Trump Trial Live Updates: Hope Hicks Testifies About ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape

Hope Hicks was 26 years old and had no political experience when Donald J. Trump plucked her from a job at his daughter Ivanka’s clothing business and hired her for his presidential campaign in 2015.

In the years that followed, she rose to be one of his most trusted advisers, eventually serving as the White House communications director. But Mr. Trump has been angry with Ms. Hicks since 2022, when text messages emerged during a House investigation into his efforts to stay in power after his election loss. The messages showed that she had been critical of him after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

They haven’t spoken since.

Now, Ms. Hicks, 35, has taken the stand in Mr. Trump’s hush-money trial in a Lower Manhattan courtroom.

Ms. Hicks, who met with prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office about the case in March 2023, was the Trump campaign’s press secretary in the final stages of the 2016 campaign, when prosecutors say Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, bought the silence of a porn star who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump a decade earlier.

Documents released by federal prosecutors in 2019 show that Ms. Hicks participated in telephone calls, text messages and email messages with Mr. Cohen and another key witness, the then-publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, in the days before the $130,000 payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, that is at the center of the case.

After Mr. Pecker declined to pay Ms. Daniels, Mr. Cohen made the payment himself. Prosecutors say Mr. Trump falsified business records to cover up his reimbursement to Mr. Cohen.

Ms. Hicks’s name has come up several times in testimony from previous witnesses, as prosecutors have sought to establish her as someone with visibility into some of the events in late 2016, as Mr. Trump’s campaign was grappling with the aftermath of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in early October.

In her testimony Friday, Ms. Hicks spoke about receiving an email from The Washington Post about the tape on Oct. 7, 2016. The email contained a transcript, in which Mr. Trump bragged about groping women.

“I was concerned. Very concerned,” Ms. Hicks testified. “I was concerned about the contents of the email. I was concerned about the lack of time to respond. I was concerned that we had a transcript but not a tape. There was a lot at play.”

She was then shown an email she had sent, which contained two points, one being the “need to hear the tape.” The second was: “Deny, deny, deny.”

On Friday, she described the second point as a “reflex.”

Ms. Hicks spent most of her professional career near Mr. Trump. An accomplished lacrosse player and former model, Ms. Hicks started working for the Trump Organization in her mid-20s before being elevated to campaign press secretary. Between two stints working at the White House, she worked for Fox News, and now is a communications consultant.

She fiercely defended Mr. Trump, including denying just before the 2016 election that Mr. Trump’s campaign knew anything about another hush-money payment: the $150,000 deal that Mr. Pecker had struck with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she’d had an affair with Mr. Trump. Mr. Pecker testified at length about that payment, saying he had made it to protect Mr. Trump’s campaign from the potentially embarrassing story.

Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager who was convicted of federal financial and lobbying violations and later pardoned by Mr. Trump, said in 2016 that Ms. Hicks knew how to work with the mercurial real estate mogul. She knew, for instance, not to bother him while he was watching a major golf tournament.

“She totally understands him,” he said.

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