Trump trial live: David Pecker to resume Karen McDougal affair testimony as ex-president faces gag order fines

A third day of witness testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York City will begin on Thursday with continued testimony from a former tabloid mogul who is detailing the “catch-and-kill” scheme central to the case.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified on Tuesday about his agreement with Mr Trump and former attorney Michael Cohen to “kill” stories about an alleged Trump lovechild and an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal that were never published.

New York Justice Juan Merchan also is expected to decide whether Mr Trump should be held in contempt and fined $10,000 for allegedly violating a trial gag order by posting about witnesses and jurors on his Truth Social platform.

Judge Merchan warned Mr Trump’s attorney on Tuesday that he is already “losing all credibility” over the issue.

Attorneys for the former president will also argue in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington DC on Thursday on whether he can claim presidential “immunity” in a separate criminal case surrounding his attempts to overturn 2020 election results. The historic case could have profound impacts on the scope of presidential authority.

Alex Woodward is providing live updates from the courthouse in Manhattan.

Key Points

  • Tabloid boss David Pecker outlines beginnings of ‘catch-and-kill’ scheme to help 2016 Trump campaign

  • Defendant berates Judge Merchan, DA Bragg and ‘Maggot Hagerman’ in latest Truth Social meltdown

  • Judge warns Trump lawyers they are ‘losing all credibility’ over gag order breaches

  • Trump dubiously claims ‘thousands’ of supporters turned away from courthouse

  • Key takeaways from Trump trial’s second day of testimony

Report: Donald Jr and Eric will lead loyalty tests for Trump transition team

22:00 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are reportedly tasked with leading a transition team for a potential Trump White House to “focus on vetting potential officials and staffers for ideology and loyalty,” according to Axios.

The oldest Trump brother wants “to keep the John Boltons of the world outside a second Trump administration,” Axios quoted one person close to Trump Jr, pointing to a former senior official who later joined a chorus of offficials who have publicly criticized their former boss.

“The groups’ aim has been to pre-vet potential contenders for Cabinet-level and lower staff positions to aid Donald Trump’s desire to remake the government in his image – without the resistance he faced from career civil servants and some Republicans during his presidency,” Axios reported.

Both men are co-defendants in a sprawling civil fraud case in New York, where their father is on the hook for tens of millions of dollars. They were each ordered to pay $4m.

 (AP)
(AP)

Trump, Giuliani, Meadows and Ellis are unindicted co-conspirators in Michigan’s fake elector case, investigators reveal

21:30 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump-allied attorney Jenna Ellis have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in a Michigan case targeting a 2020 plot to replace the state’s electoral votes with votes for Trump despite losing the state to Joe Biden.

During a preliminary hearing in the case on Wednesday, state investigators revealed that the former president and his chief allies are implicated in the alleged scheme.

The outcomes of presidential elections rest on slates of electors who decide their votes based on the outcome of their states’ popular vote. As then-President Trump sought a spurious legal effort to reject the outcome, his allies arranged slates of “alternate” electors in several states to cast their votes for him, despite his loss.

Last year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 Republicans in the state who signed certificates falsely declaring that Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Nessel dismissed charges against one of the defendants in October in exchange for cooperating with the case. The remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Giuliani’s political adviser Ted Goodman said in a statement that the former Trump attorney who joined a spurious legal battle to overturn election results is “proud to stand up for the countless Americans who raised legitimate concerns surrounding” the election. “He won’t be bullied or pressured into silence by highly partisan actors,” he added.

Manhattan prosecutors reveal election crime driving Trump’s hush money case

21:05 , Alex Woodward

A critical question hovering over Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York is whether prosecutors can convince a jury that the former president’s alleged falsification of business records are tied to a “primary” crime.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, which – on their own – are misdemeanor offences.

But Manhattan prosecutors have elevated those charges to felonies by tying them to another offence – one that involves a conspiracy to manipulate an election.

Prosecutors began outlining those “other” crimes in court filings one month after Mr Trump was indicted last year. Justice Juan Merchan allowed them to move forward on three of them.

On Tuesday, prosecutors introduced one in court, suggesting t hat Trump falsified those business records with the intent to commit or conceal a conspiracy to “promote” his election through “unlawful means”.

More on prosecutors’ strategy here:

Manhattan prosecutors reveal election crime driving Trump’s hush money case

Michael Cohen won’t talk about Trump until after he testifies: ‘See you all in a month'

20:55 , Alex Woodward

Michael Cohen is both a crucial witness for the prosecution in Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York and a frequent target of the former president, who is accused of repeatedly violating a trial gag order that blocks him from attacking witnesses.

On Wednesday, one day after a hearing on Trump’s alleged gag order violations, Cohen agreed to gag himself.

“Despite not being the gagged defendant, out of respect for Judge Merchan and the prosecutors, I will cease posting anything about Donald on my X (formerly Twitter) account or on the Mea Culpa Podcast until after my trial testimony,” he wrote.

“See you all in a month (or more). “

Just in: Arizona House votes to repeal 1864 near-total abortion ban

20:41 , Alex Woodward

Arizona’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal the state’s 160-year-old anti-abortion law that was set to take effect as early as June.

Arizona House votes to repeal 1864 near-total abortion ban

What will happen when Trump’s trial resumes?

20:30 , Alex Woodward

Testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker left the court on a cliffhanger on Tuesday, as prosecutors were questioning him about several Trump-related catch-and-kill schemes in chronological order, ending with a story from former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

On Thursday, we will likely learn more about his discussions with McDougal to keep allegations of her affair silent, before we move on to the Stormy Daniels transactions.

There also could be an opportunity for defence attorneys to cross examine Pecker, who will be on the stand for a third day when he enters the courthouse on Thursday morning.

Prosecutors have not yet shared their plans for the next witness.

