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Trump accuses Biden of running a ‘Gestapo administration’ while attacking prosecutor: Live updates

After spending yet another week in Manhattan courtroom, Donald Trump delivered a scathing speech at a private RNC donor retreat in which he compared the Biden administration to Nazis.

“These people are running a Gestapo administration,” Mr Trump told a crowd of deep-pocketed donors at Mar-a-Lago, according to an audio recording obtained by the New York Times.

The former president apparently suggested that the Biden administration was responsible for the series of indictments against him.

Mr Trump added, “And it’s the only thing they have. And it’s the only way they’re going to win, in their opinion, and it’s actually killing them. But it doesn’t bother me.”

He then turned his attention to Jack Smith, mocking him personally.

“He’s unattractive both inside and out,” Mr Trump told the audience. “This is one unattractive dude.”

The ritzy event likely comes as a welcome change to Mr Trump, who endured the third week of his hush money trial.

In New York last week, Mr Trump had to sit silently in court as he listened to testimony from his former communications adviser Hope Hicks.

The trial will resume on Monday.

The Independent’s Alex Woodward is covering the trial at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Key Points

RNC and Trump’s campaign raise over $76m in donation in April

05:25 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Former president Donald Trump’s election campaign and the Republican National Committee said that they have raised more than $76m in April, over half of it from small donors.

The monthly fundraising haul exceeded the $65.6m raised in March by Mr Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, and the RNC.“

With half of funds raised coming from small dollar donors, it is clear that our base is energized. The Republican Party is united, and voters nationwide are ready to FIRE Joe Biden and elect Donald J Trump,” Trump campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles said in a statement.

Who is Hope Hicks?

05:00 , Kelly Rissman

Raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, where she was a teenage model and lacrosse player, Ms Hicks graduated from Southern Methodist Univeristy in Texas before following her father into public relations in New York City.

She was assigned to work on a campaign for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and two years later, in August 2014, joined the Trump Organization to work for the brand in-house where her role was to expand the line. She also did some modelling for the brand’s website.

Trump plucked her from his daughter’s company and by January 2015, aged 26, she was working on his presidential campaign in the role of press secretary, despite having no experience in politics.

Joe Sommerlad has the full story…

Who is Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel reacts to his name dropping on Donald Trump’s hush money trial

04:00 , Kelly Rissman

‘That would be out of character for Michael’: Hope Hicks testifies about so-called hush money payments

03:00 , Kelly Rissman

Hope Hicks was asked about the $130,000 that Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen wired Stormy Daniels just weeks before Election Day in 2016.

Those payments — as well as the series of reimbursement payments from Mr Trump in the months that followed — are now at the center of a criminal case against the former president.

When asked what Mr Trump told her in 2018 about Cohen’s payments, she told the court: “He did it in the kindness of his own heart and he didn’t tell anyone about it.”

Asked by the prosecution whether she believed that Mr Trump’s description of Cohen was consistent with what she knew about him, she said: “I’d say that would be out of character for Michael.”

“I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person, or a selfless person,” she said. “The kind of person who seeks credit.”

Alex Woodward has the full story from inside the courtroom…

Hope Hicks breaks down as she testifies about Michael Cohen at Trump hush money trial

‘Donald Trump is afraid of losing’

02:00 , Kelly Rissman

Earlier this week, Mr Trump refused to commmit to unconditionally accepting the presidential election results in November if he loses.

He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday after a rally in Wisconsin, “If everything’s honest, I’d gladly accept the results. Mr Trump added. “If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.”

“But if everything’s honest, which we anticipate it will be – a lot of changes have been made over the last few years – but if everything’s honest, I will absolutely accept the results,” the former president said.

Michael Steele, the former RNC chair, took issue with Mr Trump’s Wisconsin remarks.

He told MSNBC’s “The Weekend” on Saturday: “Donald Trump is afraid of losing, because it strikes at the core of the thing that’s most important to him, and that’s his ego, and he doesn’t want to do the work to actually win.”

Mr Steele continued, “He wants to goad and cajole and bully people into believing something about our (electoral) system because he is too weak of a man to actually go out and campaign like any other normal candidate who would go out and campaign.”

Recapping Trump in court: Mr Trump told Cohen: ‘I hate that fact that we did it’

01:00 , Kelly Rissman

Manhattan prosecutors also played another tape — this time it was a call between Ms Daniels’ former lawyer Keith Davidson and Cohen.

Cohen said, “What would you do if you were me? … Would you write a book? … Would you break away from the entire Trump, you know, we’ll call it, doctrine? Would you go completely rogue? … Any thoughts? Because it’s not just me that’s being affected.

The former Trump lawyer continued, “It’s my entire family. … Nobody’s thinking about Michael. Know what I’m saying? … I’m saying to myself, What about me? What about me?”

Then, in a shocking moment, Cohen said, “I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, ‘I hate that fact that we did it.’”

In the tape, Cohen then said, “And my comment to him was, ‘But every person you spoke to said it was the right thing to do.’”

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass clarified who Cohen was referring to; Mr Davidson said he believed Cohen was referring to Donald Trump.

Mr Davison also clarified that the “right move” meant the settlement with Daniels.

Trump complains secret Cohen recording was ‘cut off’

Sunday 5 May 2024 00:00 , Kelly Rissman

On Friday, Trump groaned on Truth Social about a recording played in court. Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation with his former client in which the pair were allegedly discussing how to pay Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims that she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006. That would be one year after he married his now-wife Melania.

