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Day 5 of Trump’s New York Trial: Bombshell Opening Statements Unveil Trump’s Frantic Hush Money Cover-Up

NY Assistant DA: Desperate Trump schemed with Cohen, Enquirer's David Pecker to systematically bury damaging stories using hush money payments.

David Pecker
Once-loyal ally David Pecker delivers bombshell testimony in Trump’s New York hush money trial.

In a bombshell opening salvo, Manhattan prosecutors outlined the meticulously orchestrated scheme by Donald Trump to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election through hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. The trial, marking an unprecedented moment in American history as the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former president, promises to have profound implications for the nation’s democratic integrity and the 2024 election.

Back in March 2023, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg leveled a sweeping 34-count indictment against him for his criminal efforts to conceal hush money payments through fraudulent business records.

In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo laid bare Trump’s frantic, multilayered cover-up of his tawdry sexual affairs—a scheme that kicked into overdrive after the explosive “Access Hollywood” tape revealed the candidate’s own admissions of sexual assault. As Colangelo recounted Trump’s vulgar boasts of “grabbing” women, Trump sat stone-faced. 

Colangelo introduced the key figures involved in the alleged hush money scheme. This includes Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims she received payment to stay silent about a past sexual encounter with Trump; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who prosecutors say facilitated the payment to Daniels; and David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, who was the prosecution’s first witness on Monday.

The prosecution detailed how, within days of the tape’s release, the Enquirer alerted Cohen that Stormy Daniels planned to expose her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Panicked at the prospect of voters learning the truth, Trump directed Cohen to pay off Daniels using illicit funds funneled through a sham legal retainer. 

At the heart of the case is the $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, orchestrated by Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen. Colangelo painted a vivid picture of a desperate candidate grappling with the fallout from the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, pointing out that “neither Trump nor the Trump Organization could just write a check to Cohen with a memo line that said ‘reimbursement for porn star payoff’. So they agreed to cook the books and make it look like the payment was actually income, payment for services rendered.”

David Pecker Meets With Trump and Cohen to Discuss Hush Money Payments

In August 2015, Pecker attended a meeting with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen to coordinate the Enquirer’s “catch-and-kill” scheme. Their plan was to systematically purchase and bury stories about Trump’s infidelities and sexual indiscretions, depriving voters of crucial information. Among the subjects discussed was Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who alleges an affair with Trump mere months after Melania gave birth to their son Barron. Cohen would later pay Daniels $130,000 to keep her quiet, acting on Trump’s orders. 

But this was no isolated incident—the Enquirer had already demonstrated its complicity by paying $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to kill her story of an alleged year-long tryst with Trump. 

The day’s star witness, David Pecker, took the stand and lifted the veil on the seedy underbelly of tabloid “catch and kill” tactics. “We used checkbook journalism and we paid for stories,” Pecker testified. “I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000 to investigate, produce or publish a story.”

Pecker’s candid admissions underscored the lengths to which Trump and his allies were willing to go to manipulate the media landscape and control the narrative surrounding his candidacy. The former publisher’s testimony set the stage for what promises to be a parade of damning evidence, including recorded conversations, documentary paper trails, and witness accounts that could prove devastating for the former president.

In a stunning revelation, Colangelo disclosed that jurors will hear a recording of Trump himself asking about the cost of silencing former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had a nearly year-long affair with the married candidate. “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Trump can be heard asking Michael Cohen.

Blanche Attempts to Discredit Michael Cohen

As the day’s proceedings unfolded, Trump’s defense team, led by attorney Todd Blanche, predictably sought to discredit the prosecution’s case by attacking the prosecution’s key witness, Michael Cohen, as a pathological liar obsessed with smearing the former president. Attorney Todd Blanche portrayed Cohen as a desperate felon doing everything he can to shift blame for his own criminal misdeeds.

Michael Cohen
Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen

However, Colangelo deftly rebutted this line of attack, asserting that Cohen’s testimony would be “damning” and corroborated by a wealth of evidence, including bank records, emails, text messages, and Trump’s own words captured on tape and in social media posts. 

The prosecutor’s confidence in the strength of the physical evidence suggests that the case against Trump extends far beyond the testimony of a single witness, no matter how pivotal Cohen may be as the man who allegedly arranged the payments in the first place.

Pecker’s cursory 20-minute testimony on Monday was only the beginning of his testimony. When he returns to the stand Tuesday, all eyes will be on his recounting of Trump’s direct involvement in the criminal conspiracy, and how the former president reacts to his ex-ally’s betrayal.

Trump Faces Criminal Contempt on Tuesday

However, before Pecker’s testimony continues, Justice Merchan will hold a hearing on prosecutors’ request to hold Trump in criminal contempt for violating the gag order at least 10 separate times by launching attacks on witnesses and the court itself. Prosecutors seek $1,000 fines for each offense—a paltry sum for a man of Trump’s wealth. However, legal experts suggest these contempt charges lay the groundwork for potentially jailing Trump if he violates the gag order again. 

Donald Trump hush money

As the historic Trump hush money trial adjourns for the day, the weight of the damning evidence presented by prosecutors looms large. And David Pecker’s initial testimony exposing the National Enquirer’s “catch and kill” tactics has begun to lift the veil concealing Trump’s conspiracy to bury damaging sexual stories. 

With key witnesses like Pecker set to continue their testimony tomorrow, and the threat of potential jail time for contempt hanging over Trump’s head, the former president faces a legal reckoning of unprecedented proportions. As the trial continues, the American public anxiously awaits definitive answers about the extent of Trump’s criminality.