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Second day of testimony wraps in Trump hush money trial

What we covered here

  • The second day of testimony in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial has wrapped up. David Pecker, ex-publisher of the National Enquirer, detailed a 2015 agreement with Trump and Michael Cohen to try to kill negative stories about the former president and run negative stories about his political rivals.
  • The magazine's “catch and kill” operations are central to the case, and prosecutors allege the hush money deal with Stormy Daniels that Pecker helped broker was part of a larger conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election. 
  • Also in court Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan had a heated exchange with Trump's lawyer over whether the former president should be fined for social media posts prosecutors say violated the gag order. The judge has not issued a decision.
  • Court is not in session on Wednesday and the trial will resume Thursday morning.
Our live coverage has concluded. Scroll through the posts below to read more about Trump's trial in New York.
5:57 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Key takeaways from Tuesday's hush money trial against Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump looks on in the courtroom at Manhattan state court in New York on April 23. Brendan McDermid/Pool/Reuters

Donald Trump had a frustrating day in court on Tuesday. Even with an abbreviated day for the Passover holiday, there was a one-two punch of a morning hearing about possible gag order violations and the testimony about the “catch-and-kill” deals to bury negative stories about the former president during the 2016 election.

Former tabloid publisher David Pecker will return to the stand on Thursday after court is dark on Wednesday. He has spoken now about two of the three catch-and-kill deals — but not adult film star Stormy Daniels, which is likely coming on Thursday.

Here are key takeaways from Tuesday’s day in court:
  • Gag order hearing goes badly for Trump: Judge Juan Merchan issued the gag order before the trial began, limiting Trump from publicly discussing witnesses, the jury, the district attorney’s staff and Merchan's family. He has not yet ruled on the district attorney’s motion to sanction Trump for allegedly violating the order, but it wasn’t hard to tell the judge’s sentiments. Merchan rejected the explanations that Trump attorney Todd Blanche offered for the offending posts after Trump’s attorney tried to argue that posts about Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen were political and not about the case.

  • Judge says Trump lawyers are "losing all credibility": Tensions continued to grow between Trump’s legal team and the trial judge during the gag order hearing. Merchan repeatedly asked Blanche to clarify examples of when Trump was specifically responding to attacks from Cohen and Daniels on social media and grew visibly frustrated when Blanche failed to comply. Last week, Merchan supported prosecutors when they refused to give Trump’s legal team notice of their witness list, saying he understood the sentiment given Trump’s social media attacks.
  • Pecker puts jury inside how AMI helped Trump in 2016 campaign: Pecker, who ran American Media Inc. during the 2016 election, testified for around two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday, walking jurors through how he worked with Cohen on Trump’s behalf to squash unflattering stories during the 2016 election. He testified about the “catch and kill” deals involving McDougal and Trump’s doorman. He said that he met with Trump and Cohen in 2015 where he agreed to be the “eyes and ears” of the campaign and look out for negative stories.
  • Pecker places Michael Cohen deep in the conspiracy: Pecker placed Cohen in the heart of the alleged “catch and kill conspiracy” by testifying that Cohen was the go-between for Trump fielding media stories from Pecker since 2007. At the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting, Pecker said he would notify Cohen about negative stories. During Trump’s campaign in 2015 and 2016, Pecker said Cohen would also pitch stories about Trump’s political opponents and offer feedback on behalf of “the boss,” as Cohen referred to Trump.

6:28 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Secret Service and other officials discussing what to do if Trump is jailed for contempt of court, sources say

The US Secret Service, court officers and even the New York City Department of Corrections have been quietly discussing what to do if former President Donald Trump ends up being jailed for contempt of court, officials familiar with the plans tell CNN.

In Trump’s civil trial, Judge Arthur Engoran held the former president in contempt a number of times for violating his orders – but imposed only monetary penalties. In Trump’s civil trial in federal courts in January, Judge Lewis Kaplan considered holding Trump in contempt of court. He strongly hinted that he would order the former president to be held in custody if there was another violation of his instructions.

While that didn’t happen, it did cause a stir within the Secret Service and the US Marshals Service as they had to figure out how they would handle logistics if the judge did put Trump in custody, the sources said. Agents scrambled to find an office or conference room for this purpose if they needed to.

