Trump hush money trial: Hope Hicks discusses ‘Access Hollywood’ tape release of Trump

FILE-Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media during a break in a pre-trial hearing at Criminal Court on March 25, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images)

Key things to know:

  • Trump’s hush money trial resumes Friday with more testimony. Thursday's proceedings saw the former president facing yet another contempt hearing, this time over four more prospective violations of his gag order.
  • Hope Hicks, who served as Donald Trump's 2016 campaign press secretary and went on to hold various roles in his White House, could testify in his hush money trial as early as Friday.
  • While Judge Juan M. Merchan did not immediately rule on the sanctions request from prosecutors, he told defense attorneys he was concerned about three of the potential violations.
  • Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to bury stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign.
  • The trial is in its 11th day — and could last another month or more.

FILE-Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media during a break in a pre-trial hearing at Criminal Court on March 25, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images)

Hope Hicks took the stand Friday in Donald Trump's hush money case, recounting in her testimony how she followed Trump from the real estate world to politics and how his 2016 presidential campaign was turned upside down following a leak of a video recording in which he boasted about grabbing women without their permission, the Associated Press reported. 

Hicks, a former Trump adviser, was the latest witness to be called in a frenzied second week of testimony that included testimony from lawyer Keith Davidson, who represented porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in their respective hush money negotiations.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments — including $130,000 given to Daniels, a porn actor, by Cohen — recording them instead as legal expenses.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Follow along for live updates:

3:00 p.m. ET: Hope Hicks describes Trump’s emotions in wake of ‘Access Hollywood’ leak

Trump lawyer Emil Bove returned to the day of the "Access Hollywood" tape release, asking Hicks to characterize how Trump was feeling at that moment. She obliged, giving one of her longer answers of the day, the Associated Press reported. 

"President Trump really values Mrs. Trump’s opinion and she doesn’t weigh in all the time but when she does it’s really meaningful to him," she said. "He really, really respects what she has to say. I think he was really concerned about what the perception of this would be and yeah I know that was weighing on him."

"I don’t think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything happening in the campaign," she continued.

As she spoke, Trump appeared to nod slightly, his gaze fixed on the witness box.

2:30 p.m. ET: Hicks says Trump was ‘concerned’ about wife Melania viewing article on McDougal’s hush money deal

Hope Hicks said she spoke with Trump on Nov. 5, 2016, the day after the Journal article was published.

She testified that he "was concerned about the story. He was concerned about how it would be viewed by his wife, and he wanted me to make sure the newspapers weren’t delivered to their residence that morning."

Asked if Trump was also worried about the story’s effect on the campaign, Hicks testified that everything they spoke about during that time was viewed through the lens of the campaign, with Trump often asking her, "How is it playing?" as a way of gauging how his appearances, speeches and policies were landing with voters.

Hicks testified that she was almost certain Trump used the phrase to express concern about how the Journal story would affect his election chances and the final days of his campaign.

2:15 p.m. ET: Jurors see texts between Hicks and Michael Cohen after the Enquirer’ McDougal deal was revealed

Hope Hicks was asked about text messages she exchanged with Cohen immediately after the publication of The Wall Street Journal’s story about the National Enquirer’s parent company buying the rights to McDougal’s story, according to the Associated Press.  

One message, displayed for jurors, showed Hicks requesting Cohen share a phone number for David Pecker, the president of parent company AMI.
"Mr. Trump wanted to speak with him," she testified.

In another message, Cohen informs Hicks he has a "statement by Storm denying everything and contradicting the other porn stars." Hicks testified she didn’t know what Cohen was referring to "and I didn’t want to know."

Both Cohen and Hicks were initially pleased by what Hicks described as a "muted" reaction to the Journal story.

"It wasn’t being picked up in the same way that something like the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was," she said. "It wasn’t wall to wall coverage."

2:00 p.m. ET: Hicks says Trump told her to deny claims by Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels to WSJ

Hope Hicks continued testifying after a lunch break, with a prosecutor focusing his questions on the Trump campaign’s response to a Wall Street Journal story published days before Election Day in 2016 that exposed the National Enquirer’s $150,000 catch-and-kill deal with Karen McDougal, the Associated Press reported. 

Hicks testified that Trump requested that she convey to the Journal reporter who’d contacted her for comment that he denies McDougal’s claims of an affair and porn actor Daniels’ claims of a sexual encounter with him, which were also mentioned in the article.

"The denial was from Mr. Trump for both women," Hicks testified.

As is standard practice, the Journal contacted Hicks prior to the publication of the article and included Hicks’ statement in the story.

She read a portion of her denial, as printed in the Journal, on the witness stand: "Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, said of the agreement with Ms. McDougal: ‘We have no knowledge of any of this.’"

Hicks recalled that Trump and Cohen spoke by phone after the story was published, but that nothing stood out from the call.

1:00 p.m. ET: Trial breaks for lunch

Hope Hicks will return to the stand around 2:15 p.m. ET.

