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Hope Hicks, former Trump confidant, testifies against him in New York criminal trial

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of President Trump's closest aides and advisers, arrived to meet behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.
J. Scott Applewhite
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of President Trump's closest aides and advisers, arrived to meet behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.
  • David Pecker, former CEO of American Media Inc. He testified about making a deal with Trump and Cohen in 2015 to help Trump's campaign by finding potentially damaging stories and helping to kill them.
  • Keith Davidson, the former lawyer for McDougal and Daniels' who negotiated their payments in exchange for the rights to their stories. He testified and verified various text messages, phone calls and conversations surrounding the deals.
  • Rhona Graff, a longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization. She testified against her former boss about how she entered McDougal's and Daniels' contact information into the Trump Organization's directory. Her testimony verified Trump's contact lists.
  • Gary Farro, a former banker at First Republic Bank. He testified about opening accounts for Cohen that would eventually be used to pay Daniels. He said if he had known what the accounts would be used for they may not have ever been opened. 
  • Robert Browning, executive director for archives for C-SPAN. He verified two 2016 Trump campaign clips and one 2017 press conference clip where Trump called Cohen a talented lawyer and where Trump called allegations from women lies.
  • Phillip Thompson of Esquire Deposition Solutions. He verified video and transcript of a 2022 deposition Trump gave for his civil defamation lawsuit against writer E. Jean Carroll. In a video clip played from the deposition, Trump confirms his wife is Melania Trump and his Truth Social handle, among other things.
  • Doug Daus, a supervising forensics analyst in the Manhattan District Attorney's office. He testified to authenticating phone data; prosecutors played a recording of Cohen and Trump in which Cohen can be heard telling Trump, "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David."
  • Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal in the Manhattan DA's office. She testified to analyzing Trump's social media posts.

NEW YORK — Hope Hicks, a Trump-era White House adviser and communications director, testified in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial on Friday.

Hicks' name had been brought up by several witnesses who have testified before her. She was questioned by prosecutors about her knowledge of the deal brokered between Trump and the leadership at the National Enquirer tabloid to "catch and kill" stories that could harm his 2016 presidential run and the campaign's handling of the media fallout of those stories.

Hicks was the ninth witness to testify in Manhattan against the former president. Trump faces 34 felony counts alleging that he falsified New York business records in order to conceal damaging information to influence the 2016 presidential election. Trump claims the trial itself is "election interference" because of how it is disrupting his 2024 bid for president because he must be present in court every day and can't campaign when he is.

On social media and to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump reiterated his claim that the trial is a witch hunt. Although he said he could not comment on testimony because of a gag order, he said he was "very interested in what took place today."

Who is Hope Hicks? And how does he fit into the prosecution's case?

Hicks has worked for Trump since 2014 when she worked for the Trump Organization under Ivanka Trump, the former president's daughter, and Trump himself. Hicks joined Trump's first presidential campaign in 2015 as press secretary. After Trump was elected, she joined the administration as director of strategic communications andlater as communications director. She resigned from the role in 2018.

Hicks went on to join the Fox Corp., as chief communications officer and executive vice president but came back to the White House in 2020 as an aide to Jared Kushner, Ivanka's husband, and counselor to Trump.

Hicks' early testimony detailed her history with the Trump family, both in business and in politics. While on the stand, she detailed the moments in which the Access Hollywood tape first came out and the campaign response to it.

Hicks also testified to receiving a media inquiry from a Wall Street Journal reporter who was seeking comment from the campaign for a story on the allegations that Trump had an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump has denied both allegations.

She acknowledged that during that time, the focus for those in Trump's orbit was the election. Hicks said it also would have been out of character for Cohen to issue the payment to Daniels "out of the kindness of his heart," as she said Trump suggested to her then.

Hicks said she didn't know Cohen to be "charitable" and is the "kind of person who seeks credit."

In earlier testimony, David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, testified that Hicks was in and out of an initial meeting he had in August 2015 where the deal to aid the campaign was made. Hicks also used to work for a communication and strategy firm that worked with American Media Inc., which at the time owned the National Enquirer.

In testimony Friday, she said she recalled often being in and out of meetings with Trump at Trump Tower and had seen Pecker at Trump Tower, but she didn't remember any meeting details.

During opening statements, prosecutors noted the Access Hollywood tape was released a month before the election.

"The campaign went into immediate damage control mode," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said in opening statements, adding that Trump received word the next day that another woman — Daniels — was about to come forward with her own alleged sexual encounter with the GOP nominee.

A story of infidelity with a porn star would have been damaging to the campaign, Colangelo said, and Trump wanted to "prevent American voters from learning about that information before Election Day."

In 2019 hundreds of pages of court papers were made publicand showed communication between Hicks, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Pecker, Trump and others in the fallout of the release of the tape and in the lead up to the deal with Daniels.

The payments made constitute the 34 "falsified" business records the prosecution alleged Trump made. In opening statements, prosecutors argued that Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen submitted 11 "phony invoices" paid for by checks with "false entries" signed by Trump himself.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and instead argues that all he did was pay his lawyer.

What did Trump's lawyers ask her about?

Hicks got emotional asking for a break as she sniffled when asked about her history with the Trump Organization.

When asked if Cohen was on the campaign, Hicks said not formally and the campaign had separate counsel though Cohen made statements and TV appearances. She notes that Cohen would call himself Trump's "fixer."

"I used to say that he liked to call himself a fixer or Mr. Fix It, and it was only because he first broke it," Hicks said prompting laughter in the courtroom.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove also asked Hicks if it was a regular practice to work with the media to promote stories, such as amplifying positive stories.

"I have only been on one campaign, and it was a great one," Hicks said, acknowledging that it was commonplace in the Trump campaign. "I wouldn't have a job if that wasn't a regular practice."

When answering questions for the prosecution, Hicks also noted that when media reports first came out about the payments and alleged affairs, Trump was concerned about the story and how it would be viewed by his wife, Melania. "He wanted to make sure the newspapers weren't delivered to their residence that morning," she said.

In opening statements, Trump's lawyers aimed to establish that any payment to keep stories out of the press had less to do with the election and more to do with Trump's protection of his family.

Who else has the jury heard from so far?

Jurors have heard from eight other witnesses including:

Copyright 2024 NPR

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
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