Trump's hush money trial: Judge issues gag order ruling, $9K fine for Trump

FILE - Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the end of the day during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 26, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Imag

Key things to know:

  • Trump’s hush money trial resumes Tuesday with testimony from the third prosecution witness, Gary Farro – a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts.
  • 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.
  • Others expected to testify are Stormy Daniels, a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and Michael Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her to keep quiet about it.

Witness testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal trial continued on Tuesday with three people taking the stand, including Keith Davidson, a lawyer who previously represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in hush money negotiations involving the former president.

Davidson's testimony highlighted his interactions with Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and detailed the lead-up to a deal that ultimately came with a $130,000 payment to Daniels.

But Tuesday's proceedings started with the judge holding Trump in contempt and fining him $9,000 over nine online posts that he found violated a gag order barring the former president from speaking publicly about jurors and witnesses in the case.

Follow along for live updates:

4:50 p.m. ET: Court ends for the day

Court wraps up Tuesday. 

4:35 p.m. ET: Trump rails against gag order and trial as he leaves court for the day

Donald Trump approached news cameras in the courthouse hallway where he complained about the gag order, which he was fined $9,000 for violating earlier in the day.

Trump hit on familiar themes, accusing Judge Merchan of bias and of rushing the case, and saying he should be out campaigning instead.

4:25 p.m. ET: Was Michael Cohen negotiating on Donald Trump’s behalf?

Asked if Michael Cohen ever told him whom he was representing in the Stormy Daniels negotiations, Keith Davidson said the ex-lawyer may not have explicitly stated he was working on Trump’s behalf — but the implication was clear.

"Every single time I talked to Michael Cohen, he leaned on his close affiliation with Donald Trump," Davidson said. "It was part of his identity. He let me know it at every opportunity he could that he was working for Donald Trump."

4:30 p.m. ET: Keith Davidson reads aloud text messages mocking Trump’s wealth

Donald pressed in to view the message on a monitor in front of him on the defense table. He then leaned over to whisper something to his lawyer Todd Blanche, sitting at his left, as the messages flashed by on the screen — rendered as a spreadsheet in black text on a green background.

Trump and Blanche whispered back and forth intermittently as Keith Davidson continued testifying about the text message.

In the October 2016 message to Davidson, Howard was commenting on Cohen’s apparent reluctance to make good on an agreed-upon $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

"All because trump is tight," Howard wrote in one of the messages, which Davidson said was a reference to Trump’s purported frugality. In a follow up message, the editor wrote: "I reckon that trump impersonator I hired has more cash."

4:15 p.m. ET: Davidson says Michael Cohen missed deadline to pay $130K to Stormy Daniels

Keith Davidson testified that though both parties had reached a deal, the payment to Daniels didn’t materialize by the agreed upon date.

At first, Michael Cohen offered a litany of explanations for the delay, at turns blaming broken computers, Secret Service "firewalls," and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. "The things he was saying didn’t really make sense," Davidson said of Cohen, the Associated Press reported. 

As the excuses piled up, Davidson said he understood that Cohen "didn’t have the authority to actually spend money." He eventually sent an email informing Cohen that the deal was off.

"I thought he was trying to kick the can down the round until after the election," Davidson said.

3:49 p.m. ET: Court breaks

Trump did not speak to reporters as he left the courtroom for the afternoon break.

3:45 p.m. ET: New York appeals court denies Trump’s bid to halt the trial

A five-judge panel in the state’s mid-level appellate court rejected Trump’s request for a stay of the proceedings while he appeals several pretrial rulings, including the trial judge’s refusal to recuse himself.

Trump had sought the stay prior to the start of jury selection. A lone judge in the appeals court had previously rejected a request for an emergency stay halting the trial.

3:41 p.m. ET: Who are Peggy Peterson and David Dennison?

In drawing up the deal, Keith Davidson said he’d used a pair of pseudonyms to disguise the parties involved: Stormy Daniels became Peggy Peterson; Donald Trump became David Dennison.

The alliterative code names were picked, in part, because Daniels was the plaintiff and Trump was the defendant, the lawyer testified.

