Trump Takes ‘It All In’ At Hush Money Trial | Crooked Media
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May 02, 2024
What A Day
Trump Takes ‘It All In’ At Hush Money Trial

In This Episode

  • Thursday was Day 10 of former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in Manhattan. Before testimony resumed, Justice Juan Merchan held a second hearing on new allegations that Trump violated his gag order. Later, Keith Davidson, a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, walked the jury through the deal he brokered between Trump and the adult film star in exchange for her silence. Hugo Lowell, political investigations reporter for The Guardian, shares the latest details from inside the courthouse.
  • And in headlines: Hamas officials said they would meet with negotiators in Egypt to continue talks for a ceasefire in Gaza, President Biden condemned the violence breaking out on college campuses across the country, and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that bans and criminalizes the sale of lab-grown meat in the state.


Show Notes:






Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, May 3rd, I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day where we can only dream of having the monthly budget of former New York City mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the New York Times reports that he is having trouble sticking to his $43,000 a month budget. Priyanka, I don’t even know what I would do with $43,000. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Unfortunately. I know too many things that I would do with that money. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Hamas officials continue to negotiate a cease fire agreement. Plus, President Biden breaks his silence on campus protests. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first Thursday was day ten of former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan, and things got interesting. So before the testimony even started, Justice Juan Merchan held a second hearing on Trump’s alleged violations of his gag order. Earlier this week, Trump was fined $9,000 for nine violations. This time, prosecutors presented four additional statements that were made since last Monday that they say violated Merchan’s gag order as well. Two of the statements were about Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, and the other two were about the jury and former tabloid publisher David Pecker, who testified earlier. Merchan didn’t rule on these latest allegations, but the Manhattan DA’s office wants Trump fined an additional $1,000 for each violation. Really just a slap on the wrist there in like the most minor way, this man is not operating even on a Rudy Giuliani budget. He is like bleeding millions of dollars. Uh. Though jail time for further violations is reportedly on the table, the prosecutor did not ask Marshawn to consider that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, this is a wild, wild situation that we are witnessing when it comes to the actual trial, what happened on Thursday there? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So on the stand on Thursday was Keith Davidson. He is the lawyer who negotiated the hush money agreements with two women who said that they had affairs with Donald Trump and were paid to stay quiet about it, the first being adult film star Stormy Daniels and the second former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. Davidson walked the jury through the deal that he brokered between Trump and Daniels in exchange for her silence. The trial, obviously, is not televised for the public to watch, but we are in luck. I spoke with Hugo Lowell earlier. He is a political investigations reporter for The Guardian, and he has been at the courthouse throughout this entire trial. I started by asking him how the gag order hearing unfolded on Thursday. 


Hugo Lowell: It was not a good day for Trump again. And before Judge Merchan, with respect to the contempt element, I think he is going to be fine further, with respect to the gag order it’s very clearly violated, the provision about attacking the jury. At least that’s what Judge Merchan indicated from the bench. He didn’t rule immediately. Basically, we’re just waiting for Merchan to write out his formal order and the uh decision will take effect. And it was very clear from the colloquy today that Merchan really thought Trump had violated the order. He really thought Trump had gone after the jurors, and he seemed unimpressed at the Trump lawyer’s argument, essentially, that because Trump didn’t identify a specific juror, it was allowed under the terms of the gag order. And it seems very much like Trump is headed for further punishment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So after all of this, Trump said that he might not actually testify because of the gag order after previously saying that he would. Here is a little clip of that. 


[clip of Donald Trump] It’s such a rigged court, so I’m not allowed to testify because of an unconstitutional gag order. We’re appealing the gag order and let’s see what happens. Thank you very much. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Did we ever really expect him to testify here? 


