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Trump hush money trial: Hope Hicks recounts political firestorm in 2016


NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign worried about potential political damage from a tape that showed Trump bragging about sexually harassing women without their permission, longtime Trump adviser Hope Hicks testified Friday at his secret trial.

Hicks, a former White House official, was forced to testify by Manhattan prosecutors, who hope her statements will strengthen their argument that the uproar over the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape prompted Trump’s then-lawyer to pay porn actress Stormy Daniels. To bury a body. A negative story could jeopardize his 2016 presidential bid.

Hicks, who was one of Trump’s closest confidantes, was a window into the chaotic fallout that followed the release of the tape just days before a crucial debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It was recorded in 2005 but was not seen by the public until October 7, 2016, roughly a month before Election Day. Hicks described being stunned and gathering with other Trump advisers after learning of the existence of the tape from the Washington Post reporter who broke the story. Hicks said she forwarded the reporter’s request to campaign leadership with the recommendation to “deny, deny, deny.”

“I had a good feeling of believing that this was going to be a huge story and that it was going to dominate the news cycle for the next few days,” Hicks testified. “This was a harmful development.”

“This was setting us back in a way that was difficult to overcome,” she added.

What do you know about Trump’s secret money trial:

Prosecutors called her to the witness stand to bolster their case, alleging that Trump worked to prevent damaging stories about his personal life from being published as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg He sought to prove this connection not only to secure a conviction but also to convince the public of the importance of the case, which it might be It is the only one of four Trump prosecutions that has reached trial this year.

FILE - Hope Hicks, former White House communications director, arrives for a meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 27, 2018. Prosecutors say Hicks spoke with former President Donald Trump on the phone during a frantic effort to keep allegations of his infidelity at bay. From the press after the notorious

Hope Hicks (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Hicks told jurors that Trump claimed he knew nothing about his then-lawyer Michael Cohen paying Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from publicly disclosing allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump. But Hicks said Trump eventually came to believe that burying the Daniels story was wise, saying he thought “it would be bad to get this story out before the election.”

At other points, Hicks’ testimony appeared to support the defense’s claim that the former president was trying to protect his and his family’s reputation — not his campaign — by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which he has criticized as an attempt to derail his campaign to regain the White House in November.

During questioning by Trump’s attorneys, Hicks told jurors he was concerned about the impact the Access Hollywood tape would have on his family. When the Wall Street Journal published a story exposing allegations of an affair with former model Karen McDougal just before the election, Hicks said Trump was concerned about his wife seeing the story and asked Hicks to make sure the newspapers were not delivered to their residence that morning. .

But when asked if Trump was also concerned about the story’s impact on the campaign, Hicks responded that everything they talked about during that period was viewed through the campaign’s lens. Trump often asked her: “How’s it going?” She said it was a way to measure the impact of his appearance, speeches and policies on voters.

Hicks’ closeness to Trump over the years has made her a person of interest to Congress and criminal investigators alike, who have sought her testimony on multiple occasions on topics ranging from Russian election interference to Trump’s election loss and the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 election. Riot In the US Capitol building.

She seemed hesitant to be in the courtroom, taking a deep breath as she walked toward the microphone and admitting she was “really nervous.” She later began crying on the witness stand, forcing the court to take a short recess, when Trump attorney Emile Bove began asking her to reflect on her time at the Trump Organization before he brought her on board with his 2016 campaign.

Former President Donald Trump appears in Manhattan Criminal Court ahead of his trial in New York, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP)

Former President Donald Trump appears in Manhattan Criminal Court ahead of his trial in New York, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP)

Referring to her former boss as “Mr. Trump” and then “President Trump” when talking about their time in the White House, she told the court that the last time she communicated with him was in the summer or fall of 2022. While she was no longer in Trump’s inner circle, Hicks spoke of the former president in glowing terms when the prosecutor began questioning her about her background.

She recounted how the political storm that followed the tape’s release was so severe that it took an actual storm out of the headlines. Before the tape became public, the news was dominated by a Category 4 hurricane that was heading towards the East Coast.

“I don’t think anyone remembers” where the tornado hit, Hicks told the jury.

Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti and Cuba as a Category 4 storm, made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on October 8, 2016, the day after the Access Hollywood tape was released.

Prosecutors I’ve spent the week Using detailed testimony about meetings, email exchanges, business transactions and bank accounts to build on the foundation of their case charging Trump with 34 counts of falsifying the Trump Organization’s internal business records. They set the stage for pivotal testimony from Cohen, who has paid Daniels for her silence before He went to prison For the silent money scheme.

Testimony will resume on Monday. The trial may last another month or more, with important witnesses who have not yet been called, including Cohen and Daniels.

One of the most significant pieces of evidence revealed to the jury this week was a recording of a meeting between Trump and Cohen before the 2016 election, in which they discussed a plan to buy the rights to McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer so it would never come to pass. Outside. The newspaper had previously bought McDougal’s story to bury it on Trump’s behalf.

At one point, Trump can be heard saying: “What do we have to pay for this?” fifty one?”

In a victory for Trump as the court concluded this week, Judge Juan M. Merchan rejected a request from prosecutors that he ask Trump, if he chooses to testify, about holding him in contempt of court for violating gag orders in the case. Allowing that would be “extremely prejudicial, and it would be very difficult for a jury to look beyond that,” Merchan said.

Trump pushed this week A fine of $9,000 For violating a gag order prohibiting him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and certain other people connected to the case.

His lawyer, Todd Blanche, told the judge on Friday that they are appealing the finding that Trump violated the gag order. Blanche said they took up a particular issue with penalties for what are known as reposts — instances in which Trump shared someone else’s post with his followers.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Ruth Brown and Michelle Price in New York contributed to this report.





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