Here’s What’s Happened In The Trump Hush Money Trial So Far

Trump Hush Money Trial

It’s been five weeks of the first criminal trial of a former president of the United States, where Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer who is at the center of the hush money payment deal, was on the stand all three days this past week, where he implicated Trump in the reimbursement payments at the heart of Manhattan prosecutors’ case. Court adjourned for the week Thursday so Trump could attend his youngest son’s graduation, and Cohen will return Monday for more cross-examination. Cohen is likely to be the last substantive witness to take the stand for the prosecution, and then it will be the defense’s turn to make Trump’s case.

Catch up on the biggest takeaways of “The People of the State of New York v. Donald Trump,” with details of the trial from our reporters inside the courtroom.

Day 1: Monday, April 15

More than half of first batch of prospective jurors said they can’t be fair and impartial

Jury selection underscores the difficulty in picking a jury when the defendant is a former president who elicits strong feelings on both sides of the aisle.

“Access Hollywood” tape can’t be played, but McDougal can testify

A key victory for Trump was Judge Juan Merchan ruling that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape can’t be played in court, saying it was prejudicial. “It was just a rumor,” Merchan said. The transcript of the video is allowed to go before the jury, he ruled.

The judge sided with prosecutors in allowing Karen McDougal, an actress and model who alleged in 2016 that she also had an affair with Trump, to testify. Trump has denied the affair. While American Media Inc. agreed to pay McDougal $150,000 for her silence about the allegations, this payment is not part the charges against Trump in this trial.

Day 2: Tuesday, April 16

Trump was admonished (again): “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” judge said

Trump was admonished for his conduct — audibly talking and gesturing — when Merchan brought in one of the potential jurors individually to discuss her social media posts raised by Trump’s team.

With potential jurors, prosecutors focused on case, while Trump lawyers focused on Trump

The questioning of potential jurors previewed how the two sides are ultimately approaching the case.

Day 3: Thursday, April 18

“We have our jury”

Trump’s legal team ran out of peremptory challenges to remove a couple jurors who voiced negative opinions of the former president and his politics but said they could be fair and impartial.

DA’s office won’t tell Trump which witnesses they will call first

Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche asked the prosecution to share the first three witnesses, but the DA’s office refused, noting Trump’s social media postings about some witnesses.

Day 4: Friday, April 19

Jury alternates also set

They will sit in the jury box and hear the duration of the trial, but they will only be put on the jury should one or more of the 12 jurors be excused from the case.

Trump still trying to stop his trial

Despite seating a jury, Trump’s legal team again tried to stop the trial in its tracks with another strategic appeal. The request of a stay of the trial was swiftly denied, however.

Day 5: Monday, April 22

Prosecutors opening statement: Trump schemed “to corrupt the 2016 presidential election”

The district attorney’s office framed the case for jurors as illegal payments to try to influence the 2016 election that Trump then tried to illegally cover up by falsifying business records.

Defense opening statement: “Donald Trump is innocent”

Lawyers argued that Trump was not involved with any of the business records he’s accused of falsifying beyond signing the checks.

Tabloid publisher in alleged “catch and kill” scheme testified first

Prosecutors called former AMI CEO David Pecker as the first witness, who they said was a key player in Trump’s scheme to control the public narrative about him ahead of the 2016 election.

Day 6: Tuesday, April 23

Gag order hearing goes badly for Trump

Judge said Trump lawyers are “losing all credibility with the court” after they repeatedly failed to answer his questions about Trump’s social media posts during the hearing.

What the gag order says:

Trump is barred from making statements about witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, and staff and family members of the court and Manhattan attorney’s office. Trump can comment on Judge Juan Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Pecker put jury inside how AMI helped Trump in 2016 campaign

The former CEO of AMI testified about how he worked with Michael Cohen on Trump’s behalf to squash unflattering stories during the 2016 election.

Pecker placed Cohen deep in the “catch and kill” conspiracy

He testified that Cohen was the go-between for Trump fielding media stories from Pecker since 2007.

Day 7: Thursday, April 25

More alleged gag order violations

Prosecutors submitted another motion to hold Trump in contempt for additional violations of the gag order.

