Donald Trump wishes Melania ‘happy birthday’ at hush money trial over payments to porn star

Donald Trump walked into his hush money trial on Friday and wished his wife Melania a happy birthday – the day after former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified Trump never mentioned worrying about what she thought about his alleged affairs at the heart of the state’s case against him.

“I want to start by wishing my wife Melania a very happy birthday,” Trump told reporters on his way into the courtroom. “It’d be nice to be with her but I’m at a courthouse for a rigged trial.”

Trump said he would be jetting off to Florida on Friday evening to join Melania, who is celebrating her 54th birthday.

Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids, was the prosecution’s first witness and was on his fourth day on the stand on Friday facing cross-examination from Trump lawyer Emil Bove.

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Judge Juan Merchan listens as David Pecker testifies in New York on Friday. Courtroom sketch: Elizabeth Williams via AP

The long-time publisher told the courtroom that after Trump announced his candidacy, he never heard him voice concerns for his family when working to cover up unfavourable stories – only for his campaign.

Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal a conspiracy to influence the results of the 2016 election.

The crimes, prosecutors say, revolve around a reimbursement to Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen for a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Pecker told the court he paid US$30,000 to silence a Trump Tower doorman’s story of a child Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock, and US$150,000 for Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence on a nearly year-long affair she says she had with Trump, which he denies.

Tabloid publisher buried stories to help Trump’s presidential bid, court hears

“We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign,” Pecker said on Thursday on his motivation for the “catch and kill” scheme.

Trump is accused of cooking up the plan to influence the election at a 2015 meeting with Cohen and Pecker.

Pecker earlier revealed how during a visit to the White House in 2017, Trump remained concerned McDougal would talk about the relationship.

“As we walked out, President Trump asked me, ‘How is, eh, how is Karen doing?’” Pecker said on Thursday. “So I said, ‘She’s doing well. She’s quiet. Everything’s going good.’”

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US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump make their way to board Marine One as they leave the White House in January 2021. Photo: AFP

The defence has argued that Trump did nothing illegal and that his interactions with Pecker both fell within legal lines and were “standard practice” for political candidates.

Since the start of the trial, prosecutors say Trump has racked up more than a dozen violations of his gag order, which prohibits him from speaking on trial participants outside the courtroom.

The DA’s office requested thousands of dollars in fines for the violations, made, they say, on television appearances, in the halls of the courthouse and at press conferences, and asked that the former president be held in contempt of court.

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