Michael Cohen, key witness against Trump, takes the stand to testify at trial

In the summer of 2016, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, was trying to sell her story about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump, which he denies. Her attorney, Keith Davidson, approached the National Enquirer about a deal that June.

Cohen said Pecker and Howard flagged the story to him. He said he thought it would have had a “significant” impact on Trump’s campaign and that he told Trump about it “immediately.”

“I told him about what I had just learned. I asked him if he knew who Karen McDougal was, if he knew about the story. His response to me was, ‘She’s really beautiful,'” Cohen remembered Trump saying. “OK, but right now there’s a story that’s being shopped.”

“Make sure that it doesn’t get released,” Cohen said Trump told him.

Cohen said Pecker and Howard kept him updated on the negotiations with McDougal, and Cohen in turn told Trump about developments “frequently.” 

Prosecutors showed a series of texts between Cohen and Keith Schiller, Trump’s bodyguard, in June 2016. Cohen was asking Schiller if Trump was available to speak. Call logs showed a phone call with Schiller right after the texts. Cohen testified that the call was about “the updates that I received about the Karen McDougal matter.”

Pecker called Trump while Cohen was in the room soon after, Cohen testified, and Trump put the call on speakerphone. 

“He asked him how things were going with the matter, and David said we have this under control and we will, we’ll take care of this,” Cohen said. “So David had stated that it’s going to cost them $150,000 to control the story, to which Mr. Trump replied, ‘No problem, I’ll take care of it.'”

The deal was finalized in August. Cohen said he believed that “effectively the story has now been caught.” He described Trump’s reaction: “Fantastic. Great job.”

Trump never paid back the $150,000 AMI put forward to secure the rights to McDougal’s story, Pecker testified.

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