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Ex-Trump aide Hope Hicks to testify at his criminal hush money trial, reports say

Former White House communications director could be called as witness for the prosecution

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 02 April 2024 20:55 BST
Related: Donald Trump rants about upcoming Supreme Court immunity battle

Hope Hicks, a former aide to Donald Trump during his presidential administration, could be called as a witness for the prosecution at his upcoming New York hush money trial, according to reports.

Mr Trump was indicted by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg in March last year on 34 felony charges related to the falsification of business records to conceal payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election campaign, an effort to ensure their silence about extramarital affairs they allegedly had with the candidate a decade earlier.

The Republican presidential contender has denied any wrongdoing, as he has in all of the criminal investigations he faces, but will stand trial from Monday 15 April, with Judge Juan Merchan recently moving to impose a gag order on the defendant after he repeatedly lashed out about the case on social media and even attacked the justice’s own daughter, a Democratic political consultant, as part of a baseless allegation of political bias against the Merchans.

Ms Hicks served as a White House communications director between 2017 and 2018 and as counselor to the president between 2020 and 2021 but was interviewed by prosecutors in the case last year about an earlier role she played for Mr Trump: press secretary to his campaign during the 2016 election, when the alleged offence is said to have taken place.

The former aide last made headlines on the subject when she told Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in June 2019 that she had had no knowledge of the hush money payments until the story broke in November 2016.

That claim was called into doubt by an FBI agent who had investigated Cohen and subsequently alleged in an affidavit that Ms Hicks had been closely involved in the negotiations to silence Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) that took place in October 2016 after the emergence of the damning Access Hollywood tape.

The notorious footage from 2005 saw Mr Trump caught on a hot mic bragging to host Billy Bush about exploiting his fame to sexually assault women, a clip that sent his campaign into panic mode as it scrambled to shut down any further revelations of a similar nature.

The agent concerned wrote in their affidavit: “I have learned that in the days following the Access Hollywood video, Cohen exchanged a series of calls, text messages and emails with Keith Davidson, who was then Clifford’s attorney, David Pecker and Dylan Howard of American Media Inc, the publisher of The National Enquirer, Trump, and Hope Hicks, who was then press secretary for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Hope Hicks was a former aide to Donald Trump during his presidential administration (Reuters)

“Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood story.”

When Democrats accused Ms Hicks of “apparent inconsistencies” in her testimony to their committee following the unsealing of the affidavit, her lawyer Robert Trout said in a statement: “Reports claiming that Ms Hicks was involved in conversations about ‘hush money’ payments on 8 October 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong.

“Ms Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries.”

Both Cohen and Ms Daniels are also expected to be key witnesses in the upcoming trial and could offer blockbuster testimony against the former president, who is likely to go into overdrive attempting to discredit them on Truth Social and at his rally appearances.

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