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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Prosecutors Frame First Day Of Trump trial As "Criminal Conspiracy And A Coverup"; Trump Defense: Potential Witness Michael Cohen's "Financial Livelihood Depends On President Trump's Destruction"; Trump Co-Defendant In Classified Docs Case Was Told He'd Be Pardoned In A Second Term, Per FBI Interview Notes; Prosecution Details "Catch And Kill" Scheme During Trump's Historic Hush Money Criminal Trial; Prosecutors Call Witness David Pecker "Eyes And Ears Of The Campaign"; Pro-Palestinian Protests Escalate Across Several College Campuses; Zelenskyy Thanks Biden, Speaker Johnson After Rep. Greene Called Johnson A "Traitor"; Marjorie Taylor Greene Calls On Speaker Johnson To Resign: "If He Doesn't Do So, He Will Be Vacated". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 22, 2024 - 20:00   ET


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Trump's case, the alleged affair happened in 2006, years before he ran for president but the payoff is alleged to have been made just two weeks before the 2016 election.



JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: And this is about me.


DEAN (voice over): But perhaps the starkest difference is how each man reacted to their cases.


EDWARDS: There is no one else responsible for my sins. None of the people who came to court and testified are responsible. Nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible.

TRUMP: This is really an attack on a political opponent. That's all it is.


DEAN (voice over): Jessica Dean, CNN, Washington.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, "OUTFRONT": And thanks for joining us, Anderson starts now. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Tonight on 360, what opening statements and early testimony say about where things are headed in the first ever criminal trial of a former president.

Also tonight, breaking news in one of his three other criminal cases, what a witness says the former president told his valet and the pardon, he says, he dangled in the classified documents case.

Plus, the anti-Semitism and fear Jewish students say they're now enduring on campus after days of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at some of the country's foremost universities.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us today.

Twelve New York City jurors and six alternates got their first peek inside a high-stakes world far removed from the everyday white-collar charges they've been chosen to hear. A world of celebrity, tycoons, porn stars, alleged payoffs, sleazy tabloids and legal fixers.

Safe to say, 34 counts of falsifying business records never looked like this before. And no president or presidential candidate has ever been where this one is or demonstrably less in control of his own faith than Donald Trump, which seemed to be written on his face as he sat through opening statements and watched his one-time tabloid publisher friend testify for the prosecution.

Trump is facing possible prison time if convicted and fines for allegedly violating a gag order and trying to explain that he did not do what the prosecution alleges, namely cover up hush money, payments to a porn star to keep voters from finding out.


TRUMP: This is a case where you pay a lawyer, he's a lawyer, and they call it a legal expense. That's the exact term they use - legal expense - in the books. They didn't call it construction, they didn't say you're building a building. But he puts in an invoice or whatever, a bill, and they pay and they call it a legal expense. I got indicted for that.


COOPER: Today, the trial began in earnest. CNN's Kara Scannell starts us off. She was inside the courthouse during the trial. Now she's outside. So what was the scenes like - what was it like behind closed doors?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, you saw Donald Trump sitting at the defense table. He was taking notes and handing pieces of paper to his attorneys during the prosecution's opening statement. And then when his lawyer took the lectern to address the jury, Trump had turned to face those jurors. And more than half of them raised their hand when the judge asked if anyone wanted a notepad and a pen. So they were actively involved, paying close attention.

But also, in an extraordinary move today, the chief administrative judge agreed to publish a transcript of the proceedings every day so the public could follow word for word this historic proceeding as opening statements got underway today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, how did it go over there?

TRUMP: I think it went very well.


SCANNELL (voice over): Prosecutors opened their case today, saying it all boils down to a conspiracy in coverup. That Trump orchestrated a scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election and covered it up by lying in his business records.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo saying, "It was election fraud, pure and simple."

Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued the former president is innocent. Blanche also claimed there is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election.

In his remarks, Colangelo, a lead prosecutor on the case, said the alleged crimes began at an August 2015 meeting between Trump, Michael Cohen and ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, the first witness to testify in the trial on Monday.

Colangelo said, "The three formed a conspiracy at that meeting to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about Mr. Trump in order to help him get elected."

The prosecution said Pecker agreed to help buy damaging information on Trump to make it go away, a move known as catch and kill. At the center of the case, a $130,000 payment to adult film star, Stormy Daniels, just weeks before Election Day in 2016.

The prosecution said, "A sexual infidelity especially with a porn star on the heels of the Access Hollywood tape would have been devastating to his campaign. So, at Trump's direction, Cohen negotiated the deal to buy Daniels' story to prevent it from becoming public before the election."

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels. Prosecutors said Trump did not want to write the check himself, so Cohen put up the money. Colangelo argued Trump, Cohen, and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg agreed Cohen would be paid back in monthly installments through fake invoices to the Trump Organization.


In a nod to Cohen's past credibility issues, prosecutors said key witnesses like Cohen have made mistakes in the past and encouraged the jury to keep an open mind and carefully evaluate all of the evidence that corroborates Michael Cohen's testimony.