Trump ignored shouted questions from reporters as he left the courtroom for lunch but flashed a thumbs-up.

12:45 p.m. ET: Hope Hicks asked Jared Kushner to try to delay publication of story about former Playboy model

On Nov. 4, 2016, four days before the election, Hope Hicks said she received a request for comment from a Wall Street Journal reporter for a forthcoming story about American Media Inc. buying the rights to Karen McDougal’s story that she had an affair with Trump years earlier.

Immediately, Hicks said she reached out to Kushner – in hopes he could use his connections to Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Journal’s parent company, News Corp., to help delay the story, Hicks testified.

"He had a very good relationship with Rupert Murdoch and I was hoping to see if we could buy a little extra time to deal with this," she said of Kushner.

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, told her that he likely wouldn’t be able to reach Murdoch in time, Hicks testified.

12:30 p.m. ET: Hicks describes hearing Stormy Daniels’ name come up in discussion about celebrity golf tournament

Hope Hicks testified that she first heard Stormy Daniels’ name uttered on Trump’s plane about a year before Cohen struck a deal with the porn actor to silence her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier, the Associated Press reported. 

In November 2015, Hicks said, she heard Trump and some of his security detail "telling a story about a celebrity golf tournament and some of the participants in the tournament and her name came up."

The way the story went, Daniels "was there with one of the other participants that Mr. Trump played with that day," Hicks testified.

In the final weeks of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about what she says was an awkward and unexpected sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe in July 2006. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

12:15 p.m. ET: Hope Hicks asked Cohen to help dig into rumor of another tape

In the aftermath of the "Access Hollywood" tape’s release, Hope Hicks said she asked Cohen, then a lawyer for Trump, to chase down a rumor of another potentially damaging tape.

Hicks said she wanted to be proactive in seeking out the supposed tape because "I did not want anyone to be blindsided."

She asked Cohen to call a friend of his in the media — whom she did not identify — and ask about the existence of the tape and, if there was a tape, when the campaign could expect it to be published.

"There was no such tape regardless, but he sort of chased that down for me," Hicks said.

12:00 p.m. ET: Hicks talks about storms caused, and obscured, by the ‘Access Hollywood’ revelations

Hope Hicks testified that the political firestorm that ensued after the release of the tape was so strong, it knocked an actual storm out of the headlines.

"It was intense. It dominated coverage, I would say, for the 36 hours leading up to the debate," Hicks testified, referring to an important debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton that Trump had been preparing for when the news broke.

Hicks said that at the time she received an email from a Washington Post reporter around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, 2016, informing her of the looming publication of a story revealing the tape, the news was dominated by a Category 4 hurricane that was charging toward the East Coast.

"I don’t think anybody remembers" where that hurricane hit, Hicks said.

Hurricane Matthew, which had hit Haiti and Cuba as a Category 4 storm earlier in the week, made landfall in the U.S. in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on Oct. 8, the day after the tape was made public.

11:50 a.m. ET: Jurors see ‘Access Hollywood’ transcript; Hicks describes her response

"I was concerned, very concerned," Hicks said, speaking slowly. "Yeah. I was concerned about the contents of the email. I was concerned about the lack of time to respond. I was concerned that we had a transcript but not the tape. There was a lot at play."

Hicks said she then forwarded the request to other campaign leadership, including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, with the recommendation to "deny, deny, deny."

The transcript of the conversation, which was attached in an email from a Washington Post reporter, was not read aloud in court, but was shown on monitors visible to jurors. Hicks was asked to read portions of the transcript to herself before responding, the  Associated Press reported. 

Trump sat stone-faced as the transcript appeared on screen, whispering at points to his lawyers.

Prosecutors contend that the tape, which emerged just days before a debate, jolted Trump’s campaign and hastened his then-lawyer Michael Cohen’s hush money deal with porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

11:30 a.m. ET: Hope Hicks recalls Trump’s interactions with the National Enquirer publisher David Pecker

Hope Hicks testified that she doesn’t remember if she was involved in the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where Pecker said he told Trump and Cohen he’d be the "eyes and ears" of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign by helping identify negative stories so they could be suppressed.

"I don’t have a recollection of that, but it’s certainly possible," Hicks said.

Pecker testified last week that Hicks was present for some of the meeting, and Hicks said Friday that she’d frequently pop in and out of Trump’s office while he was meeting with other people.

Hicks recalled some of Trump’s other interactions with Pecker, including phone calls in which then then-candidate praised the publisher for articles critical of his political rivals.

She testified that she had a "vivid recollection" of hearing Trump on the phone with Pecker congratulating him on a National Enquirer article about medical malpractice allegations against Dr. Ben Carson. Another time, Trump called Pecker to compliment a negative article about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

11:05 a.m. ET: Former Trump advisor Hope Hicks takes the witness stand

Hope Hicks, a former advisor to Donald Trump when he was president, took the stand and is being questioned by prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

Hicks is speaking about Trump in glowing terms, complimenting him multiple times in the first few minutes of her testimony.

