trump should be held in contempt of court for again violating his gag order.
  • Keith Davidson, the former lawyer for the two women who have alleged affairs with Trump — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — completed his testimony.
  • Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the hush money payment to Daniels. He has pleaded not guilty and denied a relationship with her and McDougal.
  • Here's what you missed at the trial Tuesday.

Trump makes stop at fire station

Trump was met by cheers as he greeted firefighters with boxes of pizza as part of a campaign stop at a Midtown Manhattan fire station after his trial wrapped for the day. He also posed for photos.

Outside courtroom, Trump says his legal team will appeal gag order

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In remarks to reporters outside of the courtroom, Trump called the gag order "unconstitutional" and said his legal team was working to appeal it. He also appeared to say that he wasn't allowed to testify in the case because of the gag order.

“I’m not allowed, as a presidential candidate — the leading candidate, the Republican Party nominee, and the one who’s leading Biden by a lot -- I’m not allowed to talk,” Trump said.

He added, "There's never been an abuse like this before, this conflicted judge should get out of this case, he should not be having this case. He gives us nothing. It's such a rigged court. So I'm not allowed to testify. Because of an unconstitutional gag order. We're appealing the gag order."

Trial has ended for the day

The trial concluded for the day at 4:23 p.m. ET.

Trump lawyer asks Daus about talking to the FBI

Trump's lawyer, Emil Bove, established that the devices did not come to Daus’s unit until January 2023.

Daus did not have access to the data the FBI seized in 2018, nor did he ask for it or ask what the FBI had done to those devices back in 2018.

Bove went further, asking if anyone spoke to the FBI about their own extraction efforts. Daus said as far as he knows, no.

Michael Avenatti attacks Stormy Daniels and her former lawyer on X

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In a tweet, Michael Avenatti, one of Stormy Daniels' former lawyers, accused Davidson, her former attorney who is currently testifying, of lying.

Earlier in the day, Trump's attorneys tried to accuse Davidson and Daniels of "shaking down" Trump in 2016, which Davidson denied. In his tweet, Avenatti claimed that he reviewed text messages that proved "it was a shakedown," and claimed that that was the reason he stopped being Daniels' lawyer in 2019.

Avenatti is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for tax fraud and stealing from clients.

In cross-examination, Trump's lawyer tries to establish devices could've been manipulated

Bove, Trump's lawyer, is cross-examining Daus, and has asked a series of questions about his credentials.

Bove seems to be trying to establish that the DA’s office was not only sloppy in their data extraction but that these devices could have been manipulated, by asking questions about the chain of custody and whether the intake process was secure.

Transcript shows Trump and Michael Cohen discussing Karen McDougal payment

Prosecutors entered into evidence a transcript of a tape of Trump and Cohen discussing paying off Karen McDougal so that her allegation about having an affair with Trump wouldn't become public.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that — I'm going to do that right away," Cohen said. "And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up."

"So, what do we got to pay for this? 150?" Trump asked.

"...funding. Yes. Um, and it's all the stuff," Cohen said.

"Yea, I was thinking about that," Trump said.

"All the stuff. Because — here, you never know where that company — you never know what he’s...," Cohen said.

"Maybe he gets hit by a truck," Trump said.

Trump then asked about financing and Cohen said, "Well, I'll have to pay something."

"Pay with cash," Trump said.

Trump looking at monitor showing transcript of recording

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Trump is looking at the courtroom monitor showing the transcript, and his lawyer Todd Blanche is whispering in his ear.

Trump seems very interested in this particular piece of evidence: Trump himself speaking on a recording in his office with Cohen present.

Prosecutor enters text message into evidence, shows Michael Cohen had more than 39K contacts on his phone

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy is entering some text messages into evidence, including one from Nov. 4, 2016, from Michael Cohen to Hope Hicks.

"Call me," Cohen said.

One exhibit showed that Cohen had more than 39,000 contacts in his phone, including David Pecker, Hope Hicks, Allen Weisselberg, Trump, Dylan Howard, Keith Davidson, Keith Schiller, Melania Trump, Rhona Graff and Gary Farro.

