Trump hush money trial: Ex-National Inquirer publisher says he wanted to keep Trump tabloid agreement 'quiet'

Key things to know:

  • Testimony continued Tuesday in Trump's hush money trial, including a former National Enquirer publisher.
  • Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to bury stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign.
  • Others expected to testify are Stormy Daniels, a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and Michael Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her to keep quiet about it.

Testimony resumed on Tuesday in former President Donald Trump's historic hush money trial, including a longtime tabloid publisher who is expected to tell jurors about his efforts to help Trump stifle unflattering stories during the 2016 campaign.

David Pecker, the National Enquirer's former publisher and a longtime friend of Trump’s, returned to the witness stand in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Tuesday.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the end of the day at Manhattan Criminal Court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments on April 22, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Victor J. Blue - Pool/Getty Images)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the end of the day at Manhattan Criminal Court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments on April 22, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Victor J. Blue - Pool/Getty Images)

Testimony in the case resumed just before midday following a morning hearing on the former president’s alleged gag order violations.

Pecker was the only witness Monday. He was expected Tuesday to tell jurors about his relationship with Trump and his efforts to help him stifle unflattering stories during the 2016 campaign.

Citing prosecutors, the Associated Press reported that Pecker worked with Trump and Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, on a "catch-and-kill" strategy to buy up and then spike negative stories. At the heart of the case are allegations that the former president arranged a scheme to bury unflattering stories about his personal life that might damage his campaign.

Follow along for live updates:

2 p.m. ET: Court wraps up for the day

Judge Juan M. Merchan sent the jury home for the day, with court adjourning early for the Passover holiday. 

The trial is not being held on Wednesday and is set to resume on Thursday.

1:58 p.m. ET: Former Trump doorman released from his agreement only after presidential election

David Pecker said he encouraged Cohen to let Dino Sajudin, a former Trump doorman, out of the agreement, which at one point bound him never to sell the story anywhere else. 

Pecker reasoned that "we shouldn’t really have any concerns here, since the story is not true anyway," he said. But Cohen was reluctant to release the former doorman from the agreement at any point, and told Pecker definitely not to do so before the 2016 presidential election, the publisher said, the Associated Press noted. 

The release eventually did happen — after Trump won.

1:55 p.m. ET: National Inquirer email entered into evidence

Jurors saw an internal National Enquirer email and invoice describing the payments made to Sajudin, to kill his story. 

The Associated Press noted that one of the documents describes the money coming from the publication’s "corporate" account. An invoice prepared by an executive editor references an "immediate" $30,000 bank transfer payment for "‘Trump’ non-published story."

1:50 p.m. ET: Pecker is questioned about claims from an ex-Trump tower doorman

Sajudin received $30,000 from the National Enquirer in 2015 for the rights to a rumor that the former president fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower. The tabloid concluded the story was not true, and the woman and Trump have denied the allegations.

As Pecker described receiving the tip in court, Trump shook his head.

Pecker said upon hearing the rumor, he immediately called Cohen, who said it was "absolutely not true" but that he would look into whether the people involved had indeed worked for Trump’s company.

1:45 p.m. ET: Trump amplified questionable National Inquirer reports 

Pecker said he and the National Enquirer expanded trashy rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that tarred Trump’s opponents while also running pieces that boosted his image.

The articles were timed to run just as Trump’s rivals were climbing in polls, and some of the allegations — such as articles falsely tying Cruz’s father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — entered the mainstream via cable news and conservative-leaning talk programs, the Associated Press noted.

Trump himself amplified the National Enquire’s absurd allegations about Cruz’s father in May 2016, telling Fox News in one interview that, "His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot."

12:35 p.m. ET: David Pecker said Michael Cohen would call him regarding running negative articles on political opponents

During his testimony, Pecker said Michael Cohen "would send me information about Ted Cruz or about Ben Carson or Marco Rubio, and that was the basis of our story, and then we (the National Enquirer) would embellish it a little," he said.

According to the Associated Press, the court was shown examples of the resulting headlines relating to Carson, a surgeon who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primary opponent and later became his secretary of housing.

"Bungling surgeon Ben Carson left sponge in patient’s brain" reads one relaying allegations from a former patient.

Pecker said he would send Cohen drafts of these stories, to which Cohen would provide feedback. Asked if he knew whether Cohen ever shared those stories with Trump, Pecker said: "I don’t recollect that, no."

11:48 a.m. ET: David Pecker returns to witness stand and details friendship with Trump

Pecker testified that he met Trump in the 1980s at Mar-a-Lago while there as a guest of a client.

Prosecutors then asked Pecker to point to Trump in court and to describe an item of his clothing, a standard part of criminal trials. As he acknowledged Trump and his "dark blue suit," the former president grinned widely at his longtime friend, the Associated Press reported. 

When he bought the National Enquirer in 1985, Pecker said one of the first calls he got was from Trump, who said, "You bought a great magazine."