Then it was Trump's attorney's turn. Blanche said the DA's office should never have brought this case. He said the prosecution's story is not true and the jury will find plenty of reasonable doubt. He pivoted to paint Trump as a husband and father, saying, "He's a person, just like you and just like me."

Trump's team suggested the payments Trump made to Cohen were not a payback for funds paid to Stormy Daniels, but instead payments to his personal attorney. Trump defended himself against these charges after court on Monday.


TRUMP: He puts in an invoice or whatever, a bill, and they pay and they call it a legal expense. I got indicted for that.


SCANNELL (voice over): Blanche shifted blame to Cohen, saying, "The reality is Mr. Trump is not on the hook - is not criminally responsible for something Mr. Cohen may have done years after the fact." Blanche said the prosecution's outline of a supposed catch-and- kill deal with Pecker was not a scheme, but completely irrelevant and not illegal.

In the afternoon, as Pecker briefly took the stand, he did not look at Trump, but Trump looked directly at him as he testified.


COOPER: Kara, what was David Pecker - what did he do talk about on the stand? Because it was limited - his time today.

SCANNELL: Yes, David Pecker was on the stand for about 20 minutes, and he started to describe to the jury how the National Enquirer operates, telling them that they engage in checkbook journalism, meaning that they would pay for stories. Now, he also said that he had two email accounts, including one that he used for confidential and sensitive matters.

Pecker will be back on the stand tomorrow, and he is expected to testify about these catch-and-kill deals at the heart of the case. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

Joining us now, jury consultant, Jill Huntley Taylor, former Trump campaign advisor, David Urban, best-selling author and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin. Also former Manhattan Chief Assistant District Attorney, Karen Friedman Agnifilo and Temidayo Aganga- Williams, who served as senior investigative counsel to the House January 6th Committee.

A lot to talk about. Jeff, I just re-read your piece from The New Yorker years ago about David Pecker, a profile of him. What stood out to you today about - I mean, why is he the first witness? Why is he so important?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you could see that in the way Colangelo talked about how this case is going to work.

COOPER: That's the prosecutor.

TOOBIN: The prosecutor, which is this was a conspiracy to help Donald Trump win the election through the suppression of bad news stories, three of them. One of them being Karen McDougal, the one-time ...

COOPER: Who had alleged an affair with Donald Trump.

TOOBIN: ... alleged an affair. The other was a doorman who alleged falsely that Trump was the father of a child. And the third, of course, was Stormy Daniels, who is the basis for the charges in the case.

And David Pecker is the key figure in all three of these, who basically controlled the money, or at least for two of them, he controlled the money, for how these stories were going to be suppressed. And that - that's what Colangelo talked about in the opening statements, and that's what Pecker began to testify in his testimony today.

COOPER: And Karen, why does the suppression of these stories matter?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because at the time and what they were trying to do in the opening statement, and what they're going to try to do through the witnesses, is take the jury back to 2015 and 2016, when none of this information was out in the open, and the Access Hollywood tape had just come out, and the campaign very much did not want these negative stories.

Trump was not the candidate that he is today with the popularity that he has now. He was sort of a candidate that was a long shot candidate and he was trying to suppress these stories. It was very important to his candidacy to suppress these negative stories on the heels of the Access Hollywood tape.

I think the insiders, like Hope Hicks, like David Pecker, like Michael Cohen are going to really take us into what it was like back then and why they were so desperate to get these stories suppressed.

COOPER: Temidayo, the defense said in their opening statement, spoiler alert, there's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election, it's called democracy. So what's wrong with trying to influence an election by suppressing these stories?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Well, I think what the prosecution is going to argue and is arguing that these were unlawful election contributions in part, right? That here, Donald Trump, you know, he could have paid for a catch and kill. That's fine, right? You're allowed to enter NDAs. That's fine. What you can't do is get in this kind of conspiracy here to have funds going to impact an election, because we have rules and regulations as to how you can spend money in an election and how that has to be reported.

Donald Trump here, the accusation being that he took money, had it paid out, didn't report it like would be required and then engaged in this concealment, and that's part of those business records.


So it's the underlying business records crime, and it's done to conceal a separate crime here, potentially being this election fraud.

So I think that's what's interesting here, is that there's really going to be a proving up of an initial crime that isn't charged, that focuses on election schemes and whatnot. And I think later on, we're going to get to the less kind of - the more boring crime, which is these documents. These 34 misrepresentations allegedly by the prosecution, but it's all going to come down to why were these payments made?

Was Donald Trump just a husband trying to protect a wife, perhaps? Or was he actually a candidate trying to protect a campaign, and that would make it unlawful?

TOOBIN: Urban is laughing.


TOOBIN: Urban is laughing at this case.

