Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker details efforts to help Trump’s 2016 campaign

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After a contentious gag order hearing, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker gave damning testimony. This is Yahoo News’ succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against former President Donald Trump. Here are the latest developments:

The day got off to a rocky start for Trump during a hearing that Judge Juan Merchan called to hear arguments on whether Trump had violated his gag order, which prevents him from attacking potential witnesses in the trial, in social media posts. The judge rebuked Trump lawyer Todd Blanche throughout the hearing, telling him at one point that the defense was “losing all credibility with the court.” Things didn’t get much better for Trump when the jury entered the courtroom and Pecker returned to the witness stand. During questioning by prosecutors, Pecker laid out the details of the deal he reached with Trump and lawyer Michael Cohen to aid Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and damage his political rivals.

Judge clashes with Trump’s lawyer during gag order hearing: Merchan began the day by hearing arguments on whether Trump had violated his gag order in a series of social media posts that attacked jurors and witnesses in the case. Prosecutor Chris Conroy told Merchan that Trump’s “disobedience of the order is willful, it’s intentional” and added that Trump “knows what he’s not allowed to do and he does it anyway.” Blanche countered that there was “absolutely no willful violation” of the order. Merchan seemed unconvinced by Blanche’s arguments, repeatedly pressing him for specifics about the context of Trump’s social media posts. “You’ve presented nothing,” he told Blanche. At the end of the hearing, Trump fired off yet another message on Truth Social attacking the judge, calling him “highly conflicted” and saying he should recuse himself from the case. Merchan could issue a ruling on whether Trump violated the gag order at any time.

Pecker back on the witness stand: In what amounted to incredibly damning testimony, Pecker laid out the 2015 deal he reached with Trump “to help the campaign.” Pecker called the arrangement to publish stories to make Trump look good — and to smear his political rivals — “highly, highly confidential.” Trump’s then lawyer Michael Cohen fed the tabloid negative stories about rivals like Sen. Ted Cruz when they sensed him gaining momentum on Trump in the GOP primary, Pecker testified. Steve Bannon also pitched negative stories about Hillary Clinton to Pecker that the Enquirer published.

“Catch and kill”: Pecker also testified about the Enquirer’s efforts regarding “catch and kill,” the practice of buying the exclusive rights to a story only to make sure it would never be published. The Enquirer paid $30,000 to a Trump Tower doorman named Dino Sajudin for a story about Trump fathering an out-of-wedlock child. Though the story turned out not to be true, Pecker said, “I made the decision to buy the story because of the potential embarrassment it would have to the campaign and Mr. Trump.” A second catch-and-kill example involved former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was shopping a story about a sexual relationship she said she had with Trump. “I think you should buy it,” Pecker said he told Trump, who was married at the time, during the 2016 campaign.

There is no trial held on Wednesdays, so court will resume Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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