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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

First Week Of Trump Hush Money Trial Testimony Ends After Three Witnesses, Allegations About Payments, Catch-And-Kill Strategy; Trump Defense Tries Poking Holes In Pecker Catch-And-Kill Testimony; New Transcript Of Witness Testimonies On Trump Hush Money Trial Released; Gag Order Hearing Next Thursday On Trump's 14 Alleged Violations. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 26, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: But in order to actually realize this, there's going to have to be an end to the conflict in Gaza. And as I said, there's also going to have to be a resolution to the Palestinian question, or at least an agreement on how to resolve it.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, it appears that is a shift in thinking and the potential order of events to get out of this conflict. But, of course, the framework for this potential deal isn't even done yet, and it will be a major hurdle to get all parties to agree to this deal, not the least of which would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Of course, he's been staunchly opposed. All right, thank you very much, Kylie Atwood in Beijing tonight. And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Welcome to our continuing special primetime coverage of the fast-moving Trump hush money trial. Day eight saw three witnesses testify. Former National Enquirer publisher, David Pecker, wrapping up a week on the stand. Former Trump personal assistant, Rhona Grafff, seemingly undermining the former president's denial of affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and a former executive of the bank where Michael Cohen arranged the $130,000 Daniels' payout.

Rhona Grafff, under defense cross-examination, admitting she was not testifying by choice, but nonetheless telling prosecutors that she kept contact information for the two women her boss had denied, knowing intimately, including Stormy Daniels' cell phone number and two addresses for Karen McDougal. She also said she vaguely recalled once seeing Daniels at Trump Tower on the 26th floor.

Then, when prompted by the defense, she said it might have been in connection with "The Apprentice." Earlier, the defense tried hard to undermine former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and upcoming witness Michael Cohen. Trump's attorney, Emil Bove, asking if he believed Cohen was prone to exaggeration, Pecker agreeing that he was.

At the end of it all, the former president had this to say about the trial so far.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is eight days that we've all been sitting in this courthouse. This is all a Biden indictment. It's in order to try and win an election, political opponent and nothing like this has ever happened. Eight days.

Our country's going to hell. And we sit here day after day after day, which is their plan.


COOPER: The former president offered no evidence, of course, to back up any of those claims. There's no evidence that any of what he said is true. Joining us tonight, New York criminal defense attorney, Arthur Aidala; also attorney and former "Apprentice" contestant Stacy Schneider; CNN Political Commentator, Errol Louis; CNN Legal Analyst, Karen Friedman Agnifilo; and Elie Honig; and CNN's Kara Scannell, who is in the courtroom today and will be going through the transcript for us throughout the night.

I want to ask this to everybody.

Kara, for you, what stood out today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I had an actual front row seat today sitting just behind Donald Trump. And when David Pecker was testifying, Trump essentially maintained the whole - the same position the whole time. It would seemed like it was a bit tedious or boring to him. He was just sitting back in his chair with his head cocked in the direction of David Pecker. It's hard to completely make out his facial expressions.

But when Rhona Grafff took the stand, we saw his body language change dramatically. I mean, she was testifying pretty favorably about him under cross-examination by his lawyer. And he then had shifted his chair so he could look directly at her.

And then when she was leaving the stand, it happened to be at a break and he stood up, which is normal. And it looked as though he was trying to move toward her as if to talk to her. But it didn't seem like they had made any kind of connection.

But it was a long day in court and he seemed to sort of just take it in listening, but not really even actively engaging as much of his attorneys as we've seen on other days where he was actively passing notes. Today, he just seemed to be taking it in.

COOPER: Elie, to you what stood out?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So the banker, the third witness, is the least sensational witness that we've heard from, but also, in my view, the most important because when people ask, well, where's the crime? It's really important to remember, because we've just spent a week immersed in hush money payments and porn stars and payouts. The crime is in the financing. And now we're finally getting to that.

This banker basically started to establish that Michael Cohen was eager to get this line of financing set up. He felt a sense of urgency. And there was some need to be undercover about the way they did it. And it's important to keep in mind, Michael Cohen is the prosecution's star witness. But they have to show he committed a crime. Because if the jury does not believe Michael Cohen committed a crime, it's over. There's no way Donald Trump committed a crime unless Michael Cohen committed a crime.

COOPER: Isn't it pretty easy to show Michael Cohen committed a crime, given he spent time in prison?

HONIG: Yes, he pled to the federal offense, which is a little different than the falsifying documents, which is the state offense. He'll say he committed a crime, so it won't be that hard. But you want to establish exactly how he committed the crime, which is through this financing, and then tie Donald Trump right to that.

COOPER: Karen, how about you?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think what stood out to me this week is the entire defense is starting to take shape. We're starting to understand how they're going to present their defense. And it's largely through the people's witnesses.


