‘I hate that fact that we did it’: Key takeaways from Trump’s day in court

The former president falsely claimed to media in criminal court that he can’t testify at his own hush money trial due to the gag order

Kelly Rissman,Alex Woodward
Friday 03 May 2024 00:10 BST
Trump falsely claims he's not allowed to testify because of hush money gag order

Donald Trump was back in court again on Thursday during his third week of the hush money trial in Manhattan, where jurors heard bombshell recordings between Mr Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

The former president’s legal team attempted to defend Mr Trump over his gag order violations on Thursday. Earlier this week, Judge Juan Merchan fined him $9,000 for repeated violations of the order, which bars him from talking about foreseeable witnesses or staff of the judge or DA’s office. Ironically, after court adjourned for the day, Mr Trump falsely claimed to reporters that he was not “allowed to testify” because of the gag order.

The court also saw a different side of Michael Cohen, who has previously been described in the Manhattan courthouse as “excitable” and “pants on fire.”

One witness said he thought Cohen “was going to kill himself” after Cohen found out that Mr Trump, Cohen’s long-term client, wasn’t considering him for top roles in his White House administration.

Here are some takeaways from another day at the hush money trial:

Trump’s defence tries to make him the victim

Mr Trump’s legal team painted him as a victim, trying to turn the tables days after Judge Juan Merchan fined the former president $9,000 for violating a gag order.

Defence attorney Todd Blanche accused Cohen of “inviting and almost daring Trump to respond to everything he’s saying”. He showed a series of Cohen’s posts to the judge, including calling Mr Trump “Von Sh**zInPantz.”

Mr Blanche also groaned about comments that Joe Biden made at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Donald has had a few tough days lately, you might call it stormy weather,” the president said.

Judge Merchan dismissed the argument, saying that there is “nothing in the gag order that says he can’t” respond to Mr Biden.

Judge seemed unimpressed with Trump’s comments about jurors

After hearing Mr Blanche’s defence of Mr Trump’s comments, the judge then urged him to switch to defending his client’s remarks about the jury.

Mr Trump has previously complained about the fairness of the trial, seeing as it is being held in the blue state of New York — which also happens to be his home state.

Still, the former president previously said that the jury “was picked so fast – 95 per cent Democrats”.

Trump speaks to the media at Manhattan criminal court
Trump speaks to the media at Manhattan criminal court (via REUTERS)

Mr Blanche started spewing arguments, claiming the hush money case is “political persecution”, prompting Judge Merchan to interject.

“Did he violate the gag order? That’s what I want to know,” he said. “He spoke about the jury, right? And he said the jury was 95 per cent Democrats and the jury had been rushed through, and the implication that this was not a fair jury?”

Michael Cohen scrambled to reign in Stormy Daniels as she went on TV

Jurors were shown a series of texts dated 31 January 2018 that Cohen sent in rapid succession while he was watching Ms Daniels on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show.

He appeared unhappy with how Ms Daniels was presenting her encounter with Mr Trump on television.

Cohen texted, “She just denied the letter.” He was referring to a statement drafted the day before in which the adult film star denied the affair with Mr Trump had ever happened.

The Trump lawyer then typed, while watching the show, “Claiming it’s not her signature.”

He then texted, “You said she did it in front of you.”

Mr Davidson texted, “She did. Impossible - she posted it on her own Twitter page.”

Cohen then said, “They showed her signature and she claimed it was not hers on Kimmel.”

Mr Davidson then replied, “Wtf.”

Cohen then mentioned Stormy’s then-publicist Gina Rodriguez. He wrote, “Please tell Gina to ensure she responds the same as your statement tomorrow when she does the view. This is not a comedy show!”

Mr Davidson replied, “Gina is ticked off at stormy because Stormy made her look like a liar.” He continued, “Gina says she is going to have a LONG talk with Stormy on the plane to New York tomorrow. She assured me that this will get handled.”

Cohen thought he would be Trump’s attorney general or chief of staff

Former Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson testified that he thought Cohen was distraught by mid-December 2016.

“I thought he was going to kill himself,” Mr Davidson said.

Before that, the lawyer recalled Cohen saying, “Jesus Christ, can you believe I’m not going to Washington?”

Cohen arrives at a New York courthouse in March. The jury heard recordings of the former Trump attorney on Thursday
Cohen arrives at a New York courthouse in March. The jury heard recordings of the former Trump attorney on Thursday (REUTERS)

“I’ve saved that guy’s ass so many times you don’t even know,” Cohen said about his then-boss Mr Trump, Mr Davidson recalled. “That guy’s not even paying the $130,000 back.”

Cohen thought he could be tapped to serve as Mr Trump’s White House chief of staff or attorney general.

Cohen has 39,000 contacts on his phone

Today, the world learned just how connected Trump’s former personal attorney is.

Cohen has 39,750 contacts on his phone, according to an exhibit shown in court while forensic analyst Doug Daus testified.

“Is that unusual?” asks attorney Christopher Conroy. “That is unusual,” Mr Daus replied.

Damning audio captures Trump and Cohen discussing hush money ‘catch and kill’ plot

Prosecutors presented a muffled recording between Cohen and Mr Trump discussing paying off former Playboy model Karen McDougal

Cohen was heard saying, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend, David [Pecker], you know, so that, I’m going to do that right away ... And I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up.”

Mr Trump then responded, “So, what do we got to pay for this? 150?”

The audio was indiscernible, but then Cohen can be heard saying, “...funding. Yes. Uh, and it’s all the stuff.”

Mr Trump said, “Yeah, I was thinking about that.”

Trump watches Davidson is questioned during Trump's criminal trial
Trump watches Davidson is questioned during Trump's criminal trial (REUTERS)

Cohen then said, “Because – here, you never know where that company – you never know what he’s –”

Mr Trump then added, “Maybe he gets hit by a truck.”

Some moments later, Cohen said, “Well, I’ll have to pay something.”

Trump replied, “Pay with cash,” to which, Cohen, said, “No, no, no.”

Mr Trump then recommended: “Check.”

Mr Trump told Cohen: ‘I hate that fact that we did it’

Manhattan prosecutors also played another tape — this time it was a call between Ms Daniels’ former lawyer Keith Davidson and Cohen.

Cohen said, “What would you do if you were me? … Would you write a book? … Would you break away from the entire Trump, you know, we’ll call it, doctrine? Would you go completely rogue? … Any thoughts? Because it’s not just me that’s being affected.

The former Trump lawyer continued, “It’s my entire family. … Nobody’s thinking about Michael. Know what I’m saying? … I’m saying to myself, What about me? What about me?”

Then, in a shocking moment, Cohen said, “I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, ‘I hate that fact that we did it.’”

In the tape, Cohen then said, “And my comment to him was, ‘But every person you spoke to said it was the right thing to do.’”

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass clarified who Cohen was referring to; Mr Davidson said he believed Cohen was referring to Donald Trump.

Mr Davison also clarified that the “right move” meant the settlement with Daniels.

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