Trump Complains 'I Have The Only' Illegal NDA While His Lawyers Claim He Knew Nothing Of It

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break in his hush money trial in New York City on Thursday, May 16, 2024.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break in his hush money trial in New York City on Thursday, May 16, 2024. MIKE SEGAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump in a courthouse corridor rant appears to have acknowledged participation in the $130,000 nondisclosure agreement with porn star Stormy Daniels, contradicting his lawyers’ story to a jury that the coup-attempting former president wasn’t even aware of the deal.

“‘NDAs are legal and common, yet Bragg alleges Trump’s was illegal.’ I have the only illegal NDA,” Trump quipped Thursday afternoon in his post-trial day remarks to reporters in New York.

Trump was reading from a supporter’s article that argued Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was unjustly prosecuting Trump. His complaint that “only” his NDA was considered illegal, however, seemed to affirm that he was a willing party to it.

The charges against Trump, falsifying business records, are based on reimbursement payments to his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for the Stormy Daniels payment — which Trump has claimed not to know about until well after the fact. The legality of the NDA itself has never been in question and the payment to Daniels was not a charged offense, notwithstanding Trump’s suggestion.

It’s unclear what effect the admission will have in his ongoing hush money trial, in which he has pleaded not guilty. Trump has continued to deny Daniels’ claim that she had a sexual encounter with him in 2006, leaving his lawyers in the unusual position of having to explain payments to silence the story of an affair that Trump claims never happened.

Lawyers representing Trump in the case did not respond to queries. But throughout the trial, they have argued that the effort to buy Daniels’ silence about the sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006 was the work of Trump’s employees, not Trump himself.

“Michael Cohen paying Stormy Daniels or Stephanie Clifford $130,000 in exchange for her agreeing to not publicly spread false ― false claims about President Trump is not illegal,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche told jurors in his April 22 opening statement, using Daniels’ legal name as well as her professional name, which she is more commonly known by.

During cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, he and Trump’s other lawyers have worked to refute testimony that Trump knew about the scheme as it was happening. On Thursday, for example, Blanche tried to suggest that an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call between Cohen and Trump was not about the Daniels payment at all, but only about Cohen informing Trump and his bodyguard that he had been receiving harassing phone calls from a teenager.

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said Trump’s new remark could matter a great deal.

“This latest comment, Trump acknowledging that ‘I’ had an NDA, illegal or otherwise, with Stormy Daniels, at least inferentially, seems to be inconsistent with the suggestion that Trump knew nothing about what Michael Cohen was doing to suppress the Stormy Daniels information,” Kirschner said. “All inconsistencies will not be lost on the jury once introduced by prosecutors.”

But former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb — who, like many of Trump’s former staff members, has become a critic of the ex-president — said Trump’s defense team could contend that he was merely offering commentary on the case.

“Can easily be argued by Trump’s lawyers as fair comment on the evidence presented,” Cobb said.

Prosecutors have been monitoring Trump’s public statements closely for months, as demonstrated by their complaints to trial Judge Juan Merchan that Trump has repeatedly violated a gag order prohibiting Trump from verbally attacking witnesses and court personnel.

If they want jurors to consider Trump’s statement, they would have to find a way to get it entered into evidence, as jurors are not supposed to use information from outside sources such as news accounts in their deliberations.

Prosecutors also did not respond to HuffPost queries.

They have told Merchan that Cohen ― who worked under Trump for years before he pleaded guilty to and was sent to prison on a number of federal charges, including for the Daniels hush money scheme — is their final witness. His testimony should wrap up Monday, meaning that the case could go to the jury next week unless Trump’s lawyers change their minds and decide to call multiple witnesses.

If Trump is convicted on the falsification of business records charges, he could receive up to four years in prison.

Trump could also receive time behind bars if convicted of the separate federal charges or Georgia state charges he faces.

A Washington, D.C., federal prosecution based on his actions leading to his Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt is currently on hold pending a Supreme Court review of Trump’s claim that he has immunity from those charges because he was president at the time.

A second federal case, based on his refusal to turn over secret documents he took with him to his southern Florida country club upon leaving office, is unlikely to take place before the November election that could return him to the presidency.

The Georgia prosecution, based on his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state, could potentially lead to a trial later this year.

Despite all of these prosecutions, though, Republican primary voters overwhelmingly made Trump their choice for presidential nominee again.