Here's a brief look at what every witness said on the stand during Donald Trump's hush money trial

ByPeter Charalambous ABCNews logo
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Trump's hush money trial: Biggest takeaways
ABC News breaks down the key moments from Donald Trump's historic criminal trial. Jurors heard 16 days of testimony from 22 witnesses and saw nearly 300 exhibits. Here's what you need to know.

NEW YORK -- Over the last five weeks, the jury in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial witnessed a marathon of testimony.

Among the 22 witnesses who took the stand, jurors heard from Trump's former lawyer, an adult film actress, two of Trump's executive assistants, a tabloid executive, a top White House aide, and a flurry of custodial witnesses as prosecutors sought to show that Trump falsified business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Defense lawyers told a markedly different story, pinning the responsibility for the invoices on Cohen and suggesting that Trump -- who has denied all wrongdoing -- was simply protecting his family from false allegations.

Prosecutors and Trump's lawyers are scheduled to make their closing arguments Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
Prosecutors and Trump's lawyers are scheduled to make their closing arguments Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Ahead of closing arguments on Tuesday, here is a summary of what each witness said on the stand.

David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer

Pecker told jurors that he agreed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign by flagging any potentially negative stories to Cohen, who could then coordinate a way to kill them.

Pecker testified that his company made two catch-and-kill payments to honor his agreement with Trump, paying $30,000 to a former doorman who falsely alleged that Trump had a child out of wedlock, and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump that he denied took place.

Pecker also said he flagged Stormy Daniels' potential story to Cohen in October 2016, but declined to make the $130,000 hush money payment out of his own pocket.

Rhona Graff, Donald Trump's longtime executive assistant

During 35 minutes of testimony, Graff testified that she created contact entries in the Trump Organization's computer system for both McDougal and Daniels. She also testified that at one point she saw Daniels in Trump Tower on the same floor as the former president's office.

Gary Farro, former Managing Director at First Republic Bank

Farro described what he said was Michael Cohen's frantic effort in October 2016 to create bank accounts for two shell companies, Resolution Consultants LLC and Essential Consultants LLC, which were described in applications as real estate consulting companies.

Farro said that had Cohen been truthful about the purpose of the accounts -- which were created to make hush money payments as part of the catch-and-kill plan --the accounts and wire transfers would have likely been delayed or not approved.

Robert Browning, Executive Director of C-SPAN Archives

Browning served as a custodial witness to verify two campaign videos of Trump in 2016, and one speech after Trump was elected.

In one of the videos, Trump denied any of the allegations made against him by women and suggested that the accusations could result in him losing the 2016 election. Prosecutors say that concern prompted Trump to make the Stormy Daniels hush money payment.

Philip Thompson, Esquire Deposition Solutions

Thompson served as a custodial witness to authenticate the transcript and video from Trump's deposition in E. Jean Carroll's defamation case.

Keith Davidson, ex-attorney for Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels

Davidson testified about his role brokering the hush money payments for Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. While Davidson testified that Cohen ultimately made Daniels' payment out of his own pocket, he said that he understood that Trump would effectively fund and be the beneficiary of the payment.

During his testimony, jurors also heard a secretly made recording of a conversation between Davidson and Cohen, in which Cohen spoke about Trump's alleged take on the Daniels payment.

"I can't even tell you how many times he said to me, you know, 'I hate the fact that we did it.' And my comment to him was, 'But every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move,'" Cohen said in the recording.

Douglas Daus, Analyst for Manhattan DA's Office

Daus testified as a custodial witness about his work extracting the contents of Michael Cohen's two iPhones. During Daus' testimony, prosecutors introduced into evidence a recording that Cohen secretly made of a 2016 conversation with Trump.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away," Cohen said on the recording.

"So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?" Trump said in an apparent reference to the $150,000 hush money payment to Karen McDougal.

Georgia Longstreet, Paralegal for Manhattan DA's Office

Longstreet testified as a custodial witness to introduce evidence that included Donald Trump's social media posts.

Hope Hicks, former White House Communications Director

Hicks, formerly one of Trump's most trusted advisers, told jurors that Trump told her in 2018 that he preferred the story of Stormy Daniels' affair allegations come out then, rather than before the 2016 election.

"I think Mr. Trump's opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election," Hicks said before breaking down on the witness stand.

Hicks also said Trump told her that Cohen had made the payment to Daniels on his own -- but that she doubted that was true, because, she said, "I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person, or selfless person. He was the kind of person who seeks credit."

During her cross-examination, Hicks helped corroborate a defense argument that Trump was a family man who cared about the impact of the allegations on his family.

"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 him."

Jeffrey McConney, Former Trump Organization Controller

McConney told jurors about his role reimbursing Michael Cohen in 2017 for his $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels and other expenses.

According to McConney, then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg instructed him to approve twelve $35,000 payments to Cohen for the Daniels payment reimbursement, as well as for another reimbursement and his annual bonus.

Deborah Tarasoff, Trump Organization Accounts Payable Supervisor

Tarasoff testified about her role processing Michael Cohen's 2017 invoices, which were labeled as payment for legal services but actually reimbursed Cohen for the Daniels payment and other expenses.