New York Justice Juan Merchan also could announce whether he will hold Trump in contempt and fine him for allegedly violating the trial’s gag order.

Trump falsely claims ‘thousands’ were turned away from his trial

20:00 , Alex Woodward

A handful of MAGA flag-waving Trump supporters have assembled in the small park across from the Manhattan criminal court where the former president is on trial.

But on his Truth Social, he has falsely claimed that “thousands” were turned away – despite the park serving as a designated protest area, with support from New York City Police Department officers, who have assembled barricades to cordon off the area specifically for First Amendment-protected activities.

“Thousands of people were turned away from the Courthouse in Lower Manhattan by steel stanchions and police, literally blocks from the tiny side door from where I enter and leave,” he wrote on Truth Social on Tuesday. “It is an armed camp to keep people away.”

Trump claims ‘thousands’ were turned away from trial amid sparse supporter turnout

Read Michael Cohen’s invitation to David Pecker for Trump’s 2016 kickoff: ‘No one deserves to be there more than you’

19:30 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen invited then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to Trump Tower on 16 June 2015, when he descended from the golden escalators to launch his presidential campaign.

Jurors were shown the email from Cohen to Pecker during Pecker’s testimony on Tuesday.

“No one deserves to be there more than you,” Cohen writes in the email on 2 June, 2015.

Pecker replied 25 minutes later: “Thank you very much for thinking of me and I will be there.”

Two months after that event, Pecker would return to Trump Tower to come up with a secret “catch and kill” scheme to pay people off and bury politically damning stories about Trump while promoting stories that would help his election chances.

An email from Michael Cohen to then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker invited him to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign kickoff at Trump Tower. (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)
An email from Michael Cohen to then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker invited him to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign kickoff at Trump Tower. (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)

Trump calls on Georgia judge to dismiss two charges against him in election interference case

19:00 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump’s lawyers are back in Georgia with a motion that calls on the judge overseeing his election interference case to drop two of the charges against him.

Two of the counts against him involve the filing of false documents, which Trump’s attorneys claim can only be filed at the federal level – not in state court.

“The alleged conduct which the state is attempting to prosecute in counts 15 and 27 is addressed by the federal false statement statute and thus jurisdiction is exclusively vested in federal court,” attorney Steve Sadow wrote on Wednesday.

“As such, the state is without jurisdiction or authority to prosecute President Trump when the plain purpose of doing so is to protect the integrity of federal matters,” he added. “The statute at issue here reaches too far and may not be applied to criminalize the conduct alleged in counts 15 and 27. Those counts must be dismissed.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has already dropped three charges against the former president.

Chris Christie won’t vote for Biden

18:45 , Alex Woodward

Former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is “not voting for Trump under any circumstances,” but he won’t be voting for Joe Biden, either.

In an interview with The Washington Post’s Lee Ann Caldwell at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics on Tuesday night, Christie said that he is “not voting for Trump, because I know him too well, and he is wholly unfit to be president of the United States in every way you think.”

“There’ll be no one around to put guardrails up, and he will be on the vendetta tour against all enemies that he perceives. And that’s a scary thing for the country,” he added.

But President Biden “is past the sell-by date. Seriously, look at him,” he said.

“If the American people are stupid enough to nominate these two guys, doesn’t mean I have to be stupid, too,” he added.

Christie won’t say who he is voting for, and he even admitted that supporting a third-party candidate would ultimately support Trump. But he is casting his ballot from solidly Democratic New Jersey, a state that will not determine the presidency.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Here’s the National Enquirer contract to keep Trump’s doorman quiet

18:30 , Alex Woodward

Jurors were shown the contract drawn up between the National Enquirer’s publishing company and a Trump Tower doorman who wanted to run a false story about then-candidate Trump fathering “an illegitimate girl with a maid,” according to former American Media Inc chief David Pecker.

Mr Pecker testified that he arranged $30,000 in November 2015 to buy the story, then amended the contract to keep the rights to the story in perpetuity, with no plans to release it.

Dino Sajudin was ultimately released from the contract via email on 9 December, 2016 – more than a year after the initial agreement and one month after Trump’s election victory.

Mr Pecker testified that he was trying to bury “embarrassing” stories involving Trump to improve his election chances.

Former American Media Inc chief David Pecker testified during Donald Trump’s hush money trial that he arranged $30,000 in November 2015 to buy a false story from former Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudi who claimed that then-candidate Trump“fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid.” (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)
Former American Media Inc chief David Pecker testified during Donald Trump’s hush money trial that he arranged $30,000 in November 2015 to buy a false story from former Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudi who claimed that then-candidate Trump“fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid.” (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)
An amendment to a contract between American Media Inc and a former Trump Tower doorman that keeps the rights to a salacious story in perpetuity, with a $1m penalty if the contract is breached. (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)
An amendment to a contract between American Media Inc and a former Trump Tower doorman that keeps the rights to a salacious story in perpetuity, with a $1m penalty if the contract is breached. (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)

Biden digs at Trump’s ‘bleach’ response to Covid: ‘He missed. It all went to his hair'

18:25 , Alex Woodward

In April 2020, then-President Donald Trump suggested that Covid-19 could be treated with a “disinfectant” by “injection or almost a cleaning” inside the body.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that,” he said from the White House at the time.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ridiculed his remarks during a campaign speech to union leaders.

“Remember when he was trying to deal with Covid and he said ‘just inject a little bleach in your vein?’ He missed. It all went to his hair,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have said that,” he said to applause and laughter. “You guys are a bad influence on me.”

Biden hits out at Trump at campaign event: ‘The guy has never worked a day in the working man’s boots'

18:15 , Alex Woodward

In his remarks during a campaign event to the North America’s Building Trade Union National Legislative Conference in Washington, President Joe Biden said of his rival Donald Trump: “The guy has never worked a day in the working man’s boots”

“He learned that telling people you’re fired was something to laugh about,” the president told the group of union workers and organisers.

