Trump trial full coverage: Defense tries to paint Stormy Daniels's lawyer as a serial extortionist in hush money case

It's the 10th day of the criminal trial.

Former President Donald Trump's lawyers cross-examined prosecution witness Keith Davidson on Thursday. They sought to portray Davidson, a lawyer who represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as a serial extortionist. Both women were paid when they came forward with stories of alleged extramarital affairs with Trump.

Before Davidson took the stand, Judge Juan Merchan held a contempt hearing on the allegations from prosecutors that Trump violated his gag order — which bars him from attacking those involved in the hush money trial — four additional times. (He was already fined $1,000 each for nine violations earlier this week.) Merchan did not reach an immediate decision on the alleged gag order violations.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Cover thumbnail photo: Charly Triballeau/Pool via AP

  • What happened today

    Perhaps the biggest bombshell of the day came when prosecutors played the recording of a September 2016 conversation between Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which the two discuss a payment the National Enquirer made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The recording, which Cohen was said to have made without Trump's knowledge, appeared to bolster prosecution claims that Trump was highly involved in the hush money payments designed to keep stories about his marital infidelity hidden from voters.

    Here's what else happened:

    • Keith Davidson finished his testimony about securing payments for McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

    • During the cross-examination of Davidson, defense lawyer Emil Bove sought to portray him as a serial extortionist.

    • Judge Juan Merchan started the day with another hearing about whether Trump had violated his gag order preventing him from talking about jury members, witnesses, court staff and their families, in four new alleged instances. The judge did not make a final ruling.

    • After court was adjourned for the day, Trump falsely told reporters that he was “not allowed to testify” in the case because he was “under a gag order.”

    Read more from Yahoo News.

  • Trump falsely claims he is not allowed to testify because of gag order

    After the trial wrapped for the day, Donald Trump spoke to reporters outside the courtroom about a variety of topics.

    Trump intimated he would not testify in the trial, contradicting his previously stated desire to take the stand in his own defense. Trump falsely claimed he was "not allowed to testify" because he was "under a gag order." Trump has already been fined $9,000 by Judge Juan Merchan for violating the gag order against talking about witnesses and others involved in the case.

    The former president also complained about how the trial was preventing him from campaigning.

    A reporter asked Trump what he thought about third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to which Trump responded that he is "not a serious candidate" but acknowledged Kennedy could potentially pull votes away from both him and Biden.

    Trump declined to say who his vice presidential candidate would be, but promised a decision would be made before the Republican National Convention in July.

  • Proceedings have wrapped for the day

    Trump's trial has ended for the day. On Friday, Trump attorney Emil Bove is expected to continue the cross-examination of witness Doug Daus, a forensic analyst who looked at two iPhones belonging to Michael Cohen.

    Judge Juan Merchan said court will adjourn Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET because a juror has an appointment.

  • Jury hears secret recording Cohen made of Trump

    During testimony by forensic analyst Doug Daus, prosecutors played a secret recording Michael Cohen made of his boss, Donald Trump, in September 2016.

    During the conversation, Cohen was heard telling Trump, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” in reference to National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

    Pecker testified earlier in the trial about paying former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story about an alleged extramarital affair with Trump. Prosecutors are trying to establish for the jury that Trump had direct knowledge of the catch-and-kill arrangement at the tabloid.

  • Witness says he examined Michael Cohen's phones, had more than 39K saved contacts

    Doug Daus, a forensic analyst at the Manhattan District Attorney's office, testified that he analyzed two iPhones used by Michael Cohen, Trump's attorney and "fixer," who made the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

    Daus said one of Cohen's phones had 39,745 saved contacts, which he called "unusual." Among the contacts are: Trump, Melania Trump, David Pecker, Hope Hicks, Dylan Howard and Keith Davidson.

    “I’ve not seen contacts of that many being on a phone," Daus said, according to NBC News.

