The Latest | Stormy Daniels' former lawyer, others called to stand in Trump hush money trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumed Tuesday with Judge Juan M. Merchan first ruling on prosecutors’ prior request to hold the former president in contempt of court over alleged violations of a gag order that bars him from speaking publicly about witnesses and jurors in the case.

Merchan ruled that Trump violated the gag order nine times and fined him $9,000. He will hold another hearing Thursday on four more alleged violations brought forth by prosecutors.

Gary Farro — the prosecution’s third witness and a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts — returned to the witness stand shortly thereafter to resume his testimony from last week.

Cohen used one such account to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies.

The first week of testimony was the scene−setter for jurors: Manhattan prosecutors portrayed what they say was an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories.

For his part, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee has been campaigning in his off−hours, but is required to be in court when it is in session, four days a week.

The charges center on $130,000 in payments that Trump’s company made to Cohen. Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of those payments and falsely recorded them as legal expenses.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first−ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

— Key players: Who’s who at Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial

— The hush money case is just one of Trump’s legal cases. See the others here

— Read the judge’s full order on Donald Trump’s gag order violations

— Trump and DeSantis meet to make peace and discuss fundraising for the former president’s campaign

Here’s the latest:

STORMY DANIELS’ FORMER LAWYER CALLED TO THE STAND

A lawyer who previously represented former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn actor Stormy Daniels was the next witness called to the stand in Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

Keith Davidson took the stand shortly after noon Tuesday and is known for representing people trying to sell celebrity sex tapes or other embarrassing information.

He represented McDougal and Daniels in hush money negotiations with the National Enquirer and Trump’s then−lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016.

McDougal claimed she had had a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid−2000s. Daniels claimed she had a one−time sexual encounter with him in 2006. Trump has denied both allegations.

EXECUTIVE CA

LLED TO THE STAND TO VERIFY TRANSCRIPT, VIDEO OF TRUMP DEPOSITION

An executive at a company that provides stenographers and videographers for depositions — sworn, out−of−court statements under oath — was the next witness called to the stand in Donald Trump’s criminal trial on Tuesday.

Phillip Thompson was called to authenticate a transcript and video of a deposition the former president gave in one of writer E. Jean Carroll’s federal defamation lawsuits against him.

The portions included Carroll’s lawyer asking Trump about his Truth Social platform, the dates of his marriage to wife Melania Trump and whether he was aware of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

The former longtime Elle magazine advice columnist had alleged that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and then defamed her after she came forward publicly in 2019. He has said nothing happened between the two of them and called her a “wack job” who engineered a “hoax” to sell a book.

After two federal trials last year and this winter, juries awarded Carroll over $88 million. Trump is appealing.

VIDEOS OF TRUMP DENYING ALLEGATIONS AND PRAISING COHEN PLAYED IN COURT

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money case played C−SPAN clips of the then−presidential candidate on the campaign trail in the final weeks leading up to the 2016 election. In the videos, Trump forcefully denied allegations made by several women after his infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape was made public.

“The stories are total fiction. They’re 100% made up, they never happened, they never would happen,” Trump said in video from an Oct. 14, 2016 rally in North Carolina.

Another clip played for the jury, from January 2017, showed Trump praising Michael Cohen as as good lawyer and friend.

Trump did not appear to react in court to the clips, which were played on monitors throughout the courtroom, including directly in front of him on the defense table.

After confirming the veracity of the clips, Browning was dismissed from the witness stand. Trump’s attorneys declined to question him.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF C−SPAN ARCHIVES CALLED TO THE STAND

The next witness called to the stand Tuesday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial was Robert Browning, the executive director of the C−SPAN archives.

Browning, who manages the network’s video collection, was called to verify the authenticity of video of a Trump campaign event.

Prosecutors are calling people who are regarded as “records custodians” to verify evidence in the former president’s criminal case.

TRIAL WILL BREAK FOR 4 DAYS OVER MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

Donald Trump’s hush money trial will get an extra day off for the Memorial Day weekend next month.

Court won’t be in session on Friday, May 24, to accommodate a juror who has a flight that morning, Judge Juan M. Merchan said on Tuesday.

That means the trial will be off for four straight days for the holiday weekend, resuming on Tuesday, May 28. Merchan also informed jurors there will not be court on May 17, though he didn’t give them a reason.

