Trump hush money trial: Stormy Daniels's lawyer concludes testimony after hearing on gag order violations

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on May 1, 2024, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Key things to know:

  • Trump’s hush money trial resumes Thursday with more testimony from Keith Davidson, who has outlined how he negotiated hush money deals with the National Enquirer and Michael Cohen.
  • 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 10th day — and could last another month or more.

Lawyer Keith Davidson concluded his testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial late Thursday afternoon after spending about 6 1/2 hours on the witness stand over two days. 

According to the Associated Press, Davidson's testimony was followed by that of forensic analyst Douglas Daul, who testified about his findings on Michael Cohen's cell phone.

Jurors heard for the first time recordings of calls between Cohen and Davidson, as well as a briefing Cohen gave Trump about plans to buy former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story.

Thursday's proceedings began with a contempt hearing over whether the former president violated his gag order again.  The trial is in its 10th day — and could last another month or more.

Judge Juan M. Merchan heard from both prosecutors and one of Trump's defense attorneys about four more prospective violations, including comments Trump made about the political makeup of the jury and comments he made to reporters in the courthouse hallway. No immediate decision on potential sanctions was made.

Prosecutors have said that Trump and others conducted a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by purchasing and burying salacious stories that might hurt his campaign.

Follow along for live updates:

5:00 p.m. ET: Trump quiet on Davidson testimony, citing gag order

Leaving court for the day, Donald Trump said he’s "very happy about the way things are going." But he declined to opine on the testimony that took much of the day from Stormy Daniels’ former attorney Keith Davidson.

Asked by a reporter about Davidson’s testimony, Trump said he’d love to answer, but cited a gag order that bars him from speaking about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the trial.

He complained that the judge "has me under an unconstitutional gag order," which Trump is appealing.

"Other people are allowed to do whatever they want to us, and I’m not allowed, as a presidential candidate," Trump said.

4:45 p.m. ET: Court ends for the day

Court ends for the day

4:30 p.m. ET: Jurors hear recording of Michael Cohen briefing Trump on plan to buy Karen McDougal’s story

The panel members just got their first chance to hear the recording that Michael Cohen secretly made in September 2016.

Jurors appeared riveted as they listened to the recording, which was made public in July 2018. Some stared down at monitors in front of them in the jury box, following along with a transcript shown on them.

On the recording, made by Cohen using his iPhone’s Voice Memo app, the ex-lawyer is heard telling Trump: "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David," a reference to then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. "I’m going to do that right away."

Cohen then says he’s spoken to then-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg about "how to set the whole thing up with funding." Trump then says: "What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?"

A few moments later, Trump asks "what financing?" Cohen responds, "We’ll have to pay him something." Trump says: "We’ll pay with cash." Cohen objects, saying: "No, no, no, no, no." Trump then says, "Check," before the recording cuts off.

Prosecutors played the recording while questioning DA’s office forensic analyst, Douglas Daus,, who extracted and studied data from two iPhones Cohen provided to investigators, the 

4:15 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen had nearly 40,000 contacts on his phone, analyst says

Douglas Daus testified there were an eye-popping 39,745 contacts stored in Michael Cohen’s phone.

Daus is a forensic analyst from the Manhattan district attorney’s office who performed analyses on two iPhones former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen turned over to authorities during the investigation, according to Associated Press. 

"That is unusual. I have not seen that many contacts on a phone," Daus told jurors, adding that he typically sees hundreds "maybe thousands" when analyzing cellphones.

Among the examples shown in court: Multiple pages worth of entries for Trump, ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and the Trump Organization’s former longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg.

Daus also looked at photographs stored on Cohen’s cellphones, including one shown in court of the ex-Trump lawyer posing at the lectern in the White House press briefing room in February 2017.

The analyst said he’s never met Cohen. But asked by prosecutor Christopher Conroy how he knows that’s him, Daus deadpanned: "I watch a lot of news."

4 p.m. ET: Keith Davidson’s testimony has concluded

Keith Davidson finished testifying after a few more questions from Bove during a portion of his testimony known as re-cross.

The defense lawyer focused again on portions of audio recordings of conversations Davidson had with Cohen in 2018, playing them aloud for the jury. The same clips had previously been played only for Davidson and the parties, but not the jury.