“The tape played yesterday and discussed today, while good for my case, was cut off at the end, in the early stages of something very positive that I was in the midst of saying. Why was it cut off???” Trump wrote.

Here is what the recording said…

Cohen was heard saying, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend, David (Pecker), you know, so that, I’m going to do that right away … And I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up.”

Mr Trump then responded, “So, what do we got to pay for this? 150?”

The audio was indiscernible, but then Cohen can be heard saying, “…funding. Yes. Uh, and it’s all the stuff.”

Mr Trump said, “Yeah, I was thinking about that.”

Cohen then said, “Because – here, you never know where that company – you never know what he’s –”

Mr Trump then added, “Maybe he gets hit by a truck.”

Some moments later, Cohen said, “Well, I’ll have to pay something.”

Trump replied, “Pay with cash,” to which, Cohen, said, “No, no, no.”

Mr Trump then recommended: “Check.”

George Conway calls Hicks’ testimony ‘devastating’ for Trump

Saturday 4 May 2024 23:00 , Kelly Rissman

Trump Media’s accounting firm faces ‘massive fraud’ charge

Saturday 4 May 2024 22:00 , Kelly Rissman

The independent accounting firm for Trump Media & Technology Group has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with substantial fraud.

BF Borgers, and its owner Benjamin F. Borgers, face allegations that they were running a “sham audit mill,” the SEC said in a statement on Friday.

No allegations of wrongdoing against Trump Media, the owner of Truth Social, were put forward by the commission.

The SEC alleges that Colorado-based firm committed “deliberate and systemic failures,” such as “fabricating” audit documents and falsely telling clients that their work was compliant with accounting standards.

The commission alleges that “massive” fraud occurred between January 2021 and June last year. It’s alleged to have impacted 1,500 SEC filings and upwards of 500 public companies.

Gustaf Kilander reports…

Accounting firm used by Trump Media hit with ‘massive fraud’ charge

Recap: HopeHicks testified that Trump tried to hide news of Karen McDougal affair from Melania

Saturday 4 May 2024 21:00 , Kelly Rissman

Even closer to the election, Ms Hicks was contacted by The Wall Street Journal regarding a report that a woman named Karen McDougal has a story about Mr Trump purchased by The National Enquirer, which then never published it. The reporter wanted to know if the campaign knew anything about it.

Ms Hicks told the court she looped in Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to try and buy them some more time through his relationship with the WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch. David Pecker at the Enquirer claimed the payment to Ms McDougal was for fitness columns and magazine covers.

Another denial was prepared and she and Cohen were in constant contact as the story was published.

“Relative to some of the other stories we dealt with … it just didn’t get a lot of traction,” she recalled.

Mr Trump “was concerned about the story” and Melania Trump finding out, Ms Hicks testified.”He was concerned how it would be viewed by his wife, and he wanted me to make sure that the newspapers weren’t delivered to their residence that morning.”

Michael Cohen’s nickname is now formally in the public record

Saturday 4 May 2024 20:00 , Kelly Rissman

A rather vulgar nickname for Donald Trump has now been formally entered into the public record at the former president’s hush-money trial, after his own defence attorney read out the moniker to the court.

“Von S****InPantz” debuted in court on Thursday after Mr Trump’s legal team complained to New York Justice Juan Merchan that the gag order against their client was unfair.

“Everybody can say anything they want, except for President Trump,” his attorney Todd Blanche explained to the judge.

Mr Blanche then continued to show a series of posts by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, to the courtroom that mocked the former president and labelled him with insulting names.

The attorney read aloud a particular post by Cohen, while Mr Trump sat and listened to the crude mockery of himself at the defence table.

Read the full story…

Donald ‘Von S****InPantz’ has been entered into the public record at Trump’s trial

Recap: Who are thought to be on Trump’s VP shortlist?

Saturday 4 May 2024 19:30 , Kelly Rissman

The former president has invited a handful of VP hopefuls to duke it out at his Mar-a-Lago residence this weekend.

Here are some of the names that Mr Trump is allegedly considering to be his coveted vice presidential pick…

  • Kristi Noem, South Dakota governor

  • Elise Stefanik, New York Congresswoman

  • Tim Scott, South Carolina Senator

  • Marco Rubio, Florida Senator who in 2016 had a feud with Mr Trump

  • JD Vance, Ohio Senator

  • Kari Lake, failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate

WATCH: Trump backtracks on false claim about gag order

Saturday 4 May 2024 19:00 , Kelly Rissman

Trump’s weekend in Mar-a-Lago

Saturday 4 May 2024 18:30 , Kelly Rissman

After sitting in Manhattan criminal court, Mr Trump will reportedly spend the weekend in Florida — at his Mar-a-Lago home — surrounded by a host of supporters, some of whom have eyes on a potential vice presidency.

The Republican presidential candidate is set to convene a two-day retreat on Friday and Saturday in Palm Beach that is expected to attract more than 400 deep-pocketed donors and high-profile politicians.

The event will help shore up Mr Trump’s finances, which have taken a severe hit amid his ongoing legal battles, and reassure donors about the state of his campaign. According to the invitation, seen by Reuters, the retreat is open only to those who have raised $25,000 for the former president or couples who have raised $100,000.

Mike Bedigan has the full story…

Trump invites VP hopefuls to duke it out at Mar-a-Lago this weekend

ICYMI: Hope Hicks cries on the stand

Saturday 4 May 2024 17:59 , Kelly Rissman

A chief aide who gave voice to Donald Trump’s chaotic 2016 campaign for the presidency broke down in tears on the witness stand in his hush money trial, moments after she testified about payments to an adult film star whose allegations threatened to derail his campaign.

