Trump wishes Melania “happy birthday” at hush money trial as testimony about trysts continue

NEW YORK — Donald Trump walked into his hush money trial Friday and wished his wife Melania a happy birthday – the day after former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified Trump, after he announced his candidacy, never mentioned worrying about what she thought about his alleged affairs at the heart of the state’s case against him.

Trump was flanked by his legal team, with a thick wad of legal papers held together with a binder clip. His newly indicted adviser, Boris Epshteyn, and aide, Jason Miller, also attended Friday’s proceedings.

“I want to start by wishing my wife Melania a very happy birthday,” Trump told reporters on his way into the courtroom, on his wife’s 54th. “It’d be nice to be with her but I’m at a courthouse for a rigged trial.”

Trump said he’d be jetting off to Florida Friday evening to to join Melania there.

Pecker was an executive at American Media, Inc., or AMI — the publisher of the National Enquirer, Star and other supermarket tabloids. He was the prosecution’s first witness and is on his fourth day on the witness stand today facing cross-examination from Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove

“We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign,” Pecker said Thursday on his motivation for the “catch and kill” scheme.

The longtime tabloid publisher told the courtroom that after Trump announced his candidacy, he never heard him voice concerns for his family when working to cover up unfavorable stories — only his campaign.

Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal a conspiracy to influence the results of the 2016 election. The crimes, prosecutors say, revolve around a reimbursement to Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen for a hush money payment to porn star Daniels.

Pecker told the court he paid $30,000 to silence a Trump Tower doorman’s story of a child Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock, and $150,000 for Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence on a nearly year-long affair she had with Trump, which Trump denies.

The 2024 candidate is accused of cooking up the plan to influence the election at a 2015 meeting with Cohen and Pecker.

Pecker revealed how Trump’s slimy tabloid past seeped into his presidency, and that he remained concerned about McDougal after he won the election.

“How’s Karen doing?” Trump asked Pecker on a walk in the White House in 2017.

The defense has argued that Trump did nothing illegal and that his interactions with Pecker both fell within legal lines and were “standard practice” for political candidates.

As cross-examination began Thursday afternoon, defense attorney Emil Bove questioned him on AMI’s other arrangements with Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and golfer Tiger Woods, calling them “mutually beneficial.”

Since the start of the trial, prosecutors say Trump has racked up more than a dozen violations of his gag order, which prohibits him from speaking on trial participants outside the courtroom. The DA’s office requested thousands of dollars in fines for the violations, made, they say, on television appearances, in the halls of the courthouse and at press conferences, and asked that the former president be held in contempt of court.