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Trump lawyers tried to discredit witness who represented 2 women in hush money trial

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Stormy Daniels' former attorney, Keith Davidson, wrapped up his testimony today in the criminal trial of Donald Trump. And there was some dramatic audio of Trump that was played to the jury, but the defense team pushed hard at Davidson over his truthfulness. NPR's Andrea Bernstein joins us from outside the courthouse. Hi there.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey.

SUMMERS: So Andrea, Davidson represented both Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress, and Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, in their hush-money settlements. What new did we learn from his testimony?

BERNSTEIN: Davidson really went over the tick tock of the deal with Stormy Daniels today, showing how he drew up an agreement between two pseudonyms - Peggy Peterson for Daniels and David Dennison for Trump - and how, by late October, when then-Trump-attorney Michael Cohen still hadn't paid up, Davidson told him the deal was off.

But Trump's friends at the National Enquirer patched things up, and Cohen himself came up with $130,000, telling Davidson, F, I'll just do it myself. That is that he, Cohen, would front the settlement money. The money was paid and, not even two weeks later, on election night, Davidson texted his contact at the National Enquirer, saying, what have we done?

SUMMERS: So the crimes alleged in this case - falsifying business records in the first degree - all had to do with events that happened after the election. Did Davidson shed any light on that?

BERNSTEIN: Just a little - he described a scene where he was doing some Christmas shopping in early December 2016. He said it was at a big-box store that was strangely decorated like "Alice In Wonderland," with huge rabbits and Cats in the Hats on the ceiling. And Cohen calls him while he's there, despondent, saying and using language I can't say on the radio, can you believe I am not going to Washington after everything I have done for that guy. I didn't even get paid. That guy is not paying me the $130,000 back. So that leads to the question for future witnesses - how did the plan to reimburse Cohen and those 11 payments come about?

SUMMERS: Did Davidson say whether Trump knew that Cohen was paying Stormy Daniels?

BERNSTEIN: At the end of Davidson's testimony, prosecutors played a tape of Michael Cohen telling Davidson in a phone call that, quote, "he hates the fact that we did it," referring, as Davidson understood it, to discussions with Donald Trump. But the defense really leaned into the fact that Davidson had never spoken to Trump or been in the same room as him before this Tuesday and that Trump himself never signed the agreement which had those code names - Peggy Peterson and David Dennison. The line above the name David Dennison, Trump's pseudonym, is blank.

SUMMERS: OK. So is there evidence that Trump knew about the deal?

BERNSTEIN: Prosecutors played some tape late this afternoon introduced through a cyber researcher in the DA's office. It was made in September of 2016 - so after the Karen McDougal deal, but before Stormy Daniels emerged. But you could hear how, specifically, Cohen discussed these arrangements with Trump, baring stories, financing. Everyone came to attention when you could hear Trump's voice. He says, all you've got to do is delay, and then Cohen interrupts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know? So that - I'm going to do that right away.

SUMMERS: And Andrea, you're there outside the courthouse for us. Tell us what comes next.

BERNSTEIN: So we ended the day with cross-examination of that cyber expert. He's going to go on tomorrow. But jurors were left today with a question about chain of custody and whether the transfer of his phones - of Cohen's phones and devices from the FBI to the DA could have altered what's on them. We'll hear more from this witness tomorrow. We don't know who's next, but still on the witness list - former White House aide Hope Hicks, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

SUMMERS: That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein outside the courthouse. Thank you so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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