"That is unusual," Daus said about the number of contacts. “I’ve not seen contacts of that many being on a phone.”

Photo reveals Michael Cohen at the White House on a crucial date

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Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Doug Daus, the technology expert on the stand right now, shows a photo Michael Cohen took on Feb. 8, 2017, in the White House.

The date corresponds to a meeting between Trump and Cohen, which prosecutors allege is the date Trump agreed to begin repaying Cohen $130,000 for the payment he made to Stormy Daniels.

Trial detours into the more mundane

It’s late afternoon and now prosecutors appear to be heading back into the world of computer analysis. After the celebrity gossip of the morning, this is a tough, but necessary, detour given that the two sides can’t seem to agree on the admission of certain facts in evidence.

The jury appears far less engaged than when Davidson was testifying.

District Attorney Bragg is still here watching his employee explain the path between a device coming into the office, either through a search warrant or consent, and the actual extraction and preservation of data.

Trump appears pleased with his lawyer's questions

As Trump's lawyer confirms that Davidson has never been in the same room as Trump before the trial, Trump is leaning back in his seat, almost smug.

"You never spoke to or never were in same room until Tuesday?" Bove asks Davidson. Davidson said that was correct.

Trump then began whispering to Bove.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer is done testifying. Next up is a data specialist.

The testimony from Keith Davidson, who was Stormy Daniels' lawyer, has finished. Next up is Doug Daus, who is expected to assist in verifying some records that will be used in the trial.

Daus was in Iraq from 2009 to 2011 doing forensic data analysis; he is now a supervising computer forensic analyst in the DA’s office.

Phone call between Stormy Daniels' lawyer and Michael Cohen played in the courtroom

The aforementioned phone call between Davidson, Daniels' lawyer, and Cohen was just played in the room.

On the call, Cohen said: "What about me? And I can’t — 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 you spoke to said it was the right thing to do.'"

After hearing that portion, the prosecutor asked Davidson who was the "he" referred to in the phone call.

"Mr. Trump," Davidson said, adding, "I attributed that to be a quote from Mr. Trump."

Prosecution trying to add context to phone discussion lawyers had after Trump was elected

Prosecutor Steinglass, on redirect, is having Stormy Daniels' lawyer Davidson clarify that Michael Avenatti, who was by then working as her attorney, was denying a number of developments.

The discussions between Davidson and Cohen, he testified, were about Avenatti efforts, not relaying Daniels' words.

Trump lawyer trying to suggest lawyer coached Stormy Daniels to fabricate allegations

Trump's lawyer Bove is trying to imply through cross-examination questions that Stormy Daniels’ story was never true, but that she, coached by Davidson, believed that the time right before the election was when their leverage was highest.

Defense plays taped, private conversation between Stormy Daniels' lawyer and Cohen

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Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Davidson is still on the stand and just said that he believed on a few occasions that Cohen was recording him because they were “structured conversations” that appeared "self-serving." Plus, Cohen spoke on those calls differently than he usually would, Davidson says.

After that exchange, it appears — especially now that Bove has given Davidson a set of headphones — that Cohen indeed recorded Davidson, and Bove is about to refresh his recollection with a tape of such a conversation.

Hustler magazine publisher offered to help Stormy Daniels monetarily, her lawyer testifies

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, is back on the stand, answering questions from Bove, Trump's attorney.

Adding a new player into this saga, Bove asks Davidson if Larry Flynt, the wealthy publisher of Hustler magazine, offered to indemnify Stormy Daniels from any liability she incurred relating to the agreement.

Davidson said that Flynt did offer, but Daniels did not accept.

Defense asks judge to preapprove Trump social media posts

Shortly after returning from a lunch recess, Trump's attorneys asked the judge whether they could present him a series of articles about the case.

"These articles are all articles which President Trump would like to post on his truth, but they discuss this case," Necheles, one of Trump's attorneys, said.

"I appreciate you bringing it to my attention, [but] I’m not going to be in the position of looking at posts and determining in advance whether you should or should not post [them]," Judge Merchan answered.

Later, he added, "When in doubt, steer clear."

The judge is back on the bench

And trial has resumed.