URBAN: I actually had a little bit of hope there listening to Temidayo explain that, I was like, wow, if a jury's going to buy that, maybe we're going to get a hung jury. Maybe we're going to get a not guilty, because that is a lot of ifs, and ifs, and ifs, and ifs and it's a lot of connective tissue to get to the actual crime here, right?

COOPER: What Trump is saying in - when he - what he just said was, look, it said on the 34 things that are signed, legal fees or whatever the exact wording of it. What's - I mean, if it's a payment to an attorney, he's saying it's a legal fee, so any payment to an attorney is a legal fee.

JILL HUNTLEY TAYLOR, JURY CONSULTANT: Those arguments have great jury appeal. I mean, they have great jury appeal. They're simple. They make sense. It's like, well, I paid a lawyer. That's a legal fee. That makes sense. I can influence election. Of course, everybody does that. That's democracy. He makes these very simple arguments and no matter how complicated a case is, a jury's going to make it simple.

TOOBIN: But I thought the defense pointed out what appears to be a real weakness in the government's case today, which is I don't think the jury is going to have any doubt that this was hush money. I - this whole - the idea that it was just money to Cohen, I think it's ridiculous. But the charge in this case is that Donald Trump caused these documents to be filed falsely. And Donald Trump was the head of a very big company, and a bookkeeper filled out these forms. How did Trump tell the bookkeeper what to do when it appears that Trump had no contact with the bookkeeper?

COOPER: But were some of these checks done in the White House itself? I mean, Trump signed these checks.

TOOBIN: Right. I mean, I don't think there's any doubt that Trump signed the checks, but the issue is how were they recorded in the corporate records of the Trump organization? The charge here is that that was false. And how Trump made those entries in the corporate records false, that leap is something I haven't heard how the government's going to prove. We have a long way to go, but that's something I think is (INAUDIBLE) ...

URBAN: And also, you raise a good question, is it to influence the election or is it to stay off the couch, right? I mean, he embarrassed wife, embarrassed family, I mean, is that what it was paid for?

COOPER: Well, but the argument against that is he then later on, after the election, sort of - my understanding is ask Michael Cohen, do we have to actually go through and pay Stormy Daniels. So if he was really concerned about his wife finding out, I'm not sure he would be raising the question whether or not he needed to pay.

URBAN: Well, that's what - that's going to have Michael Cohen get on the stand and testify and have somebody rebut that, right?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: But I think the timing context is going to be everything here. I think it's - I do not think they're going to be able to prove up that he was a caring husband that was worried about what his wife at home. I mean, one, there's an inconsistency with the behavior of potentially Stormy Daniels that he was this caring husband that the defense lawyer suggested in their opening.

But the timing is going to be everything. This was - Michael Cohen had a campaign email address. These are individuals - Hope Hicks, she's not his - she's not working for him personally. These are folks that are trying to get this man elected president, and that's the context by which it's happening.

And if after the election he no longer thinks he has to follow through, he's still married to Melania. So if he was concerned and motivated by protecting her from information, why would the fact that he's now president change his views? If it was really a family personal issue, he would still be as committed to protecting information from her.

URBAN: I would just simply say that maybe he's not - maybe the story's not that interesting once he's elected. There's a lot of other things coming down the pike, right? And just - and kind of an adjunct to this, just real quickly to raise, Republicans are looking at this and saying, this seems awfully similar to what happened with the Hunter Biden laptop pre the 20 election, right? This is - you're hearing a lot of that from Republicans. No, Jeff, no it doesn't make sense, hold on.

TOOBIN: It has nothing to do with Hunter Biden.

URBAN: No, no, it does. Hold on for a second. Let me just explain, right? So people will say the Biden story was put out there and saying 75 intelligence officials said that this was all Russian propaganda and didn't get in the news. Nobody really looked at it before the election, right? There was a conspiracy, a coordinated effort to keep it out of the media until after the election, right and people say nobody peeled back the onion on that. No one's looking at that. And so why does Trump - Jeff, again ...

COOPER: It seems like plenty of people in Congress are looking at things. They just haven't really found anything. So when they do, we can talk about it, but ...


URBAN: But it's about the conspiracy to keep it out of the media before but nobody took it seriously before the election.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: A key point though, Hunter Biden has never run for president, has never been subject to campaign finance regulations. We're talking about candidate Trump running for president, so I think that's a clear distinction.

COOPER: Karen, what stood out to you about the former president? Did anything stand out about the former president's behavior today?

AGNIFILO: Yes, a lot stood out to me. The main thing, though, is that he once again violated the gag order. He walked out of court and started talking about Michael Cohen. And tomorrow morning, court is not starting until 11 or the jury's not coming back until 11, because there's a hearing in the morning in order to determine whether Donald Trump violated the gag order 10 other times.

But then he walked out yesterday or this morning, I should say, and talked about it again.

COOPER: He's not supposed to talk about witnesses.