“Not my household, not my neighbourhood,” he added. “I guess that’s how you look at the world from Mar-a-Lago where Trump and his rich friends embrace the same failed trickle-down policies that have failed working class families and union families for over 40 years.”

 (AP)
(AP)

Who’s who in Trump’s hush money case?

18:00 , Alex Woodward

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is the first witness in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels also are expected to take the stand within the coming days.

Ariana Baio breaks down the cast of characters in the case:

Meet the key players in Trump’s hush money trial

You can now read the transcripts from the first day of Trump’s trial

17:30 , Alex Woodward

New York’s court system is uploading daily transcripts of Donald Trump’s criminal trial “to ensure broad and continuous public access to this extraordinarily high-profile case.”

The first transcript from Monday’s hearing – which included trial testimony from David Pecker, the first witness – is now available online.

“With current law restricting the broadcasting of trial proceedings and courtroom space for public spectators very limited, the release of the daily transcripts on the court system’s website is the best way to provide the public a direct view of the proceedings in this historic trial,” Chief Administrative Judge Zayas said in a statement this week.

“This measure is in the interest of the public good and aligns with the court system’s commitment to judicial transparency and its ongoing efforts to enhance public access to, and understanding of, the courts and justice system.”

Transcripts will generally be available within a business day after the hearing.

The Independent will continue to report from the courtroom sharing updates as they happen.

Judge denies Team Trump’s ‘overbroad’ attempts to get evidence from Stormy Daniels and others

17:00 , Alex Woodward

New York Justice Juan Merchan has denied a motion from Donald Trump’s attorneys to subpoena adult film star Stormy Daniels for materials related to her documentary – as well as his lawyer’s demands for communications from Michael Cohen and others.

In an order on Tuesday, Judge Merchan called the requests “overbroad” and outside the bounds of the case at hand.

A request for “all documents relating to communications” with “Michael Cohen or his representatives; Karen McDougal; E Jean Caroll; Jessica Leeds; or Natasha Stoynoff” also was rejected as “overbroad” and “not limited to the subject matter” of the hush money case.

Key moments from Day Six of Trump’s criminal trial

16:30 , Alex Woodward

The second day of trial testimony in Trump’s hush money case continued with David Pecker, the former publisher of the tabloid National Enquirer.

He walked the jury through his relationship with Trump; the arrangement concocted during the 2016 campaign to ensure unflattering stories died; and how that scheme was put into practice — including a plan to bury a bogus story of an alleged affair, which Pecker said could’ve been the magazine’s biggest story since the death of Elvis Presley.

A playmate, a doorman, and a tabloid mogul: Key takeaways from Trump’s day in court

Trump on hush money trial gag order: ‘Nothing like this has ever happened before'

16:00 , Alex Woodward

Except it has. To him. Twice.

The former president faces a gag order in his civil fraud trial that prevents him and other parties in the case from publicly attacking court staff and their families. He also faces a gag in his federal election interference case that blocks him from attacks against witnesses, court staff and other lawyers.

Yet Trump is once again lashing out at the gag order in his criminal case in Manhattan where he is forbidden from publicly attacking witnesses and court staff and their families, which he is calling “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL” in his latest Truth Social post.

“The Gag Order imposed on me, a political candidate running for the highest office in the land, is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Nothing like this has ever happened before,” he wrote on Wednesday.

“The Conflicted Judges friends and party members can say whatever they want about me, but I am not allowed to respond,” he added. “The Trial is Rigged and should never have been allowed to take place on a charge that virtually every legal scholar and expert say is bogus, THERE IS NO CRIME. This is a Political Witch Hunt - ELECTION INTERFERENCE!”

New York Justice Juan Merchan is expected to rule at any point between now and Thursday morning on whether the former president can be held in contempt and fined for his attacks against witnesses in the case.

More here:

‘You’re losing all credibility’: Judge scolds Trump attorneys over Truth Social posts

No trial on Wednesdays

15:30 , Alex Woodward

Good morning from New York, where Donald Trump’s criminal trial is nearing the end of its second week.

As a reminder, there are no trial days on Wednesdays – for now.

Justice Juan Merchan has scheduled proceedings to begin at 9:30am and wrap at 4:30pm, with some exceptions, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He anticipates the trial running for five to seven weeks.

But he has mentioned that if the trial is running behind for any reason, he could put Wednesdays on the calendar.

A courtroom sketch depicts New York Justice Juan Merchan watching Donald Trump’s defence attorney Todd Blanche speak in court on 23 April. (REUTERS)
A courtroom sketch depicts New York Justice Juan Merchan watching Donald Trump’s defence attorney Todd Blanche speak in court on 23 April. (REUTERS)

Jon Stewart derides hysterical TV media coverage of Trump trial and gets roasted by Jessica Williams

14:55 , Joe Sommerlad

The Daily Show host was in fine form this week satirising the breathless TV coverage of the defendant’s daily arrival at court but got well and truly owned by a fellow correspondent over his opposition to “fun”.

Jon Stewart makes fun of Trump trial coverage in Daily Show rant

Marjorie Taylor Greene makes wild claim Democrats want Trump 'murdered in jail’

14:35 , Joe Sommerlad

Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has wildly claimed, without any evidence, that Democrats want Trump to be “murdered in jail”.

The right-wing lawmaker made the remarks during an interview with Infowars host Alex Jones, in which she suggested that the four criminal cases Trump is facing are an intentional effort by his political rivals to imprison the former president until he dies.

She added that Democrats are also attempting to strip Trump of his presidential Secret Service detail to accomplish their goal.

Yowzer.

Martha McHardy reports.

