Michael Cohen's electronics are in the spotlight as Trump trial continues


Former President Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial is set to resume Friday with testimony from the forensic analyst who inspected data from the phones of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, including text messages and secret recordings.

Cohen is a key figure in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump. Prosecutors say Cohen and Trump conspired with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to suppress scandalous stories about the Trump during his 2016 campaign. The scheme resulted in Cohen’s paying porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the claim.

Trump later repaid Cohen in payments the DA says he falsely classified as legal expenses. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Douglas Daus, a forensic analyst for the DA’s office, began his testimony Thursday, revealing he found over 39,000 contacts on Cohen’s phone, including those for Trump and his wife, Melania; text messages with Trump allies, including former White House communications director Hope Hicks; photos of Cohen in the White House; and some recordings.

One of the recordings was a snippet of a conversation Cohen had with Trump in September 2016 about how they should handle repaying Pecker for the $150,000 he spent to buy the silence of Karen McDougal. McDougal, a former Playboy model, has claimed she had a monthslong affair with Trump that began in 2006, an allegation Trump denies.

In a recording played in court — first reported in 2018 — Trump can be heard saying, “So what do we got to pay for this — 150?” He then tells Cohen to “pay with cash,” and Cohen responds, “No, no, no. I got it.”

Pecker, who initially demanded to get the money back, later relented and told Cohen not to pay him for fear it could get him in legal trouble.

Prosecutors played another of Cohen’s surreptitious recordings earlier in the day when Keith Davidson, the attorney who negotiated the Daniels and McDougal deals, was on the stand.

On the tape, Cohen tells Davidson that Trump, whom he didn’t name, had repeatedly complained to him about Daniels’ settlement: “I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, you know, ‘I hate the fact that we did it,’” and “my comment to him was ‘but every person you spoke to said it was the right thing to do.’”

Davidson said he understood that “he” referred to Trump and that “we did it” referred to the payment to Daniels.

During cross-examination, Trump’s attorney Emil Bove pressed Davidson about other scandalous tabloid stories he’d been involved with over the years, including his representing clients who peddled sex tapes featuring wrestler Hulk Hogan and influencer Tila Tequila, as well as another who allegedly leaked information about actor Lindsay Lohan’s stint in rehab. He was also asked about representing clients who were paid by actor Charlie Sheen. Davidson was evasive, saying he couldn’t remember details about specific cases and clients.

Cross-examining Daus at the end of the court day Thursday, Bove raised questions about whether data on the phone could have been manipulated. Daus acknowledged the FBI seized the same phones and examined them before the DA’s office did.

It’s unclear who will testify after Daus. The DA’s office has been tight-lipped about coming witnesses. It previously told the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, that it is hesitant about giving much notice for fear Trump will post about the witnesses on social media despite a partial gag order.

Merchan this week found Trump in criminal contempt and fined him $9,000 for violating that order with nine of his social media and campaign posts. Prosecutors argued Thursday he should be held in contempt for additional alleged violations. Merchan has yet to rule on the motion.

The court day will end slightly early Friday. Merchan said it will stop at 3:45 p.m. ET instead of his traditional 4:30 p.m. because one of the jurors has an appointment.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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