AGNIFILO: He's not supposed to talk about the witnesses and so it's going to be - he called him a liar and a fraud and a couple of other things. And so I think the judge - I think that's really what's going to - what's going to happen tomorrow is going to be very interesting, because inside the courtroom, he's on his best behavior.

I think he learned from his previous civil trials that outbursts in court don't win over a jury, because the jury really came down hard against him in the E. Jean Carroll cases, for example, with those big verdicts. And so I think he's learned that in court. I think Judge Merchan is doing a good job of keeping control of his courtroom.

But outside the court, he's still violating the gag order. So tomorrow, it's going to be very interesting to see what the judge does and to see if he holds him in contempt. URBAN: (INAUDIBLE) Michael Cohen because - and the argument is that Michael Cohen is live-streaming probably right now on Facebook for the next five hours.

TOOBIN: Michael, he's not the defendant.

URBAN: I understand, Jeff, but this is the Trump argument, right? That he can go on and fight and that Trump's being - his one-hand tied (INAUDIBLE) ...

COOPER: You've made the point that you don't think the arguments about, like, Michael Cohen, people who are sort of public figures now, is as strong as going after other witnesses who are not public figures.

TOOBIN: Other witnesses and the comments about the jury. He made some comments about the jury last week, which I think the judge is going to be especially concerned about because judges, quite properly, are very concerned about protecting the anonymity, protecting the safety of jurors. They didn't sign up for this.

Michael Cohen is a public figure, Stormy Daniels is a public figure, but these jurors are not public figures. And private information is already leaking out about these people and I think the judge, quite properly, is going to be very concerned about but making sure these people can stay to the end ...


TOOBIN: ... and not just throw their hands up and say, I'm not going to be part of this service.

COOPER: Everyone, thanks. Karen, you mentioned Judge Merchan, we want to bring in John E. Jones III, the former chief judge for the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Judge Jones, appreciate you being back with us. What was your biggest takeaway from opening statements?

JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER CHIEF JUDGE, U.S. MIDDLE DISTRICT COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, it's interesting. I think the opening statements were not unexpected. There's a lot that the prosecution didn't say and I'm curious about that. I think they're kind of playing hide the ball, not inappropriately with some witnesses. I agree with your panelists that Hope Hicks is going to be a very interesting and maybe a pivotal witness to tie the former president or not to what happened.

From the defense's standpoint, I was curious about Todd Blanche's statement that it is not illegal to influence an election. I'm not sure where he's going with that. Because I - why he raised that is a little unclear to me. But those are the first takeaways I had from the opening statements.

COOPER: I was surprised that Judge Merchan ended court early because an alternate juror had a dentist appointment. I know dentist appointments are tough to get in New York City. And you kind of want to hold on to them when you do get them, but did that seem odd to you? I mean, is it important to balance jurors' lives ...

JONES: No, it didn't.

COOPER: ... with the court schedule?

JONES: It didn't, but I think he's not going to make a habit out of it. He's trying to be solicitous and he adjourned a little bit early. You try to accommodate your jurors. Look, they're going to be out of pocket for as long as six to eight weeks. So you have to give them a little bit of latitude.

I would think if there's a run on dentist appointments, he's going to toughen up a little bit. But that didn't strike me as that odd.

COOPER: How much do jurors take cues from a judge? Maggie Haberman, whom I'm going to talk to shortly, reported from inside the courtroom. The jurors were intently watching Judge Marchan today.

JONES: They are extremely responsive to the judge. And I thought that in President Trump's prior trial, in the defamation trial, that one of the things he did is he alienated the jurors because he was running roughshod over the judge, and jurors don't like that. The judge is their keeper. He greets them in the morning. He gives them instructions at the end of the day. He does things like - he'll let them go for dentist appointments. Typically, there's a bond between the judge and the jury.


So they feel a certain closeness to the judge through the trial. And that grows, by the way, Anderson, as the trial proceeds.

COOPER: And Karen was talking about this, before the trial resumes tomorrow, the judge is holding a hearing on the DA's motion to sanction Trump for violating the judge's gag order, barring discussion of witnesses. How do you think that's going to play out? Because, I mean, there's not that many options the judge really has, are there?

JONES: Well, I'll tell you one thing. The trial is rolling now. And what Judge Merchan doesn't want to do is interrupt it for a sideshow. Judges get focused on getting the trial in. He knows that he's got these people that are inconvenienced, as I just said, and their lives are disrupted by this.

He's going to give everybody some time tomorrow, but he's not going to burn the day, I don't think, on sanctions. I think, in the end, he probably won't sanction the former president. I think what he'll probably do is admonish him, draw some bright lines about what he can and can't say.

I think some of the stuff that the former president was doing was too cute by half. And he's going to say, look, I'm going to give you a warning, but if it continues then you can't do it.

And, by the way, the statements he made outside the court today, your panelists didn't comment on that, per se, but it strikes me that what the president - former president is doing is he's testifying outside the courtroom. And as your lawyer panelists know, that's usable. If he decides to testify, he can be impeached by the statements that he's making publicly.