Trump wanted to be elsewhere Thursday

Trump’s attorneys had asked for his appearance Thursday to be waived so he could attend the Supreme Court arguments on presidential immunity. The judge denied that request.

Pecker detailed conversations with Trump about McDougal payment

Pecker testified to putting up the money for the rights to McDougal’s story, and Trump’s anger when the story went public in 2016, and again in 2018. Pecker also mentioned refusing to do the same for the Stormy Daniels story, which led to Cohen paying her directly.

Pecker agreed in cross-examination that suppressing stories was “standard operating procedure”

Quizzing Pecker with rapid-fire questions, Trump’s lawyer got the witness to confirm to the jury that Trump’s symbiotic relationship with Pecker and his tabloids was not unusual and long pre-dated Trump’s run for office.

Trump’s attorney asked Pecker about tactics National Enquirer used for other celebrities

Trump’s attorney sought to establish with Pecker that AMI would buy stories that would not be published to control narratives in the press and fostered mutually beneficial relationships with several celebrities, not just Trump.

Day 8: Friday, April 26

Trump lawyer tried to puncture Pecker’s credibility

In Pecker’s final day on the stand, Trump’s attorneys sought to undercut his testimony with a series of alleged inconsistences, pointing out discrepancies from prior interviews with federal and state prosecutors and disputing his testimony that AMI admitted it violated campaign finance law.

Prosecutors tried to re-establish Pecker’s credibility

Prosecutors responded during redirect to reestablish Pecker’s credibility in his answers, showing how his story was consistent and that AMI did admit to campaign finance violations.

Trump cracked a smile for his longtime assistant, who testified next

Rhona Graff testified to stored contact information in the Trump Organization system for Daniels and McDougal. She also testified to seeing Daniels in Trump Tower once, though she acknowledged during cross-examination that it could have been related to “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Defense tried to humanize Trump

Trump’s lawyers sought to establish that both Pecker and Graff have positive views of Trump. Pecker responds affirmatively when asked if Trump cares for his family and Graff indicated that Trump respected her intelligence during her 34 years working for him.

Jury shown paper trail

Prosecutors called banker Gary Farro to the stand, who testified to records regarding a shell company set up by Cohen to pay AMI for the rights to McDougal’s story, a payment that never transpired. Cohen instead opened an account for another company, Essential Consultants, an entity ultimately used to pay Daniels in the hush money scheme to suppress her story about an alleged affair with Trump.

Day 9: Tuesday, April 30

Trump is fined – and faces more later this week

Before the jury was called in Tuesday morning, Merchan levied a $9,000 fine against the former president for violations of the judge’s gag order.

Jurors heard about the Daniels payment paper trail

Cohen’s former banker Farro returned to the stand, walking the jury through the records showing it took Cohen less than 24 hours to open an account for a shell company and use it to wire $130,000 to Daniels’ attorney.

Trump videos played for the jury in court

Prosecutors used records custodians to enter several video clips into evidence. Content in the clips include: Trump vehemently denying allegations from women who publicly accused him of sexual assault after the “Access Hollywood” tape during campaign events, complimenting Cohen as a “very talented lawyer,” confirming his marriage to Melania Trump since 2005 and identifying himself during a deposition as the speaker in the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Stormy’s ex-lawyer took the stand

Attorney Keith Davidson, who represented both McDougal and Daniels when they were shopping their stories in 2016, described in detail his conversations with AMI’s then-chief content officer Dylan Howard, including around the $150,000 deal for McDougal’s story. When AMI backed out on Daniels, Davidson says he drew up a contract to sell it directly to Cohen.

A family affair

Trump’s son Eric attended trial, the first family member of the former president to do so, sitting alongside the typical accompaniment of Trump aides. Merchan also said things were moving quickly enough that he’s comfortable having no court on May 17 so the former president can attend his son Barron’s graduation.

Day 10: Thursday, May 2

Another gag order hearing over Trump comments

Prosecutors pointed to four of Trump’s comments since last Monday — two were about Cohen, the others were about the jury and former AMI chief David Pecker. Merchan has not yet ruled on the latest allegations.