Rather than going on the attack and going on the offensive against the witnesses that have testified so far, they're sort of embracing the facts, but saying, yes, these things happened. Yes, there was hush money paid. But we've been doing that - that was being done for everybody. It wasn't - had nothing to do with the election. This is just a business model. And this is how it went. This is essentially how David Pecker made his money and I just benefited from it, too, so did he. It had nothing to do with the election, nothing to do with the election interference.

And the reason that's significant is because, Elie's right, it's all about the records. But that's just a misdemeanor. What gets it to a felony is if it was done in furtherance of some sort of other crime like election fraud.

So I thought that was interesting, because sometimes defense attorneys will go on the attack and they'll really attack the credibility and say, this didn't happen. And there was a little bit of that with David Pecker, but not a lot, just a few little things. It was really mostly, yes, this is what happened, but nothing to see here. It's not a crime.

COOPER: And Errol, I mean, Pecker has said that this was about the election. I mean, he said he also was concerned about his family, but the election was front and center.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. He pointed out that more or less, the family was at best a secondary consideration. I was really struck by the fact that even he had some limits. I mean, he's talking about a very unsavory enterprise.

COOPER: Pecker.

LOUIS: Pecker, a very unsavory enterprise, paying people to sort of buy their stories and then bury those stories, putting out proactively, I thought that was also interesting, proactively putting out all kinds of false stories against Trump's enemies, that this was a sort of a complete enterprise. But then to also hear him say that there were limits to that, that he didn't want to buy Stormy Daniels' story.

He says, I'm not the bank. I'm not going to be an endless source of money to buy off all of your mistresses or all of the people that you want to keep quiet. It was interesting to me that, like, even within this really distasteful enterprise that he was running, he felt like he had some limits. And apparently I talked with some of the lawyers for the Enquirer and was told, don't take that extra step. This could actually have some reputational harm. This could be a problem for you somewhere down the line. And that's why Michael Cohen ended up dipping into his own resources.

COOPER: Stacy, how about for you, what stood out?

STACY SCHNEIDER, NEW YORK DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, today was interesting for me because Rhona Grafff took the stand and I know Rhona Grafff from being on the show. She is the nicest woman in the world. I always wondered how she made it through more than 30 years working for a difficult Donald Trump.

But she literally is his gatekeeper. She knows all his schedules. And even though her testimony was really short, the prosecution is being strategic. They got in those nuggets that Rhona knew that Donald Trump had Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal's phone numbers in his directory. Rhona controls everybody's - all the phone numbers that Donald Trump needs access to.

And the fact that Stormy Daniels was in Trump Tower, she has a memory of her being there. And regardless of what the purpose of Stormy Daniels being there, was at that time, when you have Michael Cohen coming in, who the defense is going to completely argue, as we all know, has credibility issues, placing Stormy in the building at Trump Tower is an advantage rather than just Stormy and Donald Trump being in a photograph together.

It's sort of little nuggets that eventually, I think, will be tied up later in the case. So that was - and Rhona was also a humanizing witness for Donald Trump. Incidentally, she was a prosecution witness. But she's affectionate about her boss and she always cared for him. And when Michael Cohen comes in, who is the most disgruntled former employee on the planet, I - the defense might remind the jury in closing statement that, hey, Donald Trump is not who Michael Cohen says he is. That might be a strategy we'll see.

COOPER: Arthur, how do you think the prosecution's - or the defense is doing? ARTHUR AIDALA, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Karen has an enormous amount of experience. And the other night or no, maybe last night, when I said, there's an underlying element of like jury nullification, which is like, okay, yes, this all happened. Really, folks? Are you really going to put this guy in jail for these crimes that you're not even going to understand when the judge reads the charge to you exactly what's going on here.

And we just heard from Mr. Pecker that it goes on all the time with celebrities in different aspects of their life, with Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for governor of the biggest state in the United States of America. Like this is underlying current.

And to, like, Karen's point, also, there are some times when you can attack and then there's other times where you're like, all right, there's no way I can get around this, right. So let me figure out a way to adopt it and make it my own and use it in the way most beneficial to me because I'll lose credibility with the jury if I try to say that black is white and white is black.


But if I figure out a way to say it's either black and I love black or it's white and I love white or it's a little gray, but not be this like attack dog, what I was wanting to ask was - Susan Necheles question this witness, correct? What was - because I know of her. She's like a mentor almost and that she's a very, very well-known and well-regarded criminal defense attorney. What was it like in the courtroom with having a woman stand up and conducting this and she's really a skilled lawyer. So I'm just curious with the dynamic changed.

SCANNELL: Well, the prosecutor who did the question was also female, it was Susan Hoffinger, who asked her the questions. And she went through, she was using graph to get in these documents because they haven't had stipulations on a lot of the business records, so we're going to see a lot of these document witnesses.

But when Susan Necheles took the Stand - took the podium and she was asking Rhona Graff these questions, she was leaning into the humanizing factor of Donald Trump. And at one point, after a few questions that she got in, the prosecutors objected and the judge had sustained it and essentially was like, okay, we need to move on to the next topic, because she was drawing out this favorable image of Donald Trump through the eyes of Rhona Grafff.