Again, I think his attorney can't control him, but he should not be doing that. In 100 cases, in 99.9 of them, the lawyer would not allow the client to go out and talk about the merits of the case and paint himself into a corner. I found that to be very interesting.

COOPER: We should point out in the video we're showing, that's his lawyer standing right next to him. I initially thought maybe it was a Secret Service agent, and then I realized, oh, no, that's Todd Blanche. That is his attorney, so he's obviously listening very closely to anything his client says to reporters.

Judge Jones, thank you so much.

Coming up next, as we mentioned, Trump biographer Maggie Haberman, who was in the court today.

Also, there's breaking news in the documents case. A witness now saying the former president promised to pardon his co-defendant, his valet, Walt Nauta in a second term. Also, a live report from the campus of Columbia University, where a pro-Palestinian demonstrators have been out in force and Jewish students have been living in fear. More ahead.



COOPER: As much as still photos and courtroom sketches convey about the former president's demeanor as a defendant, these historic proceedings are not televised, which is why it's good to be joined now by New York Times senior political correspondent Maggie Haberman, who not only has spent time inside the courtroom, but is also a Trump biographer.

So what do you make of the former president's demeanor today? What was it like?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There were a couple of things that were striking. He looked very unhappy. He looked very unhappy on the monitors where you can see his face. He looked - in court, we're well behind him, so we can't see his face when we're in there. We have a better view when we're in the overflow room.

COOPER: So there's an overflow room that has monitors?

HABERMAN: Correct. And there's monitors in the courtroom, too, but it's much easier to see the monitors in the overflow room. They're right up at your face. It's just different. He looked unhappy when he left for break. He looked unhappy when he left - when court ended for the day. It was tense in the room when David Pecker was on the stand. It was tense in the room when Colangelo, the prosecutor, was going through the narrative of the case and talking about Stormy Daniels and Access Hollywood and Karen McDougal. And all of these things that Trump does not want to hear about.

COOPER: I said this on air earlier today when we were covering this, but I just kept imagining what is going through Trump's mind when he's sitting there at the defense table watching David Pecker, his former friend-ish, who knows a lot of secrets about him, going back a long time on this stand.

HABERMAN: It's just - it's fundamentally different than what we have seen with Trump over many years now, which is a lot of former aides or allies or advisors going on television, or writing books. This is a courtroom, and this is under oath. And this is David Pecker opening his testimony and we only heard a little bit of testimony. He's coming back tomorrow.

But him opening saying, we practiced, and I'm paraphrasing, "But we practiced checkbook journalism," that is a quote, at the National Enquirer. We paid for tips about celebrities and so forth. And Trump knows what that means and he knows what kind of information that meant that David Pecker had.

And David Pecker was very poised. And I think that he's going to tell a story that the jury is going to find pretty compelling.

COOPER: David Pecker essentially made a deal. I mean, he has a non- prosecution agreement ...

HABERMAN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

COOPER: ... and so that's why - I mean, he's testifying.

HABERMAN: Yes, he's testifying under subpoena. I mean, he is not doing this because he wants to.

COOPER: The prosecutors say he's a co-conspirator.

HABERMAN: Correct. He is not there because he wants to be there. But the prosecutors are going to try to suggest that his testimony, the same way they're going to try to say this with Michael Cohen, is credible for X, Y, Z reasons. And that these are things Trump just didn't want to have come out.

COOPER: The fact that the foreign president - I mean, he has no family with him, no friends, he just got his legal team. I understand he talked about this. He was upset about the lack of proximity of supporters outside the courthouse.

HABERMAN: Yes, so it has been striking that there's no family because I know that there was some discussion at some point in the last couple of weeks about who would be with him in court. And last week, which was just jury selection, there weren't that many people.

Today, there was a phalanx of lawyers from his other cases and from The Trump Org who showed up in court. But I think it's because they were next door dealing with this New York attorney general appeal. He is by himself, and when he feels boosted is by his supporters. And so he has been hoping for something of a circus around his trial. But the reality, Anderson, is that only two to three dozen supporters, max, over the last week, have shown up. And it - they're positioned to protest/demonstrate/whatever across the street from the courthouse. Trump started trying to suggest on Truth Social that that's why the number's been so small, is that they're all being blocked.

But that's not it. It's that people are not showing up.

COOPER: You also wrote a really interesting piece for The New York Times about how the trial - this trial strips Trump of control. And, I mean, you really see that - there was the famous example just the other day of he got up to leave, and the judge admonished him, said, sit down, we're still in session.

But it's just such - I mean, for anyone who's been in those courtrooms, it's a dreary - I mean, it is like - it's like old New York.


HABERMAN: It is. It is trapped in amber, 1980s ...

COOPER: Trapped in amber, yeah.

HABERMAN: You know, Tom Wolfe, New York. And it's the New York that Trump thrived in. But this is not the part of it that Trump ever wanted to be captured by. And he has to sit there, no cell phone, bored, you know, which is not something he ever handles well. While he is being insulted or described negatively, he doesn't have the same methods to push back.