'I simply close my beautiful blue eyes': Trump denies sleeping in court

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump called reports that he's fallen asleep in the courtroom "fake news."

"Contrary to the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, I don’t fall asleep during the Crooked D.A.’s Witch Hunt, especially not today. I simply close my beautiful blue eyes, sometimes, listen intensely, and take it ALL in!!!" the former president posted.

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

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Celebrity scandals became a focal point Thursday during a Trump attorney’s cross-examination of Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen 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.

Trial takes a lunch break

The trial has taken a lunch break. Trump's lawyer says he has less than an hour of cross-examination of Davidson left.

Trump attorney presses Daniels' attorney on his involvement in articles published about Hulk Hogan sex tapes

Bove, Trump's attorney, is insinuating that an article Dylan Howard co-wrote about the Hulk Hogan sex tapes in 2015 was a product of Davidson’s providing that information to Howard.

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, denies that he gave Howard the tapes, telling Bove, "I did not."

Bove then revealed that the FBI had set up a sting operation in relation to Davidson’s discussion with Hogan’s representatives, which further highlights how sleazy Davidson’s “legal practice” was — and how little resemblance it bears to any litigation practice most broadcast legal analysts would recognize.

Could the jury tire of the negative stories about Stormy Daniels' lawyer?

We are spending a lot of time listening to Bove try to cast Davidson in a bad light. The point has been made. There’s always a risk that the jury feels like this has gone on long enough and wants to get back to the central issues in the case.

Trump lawyer engages in tense exchange with Stormy Daniel's lawyer over Charlie Sheen settlement

Trump attorney Emil Bove asked Keith Davidson if he remembers extracting another settlement from actor Charlie Sheen.

Davidson said there was no extraction. Bove said that he got Sheen to pay though.

"We're both lawyers," Bove said. "I'm not here to play lawyer games with you."

Bove said that he's just asking for truthful answers.

"You're getting truthful answers, sir," Davidson said. "I'm not going to discuss confidential matters...I am not invoking privilege. And if you're not here to play legal games, then don't say extract."

Trump lawyer highlights Davidson's clients who had information about celebrities

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Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Bove, Trump's attorney, is highlighting how seamy Davidson’s world was by bringing up his past clients and the fact that he was investigated by state and federal authorities for allegedly extorting Hulk Hogan.

Davidson's prior clients include a woman who was accused of leaking Lindsay Lohan’s file from a rehab facility and who Bove says was paid $10,000 by TMZ.

In response to questions from Bove about the Lohan file and his connections to TMZ, Davidson answered, "I don't know" and "I don't recall."

Bove then asked Davidson if he knew Tila Tequila, a former reality TV star, and if he'd threatened to publish her sex tape if she didn't pay $75,000 while representing another client.

Bove again said he didn't recall.

Trump lawyer tries to argue Keith Davidson is avoiding extortion charges

Trump attorney Emil Bove asked Davidson what extortion means to him.

Davidson described it as obtaining property "by threat or fear or force."

Bove then asked if it's Davidson's belief that any exposure he has to extortion crimes have been precluded.

“When you were negotiating on behalf of Ms. McDougal and on behalf of Ms. Daniels, your concern was staying on the right side as it relates to extortion," Bove asked.

Davidson said not particularly.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer feared for Cohen's mental health and safety

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' attorney, admits he was so concerned about Cohen’s welfare when Cohen realized he would not be going to Washington that he “thought he was going to kill himself.”

Earlier today, Davidson detailed a phone call he had with Cohen in December 2016, shortly after Trump was elected. More details on that call here.

The defense's point seems to be to use Davidson’s observations to illustrate another major Trump theme: Cohen has long had a personal vendetta against Trump grounded in his personal disappointment and having nothing to do with any alleged illegal conduct by Trump.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.

Trump appears more engaged right now

As Trump lawyer Emil Bove cross-examines Keith Davidson about Karen McDougal’s motivations in entering into an agreement with AMI, Trump is more engaged than he has been in some time.

Trump craned his neck as if to get a closer look. The former president, wearing a butter yellow tie, appears to be listening intently, with his shoulders squared in the direction of the witness.

