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“Nervous,” a former Trump communications advisor testifies at his trial

Photo: Mandel Ngan Archives Agence France-Presse Hope Hicks was part of Donald Trump's inner circle during the campaign, speaking to him “every day.” We see her here in 2020 alongside the former American president.

Andréa Bambino – Agence France-Presse in New York

Posted at 4:11 p.m.

  • United States

Former adviser to Donald Trump Hope Hicks was the first member of the former US president's bodyguard to testify Friday at his criminal trial, in the case of hidden payments to a former porn star in 2016.

“I'm very nervous,” says — barely after taking the oath with a raised hand — the former communications advisor to Donald Trump, who was part of his inner circle during the victorious 2016 presidential campaign.

In this trial with enormous political stakes, Donald Trump is being prosecuted for 34 falsifications of accounting documents linked to the $130,000 paid just before the presidential election to Stormy Daniels, former star of pornographic films.

This sum was used to buy her silence about a fleeting sexual relationship that she claimed to have had with the real estate mogul in 2006, when he was already married with his current wife, Melania. A relationship that the Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election denies.

Hope Hicks was part of Donald Trump's inner circle during the campaign, speaking to him “every day.” As she recounts how she rose through the ranks, first within the Trump Organization, then within the candidate's political team, Donald Trump listens very attentively.

She avoids meeting his eyes as much as possible. They have not had any contact since “summer-fall 2022”, she specifies.

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A “crisis” after videos

For the moment, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo is mainly questioning him about an episode, which, for the prosecution, will be the prelude to the payment to Stormy Daniels.

One month before the election, the Washington Post broadcasts now famous video clips where we hear Donald Trump bragging in crude terms about offensive behavior towards women, such as “grabbing them by the pussy”.

“I was worried, very worried,” she recalls, when the prosecution produces the email sent to her, on October 7, 2016, by the journalist from the Washington Post. And when she heard the excerpts for the first time, “I was a little stunned […] there was a consensus on the fact that it was going to hurt and that we were facing a crisis,” she adds. .

For the prosecution, this episode encouraged Donald Trump to do everything to avoid a successive scandal before the November 2016 election, even if it meant buying the silence of Stormy Daniels when her case arose.

Hope Hicks, whose testimony is scheduled to continue Friday, was also clear that within the Trump Organization, “everyone […] reported to Mr. Trump.”

Arriving at the Manhattan court, Donald Trump again deplored that this trial would take him away from the electoral campaign. He criticized Judge Juan Merchan, whose impartiality he systematically challenges, of “seeking to present the case as as salacious as possible by authorizing testimony that has nothing to do with it”.

Screen company

On October 28, 2016, a few days before the vote, a confidentiality contract was signed with Stormy Daniels.

The $130,000 was paid by Donald Trump's personal lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, via a shell company.

He was repaid in 2017 by the billionaire's holding company, the Trump Organization, expenses disguised as “legal fees”, hence the prosecution for falsification of accounting documents.

Michael Cohen, who says having acted at the request of the candidate and turned against his former boss, has not yet testified.

The whole issue of the case will be to determine what Donald Trump knew about these behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Three years after leaving the White House in chaos, Donald Trump enters the campaign being indicted in four cases, including one before the federal courts in Washington for accusations of illegal attempts to reverse the results of the presidential election won by Joe Biden in 2020.

But due to appeals and procedural questions, the trial in New York, of a smaller scale, could be the only one tried before the election of November 5.

If he were elected again, Donald Trump could, once inaugurated in January 2025, order the abandonment of the two federal proceedings against him, in Washington, but also in Florida, where he is being prosecuted for supposedly casual handling of classified documents after his departure from the White House.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116