Remember, there is a hearing about whether he has -- whether the judge agrees prosecutors that he has repeatedly violated the gag order against attacking witnesses and others in the case tomorrow. And, you know, there are people around him who believe that this is part of the goal of the prosecution is simply that this process is so shrinking and small.

But courts and particularly state courts are really their own nations. Essentially, there are rules that get made from on high and you are at someone else's women will it is -- your life is not yours.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, thank you so much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Now, major development of the documents case, it's one that if witness's account is true could show what the former president did to secure the cooperation loyalty of a co-defendants.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now with breaking news. Evan, talk about what you've learned.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is a witness who is not identified as only by number of witness 16. And what this person was totally telling the FBI in November 2022 interview was that Walt Nauta has said that he was being offered a pardon that this was an offer that was made by the former president's people.

It's only referred to as the president's -- former president's people. And it was a characterization of the investigation of it, is just a part of what the FBI interview says. It says that Nauta was told by the former president's people that his investigation was not going anywhere, that it was politically motivated and Much Ado About Nothing and said that even if Nauta was indicted, and if he was charged, he was -- for lying to the FBI, that the former president would pardon him in 2024.

Now, we don't know again what this person -- who this person is. We do know that according to this transcript that was submitted in court, that he worked -- or this person worked for the Trump White House, and has had very limited contact since leaving them.

I will note one last thing here, that this person -- this was a witness who also apparently had talked directly to the former president and encouraged them to cooperate, to return those documents, declassified documents, and it said something like, "Let them come here and get everything. Don't give them a noble reason to indict you, because they will." Anderson?

COOPER: Has Nauta or Trump responded at all to this?

PEREZ: Nauta's attorney declined to comment. The former president's legal team has not responded. But I will note, Anderson, that this is part of the defense by Walt Nauta to fight against the obstruction charges. He's charged with being in a conspiracy with the former president to obstruct this investigation, Anderson.

COOPER: Evan Perez, thanks so much.

Up next, with Donald Trump's longtime friend and according to prosecutors, co-conspirator David Pecker taking the stand. I'll talk with Ronan Farrow, whose dogged reporting helped him cover the catch and kill practice at the National Enquirer.



COOPER: We've been talking about the catch and kill scheme at the center of the Trump trial, which began in earnest today. Journalist Ronan Farrow wrote about the practice in his 2019 bestselling book, "Catch and Kill." Farrow uncovered the alleged central conspiracy and through rigorous reporting explored other alleged hush money payments made on the former president's behalf, including the 150,000 payment David Pecker's company made to buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story about an alleged affair with Trump years earlier.

Ronan spoke to McDougal and detailed the allegations and the scheme to kill her story. Tomorrow, when the trial resumes, Ronan's reporting will be a key piece of evidence. I spoke to McDougal in 2018 in the only TV interview she'd done about her relationship with Trump. Here's what she told me.


COOPER: Once Donald Trump won the Republican nomination --


COOPER: -- you're saying AMI suddenly came back to you with interest in the story.

MCDOUGAL: Well, to Keith, yes. To us for the story, yes.

COOPER: Why do you think it was that -- it was after Donald Trump was the Republican nominee that they came back?

MCDOUGAL: They wanted to squash the story.

COOPER: You're saying they wanted to protect Donald Trump?

MCDOUGAL: I'm assuming so, yes.

COOPER: If Donald Trump hadn't been running for president, do you believe this deal would have been made with AMI, knowing what you know now?

MCDOUGAL: Probably not. No. Probably not.

COOPER: You're pretty -- you're convinced now this was an effort to do a favor for Donald Trump in the last few months of the presidential race.

MCDOUGAL: Unfortunately, yes.


COOPER: Now is New Yorker Contributing Writer, Ronan Farrow, author of "Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and Conspiracy to Protect Predators." I mean, David Pecker was obviously central to a lot of your reporting. I'm wondering what you make of him being called as the first witness.

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, he's an obvious choice for a sort of star witness. There's a reason prosecutors are putting him first. He's right at the heart of this scheme. He was the guy in the position of power at AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer.

And he was present for this meeting that prosecutors have focused on so much in August 2015, where allegedly this whole scheme was brokered. And --

COOPER: This was a meeting between him, Michael Cohen, and Donald Trump.

FARROW: That's right, at Trump Tower. And the crux of this was that there was a very explicit agreement made that they talked openly about this being about how can you, the Enquirer, help during the election. And Pecker saying, well, we can buy up stories.

COOPER: Right. Pecker saying, I'd be your eyes and ears, essentially.

FARROW: Exactly so. And we didn't get into all of the meat of that in the testimony that happened today. It was very preliminary. He was on the stand briefly. But what he did do was say, yes, we bought stories. He called it checkbook journalism.