Hugo Lowell: It was an open question. You know, I’d spoken to Trump’s legal advisers and his campaign staff in the lead up to this trial, and the question was always up to Trump. If Trump felt like he wanted to testify, then at the end of the day, what Trump wanted would go. I think increasingly, as this trial has gone on, and with Trump now hit with at least $9,000 in punitive fines with respect to his earlier violations of the gag order, that does seem to have been some deterrence effect at this trial. You know, Trump, even today leaving the courthouse, said he didn’t want to get into discussing one of the witness’s testimony, Keith Davidson, because he was bound by the gag order. It seems to me that he is now using the gag order as an excuse for getting out of testifying, because this is a way for him to save face to his fans after previously saying, you know, I’m going to testify and I’m going to clear my name. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right? Exactly. And, you know, you mentioned Keith Davidson. He is the lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and negotiated agreements for both of those women. What did he say while he was testifying that really, you know, stuck out to you? 


Hugo Lowell: The thing that stuck out to me from Keith Davidson was actually how much it helped Trump in some respects. You know, he was quite a hostile and reluctant witness, at least towards the end of his testimony. And there was an interesting part when Davidson testified that he would never call the money paid to Stormy Daniels hush money, he would call it basically part of a settlement agreement. And that was interesting because I was texting some of the Trump lawyers at the time, and they seized upon that, and they said to me that that was the sort of thing that they would pursue, and that’s the sort of thing they wanted to seize upon. The fact that if not even the guy that helped broker the deal saw it as hush money, then is there really an underlying charge here for falsifying the business records? It’s a small point, but it’s I think the first opening that Trump’s legal team has had, and I think that is significant. But on the other side, you know, Keith Davidson testified over the previous few days to all of the big moments that the district attorney needed. And Keith Davidson basically put together the narrative of how the hush money payments and the catch and kill schemes came together. And I think that was quite important for the jury. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We also know that there was a secret recording that was played for the jurors. It is Trump and Michael Cohen during the 2016 campaign. They’re talking about the hush money payment details. So can you tell us about that recording and how the reaction in the court seemed? 


Hugo Lowell: Yeah, that was a very seminal moment at the end of the trial proceedings. It was basically a tape recorded of Michael Cohen telling Donald Trump that they needed to set up a shell company in order to uh set up an arrangement to pay Karen McDougal. And Cohen has this line where he says, quote, “I need to open up a company for the transfer about our friend David,” David being David Pecker. And that’s really significant for multiple reasons, not least because it showed that Cohen was keeping Trump apprized of all of the key moments in these catch and kill schemes. Trump’s legal team suggested in opening statements that Trump had nothing to do with any of these schemes. It was all Michael Cohen doing of his own accord. Trump was busy running the country as president. Well, when he was signing off on the checks, and earlier was leaving all of this stuff up to his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. And this tape indicated to some extent, that Trump was being told in real time about what was going on, and that he was being kept abreast of the biggest developments. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And just one last thing for you. Can you set the record straight for all of us? Was Trump sleeping or was he just, as he said, resting his, quote, “beautiful blue eyes.” 


