David Pecker to be first witness in Trump’s hush money trial: New York Times

Magazine publisher David Pecker is slated to be the first witness in former President Trump’s criminal hush money trial, The New York Times reported Sunday, setting the stage as the first criminal trial of a former president gets underway Monday.

The case against Trump centers on payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, with prosecutors claiming the former president illegally covered up the payments in the days before the 2016 election, attempting to silence stories of an alleged past affair.

Pecker, then the publisher of the National Enquirer, admitted to running a “catch-and-kill” scheme in order to help Trump get elected in 2016. The scheme consists of the unethical practice of paying sources not to tell negative stories about a subject, in this case Trump.

Pecker’s media company paid $150,000 to actress Karen McDougal, who similarly claimed an affair with Trump, at about the same time as the Daniels payments. The company then intentionally suppressed McDougal’s story until after the election.

Citing a person familiar with prosecutors’ planned arguments, the Times reported that Pecker’s testimony is expected to center on his conversations with Trump about the hush money payments.

Other notable witnesses in the case that are expected to be called include former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, who made the payments to Daniels, Daniels herself and aide Hope Hicks, among others.

It is unknown if the former president will take the stand in his defense.

Trump has denounced the case as a politically minded distraction from the 2024 election. He has pleaded not guilty to counts of falsifying business records.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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