Marjorie Taylor Greene claims Democrats want Trump to be ‘murdered in jail’

Biden trolls Trump over Bible grift as he slams Florida abortion ban

14:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Joe Biden mocked Donald Trump for trying to sell “God Bless the USA” Bibles last month and slammed the former president and his 2024 rivel over his abortion record.

The 46th president laid into his predecessor, referring to years-old remarks Trump had made during an interview on MSNBC when he said women who have abortions should be punished and mocking him for endorsing the line of leather-bound Bibles sold by country singer Lee Greenwood.

“He said there has to be punishment for women exercising their reproductive freedom... maybe it’s coming from that Bible he’s trying to sell. I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell is in it,” President Biden said during a trip to Florida on Tuesday.

As Trump continues to cool his heels in a New York City courtroom, the president travelled from Washington to Tampa, Florida.

There, he headlined a campaign event focused on rallying women and supporters of reproductive rights just one week before the ban takes effect.

Andrew Feinberg and John Bowden have this report.

Biden trolls Trump over Bible grift as he slams Florida six-week abortion ban

Florida classified documents case: Trump valet Walt Nauta was ‘promised pardon’, FBI papers reveal

13:55 , Joe Sommerlad

Nauta was reportedly told he would be pardoned during a potential second Trump administration if he was charged with lying to the FBI, according to the bureau’s redacted interviews with a witness known only as “Person 16”.

The valet was charged with precisely that offence in June 2023 and for obstructing the agency's investigation into the classified government documents Trump had stored at Mar-a-Lago after his presidency.

The former president was also charged with obstruction and with mishandling classified national defence information.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Graig Graziosi has more.

Trump valet Walt Nauta was ‘promised a pardon’, FBI papers reveal

Trump describes college pro-Palestine protests as a ‘disgrace’

13:35 , Joe Sommerlad

The defendant took the time yesterday to blame the eruption of demonstrations on American college campuses against Israel’s actions in Gaza on, you guessed it, Joe Biden.

“He has the wrong tone,” Trump said of his opponent for the presidency.

“He’s got the wrong words. He doesn’t know who he’s backing. And it’s a mess.”

Trump describes college pro-Palestine protests as a ‘disgrace’

Lara Trump appears to promise election interference in November

13:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump’s daughter-in-law, the new co-chair of the Republican National Committee, got called out by an expert on fascism after appearing to threaten election workers live on Newsmax – not a good look!

Mitt Romney doesn’t hold back when asked about Stormy Daniels

12:55 , Joe Sommerlad

The Utah senator and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did not mince his words when speaking to reporters about Trump’s hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

“I think everyone has made their own assessment of President Trump’s character”, he said on Tuesday.

“And as far as I know you don’t pay someone $130,000 not to have sex with you”.

Ooof.

Here’s more from Michelle Del Rey.

Mitt Romney doesn’t hold back when asked about Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels

Jesse Watters: ‘They could bring Bigfoot in as a witness and Trump would be fined for saying Bigfoot is real’

12:35 , Joe Sommerlad

This is pretty wonderful, to be fair to him.

Also, never a truer word spoken here.

New York hush money trial: Manhattan prosecutors keeping witness list secret so Trump can’t lash out on Truth Social

12:15 , Joe Sommerlad

When Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles asked for the names of witnesses likely to be called by the prosecution last week, Manhattan assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass answered: “Mr Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses. We’re not telling him who the witnesses are.”

To which Judge Merchan responded: “I can’t fault them for that.”

Here’s more on their secret list from Ariana Baio and Kelly Rissman.

Prosecutors keep Trump trial witness list secret so he can’t lash out on Truth Social

New York hush money trial: Michael Cohen vows ‘truth will prevail’ over Trump’s ‘incessant lying’

11:55 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump’s former fixer-turned-foe has raged that “no one is above the law” and vowed that “truth will prevail” over the former president’s “incessant lying”, as he prepares to take the stand to testify in the historic hush money trial.

As we’ve heard, Judge Juan Merchan presided over a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether Trump has violated the gag order in the case.

Manhattan prosecutors argue that the former president has breached the order at least 10 times in posts on his Truth Social account and on his campaign website, following a series of attacks on Michael Cohen as well as adult film star Stormy Daniels – both of whom are likely prosecution witnesses in the landmark case.

Cohen, a frequent subject of the former president’s wrath, often discusses on his podcasts the death threats he has faced in the lead-up to the trial, showcasing the toll that being cast out of Trumpworld has taken on his life.

As the judge weighed the potential gag order violations, Cohen told The Independent by text message that – in the face of the attacks – he is “stronger than I ever imagined”.

Here’s the latest from Kelly Rissman.

Michael Cohen vows ‘truth will prevail’ over Trump’s ‘incessant lying’

New York hush money trial: Trump dubiously claims ‘thousands’ of supporters turned away from courthouse

11:35 , Joe Sommerlad

As we saw from his latest Truth Social meltdown earlier, Trump is pushing hard against the idea that his supporters are being “turned away” from protesting on his behalf outside the courthouse by New York City cops, ranting at Maggie Haberman for suggesting they are simply not bothering to turn up.

Josh Marcus has this look at his dubious claim.

Trump claims ‘thousands’ were turned away from trial amid sparse supporter turnout

New York hush money trial: Key takeaways from second day of testimony

11:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s Oliver O’Connell with a round-up of the headline developments from yesterday.

A playmate, a doorman, and a tabloid mogul: Key takeaways from Trump’s day in court

New York hush money trial: What did Trump’s doorman say about his alleged lovechild?

10:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Whatever other sins Donald Trump may have committed, there is little evidence that he fathered a secret child with his former housekeeper, although the allegation made by former Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin resurfaced in court yesterday.

Here’s Io Dodds to get to the bottom of it.

What did Trump’s doorman say about his alleged lovechild?

