Donald Trump’s Longtime Assistant Rhona Graff Testifies About Seeing Stormy Daniels At Office, Assuming It Was For ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ – Update

UPDATED: After David Pecker finished his fourth day of testimony, the next prosecution witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial Friday was Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime assistant.

Graff was a Trump Organization employee who, while there, kept contacts for both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the company’s computer system. She testified today that she had a “vague recollection” of once seeing Daniels in an office reception area of Trump Tower, and “assumed” it was because Trump was considering her as a contestant on his Celebrity Apprentice reality TV show.

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“He thought that she would be an interesting addition,” she testified, citing “office chatter” as the basis for her opinion. Graff said she was aware that Daniels was an adult film performer.

Graff worked for Trump for 34 years, rising from his executive assistant beginning in 1987 to senior vice president until her departure in 2021. She testified under subpoena on Friday, with two lawyers for the Trump Organization watching from the gallery and Trump looking on from the defense table. After four days of testimony from tabloid publisher Pecker, Graff’s turn on the stand lasted less than 40 minutes.

During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger, jurors saw screen grabs of computer contact pages for McDougal and Daniels. The Daniels’ contact read “Stormy,” no last name, and contained a single mobile phone number.

On re-direct by Trump lawyer Susan Necheles, Graff said that The Apprentice brought a lot of people to Trump Tower offices and “elevated” Trump to “a whole other platform … rock star status.”

PREVIOUSLY: A defense lawyer for Donald Trump on Friday continued his attempt to chip away at the idea that his client led an illegal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election with help from National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Pecker, on the witness stand again today, bought and buried two scandalous stories about then-candidate Trump, but refused to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels for her claim of a sexual encounter with Trump.

A hush-money payment of $130,000 to Daniels by Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer, is at the heart of the Manhattan District Attorney’s case. Trump’s lawyers contend that such nondisclosure payments are a routine part of business.

Trump attorney Emil Bove, cross-examining Pecker, the former CEO of Enquirer parent company American Media (AMI), got him to admit that he paid $30,000 to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock because the story, if true, could be the biggest-seller in the tabloid’s history — bigger than the 6.5 million copies sold after Elvis Presley’s death.

“Because you could not have him taking his story to another publication,” Bove said to Pecker, adding, “It would be too great a loss to AMI to lose control of such a story, if true, right?”

“Yes,” Pecker replied.

“And you could not walk away from that possibility, however small it might be, right?” Bove asked. Pecker agreed he could not.

Bove is challenging the prosecution’s central argument that purchasing exclusive story rights involving Trump had a darker, illegal purpose. He also attacked the premise that Pecker’s company paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to protect Trump from political fallout arising from her claim of a yearlong romantic affair with the GOP presidential candidate.

“She was looking to restart her career, right?” Bove asked, noting that McDougal did start appearing regularly in American Media-owned magazines as a health and fitness columnist.

“And you at that point viewed AMI as a good relaunching point for Ms. McDougal, correct?” Bove asked.

Pecker paused for several seconds and finally said, “Well, it was all part of the agreement.”

On redirect, Assisant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass pushed back at the idea that buying and burying McDougal’s story was a business decision. If AMI had published McDougal’s account, “Would that have sold magazines?” Steinglass asked. Pecker said it would.

“That would be kind of like National Enquirer gold,” Steinglass said.

“Yes,” Pecker replied.

“Despite the fact that the story would have helped your bottom line, you killed the story because it helped the candidate Donald Trump?” Steinglass said.

“Yes,” Pecker replied.

Bove, during cross-examination, also asked Pecker about his recall of a January 2017 meeting with then-President-elect Trump in which he testified that Trump thanked him for killing off the doorman and McDougal stories. Bove confronted Pecker with FBI notes from a subsequent meeting with federal law enforcement that said “Trump did not express any gratitude to Pecker or AMI.”

Pecker said he “can’t reconcile” the FBI account of what he told them with his own memory of the conversation.

Bove and Steinglass took turns asking Pecker whether he thought he had done anything illegal in his agreement with McDougal, which he submitted to an election lawyer in order to make sure it was legally “bulletproof.”

“Is it your testimony that you withheld information from the attorneys providing advice about the agreement?” Bove asked.

“No,” Pecker replied, adding that he “did not” feel he had done anything inappropriate.

Questioned again by Steinglass, Pecker said the clauses that called for McDougal to appear in American Media publications were “a disguise” to keep her story of an affair secret. Steinglass asked Pecker if he ever informed American Media’s in-house counsel of this fact before the company lawyer took the agreement to an election lawyer. Pecker said he did not.

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