According to Tarasoff, McConney instructed her to approve the invoices as legal expenses, which she did when she processed the invoices in the Trump Organization's system.

Sally Franklin, Penguin Random House Executive

Testifying as a custodial witness, Franklin read quotes from two of Trump's books, "Think Like a Billionaire" and "How to Get Rich" that highlighted Trump's frugality and hands-on approach to business.

Stormy Daniels, Adult Film Actress and Producer

Stormy Daniels, the stage name of Stephanie Clifford, detailed her alleged sexual encounter with Trump that prosecutors say the then-Republican nominee attempted to illegally hide from voters before the 2016 election. Trump has denied the encounter ever took place.

"When I opened the bathroom door to come out, Mr. Trump had come into the bedroom and was on the bed, basically between myself and the exit," Daniels told jurors about the alleged 2006 sexual encounter. "I wasn't expecting someone to be there, especially minus a lot of clothing. That's when I had that moment where I felt the room spin in slow motion. I felt the blood basically leave my hands and my feet."

According to Daniels, Cohen's offer to buy her story for $130,000 in 2016 was the "perfect solution" because it allowed her to profit from the story without having to go public and put her safety at risk.

Rebecca Manochio, Trump Organization Junior Bookkeeper

Manochio testified about the next step in the process to repay Cohen in 2017: taking unsigned checks from Tarasoff and sending them to the White House for Trump's signature.

Tracy Menzies, HarperCollins Executive

Menzies read quotes from Trump's book "Think Big" to highlight the former president's emphasis on loyalty.

Madeleine Westerhout, Former Director of Oval Office Operations

Westerhout told jurors that she normally received bundles of checks in the mail from Manochio, which she would hand to Trump for his signature. Once Trump signed the checks, Westerhout said she mailed the checks back to the Trump Organization in New York.

Westerhout offered conflicting descriptions of Trump's attentiveness and intentionality when signing checks, first telling jurors that Trump examined all documents before signing them, then later testifying on cross-examination that Trump sometimes signed documents without looking them over.

Daniel Dixon, Analyst for AT&T

Dixon testified as a custodian of records for AT&T, allowing prosecutors to enter Michael Cohen's cellphone records into evidence.

Jenny Tomalin, Analyst for Verizon

Tomalin testified as a custodial witness to allow prosecutors to get Allen Weisselberg's cellphone records into evidence.

Jaden Jarmel-Schneider, Paralegal for Manhattan DA's Office

Jarmel-Schneider testified that he created several summary charts to simplify the display of the phone records and the allegedly falsified business records in the case.

Michael Cohen, Trump's Former Attorney

Across four days of testimony, Cohen testified that he was acting on Trump's orders when he worked to kill negative stories, and that he kept Trump apprised of every step along the way, telling jurors "everything required Mr. Trump's signoff."

"What I was doing, I was doing at the direction and for the benefit of Mr. Trump," Cohen testified.

Cohen said he spoke with Trump more than 20 times in October 2016 to discuss how to handle the allegations from Stormy Daniels.

"He said to me, 'This is a disaster, total disaster. Women are going to hate me,'" Cohen testified about a meeting in Trump Tower.. "Guys may think it's cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign."'

Cohen also recounted a 2017 meeting with Trump and Weisselberg in Trump Tower just days before the inauguration where Trump agreed to the plan to reimburse Cohen for the Daniels hush money payment.

"He approved it,' Cohen said. "And he also said, 'This is going to be one heck of a ride in D.C.'"

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche delivered his most successful blow to Cohen's credibility when he presented evidence to suggest that an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call -- which Cohen testified he made to confirm the plan to go forward with the $130,000 payment to Daniels -- was actually just Cohen complaining about a teenage prank caller to Trump's security guard.

Defense lawyers also confronted Cohen about stealing $30,000 from the Trump Organization when he requested a $50,000 reimbursement for an IT expense that actually cost him $20,000.

Daniel Sitko, Legal Analyst at Blanche Law

Sitko testified about a summary chart he created about phone calls between defense witness Bob Costello and Michael Cohen.

Robert Costello, Former Legal Adviser to Michael Cohen

Costello, then a close associate of Rudy Giuliani, told jurors about his meetings and phone calls with Cohen in 2018 after FBI agents raided Cohen's office and hotel room seeking evidence in the Stormy Daniels case. Costello advised Cohen and offered to pass messages to the White House through Giuliani, according to Cohen, but Costello never formally represented Cohen as his lawyer.

"Michael Cohen said, numerous times, that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times," Costello testified about the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. But Cohen testified that he lied to Costello about Trump's involvement in the arrangement because he didn't trust him. Prosecutors also cast doubt on Costello's credibility by highlighting a series of emails that suggested he was acting to advance Trump's interests, not Cohen's.

During one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom during Costello's testimony and threatened to kick Costello off the witness stand for his "contemptuous" conduct.

Following Costello's testimony, the defense rested without Trump taking the stand in his own defense.