COOPER: Kara, you've been looking through the transcripts, which we get them late - very late in the day. What have you noted?

SCANNELL: Well, on the cross-examination of David Pecker today, the core of his - he's a vehicle by the prosecution to set the stage and to talk about this August 2015 meeting in which this catch-and-kill conspiracy, as the prosecution has laid it out, began where he met with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.

So they were trying to go back to that meeting and suggest that it was just like business as usual. It was standard operating procedure for the National Enquirer. So Emil Bove, one of Trump's defense lawyers, had asked Pecker on the stand, I want you - "I want to stick with the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting, okay?" Pecker says, "Yes." Bove says, "At that meeting, the concept of catch-and-kill was not discussed, correct." Pecker said, "That's correct."

Bove asked, "And then there was no discussion of a financial dimension to any agreement at that meeting, correct." Pecker said, "Yes, that's correct."

So trying to say that there was no blatant conversation about a catch- and-kill and that I'm going to buy the deals. Now on redirect with the prosecution, they tried to put that back together with Pecker saying, I talked about either someone would have to buy the story. If it wasn't me, it was going to be - he was saying I was going to tell Michael Cohen and Michael Cohen was going to find someone who would take care of it. So they put it back together, but this was a strategy by the defense.

COOPER: That October meeting in 2015 is important for the prosecution because that's really the origin of this arrangement that then moved forward and we saw the results with the doorman and McDougal and then later Stormy Daniels, even though National Enquirer didn't buy Stormy Daniels' story.

SCANNELL: Right, exactly. I mean, this is the beginning of the conspiracy and it was as Pecker testified, it was Donald Trump's idea to have the meeting and that Donald Trump asked him, what can you and your magazine do for me. So this was the piece that Trump's team was trying to chip away at, that they would have published a lot of these stories about Trump's opponents anyway, because that's what the National Enquirer does.

And it was good for business for them because they would benefit, there are readers like Donald Trump.

COOPER: That was one of the things that came out in the testimony that they had - prior to that meeting, they had already published negative stories, isn't that right, about Ben Carson.

SCANNELL: Right, they had - and - well, they went through a couple of things that they showed that The Guardian had already published a lot of these stories about Ben Carson and the National Enquirer was just recycling it and that it was coinciding with poll results.

And they also established that the National Enquirer had already done a bunch of negative stories on Bill and Hillary Clinton that predated this meeting. So it wasn't something that was necessarily hatched then saying there was already a pattern here. So trying to really emphasizing that this is what the National Enquirer does and then prosecutors trying to say, but everything was different in 2015, because they did some of these things like bearing the Karen McDougal story that didn't benefit them.

COOPER: Right. Much more to talk about, including more from the trial transcripts. Up next, to a point that Errol Louis brought up earlier the moment on the stand when David Pecker admitted there were conditions under which he would publish a story damaging to the former president. We'll be right back.



COOPER: In a week on the stand, former tabloid publisher David Pecker gave jurors an up-close look at how he, of course, fought and killed stories on behalf of Donald Trump. This, of course, at the center of the prosecution's theory of the case and why he was their lead witness.

Today, under cross-examination, though, he admitted there were limits to that arrangement and conditions under which he would publish something damaging to his friends, specifically regarding the first catch-and-kill story, a doorman's false claim that the former president fathered a child out of wedlock.

Here's the exchange between Pecker and Trump's attorney, Emil Bove.

Bove said, "So if this story was true," meaning the doorman story, "you were going to run it, correct?" Pecker says, "Yes." "Because you had a fiduciary obligation to do that, right," says Bove. Pecker says, "That is correct." Bove said, "It would have made business sense, to put it mildly, to run such an article if it was true, correct?" To which Pecker replied, "Yes."

Now, we should point out in testimony earlier this week, Pecker did testify under oath that if he ran the story, it would have been after the election, which makes the argument that this was to protect Trump going into the election. But as soon as the election was over, Pecker would have run that doorman story because it would have been, in his words, extremely popular or not his exact words, but he said it would have been extremely popular among the National Enquirer audience.

Back with the panel, joining us as well is Barry Levine, former executive editor of the National Enquirer.

Barry, I'm wondering, I mean, you know David Pecker obviously well. You worked at the Enquirer for a long time. You had some involvement with that doorman story. How do you - what do you make of him as a witness?

BARRY LEVINE, FORMER NATIONAL ENQUIRER EXEC. EDITOR: Well, listen, I was there, Anderson, for 17 years. I was actually the first editorial hire for David Pecker back in 1999. It's certainly troubling to be watching this unfold and thinking back to the great years of breaking so many great stories, John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Jesse Jackson's paternity of a child.


I was - I left the Enquirer after the doorman story, two months before the Karen McDougal story, before they got involved with that. And the last Trump story that I did work on was the doorman story.