  • Prosecution plays Michael Cohen's recorded conversation with Stormy Daniels's lawyer

    Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass returned to the podium to play part of a conversation Michael Cohen had with Keith Davidson, which Cohen recorded.

    "I’m sitting there saying to myself, 'What about me? What about me?'" Cohen is heard saying in the recorded audio, according to CNN.

    "I can’t even tell you how many times [Trump] said to me, 'I hate the fact that we did it,' and my comment to him was, 'But every person that we’ve spoken to tells you it was the right move,'" Cohen told Davidson.

    This seems to be the prosecution's way of supporting their claim that Trump knew about the hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels.

  • Prosecution calls its next witness: Doug Daus

    Forensic analyst Doug Daus works in a department of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office called the High Technology Analysis Unit, which processes digital evidence. He performed analyses on two iPhones that Michael Cohen turned over to authorities, according to the Associated Press.

    Prosecutor Chris Conroy is questioning him.

    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case against Trump, is in the courtroom.

  • Trump attorney finishes cross-examination of Keith Davidson

    Emil Bove, one of Trump's defense attorneys, finished up his cross-examination of a key witness, Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and was part of the payment agreements at the center of the trial.

  • Andrew Giuliani is back at the trial to support Trump

    Andrew Giuliani leaves Manhattan Criminal Court during a break in the hush money trial.
    Andrew Giuliani leaves Manhattan Criminal Court during a break in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial on Thursday. (Jeenah Moon/Pool via AP)

    With former President Donald Trump's hush money trial nearing the end of its third week, some of his notable supporters have been showing up in court in recent days. The latest: Andrew Giuliani, a former special assistant to Trump and the son of Trump's former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

    It was at least the second time Andrew Giuliani appeared at the trial in support of Trump. He was there on April 17, when he gave an interview outside the courthouse to Daily Show co-host Jordan Klepper.

  • Judge Merchan refuses defense's request to approve Trump's social media posts

    After the lunch break, Trump's defense team requested that Judge Merchan provide "clarification" on the gag order. Susan Necheles, one of Trump's lawyers, specifically asked whether the former president would be allowed to post on social media articles that contain analysis from legal commentators about the trial who mention witnesses or prosecutors.

    "I frankly don't know whether that violates the gag order," Necheles said, according to The Hill.

    Merchan said he wouldn't weigh in and issue "advance rulings," but advised Necheles to "steer clear" of such social media posts when in doubt.

  • Trump disputes reports that he's been nodding off in court

    Trump sits with his eyes closed at the defense table during jury selection in this courtroom sketch.
    Trump sits with his eyes closed at the defense table during jury selection on April 16 in this courtroom sketch. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

    Since the first day of jury selection, there have been multiple reports from journalists inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse who have observed the former president appearing to nod off at numerous points throughout his hush money trial.

    During lunch break on Thursday, he pushed back in a post on Truth Social.

    "Contrary to the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, I don’t fall asleep during the Crooked D.A.’s Witch Hunt, especially not today," the post read. "I simply close my beautiful blue eyes, sometimes, listen intensely, and take it ALL in!!!"

  • Court back in session

    Court is back in session after a lunch break, and Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, is back on the stand for cross-examination from Trump attorney Emil Bove.

  • Court is on break for lunch

    The court is taking a break for lunch and will be back in session at 2:15 p.m. ET.

  • Defense paints picture of Davidson as a borderline extortionist

    During cross-examination, the defense used its questioning of Davidson to paint him as a sleazy lawyer with a history of extortion claims against him by various celebrities.

    Among those raised by the defense: wrestler Hulk Hogan, actor Charlie Sheen and former reality star Tila Tequila.

    Trump's defense attorney Emil Bove repeatedly pressed Davidson on such extortion claims.

    By the time Davidson negotiated hush money payments for Daniels and McDougal, Bove reportedly asked, “You were pretty well-versed in coming right up to the line without committing extortion, right?”

    “I had familiarized myself with the law,” Davidson replied.

