Trump hush money trial Day 7 recap: National Enquirer's David Pecker begins cross-examination

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Editor's note: This page reflects the news from Donald Trump's criminal trial on Thursday, April 25. For the latest news from Trump's hush money trial, read our live trial updates file for Friday, April 26.

NEW YORK — David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, testified Thursday that his editor-in-chief believed porn star Stormy Daniels' allegation of an affair with Donald Trump.

In his testimony in Trump's New York criminal hush money trial about an alleged scheme to "catch and kill" stories that could embarrass Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Pecker also said Trump described Karen McDougal − a Playboy model who alleged an affair with Trump − as "a nice girl." Trump denies both affair allegations.

The former president faces 34 charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments made by his former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

After direct examination of Pecker concluded, Trump lawyer Emil Bove began cross-examining the magazine publisher.

Keep up with USA TODAY's live updates from inside and outside the Manhattan courtroom:

Judge and lawyers discussed Hope Hicks issue away from the jury

After excusing the jurors, but before ending proceedings, Judge Juan Merchan discussed a trial issue with lawyers that is tied to a question from Trump lawyer Emil Bove about whether Hope Hicks was at a 2015 meeting involving David Pecker. Hicks was Trump's presidential campaign communications director for the 2016 election, and later served in Trump's White House.

The judge said Bove misled the jury by asking Pecker if a document would refresh Pecker's recollection about the Hicks issue, and then presenting Pecker with a document that, according to the judge, didn't contain something to refresh Pecker's recollection. The judge clarified he wasn't accusing Bove of deliberately misleading the jury, but will still address the issue with jurors tomorrow.

– Aysha Bagchi

The Trump trial isn't televised, but you can read the transcripts and see the evidence

New York courts is publishing the transcripts of the proceedings and copies of the evidence shown to the jury.

Transcripts of proceedings aren't always available, but officials decided to make them available due to "unparalleled public interest."

You can catch up on Monday and Tuesday's proceedings on the New York State Unified Court System's media website.

-Kinsey Crowley

Trump exits courtroom

Former President Donald Trump exited the courtroom at 4:30 p.m. ET, after proceedings ended for the day.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge releases jurors and Pecker for evening after discussions with lawyers

Judge Juan Merchan told jurors we will end proceedings for today, and has just released Pecker from the stand for the evening.

This is after many of the lawyers in the courtroom have been discussing legal issues privately with Merchan up at his bench, so proceedings aren't entirely wrapped up for the day.

– Aysha Bagchi

The Trump trial isn't televised, but here's how you can read the transcripts

New York courts typically do not allow for cameras in the court room. But for Trump's hush money trial, transcripts will be published online daily.

New York courts is publishing the transcripts of the proceedings and copies of the evidence shown to the jury. Transcripts of proceedings aren't always available, but officials decided to make them available due to "unparalleled public interest."

You can catch up on Monday and Tuesday's proceedings on the New York State Unified Court System's media website.

– Kinsey Crowley

David Pecker says Michael Cohen was always clear he was Donald Trump's personal lawyer, not campaign employee

Responding to a question from Trump lawyer Emil Bove, David Pecker confirmed Michael Cohen was always clear with Pecker that he wasn't working for Trump's campaign, but instead was Trump's personal lawyer.

This could be a key point the defense tries to make throughout the trial. Prosecutors have alleged Trump falsified business records concerning a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in order to unlawfully interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That alleged purpose is one of the key theories from prosecutors for why the charges are felonies.

The defense may try to prove the hush money was for another purpose, such as shielding Trump's family from potentially embarrassing stories.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker asked about meetings with prosecutors

Pecker testified he has met with the prosecutors four or five times. The judge sustained an objection after Trump lawyer Emil Bove gave commentary, saying Pecker's estimate of four-to-five meetings sounds like a lot. Pecker also testified that prosecutors have always told him to tell the truth to the best of his ability.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker describes Tiger Woods leverage attempt

Trump lawyer Emil Bove has been asking Pecker about a history of suppressing negative stories about celebrities. They discuss former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who came up earlier today. They also discuss Pecker buying a story about golf star Tiger Woods around 2007. Pecker bought the story not to run it, he said, but instead to get Woods to agree to appear on the cover of Men's Fitness and to also do an interview. The story material included Woods meeting a woman in a parking lot.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jury appears attentive as witness testimony continues

The jurors have appeared very attentive throughout today's proceedings. Many of them are currently turning their heads back and forth in unison with Trump lawyer Emil Bove asking a question and David Pecker responding. Some are also taking notes.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Emil Bove?