Asked if David Dennison was a real person, Davidson responded that he played on his high school hockey team.

3:38 p.m. ET: ‘Michael Cohen stepped into AMI’s shoes,’ Davidson says

After the "Access Hollywood" tape leaked, Davidson testified, Daniels’ agent reached a deal with then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard for the tabloid to acquire the rights to her story for $120,000, but Howard backed out of the deal, the Associated Press reported. 

The editor instead told Daniels’ agent, Rodriguez, to call Michael Cohen and complete the deal directly with him -- but she refused to speak with Cohen after their uncomfortable prior interaction. Rodriguez asked Davidson to step in and negotiate the deal with Cohen, the lawyer testified.

Davidson said he had numerous interactions with Howard over the years regarding stories. Asked if it was unusual for Howard to direct him to make a deal with a third party like Cohen, Davidson responded: "This is the only time that ever happened."

"In essence, Michael Cohen stepped into AMI’s shoes," Davidson said, referring to the name of the Enquirer’s parent company at the time, American Media Inc.

Davidson testified that in negotiating with Cohen, he hiked the price to $130,000 — building in his fee for his work on the deal.

3:35 p.m. ET: Stormy Daniels’ story became more marketable after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, Davidson says

Keith Davidson testified that the leak of Trump’s 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape had "tremendous influence" on the marketability of Daniels’ story.

He said Daniels’ agent, Gina Rodriguez, had been trying to drum up interest in her story earlier in the 2016 election cycle but found there wasn’t much.

Asked to describe the "Access Hollywood" tape, which can’t be shown in court, Davidson testified that it involved Trump and the show’s then-host Billy Bush being recorded on a "hot mic" and "some statements by both men that were troublesome."

3:30 p.m. ET: Keith Davidson testifies about meeting Michael Cohen

In drawing up the deal, Keith Davidson said he’d used a pair of pseudonyms to disguise the parties involved: Stormy Daniels became Peggy Peterson; Donald Trump became David Dennison.

The alliterative code names were picked, in part, because Daniels was the plaintiff and Trump was the defendant, the lawyer testified.

Asked if David Dennison was a real person, Davidson responded that he played on his high school hockey team.

3:15 p.m. ET: Davidson testifies he understood McDougal’s story would never be published

Asked why American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, would buy a story it didn’t intend to run, Davidson said he was aware of two reasons.

"One explanation I was given is they were trying to build Karen into a brand and didn’t want to diminish her reputation," he said. "And the second was an unspoken understanding that there was an affiliation between David Pecker and Donald Trump and that AMI wouldn’t run this story, any story related to Karen, because it would hurt Donald Trump."

3 p.m. ET: Davidson describes how the McDougal deal was done

According to the Associated Press, the deal for Karen McDougal’s story did eventually close, Davidson testified, with the former Playboy model receiving a $150,000 payment as well as the promise of magazine covers and regular columns for publications owned by the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc.

Keith Davidson testified that once the deal was done, he called Cohen as a professional courtesy because the agreement involved his client, Donald Trump.

Trump wasn’t a named party to the tabloid’s agreement with McDougal. Still, Davidson acknowledged Tuesday that burying her claims would be of value to Trump’s campaign.

Asked by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass how Cohen reacted to news of the deal’s closing, Davidson testified matter-of-factly: "He was pleased."

2:45 p.m. ET: Davidson testifies about the process of selling Karen McDougal’s story to the National Enquirer

Questioning picked up with Keith Davidson describing the back-and-forth haggling involved in selling the former Playboy model’s story to the tabloid empire.

In one text message shown to jurors, Davidson told Enquirer editor Dylan Howard that "they are asking me to go back for another 25," meaning another $25,000. Howard responded with an expletive, adding, "Not my money. I’ll ask."

But even as they reached a basic framework for the deal, Davidson described his "growing frustration with the process." At one point, Davidson said he was pushed to call former Trump attorney Michael Cohen directly, something he said he had been trying to avoid, the Associated Press reported. 

"I thought it was odd, certainly," Davidson said about being asked to call Cohen. "I didn’t particularly like dealing with him and that’s why I was trying like hell to avoid talking to him," he added.

