3 big takeaways from Day 11 of Trump's hush money trial

Former top Trump aide Hope Hicks broke down on the stand during her testimony.

One of Donald Trump's closest former advisers testified Friday about the "frantic" hours after his campaign learned about the existence and imminent release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, offering a glimpse into one of the most consequential moments of the 2016 presidential election.

Hope Hicks spent nearly three hours on the witness stand, at one point breaking down in tears. The interlude prompted a short afternoon break before she returned to the stand -- but elicited no visible reaction from Trump.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Testimony resumes on Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET with a new witness, as Trump awaits Judge Juan Merchan's ruling on four additional alleged gag order violations after the judge found the former president guilty of nine.

Here are the three big takeaways from Day 11 of the proceedings.

Hicks details campaign's reaction to 'Access Hollywood' crisis

A month before the 2016 election, when Hope Hicks received an email from a reporter about the imminent release of the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump bragged about grabbing women, she "had a good sense that this was going to be a massive story and dominate the news cycle," she testified.

In careful detail, Hicks described how Trump and top campaign officials digested the news and began crafting a response. Her instinct? "Deny, deny, deny."

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump attends his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 3, 2024 in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump attends his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 3, 2024 in New York City.
Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images

"Were you concerned about the effect it would have on the campaign?" prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked her.

"Yes," Hicks said. "It was a damaging development."

Asked about Trump's response, she said, "Mr. Trump felt this wasn't good" -- but he didn't think it was "something to get so upset over."

"He felt this was pretty standard stuff for two guys chatting with each other," Hicks said.

Hicks breaks down on the stand

Toward the end of her direct examination Hicks was asked about the Stormy Daniels hush payment, and she testified that Trump told her in 2018 that Cohen had made the payment on his own.

But Hicks testified she felt that would be out of character for Cohen.

"I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person, or selfless person," Hicks said. "(He was) the kind of person who seeks credit."

"It would have been bad to have that story come out before the election," Hicks concluded.

It was at that point, as her cross-examination got underway, that she started to break into tears on the stand. Defense attorney Emil Bove had barely asked a question when Hicks turned to her left, looked down, and dabbed her face with a tissue.

Judge Merchan asked jurors to leave the room and allowed Hicks to step down from the stand. Trump did not visibly react. But during the break, he engaged in conversation with his legal team.

When Hicks returned, some five minutes later, she said, "Sorry about that," and resumed her testimony.

Hicks said Trump was concerned about his family

Much of Hicks' testimony supported points made by the prosecution -- including that Trump feared how allegations of affairs with multiple women might harm his presidential campaign.

But she also suggested that he was concerned about how those news reports might impact his family -- a point that defense attorneys have repeatedly tried to impress upon jurors.

"I don't think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything that was happening on the campaign," Hicks said. "He wanted them to be proud of them."

And on the eve of the election, when the Wall Street Journal broke the story that National Enquirer parent AMI had paid off former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to buy her silence about a long-denied affair, Trump, in an effort to protect his wife, made a request of Hicks.

"He wanted me to make sure the newspapers weren't delivered to his residence that morning," she said.

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