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Hope Hicks: Access Hollywood Tape Had Trumpworld Totally Freaked Out

Although Donald Trump downplayed the tape, his advisers were panicking.

Hope Hicks is seen in profile
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The 2016 release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump made lewd comments about women to TV host Billy Bush, bothered Trump and his campaign a lot more than they told the public, his former aide Hope Hicks testified in court Friday during Trump’s hush-money trial. 

Hicks served as press secretary for the campaign during that time. She testified that Trump learned about the tape when then–Washington Post reporter David Farenthold emailed the campaign with a partial transcript, asking for comment. The prosecutor asked Hicks what her first reaction was, to which Hicks replied that she was “very concerned.” 

She forwarded the email with “FW: URGENT WashPost query” as the subject line to campaign leaders Jason Miller, David Bossie, Kellyanne Conway, and Steve Bannon. The text of the email read:


1) [...] Need to hear the tape to be sure.

2) [...] Deny, deny, deny.”

Hicks testified that she thought the tape’s release would be a “massive story” leading the news cycle for at least several days. After watching Trump’s video response to the tape, which was posted to Twitter (now called X) on October 8, 2016, Hicks agreed with a prosecutor’s statement that Trump’s words downplaying the tape were very different from the actions the campaign took. She noted that stories about the tape even pushed a Category 4 hurricane out of the news. 

Prosecutors hope Hicks’s testimony can help them make the case that Donald Trump’s campaign went into a crisis mode after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, giving them reason to try to cover up other allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs. However, some of those allegations were deemed inadmissible in the trial by Judge Juan Merchan. 

Earlier in her testimony, Hicks noted that Trump had a close, hands-on role in the campaign’s words and statements.

“He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. We were always following his lead,” Hicks said. 

Trump is accused of trying to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by paying her off through his attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, and is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Daniels and Cohen have yet to testify, so the most damaging information to Trump’s case may be yet to come. 

Hope Hicks Drops Major Bomb on Trump’s Main Hush-Money Defense

The key witness wrecked Trump’s main defense just minutes into her testimony.

Donald Trump and Hope Hicks shake hands
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Another star witness in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial has opened up about the former president’s involvement in his staff’s communications, adding yet another dent to Trump’s legal defense.

Hope Hicks, a former Trump Organization employee turned Trump White House communications director, testified on Friday that she spoke with Trump every day while serving as the press secretary to his presidential campaign. She said that he was “very involved” and that the communications arm of Trump’s 2016 bid was always “following his lead.”

“He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it,” Hicks told the court. “We were always following his lead.”

Hicks continued to say that she had met David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc., several times, and knew of Pecker as a “friend of Mr. Trump.” She noted that she had been present for Trump’s phone calls with Pecker, including ones about some of the Enquirer’s coverage, including hit pieces on one of Trump’s GOP opponents in the 2016 race, Dr. Ben Carson.

But she also said that she didn’t recall being in attendance at meetings in Trump Tower between Pecker and her former boss.

“Were you ever in and out of [Trump’s] office when Mr. Pecker was meeting with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower?” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked.

“I don’t have a recollection of that, but it’s certainly possible,” she said.

Still, Hicks’s testimony about her boss’s behavior runs counter to a portrait of Trump that his legal defense has tried to paint—claiming that Trump was thoroughly distanced from any knowledge of hush-money payments to his alleged mistress, porn actress Stormy Daniels, or any attempt to bury her story.

Notably, Hicks specified that although she is testifying in the trial under subpoena, she is paying for her own legal representation and hasn’t spoken to Trump in nearly two years.

Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

New Orleans Catholic Church Exposed for Ties to Child Sex-Trafficking

Priests in the Archdiocese of New Orleans allegedly transported children out of state to abuse them.

A Catholic cross
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans has come under fire as the target of a Louisiana sex-trafficking probe, according to an 11-page search warrant made public Tuesday. But a recent ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court might stand in the way of any victims seeking to hold the church accountable.

