NATIONAL NEWS

Prosecution seeks additional sanctions for Trump in hush money case as key witness resumes testimony

May 2, 2024, 8:35 AM | Updated: 8:37 am

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 2: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly cove...

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 2: 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. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records last year, which prosecutors say was an effort to hide a potential sex scandal, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. Trump is the first former U.S. president to face trial on criminal charges. (Photo by Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial sought additional sanctions over his out-of-court comments Thursday ahead of testimony from a lawyer who represented two women who have said they had sexual encounters with the former president.

The testimony from attorney Keith Davidson is seen as a vital building block for the prosecution’s case that Trump and his allies schemed to bury unflattering stories in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Davidson is one of multiple key players expected to be called to the stand in advance of prosecutors’ star witness, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer.

But before the start of testimony, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office requested $1,000 fines for each of four comments by Trump that they say violated a judge’s gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, jurors and others closely connected to the case. Such a penalty would be on top of a $9,000 fine that Judge Juan M. Merchan imposed Tuesday related to nine separate gag order violations that he found.

“The defendant is talking about witnesses and the jury in this case, one right here outside this door,” prosecutor Christopher Conroy said. “This is the most critical time, the time the proceeding has to be protected.”

“His statements are corrosive to this proceeding and the fair administration of justice,” Conroy added.

In a court filing, Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order was designed to silence him while his adversaries in the case are given license to attack him.

It was not immediately clear when Merchan might rule on the request for fresh sanctions, but the prospect of further punishment underscored the challenges Trump the presidential candidate faces in adjusting to the role of criminal defendant subject to rigid courtroom protocol that he does not control. It also remains to be seen whether any rebuke from the court will lead Trump to adjust his behavior given the campaign trail benefit he believes he derives from painting the case as politically motivated.

During a one-day break from the trial on Wednesday, Trump kept up his condemnation of the case, though stopped short of comments that might run afoul of the gag order.

“There is no crime,” he told supporters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “I have a crooked judge, is a totally conflicted judge.”

The trial, now in its second week of testimony, has exposed the underbelly of tabloid journalism practices and the protections, for a price, afforded to Trump during his successful run for president in 2016.

The case concerns hush money paid to squelch embarrassing stories, including from a porn actor and a former Playboy model, and reimbursements by Trump that prosecutors say were intentionally fraudulent and designed to conceal the true purpose of the payments and to interfere in the election.

The former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, testified last week that he offered to be the “eyes and ears” of the Trump campaign and described in detail his role in purchasing a sordid tale from a New York City doorman that was later determined to not be true as well as accusations of an extramarital affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The goal was to prevent the stories from getting out, a concern that was especially pointed in the aftermath of the disclosure of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which he was heard describing grabbing women without their permission.

A separate $130,000 payment was made by Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, to porn actor Stormy Daniels, to prevent her claims of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump from surfacing.

Trump’s company then reimbursed Cohen and logged the payments to him as legal expenses, prosecutors have said in charging the former president with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison.

Davidson represented both Daniels and McDougal in their negotiations with the National Enquirer and Cohen.

He testified that he arranged a meeting at his Los Angeles office during the summer of 2016 to see whether the tabloid’s parent company American Media Inc. was interested in McDougal’s story. At first, they demurred, saying she “lacked documentary evidence of the interaction,” Davidson testified.

But the tabloid at Pecker’s behest eventually bought the rights, and Davidson testified that he understood — and McDougal preferred — it would never be published. One reason for that, he said, is that there was an “unspoken affiliation” between Pecker and Trump and a desire by the company that owned the Enquirer to not publish stories that would hurt Trump.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Chuck Perkins's 1980 carving of a cheetah went on a long journey to find its way home. (Courtesy Ce...

Sydney Bishop, CNN

After 15 years, a social media post helps reunite a family with a long-lost heirloom

A social media post helped a family be reunited with a family heirloom - 15 years later.

4 hours ago

Ben Van Leeuwen scoops Kraft Mac & Cheese flavored ice cream Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in the Br...

Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

Sour Patch Kids Oreos? Peeps Pepsi? What’s behind the weird flavors popping up on store shelves

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream usually draws customers with gourmet takes on classics like vanilla and pistachio. But occasionally, the artisanal ice cream maker headquartered in New York slips in what it calls a “shock flavor,” like Hidden Valley Ranch or pizza.

6 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday, May 20, 2024 in New Yo...

Associated Press

Prosecution rests its case in Donald Trump’s hush money trial

Donald Trump's hush money trial entered its final stretch with the prosecution resting its case late Monday afternoon following the conclusion of star witness Michael Cohen 's testimony.

7 hours ago

Crews work to move the cargo ship Dali in Baltimore, on May 20. The vessel on March 26 struck the F...

Holly Yan, Elizabeth Wolfe, Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace, CNN

Dali cargo ship now docked after it destroyed Baltimore bridge; investigations still underway

After 55 days stuck in the Patapsco River, the Dali cargo ship was hauled away from the site of its catastrophic crash into the Francis Scott Key Bridge – a crucial step toward fully reopening the busy Port of Baltimore.

9 hours ago

ROHNERT PARK, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: In an aerial view, a sign is posted on the exterior of a Red L...

Michelle Chapman and Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Business Writers

Red Lobster seeks bankruptcy protection days after closing dozens of restaurants

Casual dining chain Red Lobster has filed for bankruptcy protection late Sunday, days after shuttering dozens of restaurants.

9 hours ago

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 20: Former U.S. President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche (L) retu...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Jake Offenhartz and Alanna Durkin Richer

Michael Cohen says he stole from Trump’s company as defense presses key hush money trial witness

Former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen admitted to jurors in the Republican’s hush money trial that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from Trump’s company.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Prosecution seeks additional sanctions for Trump in hush money case as key witness resumes testimony