Trump lawyer dragged Davidson through the celebrity mud

On cross-examination, Bove raised a host of celebrities Davidson has dealt with who are not directly relevant to the case — Hulk Hogan, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and Tila Tequila — seeking both to undercut Davidson’s credibility as a witness and to argue that the deals he cut involving the former president followed a long-running pattern.

Jurors heard recorded calls between ex-Daniels’ lawyer and Cohen

Cohen could be heard telling Davidson about the Daniels deal, “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 that you’ve spoken to told you it was the right move.’”

Witnesses didn’t have nice things to say about Cohen

Davidson described how Cohen was difficult to deal with, frequently acting in a “pants on fire” manner. Davidson’s testimony followed Cohen’s onetime banker, who said that he was given Cohen’s account because he was used to dealing with difficult clients. And Pecker recounted the prickliness of Cohen, describing him as agitated and frequently upset, particularly when Pecker told him the Daniels deal was off.

Trump denied reports that he is sleeping during the trial

“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!!!” Trump said in a post during the lunch break.

Day 11: Friday, May 3

Hicks described the tape “crisis” and denying Daniels’ allegations

Trump’s former campaign press secretary and White House communications director Hope Hicks took the stand. Through her testimony, prosecutors showed jurors the transcript of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that upended Trump’s campaign — and, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, fueled Trump’s concern about keeping Daniels quiet in the days before the November 2016 election.

Jurors heard how Trump responded to “Access Hollywood” tape in 2016

“He said that didn’t sound like something he would say,” Hicks testified, noting Trump asked to see the actual tape. Once Trump saw the tape, however, he was upset.

Before cross-examination, Hicks began crying and appeared to become overwhelmed; she finished her testimony after a brief break.

Prosecutors are getting closer to the crime

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records stemming from how he allegedly hid the way Cohen was reimbursed for paying $130,000 to Daniels in order to keep her quiet before the 2016 election. With Hicks’ testimony about the reaction inside the White House in 2018 to Cohen’s payment to Daniels, prosecutors nudged closer to the repayment and the alleged charges.

Attacks continued against Cohen

Trump’s legal team continued its trial-long assault on Cohen’s credibility Friday, going after everything from the way he handled his cell phones to how he would go “rogue” during the 2016 campaign.

Gag order fine paid

Trump has paid the $9,000 fine for violating the gag order, a court official said. The judge has yet to rule on newer allegations of violations.

Day 12: Monday, May 6

Judge threatened to jail Trump: “…I want you to understand that I will, if necessary and appropriate,” he said.

After issuing one additional gag order violation to the former president — for a total of 10 throughout the trial so far — Merchan explicitly warned that he might throw Trump in jail if he again continued to violate the gag order.

Jurors saw checks, invoices and books at heart of charges

Former Trump Org. controller Jeffrey McConney testified to the $35,000 invoices he processed for Cohen as a reimbursement for the $130,000 hush money payment. He confirmed he then sent the invoice to Trump Org. accounts payable employee Deborah Tarasoff to cut the check.

Tarasoff later testified that she cut checks mostly from Trump’s personal account and sent them to Washington, DC, to be signed by Trump at the White House.

With each payment, prosecutors showed that the money was entered in the business records as “legal expenses” even though Cohen was being paid back for the hush money payment rather than legal service.

McConney showed why Cohen was reimbursed $420,000

Jurors saw handwritten notes penned by former Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg and McConney in January 2017 calculating a payment to Cohen totaling $420,000 — which included a $60,000 bonus for Cohen — and was to be paid to him in monthly $35,000 installments.

McConney walked the jury through the penned calculations explaining that they included reimbursements for $50,000 in tech services and Cohen’s $130,000 wire transfer to Daniels’ lawyer, which were “grossed up” to $360,000 to account for taxes on that money. The former controller also acknowledged that expense reimbursements aren’t taxable income.

Trump was more engaged with testimony about his business

Trump was turned toward McConney and Tarasoff as they testified, watching them more closely than most of the previous witnesses.

Day 13: Tuesday, May 7

Daniels described sexual encounter in detail

Daniels walked the jury through the details of her 2006 encounter with Trump in his hotel room, where the adult film star says had sex with Trump. (Trump has denied the affair.) Some of the details Daniels described were so explicit that the judge cut her off at several points.

