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Hope Hicks testifies during Trump hush money trial

  • By Madeline Halpert, Kayla Epstein and Rachel Looker
  • BBC News, in court

Image source, JEENAH LUNA/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Screenshot, Donald Trump listens to testimony in court on Friday as his former aide Hope Hicks spoke about working with him.

Former White House aide Hope Hicks testified Friday afternoon during former US President Donald Trump’s secret trial about working with him and learning about the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

Hicks was a spokesperson for the Trump campaign during 2016 and was a close confidant.

He pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal the payment.

Trump has denied wrongdoing.

Hicks served as press secretary for the Trump campaign and served two terms as White House communications director. After taking the stand in the New York courtroom, she said, “I’m very nervous.”

Ms. Hicks answered questions about the events surrounding the release of the Access Hollywood tape. Recorded in 2005, it shows Trump saying he could “grab women” by the genitals because he was famous. It emerged weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

She said at the time that she was “a little stunned” upon hearing the tape, adding that she had “a feeling it was going to be a huge story.”

The Washington Post obtained the tape and the story’s reporter, David Fahrenthold, emailed Hicks asking for comment on Trump’s presidential campaign.

She testified that her email was her first warning about the tape and she reviewed it on a screen in the courtroom.

She was “a little stunned” upon hearing the tape, adding that she had “a feeling it was going to be a huge story.”

Hicks said he forwarded the email to several senior campaign staffers, including Jason Miller, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon.

She said in the email: “1) I need to listen to the tape to be sure. 2) deny, deny, deny.”

Hicks told the court it was a “reflex” to write “deny, deny, deny.”

Campaign aides then had a meeting during which they shared the email with Trump, Hicks said.

“Everyone was absorbing the shock… He (Trump) said that didn’t sound like something he would say,” Hicks said during his testimony.

“I was worried, very worried,” she told the court.

BBC News reporters are in a Manhattan courtroom covering the historic first criminal trial of a former US president. You’ll find their updates and analysis on the BBC News website and app, as well as on TV, radio and podcasts.

“It complicated where we were trying to go with the campaign. It was pushing us back in a way that was going to be difficult to overcome.”

When asked how Donald Trump reacted to the tape, Hicks said he believes Trump felt the recording was “pretty standard stuff for two guys chatting to each other.”

He also testified about David Pecker, former editor of the National Enquirer magazine.

Hicks was present at a 2015 meeting between the former president, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Pecker, according to his testimony. It was during this meeting that Pecker agreed to suppress negative stories about Trump, including alleged affairs, to help boost his campaign, Pecker testified.

Pecker was involved in paying money to Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy her story about an alleged affair with Trump, he testified last week.

Hicks said during his testimony that he had seen Pecker at Trump Tower.

He also recalled phone calls between Pecker and Trump, including one in which Trump congratulated Pecker on a story about Trump’s political opponent, Dr. Ben Carson, and allegations of medical malpractice.

“This is Pulitzer-worthy,” Trump told Pecker, according to Hicks.