Trump trial updates: Trump fined again for gag order violations, jury hears testimony about Cohen reimbursement payments

The jury heard testimony Monday from two Trump Organization employees about payments former President Donald Trump made to his lawyer Michael Cohen. Prosecutors allege those checks were to reimburse Cohen for the money he paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged extramarital affair. This is Yahoo News’ succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against Trump. Here are the latest developments.

Questioning two Trump Organization employees — former corporate controller Jeffrey McConney and accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff — prosecutors showed the jury all the business records Trump is accused of having falsified to hide the $130,000 payment allegedly made to keep Daniels quiet about her claims of having sex with Trump. Those included vouchers of payments Trump made to Cohen from his personal bank account that were marked “legal expenses.” The day began, however, with Judge Juan Merchan fining Trump another $1,000 for violating his gag order that prevents him from attacking witnesses, court staff and family members during the trial. It was Trump’s 10th violation of the gag order and Merchan made it clear that if Trump did so again, he could be sent to jail.

Trump’s reimbursement of Cohen for Stormy Daniels payment: McConney testified about 11 invoices paid out to Cohen and told jurors that his boss, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, directed him to pay the money to Cohen but did not specify the reason for the payments. Weisselberg is in prison for perjury stemming from his testimony this year in the financial fraud trial brought against Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Prosecutors allege that the payments McConney helped facilitate, which were recorded as “legal expenses,” were actually made to reimburse Cohen for having paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Under cross-examination by Trump attorney Emil Bove, McConney was pressed about Trump’s direct involvement in the transfer of funds. “President Trump did not ask you to do any of the things you described?” Bove asked.

“He did not,” McConney replied.

“Only Mr. Trump”: Tarasoff, the day’s second witness, testified that Trump had to sign every check from his personal account, including those he signed from the White House after becoming president. In addition, Tarasoff testified that Trump didn’t always simply sign what she and her colleagues sent him. “If he didn’t want to sign it, he didn’t sign it,” Tarasoff said. In attempting to build their case that Trump’s employees were heeding his wishes when they guided payments to Cohen, prosecutors showed jurors detailed records of the transactions, as well as an email from McConney telling her to “Please pay [Cohen] from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.” During a brief cross-examination, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche tried to shift blame away from his client.

“When Mr. Weisselberg on some of the emails or Mr. McConney told you to go ahead and pay it, generate a check, you didn’t get permission from President Trump himself, correct?” Blanche asked Tarasoff.

“Correct,” she said.

Judge fines Trump, suggests jail time could be next punishment: At the start of Monday’s court proceedings, Merchan released a written ruling that fined Trump an additional $1,000 for violating his gag order. Trump had already been fined $9,000 for earlier violations. Merchan also wrote that “if appropriate and warranted, future violations” of his gag order occurs, Trump could wind up in jail.

Outside the courtroom, Trump referenced Merchan’s jail threat, saying, “I’ll do that sacrifice any day.”

A new witness, who has yet to be identified, will take the stand Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Prosecutors also said Monday that they will need approximately two weeks from tomorrow to wrap up their case.

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