New York CNN  — 

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial dove into the paper trail at the heart of their case on Monday, revealing to jurors exactly how Michael Cohen was repaid by Trump’s trust and personal accounts in 2017 after he paid hush money to Stormy Daniels.

Testimony from two longtime Trump Organization employees who worked on the repayments to Cohen in 2017 allowed prosecutors to focus explicitly on the 34 counts of falsified business records.

But before prosecutors laid out their key evidence, Judge Juan Merchan explicitly warned that he would throw the former president in jail if he again violates the gag order in the case.

And at the end of the day Monday, the New York district attorney’s office hinted at where things stand more broadly, telling the judge they estimated they have about two weeks left of testimony in their case.

Here are the takeaways from day 12 of the Trump hush money trial:

Judge threatens to jail Trump

Merchan began Monday’s session by announcing he found Trump in contempt for violating his gag order a 10th time, after fining him last week for nine violations cited by prosecutors. Each violation came with a $1,000 fine, the maximum allowed under New York law.

While only fining Trump for one violation Monday, the judge felt it was enough to issue a sharp warning: He would put Trump in jail if he didn’t stop.

“Mr. Trump, it’s important to understand that the last thing I want to do is to put you in jail,” Merchan told Trump.

The judge continued saying that he was “aware of the broader implications of such a sanction. The magnitude of such a decision is not one-sided.” But the judge said his job was to “protect the dignity of the judicial system and compel respect.”

“Your continued violations of this Court’s lawful order threaten to interfere with the administration of justice in constant attacks, which constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue,” Merchan said. “As much as I do not want to impose a jail sanction, and I have done everything I can to avoid doing so, I want you to understand that I will, if necessary and appropriate.”

Trump was looking at Merchan as he spoke, and he shook his head when the court provided a paper copy of the judge’s order.

That gag order bars Trump from commenting on witnesses, court staff or the jury. Trump has not been accused of violating the gag order in the days following the second hearing in front of the judge. But if prosecutors ultimately raise another violation before the end of the trial, Merchan will have a consequential decision to make.

Jurors see checks, invoices and books at heart of charges

Monday’s testimony from two witnesses was important because jurors saw documents prosecutors say were falsified so Cohen could be repaid for the hush money payment to Daniels.

Former Trump Org. controller Jeffrey McConney testified to the $35,000 invoices he processed to Cohen as a reimbursement for the $130,000 hush money payment. Month-by-month, McConney confirmed that he received an email that contained Cohen’s invoice for $35,000, which the Trump Org. claimed were “legal expenses.”

He also confirmed he sent the invoice to Trump Org. accounts payable employee Deborah Tarasoff to cut the check.

“Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description,” McConney wrote to Tarasoff in a February 2017 email.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom, as his criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 continues, at Manhattan state court in New York City, U.S., May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Pool
'Truly extraordinary': CNN reporter breaks down judge's threat to Trump
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Tarasoff later testified that she cut checks from Trump’s personal account and sent them to Washington, DC, to be signed by Trump at the White House.

Jurors saw the invoices, the company ledgers and vouchers, and the checks themselves, which were paid for the first three months by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and then out of Trump’s personal account for the final nine months.

With each payment, prosecutors noted that the money was paid out of the Trump Org.’s “51505” account – meaning legal expenses – even though Cohen was being paid back for the hush money payment.

Those records were tied to the 34 counts against Trump in the indictment, which accused Trump of having “made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise,” through the checks, invoices, vouchers and ledger entries used to repay Cohen.

The testimony from McConney and Tarasoff may have been drier than what jurors learned about the world of tabloid magazines and celebrity scandals from David Pecker and Keith Davidson – but it’s what jurors need to hear as they consider Trump’s fate.

McConney shows why Cohen was reimbursed $420,000 total

Jurors saw handwritten notes penned by former Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg and McConney in January 2017 calculating a payment to Cohen totaling $420,000.

Weisselberg’s calculations were handwritten directly on an October 2016 bank statement for Essential Consultants – Cohen’s LLC – including a line item for the $130,000 wire to Stormy Daniels’ then-lawyer Davidson tied to the hush money settlement to the adult film star to cover up an affair. (Trump denies the two had an affair.)

McConney walked the jury through the penned calculations explaining that it included reimbursements for $50,000 in tech services and the $130,000 wire transfer, which were “grossed up” to $360,000 to account for taxes on that money.

The former controller also acknowledged that expense reimbursements aren’t taxable income – so it didn’t make sense to account for it the way it was.

The $420,000 also included a $60,000 bonus for Cohen and was to be paid to him in monthly $35,000 installments.

McConney did not connect the $130,000 line item on the bank statement to the hush money deal, testifying that he didn’t know any details about the repayment plan to Cohen – just that Cohen needed to be reimbursed.

McConney knocked Cohen a few times on the stand, as have several other trial witnesses who’ve testified so far. McConney, when asked if Cohen was a lawyer in 2017, sarcastically said “sure” and “OK.”

On cross examination, Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove distanced Trump from the paper trail, confirming with McConney that he never spoke to Trump about the payment structure for Cohen’s reimbursement.

Trump’s longtime accounting executive testified that he was often not privy to conversations between Trump and his former boss Weisselberg. He agreed on the stand that he was sometimes asked to do things he didn’t know about.

Trump Org. is paying McConney’s legal bills, though he retired last year after about 45 years with Trump’s company.

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See what prosecutors have to prove to convict Trump
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Tarasoff testifies to Trump’s checks, signed (in Sharpie) and unsigned

Tarasoff, who still works in accounts payable, provided testimony that Trump wouldn’t always sign checks she cut. She said on the stand Monday afternoon that sometimes Trump would void checks in his signature black Sharpie.

“If he didn’t want to sign it, he didn’t sign it,” Tarasoff said.

On cross examination, Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche clarified with Tarasoff that she was not present for conversations between Weisselberg and Trump - she didn’t get permission from Trump to generate the checks to Cohen shown in court and she has no knowledge of what happened with the checks after she mailed them to the White House.

But she did receive them back in the mail signed and then disbursed them to Cohen.

Trump is more engaged with testimony about his business

Throughout much of the first two weeks of testimony, Trump frequently leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and appeared to tune out discussions about alleged affairs and hush money payments.

On Monday, however, he took a different pose sitting at the defendant’s table.

Trump was turned toward McConney and Tarasoff as they testified, watching them more closely than most of the previous witnesses. Both of the witnesses worked for Trump for decades – Tarasoff still works for the Trump Org. – and their testimony was focused on Trump’s business, rather than topics Trump would perhaps rather not hear about.

Trump smiled when McConney recalled a story of Trump once jokingly telling him “You’re fired” after McConney turned in a report where his cash balances were down.

“He said, ‘No, focus on my bills. Negotiate my bills. Look at my bills.’ It was a teaching moment,” McConney explained.

Trump fully turned in his chair to watch Tarasoff’s testimony when his attorney, Blanche, began his cross-examination of the Trump Org. accounts payable employee and she explained that the Trump Org. was like a “family-run business.”

Eric Trump, who is still in charge of the Trump Org., and attorney Alina Habba, who represented Trump Org. employees in last fall’s civil fraud trial, including McConney, also attended court on Monday.

When Tarasoff returned to the witness stand Monday afternoon after a break, she gave Eric Trump a friendly tap on the knee as she walked by.