In the hush money case, an assistant district attorney asked Judge Juan Merchan to consider jail time for Trump’s alleged acts of contempt. Since last week, Secret Service agents, court officers and NYPD detectives assigned to Trump's security detail have been discussing how that would be handled if it came to pass, though nothing was decided.

The one thing that was decided was that this was not a plan that should be made just by the court, the prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers, the sources said.

Instead, the Secret Service would want to be included in any discussions about how and where Trump is being held in custody — if that came to pass — simply because it would have to figure out how to carry out officers' protective obligations. 

5:55 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Trump falsely claims “thousands” of his supporters were turned away outside of the courtroom

Former President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Tuesday that “thousands” of his supporters were “turned away” by police from the courthouse where his New York criminal hush money trial is taking place. 

In the same Truth Social post, Trump attacked New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who wrote about Trump not being happy that only a handful of his supporters had shown up outside of the courthouse. 

Trump has issued public calls on social media for his supporters to show up outside of the courthouse to peacefully protest. 

“Thousands of people were turned away from the Courthouse in Lower Manhattan by steel stanchions and police, literally blocks from the tiny side door from where I enter and leave. It is an armed camp to keep people away. Maggot Hagerman of The Failing New York Times, falsely reported that I was disappointed with the crowds. No, I’m disappointed with Maggot, and her lack of writing skill, and that some of these many police aren’t being sent to Columbia and NYU to keep the schools open and the students safe,” Trump said. 
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins has reported that protestors are allowed outside the courthouse, but his supporters have just been small in number.
4:14 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Pecker testified about a 2015 meeting with Trump. Here's a timeline of key events in the hush money case

In this sketch from court, David Pecker testifies in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Christine Cornell/CNN

On Tuesday, former American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker testified about his August 2015 meeting with former President Donald Trump.

Pecker said he agreed to be the “eyes and ears” for Trump’s campaign and flag any negative stories to Trump’s then-fixer Michael Cohen.

CNN compiled a timeline of the key events leading up to the historic trial. Read up on the moments below:

  • September 2016: Donald Trump discusses a $150,000 hush money payment understood to be for former Playboy model Karen McDougal with Michael Cohen who secretly records the conversation. McDougal has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump beginning in 2006, which he has denied. 
  • October 7, 2016: The Washington Post releases an "Access Hollywood" video from 2005 in which Trump uses vulgar language to describe his sexual approach to women with show host Billy Bush. 
  • October 27, 2016: According to prosecutors, Cohen pays Stormy Daniels $130,000 through her attorney via a shell company in exchange for her silence about an affair she allegedly had with Trump in 2006. This $130,000 sum is separate from the $150,000 paid to McDougal. Trump has publicly denied having any affairs and has denied making the payments. 
  • November 8, 2016: Trump secures the election to become the 45th president of the United States. 
  • February 2017: Prosecutors say Cohen meets with Trump in the Oval Office to confirm how he would be reimbursed for the hush money payment Cohen fronted to Daniels. Under the plan, Cohen would send a series of false invoices requesting payment for legal services he performed pursuant to a retainer agreement and receive monthly checks for $35,000 for a total of $420,000 to cover the payment, his taxes and a bonus, prosecutors alleged. Prosecutors also allege there was never a retainer agreement. 
  • January 2018: The Wall Street Journal breaks news about the hush money payment Cohen made to Daniels in 2016. 
See the full timeline. 


4:09 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Fact check: Trump falsely describes gag order restrictions

Former President Donald Trump speaks after leaving Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday in New York. Yuki Iwamura/Pool/Reuters

Upon leaving the courtroom on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump approached media cameras, began talking, and complained that he is “not allowed to talk.” 

Trump was criticizing Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order on him. Merchan had held a hearing on Tuesday morning to consider prosecutors’ allegations that Trump violated the gag order with a series of online posts, including some in which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee shared others’ articles related to the case on social media.

Trump claimed, “Can’t even allow articles to be put in.” He claimed the articles he is referring to say “the case is a sham." He added, “I don’t even know if you’re allowed to put them in.” He also claimed that although others are permitted to lie and speak about him, “I’m not allowed to say anything.”

“I’d love to talk to you people, I’d love to say everything that’s on my mind, but I’m restricted because I have a gag order," Trump said.