The document requested that the archdiocese hand over “ANY and ALL documents that pertain in any way to the sexual abuse of a minor by clergy members employed or otherwise associated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” specifying that those records violate the state’s child sex-trafficking laws.

The warrant also demands any and all communications between Gregory Aymond, the archbishop of New Orleans, and “ANY department within the Vatican pertaining to child sexual abuse.”

Aymand reportedly led a cover-up of the sprawling child sex-trafficking scheme that targeted children for several decades, going so far as to ignore pleas by his advisers to punish and publicly reveal the identities of priests and deacons in at least six separate cases that the church had determined were credible accusations of sexual misconduct with minors, according to a bombshell 48-page memorandum leaked in 2023 to The Guardian.

The warrant, which was filed last week, included disturbing details of the pedophilic scheme—including that, in some instances, “‘gifts’ were given to abuse victims by the accused [molesters] with instructions to pass on or give the gift to certain priests at the next school or church,” noting that the “‘gift’ was a form of signaling to another priest that the person was a target for sexual abuse.” Abuse was also a common occurrence at the New Orleans Seminary, where children were encouraged to skinny dip in front of other members of the Archdiocese before being assaulted, according to the warrant.

But a judgment by the Bayou State’s highest court has effectively stripped sexual assault survivors of an avenue of justice against the church. The judges ruled 3–4 in March that it’s the due process rights of priests and their enablers to not be held accountable in instances of sexual assault.

The case, Bienvenu v. Diocese of Lafayette, was brought by Douglas Bienvenu and several other plaintiffs who claimed they were sexually molested by a Roman Catholic priest during the 1970s, when they were between the ages of 8 and 14.

In its majority opinion, issued on March 22, the court argued that while the facts of the case were largely undisputed, the priest—and the religious institution he was a part of—was actually protected under the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause. Therefore, a sexual assault “look-back” window established by the Louisiana legislature in 2021 was actually, according to the court, unconstitutional.

Chuck Schumer Falls in Line with Mike Johnson on Netanyahu

Schumer previously said the Israeli prime minister should be voted out.

Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Less than two months after criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu and calling for his ouster, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly now plans to invite the Israeli prime minister to address Congress.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson drafted an invitation to Netanyahu last month and told The Hill Thursday that it was to be extended on behalf of both houses of Congress. But, Johnson said, Schumer has done nothing since then.

“I sent a letter draft, because it’s a bicameral invitation letter, it’s been sitting on Chuck Schumer’s desk. As far as I know he has not co-signed it yet,” Johnson said.

But now, Schumer’s office says, the Senate majority leader has changed his mind.

“He intends to join the invitation; the timing is being worked out,” a spokesperson for Schumer said.

In March, Schumer gave a speech in Congress saying that Netanyahu had “lost his way,” arguing that the Israeli prime minister had allowed his “political survival to take precedence over the best interests” of Israel and criticizing his alliance with the country’s far right.

“Nobody expects Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the things that must be done to break the cycle of violence, preserve Israel’s credibility on the world stage, and work towards a two-state solution,” Schumer said.

Just a week later, though, when Johnson announced he intended to invite Netanyahu to address Congress, Schumer appeared to hedge his bets.

“Israel has no stronger ally than the United States and our relationship transcends any one president or any one Prime Minister. I will always welcome the opportunity for the Prime Minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way,” Schumer said in a statement.

So, what caused Schumer to welcome Netanyahu? It may be that misguided framing and discourse regarding college protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, where Netanyahu and the Israeli military have been accused of war crimes, have changed his outlook. Some Democrats have made outrageous criticisms and claims about the student movement, even going as far to compare them to neo-Nazis. Meanwhile, many Republicans have engaged in grandstanding over the protests to boost their pro-Israel credibility, despite being mocked by the students.

Schumer also was attacked after his March speech by the pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC, which still wields considerable influence in Congress. It’s quite telling that Schumer’s speech didn’t mention Congress’s long history of hindering peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, perhaps demonstrating that nothing was really going to change. It looks like anything that would actually bring a cease-fire to Israel’s war in Gaza and make definite steps toward a Palestinian state, such as ending weapons sales to Israel, isn’t coming from Congress anytime soon.

