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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judge Finds Trump In Contempt For Violating Gag Order Again; Prosecutors: About Two More Weeks Needed To Finish Case; New Transcript Of Trump Trial Testimony Released; Jurors See Checks, Invoices & Ledgers At Heart Of Trump Hush Money Case; Multiple Explosions Reported In Rafah Area Of Gaza; Sources: Hamas Agreed To Different Ceasefire Proposal Than The One Israel Helped Craft; IDF: Conducting "Targeted Strikes" Against Hamas In Eastern Rafah; Trump Threatened With Jail After Violating Gag Order Again. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 06, 2024 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tapes when there aren't tapes.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But it's going to take more than tapes.

BURNETT: But the - right. Which is ...

CARROLL: It will take more than tapes.

BURNETT: Which is incredible what you're saying because there's so much tape.


BURNETT: Wow. All right. All right. Jason Carroll, thank you very much. And thanks very much to all of you for joining us. As always, we'll see you back here tomorrow night, same time. AC360 with Anderson Cooper starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We are following two big stories tonight. One, the enormous tension right now over what happens next in Gaza. After a day, they saw celebrations over Hamas saying they accepted a ceasefire deal, an apprehension over Israel's war cabinet rejecting it and the IDF beginning limited strikes on territory east of Rafah, where Israeli forces have ordered civilians to leave.

The White House, as you know, has long opposed any major incursion into Rafah. And today, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An administration spokesman saying the President asked about Israeli intentions for the city and plans to keep civilians there safe.

We're going to have live updates on the situation throughout the next two hours of our special primetime coverage tonight.

We begin, though, with another day, unlike any other, in the former president's New York hush money trial.

Day 12 started with the judge finding Donald Trump in contempt again and telling him directly the next time could mean jail. And though he said it's the last thing he wants to do to a former and future president - or potentially a future president, I should say.

Judge Juan Merchan added, "At the end of the day, I have a job to do, and part of that job is to protect the dignity of judicial system and compel respect." He went on to say, "Your continued violations of this court's lawful order threatened to interfere with the administration of justice in constant attacks which constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue."

The day continued with one former and one current Trump Organization employee detailing how Michael Cohen's hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, were reimbursed by then President Trump. It ended with prosecutors saying they have about two weeks left in their case, and with the defendant complaining about that and the gag order, he's now been fined for violating 10 times.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So it's a disgrace. But we just heard two to three more weeks. I thought that we're finished today. I have to watch every word I tell you people, you asked me a question, a simple question I'd like to give it but I can't talk about it. Because this judge has given me a gag order and say you'll go to jail if you violate it. And frankly, you know what, our Constitution is much more important than jail. It's not even close. I'll do that sacrifice any day.


COOPER: Well, tonight we have new reporting on what might happen if the judge grants his wish. CNN's John Miller starts us off with that.

So what are you learning about contingency plans among law enforcement?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, Anderson, the day started with the judge mentioning this in his written order, mentioning it in his words on court, the possibility of jail with the authorities kind of scratching their heads and asking each other, is this getting more real? It's not like the Secret Service can pull out the protection of former president's manual and go to the page that says president in jail. That page doesn't exist. So they've got to sketch this out. And what they're talking about is what are the options?

So one option is they can ask the judge to remand Trump in the event that he is sentenced to custodial sentence to the custody of the United States marshal. They can move that custody down the street to the federal courthouse and those facilities there.

The U.S. marshal in Manhattan is a former Secret Service agent. So he understands about prisoners, about custody, but also about the needs of the Secret Service and protection and former presidents. So that would give them some veneer of the kind of control that they would like to have in a situation like this.

But then there's the other possibility, which is Judge Merchan says he's like any other prisoner. He's going to Rikers Island.

COOPER: And, I mean, who ultimately - I mean, if that was actually - if he was ordered by the judge to be jailed, who has the ultimate say on where he goes? Is it the judge? Is it, like, the mayor or the governor?

MILLER: No, that's the judge. I mean, this is Judge Merchan's courtroom. And this is the very message that Judge Merchan is trying to reinforce, which is I'm in charge in this courtroom. There's a universe out there where the president of the United States, a former president may have influenced, the Secret Service is very important. But I rule this courtroom. And he views Trump as someone who is challenging that.

So if he sentenced him to city jail and I spoke to Frank Dwyer, the spokesman for the New York City Department of Corrections and said Trump on Rikers Island? How does that work? And he said, and I quote, "The department will find appropriate housing."

That's a difficult scenario because corrections officers in a place that is often overcrowded, often understaffed, they're unarmed, which is how it works inside a jail. The Secret Service would probably require a separate empty building facility, a wing of its own where they could be armed, have a rescue plan, an escape plan, be able to screen food.


But it would also mean in Donald Trump world, the rules of the jail, no telephone, no tweets, no Truth Social. So this really is uncharted territory.

COOPER: Yes. Well, we'll see if it ever gets there.

John Miller. Thank you.

Joining us now is New York defense attorney Arthur Aidala, bestselling author and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's Abby Phillip and Kaitlan Collins, Anchor of NewsNight and The Source, respectively. CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig and CNN's Kara Scannell who was in court today, so let's start with you.

