Trump trial Day 6 recap: National Enquirer's David Pecker testifies on killing stories

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Editor's note: This page reflects the news from Donald Trump's criminal trial from Tuesday, April 23. For the latest news from Trump's hush money trial in New York, read our live trial updates for Thursday, April 25.

NEW YORK — Former media executive David Pecker retook the witness stand on in Donald Trump's New York hush money trial Tuesday.

Pecker testified that he used National Enquirer to promote Trump's 2016 campaign interests, including stifling a story about an alleged love-child of Trump's. Pecker's actions were part of a "catch-and-kill" conspiracy with Trump to quash stories that could hurt Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, according to prosecutors.

Tuesday's proceedings began with arguments over whether the former president should be held in contempt for allegedly violating a gag order.

Prosecutors say Trump has violated that order at least 10 times and the judge should not only fine the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but also warn him he could get jail time if things don't change. Even Monday, Trump again attacked potential witness Michael Cohen outside the courtroom, saying Cohen "got caught lying, pure lying" in a previous trial.

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

Trump complains gag order silences him but not others

After Donald Trump thundered against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, before court Tuesday, the former president left after the trial adjourned for the day without mentioning Cohen by name because of a gag order not to comment on potential witnesses.

"The case is a sham,” Trump told reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom. "We have a gag order, which to me is totally unconstitutional. I’m not allowed to talk, but people can talk about me. They can talk about me, they can say whatever they want, they can lie, but I’m not allowed to say anything.”

Cohen, who is expected to testify about paying $130,000 to silence porn actress Stormy Daniels for Trump, called Trump a profanity in a social media post and said “no one is above the law.”

Judge Juan Merchan ordered Trump not to comment on potential witnesses such as Cohen. Prosecutors urged him Tuesday to fine Trump $1,000 for each of at least 10 alleged violations so far, but Merchan didn’t rule immediately.

−Bart Jansen

Former President Donald Trump (L) arrives for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 23, 2024. Trump faces a contempt of court hearing on Tuesday as part of his historic criminal trial, with New York prosecutors insisting the former president repeatedly violated the gag order issued to prevent him from intimidating witnesses.

Judge ends Tuesday proceedings

Judge Juan Merchan ended Tuesday proceedings and Trump exited the courtroom at 2:02 p.m. ET.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump allegedly said: 'Anytime you do anything like this, it always gets out'

Pecker testified that he recommended Trump buy McDougal's story and Trump responded: "I don't buy any stories." Trump added: "Anytime you do anything like this, it always gets out."

Pecker still recommended keeping the story from getting out. Trump said he wanted to think about it and he would have Cohen call Pecker.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen allegedly asked for non-traceable communication as McDougal story arose

Pecker testified that he was speaking to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen frequently around the first week of June in 2016, which was around when Karen McDougal's story came up. While previously they spoke "probably" a couple times a week, they were now speaking almost every day, sometimes a couple of times a day.

Cohen suggested that he and Pecker communicate over Signal, a communication application. Cohen said no one would be able to trace it or listen in, and the conversation would be destroyed after the call, according to Pecker. Pecker added he doesn't know if that's true.

– Aysha Bagchi

Playboy model Karen McDougal's story being discussed

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is now asking David Pecker about former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story. McDougal alleged that she had an affair with Trump that overlapped with Melania Trump's pregnancy. Trump denies the claim.

– Aysha Bagchi

Sajudin only released from exclusivity agreement after election

Pecker said he told then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen that Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin's story of an alleged Trump love-child wasn't true and Sajudin was difficult to deal with. Pecker suggested releasing Sajudin from the agreement to keep his story exclusive, adding that keeping Sajudin locked in would cause more problems. Cohen said not to release Sajudin until after the November, 2016 election. Sajudin was released in December.

– Aysha Bagchi

Biggest story 'since the death of Elvis Presley'

Pecker said Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin's story of a Trump love-child would have been the biggest National Enquirer story "since the death of Elvis Presley." He said if the story turned out to be true, he would have published it after the 2016 presidential election. "That was the conversation I had with Michael Cohen, and that's what we agreed to," Pecker said.