He said he had to personally authorize anything over 10,000, which would apply to these pivotal transactions that the prosecutors are trying to establish. We'll hear more about that tomorrow.

COOPER: It was interesting, the defense in their opening statement said that there's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election, essentially.

FARROW: Well, prosecutors would argue otherwise. And the very meaningful distinction here is whether you are paying to influence the election and acknowledging that as an electoral cost. Prosecutors are arguing that is not the case. Manifest late appears to not be the case, right? These were not listed as campaign expenditures.

COOPER: Right.

FARROW: So it is the hidden aspect of it that this turns on.

COOPER: I was so fascinated. I mean, I said this earlier, to try to imagine what is going through Donald Trump's mind, sitting there watching David Pecker, this guy who knows all his secrets. I mean, more secrets than even what he's there to testify about.

FARROW: Yes, I mean, one of the things I reported on was there were AMI sources who saw larger lists. I was actually shown, from a senior AMI source, a larger list of Trump stories. Some of them more consequential than others. Not all of these were barn burners. Some of them were, you know, about his feud with Rosie O'Donnell.

It was all of the stuff they had amassed over the years. But they really did keep tabs on that. And during the election, they made sure that that list was in a safe. There were sources who claimed that there was shredding of certain documents.

So, people at AMI knew that they did, as you say, have Trump's secrets and that that could be a source of leverage and potentially collaboration with him. So I think it's a pretty startling about face for Trump to have to listen to this stuff in court.

COOPER: What do you think was in this for David Pecker? I mean, was it proximity to Donald Trump? Did he really think that they were friends?

FARROW: Proximity, I think, is the answer. And this was a tried and true model for David Pecker and the National Enquirer. They used these tactics. This combination of carrots and sticks. We'll buy up stories for you. Maybe we'll threaten you that we're going to expose those stories.

Maybe we'll buy them up and keep them secret for you with other celebrities before. There's a laundry list of famous people that they did this with. As the election drew near, they saw an opportunity to do this in a much more consequential setting right at the heart of power in this country. And then, I think very quickly, they realized that this was something that could backfire, as it clearly has.

COOPER: And as president, Donald Trump thanked David Pecker by having him to the White House, I mean, sort of giving him the grand tour.

FARROW: There was some early acknowledgement of the alliance. But it's also true that by the time the Stormy Daniels transaction came around, and, you know, this is after the transaction over the rumor of a love child at Trump Tower, the transaction around Karen McDougal, this other affair, at a certain point, it started to become apparent to the people inside the National Enquirer that there was too much heat around this, there was too much risk.

And I think that's why you see the Stormy Daniels transaction looking so different. The fact that it was done through Cohen.

COOPER: And there was a report that Pecker thought (ph) $130,000 was too much and sort of pass it on to Cohen.

FARROW: It started to get both overly expensive and risky looking. Risky specifically in the sense that it might ultimately have the potential to put people in legal jeopardy.

COOPER: What else do you think Pecker -- I mean, what's the most important thing you think Pecker will be used for on the stand tomorrow?

FARROW: I think speaking to that meeting, and what was said in that meeting, and pushing back on what we already heard in the opening statements today from the Trump defense team, which is hey, you know, this is just a guy trying to protect his personal life, trying to protect his marriage, by saying no, there was a meeting that catalyzed this, in which it was explicitly said this is about helping Donald Trump during the election.

That's something that David Pecker can speak to in an almost unique way, and while Michael Cohen, who is also going to be called as a witness, can speak to it too in a different way. He's also a more fraught kind of witness. He's been accused of lying in various formalized settings.

He's admitted to lying in various formalized settings. I think that will be explosive and meaningful testimony as well. But David Pecker today, especially, came off as sort of sober, sanguine. He said he was there under subpoena, but that he was going to tell the truth. And I think prosecutors are relying on that sense of relative credibility he has.

COOPER: Yes. Ronan Farrow, fascinating. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. FARROW: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead, the pro-Palestinian protests and charges of antisemitism sparking heightened tensions and arrests at some of the nation's top universities. We'll have a live report from Columbia University where protests are now in their sixth day. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Tonight, several top universities, including Columbia and Yale, are dealing with major protests over the Israel-Hamas war, sparking heightened unrest and charges of anti-Semitism on campuses. New York City Mayor Eric Adams condemned the rhetoric being used at some protests, and said law enforcement is ready to act if that speech goes too far.

President Biden today also denounced anti-Semitic protests. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz went to Columbia University to investigate. Here's what he found.


ALL: Say it loud and say it clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberation is near.

ALL: Liberation is near.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We're on the steps of Columbia University. There's a Jewish group here that's actually giving out free matzah as they get ready for Passover. And just across from them is the encampment, which has stirred so much emotion here on the campus with some of the Jewish students feeling unsafe.

SOPHIE ARNSTEIN, STUDENT: I consider myself a very brave person, but I won't deny that I've been physically intimidated and harassed.