Pecker testified that his relationship with Trump grew with the success of Trump’s TV show, "The Apprentice." He said Trump would share content with him from the show that he could publish in his magazines free of charge, noting that stories about Trump and the show would do very well.

He testified that he was impressed at how the show portrayed Trump "as a national figure on TV as the boss," a nod to the way the show laid the groundwork for Trump’s political career.

The Associated Press reported that Pecker had many personal interactions with Trump over the years, the former National Enquirer publisher said that he also worked closely with Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer.

Describing an August 2015 meeting with Trump, Cohen and then-Trump aide Hope Hicks at Trump Tower, Pecker explained how he might be an asset to Trump.

He explained that he could "publish positive stories about Mr. Trump, and I would publish negative stories about his opponents, and I said I would also be the eyes and ears."

11:45 a.m. ET: Trump uses court break to slam Judge Merchan on social media 

Trump blasted the judge and the gag order he is under as Merchan weighs whether the former president’s posts and comments count as violations.


10:45 a.m. ET: Judge will not rule immediately on potential gag order violation

Judge Merchan suggested that instead of begging for forgiveness, Trump should’ve asked the judge for clarity when considering posts or reposts that might cross the line.

Court is now on break. The former president headed out of the courtroom and did not stop to speak.

10 a.m. ET: Prosecutor: Trump violated gag order again

Even as the hearing starts about prosecutors’ claims that Trump violated the gag order 10 times in recent weeks, one of the prosecutors, Christopher Conroy, accused the ex-president of violating it again Monday in remarks outside the courtroom door about his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

Conroy points to Trump’s comments about Cohen’s representation of him and characterization of Cohen as a liar.

9:30 a.m. ET: Court is in session

Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. this morning, and the judge is also set to weigh whether Trump violated a gag order by making social media posts about witnesses.

9 a.m. ET: Trump heads to court, meeting with former Japanese prime minister later

Trump's motorcade left Trump Tower for court. After today's court appearance, the presumptive GOP nominee will be meeting with former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso at Trump Tower. That’s according to the AP, citing two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been formally announced.

Several foreign leaders have met with Trump in recent weeks as U.S. allies prepare for the possibility that he could re-take the White House.

"Leaders from around the world know that with President Trump we had a safer, more peaceful world," said Trump spokesperson Brian Hughes.’

"Meetings and calls from world leaders reflect the recognition of what we already know here at home. Joe Biden is weak, and when President Trump is sworn in as the 47th President of the United States, the world will be more secure and America will be more prosperous."

Trump was close with Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister who was assassinated in 2022.

Aso is vice president of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and also served as deputy prime minister and finance minister under Abe.

Trump met last week with Polish President Andrzej Duda at Trump Tower and has also met recently with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

8:25 a.m. ET: Two journalists expelled for breaking rules

Two journalists covering the trial have been removed and expelled for breaking rules prohibiting recording and photography in the overflow room, according to the Associated Press. 

The overflow room is where reporters who can’t get into the main courtroom watch the proceedings on large screens.

One of the banned journalists had previously been warned for violating the rules during jury selection, the AP reported.

Uniformed court officers have been making daily announcements reminding reporters of the rules. Signs posted in the overflow room and around the courthouse make clear that photography and recording are not allowed.

8 a.m. ET: What happens if Trump is convicted?

Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, a charge punishable by up to four years in prison. Although it’s not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars, according to the Associated Press. 

A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. 

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

7:30 a.m. ET: Court to end early due to Passover

Trump's hush money trial will adjourn early on Tuesday in observance of Passover.

Judge Merchan plans to end court proceedings at 2 p.m. local time for the major Jewish holiday.

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. 

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000. 

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges. 

Trump has denied the accusations.

What happened on day 1 of Trump’s hush money trial?

On Monday, prosecutors alleged in opening statements that Trump had sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public, including by approving hush money payments to a porn actor who alleged an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump has denied that.

"This was a planned, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. "It was election fraud, pure and simple."

A defense lawyer countered by attacking the integrity of the onetime Trump confidant who is now the government's star witness.

"President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should not have brought this case," attorney Todd Blanche said.

The opening statements offered the 12-person jury and the voting public radically divergent roadmaps for a case that will unfold against the backdrop of a closely contested White House race in which Trump is not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also a criminal defendant facing the prospect of a felony conviction and prison.

The case is the first criminal trial of a former American president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury. Prosecutors sought from the outset to elevate the gravity of the case, which they said was chiefly about election interference as reflected by the hush money payments to a porn actor who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump.

"The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again," Colangelo said.

Who will appear in court?

Witnesses in the trial will include Cohen, Daniels, and McDougal. 

David Pecker, the National Enquirer’s former publisher and a longtime friend of Trump, and Hope Hicks, Trump’s former White House communications director, are also appearing.

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge on Thursday ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who will sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How long will the trial last? 

The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Trump is expected to attend court each day.

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case out of Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.