Hope Hicks Testifies in Trump's Hush Money Trial

Hope Hicks, Trump's former communications director, testified in his New York criminal hush money trial, describing the crisis after the Access Hollywood tape's release. Hicks broke down in tears during cross-examination, revealing Trump's involvement in covering up hush money payments.

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Geeta Pillai
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Hope Hicks Testifies in Trump's Hush Money Trial

Hope Hicks Testifies in Trump's Hush Money Trial

Hope Hicks, Donald Trump's former communications director and 2016 campaign press secretary, broke down in tears during her testimony on Friday in the ex-president's New York criminal hush money trial. Hicks, the first Trump staffer with intimate knowledge of his campaign to testify about his alleged misconduct, described the crisis that ensued after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape in October 2016.

Why this matters: This trial has significant implications for the accountability of political leaders and the integrity of democratic elections. The outcome could set a precedent for how politicians are held accountable for their actions during campaigns.

Hicks told the jury that she learned about the tape, which features Trump making crude comments about women, shortly before it was published by The Washington Post on October 7, 2016. She said she was "a little stunned" and forwarded the email from the Post's David Fahrenthold to other Trump aides and campaign officials with the instruction to "deny, deny, deny."

Hicks described the sentiment among the campaign staff when the recording emerged, saying, "This was a crisis for his presidential bid." She also placed Trump squarely at the center of his campaign media strategy, telling jurors, "We were all just following his lead."

Prosecutors allege that Trump and others conducted a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by purchasing and burying salacious stories that might hurt his campaign. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments, including $130,000 given to adult film star Stormy Daniels by his then-attorney Michael Cohen.

Hicks testified that Trump told her in 2018 that Cohen made the payment to Daniels on his own, but she didn't believe Cohen would do so without seeking credit. She also revealed that Trump asked her to ensure newspapers weren't delivered to his residence on the eve of the election, to protect his wife Melania from learning about the National Enquirer's payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

During cross-examination, Hicks broke down in tears on the stand, prompting a short afternoon break. Trump, who was present in the courtroom, did not visibly react to her emotional moment. The trial, which could last another month or more with key witnesses like Cohen and Daniels yet to be called, marks the first ever criminal prosecution of a former U.S. president.

Key Takeaways

  • Hope Hicks broke down in tears during her testimony in Trump's hush money trial.
  • Hicks described the crisis after the Access Hollywood tape's release in 2016.
  • She said Trump told her Michael Cohen made the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels on his own.
  • Hicks placed Trump at the center of his campaign media strategy, saying "we were all just following his lead."
  • The trial could set a precedent for holding politicians accountable for campaign actions.