And I mean, David Pecker was absolutely right, had that story turned out to be true and he published it, it would have been a mega sale. It might have sold millions of copies.

COOPER: Did you know that he was going to kill it if it turned out - regardless of what it turned out to be?

LEVINE: Well, listen, I mean, I remember going back to 2010 when - and I knew back from the early days that David was close to Donald Trump, that they were close friends. Back in 2010, I did an interview with Donald Trump when he was actually thinking about running for president in 2012.

And just from the way we presented that story, I'm going to save America, I realized very quickly back then that. This was probably the way it was going to go with Donald Trump. 2012, of course, never happened.

COOPER: But did you know he was going to kill the doorman story?

LEVINE: Yes. Yes, in fact, we investigated the story very, very rapidly. I mean, on John Edwards, I took two years, my reporting team to prove that story. When the doorman story came down the pike, I talked to Dylan Howard, who was my editor and said, listen, we need some time. I said, I sense that Michael Cohen is going to find out about this and Donald Trump is going to eventually find out about this. But for the sake of the Enquirer, for the sake of our legacy in terms of breaking these types of stories, let us at least work the story.

And we did investigate it for a very short period of time, dispatch reporters, got photos of the woman and her daughter.

COOPER: But did you know that you were doing that for Donald Trump. I mean, did you know that you were ...

LEVINE: No, I had no real idea, Anderson, that there had been an actual arrangement. I didn't learn that until the Enquirer's issue.

COOPER: And what was - so what was the process? I mean, obviously, look, the Enquirer broke the John Edwards story.


COOPER: Got - there was a nomination for Pulitzer ...


COOPER: ... for that. But they also - I mean, as this been testified to, Pecker said they put out this story about Ted Cruz's his father, which he said was completely made up. What was that discussion like if you knew a story was just made up but were going to edit it and go with it anyway.

LEVINE: Yes. With the doorman, we shut down the story after a brief period of time, sensing that the story probably was false and the doorman was paid the $30,000, which I would have liked to have had more time to investigate it, certainly.

COOPER: And is - was that widely known within the company? Like, oh, he's being paid $30,000?

LEVINE: No, it was known among the editors. It was a very tight knit group. The lawyers certainly knew. In terms of the Ted Cruz-Oswald father's story, I mean, I was already gone from them and saw the story on the newsstand and thought, what's going on here. The Enquirer's entered the twilight zone to some degree. I mean, things have gone completely over the edge.

COOPER: Is there any other plausible explanation for Pecker catching and killing the Karen McDougal story and teeing up Trump and Cohen for the story Daniels thing other than to protect the campaign? I mean, you have no doubt that this or do you have any doubt that this was about protecting the campaign as opposed to what some of Trump's people have been saying is, well, look, he was concerned about his wife finding out.

LEVINE: No, it was completely for the campaign. I mean, this was absolutely transactional. And I'm left now still wondering as I listen to the reports of the David Pecker's testimony, why he would sacrifice the Enquirer, why he would sacrifice the legacy of great tabloid reporting. And he said he had - Donald Trump had been his mentor.

And like the Edwards story, the campaign aide, Andrew Young, had claimed falsely that he was the father of the child to protect John Edwards. In this particular case, it was an unhinged type of loyalty with Michael Cohen, with David Pecker ...

COOPER: And Pecker also testified that he had done this with or that Arnold Schwarzenegger had approached him that other celebrities had. Were you - I mean, did you know about this history? I mean, how common was this sort of catching and killing, even though Pecker didn't use that term?


LEVINE: I mean, I think from his testimony, it seemed like this was happening all the time. I mean, they were rare cases. We never went out to spend time investigating stories and not running them. I mean, we had to fill the book with 40 stories a week. My interest, my - the reporting teams that I directed, we wanted to break stories.

These reporters were raring to go, knocking on doors, staking people out, looking at documents. We were never a fan of stories that never made it into the paper. But, of course, it was his paper. He was the publisher and he had friends. And there were times when some good stories probably were buried, unfortunately, yes.

COOPER: And the paying for stories, how did that work? I mean, when you're working a story, you have reporters out staking people out, going through garbage or whatever it is, hanging outside their homes. Is there a set sort of like priceless for, I mean, how do you determine what it's worth?

LEVINE: I mean, first of all, I think it's - the irony is the big stories that we worked on over the years. It also goes to the early days of the Enquirer, the Gary Hart stories, the O.J. stories. Most of those stories you can't write a check for. You have to investigate. You have to send reporters out. You have to do the digging. You have to knock on the doors. You have to cultivate sources who are going to trust you.

That went into the great stories. We didn't - we couldn't write a check for John Edwards. It took two years.

COOPER: So - but your sources, you pay sources, I mean ...

LEVINE: Yes, and there's no ...

COOPER: ... like the people surrounding Karen McDougal, they would get money.