What to expect during cross-examination of Daniels' lawyer

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

The defense has signaled that they'll try to undermine the prosecution's case by saying that Michael Cohen was essentially freelancing when he made the payments to Stormy Daniels. And that he lacks any credibility if he says otherwise.

We should expect that they'll try to hammer those points when cross-examining Keith Davidson this morning.

Davidson testified that his dealings were with National Enquirer staff or Cohen and that he never even saw a copy of an agreement that was signed by Trump.

He also testified that he didn't trust Cohen. Expect to hear those points brought back up.

Michigan voters are watching the trial, but raise other concerns

Abigail BrooksAbigail Brooks is a producer for NBC News.

SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. — Trump hit the trail yesterday to hold a pair of campaign rallies for the first time since his hush money trial began. He ended the day in Saginaw County, a swing county in battleground Michigan that President Joe Biden flipped by just over 300 votes in 2020.

While voters there said they were paying attention to the first criminal trial of a U.S. president, most who spoke to NBC News said they were more concerned about other issues.

“I hear more comments about the cost of groceries than I do about the trial against Donald Trump right now,” said Chris Graebner, owner of Riverside Family Restaurant, a Saginaw County staple.

Graebner, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, says she plans to vote for the Republican candidate again — albeit not as enthusiastically. She also said the outcome of this trial could sway her vote.

“It seems incomprehensible to vote for somebody that was convicted of a crime,” she said.

Dedicated Trump voters echoed the former president’s opinion that the trial is politically motivated — and think it will turn his supporters out in November.

“It’s just a farce as far as I’m concerned,” said Bruce Lewenberger. “He’s being treated unfairly with a two-tiered system.”

Voters who don't support Trump or are undecided seemed less sure about the trial’s impact on the election.

“I don’t think anything will come of it. He just wiggles out of everything,” said MaryLou Agdanowski. “I wish we were focused more on gun control. I see our democracy is in trouble. I do, I think it’s in jeopardy.”

Deb Christie agreed, but added, “I would hold somebody who’s a presidential candidate up to a higher level.”

Across Riverside Family Restaurant, Danielle Schmitzer, an owner of a local dance studio, echoed those sentiments.

“I don’t think that it’s going to disqualify any candidates,” she said. “I’m more concerned with the other things for our country, such as war and border control and our abortion issues."

In a statement, Daniels' lawyer called Michael Cohen the source of the money despite knowing otherwise

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Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' attorney, just testified that Cohen asked him to provide a statement to former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo stating that Cohen was the source of the funds.

Steinglass, the prosecutor, asks why he drafted that statement despite knowing that Trump was or would be the ultimate source of the fundas.

Davidson says he was referring to the fact that at the time of the transaction, he knew Cohen had put up the money, telling Steinglass, "At the time of the transaction, Michael Cohen told me, ‘F--- it, I’ll just do it myself.'”

Jury takes a brief break after prosecutors finish direct examination

The jury is taking a brief morning break. The prosecution finished their direct examination of Keith Davidson and when the trial resumes, Emil Bove will begin cross-examination.

Lawyers discussed Daniels' 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel: 'Wtf'

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presented a text exchange between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson about a statement prepared before Stormy Daniels' Jimmy Kimmel appearance in January 2018.

The statement said that she was denying an affair with Trump. Asked how truthful that was, Davidson testified that it's technically true because no one had alleged a relationship between the two of them. He said a relationship is an ongoing interaction.

Cohen texted Davidson that Daniels "just denied the letter...claiming it's not her signature...she said she did it in front of you."

Davidson said, "She did. Impossible — she posted it on her own Twitter page."

"They showed her signature and she claimed it was not hers on Kimmel," Cohen said.

"Wtf," Davidson said.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer argues one-night stand doesn't qualify as a 'relationship'

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

There has been much discussion about the honesty of a statement Daniels gave the Wall Street Journal in 2018 in which she denied a "relationship" with Trump.

Davidson, her lawyer who is testifying, says he still maintains the statement was honest — while also acknowledging he believes there was a "sexual encounter" between Trump and Daniels.

"A relationship is an ongoing interaction," Davidson testified.