However, in investigating the story, Pecker's team concluded the story was completely untrue. He said he still paid $30,000 to keep it from getting out through another media outlet and hurting the Trump campaign.

– Aysha Bagchi

'The boss will be very pleased': Pecker says he agreed to buy love-child story

Pecker said he called then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen and said they needed to move forward with getting Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin's story, and had a negotiated price for the story of $30,000. Pecker said he would pay for it and Cohen thanked him, adding, "The boss will be very pleased." Donald Trump was "the boss," Pecker confirmed.

Cohen later spoke to Pecker and said Trump would take a DNA test and the story of a love child between them is "absolutely impossible." Pecker said that wouldn't be necessary, and that his team would vet the story.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor asks about Trump Tower doorman's widely questioned story on Trump love child

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked David Pecker who Dino Sajudin is. Pecker replied he was a doorman at Trump Tower who, Pecker heard, was selling a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child with a maid. "I immediately called Michael Cohen," Pecker said. Cohen replied that the story is "absolutely not true," but said he would check it out, according to Pecker.

Sajudin's story has been widely questioned. Sajudin only claimed to have been told about the child, and a New Yorker investigation "uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child." Trump has denied Sajudin's story.

– Aysha Bagchi

‘No one is above the law’: Cohen

Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Donald Trump, who is expected to be a key witness in the trial, fired back Tuesday at the former president’s criticism in social media posts and statements to reporters.

Cohen was imprisoned after pleading guilty to charges including lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Moscow and for a campaign violation for paying to silence porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He is expected to testify about the payment to Daniels.

Trump has been trashing Cohen as a liar and a poor lawyer before he was disbarred. But Cohen said Tuesday in a statement he learned about his own strength during 51 days in solitary confinement.

“Strong enough to ensure that truth will prevail over Donald and his acolytes’ incessant lying and denigration of me; in the court hallways or his UNtruth Social platform,” Cohen said. “Regardless. no one is above the law.”

−Bart Jansen

Pecker re-takes the witness stand

David Pecker re-took the witness stand at 12:51 p.m. ET. The judge and the legal teams are already back in the courtroom. We are waiting for the jury.

– 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

Judge declares a short break

Judge Juan Merchan declared a short break at about 12:40 p.m. ET. Court is scheduled to end early at 2 p.m. ET today, in light of the Passover holiday, and is running through lunch.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge excuses jurors for 'short break' after Steve Bannon raised in court proceedings

Trump defense lawyer Emil Bove objected as the prosecution was asking David Pecker about Steve Bannon's involvement. The legal teams had a private conversation at the judge's bench before the judge excused the jurors for a short break, while others remain in the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

'TED CRUZ SEX SCANDAL – 5 SECRET MISTRESSES' – examples shown of allegedly planted stories 

The prosecution has shown stories about Ben Carson and Ted Cruz on screens inside the courtroom. Pecker confirmed the articles were run in accordance with the agreement he says he reached with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in Trump Tower to help the Trump campaign.

One story headline shown to the jury, which appeared to have been posted on March 30, 2016, said: "TED CRUZ SEX SCANDAL – 5 SECRET MISTRESSES." The story had a subheading stating: "The romps that are rocking his presidential campaign!"

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker believed Cohen was calling on behalf of Trump

Pecker testified that, when Cohen would call Pecker and say, "We would like" for a negative story on a Trump opponent, Pecker understood Cohen to be calling on behalf of Trump.

– Aysha Bagchi

How Cohen would plant negative stories on Trump opponents: Pecker

Michael Cohen would call David Pecker and say, "We would like" for you to run a negative article on a certain political opponent, Pecker testified. Then Cohen would send Pecker information about, say, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson, or Marco Rubio, and that was the basis for The National Enquirer's story, Pecker said.

"Then we would embellish it from there," Pecker added. He described specifically adding photos, planning out how to execute the story – things that he said went beyond just coming up with a story headline.

– Aysha Bagchi

'Highly confidential': What Pecker says he told Michael Cohen

Pecker testified that he told Cohen the agreement to help the Trump presidential campaign had to be "highly confidential." Pecker said the arrangement was designed to have him vetting stories first and then sharing them with Cohen. Pecker said, in order to help the campaign, he wanted to keep things as quiet as possible.