Hush money came after “Access Hollywood” tape controversy

Daniels testified that efforts in selling her story were largely unsuccessful until the “Access Hollywood” tape came out just before the 2016 election, which is what then led to Cohen buying it for $130,000 to keep her story quiet.

Judge denied Trump’s mistrial motion

Trump’s attorneys argued Daniels’ testimony about their alleged sexual encounter was grounds for a mistrial. Trump still vehemently denies the allegations, his attorney Todd Blanche said, arguing there was no way to “un-ring that bell” for jurors who have now heard unfairly prejudicial testimony. Merchan said some things were “better left unsaid” but ruled that it did not warrant a mistrial.

Defense accused Daniels of lying for profit

Daniels’ body language was tense and her tone notably shifted as Trump attorney Susan Necheles attempted in cross-examination to dismantle her credibility. Necheles pushed Daniels, asking if she hated Trump. Daniels said, “Yes.” Necheles also asked if Daniels extorted money from Trump. Daniel’s replied sharply, “False.”

Day 14: Thursday, May 9

Another day of contentious Daniels testimony

Trump’s lawyers continued their attack on Daniels’ credibility, with Necheles accusing the adult film star of making up the story of having sex with Trump to make money. Daniels pushed back on claims she was untruthful about her sexual encounter with Trump, saying that the story was true, even as she was confronted with inconsistencies in some of the small details of her account.

Prosecutors, defense spar over Daniels’ financial situation

Necheles continued to suggest that Daniels was making money off of saying she had sex with Trump, pointing to a tweet where she said she’d earned 1 million dollars. During re-direct, prosecutors had Daniels recount how telling her story has also cost her, from having to move her daughter and hire security to the lawyers’ fees she was ordered to pay after she sued Trump and lost.

Former Trump aides described inner White House operations

A junior bookkeeper at the Trump Organization and Trump’s former White House aide testified that they roundtripped checks for Trump to sign. Rebecca Manochio of the Trump Organization testified she placed unsigned checks in a manila envelope and FedEx’d them to Trump aides in Washington for his signature.

Former White House aide Madeleine Westerhout testified she gave Trump the manila envelope with the checks that he personally signed and FedEx’d them back to New York. Westerhout did not testify to direct knowledge of the checks that Trump signed to Cohen, which are cited in the charges, but their accounts support the prosecution’s theory that Trump was involved in signing of the checks to Cohen in 2017.

Trump doesn’t get carve-out from gag order

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked for Trump to be allowed to publicly defend himself against Daniels’ allegations, arguing the former president currently is forced to stay silent in response to the suggestion that there was a non-consensual sexual encounter between her and Trump. Merchan denied the request.

Merchan denied another mistrial motion

The judge said Trump’s outright denial of the incident and his legal team’s attack on her credibility opened the door for prosecutors to bring in Daniels’ testimony that turned salacious.

Day 15: Friday, May 10

Trump signed documents without reviewing them, former Trump aide confirmed in testimony

In cross-examination, Necheles pressed Westerhout to reiterate that she knows the former president to care about his family. Westerhout also testified that Trump would sign many checks without reviewing them, multi-tasking while on the phone and while meeting people. The prosecution has argued that Trump made the payments to influence the election, while the defense has said the payments were to protect his family.

Prosecutors introduce key text and call records into evidence

Prosecutors spent the rest of the day calling a series of custodial witnesses to introduce cell phone records into evidence, which prosecutors plan to use to try to convince the jury Trump is guilty of falsifying business records.

In addition, prosecutors introduced a series of text messages between Daniels’ then-manager Gina Rodriguez and National Enquirer editor in chief Dylan Howard in 2016. The texts corroborate what Daniels and Davidson have testified so far that the deal briefly fell apart in mid-October – and will also likely help bolster Cohen’s credibility when he takes the stand next week.

Judge to Cohen: Please stop talking

Ahead of Cohen’s expected testimony, Blanche urged Merchan to order Cohen to stop talking about the trial and Trump. Merchan has already said he cannot gag witnesses in the case, but told prosecutors to ask Cohen not to make statements about Trump or the case.

