Friday, May 17, 2024

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Bombshell Audio Exposes Trump’s Direct Involvement in Hush Money Scandal

Lawyer's testimony exposes Trump's hush money deals to silence alleged mistresses during 2016 campaign.

Donald Trump hush money
Photo: Liam Enea

In a dramatic day of testimony in the hush money criminal trial of former President Donald Trump, significant new evidence surfaced, further implicating him in an illicit scheme to buy the silence of women who alleged sexual encounters with him in the lead up to the 2016 election. Despite attempts by his legal team to discredit key witnesses and distance their client from the seedy “catch and kill” operations, recordings and emails presented in court demonstrated Trump’s direct involvement in the hush money payments.

The proceedings kicked off with Keith Davidson, the lawyer who formerly represented adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, taking the stand. Davidson provided testimony detailing how he negotiated binding non-disclosure agreements on behalf of his clients in exchange for payments to bury their stories of alleged affairs with Trump. 

Prosecutors Play Bombshell Recording Made by Michael Cohen

In a major blow to his defense, prosecutors played a secret recording from 2016 of Trump made by his fixer Michael Cohen discussing payment logistics for McDougal, whose story was bought by the National Enquirer tabloid to suppress it. “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen states on the tape, referencing David Pecker, the Enquirer’s former publisher. When Cohen mentions “the financing” needed to make the deal, Trump interjects directly: “What financing?”

This recording flies in the face of claims by Trump’s lawyers that he was uninvolved in the crimes committed by Michael Cohen. It captures his awareness of, and engagement in, the very financial transactions at the heart of the felony charges he now faces related to hiding reimbursements through his business. He can be heard endorsing the idea of using cash for the McDougal payoff, further suggesting guilt.

The prosecution’s case was bolstered by the testimony of Douglas Daus, a forensic analyst who authenticated the data extracted from Cohen’s phones, including the damning recording of Trump discussing the payment. 

As Davidson described the frantic timeline leading up to the 2016 election, including communication with the National Enquirer about obtaining Trump’s rumored “mistress club” stories, it became evident these efforts were aimed at benefiting his campaign by preventing a potential controversy, especially after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes. 

In a chilling revelation, Davidson testified that on election night he sent a text to an Enquirer editor stating “What have we done?”, recognizing their suppression tactics likely influenced the outcome. “There was an understanding that our activities may have assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump,” he grimly acknowledged.

In another recording played for jurors, Cohen said that Trump “hate[d] the fact that we did it”, referring to buying Daniels’ silence about their alleged tryst. Davidson affirmed this was indeed Trump’s quote, demolishing any credible deniability. 

The cross-examination took an adversarial turn when Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove questioned witness Keith Davidson about whether he had once “extracted” a $2 million payment from Charlie Sheen. 

Davidson denied he extracted money from anyone. Bove angrily responded, “I’m not here to play lawyer games with you.” Davidson replied, “You’re getting truthful answers, sir. If you’re not here to play legal games, don’t say extract.” When Bove next asked whether Davidson had arranged a settlement with Sheen, Davidson replied, “I’m not going to discuss that.”

Bove’s attacks appeared calculated to cast doubt on Davidson’s credibility and motives for cutting the Daniels deal. But this line of attack may have backfired—it underscored the depraved, money-obsessed environment that spawned the scheme in the first place. If anything, exposing celebrity culture’s underbelly and Davidson’s willingness to indulge it bolstered the prosecution’s narrative of an amoral world where paying to bury inconvenient truths was standard operating procedure.

Davidson Attempted to Obscure Origin of Hush Money Payments

Additionally, Keith Davidson discussed how he carefully crafted statements to obscure the true nature of the payments. Reading from a 2018 statement to sent to former CNN host Chris Cuomo, Davidson showed how he attempted to obscure Trump’s role while appearing to align with Michael Cohen’s narrative that the $130,000 came from Cohen’s “personal funds.” 

“I read today that Michael Cohen reports that the source of the $130,000 paid to Ms. Clifford was from his own personal funds,” Davidson said. “That assertion is in complete harmony with what he informed me of at the time of the transaction.”

But Davidson made clear this was merely a literal truth—he knew the money originated from Trump, while Cohen facilitated the criminal cover up. Just days after Davidson drafted that deceptive statement, Cohen and Trump met to formalize repayment. 

Anticipating that Michael Cohen will provide blockbuster insider testimony later at trial, Trump’s team made a transparent bid to get out ahead of it by portraying him as a rogue liar motivated by spite to bring him down. Bove implied that the payment to Stormy Daniels was solely engineered by Cohen with the goal of obtaining a role in the White House, rather than at Trump’s behest—defying the mounting evidence.

Prosecutors Again Ask Judge Merchan to hold Trump in Contempt

Meanwhile, the proceedings were disrupted by fallout from Trump’s inability to follow a court-ordered gag rule prohibiting disparaging witnesses. For the second time in two weeks, prosecutors asked Judge Merchan to hold Trump in contempt for violating the order with comments calling Cohen as a “convicted liar” and attacking the credibility of empaneled jurors by calling them “mostly Democrats”. 

While Judge Merchan did not immediately sanction Trump again, he sharply rejected his lawyer’s idea to seek advance permission to share pro-Trump commentary about the trial on social media, warning Trump to “steer clear” of the restricted topics.

As more witnesses are expected to take the stand, including Cohen himself, it is becoming impossible for Trump to maintain plausible deniability. The recordings, documentation, and sworn testimony are making it more and more challenging for the defense to convince the jury of the former president’s ignorance of the scheme. Each disclosed email, late-night text, and audio clip paints a vivid picture of Trump as a central player in an organized criminal undertaking to subvert the democratic process through suppression and lies.