What you missed on Day 6 of Trump’s trial: A witness details salacious stories and the judge bristles at gag order arguments
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Testimony in Donald Trump’s historic hush money case resumed on Tuesday, with prosecutors urging the court to hold the former president in contempt for attacking witnesses and others, and former tabloid impresario David Pecker returning to the stand with details that linked Trump’s circle to a slew of salacious stories.

Earlier, as Trump awaited the hearing over the gag order in his New York hush money trial, his fundraising appeals took on a frantic tone. Deliberations stretched on for more than an hour, but the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, opted to wait and rule later. 

It left in limbo Trump’s assertion that he had not willfully violated the order, as his attorney vowed, and any consequences for violating it until a later time. And Trump continued to rail about the gag order. 

Here is what you missed on Day 6 of Trump’s hush money trial:

Witness David Pecker returned to the stand

Pecker, the former CEO of AMI and publisher of the National Enquirer, described giving directions to implement an agreement with Trump to help his 2016 presidential campaign. Pecker said the Enquirer “embellished” stories about some of Trump’s opponents at Michael Cohen’s request, including a piece about Ted Cruz’s father being involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy

The publication had “mashed the photos” together of Lee Harvey Oswald and Cruz’s father, Pecker said, conceding that an article Trump cited repeatedly on the campaign trail was a fabrication.

Prosecutors implicate Steve Bannon — and identify Trump’s alleged “primary” crime 

Under questioning, Pecker recounted how Trump introduced him to Steve Bannon, a top adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. He and Bannon “would work well together,” the publisher said Trump told him.

“I believe that you and Steve would get along really well,” Pecker said Trump told him in October 2016. Asked if Bannon had ever pitched him stories, Pecker said Trump’s adviser had suggested how a reporter from the National Enquirer could appear on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to discuss the articles with Hannity.

Doing so would reach an audience of millions. At the time, Fox News had surged to become the most-watched cable news channel, with Hannity, a high-profile Trump ally, enjoying the biggest ratings boost of any host on the network in October that year — a 65% jump over the previous month, according to Nielsen ratings. 

Amid objections from the defense, who said they had no notice that Bannon was being considered a co-conspirator, the prosecution argued that the requests are relevant to the “primary” underlying crime, New York Election Law 17-152.

The law prohibits conspiracies to promote the election of a specific candidate through unlawful means.

Cohen’s involvement 

Pecker said he believed Cohen to be a stand-in for Trump because of how involved he had been in Trump’s business operations and that this continued into the campaign.

He detailed that as the negotiations over buying stories grew, he talked to Cohen daily. Trump’s lawyer, Pecker testified, told him to stop using a landline phone and instead begin using a secure messaging app called Signal, which deletes messages after a period of time.

As Trump’s rivals gained ground during the presidential primary, the National Enquirer would publish stories crafted to impugn their credibility.

“‘Family Man’ Marco Rubio’s Love Child Stunner,” read one headline that is among the exhibits in the trial. Another promised to detail “Senator Marco Rubio’s cocaine connection.” Rubio denied those stories at the time and Pecker suggested that they were without evidence.

Pecker detailed the scheme like so:

“After the Republican debates, and based on the success that some of the other candidates had, I would receive a call from Michael Cohen, and he would direct me and direct Dylan Howard which candidate and which direction we should go,” he said. “That’s how the process happened.” 

There were other stories designed to offer Trump a boost, including a piece about Trump’s wife, Melania, and “how she inspired Trump to run.” Another claimed that Barack Obama’s half-brother was “cheering on Donald Trump at debate.” 

Conversations with Trump

Pecker explained his relationship “over the years” with Trump, and how he got to know him.

“I would describe Mr. Trump as very knowledgeable. I would describe him very detail-oriented. I would describe him almost micromanaging,” Pecker said, amid a discussion over payments. “Looking at all the aspects of whatever the issue was,” he said.

Pecker later told the courtroom how he and Trump had talked every couple of weeks. On rare occasions, it was Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, who would sometimes pass messages to him.

Pecker also testified that he took actions he would not have otherwise to protect Trump.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked why Pecker had paid $30,000 for an untrue story, and if it was “a way to lock it up.”

Pecker said that, yes, he sought to bury it to avoid “potential embarrassment” to Trump and was prepared to spend a sum far out of the ordinary to do so. 

Merchan reserved judgment on the gag order

An attorney for the District Attorney’s office argued that Trump “seems to be angling” for incarceration by knowingly violating the gag order repeatedly. Prosecutors had asked that he be held in contempt for attacking witnesses and others in the case, saying that aren’t asking that Trump be imprisoned but want him fined for at least 10 violations.

The charge came just hours after Trump warned in a fundraising appeal that the former president called a “FAREWELL MESSAGE” that he “could be thrown in jail.”

Trump has been awaiting this hearing since last week and, in the meantime, has continued to jab at witnesses in the case outside the courtroom, on his campaign website, and on social media.

One New York Post article Trump shared that was cited by prosecutors referred to Cohen as a “serial perjurer [who] will try to prove an old misdemeanor.” Trump, on the first day of the trial, posted it twice on Truth Social, and on his campaign website. He did it again the following day.

“The defendant is having his day in court and he is doing everything he can to try to undermine that process,” said prosecutor Chris Conroy. He said the prosecution would file another order arguing statements Trump made about Cohen on Monday in the courthouse hallway also violated the order.

But Trump’s lawyer insisted the gag order was not willfully violated. He is facing a “barrage” of attacks from people “who can say whatever they want,” while he cannot respond, said Todd Blanche.

Merchan grew visibly frustrated as Blanche continued to make the case for Trump. “He’s saying there are two systems of justice in this courtroom?” Merchan asked. Blanche responded, “Yes, Your Honor. That’s what his message is.” 

The judge pressed Trump’s attorney to show him the exact post that Trump was responding to. “I’ve asked you 8 or 9 times,” said Merchan. “You’ve been unable to do that even once.” 

Trump, seated at the defense table, kept his eyes closed and appeared disinterested. 

Blanche, asked whether the defense had any other arguments to hand up, responded that they are “trying to comply” with the gag order. “President Trump is being very careful,” he said.

Merchan snapped. “You’re losing all credibility with the court,” he said.



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