LEVINE: Yes, there's no question for exclusivity when you're a weekly publication and you need to hold someone from speaking to another media organization. For a week's time, you're going to put them under some type of exclusivity. It could be a couple hundred dollars. It could be several thousands of dollars.

I mean, we operated no differently. I mean, we were bold about the fact that we practice checkbook journalism. And certainly there were individuals who called the Enquirer tip line specifically because they were looking for money. But television shows would pay for video. They would pay still - pay for somebody's scrapbook or still photos. It would justify some payments, but they weren't as direct as the National Enquirer.

COOPER: And in terms of what it's become, I mean, it is a shadow of its former self in terms of readership and in terms of - do you think that they - I mean, do you think it will continue?

LEVINE: I mean, that's - that is so hard to say. I feel a great deal of sadness over the way Pecker came forward and just talked about checkbook journalism, talking about routinely doing catch and kills.

COOPER: Because it made it seem like no matter what you - you're at - what your personal beliefs were ...


COOPER: ... and of the work you were doing for so long ...

LEVINE: ... David Pecker was using this to cultivate friends and to be like a remora fish on the shark of Donald Trump. I mean, to kind of be in Trump's orbit. He enjoyed that.

LEVINE: Yes. I mean, there's no question about that. I have no ill will towards him. He was a great employer for me for 17 years. However, I do feel like so many other former employees that I see on Facebook and elsewhere that he took what had been a great legacy, part of Americana pop culture and he weaponized it. Generoso Pope would have been the original owner who created the National Enquirer.

His son came out in 2019 and said his father, Generoso Pope, is rolling over in his grave because of what David Pecker did in terms of weaponizing the paper for a political campaign. And the - I had to - end up writing a book, "All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator," trying to do the work that the Enquirer reporters could have done over the years because it was so much on Donald Trump that could have been reported.

And had they reported out the Karen McDougal story and Stormy Daniels, it could have changed the course of the election in 2016.

COOPER: Barry Levine, appreciate your time tonight.


COOPER: Thank you so much.

Coming up next, Kara Scannell is continuing to go through today's courtroom transcript. The complete version of it is just out. What she is finding next.



COOPER: We're learning more about a testy exchange on Day 8 of the Trump hush money trial today from the full transcript just released. CNN's Kara Scannell has continued to go through it. She's back with us.

So how did David Pecker push back on some of the defense's text on his credibility? Or I guess the text may be a little strong.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they're looking to try to find inconsistencies, so maybe the jury thinks his memory is not so good or it's too rehearsed. But one piece of his testimony that he gave on direct was about a January 2017 meeting. He said he went to Trump Tower. He saw Donald Trump and that Donald Trump had thanked him for taking care of the doorman story and Karen McDougal's story.

So then Trump's lawyer saying, confronting with him some notes that an FBI agent had taken after an interview David Pecker gave to them. And in those FBI notes, the notes say that David Pecker didn't recall any gratitude from Donald Trump. So he was challenging him on that, asking him about that.

David Pecker says, I know what I remember. This is going back to 2018. I didn't recall back from what I'm saying here is that during the FBI investigation, I know what I said yesterday happened. So I can't reconcile what the FBI interview was, if someone made a mistake or not. But they says, so you can't reconcile because what you said yesterday is inconsistent with what's in this report, correct?

Pecker says, yes, but I wouldn't be responsible for this report. But they said, I understand. And so you're suggesting that the FBI made a mistake here.

Pecker said, I know what the truth is. I'm not, I can't state what the -- what's here, why this was written this way. I know exactly what was said to me.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Anderson, I don't think the defense -- Donald Trump's defense, did much to impact David Pecker's credibility. That's a small ding right there. But they did something better.


They are using David Pecker's testimony to undermine Michael Cohen. The three best words that the defense has on the record for so far came today, prone to exaggeration. They got David Pecker to say, Michael Cohen is prone to exaggeration. And so they're going to do that, by the way, with a lot of other witnesses. If Kellyanne Conway takes the stand, I bet she has negative things to say about Michael Cohen. Maybe Hope Hicks, too. And what you do as a defense lawyer, not my profession, arts, but I've seen enough good ones in action. When it comes time for closing, go folks, their own witnesses, the first guy they put in front of you, David Pecker, said that their star witness is, quote, "prone to exaggeration." If you find that he exaggerated to you, this case is over. So that's a really smart and effective tactic.

STACY SCHNEIDER, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: But you know, Michael Cohen can be restored as the star witness so easily because people forget, or maybe don't forget, that he pled guilty to the same scheme that Trump is now being put on trial for. And people generally, as a defense lawyer, do not plead guilty to things they didn't do. And that plea is locked in. He took a three-year jail sentence for the acts that he claimed in open court when he entered his plea. I did this at the direction of Donald Trump.

And you just can't get around that. No matter how bad the defense makes Michael Cohen look, and it's going to be a slugfest when he gets on the stand. I actually cannot wait to see that happen. He's still restored.

COOPER: Arthur, how would you get around that?