Bove used the recordings to amplify his contention that, contrary to Davidson’s testimony, Daniels had attempted to leverage Trump’s election to maximize her payday. In one of the clips, Davidson could be heard saying he recalled hearing Daniels screaming at him during the 2016 negotiations and telling him to settle as soon as possible because she feared she’d lose leverage if Trump lost.

3:30 p.m. ET: An audio recording of Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson is played aloud in court

In the recording, Michael Cohen could be heard telling Keith Davidson about a conversation he’d had — with a person the witness said he believed to be Trump.

"I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, ‘You know, I hate the fact that we did it.’ And my comment to him was, ‘But every person that you’ve spoken to told you it was the right move,’" Cohen said in the recording.

Davidson testified that he understood the comments were referring to Trump’s regret about the settlement with Daniels.

Elsewhere in the audio, Cohen can be heard fretting about his position within the Trump’s orbit, telling Davidson: "Nobody’s thinking about Michael."

"I mean, would you write a book? Would you break away from the entire, we’ll call it, Trump doctrine?" Cohen asked. "Would you go completely rogue?"

3:15 p.m. ET: Cross-examination of Keith Davidson concludes

Trump lawyer Emil Bove concluded his cross-examination by focusing Keith Davidson’s attention on what’s not known about the Stormy Daniels agreement — namely what happened with it once it was sent to Cohen and whether Trump ever signed it, the Associated Press reported. 

The document referred to Trump by a pseudonym, David Dennison, and had a spot on the signature page for "DD." But the version Davidson had, which was used as evidence at the trial, doesn’t show any signature in that space.

Bove also focused on what he said was the common use of pseudonyms in such deals. Aside from referring to Trump as David Dennison, the document listed Daniels as Peggy Peterson.

"It’s common. You even used it with Hulk Hogan. Correct?" Bove asked Davidson. After a pause and some prodding, Davidson responded: "I believe so."

3:00 p.m. ET: Davidson listens back to 2018 call taped by Michael Cohen

After Keith Davidson was unable to recall the details of certain conversations from years ago, Bove tried a new tactic: confronting him with audio recordings of things he’s said in the past.

As he sat on the witness stand, Davidson listened, through headphones, to a 2018 conversation he’d had with Cohen, in which he said Daniels was experiencing "settler’s remorse" over her deal with Cohen.

Bove said the remarks suggested Daniels was seeking to "create leverage over Donald Trump," which Davidson disputed. He noted the conversation happened years after the settlement, as Daniels was weighing an offer of $1 million to get out of the agreement.

Though the recording was made surreptitiously by Cohen, Davidson said he had previously suspected Cohen was taping their calls.

2:45 p.m. ET: Davidson quizzed on his role in getting a blog post on Stormy Daniels and Trump taken down

Keith Davidson was back on the stand for more cross-examination. Trump lawyer Emil Bove zeroed in on Davidson’s role in negotiating for the gossip blog "The Dirty" to delete a story in 2011 that alleged Daniels had a sexual encounter with Trump.

Bove quizzed Davidson about possible connections between Daniels’ agent and the people who made the post, and whether she had sought to have the post taken down so she could negotiate a more lucrative deal elsewhere. Davidson ended up sending a cease and desist letter to the blog to have the post taken down, according to the Associated Press. 

During his questioning, Bove accidentally dropped the binder full of material he’d been referencing. "That drop was catastrophic to my binder," the defense lawyer quipped as he tried to regain his bearings.

2:30 p.m. ET: Judge declines to approve Trump’s Truth Social posts in advance

Before Keith Davidson’s testimony resumed, Judge Juan M. Merchan rebuffed a defense request to rule in advance on whether Trump would be in violation of his gag order by posting certain articles to his Truth Social account.

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles had asked Merchan to review the articles, written by legal scholars such as Jonathan Turley who are critical of his prosecution, and decide whether they would run afoul of a ban on commenting about people involved in the case. She argued that the gag order, issued March 26, was somewhat ambiguous and that while she thought the articles were fine to post, she wasn’t sure.

But Merchan said there "is no ambiguity, I believe, in the order," citing an appeals court ruling upholding the commentary ban. The judge said he wouldn’t give advanced rulings on what posts would and wouldn’t violate the gag order, advising Necheles: "when in doubt, steer clear."