  • Trump appears more engaged during cross-examination of witness

    From above, Trump seated at a table with his hands clasped.
    Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court Thursday morning. (Charly Triballeau/Pool via AP)

    Trump appears to be more engaged now that his attorney, Emil Bove, is cross-examining Keith Davidson, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, as reported by multiple news outlets.

    According to CNN, the former president has turned his chair toward the witness stand.

  • Cohen wanted to be Trump's chief of staff or attorney general, Davidson says

    During direct examination, Stormy Daniels's attorney Keith Davidson said that Michael Cohen was "very despondent" upon learning that then-President-elect Donald Trump was not going to take him to Washington despite Cohen's arranging the hush money deal with Daniels on Trump's behalf.

    Under cross-examination, Davidson said that Cohen had talked with him about wanting a high-level position in the incoming administration, such as chief of staff or even attorney general.

  • Court is back in session

    After a brief break, Judge Juan Merchan is back on the bench and has called Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, back to the stand. The jury is back in the room, and Trump's attorney Emil Bove will begin his cross-examination shortly.

  • Court is taking a short break

    The prosecution has finished its questioning of Keith Davidson, the attorney who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the hush money deals.

    Court is now in a brief recess. The defense will have the opportunity to cross-examine Davidson when testimony resumes.

  • Keith Davidson says he would never describe $130K payment as 'hush money'

    Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked lawyer Keith Davidson, who represented Stormy Daniels, about the truthfulness of Daniels's statement when she said: "Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false."

    According to the New York Times, Steinglass asked Davidson, "Did you intend for this statement to be cleverly misleading?" to which Davidson replied, “I don’t understand the question."

    Davidson then added that he wouldn't describe the $130,000 payment to Daniels from Michael Cohen on Trump's behalf as "hush money."

    “It wasn’t a payoff. It wasn’t hush money. It was consideration,” Davidson said, according to The Hill.

    Davidson rather likened the situation to a person signing a contract to pay someone $5 for them to mow their lawn.

  • Michael Cohen was 'despondent' Trump didn't give him a White House job after the hush money deal, witness says

    Michael Cohen walks in Manhattan in 2018.
    Michael Cohen. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

    Keith Davidson, an attorney who represented Stormy Daniels, reportedly testified that after he had negotiated the $130,000 deal between Daniels and Michael Cohen on Trump's behalf, he received a call from a "very despondent" Cohen in late 2016 before Trump's inauguration.

    According to Davidson, Cohen told him that Trump was not taking his lawyer and fixer with him to the White House.

    “He said something to the effect of, 'Jesus Christ, can you f***ing believe I’m not going to Washington after everything I’ve done for that f***ing guy? I can’t believe I’m not going to Washington. I’ve saved that guy’s a** so many times, you don’t even know,’” Davidson recalled in court, per CNN's transcription.

  • Keith Davidson continues testimony

    Attorney Keith Davidson testifies during Trump's hush money trial in this courtroom sketch on Tuesday as Trump and Judge Juan Merchan look on. Davidson returned to the witness stand Thursday. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
    Attorney Keith Davidson testifies during Trump's hush money trial in this courtroom sketch on Tuesday as Trump and Judge Juan Merchan look on. Davidson returned to the witness stand Thursday. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

    Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, is back on the stand answering questions from prosecutor Joshua Steinglass.

    Davidson reportedly testified that he "lost trust" in Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, because of the delay in receiving a $130,000 hush money payment for Daniels's story.

    On Tuesday, Davidson testified about how unpleasant it was to deal with Cohen and reportedly said he tried “like hell” to avoid having to talk to him on the phone.

  • Witness testifies about pseudonym he used for Trump and Daniels in hush money deals

    Keith Davidson, an attorney who negotiated both the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal hush money agreements, testified about the pseudonyms he came up with for Trump and Daniels: "David Dennison" and "Peggy Peterson."

    Davidson testified that in the deal he negotiated with Daniels, Trump's attorney Michael Cohen was accepting service on behalf of "David Dennison," or Trump.