– Aysha Bagchi

Why did David Pecker think women would be selling stories on Trump?

Pecker testified that he thought a number of women would try to sell stories because Trump was "well known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women." He said it was clear based on his past experience that when someone is running for public office, it is very common for women to call up a place like The National Enquirer to try to sell their stories, or Pecker would hear in the marketplace that women's stories were being marketed.

– Aysha Bagchi

Pecker promised to notify Michael Cohen of any women selling stories on Trump

David Pecker described a meeting about what his magazines could do to help the Trump presidential campaign. Pecker testified he made the following promise: "I would run or publish positive stories about Mr. Trump and I would publish negative stories about his opponents."

Pecker testified that he promised to be "eyes and ears" because he knew the Trump Organization had a "very small staff." Pecker said he promised that, if he heard anything negative about Trump or anything about women selling stories, he would notify Michael Cohen, as he did over the last several years. Cohen would then have the stories killed, Pecker testified.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump noted National Enquirer poll while considering presidential run: Pecker

Pecker testified about passing on information to Trump that a poll showed 80% of The National Enquirer would want Trump to run for president. That may be a reference to 80% of the publicaton's readers. Trump later cited that poll in an interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, Pecker said. Trump announced his candidacy for president at a later date, Pecker said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump's approach to money? 'Very frugal': Pecker

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked David Pecker about Donald Trump's approach to money. Pecker said Trump was "very cautious" and "very frugal."

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump is 'very detail-oriented' and a 'micromanager': Pecker

David Pecker testified that he and Trump would mostly reach each other through their offices over the years. He described Trump as knowledgable and "very detail-oriented," adding that he would characterize Trump almost as a "micromanager" who looked at all of the aspects of whatever issue was going on.

– Aysha Bagchi

'The Apprentice' TV show helped Pecker's magazines: Pecker

David Pecker testified that Trump's "The Apprentice" TV show was helpful to Pecker's magazines because the audience for The National Enquirer and other celebrity magazines followed Trump "religiously."

– Aysha Bagchi

'I've had a great relationship with Mr. Trump over the years': Pecker

David Pecker said he met Donald Trump at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club around 1988 or 1989. "I've had a great relationship with Mr. Trump over the years," Pecker said. Trump was very helpful in introducing Pecker to other media people, Pecker said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge clarifies there will be no trial proceedings on Monday

Judge Juan Merchan clarified that there will be no trial proceedings on Monday, April 29, and there will be a full day of trial proceedings on Tuesday, April 30. Merchan mistakenly gave different scheduling instructions yesterday.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump blasts ‘kangaroo court’ during trial

During a recess in the trial, while Judge Juan Merchan mulled whether to fine Trump for violating his gag order, Trump posted more all-caps criticism of the judge on social media.

“This is a kangaroo court, and the judge should recuse himself!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Merchan didn’t bar criticism of himself in the gag order.

Trump asked for Merchan to be removed from the case because his daughter works for Democratic politicians. But Merchan refused to withdraw, based on the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics finding the case didn't involve Loren Merchan or her business either "directly or indirectly."

--Bart Jansen

David Pecker enters courtroom

Prosecution witness David Pecker entered the courtroom at 11:22 a.m. ET. Judge Merchan reminded him he is still under oath. Merchan just asked for the jury to be brought in.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump re-enters courtroom

Former President Donald Trump and his defense team re-entered the courtroom at about 11:01 a.m. ET after a break in proceedings. The prosecution team is here as well. We are still waiting for the judge to arrive.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump ignores reporter questions on gag order

As Trump walked through the hallway on a break in proceedings, he didn't respond to the following reporter questions on whether he will keep posting on Truth Social or if his lawyer has credibility.

  • Are you going to keep Truthing?

  • How are your lawyers doing?

  • Does your lawyer have any credibility?