BEN SOLOMON, STUDENT: I've felt like this is not a welcoming environment. I think it's a very difficult time for a lot of Jewish students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never forget the 7th of October.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Over the weekend, the protests turned rowdy. Disturbing videos show some protesters harassing Jewish students.


Amid all this, a rabbi linked to the university urged Jewish students to stay home, saying recent events at the university have quote made it clear that Columbia University's public safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students safety. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Palestine is almost free.

ALL: Palestine is almost free.

PROKUPECZ: This is the center of Columbia University, what they're calling the Gaza solidarity encampment and an occupation here at the school as they want certain demands to be met by the school in terms of their support of Israel.

Why is it important for you to be out here sleeping out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, just to show solidarity with the students that have already been arrested and obviously the people in Gaza.

PROKUPECZ: This is the tarp area. This is where many of the medical supplies, the food, there's coffee here. There's other goodies that just essential needs that many of the people may need who have been out here for several days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm Jewish. A lot of the focus has been on like, you know, supporting Jewish students who have been facing anti- Semitism. But there has not been a lot of focus on, you know, Palestinian students who have been, you know, feeling anti-Islamic sentiments.

PROKUPECZ: How do your parents feel about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good? They're proud of me. And I'm proud of them for that.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Last week, over 100 protesters, including some students, were removed from campus by New York police at the behest of the university and arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass. The move stirred more tension on campus.

And by Monday morning, Columbia's President, Minouche Shafik, declared that all classes would be virtual for the day, and that a reset was needed.

"I am deeply saddened by what is happening on our campus," she wrote in a statement. "These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas."

PROKUPECZ: Many of the students here are saying, who are graduating, are saying they're not sure what graduation is going to look like this year. And those who are part of the encampment are saying that they intend to be here for graduation, that they're not leaving.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Additional pro-Palestinian protests are taking place at universities across the country, including Yale, NYU, and MIT.


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): And today, Anderson, a number of faculty members and employees of the school actually walked out to stand in solidarity with the students who are protesting in the middle of the campus. But also they're protesting what the school did here in ordering the arrest of those students last week. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

Just ahead, how will the far right of the Republican Party respond after House Speaker Mike Johnson stood up to them on aiding Ukraine? That, and what the former president just said about it, next.



COOPER: While Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called House Speaker Mike Johnson a traitor to his party and country after the Ukrainian aid vote over the weekend, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today thanked Johnson and others for the tens of billions of dollars.

In the city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, which has seen a lot of shelling, a giant TV tower crashed to the ground after a Russian missile strike. Zelenskyy told President Biden by phone today that the Russians are trying to make the country's second largest city uninhabitable.

Melanie Zanona joins us on the aftermath of this weekend's funding fight. So how much support does Greene actually have among hardliners?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, at this point, there are only three Republicans who have officially signed on to the motion to vacate the speakership. But Greene is hoping that as Republicans return home to their districts this week for the recess, hear from their constituents and see how angry the GOP base is that there will be a pressure campaign that pushes more Republicans into her camp.

But, Anderson, one Republican who does not appear eager to join Greene in her efforts is Donald Trump. He had previously said that he stands by the Speaker. And tonight, he said that he continues to defend Johnson's leadership. Take a listen.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a majority of one, OK. So it's not like he can go and do whatever he wants to do. I think he's a very good person. It's a tough situation when you have one. I think he's a very good man. I think he's trying very hard.


ZANONA: Now, Greene is one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, so he's being very careful to not directly criticize her or to tell her to back off. But even just having Trump staying neutral in the fight and reiterating his support for Johnson is a big boost for the Speaker, since Trump does have a lot of sway over this Republican Party.

COOPER: And if Greene does force a vote, would Democrats jump in to save Johnson?

ZANONA: So Democratic leaders have not officially committed to putting up the votes to either block or kill a motion to vacate. But behind the scenes, there is real interest in helping Johnson. And that is because Democrats really admire that Johnson defied his right flank, put this package of foreign aid bills on the floor.

There was really serious doubts about whether Johnson was ever going to do that. And so, the conventional wisdom, at least at this point, is that Democrats ultimately will throw Johnson some type of lifeline.

COOPER: And what's Greene's next move?

ZANONA: So the House is out for the rest of this week, which means the earliest that she could force a floor vote on removing Johnson is next week, but she still has not even recruited a replacement for Johnson. So that certainly could work towards his advantage, Anderson.

COOPER: And who are the others who are along with Greene in this? Gosar is one.

ZANONA: So the other two Republicans, that's Paul Gosar of Arizona and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, all hardline members of the House Republican Party. They are trying to build support that is why Greene hasn't moved forward just yet on her motion to vacate.

She does say that there's a couple more, at least behind the scenes, but we'll have to wait and see whether anyone else comes out in the coming days and weeks, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Melanie Zanona, I appreciate that. Thanks very much.

We have continuing coverage of the trial of Donald Trump tomorrow. The news continues right now. The Source with Kaitlan Collins.