New York hush money trial: Tabloid boss David Pecker testifies to Trump’s ‘catch-and-kill’ scheme

10:15 , Joe Sommerlad

The main event on Tuesday was the return to the stand of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who testified about how he ensured stories of an alleged Trump love child and an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal were never published in his papers due to the “catch-and-kill” ploy then in operation.

We can expect to hear more from him on Thursday, likely on the juicy subject of one Stormy Daniels.

Here’s more on Pecker from Alex Woodward.

Tabloid boss David Pecker lifts curtain on ‘catch and kill’ scheme with Trump

New York hush money trial: Judge warns Trump lawyers they are ‘losing all credibility’ over gag order breaches

09:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Court is not in session today, as Judge Merchan has mercifully given everyone Wednesdays off, so let’s take a look back at yesterday’s action.

First up, here’s Alex Woodward, who was there to witness proceedings for us once again yesterday and filed this on the justice’s gag order hearing, in which the prosecution brought forward 10 instances of Mr Trump, in their opinion, breaching the order that he shut up about the case.

They are asking for a $1,000 fine per offending post and could ultimately lobby for jail time should the defendant persist (as he very much has so far).

‘You’re losing all credibility’: Judge scolds Trump attorneys over Truth Social posts

Trump hosts ex-Japanese PM at Trump Tower

09:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Before all that wailing and gnashing of teeth, Trump was calm enough to host former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso at Trump Tower.

Just like Polish president Andrzej Duda last week, Aso opted for the Nigel Farage shot outside the building’s famous golden elevator.

Truth Social: Trump berates Judge Merchan, DA Bragg and ‘Maggot Hagerman’ in latest meltdown

08:46 , Joe Sommerlad

Oh wow. Our boy was very cross indeed last night, raging about his New York hush money trial that it is being presided over by a “Rigged Judge” who should be removed, he says, along with fellow Big Apple justices Kaplan and Engoron, who heard the E Jean Carroll and civil fraud cases, as you may recall.

“New York Justice is in shambles, and only the Appellate Courts can save it. A Republican doesn’t stand a chance - This is not Justice.…” he screams.

In part two, Trump calls for help from his allies in Washington, yelling: “This New York Cabal, run by Crooked Joe Biden’s White House, is a hit job on a Political Opponent the likes of which the USA has never seen before.

“For the Good of our Country, it must be stopped. The Crooked Joe Biden Witch Hunts have to be ended. REPUBLICANS IN WASHINGTON MUST TAKE ACTION!”

In the course of all that, he introduced a new nickname for the Manhattan DA: “Soft on Crime Alvin Bragg”.

Trump then topped that one with a rant about “Maggot Hagerman of the Failing New York Times” (referring, of course, to the esteemed journalist Maggie Haberman) after she debunked his lie about his supporters being turned away from protesting outside the courthouse.

“I’m disappointed with Maggot, and her lack of writing skill,” he says, cuttingly, before concluding with more of the above: “The Legal Scholars call the case a Scam that should never have been brought. I call it Election Interference and a personal hit job by a conflicted and corrupt Judge who shouldn’t be allowed to preside over this Political Hoax.

“New York Justice is being reduced to ashes, and the World is breathlessly watching. Hopefully, Appellate Courts can save it, and all of the companies that are fleeing to other jurisdictions. They can no longer take a chance on New York Justice!”

As ever refusing to learn his lesson, Trump also attacked the trial on Truth Social yesterday morning just moments after Judge Merchan had concluded his hearing about alleged gag order violations related to his social media output, on which he has yet to rule but which could ultimately see the defendant fined to the tune of a cool $1,000 per offending post.

Here’s more on that from Kelly Rissman and Alex Woodward.

Trump attacks judge on Truth Social moments after gag order hearing

Biden impeachment ‘star witness’ sues Jamie Raskin for defamation

07:30 , Oliver O’Connell

One of the Republicans’ star witnesses in the impeachment hearings of Joe Biden is suing House Democrat Jamie Raskin for $20m for alleged defamatory comments that “deliberately and maliciously” besmirched his character.

Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of the president’s son Hunter Biden, was called by House Republicans to testify against the Bidens as part of their probe into the family’s business dealings, seeking to impeach the president.

Mr Raskin has been an outspoken critic of the impeachment proceedings, including writing to Mr Bobulinski’s attorney in February to say that his client’s interview was “chaotic to the point of burlesque”.

Dan Gooding has the details:

Biden impeachment ‘star witness’ sues top Democrat for defamation

06:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Trump describes college pro-Palestine protests as a ‘disgrace’

Who’s who in Trump’s hush money case?

04:30 , Ariana Baio

On Monday 15 April, Donald Trump made history as the first current or former president ever to be criminally prosecuted in America, as he went on trial in Manhattan on charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments made to an adult film star before the 2016 presidential election.

The trial comes more than a year on from the landmark day when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought a historic 34-count indictment against him, years after his office began investigating the former president’s financial statements.

Though the former president is charged with falsifying business records, Mr Bragg alleges that this was only part of a wider “catch and kill” scheme that Mr Trump engaged in to suppress negative stories as he campaigned – successfully – for the White House in 2016.

Here are all the main players in the drama unfolding at a Manhattan courthouse:

Meet the key players in Trump’s hush money trial

Trump trial witness list kept secret so ex-president can’t lash out on Truth Social

03:30 , Kelly Rissman & Ariana Baio

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial have refused to hand over a list of witnesses in the case in a bid to save them from Truth Social attacks by the former president.

Mr Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election, in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair back in 2006.

On Thursday 18 April – before the first witness, David Pecker, took the stand on Monday – Mr Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles asked for the name of at least one witness that prosecutors intended on introducing the following week.

She was left disappointed...