Judge to rule on alleged gag order violations later

Judge Juan Merchan said he will rule on Trump's alleged gag order violations later. He made that statement after a lengthy back-and-forth with Trump lawyer Todd Blanche. Merchan did say Trump's defense team didn't prove anything relevant by pointing out that Trump had a history of re-posting things without the prosecution always coming to the court to argue that those re-posts were violations.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge questions Trump lawyer's suggestion that re-posting is not violation

Some of the alleged gag order violations involve Trump re-posting a news article or statement by someone else. Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche questioned treating those re-posts as gag order violations by Trump. But Blanche also confirmed to Judge Merchan that re-posting requires active behavior. He said a group of folks work with Trump and when they see articles they believe Trump's audience should read, they take an action to re-post them.

Merchan questioned the proposition that Blanche could call something a "re-post" and then Trump could wash his hands of it.

– Aysha Bagchi

Why did Judge Merchan issue a gag order?

Judge Juan Merchan issued a gag order restricting Trump's speech based on what Merchan said was a history of "threatening, inflammatory, denigrating" statements by Trump against officials, prosecutors, and court staff. The statements instilled fear in people involved in Trump's legal cases and heightened security needs, according to Merchan.

Such statements "undoubtedly risk impeding the orderly administration of this Court," according to the March 26 order.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche addresses judge on gag order

Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche has begun addressing the judge. "He's allowed to respond to political attacks, your honor," Blanche said, defending Trump's statements.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution not asking Trump be incarcerated – for now

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy ended his remarks by asking Judge Merchan to remind Trump that incarceration is an option "should it be necessary," if Trump keeps violating the gag order. "It has to stop," Conroy adds. For now, the prosecution wants Trump held in criminal contempt and fined.

– Aysha Bagchi

What are the restrictions under the Trump gag order?

Under the gag order, Trump is prohibited from publicly commenting on the participation of potential witnesses in the case, such as former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and porn star Stormy Daniels.

Merchan also barred Trump from publicly commenting on court staff and prosecution lawyers other than Bragg, as well as their family members, if the comments are intended to significantly interfere with their work in the case. That protection was also extended to Merchan's and Bragg's family members.

Trump is also prohibited from publicly commenting on jurors.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor running through each alleged Trump gag order violation

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy is detailing each alleged Trump gag order violation. Many of the alleged violations deal with Trump going after his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. "This is while we're on trial. The trial has now begun," Conroy emphasized as he discussed a post.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump promotes Pennsylvania primary

Sticking to political subjects, Trump urged voters to the polls in Pennsylvania for the Tuesday primary.

Trump supported GOP Senate candidate David McCormick in his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

“It’s very important to let them that we’re coming on Nov. 5, we’re coming big,” Trump said. “Pennsylvania get out and vote.”

--Bart Jansen

Prosecutor says Trump violated gag order again Monday

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy has begun addressing Judge Merchan about Trump's alleged gag order violations. In addition to the 10 instances the prosecution already identified to the judge, Conroy says Trump violated the order again yesterday when he spoke to press in the courthouse hallway. Trump said there that potential prosecution witness Michael Cohen "got caught lying, pure lying" in a previous trial.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump blasts college protests over Israel

Former President Donald Trump focused on politics before entering the courtroom Tuesday, blasting student protesters and arguing that President Joe Biden will never achieve peace in the Middle East.

Trump criticized protests at Columbia, New York University and other schools against the Israeli war in Gaza. He argued radicals are trying to tear down colleges. People want to protest outside the court but are blocked by the police presence, he said.

“What’s going on is a disgrace to our country and it’s all Biden’s fault and everybody knows it,” Trump told reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom. “Peace will never happen with a guy like this.”

--Bart Jansen

Lawyers and judge in Trump trial have returned

At 9:39 a.m. ET, the lawyers and Judge Juan Merchan re-entered the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge and lawyers having private conversation

Proceedings started with one of the lawyers asking to approach the judge and then lawyers from both trial teams leaving the courtroom with the judge through a back doorway. Trump is now, as of 9:35 a.m. ET, seated all alone at his defense table. He is wearing a dark blue suit jacket and a red tie.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Juan Merchan arrives

Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom at 9:32 a.m. ET. As he usually does, Merchan said a general "Good morning" to the prosecution and defense teams and a specific, "Good morning, Mr. Trump," to Trump himself.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Alvin Bragg?

