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Trump aide says secret trial over firestorm over leaked ‘grabbing women’ tape

Former White House official and Donald Trump adviser Hope Hicks took the stand Friday in the former president’s hush money trial and recounted how her 2016 campaign was engulfed in a political firestorm over a recording in which she boasted of grabbing women without their permission.

Hicks, once one of Trump’s closest confidants, was subpoenaed by prosecutors, who are trying to prove that the uproar over the infamous leaked Access Hollywood tape prompted Trump’s then-lawyer to pay a porn actor to bury a negative story that could jeopardize his 2016 presidential bid.

Ms. Hicks’ testimony gave jurors a glimpse of the chaotic fallout in the Trump campaign over the release of the tape just days before a crucial debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Hicks described being stunned and huddled with other Trump advisers after learning of the tape’s existence from a Washington Post reporter.

Trump Hush Money Who is who?
Hope Hicks was a close confidant of Donald Trump (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

“I had the good sense to believe that this was going to be a massive story and that it would dominate the news cycle for the next few days,” Ms. Hicks testified. “This was a disruptive development.”

He added: “This was just pushing us back in a way that was going to be difficult to overcome.”

After the tape’s release, he asked Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen to pursue a rumor about another potentially damaging tape.

Hicks said she wanted to be proactive in searching for the alleged tape because she didn’t want anyone to be “caught off guard.” In the end there were none left.

Trump's hush money
Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break in his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York (Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP)

Four days before the 2016 election, Hicks said he received a request for comment from a Wall Street Journal reporter for an upcoming story about purchasing the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal over a story that she had an affair. with Trump years before.

Trump denies the accusations.

Hicks recalled contacting Jared Kushner in hopes that he could use his connections with Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Journal’s parent company, to help delay the story.

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

Trump showed no emotion as he watched Hicks take the witness stand, where she acknowledged, after approaching the microphone, that she was “really nervous.”

Referring to his former boss as “Mr Trump,” he told the court that he last communicated with him in the summer or fall of 2022.

Although she was no longer in Trump’s inner circle, Hicks spoke about the former president in glowing terms as the prosecutor began questioning her about her background.

Hicks complimented Trump several times in the first minutes of his testimony, describing him as a “very good multitasker, very hard worker.”

Prosecutors have spent the week using detailed testimony about meetings, email exchanges, business transactions and bank accounts to build on their case accusing Trump of a scheme to illegally influence the election.

They are preparing the ground for crucial testimony from Mr Cohen, who paid porn actress Stormy Daniels US$130,000 (£104,000) for her silence before he went to prison over the hush money scheme.

Trump’s defense has worked to find holes in the credibility of prosecution witnesses and show that Trump was trying to protect his reputation and his family — not his campaign — by keeping the women quiet.

The defense also suggested, in questioning a lawyer who represented two women in hush money negotiations, that Trump was, in fact, a victim of extortion.

Trump has denied allegations of extramarital sexual encounters.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal business records of the Trump Organization.

The charges arise from paperwork such as invoices and checks that were considered legal expenses in the Trump Organization’s records.

Prosecutors say they were actually reimbursements to Mr. Cohen for hush money to Daniels.