Emil Bove is one of Trump's criminal defense lawyers, along with Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles. Politico reported he joined the cohort in September 2023.

Bove is a former federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

“Emil is an expert in white collar and CIPA-related litigation and his trial skills are among the best in the business,” Blanche said in a statement provided to Politico.

-Kinsey Crowley

Trump lawyer Emil Bove asks Pecker about old relationship with Trump

Trump defense lawyer Emil Bove is cross-examining David Pecker. Pecker confirms he has known Trump for almost 40 years. Pecker confirms introducing Trump to John F. Kennedy Jr. at one point, as well as to George Pataki when Pataki was New York governor from 1995 to 2006.

– Aysha Bagchi

'I still consider him a friend': Pecker direct examination ends

Asked if he has any bad feelings or ill will towards Trump, Pecker responded: "On the contrary." He added: "I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor, he helped me throughout my career."

Pecker told a story about Trump helping him after 9/11, when Pecker's office in Boca Raton, Florida was one of various magazine offices sent anthrax letters. One editor inhaled weaponized anthrax and died, and the FBI quarantined the building, leaving Pecker in a very difficult place both professionally and personally. Trump was "very helpful," Pecker said. Trump recommended a lawyer, and introduced Pecker to someone from the insurance company that covered the building.

"Even though we haven't spoken, ... I still consider him a friend," Pecker said.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass ended his direct examination of Pecker, allowing the defense to start cross-examining him.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump sent Pecker regards after last time they spoke

Pecker testified that he and Trump haven't spoken since January or February of 2019. Asked if Trump has tried to reach out since, Pecker replied: "Not directly." Pecker added that he has friends who go to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, and "he [Trump] would send his regards," but Pecker hasn't responded.

"I felt that, with the investigation that was going on at the same time, I thought it would be inappropriate," Pecker said.

– Aysha Bagchi

National Enquirer parent company agreed not to contest campaign violation, Pecker says

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass has been asking David Pecker about a conciliation agreement, which was separate from the non-prosecution agreement that American Media Inc. entered into with federal prosecutions. In the conciliation agreement, the company was agreeing not to contest that it committed a campaign violation, Pecker testified.

– Aysha Bagchi

In non-prosecution agreement, Pecker disclosed catch-and-kill scheme

Pecker read aloud a statement made as part of the non-prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors and The National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc. The company entered into the agreement to shield itself from prosecution on campaign finance violations.

The statement describes a history Pecker has now testified to in court, including agreeing to help Trump's campaign efforts by catching potential negative stories before they hit the press. It also describes the $150,000 hush money to Karen McDougal.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker describes signing non-prosecution agreement

Pecker said that as part of a September 2018 non-prosecution agreement that American Media Inc. entered into with federal prosecutors, Pecker reviewed a statement of facts having to do with things Pecker says the company did for Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The agreement required the company and its representatives to cooperate and give truthful testimony and information. In return, it would be protected from criminal prosecution for campaign finance violations.

As part of that agreement, the company made several admissions, Pecker confirmed.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump claimed Stormy Daniels owed him $24 million for Anderson Cooper interview: Pecker

Pecker testified that Trump called him and asked if he saw Stormy Daniels' interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Daniels did that interview after McDougal did an interview with Cooper.

Trump told Pecker there was an agreement with Daniels that she cannot mention his name or do anything like this, and each time she breaches the agreement it's a $1 million penalty, Pecker testified. Trump added that, based on the Cooper interview, Daniels owed Trump $24 million.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump was 'very aggravated,' 'very upset' after McDougal's Anderson Cooper interview

David Pecker said Trump called him and asked if he had seen an interview between CNN journalist Anderson Cooper and Karen McDougal. Pecker confirmed he had, and Trump said he thought there was an agreement that McDougal couldn't give interviews or be on television shows. Pecker said he amended it to allow her to speak to the press.

"Mr. Trump got very aggravated," Pecker testified. Trump couldn't understand why Pecker amended the agreement. Pecker told Trump McDougal was flooded with press requests for interviews, so he amended the agreement, even though he also paid her.