The emotional moment from Hope Hicks inside a Manhattan criminal court on Friday followed revealing testimony about her damage control in the weeks before Election Day, and her behind-the-scenes public relations efforts to salvage Mr Trump’s campaign while stories about his alleged affairs and vulgar comments about women were piling up.

Ms Hicks – the first major figure within Mr Trump’s orbit to testify in the trial, which concluded its second week of testimony on Friday – turned her face away from the court and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she began to cry. Microphones on the witness stand picked up the sounds of quiet sobs.

Alex Woodward has the full story…

Hope Hicks breaks down as she testifies about Michael Cohen at Trump hush money trial

Feature: Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Saturday 4 May 2024 17:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Could the same legal reasoning that saw Weinstein’s conviction appeal succeed help Trump overturn a possible guilty verdict in his New York trial?

Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Profile: Hope Hicks — the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Saturday 4 May 2024 16:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Hope Hicks, the woman who once stood at the heart of Donald Trump’s political operations, took the witness stand in her former boss’s hush money trial in New York on Friday.

Once a key member of Trump’s inner circle, the two have not spoken since 2022. But according to insiders, Ms Hicks remains fond of the ex-president and wants nothing but the best for him — even as she appears under subpoena to give evidence in his so-called hush money trial.

Joe Sommerlad takes a look at who she is and how she got to the heart of Trumpworld.

Who is Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Hope Hicks breaks down at Trump trial over Cohen hush money payment

Saturday 4 May 2024 15:15 , Oliver O’Connell

A chief aide who gave voice to Donald Trump’s chaotic 2016 campaign for the presidency broke down in tears on the witness stand in his hush money trial, moments after she testified about payments to an adult film star whose allegations threatened to derail his campaign.

The emotional moment from Hope Hicks inside a Manhattan criminal court on Friday followed revealing testimony about her damage control in the weeks before Election Day, and her behind-the-scenes public relations efforts to salvage Mr Trump’s campaign while stories about his alleged affairs and vulgar comments about women were piling up.

Alex Woodward filed this report from the courthouse:

Hope Hicks breaks down as she testifies about Michael Cohen at Trump hush money trial

Trump hush money trial: Key takeaways from week two of testimony

Saturday 4 May 2024 14:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Former President Donald Trump was back in court this week for three days of testimony in his hush money trial in which he stands accused of election interference by paying adult film star Stormy Daniels to remain quiet about an alleged affair.

Mr Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, which becomes a felony when it’s done in furtherance of another crime – that being the election interference, according to the prosecution.

While Michael Cohen isn’t on the witness stand yet, he’s still the star of the show. The man who arranged the payment to Ms Daniels and negotiated a tentative deal for former Playboy model Karen McDougal is on the lips of nearly every witness, we see his texts and emails to multiple witnesses, and we even hear his voice on secretly recorded audio collected from his phones. He will soon be a central witness.

Here are the key takeaways from the second week of testimony in Mr Trump’s hush money trial:

Key takeaways from the second week of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial

Trump and Cohen discussed hush money ‘catch and kill’ plot in bombshell audio played in court

Saturday 4 May 2024 13:15 , Oliver O’Connell

For the first time in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, jurors heard the former president’s own voice discussing a deal with his former attorney to buy the silence of a former Playboy model who alleged an affair with Mr Trump.

A portion of the recording – secretly recorded by Michael Cohen while Mr Trump was in the middle of his 2016 campaign for the presidency – was played inside a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday, giving the jury a brief but crucial look into how his “fixer” kept his boss up to date with a scheme that is now central to the criminal case against him.

Alex Woodward filed this report from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan:

Bombshell audio captures Trump and Cohen discussing hush money ‘catch and kill’ plot

Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Saturday 4 May 2024 12:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Two famous American men with notorious reputations appeared in downtown Manhattan courtrooms near each other this week, during the latest round in their long list of legal problems.

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein appeared at New York State Supreme Court for a hearing on Wednesday for the first time since a New York appeals court overturned his 2020 conviction for rape and sexual assault of two women.

Weinstein now faces a September retrial, after the appeals court ruled that the judge in the case made “egregious errors” by letting the prosecution call witnesses with testimony unconnected to the charges.

Just one block away, Donald Trump’s hush money trial continued this week at Manhattan Criminal Court. The former president faces 34 counts of falsifying business records over a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

More here.

Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Accounting firm used by Trump Media hit with ‘massive fraud’ charge

Saturday 4 May 2024 11:15 , Oliver O’Connell

The independent accounting firm for Trump Media & Technology Group has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with substantial fraud.

BF Borgers, and its owner Benjamin F. Borgers, face allegations that they were running a “sham audit mill,” the SEC said in a statement on Friday.

No allegations of wrongdoing against Trump Media, the owner of Truth Social, were put forward by the commission.

Gustaf Kilander has the details:

Accounting firm used by Trump Media hit with ‘massive fraud’ charge

Hicks says Trump was worried about wife’s reaction

Saturday 4 May 2024 10:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Longtime Donald Trump adviser Hope Hicks yesterday said the former president “worried” about the effect of the Access Hollywood tape on his family.

When the Wall Street Journal published a story revealing ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal’s affair allegations right before the election, Ms Hicks said Mr Trump was concerned about his wife seeing the story.“He was concerned about how it would be viewed by his wife” Melania, Ms Hicks said.

He asked Ms Hicks to make sure newspapers weren’t delivered to their residence that morning, she told jurors.