2:00 p.m. ET: Court resumes after break

Court resumes after break 

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

12:48 p.m. ET: Davidson questioned on prior attempts to broker hush money deals

Trump lawyer Emil Bove pressed Keith Davidson on his understanding of extortion law, grilling him about previous instances in which he solicited money to suppress embarrassing stories, including one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan, the Associated Press reported. 

By the time Davidson negotiated hush-money payments for Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, Bove suggested to the witness, "you were pretty well versed in coming right up to the line without committing extortion, right?"

"I had familiarized myself with the law," Davidson replied.

Davidson was previously investigated by the FBI, but not charged, after he asked Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, to pay his client $300,000 to head off the release of the wrestling star’s sex tape, portions of which ended up published by Gawker.

Bove noted Davidson helped a client get paid $10,000 off the release of Lindsay Lohan’s private medical files. He also had a role in brokering a sex tape involving early 2000s MTV personality Tila Tequila.

12:05 p.m. ET: Davidson says Michael Cohen told him to stop Stormy Daniels from speaking to the media

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass wrapped his questioning of Davidson by asking about texts Cohen sent, instructing him to prevent Daniels from doing interviews.

Cohen texted at one point that the "wise men think the story is dying" so she shouldn’t do any interviews, and any statements from her should come from Davidson.

Shortly after that exchange, which was shown on courtroom monitors, Daniels declined to appear on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.

In another instance, Davison issued a statement for Daniels again denying she’d had a sexual encounter with Trump, drafting it in a Hollywood hotel suite as she was getting ready to appear on TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show.

But Daniels then disavowed the statement on the show, noting that the signature on it didn’t match her own.

This enraged Cohen, who threatened to sue Daniels "to hell" and sent other threatening messages, Davidson testified.

"He can be a very aggressive guy," he said.

11:45 a.m. ET: Davidson says Cohen griped about Trump not reimbursing him for the payment to Stormy Daniels

Keith Davidson testified that Cohen ranted to him about Trump in a phone conversation about a month after the 2016 election, complaining the president-elect wasn’t taking him to Washington D.C. and hadn’t paid him back for the $130,000 payment.

"Jesus Christ, can you believe I’m not going to Washington?" Davidson recalled Cohen saying during the Dec. 9, 2016, call.

Davidson was doing some Christmas shopping at a California store that he said was bizarrely and memorably decorated in an "Alice in Wonderland"-type theme with representations of huge rabbits and a "Cat in the Hat" on the ceiling, amid other holiday decor.

"I’ve saved that guy’s ass so many times, you don’t even know," Cohen continued, according to Davidson. Using an expletive, he said Trump "isn’t even paying me the $130,000 back."

11:40 a.m. ET: Karen McDougal’s lawyer texted Enquirer editor on election night: ‘What have we done?’

When it became clear on election night that Trump would be elected, Keith Davidson texted then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard: "What have we done?" Howard responded: "oh my god."

Explaining the message on the witness stand Thursday, Davidson said: "This is sort of gallows humor. It was on election night as the results were coming in. There was sort of surprise among the broadcasters and others that Mr. Trump was leading in the polls and there was a growing sense that folks were about ready to call the election."

"There was an understanding that our efforts may have in some way – strike that – our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump," Davidson added.

11:30 a.m. ET: Keith Davidson talks about article that revealed McDougal’s hush money deal right before election

Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented Karen McDougal in the deal, testified that Cohen told him he and Trump were "very upset" when The Wall Street Journal published an article that exposed the arrangement just days before the 2016 presidential election.

"He was very upset that the article had been published," Davidson said of Cohen. "He wanted to know who the source of the article was, why someone would be the source of this type of article, he was upset by the timing. He stated his boss was very upset and he threatened to sue Karen McDougal."

The article was published on Nov. 4. Election Day was Nov. 8.

11:05 a.m. ET: ‘ATTORNEY’S EYES ONLY': Jurors see Stormy Daniels agreement

As Davidson, who negotiated hush money deals for Stormy Daniels and McDougal, returned to the witness stand Thursday, jurors got a look at the confidential settlement agreement he negotiated on behalf of Stormy Daniels, the Associated Press reported. 