RFK Jr.’s Staffers Keep Getting Worse

A ballot-access consultant allegedly punched and choked a woman.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks into a microphone
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

Yet another Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign worker is in trouble, but this time for a very serious reason: allegedly choking and punching a woman.

Trent Pool, a paid ballot-access consultant on the campaign, was charged Saturday with criminal obstruction of breathing and assault after getting into an argument with a 25-year-old woman at the Soho Grand Hotel in downtown Manhattan at 5 a.m. that day.

Pool “wrapped his hand around her neck making it hard for her to breath[e] and then struck her in the face with a closed fist, causing pain,” Mediaite reported Thursday, citing police. The woman turned down medical attention, and Pool was then arrested.

Pool and his firm Accelevate 2020, which specializes in ballot-access, petition, and general campaign consulting, were brought onto Kennedy’s campaign to help the long-shot independent candidate get onto state election ballots. But perhaps Pool should have been screened before being hired: He was also arrested for fourth-degree assault in Seattle in February.

Last month, Kennedy’s campaign director for New York, Rita Palma, was caught on video telling state Republicans that the real goal was to stop Joe Biden from winning. Palma was also found to have extensive ties to Donald Trump, and may have been present at the Capitol insurrection on January 6. She was later fired by the Kennedy campaign.

Kennedy’s personal record when it comes to women isn’t good, either. He has been called a compulsive womanizer, and it was a major contributing factor in the collapse of his first marriage and suicide of his first wife. But that hasn’t stopped him from apparently managing to endear himself to Trump—until this week.

Despite praising Kennedy extensively in recent months, Trump and his advisers are suddenly worried that Kennedy will take away crucial votes. Kennedy is also facing calls to drop out from his former allies in the environmental movement, who say that he has turned against science and embraced conspiracy theories.

Republican Rep. Has Truly Unhinged Response to Campus Protests

Representative Nancy Mace went off at protesters in a truly horrific rant.

Students rally in support of Palestine on the George Washington University campus
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Students rally in support of Palestine on the George Washington University campus in Washington, D.C., on May 2.

The Gaza solidarity encampments have actually made progress at several universities across the nation, pushing school administrators to meet with student protest leaders to consider divestment away from companies that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine. But Representative Nancy Mace doesn’t see any of that—instead, she insisted that the protesters were just a bunch of “terrorist-loving kids” who “hate our country so much.”

“They should take their terrorist flags, they should go to Gaza in their crop tops and nose rings and see how long they would last, because Hamas would chop off their heads, throw them off the roof of a building, before they ever had the chance to tell them their pronouns,” Mace told Fox News Thursday afternoon.

“I want to know where the adults are on campus, putting a stop to this kind of violence,” the South Carolina lawmaker continued. “They are preventing Jewish students from going to class. They are trashing these college campuses. This is not what America stands for. We stand for freedom and liberty of all people, but this is what Biden, this is what the left and Democrats … created this mess, and they need to own it.”

But the violent police response that Mace seems to be endorsing to break up the protests has already happened at a slew of other institutions, and it didn’t exactly paint the United States as an international bastion of freedom or free speech. Instead, the actions taken by police at Columbia University on Tuesday shocked human rights and press freedom advocates around the globe after authorities ripped apart a peaceful protest, fired a gun inside an administrative building occupied by protesters, and threatened to arrest the dean of one of the country’s top journalism schools for shielding the media’s First Amendment right to cover the event.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, police allowed pro-Israel counterprotesters to violently attack an otherwise peaceful encampment set up by UCLA students in support of Gaza.

The international criminal court at The Hague is currently weighing whether to charge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with war crimes, as more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 77,000  injured in the conflict—the majority of whom were women and children, according to data from the Gaza Health Ministry.

Trump’s Precarious Truth Social Gambit Just Took a Turn for the Worse

Federal regulators have shut the media company’s auditor down for alleged fraud.