Ms Hicks, a former White House official, was compelled to testify by Manhattan prosecutors, who are hoping her remarks bolster their argument that the uproar over the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape hastened Trump’s then-lawyer to pay off Stormy Daniels to bury a negative story that could imperil his 2016 presidential bid.

Michael Cohen was Trump’s consummate inside man. Now, friends say he’s on the stand and at risk

Saturday 4 May 2024 09:15 , Oliver O’Connell

We heard a lot about Cohen during testimony yesterday and it’s just possible he could take the stand as soon as today to give evidence in person.

With that in mind, here’s Kelly Rissman’s look at his soured relationship with Trump and what’s at stake for him in this trial.

Michael Cohen was Trump’s inside man. Now, he’s on the stand and at risk, friends say

Top takeaways as Hope Hicks testifies

Saturday 4 May 2024 08:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Here are the key takeaways from the day in court:

Trump walks back Thursday’s claim gag order stops him from testifying

On Thursday as he left the courtroom and delivered his usual diatribe to the assembled media, Donald Trump claimed that because of the gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan, he was prohibited from testifying in his own defence.

Hicks recalls impact of Access Hollywood tape on campaign

Hope Hicks testified that she found out about the infamous Access Hollywood tape of Mr Trump making remarks about allegedly sexually assaulting women on the afternoon of 7 October 2016 — just a month before the election.

After possibly denting Trump’s defence, Hicks cries on stand

Under questioning by prosecution attorney Matthew Colangelo, Ms Hicks testified that Mr Trump told her that Cohen made the Stormy Daniels hush money payment on his own.

More here.

Trump hush money trial: Top takeaways as Hope Hicks testifies

Jimmy Kimmel wants to testify at Trump’s hush money trial

Saturday 4 May 2024 07:15 , Oliver O’Connell

The late-night host, a long-running enemy of the defendant, was only too delighted when his 2018 interview with Stormy Daniels was mentioned in court yesterday and says he would be happy to testify if called.

Jimmy Kimmel wants to testify at Trump’s hush money trial

Hope Hicks recounts fear over impact of ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

Saturday 4 May 2024 06:53 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was seized with worry about the potential political damage from a tape that showed him bragging about grabbing women sexually without their permission, longtime Trump adviser Hope Hicks testified.

Ms Hicks, a former White House official, was compelled to testify by Manhattan prosecutors, who are hoping her remarks bolster their argument that the uproar over the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape hastened Mr Trump’s then-lawyer to pay off Stormy Daniels to bury a negative story.

Ms Hicks described being stunned and huddling with other Trump advisers after learning about the tape’s existence from the Washington Post reporter who broke the story.

She forwarded the reporter’s request to campaign leadership with the recommendation to “deny, deny, deny,” she said.

“I had a good sense to believe this was going to be a massive story and that it was going to dominate the news cycle for the next several days,” Ms Hicks testified. “This was a damaging development.”

She added: “This was just pulling us backwards in a way that was going to be hard to overcome.”

Donald ‘Von S****InPantz’

Saturday 4 May 2024 05:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Amelia Neath and Kelly Rissman report:

A rather vulgar nickname for Donald Trump has now been formally entered into the public record at the former president’s hush-money trial, after his own defence attorney read out the moniker to the court.

“Von S****InPantz” debuted in court on Thursday after Mr Trump’s legal team complained to New York Justice Juan Merchan that the gag order against their client was unfair.

“Everybody can say anything they want, except for President Trump,” his attorney Todd Blanche explained to the judge.

Mr Blanche then continued to show a series of posts by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, to the courtroom that mocked the former president and labelled him with insulting names.

Continue reading…

Donald ‘Von S****InPantz’ has been entered into the public record at Trump’s trial

Profile: Hope Hicks — the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Saturday 4 May 2024 03:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Hope Hicks, the woman who once stood at the heart of Donald Trump’s political operations, took the witness stand in her former boss’s hush money trial in New York on Friday.

Once a key member of Trump’s inner circle, the two have not spoken since 2022. But according to insiders, Ms Hicks remains fond of the ex-president and wants nothing but the best for him — even as she appears under subpoena to give evidence in his so-called hush money trial.

Joe Sommerlad takes a look at who she is and how she got to the heart of Trumpworld.

Who is Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Trump hush money trial: Key takeaways from week two of testimony

Saturday 4 May 2024 02:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Former President Donald Trump was back in court this week for three days of testimony in his hush money trial in which he stands accused of election interference by paying adult film star Stormy Daniels to remain quiet about an alleged affair.

Mr Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, which becomes a felony when it’s done in furtherance of another crime – that being the election interference, according to the prosecution.

While Michael Cohen isn’t on the witness stand yet, he’s still the star of the show. The man who arranged the payment to Ms Daniels and negotiated a tentative deal for former Playboy model Karen McDougal is on the lips of nearly every witness, we see his texts and emails to multiple witnesses, and we even hear his voice on secretly recorded audio collected from his phones. He will soon be a central witness.

Here are the key takeaways from the second week of testimony in Mr Trump’s hush money trial:

Key takeaways from the second week of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial

Michael Cohen hasn’t taken the stand in Trump’s hush money trial. But jurors are hearing his words

Saturday 4 May 2024 01:15 , AP

The prosecution’s star witness has yet to take the stand in Donald Trump‘s hush money trial. But jurors are already hearing Michael Cohen‘s words as prosecutors work to directly tie Trump to payments to silence women with damaging claims about him before the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen hasn’t taken the stand in Trump’s hush money trial. But jurors are hearing his words

Watch: Timeline of Trump’s pizza photo-op

Friday 3 May 2024 23:45 , Oliver O’Connell

Full story: Hope Hicks breaks down at Trump trial as she testifies about Michael Cohen

Friday 3 May 2024 23:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan:

A chief aide who gave voice to Donald Trump’s chaotic 2016 campaign for the presidency broke down in tears on the witness stand in his hush money trial, moments after she testified about payments to an adult film star whose allegations threatened to derail his campaign.