ARTHUR AIDALA, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, sometimes there's things you don't get around. And I just want to go back to what Karen said, you know, before, and also what Elie said. Like, in other words, you've got to pick your spots. You've got to attack and question people's credibility and their memory and all of that when you can. And when you can't, you know, you try to embrace it and make it your own.

Obviously, prone to exaggeration is great. But another phrase I thought was standard operating procedure. That goes to the jury nullification. Like, they're trying to make it out that what Donald Trump is, the prosecution is, is so unique. No one has ever done this before. And that went out the window.

As I said, my colleague, Judge George Grasso, who's been in the court every day, he said after his testimony, and I think this broke our last guest's heart, but after his testimony, I wanted to take a shower, because it shows how dirty that industry is, and it enlightens all of us how, you know, you shouldn't believe everything you read in the "National Enquirer."

COOPER: Well, that's --


AIDALA: No, no, no, it is -- that's breaking news here on CNN tonight.

HONIG: I think the argument that we've heard quite a bit is, well, Michael Cohen already went to jail for this, and so didn't Donald Trump do the same thing? It's not quite right, though, because, first of all, Michael Cohen pled guilty to half the crime Donald Trump is charged with here. He pled guilty to the campaign finance part, but not necessarily the falsifying business records part. So that's number one.

Number two, Michael Cohen has been, let's say, reticent, maybe even self-contradictory, about the circumstances of his federal plea. He has been very vocal about the fact that he feels like, to put -- to use Michael Cohen's word, the Southern District of New York, my former office, Michael said, they put a gun to my head. They threatened my wife. I pled guilty to things I didn't actually commit. I committed perjury when I pled guilty. That's Michael Cohen's story now. That's a disaster. That's a mess. Michael Cohen is now offering lies, stacked upon lies, and boy, the defense lawyers are going to follow that.

COOPER: The defense cross-examination is going to be --

HONIG: Oh, my goodness.

COOPER: -- very long. Kara, the standard operating procedure, which Arthur talked about, you actually have something in the transcript about that, right?

SCANNELL: Yeah. This was on redirect with the prosecution. They were getting at the Karen McDougal story, and was it really bought for the standard operating procedure line that the defense was pushing?

So the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, asked David Pecker, "Had you published a story about a Playboy model having a year-old sexual affair while he was married with a presidential candidate? Would that have sold magazines, you think?" Pecker said, "yes."

Steinglass said, "That would be like National Enquirer gold." Pecker said, "yes." Steinglass said, "But at the time you entered into that agreement, you had zero intention of publishing that story." Pecker said, "that's correct." And the prosecutor said, "And despite the fact that publishing that story would have helped your bottom line, you killed the story because it helped the candidate, Donald Trump." Pecker said, "yes."

So they're counter and cutting against the standard operating procedure. Obviously, if this was National Enquirer gold, and they would have made a fortune off the headline, they decided not to publish it. And that was the point prosecutors were trying to push, that this was for Donald Trump's candidacy, not for the bottom line of the National Enquirer.

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's also prosecution gold. I mean, to get him to admit that I was willing to do something that was contrary to my bottom line to help a candidate, that's exactly what they need to say. And that's what the prosecution's trying to do in order to make Michael Cohen irrelevant, frankly.

AIDALA: But could you just explain to me, because I don't understand, how is that a crime? How is that an element of the crimes or the elements that the judge is going to read after the summation?


AGNIFILO: So this crime is a bump up crime, right? It's basically a misdemeanor plus. So the misdemeanor is if you falsify business records. I think everybody thinks that's the easier part to prove, all right, because he said it was for legal fee.

AIDALA: I agree with you.

AGNIFILO: OK. But if you did it with the intention, the general intention to either conceal or commit or aid another crime, it bumps it up to a felony. And the way I like to describe it is it's like burglary, right? Burglary is a trespass, right, knowingly enter and remain unlawfully somewhere, which is a misdemeanor.

But if you add to that the intent to commit a crime therein, it bumps it up to a burglary. And you don't always know what the crime is in a burglary. You don't know --

AIDALA: OK. But the difference is with the burglary example you just used, it's -- things are happening simultaneously. You're entering and you're committing the crime right there and then, right?

AGNIFILO: Not necessarily. You could -- you could have a scenario where somebody opens the door to an apartment, walks in, and gets caught as he steps in the door. And if that guy had a sleeping bag and a toothbrush, he was going there to sleep, that's a misdemeanor. That's a trespass. But if instead he had a safe cracker, and he also had things.

AIDALA: But it's all happening simultaneously. He's cracking the door, he's walking in with the sleeping bag, He's cracking -- walking in with the safe cracker. Here, they're saying the misdemeanor took place, and somewhere down the road another crime is taking place. That's the difference between the burglary.


AIDALA: Because I am -- I'm not arguing with you, I am trying to figure this out. I have paperwork here that says, I'm trying to figure it out myself. I'm doing legal homework here.

