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Trump trial hears damaging star claims

Movie legend Arnold Schwarzenegger has been unexpectedly dragged into the Donald Trump hush money trial in New York.

David Pecker, the one-time publisher of tabloid magazine the National Enquirer and a key witness for the prosecution told the court on Thursday (US time) that the Hollywood star had a similar “catch and kill” scheme in place to smother negative stories that Mr Trump is accused of having.

“I would like you not to publish any negative stories about me now or in the future,” Mr Pecker claimed Schwarzenegger told him.

The court has also heard of alleged texts between Mr Pecker and a staff member about porn star Stormy Daniels wanting “$120k,” for her story involving Mr Trump.

And that the then TV star referred to a Playboy Playmate he was alleged to have had an affair with as “our girl”.

The allegations have been heard in a Manhattan court where Mr Trump is accused of 34 counts of business fraud in a hush money scheme to pay $202,000 ($US130,000) to adult actor Ms Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, to ensure an account of his alleged extramarital affair did not get published ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors are attempting to persuade jurors the payments were proof Mr Trump was involved in what they have characterised as “election fraud”.

Mr Trump denies the charges.

Thursday is a big legal day for the former president with a second case taking place in the Supreme Court in Washington DC.

Schwarzenegger

On Thursday in Manhattan, the hush money trial continued to hear from Mr Pecker, who is still only the first witness to be called.

Mr Pecker had already detailed an alleged plan where his paper and staff would identify stories that could be negative to Mr Trump – whether they be true or not – buy the rights to the story and then simply not publish the claims to protect the presidential candidate.

He said it was understood that the money would come in some way from the Trump organisation.

On Thursday, he said he had some concerns about the legality around buying and then killing a story after allegations that swirled around Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2002, Mr Pecker was buying serval fitness magazines that Schwarzenegger was involved in and had been on the cover of many times.

The actor wanted to be an editor at large, essentially a high profile face for a publication, prior to his run for California Governor.

Mr Pecker recalled Schwarzenegger saying he wanted his publications to “not publish any negative stories” about him.

After Schwarzenegger announced his ultimately successful tilt to be state governor in 2003, Mr Pecker told the court “a number of women” got in touch claiming they had been in relationships or has been harassed by the actor.

“The deal that I had … with Arnold was that I would call and advise him of any stories that were out there,” he said.

“I ended up buying them for a period of time”.

But one of the women whose story the media company purchased did take the claims to the Los Angeles Times when the National Enquirer didn’t publish.

“It was very embarrassing for me and the company, and at the time, there was an investigation,” Mr Pecker said adding that it concerned him that what became know as the “catch and kill” strategy might be legally shaky.

Nonetheless, a similar strategy was used, he claimed, with Mr Trump years later.

Mr Pecker said Schwarzenegger, who was Governor of California from 2003 to 2011, was the only other politician for who the catch and kill scheme was used.

Schwarzenegger has yet to comment on the claims.

Porn star texts

Mr Pecker turned to Ms Daniels, the adult star at the centre of the case.

He said that National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard texted him to say she had been in touch to sell her story.

“Woman wants 120k. Has offers from (Daily) Mail and GMA (US TV show Good Morning America) want her to talk and do lie detector live.

“I know the denials were made in the past – but this story is true. I can lock it on publication now to shut down the media chatter and we can assess next steps thereafter. OK?”

Mr Pecker said the price was too high.

“We can’t pay 120k.”

Mr Howard suggested Mr Pecker go to Trump aide Micheal Cohen “to handle”.

Mr Pecker said he didn’t want the magazine to buy the Daniels story because she was a porn star and publishing her story could damage its relationship with US supermarket chain Walmart which stocked the publication.

‘How’s our girl’

Mr Pecker also testified that Mr Trump asked about Karen McDougal.

She was a Playboy Playmate who had an alleged affair with Mr Trump and was paid $233,000 ($US150,000) through the publisher of the National Enquirer.

“How’s our girl doing?” then-President-elect Donald Trump said to David Pecker.

He added that Mr Trump was grateful the stories hadn’t seen the light of day.

“He said that the stories could be very embarrassing,” Mr Pecker said.

“He was thanking me for not publishing them.”

‘The boss’

The court also heard from Mr Pecker that Donald Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen referred to “the boss,” who he took to mean Mr Trump.

Mr Pecker said he asked Mr Cohen when his firm would be recompensed for the money it had spent on buying and killing stories.

“Why worry? I’m your friend. The boss will take care of it,” Mr Pecker said Mr Cohen responded.

Immunity case

The US’ highest court also heard arguments on Thursday after Donald Trump’s legal team brought a case claiming that former presidents had total immunity from prosecution.

If successful, it would mean Mr Trump couldn’t face court on charges that he tried to illegally overturn the 2000 election, which he lost.

Mr Trump has argued the unique position of President means the person should be able to make decisions knowing they can never be prosecuted, otherwise they could be open to “extortion,” by political opponents.

But critics have said that could mean the US President, who has the power to make laws for everyone else, would be forever free of those laws himself. An example of these total immunity, it’s be raised, would mean a President could shoot someone he simply didn’t like in the Oval Office and never have to face any consequences for doing so.

Mr Trump is angry that by being forced to attend every day of the case in New York he is unable to attend the Supreme Court in DC.

Read related topics:Donald Trump

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