The emotional moment from Hope Hicks inside a Manhattan criminal court on Friday followed revealing testimony about her damage control in the weeks before Election Day, and her behind-the-scenes public relations efforts to salvage Mr Trump’s campaign while stories about his alleged affairs and vulgar comments about women were piling up.

Read on…

Hope Hicks breaks down as she testifies about Michael Cohen at Trump hush money trial

Watch: Trump asked what it was like to see Hope Hicks

Friday 3 May 2024 23:12 , Oliver O’Connell

Feature: Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Friday 3 May 2024 22:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Could the same legal reasoning that saw Weinstein’s conviction appeal succeed help Trump overturn a possible guilty verdict in his New York trial?

Does the quashing of Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction spell hope for Trump?

Trump Media’s accounting firm hit with ‘massive fraud’ charge

Friday 3 May 2024 21:45 , Oliver O’Connell

The independent accounting firm for the Trump Media & Technology Group, BF Borgers, has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with substantial fraud.

The firm now faces allegations that they were running a “sham audit mill,” according to CNN.

No allegations of wrongdoing against Trump Media, the owner of Truth Social, were put forward by the commission.

Gustaf Kilander reports:

Trump Media’s accounting firm hit with ‘massive fraud’ charge

Court sketch: Hope Hicks testifies

Friday 3 May 2024 21:30 , Oliver O’Connell

Hope Hicks, a former top aide to ex-President Donald Trump, testifies during his criminal trial before Justice Juan Merchan on 3 May 2024 (REUTERS)Hope Hicks, a former top aide to ex-President Donald Trump, testifies during his criminal trial before Justice Juan Merchan on 3 May 2024 (REUTERS)

Hope Hicks, a former top aide to ex-President Donald Trump, testifies during his criminal trial before Justice Juan Merchan on 3 May 2024 (REUTERS)

Watch: Trump delivers conspiracy-laden rant about ‘Soros-backed’ DA and lawyers

Friday 3 May 2024 21:16 , Oliver O’Connell

Did Hope Hicks just help the prosecution and dent Trump’s defence?

Friday 3 May 2024 20:50 , Oliver O’Connell

Under questioning by prosecution attorney Matthew Colangelo, Hope Hicks testified that Donald Trump told her that Michael Cohen made the Stormy Daniels transaction on his own.

The former president told her: “Michael felt like it was his job to protect him” and that “he did it in the kindness of his own heart and he didn’t tell anyone about it.”

Mr Trump also said it was better to do it when he did rather than have it come out before the election.

Ms Hicks was asked whether the idea that Cohen would’ve made a $130,00 payment out of the kindness of his own heart was consistent with what she knew about him.

“I’d say that would be out of character for Michael,” she replied.

Judge Juan Merchan overruled objections from the defence team to the line of questioning.

Asked to elaborate, Ms Hicks said: “I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person or a selfless person. (He was) the kind of person who seeks credit.”

By implication, the former Trump aide appeared to make the prosecution’s case against her former boss easier — that Cohen would not have acted alone and instead worked on behalf of Mr Trump, and that action was purposefully taken before the election.

Ms Hicks then began to cry on the witness stand with a break being called so that she might compose herself.

On her return to the stand, Ms Hicks was very critical of Cohen and characterised him as an outsider in Trumpworld often going rogue. She also heaped praise on her former boss.

Jury sent home for weekend

Friday 3 May 2024 20:42 , Oliver O’Connell

Judge Juan Merchan has sent the jury home for the weekend.

Defence attorney Todd Blanche is arguing that if Donald Trump testifies and prosecutors question him about the gag order rulings, it would create a “whole sideshow”.

Which… are trial rulings from this trial

However!

“I agree with Mr Blanche,” Merchan says.

It would be “very, very prejudicial” for a jury in this case to consider rulings from the same judge about the same defendant.

So if Trump does testify, prosecutors will not be allowed to question him about the judge’s gag order rulings.

They will, however, under a previous ruling, be allowed to bring up the civil fraud trial gag order decisions.

The trial resumes at 9.30am on Monday.

Friday 3 May 2024 20:32 , Alex Woodward

Bove is treating Hicks like she is a defence witness. Calm, slower questions, with a lower and softer voice. Pulling out of her a sense that all things in Trumpworld were fine, that damage control over destructive stories was part of the job, and that ultimately Trump cared about his family – an echo of Todd Blanche’s portrait of him as a consummate family man in the opening statements.

Hicks has also changed up how she speaks about him. He is now “President Trump.”

“President Trump really values Ms Trump’s opinion,” she says. “She doesn’t weigh in all the time but when she does it’s really meaningful to him and he really respects what she has to say.”

She was “concerned about what the perception of this would be.”

Trump “didn’t want anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed.”

“He wanted them to be proud of him.”

The defence finishes questioning Hicks and there is nothing further from the prosecution.

Hicks is excused.

Friday 3 May 2024 20:20 , Alex Woodward

Trump gives a lot of feedback, right?

“He likes to call and praise people for stories even if they’re not about him … Or if it’s not a good story. He does a really nice job of maintaining relationships and always be willing to engage with the media … He spoke often with publishers, journalists, editors.”