Daniels, once she publicly told her story, has said she had sex with Trump one night. Trump has denied that the encounter ever happened.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer said Cohen believed Daniels would deny Trump affair on Sean Hannity's show in 2018

Keith Davidson is explaining that in 2011, the cease-and-desist letter he sent thedirty.com did not contain a denial, but the 2018 statement seemed more like one.

Davidson, Daniels' lawyer, said Cohen believed that if she went on Hannity's show in early 2018, she would continue to deny that there had been any relationship with Trump.

Prosecution deep into the weeds on Michael Cohen's efforts to contain Stormy Daniels story

The prosecution is down deep in the play-by-play between Davidson and Cohen now in the weeks and months after Trump was elected to show how determined Cohen was to keep Stormy quiet, and then once the story broke, his efforts to contain the damage. The jury has yet to hear anything about Trump’s mindset during this time.

Lawyer for Stormy Daniels disputes that statement to Wall Street Journal was false

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass entered into evidence a statement signed by Stormy Daniels stating that there were outlets alleging that she had a sexual affair with Trump years ago.

In messages exchanged between Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen, Davidson said that he told Cohen that The Wall Street Journal called him for comment and he saw that they had called Daniels for comment.

“WSJ called stormy. She didn’t answer. They say they are running story & have a deadline of tonight for her to comment," Davidson texted Cohen.

Cohen told Davidson to write a strong denial comment of "everything," Davidson testified.

Asked how he would characterize Daniels' statement, Davidson said, “An extremely strict, extremely strict reading of this denial would technically be true.”

The statement, however, denied the affair, Steinglass said.

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

Stormy Daniels' lawyer describes 'despondent' phone call from Michael Cohen: 'I can’t believe I’m not going to Washington'

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, described a phone call he received from Cohen in December 2016, in which he described Cohen as "depressed and despondent."

“He said something to the effect of, 'Jesus Christ, can you f---ing believe I’m not going to Washington? After everything I’ve done for that f---ing guy. I can’t believe I’m not going to Washington. I’ve saved that guy’s a-- so many times you don’t even know,'" Davidson told prosecutors.

Davidson says that in the same phone call, Cohen mentioned that he had not been repaid the $130,000 that was given to Daniels.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer to National Enquirer editor on 2016 election: 'What have we done?'

Keith Davidson texted the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, Dylan Howard, around 3 a.m. ET on the night of the 2016 election.

"What have we done?" Davidson texted.

"Oh my god," Howard texted him that night.

Asked what he meant in his text, Davidson said, “This was sort of gallows humor."

"There was sort of surprise amongst the broadcasters and others that Donald Trump was leading in the polls, and there was a growing sense that folks were about ready to call the election," he added.

He said there was an understanding between the two of them that "our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.”

Michael Cohen signed for Trump in documents related to Stormy Daniels deal

In the deal to pay Stormy Daniels, Keith Davidson said that Michael Cohen signed documents instead of David Dennison, an alias used for Trump.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presented the document in court and the copy bears signatures from Cohen, Daniels and Davidson, but not Trump, which Davidson says he never received.

Stormy Daniels' attorney: $1 million breach of contract provision is 'unenforceable'

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Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Davidson, Stormy Daniels' former lawyer, confirmed that Daniels' contract had a $1 million liquidated damages provision, meaning that Daniels would be obligated to pay $1 million if she breached their contract in any way — for each violation.

Despite being involved in the creation of this contract, Davidson now says from the stand that, "I believe that this paragraph the way that it was drafted was unenforceable, yes.” 

Davidson adds that Michael Cohen insisted that the provision contain an amount so high.

Lawyer in hush money deal says he lost trust in Michael Cohen

The lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Keith Davidson, testified that former National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard came in as a mediator because Davidson had lost trust in Michael Cohen.

Asked why, Davidson said, "He was not telling me the truth ... [about] delays in funding."

Much of the defense's strategy will be painting Cohen as an unreliable witness who should not be trusted. Having prosecution witnesses admit that they didn't trust Cohen is likely to be a point the defense will zoom in on.

Former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal takes the stand

Testimony will resume now that the gag order hearing is over.

