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Stormy Daniels Lawyer Denies Payment Was ‘Hush Money’ in Trump Trial

A lawyer who was involved in the negotiations for agreements between former President Donald Trump and two women pushed back on prosecutors’ claims that it was a “hush-money” payment during a court appearance on May 2.

Keith Davidson, who negotiated agreements related to adult performer Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and model Karen McDougal, disputed Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass’s language.

“It wasn’t a ‘payout’ and it wasn’t ‘hush money.’ It was consideration in a civil settlement,” Mr. Davidson, who was called in as a witness, said on May 2.

“Would you use the phrase hush money to describe the money that was paid to your client by Donald Trump?” Mr. Steinglass asked.

“I would never use that word,” Mr. Davidson said. Mr. Steinglass asked him what word he would use instead.

“Consideration,” Mr. Davidson said in response, adding that it was like a contract in which one pays to have one’s lawn mowed.

Trump attorney Emil Bove pressed Mr. Davidson on his understanding of extortion law, grilling him about previous instances in which he solicited money to suppress embarrassing stories, including one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Mr. Bove suggested to the witness that by the time he negotiated the payments for Ms. McDougal and Ms. Clifford, he would have been “pretty well versed in coming right up to the line without committing extortion.”

“I had familiarized myself with the law,” Mr. Davidson replied.

The Trump attorney also elicited testimony from Mr. Davidson that he’d never had any interactions with President Trump, only his former lawyer and possible witness Michael Cohen.

The lawyer testified that he never met President Trump and that he had never been in the same room as him until he began testifying in court on April 30.

He further said he was unfamiliar with the Trump Organization’s record-keeping practices but that he did receive some emails from Mr. Cohen’s company email address. Any impressions he had of the former president came through others, the lawyer testified.

Mr. Bove appeared to be underscoring the defense’s points that President Trump was removed from the negotiations and that Mr. Cohen was handling the payment matters on his own, and that his testimony isn’t relevant to the charges at hand.

Prosecutors allege that President Trump falsified business records by logging reimbursement payments to Mr. Cohen as legal fees, claiming that they interfered with the 2016 election that the former president ultimately won. But his attorneys contend that they were standard legal fees and that no crime was committed.

President Trump has said the trial is an attempt to keep him off the 2024 campaign trail and has criticized the judge, Juan Merchan, for issuing a gag order that prohibits him from speaking about certain individuals involved in the case, including Ms. Clifford and Mr. Cohen. Prosecutors have sought fines for multiple alleged violations, including some posted on social media.

In a court filing, President Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order was designed to silence him while his foes publicly attack him. Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy said in court on May 2 that that’s not true, arguing that the gag order was imposed as a result of President Trump’s “persistent and escalating rhetoric” in the case.

Among the alleged gag order violations are comments President Trump made in the hallway outside the courtroom, where he has often spoken to reporters at the start and end of each day in court.

Before heading into the courtroom on May 2, the former president spoke to reporters in the hallway, where he said that the case could have been brought “eight years ago” instead of now.

The trial is expected to last another month or more, with jurors hearing testimony four days a week. President Trump is required to be there, the judge has warned.

“They don’t want me on the campaign trail,” President Trump said on April 30.

The judge said on April 30 that there will be no court on May 17 so President Trump can attend his son Barron’s high school graduation in Florida.

Court also won’t be in session on May 24, to accommodate a juror who has a flight that morning, the judge said. That means the trial will be off for four straight days for Memorial Day weekend, resuming on May 28.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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