Trump Trial Today: Defense Team Takes Another Crack at David Pecker

Mark Peterson/AFP via Getty
Mark Peterson/AFP via Getty

David Pecker, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be back.

On Friday, the former National Enquirer boss will take the stand for the fourth time this week in Donald Trump’s hush money trial to face a second grilling from the former president’s defense team. Pecker, the former CEO of American Media Inc (AMI), has already testified about his efforts to act as Trump’s “eyes and ears” ahead of the 2016 presidential election by buying up the exclusive rights to negative stories about the Republican as a way of burying them, a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Enquirer Chief Testifies He Was Told Stormy’s Trump Story Was ‘True’

Pecker spoke Thursday about his role in silencing stories from two women who claimed to have had extramarital trysts with Trump (Trump denies the sexual encounters ever took place). One involved AMI paying $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she’d had an affair with Trump in 2006. The other was a payment of $130,000 that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels—which is at the center of the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records that prosecutors have brought against the former president.

Pecker spoke about being pressured by Cohen for AMI to buy Daniels’ story, but Pecker refused because he didn’t “want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star.” Cohen also warned Pecker that “the boss will be very angry at you” if Daniels’ story were ever to come out, Pecker said, after he’d declined to kill it himself.

Under cross-examination, Trump’s attorneys gave a glimpse of their game plan: attempting to establish that not only were Trump’s dealings with Pecker about protecting his personal reputation rather than his presidential campaign but also that catch-and-kill schemes were widespread.

Several other celebrities wound up being discussed in court Thursday. Pecker said he’d made a deal with Schwarzenegger to suppress damaging stories about the actor before his California gubernatorial campaign in the early aughts. Pecker also talked about helping to hush up stories about movie star Mark Wahlberg, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and golfer Tiger Woods.

More gossipy revelations could be on the way as Pecker’s cross-examination continues Friday.

Running in parallel to the main trial proceedings is the ongoing row about Trump’s alleged repeated violations of a gag order that is supposed to stop the Republican from disparaging witnesses, jurors, and others connected to the case. Judge Juan Merchan on Thursday agreed to hear four new alleged breaches of the order at a hearing next week.

Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough legal jeopardy, there was a reason why Trump deemed the latest hearing a “BIG DAY IN COURT(S) TODAY.”

At the same time that jurors heard Pecker’s latest testimony in Manhattan on Thursday, the United States Supreme Court was also hearing arguments about Trump’s claims of immunity from prosecution over his attempts to subvert the result of the 2020 presidential election.

The high court’s conservative justices indicated that they will likely back the idea that former presidents should enjoy some degree of immunity for actions taken in office, though most of the panel appeared unwilling to accept Trump’s argument that he should be granted “absolute immunity” for official acts.

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