Witness Who Extracted Secret Tape of Trump Will Return to the Stand

Donald J. Trump’s defense team in his criminal trial spent Thursday on the attack. They portrayed him as an unwitting victim, suggesting that his campaign had been extorted by an unethical Hollywood lawyer who shook him down for hush-money deals.

But prosecutors followed up by playing audio for the jury that had been surreptitiously recorded before the 2016 election by Michael D. Cohen, who worked as Mr. Trump’s fixer. Both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump could be heard discussing the funding of a hush-money deal for a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

The audio recording was played while a forensic analyst from the Manhattan district attorney’s office was on the stand to discuss the contents of Mr. Cohen’s phones that he helped extract. That witness, Douglas Daus, will return to the stand on Friday.

The recording was intended to undercut the defense team’s argument during a combative cross-examination of the Hollywood lawyer, Keith Davidson, who in 2016 represented the model, Karen McDougal, as well as Stormy Daniels, a porn star who had threatened to reveal her story of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump just before the presidential election.

A Trump lawyer, Emil Bove, described Mr. Davidson as a serial extortionist of celebrities who did the same to Mr. Trump. Mr. Bove attacked Mr. Cohen, who had made a $130,000 hush-money payment to Ms. Daniels, as a job-seeking toady desperate for a position in the White House.

Mr. Trump later reimbursed Mr. Cohen for that deal with checks after the 2016 election. The repayments were labeled “legal expenses” for the Trump Organization, which prosecutors say was intended to disguise the hush-money deal. The repayments underpin the 34 felony charges against the former president.

Here’s what else to know about the trial:

  • Here are takeaways from court on Thursday.

  • The judge, Juan M. Merchan, held the trial’s second hearing on whether Mr. Trump had violated a gag order barring him from attacking witnesses and jurors. Justice Merchan fined Mr. Trump $9,000 for nine violations after the first hearing but has yet to rule on four more recent statements that prosecutors say trespasses the order.

  • The cross-examination of Mr. Davidson dove into the celebrity-obsessed digital media environment of the past 15 years that helped Mr. Trump’s rise to political prominence.

  • The two days of testimony by Mr. Davidson included text messages he sent and received about the hush payments for Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal. On election night in 2016, Mr. Davidson acknowledged privately his belief that those deals hadinfluenced America’s decision to elect Mr. Trump. “What have we done?” Mr. Davidson wrote in a text.

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