Bove essentially normalizing Trumpworld.

Friday 3 May 2024 20:19 , Alex Woodward

Michael Cohen wasn’t part of the campaign, right?

“No, he would try to insert himself in certain moments but he wasn’t supposed to be in the campaign in any official capacity.”

At times he did things that were frustrating to the campaign staff, right? Yes

He went rogue at times, fair to stay? Yes

He did things that you thought were not helpful to things you were trying to accomplish?

“He liked to call himself a fixer or Mr Fix It. But it was only because he first broke it,” says Hicks.

Profile: Hope Hicks — the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Friday 3 May 2024 20:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Hope Hicks, the woman who once stood at the heart of Donald Trump’s political operations, took the witness stand in her former boss’s hush money trial in New York on Friday.

Once a key member of Trump’s inner circle, the two have not spoken since 2022. But according to insiders, Ms Hicks remains fond of the ex-president and wants nothing but the best for him — even as she appears under subpoena to give evidence in his so-called hush money trial.

Joe Sommerlad takes a look at who she is and how she got to the heart of Trumpworld.

Who is Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all

Court resumes after short break

Friday 3 May 2024 20:13 , Alex Woodward

Court has resumed after a short break with Ms Hicks and the jury returning to the courtroom.

“Sorry about that,” she says smiling at Bove.

Bove is asking whether she had positive relationships with a number of Trumpworld figures at the company and whether she felt Trump showed her “trust and respect.”

Friday 3 May 2024 20:04 , Alex Woodward

Emil Bove is up for the defence.

Hicks is visibly upset. She moves her face to the side to hide her tears. Bove asks whether we need a break.

Judge Merchan asks if Hicks would like one.

“Yes please.” She reaches for a tissue.

The cameras in the overflow are off but we can hear what sounds like Hicks crying.

Friday 3 May 2024 20:03 , Alex Woodward

Hicks says Trump told her that Cohen made the Stormy transaction because “Michael felt like it was his job to protect him” and that “he did it in the kindness of his own heart and he didn’t tell anyone about it.”

Did the idea that Cohen would’ve made a $130,00 payment out of the kindness of his own heart consistent with what you knew about him?

Objection.

Overruled.

“I’d say that would be out of character for Michael”

How so?

Objection.

Overruled.

“I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person, or a selfless person. The kind of person who seeks credit.”

No more questions from the prosecution.

Friday 3 May 2024 19:47 , Alex Woodward

We’re going over Hicks’s White House roles.

She joined in January 2017 as the director of strategic communications, then became the communication director in August of that year.

She left in April 2018 and became the executive vice president of communications at the Fox Corporation, before returning to the White House in 2020.

Friday 3 May 2024 19:42 , Alex Woodward

The overall response to the article was “muted,” Hicks says.

“Relative to some of the other stories we dealt with … it just didn’t get a lot of traction.”

Trump “was concerned about the story. He was concerned how it would be viewed by his wife, and he wanted me to make sure that the newspapers weren’t delivered to their residence that morning.”

Was he concerned about the campaign?

“Everything we talked about in the context of this time period and this timeframe was in the context of the campaign. … Something Trump said a lot was ‘How is it playing?’ … Could’ve been a speech, an article, a tweet.”

Friday 3 May 2024 19:38 , Alex Woodward

Cohen texted Hicks on November 4 2016

“Call me” at 7.09pm

“Any news?” at 8.50pm

“Any news???” at 9.02pm

She sent him a link to the WSJ story.

Cohen: Lots of innuendos with little fact

Cohen: Poorly written and I dot (sic) see it getting much play

“A little irony there,” Hicks says, laughing a bit on the stand as she reads the texts aloud.

Hicks: I agree with most of that!! It will get play bc the media is the worst but should just ignore and blow past it

Cohen, the next morning: Even CNN not talking about it. No one believes it and if necessary, I have a statement by Storm denying everything and contradicting the other porn stars statement. I wouldn’t use it now or even discuss with him as no one is talking about this or cares!

“I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t want to know,” Hicks says.

“I just mean that the election was taking place in three days and we were doing five-six rallies a day. There was a lot going on and it wasn’t like this story was consuming the news cycle and I didn’t need to be aware of every little detail.”

Friday 3 May 2024 19:33 , Alex Woodward

We also see another portion of the WSJ article mentioning Stormy Daniels, and Hicks’ quote to the paper that it is “absolutely, unequivocally untrue” that she had a relationship with Trump.

She testifies that’s consistent with what she told the WSJ and a grand jury.

A string of text messages between Hicks and Cohen is shown to the court from the aftermath of the publication of the 4 November 2016 WSJ article about Karen McDougal.

Friday 3 May 2024 19:29 , Alex Woodward

She clarifies that the “denial” part for both women came from Trump, but she’s not clear where the “no knowledge” part came from.

“As I sit here now I don’t have a strong memory of him saying, ‘we have no knowledge of any of this.’ … These are hectic conversations, there’s a lot of people weighing in.”

Friday 3 May 2024 19:28 , Alex Woodward

On the stand, Hope Hicks recalls that on 4 November 2016, after a stop in Ohio, the campaign landed in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In a car getting to the next venue, Trump was speaking on the phone with Michael Cohen. Reince Priebus was also in the car.

“I don’t know who initiated the phone call.” There was “nothing memorable” about the call and “I don’t remember what was said.”

We see the Wall Street Journal article on Karen McDougal and the quote from Hicks on behalf of the campaign in the story, in which she says “we have no knowledge of any of this” and that the claim of an affair was “totally untrue”.

