Trump trial updates: Prosecution plays Cohen’s secret recording of Trump discussing payment to Karen McDougal

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Pool Photo via AP)
Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Pool Photo via AP)

During the 10th day of former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, jurors heard a secret recording made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that captured the two of them talking about a payment made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. This is Yahoo News' succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against Trump. Here are the latest developments.

During testimony by forensic analyst Douglas Daus, prosecutors played a secret recording Cohen made of Trump in September 2016. During the conversation, Cohen is heard telling Trump, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” in reference to then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who paid McDougal $150,000 as part of an arrangement to bury negative stories about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. On the tape, Cohen informs Trump that he has spoken to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg about the transaction, and refers to “financing.” In response, Trump is heard asking, “What financing?”

Recordings played for jury: Daus, who works for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and examined the contents of Cohen’s phones, obtained photographs, calendar meetings, contact listings and recordings that were all presented as evidence on Thursday. Cohen, who often secretly recorded his conversations with others, taped one he had with Trump in September 2016. It appeared to bolster the prosecution’s claim that Trump not only knew about the deal with the Enquirer to “catch and kill” negative stories about Trump to bolster his presidential campaign, but that he had authorized it.

In another recording, Cohen is heard referencing what he said Trump told him about paying $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. “I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, 'I hate the fact that we did it,' and my comment to him was, 'But every person that we’ve spoken to tells you it was the right move,’" Cohen says on the recording.

‘What have we done?’: Earlier in the day, Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Daniels and McDougal in financial negotiations regarding their allegations of extramarital affairs with Trump, wrapped up his testimony. Prosecutors showed the jury a text message Davidson had sent National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard after Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 election. “What have we done?” Davidson texted in an apparent reference to the deal that paid McDougal $150,000 but kept her story from going public before votes were cast. Davidson testified that “there was an understanding” that their efforts “may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.”

Defense paints Davidson as serial extortionist: During cross-examination, Trump attorney Emil Bove sought to paint Davidson as a serial extortionist, noting his work to help other clients obtain payments from other celebrities, including Charlie Sheen, so as to bury salacious allegations. Again and again, he tried to turn the tables on the prosecution’s witness, effectively putting Davidson on trial. Bove also played a recording of a phone call between Davidson and Cohen, in which Davidson says Daniels wanted to be paid for her story “more than you could ever imagine,” adding, “If [Trump] loses this election, and he’s going to lose, we all lose all f***ing leverage.”

Another gag order hearing: The day began with another hearing on whether Trump had violated Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order that prevents him from commenting on witnesses, the jury and court staff in the trial. Merchan, who last week fined Trump $9,000 for gag order violations, did not make a final ruling on the latest four instances that were flagged by prosecutors. Later, Trump’s lawyers asked Merchan if he would review articles Trump wished to post on social media to see if they violated his gag order. Merchan said it wasn’t his job to review posts ahead of time. "If in doubt, steer clear," Merchan added.

Trump says he is ‘not allowed to testify’: After court was dismissed for the day, Trump addressed reporters outside the courtroom, falsely claiming that he is “not allowed to testify” in the case because he was “under a gag order.”

Testimony resumes in the trial Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET, with Daus back on the witness stand.