Day 16: Monday, May 13

Cohen tied Trump to the Daniels hush money payment

Through roughly five hours of testimony, Cohen walked jurors through how he worked with former National Enquirer publisher Pecker on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 campaign to kill negative stories; how he kept Trump apprised of his hush money negotiations with Keith Davidson, the attorney for Daniels and former Playboy model McDougal; and how Trump approved and was aware of how Cohen would be falsely repaid for the 2016 Daniels payment of $130,000 as legal services.

Cohen tied the hush money reimbursement to Trump, too

Cohen’s testimony ties together the prosecution’s allegations that Trump broke the law by falsifying business records to reimburse Cohen. Cohen testified that when he told Trump about Daniels’ claims soon after the Access Hollywood tape came out Trump told him it would be a “disaster” that could drive female voters away and to “stop this from getting out.” Prosecutors allege Trump buried the stories to influence voters in 2016 and then falsified business records to cover it up. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies having an affair with Daniels.

Cohen described being Trump’s protector

Cohen, who at the height of their relationship used to say he’d take a bullet for Trump, testified Monday about each media story he killed and nondisclosure agreement he locked down ahead of the 2016 election, always in the name of protecting Trump.

No fireworks in Trump, Cohen showdown

The former president glanced up at Cohen a few times, but there was never an obvious moment of eye contact. Cohen avoided making eye contact with Trump when he entered and left the courtroom passing by the defense table.

Trump’s entourage grew for Cohen’s testimony

On Monday, Trump had his biggest entourage of GOP lawmakers yet — including potential vice presidential hopefuls. Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were in court, as were New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis from Trump-friendly Staten Island and the attorneys general of Alabama and Iowa.

Day 17: Tuesday, May 14

Cohen walked jurors through his decision to cease being loyal to Trump

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger used several questions to walk Cohen through his past legal run-ins, including when the FBI searched his apartment, hotel room and office and his decision to plead guilty to numerous charges including campaign finance, tax fraud and lying to Congress. Cohen said he spoke with Trump after the raid and was told, “Everything is going to be okay. Stay tough.” Cohen described how a conversation with his family in August 2018 convinced him to change his tune, plead guilty and tell the truth about Trump, he said Monday.

As cross-examination began, Blanche tried to use Cohen’s words to discredit him

Blanche quizzed Cohen on the many compliments he gave Trump when he was still a loyal fixer and the insults he’s hurled at the former president and the money he’s made from books and podcasts since turning against him. Cohen did not get rattled when his nasty statements were read back to him, and Trump hardly reacted to his lawyer’s interrogation. Blanche pushed Cohen on his motivations since turning on the former president, suggesting Cohen is now driven by revenge and money.

More Trump allies flocked to court

Tuesday saw the biggest group of politicians at the courthouse, including Trump’s onetime presidential-rival-turned-VP-hopeful North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Reps. Byron Donalds and Cory Mills, and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy — all seated behind Trump for much of the day. House Speaker Mike Johnson was also in the courthouse hallway that day in support of Trump, but not in the courtroom itself.

Day 18: Thursday, May 16

A heated confrontation over a key phone call

Blanche raised his voice and flailed his arms at Cohen during further cross-examination, accusing the prosecution’s star witness of making up a phone conversation with Trump just before he sent the $130,000 to Daniels’ attorney in 2016.

Trump’s attorney confronted Cohen with text messages he sent with Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller — whom Cohen had said put Trump on the phone “to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter” — which were unrelated to anything having to do with Trump or Daniels.

Cohen navigated years of inconsistent statements

Blanche questioned Cohen on a myriad of topics, including the recanting of his 2018 guilty plea on tax charges, whether he wanted to work in the White House and what he’s said about a pardon from Trump.

Cohen maintained on the stand that he only ever wanted to be Trump’s personal attorney — the position he held until he became the subject of a federal investigation. Cohen also conceded in cross-examination that while he testified publicly to Congress that he never asked Trump for a pardon, he actually did seek out a pardon from the former president through his attorney and later told lawmakers as much behind closed doors.

Trump paid unusually close attention to Cohen testimony

Trump’s demeanor shifted on Thursday afternoon as the attention turned to Cohen and the media. When Cohen told Blanche he has recorded roughly 40 conversations with reporters over the years, Trump turned to his attorney Susan Necheles and they both smirked at the response.

Story was published by CNN .com