Did Trump tell you to say that?

“I don’t remember him verbatim saying that but that was the consensus of the conversations we were all having.”

Court resumes

Friday 3 May 2024 19:21 , Oliver O’Connell

Court resumes after the lunch break.

Trump is back at the defence table.

Hope Hicks returns to the witness box without acknowledging Trump, who looked up at her.

The jury is brought back in.

Alex Woodward is reporting for The Independent live from the courthouse…

Trump’s lunchtime Truths

Friday 3 May 2024 19:17 , Oliver O’Connell

Here’s a classic all-caps rant:

THIS ISN’T A TRIAL, IT’S A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN, A WITCH HUNT, JUST LIKE THE HIGHLY CONFLICTED AND BIASED JUDGE, JUAN MERCHAN, WANTED IT TO BE. I’M SURE HIS POLITICAL FRIENDS AND ALLIES, AND CROOKED JOE BIDEN, IN PARTICULAR, WILL BE THRILLED THAT THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH THIS CORRUPT, “ANCIENT,” AND HIGHLY POLITICAL ATTACK ON HIS 2024 PRESIDENTIAL OPPONENT. THESE EIGHT YEAR OLD STORIES, WHICH CAME OUT PRIOR TO THE 2016 ELECTION (THE VOTERS HAVE ALREADY, AND LOUDLY, SPOKEN!), AND HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS FAKE CASE, BROUGHT BY A CROOKED, SOROS BACKED NEW YORK CITY D.A., ALVIN BRAGG, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO BE USED. VIRTUALLY EVERY LEGAL SCHOLAR AND EXPERT CALL IT A SHAM AND DISGRACE, ELECTION INTERFERENCE. IT IS AN INSULT TO AMERICAN JUSTICE!

And here’s some fresh commentary on the evidence shown in court yesterday:

The tape played yesterday and discussed today, while good for my case, was cut off at the end, in the early stages of something very positive that I was in the midst of saying. Why was it cut off???

Hmm… “something very positive that I was in the midst of saying” — what was it?

Here’s what he’s referring to:

Bombshell audio captures Trump and Cohen discussing hush money ‘catch and kill’ plot

ICYMI: Trump falsely claims trial gag order means he’s not allowed to testify

Friday 3 May 2024 19:00 , Oliver O’Connell

Donald Trump falsely claimed on Thursday that his hush-money trial gag order means that he isn’t “allowed” to testify as part of his defence.

Mr Trump was hit with a gag order in March preventing him from commenting publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in his hush-money trial, in which he is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an alleged bid to cover up hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels – all of which he denies.

The order prohibits Mr Trump from commenting about the trial on Truth Social or to the media, but it does not, however, impact Mr Trump’s right to testify in his trial.

Continue reading…

Trump falsely claims trial gag order means he’s not allowed to testify

Donald ‘Von S****InPantz’

Friday 3 May 2024 18:40 , Oliver O’Connell

Amelia Neath and Kelly Rissman report:

A rather vulgar nickname for Donald Trump has now been formally entered into the public record at the former president’s hush-money trial, after his own defence attorney read out the moniker to the court.

“Von S****InPantz” debuted in court on Thursday after Mr Trump’s legal team complained to New York Justice Juan Merchan that the gag order against their client was unfair.

“Everybody can say anything they want, except for President Trump,” his attorney Todd Blanche explained to the judge.

Mr Blanche then continued to show a series of posts by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, to the courtroom that mocked the former president and labelled him with insulting names.

Continue reading…

Donald ‘Von S****InPantz’ has been entered into the public record at Trump’s trial

On this day in 2016…

Friday 3 May 2024 18:20 , Oliver O’Connell

Friday 3 May 2024 18:02 , Oliver O’Connell

Court will resume at 2.15pm.

As court is ending early today at 3.45pm, Ms Hicks will almost certainly be back on the stand on Monday.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:59 , Alex Woodward

Hicks had also learned that the story would mention Stormy Daniels, and Trump “wanted to know the context and he wanted to make sure there was a denial of any kind of relationship”.

She said that the reporting “wasn’t necessarily about accusations of, you know, certain behaviour”.

Judge Merchan excuses the jury for lunch.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:57 , Alex Woodward

Hicks emailed Cohen a draft, and he responded with:

Instead, say: “These accusations are completely untrue and just the latest despicable attempt by the liberal media and the Clinton machine to distract the public from the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation into Secretary Clinton and her closest associates.”

Hicks said they ended up changing the statement to “just a denial” and “that we didn’t know anything about this deal.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:53 , Alex Woodward

She also called Pecker, and “asked what was going on, why was I receiving this email, and he explained that Karen McDougal was paid for magazine covers and fitness columns and it was all very legitimate and that was what the contract was for”.

First, she spoke with Michael Cohen.

“There was a reason I called David next. I think Michael… he didn’t know what I was talking about.”

She began drafting a response, and she “sent it to Michael first to get his input while Mr Trump was still on stage” then shared it with him after the rally.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:47 , Alex Woodward

Ms Hicks received an email from Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Rothfeld just as the campaign was landing in Ohio for a rally.

In the email, “I think it outlined that there was a woman named Karen McDougal who had a story that was purchased by the National Enquirer but was never published. And he was asking me or the Trump campaign if we knew anything about that.”

Rothfeld was one of the authors of the WSJ report on Ms McDougal.

Ms Hicks let Trump know about the email before he started speaking at the rally, fearing she wouldn’t have enough time to respond.

She looped in Jared Kushner.

She had hoped he could lean on his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, “seeing if we could buy a little extra time to deal with this.”