    Cohen ultimately paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about the alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump — the so-called hush money deal at the center of the prosecution's case.

  • Trump's lawyer singles out Michael Cohen's social media posts

    Defense attorney Todd Blanche showed some recent social media posts by Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, insulting Trump.

    Judge Juan Merchan previously warned that witnesses, including Cohen, shouldn't take advantage of Trump's gag order by attacking him.

    According to The Hill, Cohen agreed to stop attacking Trump on X but started conducting live TikTok streams.

    "Michael Cohen has started going on TikTok nightly and literally making money," Blanche reportedly said. He added that Cohen "is not a man who needs protection from the gag order."

  • Judge to the defense: Nobody is forcing Trump to speak to the media every day

    Trump speaks to the media outside of Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday.
    Trump speaks to the media outside of Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday. (Jeenah Moon/Pool via Getty Images)

    One of Trump's alleged gag order violations occurred when he was speaking to reporters assembled outside of the courtroom, as he has done every day of the trial.

    During Wednesday's hearing, Judge Merchan pointed out to the defense that no one is forcing Trump to make a statement to the media before coming into the courtroom each day.

    "He went to the press," Merchan told defense attorney Todd Blanche, per CNN. "Nobody forced your client to stand where he went that day."

    Blanche countered that Trump has to speak to the press because he's running for president and needs to defend himself.

  • Prosecutors detail 4 alleged gag order violations

    In court, prosecutors laid out each of the four additional instances where they say Trump violated the gag order:

    1. In a television interview following jury selection, Trump said: "That jury was picked so fast — 95% Democrats." Prosecutors argue that the order forbids Trump from talking about the jury at all.

    2. During a recent campaign stop, Trump commented on former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, the first witness called in the trial, saying he had been "nice." Prosecutors argue that the order prevents Trump from talking about witnesses.

    3. In an April 23 television interview, Trump called former attorney Michael Cohen — a key witness who is expected to testify for the prosecution — a "convicted liar." While that is technically accurate, prosecutors say it also violated the gag order preventing Trump from talking about witnesses in the case.

    4. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom in April, Trump said: "When are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial? He got caught lying in the last trial."

  • Trump attorney mentions Biden's recent comments about Trump

    Todd Blanche, a defense attorney for Trump, argued against the alleged violations of the gag order in the hush money trial.

    According to CNN, Blanche asserted that President Biden derided Trump at the White House Correspondents' dinner over the weekend when Biden said, “Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it stormy weather.”

    Blanche reportedly claimed “stormy weather” was clearly a reference to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and said Trump should be able to respond to attacks from Biden, his 2024 presidential campaign rival.

    CNN reported Judge Merchan said there’s “nothing in the gag order that says he can’t” respond to Biden. The gag order bars Trump from making public statements targeting foreseeable witnesses.

  • Another gag order hearing is underway

    Donald Trump sits at the defense table before the start of his hush money trial.
    Trump sits at the defense table on Thursday before the start of his hush money trial. (Charly Triballeau/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

    The hush money trial resumed Thursday with another hearing over allegations that Trump violated the gag order preventing him from attacking witnesses and court staffers on social media.

    Earlier this week, Judge Juan Merchan levied a $9,000 fine against Trump for violating the order in nine posts on Truth Social and his campaign website.

    The prosecution alleges that Trump should be sanctioned for four more violations.

    Per CNN, Merchan has allotted approximately 30 minutes for the hearing and said he wants to bring in the jury at 10 a.m. ET.

  • What Trump said when he arrived at the courthouse

    Speaking to reporters outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, Trump touted the campaign rallies he held in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, a scheduled off day for the trial.

    The former president then repeated his long-held complaints that the hush money case "should never have been brought."

    "If it was going to be brought," Trump said, "it should have been brought eight years ago."

    He also applauded the New York Police Department for clearing the protesters who were occupying an administration building at Columbia University earlier this week.

    "I'm so proud of New York's finest," he said.