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Hush Money Case Resumes with Testimony from Michael Cohen Banker

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media at Manhattan criminal court in New York, U.S., on Friday, April 26, 2024. 

Curtis Means | Via Reuters

This story is developing. Check back for updates throughout the day.

The New York criminal trial of Donald Trump is set to resume Tuesday with more testimony from a banker who worked with the former president’s lawyer on a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

That payment is at the heart of Manhattan prosecutors’ case accusing Trump of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The historic trial kicked off in state Supreme Court last week with opening statements and testimony from the first witnesses, including former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Trump’s longtime personal secretary Rhona Graff.

Gary Farro, a former senior managing director at First Republic bank, took the stand Friday and is poised to continue testifying Tuesday.

Pecker, the former CEO of American Media, testified at length about his unofficial role as the “eyes and ears” for Trump’s 2016 campaign, and his efforts to “catch and kill” damaging information about the reality TV star turned presidential candidate.

Michael Cohen, former attorney for Donald Trump, leaves after attending the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Oct. 24, 2023.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

American Media paid $30,000 for the rights to a former Trump Tower doorman’s story about Trump having a secret child, Pecker testified, even though he came to believe the story was untrue.

The company also inked a $150,000 deal with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had an extramarital affair with Trump, Pecker said. Pecker, who believed McDougal’s story, said he was never reimbursed by Trump or his company for the payment.

In both cases, Pecker testified that he bought the stories in order to keep them from coming to light and embarrassing Trump, or harming his campaign.

But Pecker said he did not pay to silence Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump while he was married years earlier.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, clandestinely paid for Daniels’ story by opening a bank account for a nondescript shell company and transferring money into it using a home equity line of credit.

After winning the election, Trump secretly reimbursed Cohen through a series of monthly checks that were falsely labeled as being for legal services rendered in 2017, the DA alleges.

Trump, who lost to President Joe Biden in 2020 and is now campaigning to unseat him in November, is legally required to be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last six weeks.

Trump has frequently vented rage about the hush money trial and three his other pending criminal cases, claiming that they are intended to undermine his campaign.

Trump’s outbursts, many of which targeted not only the people involved in the case but also their family members, prompted Judge Juan Merchan to impose a gag order that bars Trump from speaking about jurors and likely witnesses.

Prosecutors have accused Trump of violating the gag order more than a dozen times.

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