“I think he said he wasn’t going to be able to reach Rupert and should just work on responding and dealing with it.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:43 , Alex Woodward

“Have you ever heard of someone named Karen McDougal?” she is asked by Colangelo.

“I received an inquiry from a reporter at The Wall Street Journal asking questions about her and The National Enquirer,” Ms Hicks replies.

“Have you ever heard of someone named Stormy Daniels?”

“A year prior, I remember 2015, Mr Trump, security guys on the plane were telling a story about a celebrity golf tournament … and her name came up. She was there with one of the other participants that Mr Trump played with that day.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:40 , Alex Woodward

The jury is now seeing the “foul-mouthed Sen John McCain”, “nobody has more respect for women than me,” “media rigging election” and “phoney stories” tweets. Hicks is also being asked to read them aloud.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:38 , Alex Woodward

We’re seeing a clip from Trump’s October 15 2016 rally in North Carolina, where he said allegations from other women are “horrible lies, all fabrications, and we can’t let them change the most important election of our lives”.

Did you read what Trump posted on Twitter at the time?

Yes

Who was authorized to post from the account

“One other staff member who could post things that Mr Trump approved … His name is Dan Scavino.”

Only with Mr Trump’s approval?

Yes.

So what appeared on Twitter was approved by Trump?

Objection.

Overruled.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:35 , Alex Woodward

Ms Hicks spoke to Michael Cohen a few days later on “Saturday October 8”.

“I was calling him to ask him to chase down a rumour … that there may be another tape that would be problematic for the campaign.”

“I didn’t want anyone to be blindsided.”

“I asked him to call this friend of his and ask about the existence of the tape and let me know if there was a tape and when we can expect it to be published.”

That Saturday was the debate in St Louis, with moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper — who is watching the trial today in court.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:31 , Alex Woodward

The Trump defence team has objected to a line of questions about whether Ms Hicks recalled other officials reacting to the tape.

Attorney Emil Bove then asks for a sidebar.

Trump appeared to snap awake, grabbing Todd Blanche’s arm as he got up to walk over to the judge.

Now Trump is scribbling something down.

The objection is sustained by Judge Merchan.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:26 , Alex Woodward

Trump’s eyes have been closed for most of this so far.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:25 , Alex Woodward

We see the campaign’s initial very brief statement about it from the day of the video’s release: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

The court also sees this video:

What was the media response like:

“It was intense. Dominated coverage for I would say 36 hours leading up to the debate. At the time, I got the email … we were anticipating a Category 4 hurricane making landfall somewhere on the east coast and I don’t think anyone remembers where that hurricane made landfall.”

ADA Matthew Colangelo: “The Access Hollywood tape pushed the hurricane off the news?”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:19 , Alex Woodward

How was the discussion with Trump about how the campaign would respond?

“I don’t really have a strong recollection of that conversation,” but Trump said it was “two guys, discussing privately, locker room talk.”

“I think he felt like it was pretty standard stuff for two guys, you know, chatting with each other.”

They acknowledged that it was “not good,” she says.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:18 , Alex Woodward

Was Trump upset?

“Um… yes, he was,” says Ms Hicks.

What was your reaction when you heard the tape?

“Just… a little stunned. Just… yeah, it’s hard to describe. It was definitely concerning. And I had a good sense that this was going to be a massive story and sort of dominate the news cycle for the next several days, at least.”

Were you concerned about the campaign?

“It was a damaging development.”

Why?

“Um… it just… it just didn’t feel like the kind of… the kind of story… obviously it wasn’t helpful. It just… There were a lot of layers to it, for where we were trying to go with the campaign and this was kind of pulling us backwards. And it was going to be difficult to overcome.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:14 , Alex Woodward

She went to a conference room where Trump and others were doing debate prep and motioned for Jason and others to come over.

“The sight of the five or six of us gathered out there was a sign that something was afoot. Trump called us in at some point and told us to share what was happening.”

“I shared the email with Mr Trump sort of verbally and we were at the time … trying to get a copy of the audio of the tape, to assess the situation further, and we weren’t sure how to respond yet.”

Trump said, “that didn’t sound like something he would say.”

He saw the tape within a matter of minutes after it was live.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:12 , Alex Woodward

She emailed Jason Miller, David Bossie, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon:

FLAGGING.

1. Need to hear the tape to be sure

2. Deny, deny, deny

“It’s a reflex,” she says laughing. “I was obviously a little shocked and not realized that the entirety of the transcript was in the email.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:08 , Alex Woodward

We see a copy of the Access Hollywood transcript that the reporter sent her.

Her reaction to the email:

“I was concerned. Very concerned. Um… yeah. I was concerned about the contents of the email, concerned about the lack of time to respond, concerned that we had a transcript and not a tape. There was a lot at play.”

Friday 3 May 2024 17:05 , Alex Woodward

Ms Hicks says she found out about the Access Hollywood tape on the afternoon of 7 October 2016 after she “received an email from The Washington Post asking for comment” while she was in her office on the 14th floor of Trump Tower.

Now admitted into evidence is an email where Ms Hicks forwarded that Washington Post reporter’s request to other campaign leadership.

The subject is “URGENT WashPost query”.

Friday 3 May 2024 17:03 , Alex Woodward

How frequently were you interacting with Trump in the fall of 2016?

“We were travelling every day … We were based here in New York and we would usually leave Trump Tower at about 7 in the morning, we would go to LaGuardia and get on Mr Trump’s plane, and make somewhere between two and our sometimes five stops in a day,” says Ms Hicks.