First Witness Takes the Stand in Trump Trial

Former 'National Enquirer' publisher testified briefly before trial wrapped for the day
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2024 1:04 PM CDT
First Witness Takes the Stand in Trump Trial
Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the courtroom as his trial continues at Manhattan criminal court in New York, on Monday, April 22, 2024.   (Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP)

Donald Trump's hush-money trial closed for the day earlier than planned Monday because an alternate juror had a dental appointment, but the prosecution still had time to call its first witness after opening statements. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was on the stand for around 20 minutes, Politico reports. He provided basic biographical information and talked about his role at the Enquirer and other publications. "We used checkbook journalism, and we paid for stories," Pecker said. He said editors were told they couldn't spend more than $10,000 without his approval, the AP reports.

Describing his editorial philosophy, Pecker said, "The only thing that is important is the cover of a magazine." Pecker is expected to return to the stand on Tuesday, when the trial will finish at 2pm because of Passover. The former publisher is a longtime Trump ally, and prosecutors say he conspired with Trump and Michael Cohen to bury negative stories before the 2016 election, with the Enquirer buying the stories as part of a "catch and kill" policy. Pecker was granted immunity from prosecution in the 2018 federal investigation of Cohen, NBC News reports.

Outside the courtroom, Trump said the trial went "very well" Monday but complained it was "very unfair" that he was being kept off the campaign trail, the Hill reports. In a possible violation of his gag order in the case, he discussed Cohen, saying Cohen's campaign-finance conviction had nothing to do with him. "He represented a lot of people over the years but they take this payment and they call it a legal expense ... and this is what I got indicted over," he said, per NBC. The trial will resume Tuesday with a hearing on whether Trump has repeatedly violated the gag order, the Washington Post reports. (More Trump hush-money trial stories.)

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