Donald Trump's Truth Social account is seen on a phone screen
Anna Barclay/Getty Images

The auditing firm for Donald Trump’s social media company Truth Social doesn’t look so clean.

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged auditor BF Borgers CPA for “massive fraud” that affected more than 1,500 SEC filings. The firm is accused of “deliberate and systemic failures to comply” with federal standards between January 2021 and June 2023, according to an announcement by the SEC.

The accounting group and its owner, Benjamin Borgers, have agreed to pay $14 million in civil penalties and are permanently suspended from practicing as accountants.

“Ben Borgers and his audit firm, BF Borgers, were responsible for one of the largest wholesale failures by gatekeepers in our financial markets,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a statement. “As a result of their fraudulent conduct, they not only put investors and markets at risk by causing public companies to incorporate noncompliant audits and reviews into more than 1,500 filings with the Commission, but also undermined trust and confidence in our markets.”

“Because investors rely on the audited financial statements of public companies when making their investment decisions, the accountants and accounting firms that audit those statements play a critical role in our financial markets,” Grewal continued. “Borgers and his firm completely abandoned that role, but thanks to the painstaking work of the SEC staff, Borgers and his sham audit mill have been permanently shut down.”

The SEC order also accuses Borgers of failing to supervise the teams performing the audits and reviews, improperly preparing and maintaining documentation of the audits, and failing to get engagement quality reviews, which the agency notes are a necessary part of issuing an audit report.

The share price of Trump Media & Technology Group, the corporation that owns Truth Social, was down 9 percent after trading began.

The news is the latest blow to the GOP presidential nominee’s floundering social media venture, which went public in late March. Truth Social’s original valuation of $8 billion was expected to buoy Trump’s wallet through more than half a billion dollars in court judgments and legal fees, but the company’s value quickly plummeted after reports emerged that the stock was concocted as a pump-and-dump scheme. Just a few days after hitting the trading floor, Truth Social stock took another hit when two of its major investors were charged with insider trading.

This story has been updated.

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Kristi Noem’s Book Woes Continue: Now She’s Caught in a Huge Lie

The South Dakota governor falsely claimed she met Kim Jong Un.

Kristi Noem speaks into a microphone
Scott Olson/Getty Images

After creating a stir by revealing that she killed her pet dog, Kristi Noem has now been caught in a lie claiming to meet world leaders, in new details released from her upcoming book.

In No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong With Politics and How We Move America Forward, the South Dakota governor claims she met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during her tenure on the House Armed Services Committee, which lasted from 2013 to 2015, while she served in Congress. She also says she canceled a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last year.

But, The Dakota Scout reported Thursday, neither of these supposed instances have records or outside sources to back them. Macron’s office told the Scout that there was never a meeting scheduled with Noem, and there are no congressional travel documents that indicate Noem met Kim. In fact, a meeting with the North Korean dictator was news to congressional staffers. 

“It’s bullshit,” said a House Armed Services Committee staff member who worked there during the period in which Noem says she met Kim. According to the Scout, that staff member was one of a dozen who had no knowledge of such a meeting or said Noem never mentioned it. Her book uses that meeting to inflate her leadership skills. 

“Through my tenure on the House Armed Services Committee,” she wrote, “I had the chance to travel to many countries to meet with world leaders. I remember when I met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I’m sure he underestimated me, having no clue about my experience staring down little tyrants (I’d been a children’s pastor, after all). Dealing with foreign leaders takes resolve, preparation and determination. My experiences on those many foreign trips made me a better member of Congress and a stronger governor. It allowed me to hone my deal-making skills, which play a crucial role in leadership.”

Noem’s claim to have canceled a meeting with Macron coincided with a trip she made to France, according to her book. 

“While in Paris, I was slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron,” Noem wrote. “However, the day before we were to meet he made what I considered a very pro-Hamas and anti-Israel comment to the press. So, I decided to cancel. There is no place for pro-Hamas rhetoric.”

