The 5 biggest bombshells of Trump's hush-money trial so far

  • The ongoing Trump hush-money case wrapped its third week on Friday.

  • The unprecedented criminal trial of a former US president has supplied no shortage of wild moments.

  • From a porn star’s testimony to wacky tweets, here are the 5 top takeaways so far.

For three weeks, jurors in a Manhattan criminal courtroom have heard testimony about lascivious affairs and complicated financial records as former President Donald Trump stands trial on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, which center on a hush-money scheme to silence porn actor Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

The prosecution’s case is nearing its end. On Friday, the DA’s office announced it would present only two more witnesses — one of them is expected to be former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen — and will likely conclude its case by the end of next week.

The trial was expected to run six weeks in total.

The unprecedented criminal trial of a former US president has delivered several stunning moments so far. Here are the top five.

Hope Hicks’ tearful testimony

Hope Hicks’ bombshell testimony — which helped both the defense and prosecution at times — was most notable for her waterworks on the stand. The former White House aide and longtime Trump advisor took the stand on May 3 and told jurors about working with Trump and Cohen as campaign press secretary amid the 2016 Daniels scandal.

Parts of Hicks’ testimony didn’t play well for Trump, Business Insider previously reported. She illustrated how much he and his campaign worried about Daniels going public with the story ahead of the election. When the story finally came to light in 2018, Hicks said Trump was almost relieved.

donald trump hope hicks

Donald Trump poses for members of the media with then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks on her last day in the role.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

“I think it was Mr. Trump’s feeling that it was better to be dealing with it now,” she said, “rather than just before the election.”

But when she took the stand on cross-examination, Hicks also helped bolster the defense’s case, saying Cohen wasn’t looped in on the “day-to-day” of Trump’s campaign in 2016, confirming that the fixer sometimes “went rogue.”

Hicks also testified that Trump cared about protecting his family from the infidelity stories.

“I don’t think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything that happened on the campaign,” she said.

Jurors get a peek at the 34 records at the heart of the case

Two weeks into Trump’s trial, jurors finally saw the paperwork at the heart of the matter. Two key witnesses — longtime Trump Organization employees Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarassoff — testified about their handling of the company’s checks, invoices, and other records, which make up the 34 business records District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges Trump falsified.

The prosecution showed the paperwork on big TV screens in the courtroom. Though less exciting than the rumors of salacious extramarital affairs and campaign PR techniques, the accounting details constitute the crux of the case, Business Insider previously reported.

Prosecutors carefully walked through what they say was the falsified paperwork that led to Cohen’s reimbursement checks. The business records were disguised Cohen’s reimbursement checks as “legal fees” to cover up a conspiracy to sway the election, prosecutors say.

Jurors also saw eleven checks, including nine Capital One personal checks written out to Cohen that Trump signed over the course of his first year in office.

BI’s reporters noted that while key evidence, the May 6 financial testimony bored many in the courtroom.

Stormy Daniels tells her story

Daniels took the stand on May 7, delivering her long-awaited testimony during which she described being scared and ashamed after the sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006.

Wearing black-rimmed glasses and a sweater, the porn actor, whose name is Stephanie Clifford, came face-to-face with Trump for the first time in a decade. Trump spent much of Daniels’ testimony staring down at the defense table, avoiding looking at her.

A courtroom sketch of Stormy Daniels on the witness stand in Donald Trump's hush-money trial.

A courtroom sketch of Stormy Daniels on the witness stand in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial.Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

On the stand, Daniels described how she met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006, saying she ended up in his penthouse hotel suite after accepting a dinner invitation from the businessman.

Daniels says the two then had sex — a claim Trump has repeatedly and strongly denied. On the stand, Daniels said Trump told her she reminded him of his daughter, commenting on her blond hair and beauty. She testified that Trump told her not to “worry” about Melania, saying he and his wife slept in separate rooms.

As Daniels began to describe their alleged sexual encounter, Trump appeared furious, BI’s reporters noted. Presiding Judge Juan Merchan later reprimanded Trump for “cursing audibly” during her testimony.

Merchan barred some explicit details of Daniels’ story, but she did tell jurors that Trump did not wear a condom during the act. She added that she didn’t tell very many people about the encounter afterward because she was ashamed.

Daniels testified that she and Trump remained in contact after that night, and she avoided having sex with him again even though he indicated he wanted to.

She also described being approached by a man in a parking lot years later who she said warned her about discussing her “encounter with Mr. Trump.”

When Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, Daniels said her agent told her she could sell the rights to her story to Cohen for $130,000.

Trump’s legal team requested a mistrial on the basis of Daniel’s testimony. Merchan rejected the motion.

Judge Merchan holds Trump in contempt of court

Since Trump’s trial began four weeks ago, the former president has been held in contempt of court not once but twice.

The first slap on the wrist came on Thursday, April 25, when Judge Merchan ordered Trump to pay a $9,000 fine for violating his gag order nine times. His offenses include questioning the impartiality of his jury and launching tirades against trial witnesses, including Cohen and Daniels, on Truth Social.

Trump’s legal team attempted to argue the judge’s decision by noting that Trump was merely reposting attacks made by others in some cases, but Merchan rejected their argument.

donald trump manhattan criminal trial

Former US President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City.MARK PETERSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The April shaming didn’t quite work, however, and Merchan slapped Trump with another fine on May 6 in response to an April 22 phone interview Trump did with a right-wing network. During the call, Trump talked about the hush-money jury, calling them “95% Democrats.”

In a written order, Merchan repeated much of what he had already chastised Trump for previously in the trial, emphasizing that Trump was in criminal contempt over three separate motions.

“It is apparent that monetary fines have not, and will not, suffice to deter Defendant from violating this Court’s lawful orders,” Merchan wrote.

Any future violation of the gag order will result in Trump’s incarceration, Merchan said, adding that he did not want to go through the hassle of imprisoning the former president.

‘ShitzInPantz’ is entered into the court record

Perhaps the weirdest entry in the court record thus far was the inclusion of one of Cohen’s favorite insulting nicknames for the former president: Donald “Von ShitzInPantz.”

Todd Blanche, defense attorney for Trump, complained in court on May 2 that President Joe Biden and Cohen are allowed to bad-mouth Trump, while Trump isn’t able to respond.

Blanche cited Biden’s jokes about Trump during the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner, which he said “Trump can’t respond to” because of the ongoing hush-money case.

Then Blanche moved on to his complaints about Cohen’s ramblings, reading into the record the former Trump ally’s offensive post.

“This one says, oh my, ShitzInPantz,” Blanche read to the courtroom as a screenshot of the social media post was added to the court record, with no objection from prosecutors.

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