In his first day of testimony, Davidson discussed his role in brokering the deal that had the National Enquirer publisher pay Karen McDougal in exchange for the rights to her story in which she says she had an affair with Trump.

Davidson is expected to talk more today about his role in the Stormy Daniels payment.

Trump fundraises while lawyer pleads his case on gag order

As his lawyer Todd Blanche pleads his case on the gag order inside the courtroom, Trump is raising money off it. In a fundraising message that was just sent to supporters, Trump says that he’s “been FULLY GAGGED” and “stuck in court all day.” The link includes a survey asking whether “you support President Trump more or less after every single witch hunt, raid, indictment, and arrest.“

Trump lawyer argues former president should be able to respond to Michael Cohen

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Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche is arguing that the former president should be able to respond to Michael Cohen because of everything he's said about Trump publicly.

Blanche, for example, said Cohen has been inviting, and almost daring, Trump to respond, spreading personal attacks on his character, mocking him for being on trial and on his candidacy for president.

“These are responses to repeated and persisted attacks on him," Blanche said about Trump's responses to Cohen.

“Mr. Cohen has been shopping television shows based upon not only what he did for President Trump, but what he’s doing here," he added.

Cohen’s repeated criticisms of Trump are a major distraction and have given the defense enormous fodder for their arguments. Even if the judge believes Trump’s attacks potentially chill other witnesses from feeling free to testify in this trial, the prosecution would be in a stronger position if they didn’t have to deal with Cohen’s comments.

Trump shook his head while his attorney discussed media attention on trial

Trump was seen shaking his head as Merchan and Blanche discussed the media attention on the hush money case.

After Merchan told Blanche that “nobody forced your client” to speak to the press, Trump shook his head and his lawyer Blanche shot back: “Nobody’s forcing him, but he’s running for president. He has to be able to go speak.”

Trump then turned around and shook his head.

“You’re telling me the scrutiny is outrageous,” Merchan said, “but nobody’s forcing him” to talk to the press in the hall. 

“The entire area has been set up the way it has been set up so that your client, who is a candidate for president,” can exercise his political speech rights, Merchan emphasizes.

Merchan appeared to be losing patience, indicating that the court and the court system have made accommodations to Trump as a candidate, but that as a defendant, he also must be responsible for the content of his communications.

Judge says Trump remarks about a single witness could influence them all

Discussing Trump’s comments on David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer who testified last week, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the comment “wasn’t a warning” nor a “commentary of what Mr. Pecker had testified about.”

Blanche argued that Trump’s comments on Pecker — when he said "be nice" the morning of his continued testimony — were not a willful violation of the gag order and insisted that they were neutral, therefore can’t be read to intimidate Pecker.

Merchan replied that Trump’s comments could affect other witnesses. “It’s about what everybody else ... sees Mr. Trump saying and not saying. It goes to the integrity of the proceedings.”

Biden's name invoked for first time by defense

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

Blanche, Trump's attorney, is responding to prosecutors' claims that Trump violated his gag order multiple times, saying that the statements Trump made are part of his presidential campaign, not an attempt to influence proceedings in the courtroom.

"Part of the campaign takes place outside this courtroom. Part of the campaign takes place in interviews," Blanche told the judge.

Blanche referred specifically to a comment President Joe Biden made over the weekend at the White House Correspondents' Dinner about "stormy weather," telling the judge, "President Trump cannot respond the way he would like to. This was an obvious reference to Stormy Daniels, we cannot respond without saying Stormy Daniels," because the gag order prohibits Trump from speaking about potential witnesses in this trial.

"He cannot respond by saying Stormy Daniels, but he’s certainly allowed to respond to something that’s said by President Biden,” the judge told Blanche.

Prosecutors argue Trump's statements are 'corrosive'

The language prosecutors are using this morning to describe Trump’s alleged conduct is striking. The prosecutors don’t talk publicly during this trial, they don’t hold press conferences or take questions from reporters, so their only chance to push back against what Trump is doing is when they are in court. Today, the prosecutor has argued that Trump is creating an “air of menace” and his statements are “corrosive” to any fair administration of justice — this language is deliberate as reporters are furiously typing in the courtroom.

