Hope Hicks and the ‘Melania’ defense: Trump trial key takeaways, day 11

<span>Hope Hicks testifies during Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.</span><span>Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters</span>
Hope Hicks testifies during Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Donald Trump’s former communications director Hope Hicks provided testimony on Friday that could be helpful both to prosecutors and the former president’s defense, revealing the fallout inside the Trump campaign in the wake of the damaging Access Hollywood tape on which Trump bragged about sexual assault.

Related: Hope Hicks tells hush-money jury of Trump’s control over 2016 campaign

Here are the key takeaways from day 11 of People of New York v Donald J Trump:

Hicks suggests Trump was behind money to Daniels

Hicks bolstered a key part of the prosecutors’ case that Trump was the source of the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels, when she cast doubt on the description relayed to her by Trump himself, that his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had simply paid Daniels out of selflessness.

Prosecutors asked on direct examination what Hicks thought of that account. “That would be out of character for Michael,” Hicks acknowledged. “I didn’t know him to be an especially selfless person. He was the kind of person to seek credit.”

Hicks casting serious doubt on Trump’s suggestion that Cohen paid the money was an important moment: she essentially discredited the Trump team’s contention that the entire hush-money scheme was orchestrated by Cohen and Trump was removed from the operation.

In doing so, Hicks also provided a second win for prosecutors, as she revealed that Trump had some direct knowledge about the hush-money scheme.

Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove twice objected when the Manhattan district attorney prosecutor Matthew Colangelo pried into whether it would have been out of character for Cohen to have paid the hush money without telling Trump, but the judge overruled both objections.

Hicks helps Trump’s ‘Melania’ defense

Hicks handed a gift to Trump when she testified on direct examination that the reaction of his wife Melania was his biggest concern on the morning that the Wall Street Journal article detailing the hush-money payments came out three days before the 2016 election.

“He was concerned about how it would be viewed by his wife,” Hicks said.

The Trump team suggested in opening statements that the main reason why the catch-and-kill scheme to buy Daniels’ story happened was because Trump found it embarrassing for him and for Melania – an alternative explanation to prosecutors’ case that it was to influence the election.

Prosecutors subsequently tried to have Hicks add that Trump was also concerned about those stories derailing his 2016 campaign, but Hicks only offered that Trump was always asking how certain news would “play” with voters.

Hicks helps Trump distance Cohen

Under cross-examination by the Trump lawyer Bove, Hicks also affirmed that Cohen had juvenile tendencies and that he often inserted himself into the Trump 2016 campaign unsolicited even though he had no formal role with the campaign, which had its own lawyers.

Bove asked Hicks in a series of quickfire questions: If Cohen took “unauthorized” actions? If Cohen “went rogue”? Or if Cohen sometimes did things that were unhelpful? “He liked to call himself ‘fixer’, or ‘Mr Fix-It’. And it was only because he first broke it.”

In granting that Cohen sometimes acted unilaterally, Hicks opened the door for Trump’s team to lean into their contention that Trump was removed from the catch-and-kill schemes and it was Cohen freelancing his way through the operation.