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Takeaways from Day 12 of the Donald Trump hush money trial



New York
CNN

Public Prosecution in Donald Trump’s silent money trial She delved into the paper trail at the heart of their case on Monday, revealing to jurors exactly how Michael Cohen was paid out of Trump’s trust and personal accounts in 2017 after he paid off Stormy Daniels.

Testimony from two longtime Trump Organization employees who worked to make payments to Cohen in 2017 allowed prosecutors to focus clearly on 34 counts of falsified business records.

But before prosecutors presented their key evidence, Judge Juan Merchan explicitly warned that he would send the former president to prison if he again violated the gag order in the case.

At the end of the day Monday, the New York District Attorney’s Office hinted at where things stand more broadly, telling the judge they estimate they have about two weeks left to testify in their case.

Here are the takeaways from Day 12 of Trump’s secret money impeachment trial:

Merchan began Monday’s hearing by announcing that he had found Trump in contempt for violating the gag order for the 10th time, after fined him last week for nine violations cited by prosecutors. Each violation carries a fine of $1,000, the maximum allowed under New York law.

Although Trump was fined for just one violation on Monday, the judge felt it was enough to issue a sharp warning: He would put Trump in jail if he didn’t stop.

“Mr. Trump, it’s important that you understand that the last thing I want to do is put you in prison,” Mr. Merchan told Trump.

The judge continued, saying that he was “aware of the broader ramifications of such a sentence.” “The magnitude of such a decision is not unilateral.” But the judge said his job was to “protect the dignity of the judicial system and enforce respect.”

“Your continued violations of the legal order of this court threaten to interfere with the administration of justice in sustained attacks, which constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. “I cannot allow this to continue,” Merchan said. “As much as I do not want to impose a prison sentence, I have done everything I can.” To avoid doing so, I want you to understand that I will do so, if necessary and appropriate.”

Trump looked at Merchan as he spoke, and shook his head when the court presented a paper copy of the judge’s order.

This gag order prohibits Trump from commenting on witnesses, court personnel or jurors. Trump was not charged with violating the gag order in the days following the second hearing before the judge. But if prosecutors ultimately raise another violation before the end of the trial, Merchan will have an important decision to make.

Jurors see the checks, bills and books as the focus of the charges

The testimony of two witnesses Monday was important because jurors saw documents that prosecutors say were forged so Cohen could be repaid for hush money payments to Daniels.

Former Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McCone testified about the $35,000 bills he processed for Cohen as compensation for paying him $130,000 in hush money. Month after month, McCone confirmed that he received an email containing Cohen’s $35,000 invoice, which the Trump Organization billed for $35,000. He claimed it was a “legal expense.”

He also confirmed that he sent the invoice to the Trump Organization. Accounts Payable Clerk Deborah Tarasoff to cut the check.

“Please pay from Trust. Post to legal expenses. ‘Put ‘retainer for January and February 2017’ in description,” Maconie wrote to Tarasov in a February 2017 email.



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Tarasoff later testified that she cut checks from Trump’s personal account and sent them to Washington, D.C., for Trump to sign at the White House.

Jurors viewed invoices, company ledgers and vouchers, and the checks themselves, which were paid out during the first three months by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Fund and then from Trump’s personal account during the final nine months.

With each payment, prosecutors note, the money was paid out of the Trump Organization’s “51505” account — meaning legal expenses — even though Cohen was being reimbursed for the hush money payment.

These records were related to the 34 counts brought against Trump in the indictment, which accused Trump of having “made and caused to be a false entry in the business records of an enterprise,” through the checks, invoices, vouchers and ledger entries used to pay Cohen.

McCone and Tarasoff’s testimony may have been drier than what jurors learned about the world of tabloid magazines and celebrity scandals from David Pecker and Keith Davidson — but that’s what jurors need to hear when they consider Trump’s fate.

Jurors saw handwritten notes penned by the former Trump Organization. CFO Allen Weisselberg and McConney in January 2017 calculated a payment to Cohen totaling $420,000.

Weisselberg’s accounts were handwritten directly on an October 2016 bank statement for Essential Consultants – Cohen’s LLC – including a provision for a $130,000 transfer to Davidson, Stormy Daniels’ then-lawyer, connected to a hush money settlement with the porn star to cover up an affair. . . (Trump denies there was an affair between the two.)

McCone showed the jury the written accounts, explaining that they included $50,000 in compensation in technology services and a $130,000 wire transfer, which was “grossed” to $360,000 to calculate taxes on that money.

The former comptroller also acknowledged that expense reimbursements are not taxable income — so it didn’t make sense to calculate them the way they were.

The $420,000 also included a $60,000 bonus for Cohen, which was to be paid to him in monthly installments of $35,000.

McCone did not connect the $130,000 item on the bank statement to the hush money deal, and testified that he did not know any details about Cohen’s repayment plan — only that Cohen needed to be reimbursed.

Maconie hit Cohen several times on the stand, as did several other trial witnesses who have testified so far. When McConney was asked if Cohen was a lawyer in 2017, he sarcastically said, “Sure” and “Okay.”

Upon questioning, Trump’s lawyer, Emile Bove, took Trump off the paper trail and confirmed with McCone that he never spoke with Trump about the payment structure for repaying Cohen.

Trump’s longtime accounting executive testified that he was often not privy to conversations between Trump and his former boss Weisselberg. He accepted the position that he was sometimes asked to do things he knew nothing about.

Trump Organization. He pays McCone’s legal bills, even though he retired last year after nearly 45 years of working for Trump’s company.



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Tarasoff attests to both signed (in Sharpie) and unsigned Trump checks

Tarasoff, who still works in accounts payable, testified that Trump did not always sign the checks she wrote. She said on stage Monday afternoon that Trump sometimes voided checks on discerning black drinkers.

“If he didn’t want to sign it, he didn’t sign it,” Tarasov said.

Upon questioning, Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, clarified with Tarasoff that she was not present at the conversations between Weisselberg and Trump — she did not receive permission from Trump to issue the checks to Cohen shown in court and had no knowledge of what happened with the checks after she mailed them to the White House.

But she received it back by signed mail and then sent it to Cohen.

Throughout much of the first two weeks of his testimony, Trump frequently leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and appeared to ignore discussions of the alleged relationships and financial payments.

But on Monday, he took a different position while sitting at the defendant’s table.

Trump turned toward McCone and Tarasoff as they testified, watching them more closely than most previous witnesses. Both witnesses worked for Trump for decades, and Tarasov still works for the Trump Organization. — and their testimony focused on Trump’s actions, rather than topics Trump might prefer not to hear about.

Trump smiled when McCone recalled a story in which Trump once joked, “You’re fired,” after McCone filed a report indicating his cash balances were low.

He said: No, focus on my bills. Negotiating my bills. Look at my bills. “It was a teaching moment,” Maconie explained.

Trump turned fully in his chair to watch Tarasoff’s testimony as his lawyer, Blanche, began his cross-examination against the Trump Organization. An accounts payable employee explained to the Trump Organization. It was like a “family run business”.

Eric Trump, who remains in charge of the Trump Organization, and attorney Alina Haba, who represented the Trump Organization. Employees in a civil fraud trial last fall, including McCone, also attended court Monday.

When Tarasoff returned to the witness stand Monday afternoon after a break, she gave Eric Trump a friendly pat on the knee as she walked.



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