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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The words that have defined this week in Trump’s trial



Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he arrives for his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in Manhattan, on Friday, April 26, 2024. Trump was punished for breaking a gag order meant to keep him from attacking people participating in the trial. (Dave Sanders/The New York Times)

By Wesley Parnell


During the past week in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, there has been talk of trysts and the trade in the secrets of the rich and famous.


But the charges at its core revolve around the integrity of dry financial documents.


Prosecutors say Trump faked business records to conceal a payment to a porn actor, Stormy Daniels, whose damaging story threatened to derail his 2016 presidential campaign. The former president is charged with 34 felony counts connected to his reimbursements to his former lawyer and right-hand man, Michael D. Cohen, who paid Daniels to keep her story of a sexual encounter hidden. If convicted, Trump could face probation or up to four years behind bars.


Witnesses so far have included a banker, a media executive, a lawyer for Daniels, a C-SPAN archives specialist and an assistant to Trump. Here are the most memorable things that have been said in court over the past seven days:


‘The boss will take care of it.’


David Pecker, former publisher of The National Enquirer, testified last week about how his publication paid for stories that could have harmed Trump and then never published them. Prosecutors hoped to show that the payments originated with Trump.


Last Thursday, Pecker testified that after the tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc., paid a Playboy model to stay quiet, Trump did not immediately reimburse him. Pecker said he asked Cohen, “Who is going to pay for it?” Pecker said the former fixer-turned-state-witness responded: “Don’t worry. I’m your friend. The boss will take care of it.”


‘Everything was urgent with Michael Cohen.’


Cohen hasn’t yet taken the stand, but he has been mentioned or at least referred to in every stage of the trial, from jury selection to opening statements to witness testimony.


The prosecutors, who expect Cohen to be a key witness, face a challenge in how to describe him. They will need to show that Cohen, of whom witnesses have been critical, is still credible.


“Everything was urgent with Michael Cohen,” said Gary Farro, a banker at First Republic Bank who helped Cohen open an account that was used for the hush-money payment.


Another witness, Keith Davidson, testified Tuesday that a phone call from Cohen was usually a sign of turbulence ahead. Davidson, a lawyer, represented both Daniels and Karen McDougal, the Playboy model, who was paid for her story of an affair.


“No one wanted to talk to Cohen,” Davidson said, adding: “He was highly excitable, sort of a pants-on-fire kind of guy.”


‘The girl is being cornered by the estrogen mafia.’


Davidson was eager to strike a deal for McDougal. He said he tried to dangle the prospect that she might take her story to ABC News, rather than Trump’s ally, The National Enquirer.


He told Cohen in a text message to move fast. Some women, whom he called the “estrogen mafia,” were encouraging McDougal to go to ABC, which he said had offered her a slot on “Dancing With the Stars” in exchange for her story.


On Tuesday, Davidson was contrite about the language he used in 2016. “It’s a very unfortunate, regrettable text I sent,” he said.


Davidson said he thought that Cohen was seeking to delay any payment until Election Day, when it might no longer be necessary.


“I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election,” Davidson said.


‘Standard operating procedure’


Trial lawyers often repeat words or phrases to cement them in jurors’ minds. During cross-examination last week, the defense sought to show that burying stories in the marketplace of salacious news was business as usual for Pecker: Only about half the stories he ever purchased made it to print.


Emil Bove, a lawyer for Trump, argued that killing all sorts of stories was “standard operating procedure,” rather than a scheme specially created to help Trump win the election.


A prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, at one point adopted the phrase himself, grilling Pecker about a licensing agreement. “Is it standard operating procedure for AMI to be consulting with a presidential candidate’s fixer?” Steinglass asked.


“No,” Pecker replied.


‘Incarceratory sentence’


On Tuesday morning, as the trial’s third week opened, Justice Juan Merchan found that Trump had violated a gag order nine times. The order bars the former president from commenting on jurors, court staff, witnesses and the judge’s own family.


“The court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders,” Merchan said.


He imposed $1,000 fines for each violation, and left Trump with a stern message: He would not tolerate further misbehavior and was willing to “impose an incarceratory sentence” to assure it. That means jail.


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Anna Myagkaya
Anna Myagkaya
05 de mai.

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