Hugo Lowell: Look, we don’t know what Trump is actually doing in the courtroom. His eyes certainly are closed for long stretches at a time. There are moments when he jerks upright in his chair, consistent with how someone might awake if they have been kind of dozing off or falling asleep at a classical music concert, for instance. And there have been other times when he has kind of been closing his eyes, and he does seem to have been contemplating. Um. And then he’d like nods with his eyes closed when one of his lawyers reaches over to kind of say something in his ear. So it’s not exactly clear all the time, but he is certainly spending long stretches of this trial with his eyes closed. Whether or not he is actually sleeping is one thing, but it certainly would be accurate to say he is resting his his eyes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And rest his eyes he will, Tre’vell.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m sure he will. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Those apparently beautiful. I’ve never had that thought before. I don’t know if anyone else has either, but um [laughter] sure something to laugh at for all of us. That was my conversation with Hugo Lowell, political investigations reporter for The Guardian. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And there surely will be more on all of this very soon. But that is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe and share with your friends. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Hamas officials said Thursday that they will meet with negotiators in Egypt to continue talks for a cease fire in Gaza. That’s according to a statement from Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. He wrote that the move is meant to, quote, “mature a deal that achieves the demands of our people and ends the aggression. This could signal that both sides are getting closer to a deal. But it’s worth noting that Hamas’s key demand is for Israel to completely pull out of Gaza, something that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly refused to do. Earlier this week, he vowed to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, with or without a deal on a cease fire. This comes after the U.N. released a report detailing the extent of the damage in Gaza after Israel’s months long assault on the densely populated strip. According to the report, even if Israel’s assault on Gaza ended now, it would still take until 2040 to rebuild everything that’s been destroyed, and it would cost at least $30 billion. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just an incredibly staggering toll. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., demonstrations at colleges over the war in Gaza continue as university administrators crack down on pro-Palestinian encampments on campuses all across the country. President Biden weighed in on Thursday after remaining largely silent on the issue. And in an address from the White House, he said that he supported the right to peacefully protest but condemned the violence breaking out on college campuses across the country. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] Violent protest is not protected. Peaceful protest is. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations. None of this is a peaceful protest. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The president also condemned anti-Semitism, and he pushed back on Republicans who have called on him to deploy the National Guard to quell the unrest. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, remember that bridge in Baltimore that collapsed back in March? Well, there’s now a timeline and a price tag for rebuilding it. A Maryland transportation official said on Thursday that rebuilding the Francis Scott Key Bridge will take a little more than four years and cost as much as $1.9 billion. And that’s just a preliminary estimate. Crews on Wednesday also recovered the body of a fifth person who died in the bridge collapse. The body of Miguel Angel Luna Gonzalez was recovered from inside a red construction vehicle. The remains of one person are still missing. The Key Bridge collapsed in late March after a cargo ship called the Dali lost power and smashed into a bridge support. The FBI has reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Investigators are said to be looking into whether the ship’s crew knew about the risk of mechanical issues when it left the port. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And while millions of people in Florida this week lost their reproductive rights because of the new six week abortion ban in the state, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis turned his attention to fighting businesses that are trying to do something about climate change. DeSantis on Wednesday signed a new law that bans and criminalizes the sale of lab grown meat in Florida. Lab grown meat, for the record, is seen as a climate friendly alternative to the meat that we can buy in the store because it is grown from animal cells, meaning that no animal has to be raised and killed for us to eat it. Last year, federal regulators gave two startups approval to start selling lab grown chicken, but commercial availability is still likely years away, so not really an issue at all for these people in Florida. But who wants to help the planet when you can stick it to the quote unquote “elites,” am I right? Here is Ron DeSantis at a press conference on Wednesday for the bill signing. 


[clip of Ron DeSantis] They’ve not only told you that the consumption of meat is, quote, “the source of greenhouse gas and climate change,” obviously, they’ve said that. They also want you to believe that consuming insects is a, quote, “overlooked source of protein and a way to battle climate change.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: My God, read a book Ron DeSantis. [laughter] This is all all I have to say about that. Three other states have passed similar laws. Good thing Florida isn’t among the states that are most heavily affected by climate change because of rising sea levels and intensifying hurricanes. But oh wait, it is. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This man just continues to prove how foolish he is over and over. And I don’t even know if I wanna eat lab grown meat. Priyanka. But this does not, you know, make sense here to me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Is this helping anybody? Is it posing health risks to people? It is pointless. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Makes no sense, not even available in stores, a non-issue. Uh. It seems to me that he just has not gotten enough attention and just is pivoting to doing the most outlandish things possible to get the spotlight back. I guess he misses the opportunity to wear the cowboy boots with the lifts and misses the attention. And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, check your bank account, and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just about lab grown meat like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And make a budget Rudy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s really that simple. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Get in there on Google Sheets. Do your expenses like me every month. It’s fine. Get in there. It really helps. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It really does. [laugh] [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.