Trump was "very upset" and couldn't understand why Pecker amended the agreement, Pecker testified.

– Aysha Bagchi

'I wanted her to remain within our family': Pecker lunch with McDougal

Pecker described having lunch with Karen McDougal. From his standpoint, the purpose was to make sure he and his company were compliant with their agreement with McDougal. Pecker said he wanted her to believe that because he wanted her not to speak to the press after the Wall Street Journal article that published soon before the 2016 election.

"I wanted her to remain within our family, I should say," Pecker testified.

– Aysha Bagchi

Lawyers and judge discuss more evidence issues

The jury hasn't been called into the courtroom yet because the lawyers and judge have been discussing whether a thread of text messages going up through October 2016 can be admitted in the trial. The messages are between former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard and a source of Howard's.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove said the texts are too prejudicial against Trump. The texts haven't been shown to the audience. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said the texts relate to the "core conspiracy" regarding efforts to buy a story, and the jury can be instructed not to take every statement in the text chain as true.

Judge Merchan didn't issue a ruling. He said he wants time to look at the texts closely, and has now called for the jury.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump returns to courtroom ahead of late-afternoon testimony

Trump re-entered the courtroom at 2:11 p.m. ET as we prepare for more testimony from David Pecker after the lunch break.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jury excused for court break

The jury was excused for a break in proceedings at 1:00 p.m. ET. David Pecker, who is wearing a dark suit, a pink shirt, and a red tie, left as well. The judge just declared we will re-start proceedings at 2:15 p.m. ET. Trump exited the courtroom at 1:02 p.m. ET.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump invited Pecker to inauguration

David Pecker said Trump invited him to Trump's presidential inauguration. He said he asked his wife and she didn't want to go, and he decided not to go either.

– Aysha Bagchi

'I believe he would throw himself under a bus for you': Pecker on Cohen's loyalty to Trump

Former National Enquirer executive David Pecker testified he was conversing with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen when Donald Trump came into the room and Cohen told Trump he had gone through old National Enquirer files. "We have nothing to be concerned about," Cohen told Trump, according to Pecker.

Pecker asked to walk back with Trump to Trump's office. During that walk, according to Pecker's testimony, Pecker told Trump that Cohen was very concerned about his bonus for the year and that Cohen has been very loyal and worked very hard. "I believe he would throw himself under a bus for you," Pecker allegedly told Trump.

Trump replied that he didn't know what Pecker was talking about – that Cohen had multiple apartments in Trump's buildings as well as taxi medallions. "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it," Trump added, according to Pecker.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker discusses Wall Street Journal scoop on payment to McDougal

Pecker is being questioned about The Wall Street Journal's story days before the 2016 presidential election of the hush money for former Playboy model and alleged Trump paramour Karen McDougal's story.

Pecker said he authorized American Media Inc. to put out false statements in order to protect his company, himself, and Donald Trump.

– Aysha Bagchi

The boss 'would be furious with me,' Cohen allegedly told Pecker

After Pecker refused to buy Stormy Daniels' story, Cohen was upset and told Pecker the boss "would be furious with me," Pecker testified. Pecker still insisted he wouldn't go forward with purchasing it.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker says he refused to buy Stormy Daniels' story

American Media Publisher David Pecker said on the witness stand that he refused to buy Stormy Daniels' story. He texted National Enquirer Editor Dylan Howard: "We can't pay 120k."

Pecker explained on the stand that he was not a bank and had already put out hush money to Dino Sajudin and Karen McDougal to help Trump. He also said he didn't want to be involved with a porn star.

"Perhaps I call Michael and advise him and he can take it from there, and handle," Howard responded to Pecker, according to text messages displayed to the jury.

– Aysha Bagchi

'This story is true': Pecker gets message from Dylan Howard about Stormy Daniels

The jury has been shown text messages between former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard and David Pecker. A text from Howard said a woman wants $120,000. That woman was Stormy Daniels, Pecker testified.

According to the displayed text messages, Howard texted Pecker: "I know the denials were made in the past – but this story is true." Howard said the woman has offers from "Mail" and "GMA."

– Aysha Bagchi

Is the Trump trial available on TV or live stream? 

No. New York typically does not allow for audio or visual coverage in the courtroom.