Prosecutor repeats the DA isn't 'seeking jail' for Trump gag order violations

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy said that the DA's office is "not yet seeking jail" as a punishment for Trump's gag order violations.

“Because we prefer to minimize disruptions to this proceeding, we are not yet seeking jail," he said.

It was actually Judge Merchan who suggested the possibility of jail in his previous order on the earlier violations.

Trump calls trial 'bogus' as he heads into courtroom

Moments before entering the courtroom, Trump touted his rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin yesterday, saying that “it was nice to be able to campaign one day without being in this ridiculous show trial Biden trial.”

The former president described the hush money trial as "bogus," called Merchan “a very conflicted judge” and again claimed that the trial is an attempt at election interference amid his presidential campaign.

Trump then tore into the pro-Palestinian protests at colleges throughout the country, calling it a “shame” and praising the police departments in New York City and Los Angeles for moving to clear out protesters’ encampments at Columbia University and UCLA.

He blamed the "radical left" for the violence at the protests.

“This is a movement from the left, not from the right. The right is not your problem, despite what law enforcement likes to say,” he said.

Prosecutor: Trump violations of gag order are 'deliberate'

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Alexandra Marquez

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy made clear that prosecutors believe Trump is violating the gag order on purpose, not on accident.

Highlighting some of what Trump said about David Pecker, a witness who testified last week, Conroy said the statements "are deliberate shots across the bow to everyone who may come to this courtroom...to talk about the defendant and what he did.”

Trump again won’t commit to accepting the presidential election results

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday wouldn’t commit to accepting the 2024 presidential election results — echoing comments he made during the 2020 election campaign.

“If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results. I don’t change on that,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.”

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also repeated his false claim that he beat Joe Biden in Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

“If you go back and look at all of the things that had been found out, it showed that I won the election in Wisconsin,” Trump told the Journal Sentinel. “It also showed I won the election in other locations.”

Read the full story here.

DA's office is outlining Trump's gag order violations

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy is going through Trump's alleged violations of the judge's gag order. Trump's defense team will then be able to respond afterward.

“He’s already been found to have violated the gag order nine times, and he’s done it again here," Conroy began.

The details on Trump's four alleged gag order violations

Here are the comments from Trump that the Manhattan district attorney's office will argue violated the gag order at the hearing this morning:

  • From remarks in the hallway outside of court on April 22: “But they call the payment to a lawyer a legal expense in the books. They didn’t call it construction, they didn’t say you’re building a building. They called it a payment to a lawyer because as you know, Cohen is a lawyer, represented lot of people over the years. I’m not the only one, and wasn’t very good in a lot of ways in terms of his representation, but he represented a lot of people, but he puts in an invoice or whatever, a bill and they pay and they call it a legal expense. I got indicted for that.” Trump continued, “And when are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial? He got caught lying in the last trial. So he got caught lying, pure lying. And when are they going to look at that?”
  • From an interview Trump gave the same day to "Just The News, No Noise" on the network Real America’s Voice: “But this judge said that I can’t get away from the trial. You know he’s rushing the trial like crazy. Nobody’s ever seen a thing go like this. That jury was picked so fast — 95% Democrats. The area’s mostly all Democrat. You think of it as a — just a purely Democrat area. It’s a very unfair situation that I can tell you.”
  • From an interview Trump gave an ABC News affiliate in Pennsylvania on April 22: "Well, Michael Cohen is a convicted liar and he’s got no credibility whatsoever. He was a lawyer and you rely on your lawyers. But Michael Cohen was a convicted liar. He was a lawyer for many people, not just me. And he got in trouble because of things outside of what he did for me, largely, it was essentially all because what he did in terms of campaign I don’t think there was anything wrong with that with the charges that they made. But what he did is he did some pretty bad things, I guess, with banking or whatever if that was a personal thing to him. David Pecker, I don’t know exactly what he’s going to be testifying against but or about, but he’ll be testifying today.”
  • From a press event in Manhattan on April 25 when asked about the testimony of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker: “He’s been very nice. I mean, he’s been — David’s been very nice. A nice guy.”

