Hope Hicks Breaks Down On Stand After Giving Damaging Testimony Against Trump

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Longtime Trump communications director Hope Hicks broke down sobbing on the witness stand on Friday.

It came minutes after Hicks delivered a particularly damning round of testimony against Trump, and just as Trump defense attorney Emil Bove opened cross-examination.

Hicks had finished testifying about an apparent lie that Trump told her during his presidency.

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal had published an article revealing that Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 to remain silent about her tryst with Trump; Michael Cohen followed up by telling the New York Times that he made the payment out of the kindness of his heart, and kept it secret in a bid to protect Trump. 

Hicks told prosecutor Matthew Colangelo that she spoke with Trump about the issue, and that he reiterated the version of the story that Cohen told: “he did it out of the kindness of his own heart and he never told anyone about it,” Trump said, per Hicks.

Colangelo followed up, asking Hicks first how long she had known Cohen at that point, and whether it was consistent with her understanding of his character.

“I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person,” she replied after saying she’d known him for 3.5 years. “The kind of person who seeks credit.”

Colangelo followed up with two more questions: whether Trump said anything else about the payment, and if he expressed any thoughts about the timing of news reports on the issue.

On the first, Hicks testified, Trump said he thought it “was a generous thing to do” and that “he was appreciate of the loyalty.”

But it was Hicks’ testimony on the second question which both drove home the damage to Trump, and which concluded direct examination.

She said that Trump wanted to know her opinion about the story, and what its value would have been had the payment not been made. Trump, she said, said he believed that it was better to deal with it in 2018 – years after the 2016 election.

That testimony, from a longtime member of Trump’s inner circle, buttressed prosecutors’ case that Trump intended to subvert campaign finance laws by falsifying business records to cover up reimbursements to Cohen. Hicks laid out in a few minutes that she did not find the idea that Cohen did it on his own to be credible, and that Trump believed it benefitted his campaign to have kept the story out of the news.

It came after hours in which Hicks gave very controlled testimony, trying hard at moments to make positive remarks about her time with Trump. At one point, she said that Trump was worried about how Melania would react to the revelation about the affair with Karen McDougal; at another, she described the reactions to the Access Hollywood tape in the forced, neutral language of corporate crisis communications. It was a “damaging development,” she said, eliciting “sharp language” from GOP leaders.

Some of them called on Trump to resign over the tape; others, like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), exhibited less specific disapproval. Of Trump’s reaction to the criticism, Hicks subtly put the blame on his fellow Republicans while suggesting that the situation was typical: “I think he was frustrated, but it was not unusual to have any of those individuals speaking out and saying negative things about Mr. Trump, especially in response to controversy. That was pretty typical.” 

Hicks maintained that restraint throughout her testimony. But after Colangelo ended his questioning and Emil Bove, a Trump defense attorney, began his, things changed.

Bove began to ask Hicks for basic biographical details, including her time working for the Trump organization. She turned her head to one side and began to sob, picking up a tissue to dab the tears away from her face.

Judge Merchan excused her for several minutes. Bove completed his cross examination later on Friday.

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