Prosecutors keep Trump trial witness list secret so he can’t lash out on Truth Social

02:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Jon Stewart makes fun of Trump trial coverage in Daily Show rant

Gag order hearing: Judge scolds Trump attorneys over Truth Social defence

01:30 , Oliver O'Connell

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York appeared unconvinced by his attorney’s defence against allegations that the former president repeatedly and willfully violated a gag order that prevents him from attacking witnesses in the historic case.

Manhattan prosecutors have accused Mr Trump of breaching the gag order through at least 10 different posts on his Truth Social platform and campaign website, including posts targeting Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels – likely witnesses in the trial.

Alex Woodward reports:

‘You’re losing all credibility’: Judge scolds Trump attorneys over Truth Social posts

David Pecker details plot to kill Trump stories about love child and Playboy model affair

Tuesday 23 April 2024 23:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan:

A tabloid publisher’s secret agreement with Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen helped bury politically compromising stories that he fathered an illegitimate child and had an affair with a former Playboy model, jurors heard in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday.

In his second day of testimony in the former president’s so-called hush money trial, formerNational Enquirer publisher David Pecker outlined what he called a “mutually beneficial” plan to keep the supermarket tabloid loaded with stories that would boost Mr Trump’s election chances – and ensure “negative” stories never saw the light of day.

Continue reading...

Tabloid boss David Pecker lifts curtain on ‘catch and kill’ scheme with Trump

Tuesday 23 April 2024 22:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Former US President Donald Trump attends his trial today in Manhattan (EPA)
Former US President Donald Trump attends his trial today in Manhattan (EPA)

Trump claims ‘thousands of people’ were stopped from protesting his trial...

Tuesday 23 April 2024 22:40 , Oliver O'Connell

...that’s not what reporters on the scene saw.

Here’s what the former president wrote on Truth Social:

Thousands of people were turned away from the Courthouse in Lower Manhattan by steel stanchions and police, literally blocks from the tiny side door from where I enter and leave. It is an armed camp to keep people away. Maggot Hagerman of The Failing New York Times, falsely reported that I was disappointed with the crowds. No, I’m disappointed with Maggot, and her lack of writing skill, and that some of these many police aren’t being sent to Columbia and NYU to keep the schools open and the students safe. The Legal Scholars call the case a Scam that should never have been brought. I call it Election Interference and a personal hit job by a conflicted and corrupt Judge who shouldn’t be allowed to preside over this Political Hoax. New York Justice is being reduced to ashes, and the World is breathlessly watching. Hopefully, Appellate Courts can save it, and all of the companies that are fleeing to other jurisdictions. They can no longer take a chance on New York Justice!

Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News was outside the court this morning and reported: “Trump just claimed that the police have shut down the streets around the courthouse for blocks & that his protesters can’t be here.”

He continues: “Just…not true. There is one pro-Trump person here & the main street along the courthouse is open to traffic.”

McConnell takes his parting shot at Tucker Carlson — but avoids Trump

Tuesday 23 April 2024 22:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Eric Garcia writes:

Perhaps the ultimate totem of Senate Minority Mitch McConnell’s power is that nobody forces him to speak. Where reporters stick their arms out to grab quotes from his fellow Republicans or his gabby Democratic counterpart Chuck Schumer, the same can’t be said for when McConnell takes the handful of steps from his office off the Senate floor to speak in the chamber. Most of the time, journalists don’t bother him at all — they know better.

When he does speak, the mercurial Kentuckian rarely emotes and only gives the bare minimum in terms of information. That’s made McConnell’s remarks both on the Senate floor and during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon so surprising.

Continue reading...

Mitch McConnell takes his parting shot at Tucker Carlson

Planned Parenthood adds $10m to Democrat war chest in North Carolina

Tuesday 23 April 2024 21:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Planned Parenthood is planning to spend $10m — its largest single state investment — to help fund Democratic organising efforts in North Carolina‘s swing districts.

The investment is aimed at driving voters to support the Democrats running for office in the state — including a contested governor’s race — as well as to bolster turnout for Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

In 2020, Mr Biden lost North Carolina to Donald Trump by just over a percentage point. A recent analysis by Moody’s Analytics suggests that state could flip blue in 2024.

Graig Graziosi reports:

Planned Parenthood adds $10m to Democrat war chest in North Carolina

Prosecutors keep Trump trial witness list secret so ex-president can’t lash out on Truth Social

Tuesday 23 April 2024 21:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial have refused to hand over a list of witnesses in the case in a bid to save them from Truth Social attacks by the former president.

Kelly Rissman and Ariana Baio report:

Prosecutors keep Trump trial witness list secret so he can’t lash out on Truth Social

Moments after gag order hearing where lawyers defended his posts, Trump attacks judge on Truth Social

Tuesday 23 April 2024 20:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on the judge in his New York hush money trial on Truth Social on Tuesday morning – just moments after his attorneys were forced to defend his posts in a hearing determining whether he had violated the gag order in the case.

Before testimony resumed in the historic case, Judge Juan Merchan heard arguments from the prosecution and the defence about the former president’s Truth Social posts.

Prosecutors have accused Mr Trump of violating his gag order at least 10 times in online attacks against potential witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

Kelly Rissman and Alex Woodward report:

Trump attacks judge on Truth Social moments after gag order hearing

FBI papers reveal Trump valet Walt Nauta ‘promised a pardon if ex-President got re-elected for second term’

Tuesday 23 April 2024 20:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump‘s valet, Walt Nauta, was reportedly told he would be pardoned during a potential second Trump administration if he was charged with lying to the FBI.

Mr Nauta was charged in June 2023 for lying to the FBI and for obstructing the agency’s investigation into the classified government documents Mr Trump had stored at Mar-a-Lago after his presidency.