Court has begun

Adam Reiss

The trial has begun for the day and first up is a hearing on further allegations that Trump violated the gag order.

Judge Merchan beginning with gag order hearing before Stormy Daniels' ex-lawyer is back on the stand

Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumes today in a Manhattan courtroom with prosecutors set to argue that the judge overseeing the trial should find the former president in criminal contempt — again — for violating a gag order.

The hearing will focus on remarks Trump made last week to reporters in the courthouse hallway and in interviews with two news outlets. In his remarks, Trump referred to his former lawyer Michael Cohen — a key figure and probable witness in the trial — as “a convicted liar.” Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Trump last week also complained that the jury of his peers is overwhelmingly Democratic. Jurors weren’t asked about their party affiliations during the selection process.

Judge Juan Merchan this week held Trump in contempt for nine violations of his April 1 order prohibiting criticism of witnesses and jurors. The violations all pertained to posts on Trump’s social media account and his campaign website. Merchan fined Trump $9,000 — the maximum allowed by law — and warned that any future violations could result in jail time.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche has defended Trump’s online commentary, saying at a hearing last week that he’d been responding to “political” attacks against him. Trump has claimed the gag order is “unconstitutional” because he’s the presumptive Republican nominee for president and should be able to speak his mind.

Read the full story here.

Trump leaves for courthouse

Matthew Johnson

The former president has departed Trump Tower and is headed to Manhattan criminal court.

Trump grumbled he needed more support at trial. Now his allies are showing up.

In the first two weeks of his hush money criminal trial, Trump largely sat alone, without allies, in a drab Manhattan courtroom. He listened to strangers deliver stinging criticism and former friends reveal unflattering details. And he grew frustrated, convinced his supporters could be doing more to help him.

He complained that “no one is defending me,” according to a source who is familiar with some of the former president’s private conversations. He grumbled outside the courtroom that there were no protesters supporting him outside.

On Tuesday, there were signs that his allies are listening to his concerns.

Read the full story here.

Trump again calls gag order 'unconstitutional' in social media post

Trump went to his social media platform this morning to again blast Merchan and allege the trial is an effort to interfere with this year's presidential election, as has become the former president's routine.

Trump again called the gag order the judge has imposed on him "unconstitutional" and implied it was just part of the alleged interference effort, as he did Tuesday outside court and on social media.

"We cannot let this radical left, corrupt and highly conflicted New York Democrat judge interfere with the presidential election of 2024 — the most important election in the history of our country," Trump wrote. "The USA is truly a nation in decline! Remove the unconstitutional gag order."

The judge in the criminal hush money trial held the former president in contempt of court, fined him $9,000 and threatened him with jail time for repeated violations of his gag order. Meanwhile, escalating protests at college campuses across the country are adding to an already tense election year. NBC’s Laura Jarrett and Peter Alexander report for "TODAY."

What happened at trial Tuesday

When court was last in session, on Tuesday, Davidson took the stand and testified about his work as an attorney for Daniels and McDougal as they brokered hush money agreements.

He described how pseudonyms were used to protect the identities of Daniels and Trump and said he “needed to pad the deal” by increasing the hush money sum after the National Enquirer backed out of potentially buying Daniels' story. Davidson also testified that the “Access Hollywood” tape, which emerged weeks before the 2016 election, sparked fresh interest in Daniels’ story, and that he and Daniels came close to ditching the deal after Cohen missed the deadline to pay.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump was held in criminal contempt over social media posts that Merchan said violated his gag order. An appeals court also denied his request that the trial, which got underway April 15, be delayed.

What to expect at trial today

Before the jury is called back into the courtroom this morning, the judge plans to hold a hearing on whether Trump has again violated the gag order in the case.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Judge Juan Merchan should find the Trump in criminal contempt for a second time. They are expected to focus on Trump's comments to reporters outside the courtroom that referred to Cohen — a key figure and probable witness in the trial — as “a convicted liar.”

When testimony resumes, Davidson, who served as an attorney for Daniels and McDougal when they negotiated their hush money deals, is expected to return to the witness stand. Davidson is expected to provide additional details about the payment and the aftermath of the deal before facing questioning by Trump’s attorneys.