NEW YORK — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case suffered more setbacks Thursday as the prosecution’s sixth witness wrapped up his testimony with significant hits to his credibility.

During a heated cross examination, defense attorney Emil Bove managed to cast Keith Davidson, former attorney for Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, as a shady lawyer who gets as close to the line as he can without crossing it, brokering deals that border on extortion. Davidson, who played an important role in the $130,00 payment to Daniels at the heart of the prosecution’s case, failed to deflect much of Bove’s line of questioning, appearing dodgy when he said he “could not recall” the answers only to be forced to reckon with his own words when instructed to listen to recorded audio of the conversations.

The day featured the name-dropping of multiple celebrities — including Charlie Sheen and Tila Tequila — as Bove endeavored to prove non-disclosure agreements were a routine part of Davidson’s work and underscore the witness’ questionable ethics. Bove pressed Davison on whether he represented clients to “extract” settlements from celebrities; Davidson took issue with the word.

“We’re both lawyers,” Bove told Davidson. “I’m not here to play lawyer games with you.”

Davidson wrangled over words with the prosecution, too. When questioned by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass on how the statements he crafted for Stormy Daniels’ denying the affair following reports of the payment in 2018 could be “technically true,” Davidson said a strict reading would be true.

“I don’t think that anyone had ever alleged that any interactions between she and Mr. Trump was romantic,” Davidson said, keying in on the last word to distinguish it from a “sexual encounter.”

On a similar question about how denying a “sexual relationship” was true, Davidson noted it was never alleged that they had a “relationship.”

Davidson said he would not use the term “hush money” to describe the payment to Daniels and would rather call it “consideration” in a civil settlement. Several media outlets have published stories with headlines that continue to refer to the trial as a “hush money” case.

 

Another key point came when Bove asked Davidson if he recalled saying Stormy Daniels had “settler’s remorse” or ever used the word “leverage” in a conversation with Cohen. Davidson was asked to listen to portions of the conversation — which Cohen had recorded without his knowledge at the time — after he said he could not recall the details.

A grand jury indicted Trump in March 2023 on 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to a payment made to keep Daniels’ quiet about her claims of a sexual encounter. Prosecutors are seeking to demonstrate Trump falsified the records in service of a broader “conspiracy” to interfere with the 2016 election.

Bove’s questioning of Davidson suggested an alternate explanation to the Daniels’ payment: Trump was another victim of the attorney’s extortion efforts.

In the course of his testimony, Davidson also managed to cast even greater doubt on the already doubtful trustworthiness of the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, who he said could be a “very aggressive guy.” Stories recounted by Davidson made Cohen appear unstable, such as one expletive-laced phone call Davidson says he received from Cohen after the 2016 election airing frustration about not landing a place in the Trump administration.

“‘I’ve saved that guy’s ass so many times, you don’t even know,” Davidson recalled Cohen saying.

Cohen had been gunning for a position as high as attorney general, Davidson later said, noting he thought Cohen was “going to kill himself” after that call.

At the end of his cross examination, Bove pointed to the signatures page of the agreement with Daniels, highlighting the fact that Davidson never saw a version signed by “David Dennison,” Trump’s pseudonym.

The tenth day of the trial, which began with another hearing on four new alleged violations of Trump’s gag order, concluded with the introduction of a new witness, Douglas Daus, an analyst in the High Technology Analysis Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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