Trump trial invokes celebrity scandals as shadowy witness takes the stand 

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NEW YORK — Lindsay Lohan, Hulk Hogan and Tila Tequila were among a who’s who of celebrities name-dropped on the sixth day of testimony in former President Trump’s ongoing criminal trial. 

The trial took a detour Thursday into a graveyard of celebrity scandals, exhumed by the former president’s attorney as he attempted to diminish the credibility of Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented two women paid hush money during Trump’s 2016 campaign. 

Trump attorney Emil Bove insinuated that Davidson, who was subpoenaed to testify, attempted to walk up to the line of extorting the former president when he negotiated a deal to keep porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in the lead-up to that year’s election. 

Trump is standing trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records over how he allegedly reimbursed his ex-fixer for making the payment. The former president pleaded not guilty and denies an affair. 

Prosecutors called Davidson to the stand and questioned him over two days, walking jurors through his negotiations in detail. On cross-examination, Bove suggested the attorney regularly looked to shop around salacious stories. He brought up how Davidson was previously investigated for extortion in his dealings with celebrities. 

Trump’s attorney extracted from Davidson a confirmation that he was investigated by state and federal authorities for extortion in connection with the 2012 publishing of a clip from wrestler Hulk Hogan’s sex tape in the now-defunct blog Gawker. The attorney was never charged. 

The blog posted a shortened version of the grainy, black-and-white video showing the professional wrestler having sex with the wife of a friend. A December 2012 federal sting operation targeting Davidson turned up three DVDs showing the affair, according to CNN. 

When asked about it, Davidson initially insinuated he was unsure if it could be deemed a “sting operation,” but he did ultimately confirm that the FBI was monitoring his negotiations. 

Hogan later sued Gawker out of existence, earning $115 million in an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the online site in 2016. 

Bove at the trial also questioned Davidson about how Dylan Howard, the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, had a byline on a story related to the sex tape. 

Davidson was one of Howard’s “major sources,” the tabloid’s ex-publisher testified last week. The attorney had alerted Howard to Daniels’s allegations of an affair with Trump, which ultimately led to the hush money payment at the center of the case. 

“Did you or did you not provide info to Howard about the tapes,” Bove asked. 

“No, I did not,” Davidson insisted. 

Bove also accused the witness of helping someone named “Ms. Holland” leak information to TMZ about Lindsay Lohan’s stay in rehab.  

The defense attorney appeared to reference a 2010 TMZ report that described Lohan as “belligerent” and abusing alcohol during the stint, citing its information to a chemical dependency technician at the clinic named Dawn Holland. 

Davidson testified that he did not help “Ms. Holland” leak the information, but when asked if he helped her get paid for the leak, he said he couldn’t recall.  

Regarding a series of other celebrity scandals, including the reality TV star Tila Tequila and actor Charlie Sheen, Davidson similarly failed to recall certain details. 

The attorney did admit to helping broker Tila Tequila’s sex tape and said Sheen had paid him at one point but responded vaguely to questions regarding the specifics of those incidents.  

The questioning grew testy at turns, with Bove expressing frustration at the witness’s sometimes vague answers or when he responded to many questions with “I don’t recall.” 

“Is it fair to say your memory is fuzzy around some of these issues?” Bove asked as the exchange grew heated. 

Davidson said he had represented hundreds of clients and was being asked about years-old allegations. When Bove asked for truthful answers, he raised his voice. 

“You’re getting truthful answers, sir!” Davidson replied forcefully. 

The cross-examination served to undermine Davidson’s testimony for the state, during which the jury saw text messages between him and a top editor at the National Enquirer drawing connections between quashing the women’s stories and Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.  

The attorney often paused before answering questions over his two days on the stand and did not appear enthused to have been subpoenaed to testify.  

Trump at times turned his body to face Davidson on the stand, and the former president stared at the monitor in front of him as the lawyers pulled up various exhibits, including dozens of text messages Davidson sent or received during the hush money negotiations. 

In one exchange, as Trump inched closer to becoming the nation’s president-elect on election night 2016, Davidson wrote to the Enquirer’s editor-in-chief: “What have we done.” 

He testified Thursday that the remark was “gallows humor” as a “growing sense” Trump would win the presidential race began to emerge.  

“There was an understanding that our efforts may have, in some way — strike that — that our activities, in some way, may have assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump,” Davidson said. 

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