Prosecutors Reveal Who’s Paying the Lawyers for Trump’s Longtime Assistant

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

When Manhattan District Attorney prosecutors called their second witness in Donald Trump’s criminal case on Friday, they wanted the jury to note who is paying for the lawyers for this prosecution witness: Trump.

Rhona Graff, who served as Donald Trump’s executive assistant and so-called gatekeeper for 34 years, was called by prosecutors on Friday to testify in her former boss’ criminal hush-money trial. And almost immediately, Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger elicited an important disclosure from Graff—that the Trump Organization is paying for her lawyers.

Hoffinger asked Graff—who appeared alongside Trump in multiple episodes of The Apprentice and worked at his family business until 2021—about a contact number for “Stormy” listed in the Trump Organization’s computer system, and another listed for Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had a yearlong affair with Trump.

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Graff said she recalled seeing porn star Stormy Daniels in the reception area on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, where Trump’s offices are located, a few days before he was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017. Graff told the jury that she was aware at the time that Daniels appeared in adult films.

Hoffinger then asked Graff about her duties in making appointments and scheduling meetings for Trump, bringing up a calendar entry for “teleprompter practice sessions” at Trump Tower, a meeting with Ainsley Earnhardt from Fox News the next day, and a flight from New York City to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2017.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Susan Necheles, Graff said she “never had the same day twice” at the Trump Organization, calling it “a very unusual place to be.”

“There was no typical day,” she said, describing her experience working for Trump in glowing terms. (At one point, she described him as a “rock star.”)

Graff testified that Trump liked to ask her and other Trump Organization employees about which stars he should cast on Celebrity Apprentice. Graff said she “assumed” Daniels was there to discuss a spot on the show.

Trump at one point said she would make an “interesting” contestant, Necheles said, which Graff conceded she did not remember particularly clearly.

When Graff brought Trump checks to sign, he was often on the phone, meeting with people, or otherwise multitasking, she said.

“Is the payment of your legal fees conditioned at all on how you testify?” Necheles asked.

“No,” Graff said.

Necheles then asked if anyone at the Trump Organization coached her about what she should say in court.

Graff again said no.

Necheles eventually asked Graff if she wanted to be in court on Friday. Graff said she didn’t—and that the only reason she was there was because the Trump Organization is underwriting her legal fees.

Necheles then pointed out that Trump’s company is picking up the cost of legal representation for any of its employees called to testify.

Almost as quickly as the testimony began, however, Graff was excused. As she stepped down from the witness box and walked by the defense table, Trump stood up and appeared to greet her warmly.

Graff then exited the courtroom accompanied by three lawyers as Judge Juan Merchan called a 15-minute recess.

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