Under the deal dated Oct. 28, 2016, Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claims that she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

The document referred to Daniels and Trump by pseudonyms Peggy Peterson and David Dennison, but it also contained a side letter that identified them by name.

10:30 a.m. ET: No immediate ruling on gag order violation allegations, testimony resumes

There was no immediate decision from the judge on the four alleged gag order violations.

Davidson has returned to the witness stand. He started testifying on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. 

10:20 a.m. ET: Trump’s lawyer argues Michael Cohen should not be protected by the gag order

The gag order prevents Trump from making public statements about potential witnesses in the trial, which includes his former fixer.

Blanche argued that shouldn’t be the case. He cited examples of social media posts from Cohen critical of Trump, including one that appeared to include a fabricated image of Trump in an orange superhero costume.

He said Cohen’s TikTok and other social media accounts "repeatedly" criticize and mock the former president and the gag order.

10:16 a.m. ET: Trump’s lawyer says he can’t avoid speaking to the news media about the trial

Defending Trump against allegations of violating the gag order, Blanche argued that the saturation of media coverage has made it impossible for Trump to conduct interviews without being bombarded with questions about the trial.

"He can’t just say ‘no comment’ repeatedly. He’s running for president," the defense attorney said, adding the gag order should be seen in the context of "what’s happening behind us," a reference to the high volume of journalists in the courthouse. "Every time we whisper to our client, it’s livestreamed over all sorts of social media outlets," he said.

But Judge Juan M. Merchan quickly batted down that argument, saying members of the news media are "not defendants in this case, they’re not subject to the gag order, that’s a very significant issue you’re overlooking."

Merchan noted that he had no authority over the media.

"The former president of the United States is on trial," the judge continued. "He’s the leading candidate for the Republican party right now. It’s not surprising that we have press here, we have press in the overflow room, we have people throughout the world that are interested."

9:52 a.m. ET: Prosecutors seek more fines, not jail, for alleged gag order violations

Among the alleged gag order violations are comments Trump made in the hallway outside the courtroom, where he has often spoken to reporters at the start and end of each day in court, according to the Associated Press. 

In one of those monologues, Trump again attacked his former attorney, Michael Cohen, as a "liar."

"The defendant is talking about witnesses and the jury in this case, one right here outside this door," said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, the prosecutor. "This is the most critical time, the time the proceeding has to be protected."

Conroy urged Judge Merchan to impose a $1,000 fine for each of the four alleged violations.

He said prosecutors weren’t yet seeking to have Trump jailed as punishment because the alleged violations at issue happened prior to Merchan ordering Trump on Tuesday to pay a $9,000 fine for nine previous gag order violations.

9:45 a.m. ET: Contempt hearing underway

Judge Juan M. Merchan opened Thursday's proceedings in Trump's hush money trial with a contempt hearing on prosecutors' allegations that the former president violated his gag order four more times.

Those are in addition to nine violations Trump was fined for earlier in the week.

Merchan said prosecutors had submitted four exhibits, constituting a video clip of each violation, which will not be played in court. Trump’s lawyers submitted nearly 500 pages of evidence in a bid to refute the alleged violations.

In a court filing, his lawyers argued that the gag order was designed to silence him while his enemies — including witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels — are allowed to repeatedly attack him.

Conroy said in court Thursday that’s not true, arguing that the gag order was imposed as a result of Trump’s "persistent and escalating rhetoric aimed and participants in this proceeding."

The jury was not present for the proceeding.

9:15 a.m. ET: Key witness Keith Davidson will take the stand again 

Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented McDougal and Daniels in hush money deals with Cohen and the National Enquirer, returns to the witness stand on Thursday.

His testimony dominated Tuesday afternoon as he outlined the sequence of events that led up to the agreements, including his first interactions with Cohen, who was then Trump's lawyer and personal fixer. Among other things, Davidson testified that pseudonyms were used in the deal with Daniels and that Cohen was late in delivering the agreed-upon $130,000 payment for Daniels.

He also testified that he thought Daniels' story would be a "tornado" if it got out.

Daniels has alleged that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 while McDougal alleged a yearlong affair with him. Trump has denied both allegations.

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 Cincinnati.