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For the jury in Trumps hush money trial, evidence of a criminal conspiracy comes in bits and pieces

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(NEW YORK) — When jurors heard opening statements in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial two weeks ago, prosecutors presented a coherent timeline of events to argue that the former president had committed crimes to hide damaging information from voters before and after the 2016 election.

Over the last two weeks, the evidence of Trump’s alleged criminal conduct has arrived in bits and pieces.

Jurors have so far heard from nine witnesses and seen over 120 exhibits. Some witnesses have been able to narrate the evidence to the jury, sharing what was going through their head at the time of the text message or email entered into evidence. Other evidence has been introduced by custodians — witnesses called by prosecutors to authenticate records — who were not direct participants in the events and are unable to provide the same kind of context for the evidence.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have vowed that by the end of their case, the jurors will have a full picture of Trump’s conduct and “inescapably” reach the conclusion that the former president is guilty.

“I am sure we can all agree that media accounts may be inaccurate or only tell parts of the story,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass advised potential jurors last month about their pre-existing knowledge of the case. “After all, the media has not yet had access to the evidence that you are going to see in this case.”

Here are eight pieces of the evidence that jurors have already seen during the trial, contextualized by witness testimony and background events.

PX-218: Email from reporter about ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, Oct. 7, 2016

Prosecutors argued to the jury that the October 2016 release of the Access Hollywood tape — where Trump could be heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals — launched Trump’s campaign into panic mode.

“I think there was consensus among us all that the tape was damaging, and this was a crisis,” former campaign press secretary Hope Hicks testified.

During Hicks’ testimony, jurors saw the email from a Washington Post reporter requesting a comment about Trump’s remarks before the newspaper broke the story.

In an email to then-campaign staffers Jason Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and Stephen Bannon, Hicks laid out an initial strategy.

“FLAGGING. 1) Need to hear the tape to be sure. 2) Deny, deny, deny,” Hicks wrote in the email.

“Strategy number two was going to be a little more difficult,” Hicks told jurors when asked about the email.

Trump issued a video statement apologizing for his remarks, but the story dominated the news cycle for the following day.

“We were anticipating a Category 4 hurricane making landfall somewhere on the East Coast, and I don’t think anybody remembers where or when that hurricane made landfall,” Hicks said about the weekend when the news broke. “It was all Trump, all the time, for the next 36 hours.”

According to prosecutors, the news set into motion a series of events including Trump’s effort to kill Stormy Daniels’ allegations of an affair, denied by Trump, and his eventual criminal indictment for concealing information from voters.

PX-176A: Texts regarding ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, Oct. 8, 2016

As news broke about Trump’s remarks on the Access Hollywood tape, attorney Keith Davidson — who represented both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal who also alleged an affair with Trump– reacted to the development in a text message exchange with the former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.

“Trump is f—-,” Davidson wrote.

“Wave the white flag. It’s over people,” Howard replied.

Davidson testified last week that a business opportunity soon emerged from the reputational rubble of the Access Hollywood tape, as Daniels’ agent began shopping around the story of Trump’s alleged affair with the adult film actress.

“It wasn’t until ‘Access Hollywood’ that interest sort of reached a crescendo,’ Davidson testified about Daniels’ story.

Davidson testified that over the coming weeks, he began negotiating a deal with Michael Cohen to buy the rights to the story, to guarantee Daniels’ silence, for $130,000.

PX-409B: Clip from Trump rally, Oct. 14, 2016 

As Davidson and Cohen negotiated the rights for Daniels’ story, the Trump campaign continued with its whirlwind schedule of rallies in the weeks leading up to the election.

Jurors last week saw a clip of Trump’s remarks at an Oct. 14, 2016, campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Trump appeared to recognize the impact of the allegations on his electoral odds.

“These are all horrible lies, all fabricated, and we can’t let them change the most important election in our lifetimes,” Trump said. “If just 5% of the people think it’s true and maybe 10% we don’t, we don’t win.”

Prosecutors argued that Trump’s remarks demonstrated his motivation to kill Daniels’ story.

PX-276, PX-376: Documents related to Daniels payment, Oct. 26-27, 2016

Just days before the 2016 election, Cohen successfully negotiated the rights to buy Stormy Daniels’ story for $130,000. Davidson testified that while Cohen made the payment using his own money, he believed Trump would ultimately fund — and be the beneficiary of — the payment.

Jurors saw the wire transfer authorization form from Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, to Keith Davidson’s trust account for Stormy Daniels.

Jurors also saw a signed confidential settlement agreement between David Dennison and Peggy Peterson, pseudonyms Davidson said he created for Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels.

Hope Hicks testified that Donald Trump told her in 2018 that he believed Cohen made the payment “out of the kindness of his own heart.”

“I would say that would be out of character for Michael,” Hicks told jurors about Trump’s assertion. “I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person. He’s the kind of person who seeks credit.”

PX-179: Photo of Pecker and Trump at White House, July 11, 2017

After winning the election, Donald Trump continued to keep an eye on the allegations of infidelity, according to the former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Pecker told jurors that he entered into an agreement with Trump and Cohen in the early days of the Trump campaign to serve as Trump’s “eyes and ears” by looking out for negative stories about Trump related to women. Pecker testified that, as part of that agreement to help the Trump campaign, his company American Media Inc. had purchased the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of an alleged affair, denied by Trump, for $150,000 in August 2016.

In the months following the election, Pecker said that Trump invited him to the White House for a “thank you dinner.” Jurors saw a July 2017 photo of Pecker and Trump walking together along the White House colonnade.

“At the time to have dinner, Mr. Trump asked me to join him in a walk from the Oval Office to the dining area. We passed the Rose Garden,” Pecker told jurors. “And as we walked out, President Trump asked me, ‘How is Karen doing?"”

“‘So, I said, ‘She’s doing well. She’s quiet. Everything is going good,"” Pecker recounted to jurors.

PX-181: Journal article on Daniels payment, Jan. 12, 2018

Despite Stormy Daniels staying quiet for more than a year after the 2016 election, the story of Cohen’s hush money payment to the adult film actress broke in 2018.

Jurors saw the article from the Wall Street Journal about the payment, which was published under the headline, “Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence.”

Hope Hicks testified about Trump’s reaction to the story.

“He wanted to know how it was playing, and just my thoughts and opinion about this story versus having the story — a different kind of story before the campaign had Michael not made that payment,” Hicks told jurors. “And I think Mr. Trump’s opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election.”

PX-278: A later-recanted statement from Daniels, Jan. 30, 2018

Weeks after the Wall Street Journal broke the story of Cohen’s hush-money payment, Daniels was scheduled to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“She wanted to talk about her life and reinvigorate her career,” Davidson told jurors.

Jurors saw text messages from Cohen and Davidson, who attempted to coordinate a denial statement ahead of the late-night appearance.

“Michael Cohen had requested yet another statement from Stormy Daniels and on the day that she was appearing on Jimmy Kimmel, and he wanted to know whether or not she was going to release it,” Davidson told jurors.

Jurors saw the statement that Davidson drafted for Daniels, which was put out hours before Daniels went on the show.

“I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to ask you tonight but then about like three hours ago I go on the internet and I see this letter that pops up,” Kimmel asked Daniels on the show. “Did you sign this letter that was released today?”

“I don’t know, did I?” Daniels said. “That does not look like my signature, does it?”

Though jurors have not seen the footage of the Kimmel appearance, they saw Cohen’s immediate response.

“She just denied the letter,” Cohen texted Davidson.

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