However, official transcripts of each day's proceedings will be published on the New York State Unified Court System's press website by the end of the following business day, officials announced Monday.

Kinsey Crowley

David Pecker describes call about Stormy Daniels story in testimony

David Pecker has resumed his testimony. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked who Stormy Daniels is. Pecker says she is a porn star, and he received a call at one point communicating that Daniels was selling a story that she had a sexual relationship with Trump and the story could be acquired if the decision was made "right now."

– Aysha Bagchi

Presidential pardon for 'electoral fraud'?: Judge tentatively keeps texts from jury

Outside the jury's presence, prosecution and defense lawyers have been discussing evidence the prosecution wants to admit of text messages between Dylan Howard and an unnamed relative of Howard's. Howard is unable to travel and come to the trial, according to earlier testimony from Pecker.

In one message, according to the prosecution, Howard texted: "At least if he wins, I'll be pardoned for electoral fraud." He also allegedly texted: "I get pardoned, so it's fine."

Judge Juan Merchan tentatively ruled the texts couldn't come in because Trump's defense team wouldn't be able to conduct cross-examination about them. Merchan cited the right under the Constitution for criminal defendants to be confronted with witnesses against them.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Merchan addressing legal issues outside jury's presence

Judge Juan Merchan is addressing legal issues with lawyers before the jury returns to the courtroom. The attorneys are making arguments about whether certain trial evidence prepared by prosecutors is admissible. One piece of evidence is a record concerning releasing Dino Sajudin from an exclusivity agreement with American Media Inc., the parent company for The National Enquirer. , after the 2016 election. Sajudin told a story — denied by Trump and widely questioned following media investigations — about Trump fathering a child with a housekeeper.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump re-enters courtroom

Trump re-entered the courtroom at 11:22 a.m. ET, taking a look at reporters in the audience as he walked in between them to the defense table.

– Aysha Bagchi

'The boss is going to be very angry': Cohen to Pecker

Before the judge declared a short break in proceedings, Pecker said he told Michael Cohen he didn't want to be reimbursed for money American Media Inc. put out to acquire the rights to Karen McDougal's story. Pecker said he told Cohen that after having a conversation with a lawyer, although Pecker didn't disclose the contents of that conversation.

"The boss is going to be very angry," Cohen allegedly told Pecker. "I can't believe it. I'm a lawyer. I'm your friend. I don't understand why you're so concerned," Cohen added, according to Pecker.

– Aysha Bagchi

Court takes short break

The court is staking a short break. Trump exited the courtroom at 11:14 a.m. ET.

– Aysha Bagchi

Unlawful election interference? Pecker says McDougal hush money wasn't reported

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked David Pecker whether the hush money to Karen McDougal was reported as a campaign finance contribution. Pecker said it wasn't.

Although only the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels is specifically tied to the records falsification charges Trump faces, this testimony could still be important. A key part of prosecutors' story is that the payment to Daniels violated federal campaign finance laws. That makes it unlawful interference in the 2016 election, and makes Trump's alleged records falsification a cover-up for that unlawful interference, they say.

For Trump to be convicted of a felony, prosecutors must show not only that he falsified business records, but also that he did so to commit or conceal another crime. The federal campaign finance tie-in is one theory prosecutors have advanced to prove Trump committed a felony.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker says he never planned to publish McDougal story

David Pecker said he never planned to publish Karen McDougal's story despite American Media Inc., which Pecker headed at the time, buying the rights to it. He said his main reason for buying McDougal's story was to prevent it from influencing the 2016 presidential election.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker says he believed Trump knew about McDougal hush money contract

Pecker testified that Michael Cohen knew about the hush money agreement to keep Karen McDougal quiet, and he believed Donald Trump also knew.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker explaining contract with Karen McDougal

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is walking David Pecker through a contract with Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. Trump denies they had an affair. McDougal would get a monthly column in two different magazines, in addition to the $150,000, Pecker explained.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Stormy Daniels and what is her real name?

Stormy Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, is an adult film star.

Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, months after Melania Trump gave birth to Barron Trump. Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to stay quiet about the alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election

'The boss will take care of it'

Pecker testified about a discussion with Michael Cohen about who would ultimately pay the $150,000 hush money to Karen McDougal to keep her story of an affair with Trump quiet ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Cohen allegedly told Pecker not to worry, "the boss will take care of it." Pecker testified he understood that to mean he would be reimbursed either by the Trump Organization or Donald Trump.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump Media stock price

At open on April 25, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp shares rose to $37, up 3.73% from the previous close.