2:10 p.m. ET: Trump’s online posts found to violate the gag order have been taken down

Donald Trump's posts were deleted ahead of the judge’s 2:15 p.m. ET deadline, while court was in recess for lunch.

Links to the old Truth Social posts redirected to a "Not found" message, while those to Trump’s website redirected to a 404 error page.

Earlier Tuesday, Judge Merchan fined Trump $9,000 for the nine posts for violating the order, which bars him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors.

1:30 p.m. ET: Davidson describes trying to sell Karen McDougal’s story

The Associated Press reported Davidson arranged a meeting at his Los Angeles office to see whether the National Enquirer’s parent company was interested in Karen McDougal’s story. But Howard, the Enquirer’s then editor-in-chief, told him afterwards that the tabloid wasn’t keen because she "lacked documentary evidence of the interaction," Davidson testified.

A month after their initial lunch meeting, Howard reached out again to Davidson, suggesting they should resume discussions about the story. At the time, Davidson warned that American Media Inc, the Enquirer’s parent company, would need to move quickly.

Davidson testified that McDougal was "teetering" at the time he sent the message and was on the verge of signing a deal to tell her story to ABC News.

Davidson said he was playing the Enquirer and ABC News against each other to get the best deal for McDougal. The former Playboy model didn’t want to tell her story publicly, which would’ve been required if she went to ABC, he said.

12:55 p.m. ET: Court sees texts from lawyer to National Enquirer editor promising a ‘blockbuster Trump story’

Shortly after lawyer Keith Davidson began representing Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, he reached out to Dylan Howard, the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, promising a "blockbuster Trump story."

Howard replied soon after: "I will get you more than ANYONE for it. You know why."

As the text messages were displayed on screens to the jury, Davidson testified he didn’t know exactly what Howard meant at the time. But, he noted that he knew Howard’s boss, David Pecker, and Trump were "longtime friends and had a former business relationship."

Among Howard’s follow up texts to Davidson, as shown in court, were: "Did he cheat on Melania?" and "Do you know if the affair was during his marriage to Melania?"

"I really can’t say yet, sorry," Davidson had replied.

Asked by Steinglass about what McDougal was claiming, Davidson testified: "Ms. McDougal had alleged that she had a romantic affair with Donald Trump some years prior."

Trump has denied this.

12:50 p.m. ET: Keith Davidson describes repping former Playboy model regarding a ‘personal interaction’ with Trump

As questioning turned toward Davidson’s involvement in some of the hush money deals, he says he met McDougal 25 years ago through a friend. He started representing the former Playboy model in 2016 "to provide advice and counsel as to what her rights and obligations would be regarding a personal interaction that she had."

"With whom?" Steinglass asked.

"Donald Trump."

12:42 p.m. ET: Keith Davidson, lawyer who represented Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels in hush money negotiations, testifies

Keith Davidson is known for representing people trying to sell celebrity sex tapes or other embarrassing information.

He represented McDougal and Daniels in hush money negotiations with the National Enquirer and Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016.

McDougal claimed she’d had a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. Daniels claimed she had a one-time sexual encounter with him in 2006. Trump denies the allegations.

12:20 p.m. ET: Videos of Trump denying allegations, praising Michel Cohen are played in the courtroom

Prosecutors played C-SPAN clips of Trump on the campaign trail in the final weeks of his 2016 campaign as he forcefully denied allegations made by several women after his infamous 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape was made public.

"The stories are total fiction. They’re 100% made up, they never happened, they never would happen," Trump said at an Oct. 14, 2016 rally in North Carolina.

Another clip played for the jury, from January 2017, showed Trump praising Cohen as as good lawyer and friend.

Trump didn’t appear to react in court to the clips, which were played on monitors throughout the courtroom, including directly in front of him on the defense table.

After confirming the veracity of the clips, Browning, who manages C-SPAN’s video collection, was dismissed from the witness stand. Trump’s attorneys declined to question him.

12 p.m. ET: The trial is getting an extra day off for Memorial Day weekend

Court won’t be in session on Friday, May 24 to accommodate a juror who has a flight that morning, Judge Merchan said.

