05/28/2024

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FILE - In this March 29, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump poses for members of the media with then White House Communications Director Hope Hicks on her last day before he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Hicks, one of President Donald Trump's most trusted and longest-serving aides, is returning to the White House. Hicks will be serving as counselor to the president, working with presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

‘We were always following his lead’: Ex-Trump press secretary testifies about ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, Stormy Daniels scandal

FILE – In this March 29, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump poses for members of the media with then White House Communications Director Hope Hicks on her last day before he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s most trusted and longest-serving aides, is returning to the White House. Hicks will be serving as counselor to the president, working with presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As the second week of former President Donald Trump’s hush-money criminal trial came to a close, jurors heard from the defendant’s onetime press secretary about her ex-boss’ high degree of involvement with the day-to-day inner workings of his campaign.

Hope Hicks, who served as his 2016 campaign secretary and later in the White House as communications director, took the stand Friday

“Everyone who works there in some sense reports to Mr. Trump,” she said, adding that although it was a large company, it was run like a small family business, according to Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld.

Hicks’ testimony appeared to undermine the defense line that the ex-president kept an arm’s distance from public-facing communication.

“He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it,” she reportedly said. “We were always following his lead.”

Now, Hope Hicks dents the notion that Trump was out of the loop of anything in terms of public communication:

"He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. We were always following his lead."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) May 3, 2024

Hicks also described the emergence of what became known as the “Access Hollywood” tape — in which Trump could be heard bragging to TV personality Billy Bush that he would regularly “grab” women’s genitalia without their permission — and the reaction of those in Trump’s inner circle. That tape surfaced in October 2016, about a month ahead of Trump’s eventual electoral win over Hillary Clinton.

“I was concerned,” said Hicks, who reportedly told jurors that she “verbally” shared the email with Trump. “Very concerned.”

She said that Trump was upset about the release of the tape, and “he said that didn’t sound like something he would say,” the Washington Post reported.

Hicks said that the release of the tape turned into an all-consuming story.

“There was a category 4 hurricane” about to hit the East Coast, Hicks reportedly said, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t think anybody remembers where or when that hurricane made landfall. It was all Trump, all the time, for the next 36 hours.”

Hicks also testified that Trump told her to deny allegations that he had had an extramarital affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. She also said Trump’s claims that former fixer Michael Cohen — expected to testify against Trump at this trial — paid Daniels to keep quiet “out of the kindness of his heart.”

Hicks didn’t see Cohen as “an especially charitable person or selfless person,” The New York Times reported. She also seemed to imply that he sometimes acted without invitation — or permission.

“He would try to insert himself at certain moments,” she said, which will feed into the defense’s argument that Cohen was freelancing.

The day started with Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan correcting Trump’s false statement from Thursday that he was being prohibited from testifying in his own defense.

“You have an absolute right to testify at trial,” the judge told Trump in unequivocal terms on Friday.

Hicks’ testimony capped a week of potential gag order violations by the president, as well as a step-by-step description of the payment to Daniels.

Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this story.

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