Trump Trial Today: David Pecker Returns and a Contempt Ruling Looms

Curtis Means/Reuters
Curtis Means/Reuters

This might be a stressful day for Donald Trump.

The former president will return to a New York City courtroom Thursday for the resumption of his trial on felony charges related to the alleged falsification of business records to hide payments to a porn star. At the same time, 200 miles to the south, the United States Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments about whether he should be granted absolute immunity from prosecution for anything he did during his time in the White House.

Everything You Need to Know About What’s Next in Trump’s Trial

Trump has made no secret that he’d rather be in Washington, D.C., for the high court hearing, but the judge in his Manhattan case kiboshed his plans to attend. “Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal, and I can certainly appreciate why your client would want to be there, but a trial in New York Supreme Court… is also a big deal,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche as he torpedoed the idea last week.

The Supreme Court case will have major implications for Trump. The justice’s decision and timing could affect when he could face a trial on the charges brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith relating to alleged attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 election. It could also have further reaching consequences in answering previously untested constitutional questions about the limits of presidential power.

Nevertheless, Trump will be stuck at the New York trial—where some significant developments could be on the way.

One might be a ruling from Merchan on prosecutors’ claims that Trump has flagrantly and repeatedly breached a court-imposed gag order that was supposed to prevent the Republican from publicly attacking potential witnesses, jurors, court staff, and even the judge’s own family members.

A hearing about the alleged violations on Tuesday led to a heated exchange between Merchan and Blanche on Tuesday, with the judge berating the Trump lawyer about “losing all credibility with the court” with his argument that the former president was trying to comply with the order.

Prosecutors want Merchan to fine Trump $10,000 for every violation of the order. The judge delayed making a decision on the matter Tuesday—the same day that a pre-taped Trump interview aired in which he seemingly broke the order yet again.

We’ll also be hearing more testimony Thursday from David Pecker, the former CEO of American Media and publisher of the National Enquirer, about the so-called “catch and kill” scheme used to bury potentially damaging stories about Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign.

David Pecker Deflates as Trump Hush Money Trial Testimony Grinds Ahead

Pecker has already given evidence about offering to become Trump’s “eyes and ears” in the run-up to the election and provided details of his part in hush-money deals that killed off stories about an alleged affair with a Playboy model (which Trump denies) and an allegation that he’d had a child out of wedlock (which Pecker said the Enquirer later determined to be false).

We are yet to hear Pecker’s testimony about a third deal at the heart of the case: the $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to hide an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors say the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records stem from Trump’s efforts to hide the hush-money payment to Daniels.

The trial could also be about to get more stressful for Pecker too. “He’s testifying under a grant of immunity, so I think the cross-examination will be very aggressive,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told The Daily Beast. “He’s someone that the defense can easily argue has a motive to lie—to save himself—and curry favor for the prosecution.”

“The defense’s entire case is going to be to poke holes in the witnesses’ credibility, which was clear from their opening statement that that’s what they intend to do,” Rahmani added. “It’s going to be interesting to see what type of witness Pecker is, because he’s getting softball questions now but I think the defense is going to go after him very aggressively when it’s their turn.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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