That’s the day Donald Trump will be attending his son Barron’s high school graduation.

PROSECUTORS WANT TO QUESTION TRUMP ABOUT GAG ORDER VIOLATIONS IF HE TESTIFIES

Ahead of a midday break in Donald Trump’s hush money case, prosecutors asked the judge to let them question the former president about his gag order violations should he choose to testify.

The request came after Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled Tuesday morning that Trump had on nine occasions violated a court mandate barring him from speaking publicly about witnesses and jurors in the case. He ultimately fined Trump $9,000 and will hold another hearing Thursday on four more alleged gag order violations.

Prosecutors also requested permission to introduce evidence they said shows Trump orchestrated a “pressure campaign and intimidation effort” against Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

Colangelo said Trump’s attorney opened the door to that evidence by seeking to undermine the credibility of the two witnesses in opening statements.

Merchan did not immediately rule, but said, “the door has been opened.”

He previously ruled to allow prosecutors to challenge Trump’s credibility by questioning him about a limited number of his recent legal setbacks if he ends up taking the witness stand.

Trump has said he wants to testify, but is under no obligation to do so.

NO RED FLAGS ABOUT COHEN’S ACCOUNTS AT THE TIME, FARRO SAYS

In his cross examination of banker Gary Farro on Tuesday, defense attorney Todd Blanche underscored that Michael Cohen made no mention that the accounts he opened in October 2016 had anything to do with deals involving then−presidential candidate Donald Trump or his company.

If Cohen had done so, “I would have asked questions,” Farro said.

Farro noted that he might not have opened a bank account for Cohen if he’d been told it was for what’s known as a shell corporation — one that receives and sends out money but doesn’t have an underlying business.

But Cohen, the banker said, told him the account was for a real estate consulting business.

Nothing about it raised “any red flags to you?” Blanche asked.

“Not based upon the answers I was given to the questions I asked,” Farro said.

Farro’s testimony shed light on his role in helping Cohen open a bank account that was later used to process a $130,000 wire transfer to a lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

DEFENSE BEGINS CROSS−EXAMINATION OF FARRO

Defense attorneys began their cross−examination of Gary Farro, the prosecution’s third witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, by asking the banker to describe his relationship with Michael Cohen.

Farro said he first met Cohen — then serving as the former president’s personal lawyer — in person at a meeting in Trump Tower, but primarily communicated over the phone. Pushed by Todd Blanche, Farro acknowledged that Cohen wasn’t always easy to work with.

“He was a challenging client because of his desire to get things done so quickly,” Farro said. “Ninety percent of the time it was an urgent matter.”

PROSECUTORS WRAP QUESTIONING OF FARRO

Prosecutors have wrapped up questioning of Gary Farro, their third witness in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial.

Farro told prosecutors on Tuesday that Michael Cohen had indicated that a 2016 $130,000 wire payment now at the heart of the case was related to a real estate transaction — not a political candidate, an adult film performer or buying up a potential media story.

“We might consider something like that a reputational risk,” Farro said.

Within a day of opening the Essential Consultants LLC bank account on Oct. 26, 2016 — and funding it with about $130,000 from his own home equity loan — Cohen wired out $130,000 to Keith Davidson, then a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, documents showed.

The 2016 presidential election was on Nov. 8.

FAMILY JOINS TRUMP IN COURT FOR THE FIRST TIME

Donald Trump’s son Eric joined his father in court on Tuesday, marking the first time any of the former president’s family members have attended his criminal hush money trial.

Prior to court proceedings resuming, Trump turned from the defense table and walked over to his son in the first row of the gallery. Trump put his hand on Eric’s arm as they chatted.

Trump had railed about the trial, as well as his other legal cases, to reporters on his way into the courtroom earlier in the morning.

FARRO RETURNS TO THE STAND

Testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumed with Gary Farro, a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts. Cohen used one such account to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 election. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies.

Cohen indicated the account, opened in late October 2016 in the name of Essential Consultants LLC, would be used for real estate consulting, according to testimony and documents shown at the trial.

In response to prosecutor Becky Mangold’s questions, Farro said the bank would have asked more questions if there had been any mention of a connection to a political candidate, buying a story that was being pitched to the media or paying a porn performer.

The additional scrutiny would have delayed or even nixed opening the account, which Cohen had wanted to open right away. In particular, the adult film world “is an industry we don’t work with,” he said.

