Trump hush-money trial testimony centres on 'the boss'

One particular character loomed large over the seventh day of Donald Trump's criminal trial: "the boss".

For hours, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker laid out how far he and ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen allegedly went for Mr Trump.

Mr Pecker testified he paid $150,000 (£120,000) to a Playboy model to protect "the boss's" presidential run.

Mr Trump is accused of falsifying records to cover a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

In the midst of running for president again, he has pleaded not guilty to the 34 counts and denies any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, Manhattan prosecutors sought to use Mr Pecker's third day on the stand to show former President Trump was aware of clandestine payouts to cover up alleged affairs with women, and that the payments were part of an effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

"The boss" would be pleased a negative story was kept from publication, Cohen told Mr Pecker at one point. At another point, Mr Pecker testified, he was told "the boss'' would be angry if negative allegations of an affair came to light. "The boss will take care of it," Cohen would sometimes reassure Mr Pecker.

'The boss'' in question, Mr Trump, was in the courtroom, listening quietly at the defence table.

Mr Pecker provided behind-the-scenes details of payouts to two women in particular - Ms Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal - to prevent them from telling the public about alleged sexual encounters they had with Mr Trump.

Prosecutors began by asking Mr Pecker about the hush-money payment to Ms McDougal, who alleges a months-long affair with Mr Trump. Prosecutors have not brought charges over this payment, but have used it to paint a broader picture of Mr Trump's conduct leading up to paying Ms Daniels.

Mr Pecker told the court that he and Mr Trump's team worked to kill Ms McDougal's story because it would have been "very embarrassing for [Mr Trump] and also for his campaign".

Mr. Pecker paid the $150,000 for her story, planning to keep it hidden to protect the Trump campaign. But seeking reimbursement proved complicated, Mr Pecker testified.

When Mr Pecker's counsel talked him out of a plan to get reimbursed through shell companies and intermediaries, Cohen invoked the spectre of Mr Trump once more.

"The boss is going to be very angry at you," Cohen said, according to Mr Pecker. Ultimately, Mr Pecker was never compensated for the payment to Ms McDougal.

And he was much more cautious when he came across another woman who wanted to sell her story about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump.

Her name was Stephanie Clifford - known in the adult film world as Stormy Daniels - and she had offers to speak about the alleged encounter and take a lie detector test on national television, Mr Pecker said.

But Mr Pecker insisted that Mr Trump's team should buy the story without his help. "I don't want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star," Mr Pecker told the court. "It would be very bad for the magazine, very damaging."

This time, he warned Cohen that if the story got out, "the boss is going to be very angry with you.''

Cohen would eventually go on to pay Ms Daniels $130,000, according to prosecutors, setting in motion the series of events that led to the trial.

Later, on cross examination, Mr Trump's lawyers sought to downplay the arrangement laid out by Mr Pecker.

"Many politicians work with the media and try to promote their image, right?" Trump lawyer Emil Bove asked Mr Pecker.

"Yes," he replied.

Some even do this to help with their election campaigns, Mr Bove said.

Despite facing three days of arduous questioning, Mr Pecker told the court he still had a glowing opinion of ''the boss''.

"I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor," he said. "Even though we haven't spoken, I still consider him a friend."