While the Scout confirmed with the French president’s office that a direct invitation was not made to Noem, she could have been scheduled to speak at a political event where Macron was also scheduled. On November 10, Noem spoke at an event on the same day that Macron called for a cease-fire in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza

Noem’s book is scheduled to be released on May 7. The revelation last month that she killed her pet puppy after it killed livestock led to widespread criticism, even from within the Republican Party. Noem has only doubled down, drawing even more ire. 

The move is said to have hurt her chances of becoming Donald Trump’s running mate, which no doubt stings, given how unpopular Noem already is at home. Several Native tribes in her state have banned her from their land for racist comments.  

Trump’s Idiot Lawyers Try Absolutely Bizarre Legal Move on Gag Order

This was a long shot, even for Donald Trump’s lawyers.

Charly Triballeau/Pool/Getty Images

One of Donald Trump’s attorneys tried to get the judge in his hush-money trial to greenlight every one of his online posts ahead of time to ensure they wouldn’t violate his gag order. Unsurprisingly, she was immediately rebuffed.

After the Manhattan district court’s lunch break Thursday, Susan Necheles presented a stack of news article printouts to Judge Juan Merchan, asking that the former president be allowed to post the articles to his Truth Social account.

“We think that they are perfectly fine,” Trump’s lawyer told Merchan. One of the prosecutors seemed puzzled, telling the judge, “It seems odd that they’re asking the court for an advanced ruling” on what would violate the order. Merchan seemed to echo that point of view.

“I’m not going to give advanced rulings,” Merchan said to Necheles, adding that “there is no ambiguity” in the gag order. “I think the best advice you can give your client is, ‘When in doubt, steer clear.’”

Necheles’s long-shot attempt was likely a response to Merchan’s chastisement of Trump lawyer Todd Blanche last week, who tried to claim that Trump’s online posts of news articles didn’t violate the gag order because he technically wasn’t the one who said it. Blanche was unable to provide case law to back up his claim, leading Merchan to warn, “Mr. Blanche, you are losing all credibility with the court.”

Trump is said to be angry with Blanche behind the scenes, perhaps in part for that reason. Trump is also reportedly claiming that the white-collar defense lawyer and former prosecutor does not follow his instructions and isn’t aggressive enough. That may be why it was Necheles who took the unusual step of trying to get advance approval from the judge to avoid yet another gag order violation. Trump already has to pay a $1,000 fine for every infraction, and could face jail time if he is undeterred.

Trump is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly paying off adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to try and cover up an affair with her, and the trial is not going well for him. The case’s latest witness, Daniels’s former lawyer Keith Davidson, is revealing damaging information in his testimony each day, even as stronger witnesses, such as Daniels herself and Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, have yet to testify.

Michael Cohen’s Secret Tapes Spell Trump’s Doom in Hush-Money Trial

The recordings reveal just how much Trump knew about the payments.

Donald Trump looks down as he walks
Charly Triballeau/Pool/Getty Images

Courtroom revelations from Michael Cohen’s secretly recorded conversations with Donald Trump appear to have just blown his former boss’s legal defense out of the water.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer about our friend David,” Cohen said in part of the tape, according to reporters who attended Trump’s hush-money trial on Thursday. Cohen was referring to Trump in the third person by his documented pseudonym in the agreement, David Dennison.

That shell company would become Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen used to pass along the $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, whom Trump allegedly began an affair with in 2008.

In another section of the tape, Cohen informs Trump that he had “spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” referring to the former Trump Organization CFO. Trump responded that he’d like to be kept in the loop.

“Let me know what’s happening, OK?” Trump was heard saying.

In a separate recording, Cohen told Keith Davidson, who was Daniels’s attorney at the time, that Trump would continually say, “I hate the fact that we did it.” Davidson said he interpreted “it” to mean the deal with Daniels.

The recordings reveal precisely what the former reality TV star’s attorneys have attempted to disprove: that he was involved with the hush-money payments, and that the payments didn’t come from Cohen’s pockets, but rather from Trump’s.

Trump is accused of using Cohen to sweep an affair with Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.