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Hope Hicks Wrecks Trump’s Hush-Money Defense Minutes Into Testimony

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 his 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 criminal 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.