Second Witness in Trump ‘Hush-Money’ Case Called by Prosecutors

Second Witness in Trump ‘Hush-Money’ Case Called by Prosecutors
Former President Donald Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 26, 2024. (Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images)

Prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s so-called “hush-money” case on Friday called up their second witness, a former Trump assistant, to testify in the case.

Rhona Graff, who started working for President Trump in 1987 and left the Trump Organization in April 2021, has been described as a gatekeeper by prosecutors. She was among several people allegedly involved in keeping his records, officials also said.

A defense lawyer, Susan Necheles, asked Ms. Graff about whether President Trump was a good boss.  “I think that he was fair, and, what’s the word I’m looking for, respectful boss to me,” she said.

“Sometimes he would peek his head in and say, ‘Go home to your family,’ which I thought was very thoughtful of him,” she testified.

When questioned by prosecutors, Ms. Graff said that two contacts she maintained at the Trump Organization were for Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and former model Karen McDougal. The two women have alleged they were involved in affairs with President Trump, which he has denied.

The former assistant recalled that President Trump may have said that he might have wanted Ms. Clifford on his “Celebrity Apprentice” television show. “I vaguely recall hearing him say that she was one of the people that may be an interesting contestant on the show,” Ms. Graff testified.

Other Witnesses

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, the first prosecution witness called, testified Thursday that Ms. Graff was often the conduit for his communications with President Trump, routing his calls asked him to attend a Trump Tower meeting on Jan. 6, 2017. At the meeting, the ex-publisher said, he and President Trump allegedly discussed some of the arrangements at issue in the case.

Ms. Graff was previously subpoenaed in the New York attorney general’s Trump civil fraud investigation but did not testify when the case went to trial last year.

In the case, President Trump faces 34 counts of allegedly falsifying business expenses during the 2016 campaign, which he denies and has pleaded not guilty to. Prosecutors say that he paid former lawyer Michael Cohen $130,000 who then paid a porn performer, Stormy Daniels, to not talk publicly about her claims of an alleged affair with President Trump, which he has denied.

Prosecutors further allege the former president came up with a plan along with Mr. Cohen and Mr. Pecker to find and squash stories and allegations against President Trump during the 2016 campaign. They said the scheme was tantamount to election interference.

Defense attorneys argue that President Trump did nothing illegal and that his activity was “standard practice” in the legal world and among political candidates. They also pointed out what they described as inconsistencies with Mr. Pecker’s testimony in court his week, noting that he made conflicting statements about several matters.

Since the beginning of the trial, prosecutors allege that President Trump has violated a previous Merchan-issued gag order that prohibits him from speaking about certain trial participants outside the courtroom. They claim he has racked up thousands of dollars in fines so far, and they asked the judge to hold him in contempt.

In a post on Truth Social Friday, the former president again criticized the gag order.

“His Opponents have unlimited rights to question, but he has no right to respond. There has never been a situation like this in our Country’s History, a Candidate that is not allowed to answer questions,” he wrote on social media. “Even Crooked Joe Biden is talking about the Sham Case, and others inspired by his Administration.”

Again, he asked Judge Merchan to “immediately LIFT THE GAG ORDER, so that President Trump is able to freely state his views, feelings, and policies. He is asking for his Constitutional Right to Free Speech. If it is not granted, this again becomes a Rigged Election!”

Meanwhile, while speaking from court in Manhattan on Friday, the former president told reporters that he is being forced to attend the trial rather than be with his wife Melania on her birthday.

“I want to start by wishing my wife, Melania, a very happy birthday. Would be nice to be with her, but I’m in a courthouse for a rigged trial. It’s a rigged trial. Terrible,” President Trump said.

The former president added that he’d be leaving for  Florida later on Friday to join Melania, who is celebrating her 54th birthday. So far, she has not attended the trial.

“I’ll be going there this evening after this case finishes up. This horrible, unconstitutional case, when it finishes up,” he told reporters.

Judge Juan Merchan told President Trump last week during the jury selection process that he must be in court every day the trial is in session, warning that he could face “an arrest” if he doesn’t show up. His lawyers had asked the judge if he could attend a Supreme Court hearing on his presidential immunity case, but the judge refused.

His attorneys also asked Judge Merchan to allow President Trump to attend his son Barron’s high school graduation ceremony in the near future, but the judge said he would make a decision on it later.

The trial is expected to last another month or so.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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