5 Things We Learned From the Trump Trial

It was easy to get distracted by the colorful cast of characters that paraded through the witness stand during 16 days of testimony in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial. There was the former porn star, the tabloid publisher, his disgraced former fixer, the former press aide who broke down in tears on the stand.

They all spent much of their testimony rehashing a story that’s been public for years. Yet they also brought out new details of the alleged scheme by Trump to pay off Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about their sexual encounter, a decision at the heart of the prosecution's case against Trump.

Trump denies having an affair with Daniels and says he’s been falsely accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records to obscure his payments to buy her silence in advance of the 2016 election.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday and a jury could come back with a verdict as soon as this week.

Here are five things we learned during the trial:

The head of the National Enquirer described a partnership with Trump aimed at boosting his presidential bid

To make their case, prosecutors need to convince the jury that Trump’s main concern was his campaign when he paid Stormy Daniels to stay silent and falsified business records to conceal the payments.

Trump’s long-time friend David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enqurier, may have bolstered that point when took the stand and described an August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower when he agreed to be Trump’s “eyes and ears” to help bury damaging stories during his campaign.

Pecker, with his gray hair brushed back into a collar-length mullet, told the jury how Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer at the time, had called him in August 2015 and said “The Boss” — his nickname for Trump — wanted him to come to Trump Tower. Pecker described talking with Trump and Cohen for 20 to 25 minutes—and that former aide Hope Hicks came in and out of the room while they met. Trump wanted to know how the Enquirer could help Trump’s campaign, Pecker said. Pecker described how he offered to run positive stories about Trump, negative stories about his opponents, and notify Trump when women were contacting reporters with stories about the real estate mogul.

“I said I would be your eyes and ears because I know that the Trump Organization had a very small staff,” Pecker told the jury.  “And then I said that anything that I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself or if I hear anything about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen” and he would have another magazine kill the story “or somebody would have to purchase them.”

Pecker described how he later bought a story about Trump from a Trump Tower doorman and another from a former Playboy model. But when it came to suppressing Daniels’ story, Pecker said he didn’t want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn actress. Michael Cohen ended up paying Daniels directly, and said Trump agreed to pay him back.

“Pecker established that they intended to make these payoffs to benefit that campaign from the time of the Trump Tower meeting in August 2015,” says Norm Eisen, a senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution and former counsel to the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment.

Read more: What Happens if Trump Is Convicted? Your Questions, Answered

Hope Hicks said Trump was worried about the Stormy Daniels story coming out before the 2016 election

Hicks, Trump’s former communications director, broke down crying on the witness stand moments after describing why Trump was so motivated to keep certain stories out of public view before the election.

The prosecution asked Hicks about a conversation she had with Trump in February 2018, as news stories began to emerge that Stormy Daniels had been paid to stay silent about her 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Hicks was serving as Trump’s White House communications director and sat at a desk just outside the Oval Office at the time. She described Trump asking her how the news stories about his liaison with Daniels were playing in the press. Trump seemed relieved that the story had not come out earlier, Hicks said.

“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 said. “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.”

After she said that, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said, “No further questions.” She began to cry moments later.

Stormy Daniels described being pressured into sex with Trump

Daniels told the jury that she felt there was a power imbalance when Trump allegedly had sex with her in a Nevada hotel room in 2006. She described meeting Trump during a celebrity golf tournament on the shores of Lake Tahoe, the initial encounter that first set in motion the events of the case. She was 27-years-old at the time and attended the event to promote a porn studio. Trump invited her to his hotel room to discuss being on his reality TV show “The Apprentice,” she said.

Daniels gave specific details from her time with Trump. She described Trump’s bodyguard telling her which elevator to take to the penthouse, describing the double doors going into the room and the black and white tile floor. She recalled talking to him and then excusing herself to go to the bathroom where she peaked in his toiletry kit and saw Old Spice and Pert Plus and gold tweezers in a manicure set. When she came out of the bathroom, she saw that Trump was on the bed, between her and the exit, wearing his boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

Daniels said she was startled and thought to herself, “Oh, my God, what did I misread to get here.” “I thought to myself, great. I put myself in this bad situation.”

She recalled Trump having the upper hand at the moment. “I did note there was a bodyguard right outside the door. There was an imbalance of power for sure. He was bigger and blocking the way. But I mean I wasn’t not threatened verbally or physically,” she said. She said she blacked out and the next thing she remembers, she was on her back on the bed. Daniels told the jury the sexual intercourse was brief, and Trump did not wear a condom, and she said that concerned her. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

As Daniels was leaving Trump’s hotel room, Daniels recalled Trump told her, “We should get together again. We were fantastic together. I want to get you on the show.”

“I told very few people that we had sex because I felt ashamed that I didn’t stop it, that I didn’t say no,” Daniels said.

A handwritten note described Michael Cohen being reimbursed $130,000

Central to the case is whether Trump himself had paid for Daniels to remain silent and obscured that payment as legal fees to Cohen.

On May 6, prosecutors showed the jury a handwritten note written by Jeffrey McConney, a former Trump Organization executive, that they said described what Cohen was being paid for. The note describes a “reimbursement to Cohen” for a $130,000 wire transfer, the amount Cohen paid Daniels.

Prosecutors want the jury to see that note as a crucial part of a paper trail showing that Trump intended to pay Cohen back for the payoff to Daniels, explains Eisen. “We learned there was a smoking gun document that we had not seen before,” says Eisen.

Read more: Trump and Hush-Money Trial’s Central Witness Share a Tortured History

Michael Cohen admitted he stole from the Trump Organization

That handwritten document cuts both ways for the prosecution. While it helped buttress their case against Trump, it also undermined the credibility of their already flawed witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time fixer.

Much of the prosecution's case pivots off the word of Cohen, a convicted perjurer. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple crimes involving the hush-money scheme including lying to Congress and federal investigators.

After the prosecution highlighted the $130,000 payment on the note, Trump’s lawyers asked Cohen to explain another part of that tally of reimbursements to Cohen, specifically a payment for the tech firm Red Finch to rig Trump’s ratings in some polls. Cohen paid Red Finch $20,000 but charged the Trump Organization $50,000, pocketing the difference.

Trump’s defense counsel asked Cohen about that extra money he added when requesting a reimbursement from the Trump Organization.

“You stole from the Trump Organization, is that right?” Trump’s defense lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen on cross examination.

“Yes, sir,” said Cohen.

Contact us at letters@time.com.