Graig Graziosi reports:

Trump valet Walt Nauta was ‘promised a pardon’, FBI papers reveal

Watch: Trump complains about gag order after day in court

Tuesday 23 April 2024 19:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Marjorie Taylor Greene makes wild claim that Democrats want Trump to be ‘murdered in jail’

Tuesday 23 April 2024 19:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Martha McHardy reports:

Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has wildly claimed, without any evidence, that Democrats want Donald Trump to be “murdered in jail.”

The right-wing lawmaker made the remarks during an interview with Infowars host Alex Jones, in which she suggested that the four criminal cases Mr Trump is facing - including an ongoing trial where he has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts relating to alleged hush money payments - are an intentional effort by his political rivals to imprison the former president until he dies.

Continue reading...

Marjorie Taylor Greene claims Democrats want Trump to be ‘murdered in jail’

Tuesday 23 April 2024 19:10 , Oliver O'Connell

The trial will resume on Thursday at 9.30am.

Donald Trump appeared in the hallway and spoke at the assembled media while brandishing printouts of op-ed articles that claim the case against him is a sham.

He also complained that the courtroom was freezing and yet again claimed that all the court cases brought against him were orchestrated by President Joe Biden. Which they are not.

Per the pool report:

Trump spoke in the hallway next to attorney Todd Blanche for just over three minutes, calling the courtroom “totally freezing,” and answered one question by a pooler on what his thoughts were of the gag order, which he called “totally unconstitutional.”

Trump on gag order: “It’s totally unconstitutional. I’m not allowed to talk but people are allowed to talk about me.”

He later said, “I’d love to say everything on my mind.”

He then went on again to rant about Joe Biden.

Tuesday 23 April 2024 19:01 , Alex Woodward

Cohen seemed “very agitated” during that time, Pecker says.

“He kept on calling and each time he called he seemed more anxious.”

Asked where he thinks that pressure came from, he said he assumed it came from his conversations with Trump.

We’re breaking for the day.

Jury is being excused.

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:59 , Alex Woodward

David Pecker tells the court that Cohen told him that “we shouldn’t be talking about this over a landline” and “we should use Signal”.

Pecker suggested to Trump that he buy up the story. “I said I still believe we should take this story off the market,” despite Trump thinking it would only bring more attention.

“He said, let me think about it and I’ll have Michael Cohen call you back in a few days.”

Dylan Howard meanwhile went to Los Angeles to meet with Ms McDougal’s attorney Keith Davidson.

“Dylan was going to sit down and do the interview and he would call us when he was there.”

What you need to know about Karen McDougal

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:53 , Oliver O'Connell

Karen McDougal, a 53-year-old model and actor best known for appearing in Playboy magazine, claims she had a nine-month-long affair with Mr Trump in 2006.

She was paid $150,000 by AMI for the exclusive rights to her story before the 2016 presidential election and to feature her on two magazine covers and publish over 100 articles she authored.

Cohen considered buying the exclusive rights to Ms McDougal’s story from AMI, but that deal fell through.

AMI later admitted to prosecutors that it bought the exclusive rights to the story so that Ms McDougal could not share it elsewhere – but had never intended to publish her story. Instead, the so-called “catch-and-kill scheme” involved suppressing her story altogether in a bid to ward off any harm to Mr Trump’s presidential campaign.

Ms McDougal could also be a witness for the district attorney.

Read more about the key figures in the trial...

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:51 , Alex Woodward

“Dylan came to me in early June 2016 and said he received a call from one of his major sources in California that there’s a Playboy model who is trying to sell a story about a relationship with Donald Trump,” says Pecker.

“I called Michael Cohen and I told him exactly what Dylan told me about this Playboy model.”

Pecker continued: “I think we should vet this story out first” and “Michael Cohen said ‘I think that’s a good idea … I’ll let you know what our next steps are gonna be.’”

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:49 , Alex Woodward

An exhibit appears on a screen in court but is removed after an objection from defence attorney Emil Bove.

There is a brief sidebar and Judge Merchan tells the court: “Subject to the redaction that we discussed, the exhibit can be displayed.”

Pecker confirms that Cohen convinced him to keep Dino Sajudin’s exclusivity agreement until after the election.

We see an email from an AMI rep sent to Mr Saludin that AMI “has no objection” to him selling his story elsewhere. That email was sent on 9 December 2016, more than a year after the initial agreement and a month after election day.

Testimony is now turning to 1998 Playboy playmate of the year Karen McDougal...

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:39 , Alex Woodward

Pecker explains: “A typical source payment would be $250 to $5,000 or if it’s a bigger celebrity up to $10,000 … I made the decision to buy the story because of the potential embarrassment to the campaign and Mr Trump.”

Liquidated damages of $1m also is not typical, Pecker says, but he added that as well as the “in perpetuity” clause based on his conversations with Cohen.

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:30 , Alex Woodward

The contract reads: “Source shall provide AMI with information regarding Donald Trump’s illegitimate child; and any and all documentation, including but not limited to letters and any legal documents, and photographs in Source’s possession relevant to the Exclusive.”

Handwritten addendum: “AMI agrees not to name or identify sources in any published articles.”

The exclusivity period is “three months after AMI publishes the exclusive”.

Pecker admits that it’s unusual to pay a source before a story is run.

Steinglass: “Why are you paying $30,000 for an untrue story?”

Pecker: “Because the… because if the… article, slash story, got out in another publication or media outlet, it would have been very embarrassing for the campaign.”

An amendment to the agreement notes: “The Exclusivity Period set forth in the Agreement is extended in perpetuity and shall not expire.”

It also adds that if the source breaches the agreement, he would have to pay $1m to AMI.

“It was basically a lever over him to make sure that wouldn’t happen.”

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:24 , Alex Woodward

If it was true [which it is not], “I would’ve published the story shortly after it was verified,” Pecker says.

But, Pecker says, “I would’ve published it after the election.”

“That was the conversation I had with Michael Cohen and that’s what we agreed to.”

The court is now shown the “source document” contract drawn up with Dino Sajudin.