That means the trial will be off for four straight days for the holiday weekend, resuming on Tuesday, May 28. Merchan also informed jurors there will not be court on May 17, though he didn’t give them a reason. That’s the day Trump will be attending his son Barron’s high school graduation, the Associated Press reported. 

11:50 a.m. ET: Executive director of C-SPAN archives is called as next witness

Dr. Robert Browning, who manages the network’s video collection, was called to verify the authenticity of video of a Trump campaign event. Prosecutors are calling people who are regarded as "records custodians" to verify evidence.

11:38 a.m. ET: Ruling of gag order violations is being used by Trump’s campaign

Trump’s campaign is already fundraising off this morning’s ruling that he violated the court’s gag order.

"Democrat judge just ruled against me," reads the subject line of a Tuesday morning email blast, which shares the news that, "A Democrat judge JUST HELD ME IN CONTEMPT OF COURT!"

"THEY WANT TO SILENCE ME!" the message continues, asking supporters to "STAND WITH TRUMP" by contributing money.

11:10 a.m. ET: Prosecutors want to question Trump about gag order violations if he testifies

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo asked Judge Merchan to let prosecutors question the former president about his gag order violations should he choose to testify.

The judge previously ruled to allow prosecutors to challenge Trump’s credibility by questioning him about some of his recent legal setbacks if he ends up taking the witness stand.

Trump has said he wants to testify, but he is under no obligation to do so.

Prosecutors also requested permission from Merchan to introduce evidence they say shows Trump orchestrated a "pressure campaign and intimidation effort" against Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

10:30 a.m. ET: Gary Farro returns to the stand

Testimony has resumed with Gary Farro, a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts. Cohen used one to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 election. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies, the Associated Press reported.

Cohen indicated the account, opened in late October 2016 in the name of Essential Consultants LLC, would be used for real estate consulting, according to testimony and documents shown at the trial.

In response to prosecutor Becky Mangold’s questions, Farro said the bank would have asked more questions if there had been any mention of a connection to a political candidate, buying a story that was being pitched to the media or paying a porn performer.

9:45 a.m. ET: Judge finds Trump violated gag order 9 times, fines him 9K

Prosecutors alleged the former president had violated the order -- which bars him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors -- 10 times, and the judge concurred in all but one of those cases

Merchan will hold a hearing Thursday on four more alleged violations.

Trump stared down at the table in front of him as the judge read the ruling, frowning slightly but otherwise showing no expression, according to the AP.

The ruling is a rebuke to the former president who had insisted he was exercising his free speech rights. 

9:15 a.m. ET: Trump supporters gather across from courthouse

Around 60 Trump supporters have gathered across the street from the courthouse, according to the AP. Some of the supporters are carrying Trump and American flags on tall poles.

8:50 a.m. ET: Trump arrives at courthouse

The former president’s motorcade pulled up to the courthouse in Lower Manhattan a little after 8:50 a.m. ET, according to the AP.

8:30 a.m. ET: Trump met privately with DeSantis over the weekend

Trump met privately with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the weekend, according to the Associated Press, citing three people familiar with the discussion.

The meeting marked a conciliation between the former rivals after a brutal Republican primary contest with insults and bruised egos.

The meeting, which lasted three hours, was organized to help the men bury the hatchet and discuss potential joint fundraising efforts, according to one of the people, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of the private get-together. 

During the conversation, DeSantis committed to helping Trump as he faces President Joe Biden in the general election, according to the person. It ended with the two shaking hands, said another.

7:45 a.m. ET: A look at the first week of Trump's hush money trial

The first week of testimony in Trump’s hush money trial was the scene-setter for jurors: Manhattan prosecutors portrayed what they say was an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories. 

Now prosecutors are working on filling in the details of how they believe Trump and his allies pulled it off.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s testimony last week provided jurors with a stunning inside look at the supermarket tabloid’s "catch-and-kill" practice of purchasing the rights to stories, so they never see the light of day.

Trump’s longtime executive assistant, Rhona Graff, told jurors she recalled seeing Stormy Daniels in the reception area of Trump Tower, though the date of the visit wasn’t clear.

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 out of 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.