May 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"This was a crisis": Hope Hicks testifies in N.Y. criminal trial and other week three highlights

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 2, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump attends his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 2 in New York City. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

The third week of former President Trump's New York criminal trial reached a crescendo on Friday when Hope Hicks took the stand, bringing one of Trump's onetime closest aides face to face with her former boss.

Why it matters: Hicks provided vivid details about the panic inside the Trump campaign after the "Access Hollywood" tape was made public weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

  • Hicks is the first member of Trump's inner circle to take the stand in his New York criminal trial.

Driving the news: Prosecutors say the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape prompted Trump to agree to hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

  • "There was consensus amongst us all that the tape was damaging and this was a crisis," Hicks testified.

Here's what else to know about the third week of Trump's New York trial:

"What have we done?"

Keith Davidson, who helped negotiate the hush-money payments at the center of the case, testified earlier in the week.

  • Davidson was the attorney representing Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom said they had affairs with Trump. He testified that both women agreed to sell their stories to the National Enquirer, which had promised Trump it wouldn't run them.
  • "What have we done?" Davidson texted Dylan Howard, then top editor of the National Enquirer, as election results were coming in 2016.
  • "There was an understanding that our efforts may have in some way ... our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump," Davidson testified.

Michael Cohen in the spotlight

Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and "fixer," hasn't taken the stand yet, but he has already taken center stage.

  • Jurors this week heard a recorded phone between Davidson and Cohen.
  • "I can't even tell you how many times [Trump] said to me, 'I hate the fact that we did it,'" Cohen said on the call, referring to the hush money payment.
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Cohen on his Truth Social account, which prosecutors zeroed in on as violations of his gag order in the case.

Two gag order hearings

Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, fined Trump $9,000 on Tuesday for nine violations of his gag order, which bars him from commenting on witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors.

  • The judge also warned that he could "impose an incarceratory punishment" if Trump continued to violate the gag order in the case.
  • Merchan held another hearing on Thursday to consider a separate request by prosecutors to consider whether Trump violated the gag order additional times in social media posts.
  • Merchan did not immediately rule.

Trump allies join him in court

Trump had reportedly complained about being largely solo during the start of his New York trial. But that started to change this week.

  • Eric Trump, Trump campaign adviser Susie Wiles and ex-White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino all appeared in court with Trump this week.
  • Jason Miller, a longtime Trump adviser, and another Trump aide, Boris Epshteyn also made appearances. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Trump surrogate, also in court.

What to watch: The New York criminal trial is moving along, despite the third week being abbreviated due to holidays.

Go deeper: Trump's social media posts follow him to courthouse

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