It’s dated November 11, 2015.

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:22 , Alex Woodward

Pecker explains what a “source document” is: “an agreement with a potential source or tipster that they had a story and the agreement is between the magazine and tipster … for a period of time, 90 days, 120 days, for exclusive rights … and compensation in the agreement based on whether the story was published or not.”

He entered into a source agreement with Mr Sajudin.

“I asked Dylan to negotiate a price, negotiate a number, to buy the story and take it off the market,” he said.

The price was $30,000. Cohen told him that “the boss was very pleased.”

Prior to that, Pecker said he had never paid a source to kill a story about Trump.

“I thought it was very important that Dino wouldn’t be shopping the story to other media outlets … Part two, I bought the story if the story was true, and I published it, it would probably be the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley.”

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:19 , Alex Woodward

The court is now hearing about the Dino Sajudin story — he is a former doorman at Trump World Tower who claimed to know a secret about Mr Trump.

Pecker says: “Dylan Howard came to me with respect to a tip that he heard and his reporters heard that–”

Bove cuts him off, objecting to the judge, who overrules.

“Dylan came to me [with] a tip, a source, that Dino was in the market for selling a story that Donald Trump fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid at Trump Tower.”

He called Cohen, and “I described to him exactly what I heard from Dylan,” and gave him Dino’s name and the name of the penthouse housekeeper.

Cohen said it was “absolutely not true” but checked it out.

He called Pecker, “it was that day or the next day” and he verified the two names and asked him to check out the story.

‘I was the eyes and ears’: David Pecker lifts curtain on mutually beneficial ‘catch and kill’ scheme with Trump

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:15 , Oliver O'Connell

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

In his testimony during Donald Trump’s hush money trial, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker outlined a “mutually beneficial” scheme to keep the supermarket tabloid loaded with stories boosting his election chances in 2016, while ensuring “negative” stories never saw the light of day.

As part of the arrangement, Mr Pecker would tip off Mr Trump’s then-personal attorney Michal Cohen to “negative” stories about then-candidate Trump – particularly those involving women, according to the tabloid boss.

Continue reading...

Tabloid boss David Pecker lifts curtain on ‘catch and kill’ scheme with Trump

Tuesday 23 April 2024 18:10 , Alex Woodward

Pecker explains blow by blow how the company would respond to search requests and what the legal correspondence would be.

This all tees up the introduction of texts, emails and other pieces of evidence from AMI, which defence attorney Emil Bove does not want, citing hearsay.

While attorneys and prosecutors are having a sidebar, Pecker and Trump are both sitting alone. Pecker on the stand, drinking water, not looking at anything in particular. Trump staring at notes on the defence table.

One of the courtroom cameras is positioned right next to the judge’s bench, so we can see Todd Blanche wincing, scratching his chin and bending forward to listen while huddled with attorneys.

Blanche has a binder of material with him and fellow attorney Susan Necheles has her tablet with her.

Court resumes

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:59 , Alex Woodward

Prosecution attorney Joshua Steinglass continues questioning former AMI boss David Pecker.

He’s asking if Pecker had access to AMI records and whether they include texts and emails kept on staff phones and computers.

Yes, he did, and yes they do.

Michael Cohen rages ‘no one is above the law’ as he says ‘truth will prevail’ over Trump’s ‘incessant lying’

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s former fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen has raged that “no one is above the law” and vowed that “truth will prevail” over the former president’s “incessant lying”, as he prepares to take the stand to testify in the historic hush money trial.

As the judge weighed potential gag order violations by Mr Trump including those targeting his former lawyer, Cohen told The Independent by text message that – in the face of the attacks – he is “stronger than I ever imagined”.

Here’s Kelly Rissman’s report:

Michael Cohen vows ‘truth will prevail’ over Trump’s ‘incessant lying’

In pictures: Trump in court

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:35 , Oliver O'Connell

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)
 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (AP)
(AP)

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:32 , Alex Woodward

Pecker is describing a meeting with Steve Bannon in October 2016, where Bannon told him he liked the coverage. Pecker boxed up a bunch of issues for him.

An objection from Trump attorney Emil Bove leads to a sidebar with Judge Merchan.

The objection appears to be over a line of enquiry into Pecker’s meetings with Bannon.

The court takes a short break.

Lurid ‘National Enquirer’ headlines attacked Trump rivals in 2016 GOP primary race

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:28 , Oliver O'Connell

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:25 , Alex Woodward

Another cover story to benefit Trump at the expense of his primary rival Ted Cruz reads:

DONALD TRUMP BLASTS TED CRUZ’S DAD FOR PHOTO WITH JFK ASSASSIN (OUTRAGEOUS PICTURES!)

Rafael Cruz linked to Lee Harvey Oswald!

How did that one come together? They just matched up some pics of Cruz and Lee Harvey Oswald, and “that’s how that story was created”

Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:23 , Alex Woodward

Michael Cohen would send information about Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio or other rivals, “and that was the basis for our story, and we would embellish it from there”.

When Cohen said “we”, “I assumed he meant himself and Mr Trump,” Pecker says.

“He always told me he was not part of the campaign, he didn’t work for the campaign, he was on the outside. He kept saying he was Mr Trump’s personal attorney.”

Pecker is very careful to describe what exactly he thinks Cohen’s involvement was with Trump’s campaign.

“Michael was physically in every aspect of whatever he was working on, at least at the Trump Organization, Trump Tower,” and would “inject” himself into campaign matters.

It’s very strange to hear someone speak so comfortably and softly about the most deranged business in media.

He’s being shown a headline: BUNGLING SURGEON BEN CARSON LEFT SPONGE IN PATIENT’S BRAIN!

Another one that allegedly came from Cohen: TED CRUZ SEX SCANDAL – 5 SECRET MISTRESSES.