Juror’s toothache bites into Trump hush money trial

Defence counsel for former US president dismisses the 34 counts against his client as ‘really just pieces of paper’

It took a toothache to halt the trial of the century. No sooner had David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher and the first witness in the Donald Trump “hush money” case in Manhattan, relaxed into his seat than Judge Juan Merchan was obliged to break for the day at 12.30pm.

One of the alternate jurors had a prior dental appointment, after a trial opening characterised by feisty opening arguments on both sides. Trump may have entered the courtroom each day like a man making an unwanted visit to the dentist’s chair, but at least he has never had to swap one for the other.

The former president reportedly sat in sombre, attentive silence through the morning session in which the prosecution and defence outlined their respective arguments for the evidence to be heard over the next six weeks. The reappearance of Pecker in Donald Trump’s life served to bolster the prosecution’s central argument that the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, was merely emblematic of an orchestrated attempt to influence the public perception of Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016.

They intend illustrating a series of “catch and kill” deals which, they argue, were “an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of a presidential election”, and to then illustrate “the steps that Donald Trump took to conceal that election fraud”.


Todd Blanche, representing Trump, began by acknowledging that Daniels had indeed signed a non-disclosure agreement in 2016. “None of this is a crime,” he told the jury before dismissing the 34 counts against his client as “really just pieces of paper”.

It must have been a strange morning for Donald Trump, who was forced to sit and listen as the prosecution read aloud transcripts from his notorious Access Hollywood tape, which has stubbornly followed him through the years. For years, Trump and Pecker had a cordial relationship. Both are native New Yorkers of the same generation – Pecker the Bronx born son of a bricklayer born in 1951.

Among Pecker’s publishing interests was the monthly magazine George, the short-lived journalistic venture headed by John F Kennedy jnr in the mid-1990s and a vanity publication featuring Trump’s luxury hotels, which is how they came to know each other. It is believed that Monday’s strange meeting in the courtroom would have been their first face-to-face encounter in several years. But the upcoming testimony will be neither man’s idea of reliving the good old days.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times