AGNIFILO: Think of this as a conspiracy to commit burglary, OK?

AIDALA: OK. That's a great question. So how come, Karen, who you -- I mean, you ran in the office, you know this stuff, why didn't they charge a simple conspiracy?

AGNIFILO: Because for two reasons.


AGNIFILO: A conspiracy --

AIDALA: This is great stuff. I love this.

AGNIFILO: I hope you don't mind that.

AIDALA: No, no way. I feel like I'm in law school again.

COOPER: We've got two hours. I'm enjoying this.

AGNIFILO: Because -- because falsifying business records in the first degree is an e-felony. That's the lowest level felony. A conspiracy to commit an e-felony is a misdemeanor. Number one, the statute of limitations had run on all the misdemeanors by the time they indicted this crime. OK. So they couldn't have.

And number two, as a prosecutor, you don't charge a misdemeanor because you don't want the jury to compromise on a misdemeanor. You want them to do the felony. And you don't need the conspiracy because the crime that they're saying he used to -- that he intended to conceal or commit, was the state election crime, which is a conspiracy to commit election fraud. It has conspiracy built into it, so you didn't need it. So I guess that was three reasons why they didn't charge conspiracy.

AIDALA: I can ask the professor one more question. So professor, here's my question. And I'm not, you know, a wise guy by calling you professor because you're actually educating us. The bump up crime, I know you don't have to articulate what it is. But if the choice, the menu that they're giving us, are all misdemeanors themselves that are out of the statute of limitations, my question is, can a misdemeanor, the false records that's out of the statute of limitations, and another misdemeanor, which is the bump up misdemeanor, is also out of the statute of limitations? Could you put two misdemeanors, both out of the statute of limitations, do those two things equal a felony?

AGNIFILO: Well, they have three crimes that they are saying is the bump up, right? State election crime, federal, and tax.

AIDALA: Well, they're giving them a choice as a menu.

AGNIFILO: Yeah. So the answer is -- the answer is yes. The prosecution theory is yes, but it's never been --

AIDALA: Done before in the history of America. God bless America.

AGNIFILO: It hasn't been tested on appeal, but it has been done. But it has not been tested on appeal.

COOPER: How do you -- how would you describe this? Is it, I mean, a novel prosecution? Is it pie in the sky? Is it, you know, interesting? How do you --

AGNIFILO: So the only thing -- the only thing unusual about this case is the defendant. This is a bread-and-butter, white-collar crime in New York. This is done by prosecutors all over the state. This is the bread-and-butter of the Manhattan DA's office, the feds. It's like the feds who charge mail fraud and wire fraud for everything. And that you're like, how -- how does that a mail or wire fraud? But it's like the charge that they use all the time.

This is done all the time. What's unusual is they don't all go to trial. So this is going -- a lot of them are allowed to plead guilty, or they plea bargain them out. And this is going to trial. And, of course, who the defendant is, is what's also very unusual.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. That was really interesting. A retired New York state Supreme Court justice, who's known as the judge in Trump's hash money case for more than 15 years, is joining us for a take on the prosecution's claim that the former president continues to violate the gag order and what the judge might do about it in next week's gag order hearing or before.


We'll be right back.


COOPER: Next Thursday, Judge Merchan has scheduled a hearing on Donald Trump's alleged 14 gag order violations. The hearing comes after prosecutors say that Trump violated the gag order four times in just the past few days. Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser joins us once again tonight. She's known Judge Merchan for more than 15 years.

Are you surprised, Judge, that -- that Merchan has not already ruled on the gag order?

JILL KONVISER, RETIRED NY STATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: No, I'm not, and I'll tell you why. Originally, when we first had these alleged violations, I thought it would be one and done and we'd be finished. But then, while this is pending and he does a hearing to which the defendant is entitled, there was no summary -- no summary violation here.

When the defendant persists and continues to decide he's seemingly violating the order, what's the point? What's the point of doing it to rush it? Think about it for a minute.


The goal -- Judge Merchan's goal here is to make sure both sides get a fair trial and to get a verdict and to do that without -- with as little incident and as much grace as possible.

This hearing and these gag order violations are -- to a great extent -- a sideshow. And there are plenty of people out there, maybe some at this table, who want to get Trump no matter what, right? They want to see him in jail or they want to see him held responsible for this. They want his blood. I get that. Judge Merchan is not one of them. He wants to keep this trial on track, make sure he gets the verdict.

At this point, the truth is, even if there is a finding of contempt, there's no reason why he needs to sentence him now. He can wait until the end of the trial and deal with it at that point. Quite frankly, the DA's office, I'm pointing to you because you're a DA in Manhattan, the DA's office, regardless of what Judge Merchan does with the contempt, can bring criminal contempt charges against him through the penal law as opposed to the judiciary law, which is what and how Judge Merchan is -- is proceeding.