At close on Tuesday, Trump Media met the requirement to issue 36 million additional shares to Trump in an earnout bonus, worth $1.17 billion at the time.

'Karen is a nice girl,' Trump allegedly said about woman who claims they had affair

David Pecker is testifying about Karen McDougal's story of having an affair with Trump, and his communications with Trump and Michael Cohen about it. McDougal has claimed they had an affair that overlapped with Melania Trump's pregnancy. Trump denies the claim.

"I spoke to Michael. Karen is a nice girl," Trump said to Pecker during a phone call, Pecker testified. Pecker said that comment made him believe Trump knew who McDougal was. Trump asked what Pecker thought he should do, according to Pecker. Pecker recommended Trump buy McDougal's story and take it off the market.

Asked by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass why Pecker thought Trump should buy the story, Pecker testified he believed her story was true, and he thought it would have been very embarrassing for Trump personally as well as for Trump's campaign.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution argues Trump has violated gag order another four times

Judge Juan Merchan hasn't yet ruled on whether to hold Trump in criminal contempt for allegedly violating a gag order. But prosecutor Christopher Conroy said this morning, just before prosecution witness David Pecker re-took the stand, that Trump has again been violating the order.

Conroy pointed to multiple comments by Trump to the press, including calling potential key witness Michael Cohen a "convicted liar" who "did some pretty bad things, I guess."

Conroy said just this morning Trump commented on Pecker as well. "David's been very nice," Trump said, according to Conroy. "This is a message to Pecker: Be nice," Trump allegedly said. "It's a message to others. I have a platform and I can talk about you," and I can say things like this or the kind of things I said about Cohen, Trump allegedly added.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Juan Merchan arrives in courtroom

Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom at 9:35 a.m. EST. As usual, after an attorney for each side introduced their legal team and Trump's lawyer introduced him, Merchan said a general "Good morning" as well as a specific "Good morning, Mr. Trump."

– Aysha Bagch

Trump arrives in courtroom for Day 7 of trial

Trump entered the courtroom at 9:29 a.m. EST. We are still waiting for Judge Merchan.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution team arrives in courtroom

The prosecution team entered the courtroom at about 9:17 a.m. ET. We're still waiting for former President Trump and his trial team, as well as for Judge Juan Merchan.

– Aysha Bagchi

Could Supreme Court presidential immunity arguments impact Trump's New York case?

Early this month, Judge Juan Merchan rejected an argument from Trump to delay the New York criminal trial until after the Supreme Court rules on the scope of presidential immunity in Trump's federal election interference case. Merchan said Trump raised the immunity defense in his New York case too late.

If Trump is found guilty in the New York criminal trial, he could challenge Merchan's immunity ruling on appeal, and potentially point to a Supreme Court immunity ruling as a basis for re-trying the New York case.

– Aysha Bagchi

Why isn't Trump at Supreme Court arguments?

New York trial Judge Juan Merchan rejected a request from former President Donald Trump's legal team last week to allow Trump to attend today's Supreme Court arguments over whether he is immune from prosecution in his federal election interference case. The high court is reviewing whether a former president can be prosecuted for official presidential acts.

"Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal," Merchan said. He added that he understood Trump's desire to be at those arguments, but wouldn't alter the criminal trial plans for them.

– Aysha Bagchi

How old is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is 77 years old. He will turn 78 on June 14, 2024.

Trump was 70 years old when he was inaugurated into office in 2017.

Joe Biden is 81 years old, the first octogenarian president. Biden and Trump have been the two oldest people elected president in U.S. history.

-Kinsey Crowley

What is Trump on trial for?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is prosecuting Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Trump allegedly covered up the purpose of checks to Michael Cohen in order to conceal unlawfully interfering in the 2016 presidential election through a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump has pleaded not guilty. He also denies Daniels' claim that the two of them had sex just months after Melania Trump gave birth to Barron Trump.

 Aysha Bagchi

Trump Media stock price

At close on April 24, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp shares rose to $35.67, up 9.52% from the previous close.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump hush money trial Day 7 recap: Pecker, Daniels, McDougal