Facts FirstAs he has before, Trump made Merchan’s gag order sound far broader than it is. The gag order does not prohibit Trump from declaring the case a sham or from sharing others’ claims that the case is a sham. It also does not prohibit Trump from speaking to the media about the case, from defending his conduct at issue in the case, from denouncing the judge and district attorney involved in the case, or from campaigning for the presidency with speeches, media interviews and online posts. Rather, the gag order forbids Trump from three specific categories of speech:
  1. Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about known or foreseeable witnesses, specifically about their participation in the case
  2. Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about prosecutors — other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — including, staff members in Bragg's office and the court, and their family members if those statements are made with the intent to interfere with the case
  3. Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about jurors or prospective jurors
In his comments on Tuesday, Trump made the point that an article may have a certain headline that generally denounces the case but, “somewhere deep” in the body of the text, may mention somebody’s name he is not permitted to mention because of the gag order. It’s not clear how Merchan would view Trump having shared an article in which, say, a witness’s name was only mentioned deep in the text. To date, though, articles that prosecutors have alleged Trump violated the gag order by sharing featured headlines that made it entirely clear the articles discussed likely witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer. 
3:51 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Catch up on David Pecker's second day of testimony — and the gag order hearing earlier this morning

Former tabloid executive David Pecker was back on the stand Tuesday to resume his testimony in the hush money trial against former President Donald Trump.
Pecker testified about a myriad of topics — but mainly established the substance of the August 2015 meeting at the crux of the “catch and kill” practice that is central to the case.
As the then-chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, Pecker was involved in numerous schemes to kill negative stories about Trump, and he allegedly helped broker the deal with Stormy Daniels.
Before Pecker returned to the stand, Judge Juan Merchan held a hearing on whether the former president violated the gag order in the hush money case. Under the order, Trump is barred from publicly discussing witnesses or jurors in the case. Merchan said he is reserving a decision on the gag order violations.

Court is not in session on Wednesday. The trial will resume Thursday morning.

Here are key moments from Pecker's testimony:
3:46 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Analysis: Trump faces another major legal battle at the Supreme Court on Thursday 

The Supreme Court’s hearing on former President Donald Trump’s immunity claim — happening on Thursday — will underline a historic power shift.

In a closely divided era when neither party has proven able to maintain control of the White House and Congress for very long, the six GOP-appointed justices on the high court have become the most durable source of influence determining the nation’s direction.

“There’s an argument to be made that the Supreme Court is the central character in our national story right now because they are setting the terms by which the other branches and the states and the American people operate in a much more assertive way than perhaps they ever have,” said historian Jeff Shesol.
Although Chief Justice John Roberts at his confirmation hearing famously likened the court to an impartial “umpire,” the conservative majority has steadily steered policy on a wide range of social, racial and economic issues toward the preferences of the Republican Party, whose presidents nominated them and whose senators provided the vast majority of votes to confirm them.

The rulings by the GOP-appointed justices over roughly the past two decades have produced cumulative policy changes “way more extensive than any administration, even within unified control of government, has been able to generate,” said Paul Pierson, a University of California at Berkeley political scientist.

The Supreme Court arguments will come as Trump sits in New York for his hush money trial proceedings.

Read the full analysis.
3:47 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

Prosecutors zeroed in on witness David Pecker today. These are the other key players in the trial

This composite image shows former President Donald Trump (center), Stormy Daniels (top left), Michael Cohen (middle left), David Pecker (bottom left), Hope Hicks (top right), Alvin Bragg (middle right) and Judge Juan Merchan (bottom right). Getty Images/AP

Donald Trump has been accused of taking part in an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election and an unlawful plan to suppress negative information, which included a hush money payment made to an adult-film star to hide an affair. Trump has denied the affair.

Prosecutors allege that Trump allegedly disguised the transaction as a legal payment and falsified business records numerous times to “promote his candidacy.” Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty.

David Pecker, the ex-publisher of the National Enquirer, was the prosecution's first witness.

Read up on the other key people in the Trump hush money criminal trial:
4:04 p.m. ET, April 23, 2024

See a courtroom sketch from David Pecker's testimony today 

No cameras are allowed inside the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump's hush money trial is underway, but sketch artists were capturing the scene as former tabloid executive David Pecker took the stand.

In this sketch from court, former President Donald Trump, left, listens as David Pecker testifies in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Christine Cornell/CNN