HONIG: The DA's office brought this to Judge Merchan's attention, complained to him, put in a request for an order to show cause very quickly. I mean, the DA's office clearly is taking this seriously. And I don't quite follow the logic of what's the rush. I mean, why leave it hanging out there, especially when Trump continues to recidivate? What would be the harm of the judge coming out. He had a hearing, as you said, and saying, that's it, we had the hearing, here's my findings, you violated, and knock it off. Why -- couldn't that only help the situation?

KONVISER: Well, I don't know. I think that no matter what happens, whatever the result at this particular hearing is, the defendant walks out as victor or victim. And that's part of the sideshow.

So I don't disagree with you that having ruled is a bad idea. But at this point, again, because I don't think the sentence is going to happen until after the trial, maybe we need to focus on the testimony.

HONIG: Just one more quick question. Would you ever, under any circumstance, if you were -- if this was your case, lock up Donald Trump, based on violations of a gag order? If he did it eight more times?

KONVISER: Depends on what the violation is.

HONIG: If he keeps on posting about Michael Cohen every day, this guy's a serial perjurer, would there ever come a point where you would lock him up?


HONIG: Really?



AIDALA: Yeah, all right. I'll vouch for it. I'll second it. Been there -- been there, done it with Konviser. AGNIFILO: And I know Judge Konviser, too.


HONIG: I believe you. I believe it. I believe it. I'm not messing with you.

AIDALA: I used to bring a lunch bag with me just in case, you know, because I didn't want the bologna sandwich inside. I could bring it inside. But, you know, what Judge Konviser said the other night, you know, the judge is in a tough spot because unlike in the civil case, I think Trump was getting hit with like $10,000 fines.

You know, that's -- that starts being a big number for no matter who you are, $10,000 and another $10,000 and another -- here, by statute, it's only $1,000. That's not exactly going to change Donald Trump's world. And especially if he thinks, look, anytime you represent people in the media like Trump is, like a lot of other high-profile people are, in my opinion, they overemphasize the public relations aspect of the trial. They assume the jurors are reading it. They assume the jurors are violating the judge's orders and looking at it. And they're trying so hard to influence them.

I haven't found that to be the case. I've found after a verdict, jurors say, yeah, I was in a cab and the thing popped up or I was on my phone. But I've never found a juror after questioning them after a verdict that, you know, blatantly violated.

Now they could be lying to me. But I will tell you there are certain defendants who, like, they really emphasize on getting the message out after the jury's impaneled when the jury's not supposed to even see it.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The goal might not be to influence the jury so much as really just to provoke a mistrial, right?

KONVISER: Oh, you know, that's a win for the defense in any case, particularly. This --

COOPER: What would it take to provoke a mistrial?

KONVISER: Well, myriad reasons, like -- yeah.

COOPER: But related to the gag order?

KONVISER: To the gag order, I guess hadn't thought about that. Maybe if the defendant said something that completely infected the jury by saying something that was so outrageous or so egregious they couldn't be fair. I don't see that the defendant himself could do something that could end up as a mistrial. The jurors could. Or the defendant reaching out to a juror could be a problem.

AIDALA: What about if the judge put President Trump in prison for violating the gag order and it really got out and pictures were everywhere of Donald Trump behind bars and it found out that one of the jurors, a juror could come in. I mean, Judge Konviser can tell you. They come in and some of them efface up.

Look, I did see, I saw the cover of the "New York Post" and there's a picture of Donald Trump behind bars.

KONVISER: I don't think that's a mistrial. I think that's an instruction.

AIDALA: That's an instruction.

KONVISER: That's an instruction.

AIDALA: Just forget it. Just forget about the case.


KONVISER: You do a Buford hearing and you get the answers.


AIDALA: -- the president of the United States with two Secret Service guys behind bars.


COOPER: But -- but I mean, that's not going to -- that's not going to happen. There was this report earlier that the Secret Service and the law enforcement had met or were meeting to discuss, you know, if in this long shot thing he was put in a, you know, in a cell, how would they actually do that? But Errol, I mean, that's highly, highly, unlikely?

LOUIS: Highly unlikely or certainly undesirable, you know? But if his goal, let's assume for a minute that candidate Trump just wants to delay this. That the issues of guilt and innocence and what's going to happen to him and whether or not he loses his freedom is something he would like to deal with on the other side of the election. He could stand up in court. He could say something crazy. He could come outside of court. He could say something crazy. He could deliberately try and push the system to the point where the trial is either delayed or you get a mistrial and you have to start over.

COOPER: Just ahead, Kaitlan Collins joins us with an exclusive interview with the former President's Attorney General William Barr about the trial, the immunity hearing, and his response to the former President's mocking Barr's endorsement.



COOPER: 9:00 p.m. here in New York. The 8th day of the Trump Hush Money trial here. A busy and productive one now in the books in this hour by our special primetime continuing coverage. More details from the trial transcripts we just received. The former president's latest word on whether he'll testify. And what's ahead while trial resumes next week. Kaitlan Collins, starts off the hour with an exclusive interview. Kaitlan?