Alvin Bragg is the Manhattan District Attorney. Last year, he became the first prosecutor to secure a criminal indictment against a former president.

Bragg is a Harlem native who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University and became an assistant state attorney general and an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York before being elected district attorney in 2021.

Bragg, a Democrat, campaigned as an avid criminal justice reformer. Trump has tried to portray him as uninterested in combatting street crime. However, Bragg's office notes that violent crime has dropped in the borough during his tenure.

Bart Jansen & Kinsey Crowley

Trump arrives for Tuesday proceedings

Former President Donald Trump walked into the courtroom at 9:28 a.m. ET, followed by what appear to be security personnel and then his trial defense team.

– Aysha Bagchi

Alvin Bragg arrives at Trump trial

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg arrived at 9:21 a.m. ET. He took a seat in the first bench behind the prosecution trial team's table.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution team arrives in Trump trial

Members of the prosecution team entered the courtroom at 9:18 a.m. ET, including Matthew Colangelo, who delivered the team's opening statement yesterday. We are still waiting for the defense team and the judge.

– Aysha Bagchi

What is Trump on trial for?

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say he tried to cover up unlawfully interfering in the 2016 presidential election through a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump falsely labeled checks to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, as payments for legal services, when they were actually reimbursements for the $130,000 in hush money Cohen paid to Daniels, according to prosecutors. Trump has pleaded not guilty, and denies Daniels' claim that the pair had sex soon after Melania Trump gave birth to Trump son Barron.

 Aysha Bagchi

What happened on Monday in the Trump trial?

On Monday, both the prosecution and defense delivered opening statements.

The prosecution portrayed the case as about a lot more than messing up some paperwork. "This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up," said prosecutor Matthew Colangelo. "It was election fraud, pure and simple."

Meanwhile, Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche said his client is innocent. "There's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election," Blanche argued. Blanche also called former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen a liar, and said checks from Trump to Cohen weren't reimbursements for a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels – contrary to what the prosecution alleges.

Prosecution witness David Pecker, a former tabloid publisher, also began testifying.

– Aysha Bagchi

Will the jury be sequestered in the Trump trial?

No. Although Judge Merchan has warned the media about reporting on some personally identifiable attributes of jurors, he has not decided to sequester them.

During Trump's defamation trial with writer E. Jean Carroll earlier this year, the jury was sequestered from the public during trial breaks and transported to the courthouse by the U.S. Marshals Service, according to the Associated Press.

– Kinsey Crowley

What time does the Trump hush money trial start today? 

Proceedings are expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. eastern time, starting with arguments on whether Trump violated gag orders.

Jurors were told Monday to return by 11:30 a.m. for testimony to resume.

Who is David Pecker, the first witness in Donald Trump's trial? 

David Pecker is the former head of the tabloid the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc. (AMI).

Pecker was president and CEO of AMI in August 2015, when he met with Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to “help deal with negative stories about Trump” by purchasing them and not publishing them, a practice known as "catch and kill."

AMI paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her life story, including relationships with “any then-married man” but didn’t publish the story, according to records.

Questioning just scratched the surface when Pecker took the stand Monday. He described his duties at AMI and confirmed he had "final say" over publishing an article about a famous person.

– Bart Jansen & Kinsey Crowley

Is the Trump trial televised? 

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

Trump Media stock price

At close on April 22, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp share price fell to $35.50, up slightly from open but down 2.42% from previous close.

Kinsey Crowley

10 gag order violations?

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy told Judge Juan Merchan last week that Trump has violated the judge's gag order at least 10 times, including by posting, "Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING?"

The gag order forbids Trump from publicly commenting on jurors, as well as on potential witnesses' participation in the case. Trump lawyer Emil Bove said Thursday that Cohen has been attacking Trump, and the gag order doesn't forbid Trump from responding to political attacks.

After just the first three alleged violations, Conroy asked Merchan to fine Trump $1,000 per violation – the maximum fine allowed – and to warn him "that future violations can be punished with additional sanctions, including imprisonment." Conroy later updated Merchan that the prosecution documented another seven statements it believes were also violations.

– Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump hush money trial Day 6 recap: National Enquirer's David Pecker