With only real estate in the picture, the account was opened within a day — “very quick,” Farro said.

MERCHAN FINDS POST ABOUT COHEN AND DANIELS WAS NOT A VIOLATION

Judge Juan M. Merchan found that one of Donald Trump’s online posts about his former lawyer Michael Cohen and porn actor Stormy Daniels did not violate a gag order barring him from speaking publicly about jurors and witnesses in his hush money case.

Merchan wrote that he was finding Trump “in criminal contempt for willfully disobeying a lawful mandate” of the court on nine separate occasions for posts made on Truth Social and his campaign website.

Merchan ruled that Trump’s April 10 post referring to Cohen and Daniels as “sleaze bags” was not a gag order violation. He said Trump’s contention that he was responding to previous posts by Cohen “is sufficient to give” him pause “as to whether the People have met their burden” as to that post.

However, the other nine “attack the credibility of arguably two of the more high−profile witnesses in this case.”

“To allow such attacks upon protected witnesses with blanket assertions that they are all responses to ‘political attacks’ would be an exception that swallowed the rule. The Expanded Order does not contain such an exception,” Merchan wrote.

JUDGE FINDS TRUMP VIOLATED GAG ORDER, FINES HIM $9K

Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled Tuesday morning that Donald Trump violated a gag order barring him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors in his hush money trial nine times. He fined the former president $9,000 for the violations.

Prosecutors had alleged the former president had violated the order 10 times, and Merchan concurred in all but one of those instances. The judge will hold a hearing Thursday on four more alleged violations.

The former president stared down at the table in front of him as Merchan read the ruling, frowning slightly but otherwise showing no expression.

Merchan wrote in his ruling that Trump “is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders” and raised the possibility of jail time if “necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.”

JUDGE TO ALLOW TRUMP TO ATTEND SON’S GRADUATION

Judge Juan M. Merchan said Tuesday morning that Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial will not be held on May 17 so that the former president can attend his son’s graduation.

“I don’t think the May 17 date is a problem, so Mr. Trump can certainly attend that date, attend his son’s graduation,” Merchan said.

Trump had previously requested the day off from court to accommodate his son Barron’s high school graduation.

TRUMP ARRIVES AT COURT

Donald Trump’s motorcade arrived Tuesday morning at the courthouse in lower Manhattan just before 9 a.m., kicking off the second week of witness testimony in the former president’s hush money trial.

A crowd of around 60 Trump supporters had gathered across the street from the building, waving Trump and American flags on tall poles.

TRUMP LEAVES TRUMP TOWER FOR COURT

Donald Trump entered his motorcade outside Trump Tower in midtown, headed to the courthouse in lower Manhattan for the second week of trial testimony.

The former president on Tuesday will be in court for testimony from the third prosecution witness, Gary Farro, a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts.

Cohen used one to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies.

JUDGE MAY RULE THIS WEEK ON PROSECUTORS’ REQUEST TO FINE TRUMP

Judge Juan M. Merchan may decide this week on prosecutors’ request to fine Trump for what they say were violations of a gag order that bars him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the case.

The judge also has set a hearing Thursday on another batch of alleged gag order violations.

In an order first made in March and later revised, Merchan barred Trump from making public statements about probable trial witnesses “concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.”

Merchan’s order didn’t give specific examples of what types of statements about witnesses were banned. He noted the order was not intended to prevent the former president from responding to political attacks.

The gag order also barred Trump from making public statements of any type about jurors, court staff, lawyers in the case or relatives of prosecutors or of the judge.

PROSECUTORS AT TRUMP’S TRIAL ZERO IN ON THE DETAILS

Defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s hush money trial dug Friday into assertions of the former publisher of the National Enquirer and his efforts to protect Trump from negative stories during the 2016 election.

The first week of testimony was the scene−setter for jurors: Manhattan prosecutors portrayed what they say was an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories. Now prosecutors are working on filling in the details of how they believe Trump and his allies pulled it off.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s testimony last week provided jurors with a stunning inside look at the supermarket tabloid’s “catch−and−kill” practice of purchasing the rights to stories so they never see the light of day.

Trump’s longtime executive assistant, Rhona Graff, told jurors she recalled seeing Stormy Daniels in a reception area of Trump Tower, though the date of the visit wasn’t clear.

The Associated Press

Photo: AP