She described him as a "very good multi-tasker, a very hard worker." Asked who she reported to while working as communications director for the Trump Organization, Hicks said, "Everybody that works there in some sense reports to Mr. Trump. It’s a big successful company but it’s really run like a small family business in some ways."

Hicks, who currently has her own communications consulting firm, is testifying under a subpoena and, unlike other former Trump employees, is paying her lawyers herself.

11:00 a.m. ET: Trump pays gag order fine

Donald Trump has paid his $9,000 fine for violating the gag order in his hush money criminal trial.

The former president paid the penalty Thursday, ahead of a Friday deadline. Trump’s legal team supplied the court clerk’s office with two cashier’s checks, one in the amount of $2,000 and one for $7,000.

Judge Merchan ordered Trump to pay the fine after holding him in contempt of court and finding that posts he made online about his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, porn actor Stormy Daniels and the complexion of the jury had violated the gag order.

Merchan is weighing a prosecution request to hold Trump in contempt again and fine him $1,000 for each of four more alleged violations last week. Merchan has warned Trump that he could be jailed if he keeps breaching the gag order.

10:45 a.m. ET: Paralegal explains how she used National Archives to verify Trump’s social media accounts

A government agency at the heart of Trump’s separate classified documents criminal case got a name drop at his New York hush money trial.

Before the break, Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, testified that she used the National Archives and Records Administration’s archive of the official presidential Twitter account to help verify the authenticity of Trump’s account, the Associated Press reported. 

Longstreet noted that Trump’s official government account, @POTUS45, frequently reposted tweets from Trump’s @realdonaldtrump account.

There was no visible reaction from Trump to the mention of the National Archives, whose pursuit of records he took from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after his 2020 election loss led to charges alleging that he illegally hoarded classified documents.

10:30 a.m. ET: Trump’s attorney invokes ‘Weinstein decision’ to keep out evidence

Before testimony resumed, Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled to prevent prosecutors from showing the jury a photograph of Trump with Billy Bush and soap opera actor Arianne Zucker at the time of the infamous "Access Hollywood" recording.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche had asked for the image to be excluded from the trial, pointing to a recent court decision overturning former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction. In that case, the appeals court ordered a retrial because the judge had allowed testimony at trial unrelated to the allegations.

Merchan said the appeals court decision "doesn’t really factor into this" case, noting the ruling had not laid out any new law, but nevertheless agreed to block prosecutors from introducing the photograph.

Prosecutors had said the image would help establish the timeline of the revelations about the "Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump could be heard bragging about grabbing women without permission.

Merchan has previously ruled the 2005 tape cannot be played in court for jurors, but said prosecutors can still question witnesses about the recording.

10:15 a.m. ET: Forensic analyst who examined Michael Cohen’s phones is back on the stand

Trump lawyer Emil Bove has resumed cross-examination questioning of Douglas Daus, a forensic analyst at the Manhattan district attorney’s office who extracted recordings, text messages and other evidence from two of Cohen’s iPhones.

9:44 a.m. ET: Judge also clarifies that the gag order won’t stop Trump from testifying

Judge Juan M. Merchan started the trial day also by clarifying that Trump’s gag order doesn’t prohibit him from testifying on his own behalf, apparently responding to comments the former president made after court the day before, the Associated Press reported. 

"The order restricting extrajudicial statements does not prevent you from testifying in any way," Merchan said, adding that the order does not in any way limit what Trump says on the witness stand.

Merchan directed his comments to Trump and his lawyers, saying it had come to his attention that there may have been a "misunderstanding" regarding the order.

9:40 a.m. ET: Trump speaks about gag order, testifying before going into court

Speaking to reporters before heading into court, Donald Trump clarified comments he made the day before about the gag order, saying it does not stop him from testifying in the case but that the order stops him from "talking about people and responding when they say things about me."

After court Thursday, Trump had responded to questions about what he’d thought of the day’s testimony by saying, "I’m not allowed to testify. I’m under a gag order," causing some confusion. The gag order bars him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the case.

He also commented on the latest job numbers showing that U.S. employers scaled back hiring in April and said they’re "horrible."

9:10 a.m. ET: Trump arrives at court 

The former president’s motorcade has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan.

9:05 a.m. ET: Former Trump advisor Hope Hicks could testify as soon as today

Hicks served as Trump’s 2016 campaign press secretary and spoke with Trump by phone during a frenzied effort to keep his alleged affairs out of the press in the final weeks before the election. Hicks later held various roles in the White House, including communications director, that’s according to two people familiar with the matter, the Associated Press reported. 

The two people who described her forthcoming appearance to The Associated Press insisted on anonymity to discuss internal trial preparations.

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000.

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges.

Trump has denied the accusations.

Who is appearing in court?

Witnesses in the trial include Pecker, Cohen, Daniels, and McDougal. 

Hope Hicks, Trump’s former White House communications director, is also appearing.

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who would sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How long will the trial last? 

The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Trump is expected to attend court each day.

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case in Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.