A banker, an assistant, a tabloid boss: Key takeaways from Trump’s day in court

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial heard more testimony on Friday from American Media Inc publisher David Pecker, who dodged attempts by the defence team to try to impeach his credibility.

Mr Trump’s former assistant at the Trump Organization also took the stand, mentioning seeing adult film star Stormy Daniels in the lobby of Trump Tower one day, close to the former president’s office.

Jurors also heard from a banker, who laid the groundwork for the creation of the shell company that ultimately sent payments to Ms Daniels — a critical piece of the case.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the so-called hush money payments given to the porn star before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty and has denied sleeping with Ms Daniels.

She claims the affair took place in 2006, one year after the criminal defendant married his now-wife Melania. In a twist of irony, on Friday, Mr Trump moaned about missing out on celebrating his wife’s birthday due to this criminal proceeding.

Here are the key takeaways from Mr Trump’s Friday in criminal court:

Two sides spar over whether Trump deserves title of president

Early in the day on Friday, the two sides briefly sparred over whether or not Mr Trump deserves to go by the title of “president” during his trial.

The moment came about as Mr Trump’s defence attorney Emil Bove repeatedly referred to the defendant as “President Trump” when speaking about events prior to him taking office.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass tried to object saying: “He wasn’t president in June 2016.”

In opening statements on Monday, defence attorney Todd Blanche had told the jury that his legal team planned on referring to their client as “President Trump” because it’s a “title he has earned.”

Cohen’s bid to use paparazzi to improve power play with Trump

Jurors heard about Cohen’s bid to use paparazzi to try to bolster his power play with Mr Trump.

In the summer of 2016, Cohen asked Mr Pecker for a “little help” to arrange paparazzi to cover a meeting between him and Mark Cuban, he testified. Cohen was apparently trying to work for the billionaire.

Publishing those photos would “put pressure on Trump to treat Cohen differently,” Trump attorney Emil Bove asserted.

While Mr Pecker admitted that it could have looked that way, “Michael Cohen never said that to me,” the former publisher testified.

Trump attorneys try to poke holes in David Pecker testimony

Mr Bove seemed to be trying to cast doubt on the ex-tabloid boss’s lengthy testimony, which detailed how the former president and his then-attorney conspired with Mr Pecker to influence the 2016 election.

Despite multiple attempts to impeach Mr Pecker’s credibility, the former publisher repeatedly affirmed his under-oath descriptions of his meetings with Mr Trump.

At one point on Friday, Mr Bove tried to get Mr Pecker to admit that he either lied on the witness stand or to federal law enforcement about Mr Trump “thanking” him for his help burying stories of Mr Trump’s alleged affairs.

“Was that a mistake?” Mr Bove asked. “Do you believe Trump said that to you as we sit here right now?”

Mr Bove then handed Mr Pecker a report from his interview with federal prosecutors and the FBI in 2018, alleging that Mr Pecker’s prior testimony contradicted his earlier interview.

“This is the FBI’s interview, is that correct? These are the FBI notes? The FBI notes, some of these here, are wrong. I know what I testified to yesterday,” Mr Pecker said.

“I know what the truth is,” he added. “I can’t state why it’s written this way.”

McDougal transaction was ‘made to help Trump’s election odds’

Mr Pecker previously called his relationship with Mr Trump “mutually beneficial” — using his tabloid empire to identify “negative” stories about the then-2016 candidate that involved women in an effort to boost Mr Trump’s election chances.

However, the former AMI chief testified on Friday that one aspect of the agreement did not benefit him at all: the Karen McDougal story.

AMI had purchased the former Playboy model’s story alleging a 10-month affair with Mr Trump — while he was married to his now-wife Melania.

An August 2016 contract shown in court revealed that Mr Pecker agreed to give the model monthly columns in Star and Ok magazines – as well as the sole rights to her story about Mr Trump – for $150,000. Mr Pecker said the “true purpose” of the deal was to give “plausible deniability” to the plan to buy the rights to a story he never intended to publish.

“It was included in the contract basically as a disguise of what the actual purpose of it,” Mr Pecker told the court on Friday.

“The actual purpose of it was to acquire the lifetime rights … It would be published by American Media. It would not be published by any media source,” he said, echoing his testimony from earlier this week.

Mr Pecker repeatedly testified that stories about Mr Trump were big sellers for the National Enquirer. Burying Ms McDougal’s story was against his own business interest, prosecutors argued.

“Had you published a story about a Playboy model having a yearlong sexual affair while he was married … Would that have sold magazines?” Mr Joshua Steinglass asked. “That would be like, National Enquirer gold.”

Mr Pecker agreed.

“At the time you entered into that agreement, you had zero intention of publishing that story,” Mr Steinglass said. You killed the story because it helped candidate Donald Trump.”

“Yes,” Mr Pecker said.

Stormy Daniels Trump Tower visit revealed

The second witness took the stand on Friday: Rhona Graff, Mr Trump’s former personal assistant at the Trump Organization. When asked if it was true that she didn’t want to be there, she replied, “Correct.”

She testified that she saw Ms Daniels in the lobby of the 26th floor of Trump Tower, where Mr Trump’s office is located.

Ms Graff assumed that Ms Daniels may have been at the office to discuss a role on Mr Trump’s hit show The Celebrity Apprentice.

Ms Graff recalled that Mr Trump believed Ms Daniels would be a “good contestant” on the show.

“I can’t remember a specific incident when I heard it. It was part of the office chatter,” she said.

Third witness takes the stand

Gary Farro, a senior managing director at First Republic Bank, also took the stand.

Mr Farro said, “Michael Cohen was assigned to me after a client left in 2015.”

He said he believed he was given Cohen for “my knowledge and my ability to handle individuals who may be a little challenging.”

“Michael did a lot of his own business and frankly I didn’t find him difficult,” he said.

Roughly three weeks before Election Day 2016, Cohen called him to say he wanted to open an LLC.

The LLC is called, Resolution Consultants, the shell company that Cohen used to set up the McDougal wire transfer that Mr Pecker ultimately called off.

As his testimony was wrapping up for the day, Mr Farro testified that Cohen then applied for another LLC, Essential Consultants, which was intended to “collect fees for investment consulting for real estate transactions,” according to a form.

In reality, that company was later used to pay Stormy Daniels the hush money, which is now at the heart of the criminal case.

Trump challenges Biden to a debate on the courthouse steps

Despite declining to attend any of the GOP primary debates this election cycle, Mr Trump announced on Truth Social that he would be up for debating his Democratic rival President Joe Biden.

“Crooked Joe Biden just announced that he’s willing to debate! Everyone knows he doesn’t really mean it, but in case he does, I say, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, an old expression used by Fighters,” he wrote. After groaning about the criminal trial in Manhattan, Mr Trump added, “In fact, let’s do the Debate at the Courthouse tonight - on National Television, I’ll wait around!”