What was it like in court?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So as Judge Merchan does. He got on the bench. He began immediately with this saying that he found Trump in contempt for the 10th time. And then he looked directly at Trump and had told him this $1,000 fine is not acting as a deterrent for you. So I will have to consider jailing you as the next option.

And he said to him, "Mr. Trump, it's important to understand that the last thing I want to do is put you in jail." And he was emphasizing to him that it was the last resort, but saying that he may be left with no choice then to do that. And he even said to Trump that to do this would be disruptive. And he knew that Trump wanted this - wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

I mean, I could see Trump. He was looking at the judge as he was addressing him, but he did not speak back. And in fact, the judge said to him, if you have anything, you can talk to your lawyer.

COOPER: Elie, I mean, this is unprecedented, obviously, yet likely?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It - I think it remains unlikely, but I think the judge is putting down a marker here. He's saying, this is where my patience runs out. And it's important to note, the judge has given Donald Trump every benefit of the doubt when it comes to this gag order. I mean, the gag order itself is already very broad. It allows rants like the one we just saw.

But also, even today, there were four alleged violations. The D.A. went to the judge and said, we think he violated four times. And the judge said three of them, I think, are okay, not proven. The two were Trump reacted to strongly to Michael Cohen and the one where Donald Trump made a comment about David Pecker. Judge said, no, doesn't violate the order.

The one the judge did find is the comment about the jury. And you can't touch the jury. That is just no go third rail. So the judge is really airing in Trump's favor here on the gag order. And I think that Trump is reasserting domination and control of his courtroom.

COOPER: Arthur, where would you go?

ARTHUR AIDALA, ATTORNEY: Yes. So I mean, if you want a little breaking news, one of the reasons why I was a little bit late is apparently Harvey Weinstein's being transferred as we speak from Bellevue hospital to Rikers Island. So I'll be there tomorrow.

Donald - look, Donald Trump's not going to be anywhere near any other inmate in Rikers Island in the United States marshal's custody. He will be in a room probably by himself. I will tell you, my experience is and I always defer to John Miller, but the judge doesn't have control of the where he's housed. He just says, officer, take hold and take charge - I'm sorry. Officers take charge.

They then would put the handcuffs. Typically, I don't know about Donald Trump, but around a regular person's back and they lead them outside. And then it's the Department of Corrections that determines where you go.

Now, they've all - they do have contingency plans. It also depends on how long the judge sentences him for. He can say officers take charge for six hours and then there's ...

COOPER: A there's a cell in that building.

AIDALA: Yes, there's a lot of them. That's where arraignment is, it's downstairs in the building. There's a lot of them. There's some on that floor itself. And they don't necessarily have to put him in a cell. He just can't leave.

So my educated guess is that they're just going to put him in a room and say, Mr. President, you're not allowed to leave this room because Judge Merchan said you got to be here for the next six hours or eight hours or maybe even overnight. But there are so many entities here that want to make sure not a hair on Donald Trump's head is even the risk of being harmed.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One point worth making about this whole chapter is that since Merchan made the first finding of contempt, he has not committed contempt again. So Trump is not continuing to do this. There have been two separate findings of contempt. But for all the former president's complaints about how unfair this is, how terrible it is, he has not committed a violation of the gag order since then. And my sense is he probably won't again.

COOPER: I also just want to read more of what the judge actually said to Trump today. He said, "Mr. Trump, it's important to understand the last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You're the former president of the United States, and possibly the next one as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings, which I imagine you want to end as quickly as possible."

Just politically, Kaitlan, what would what would this mean?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, the argument is that Trump would relish it in the sense that he would be able to argue what he's been arguing every day outside that courtroom, that he is being politically persecuted here, that he can't use his First Amendment right. He can't speak freely, that this is protected political speech.


The idea that Donald Trump actually would want to go to jail is ridiculous. Anyone who knows him knows that. He doesn't even like to stay in a hotel when he goes on foreign trips, when he went as president. It was a whole thing to actually get him to stay overnight in places.

So this idea that he actually does want to do this for the optics perspective, I mean, when you speak to his closest advisers and allies, they'll say that's completely farfetched. Now, do they think it would work to their advantage? Maybe politically. But I do think Donald Trump heeding this is something that you never see Donald Trump do, which is actually watching his words. And he keeps acknowledging that every time he goes into that courtroom, even if he is lying about what the gag order actually says he can and cannot do, he is being careful. And he did the same thing after the E. Jean Carroll verdicts came out, where he was found to have defamed her and it was going to cost him a lot of money. He changed the way that he would speak publicly about her.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Until he defamed her again with you in your town hall. And then she ended up bringing him back to court over that incident. So he does have his moments when he, I don't know, maybe can't help himself. I was surprised to see the judge even just acknowledge the jail part of this, because I guess this has been in the conversation, whether - I don't know if he's paying attention or not, that he wouldn't do it.

So the idea that he would at least warn Trump that that was on the table, it wasn't being taken off the table, it's just an important reminder to Trump that the judge is in charge here. And Trump is used to being the boss. He's used to being the president. He's not in this particular context. And it did feel like Judge Merchan wanted to make sure that he was aware that nothing is off the table, really, and that he will do what he has to do to maintain order in his courtroom.

COOPER: How important was the actual testimony today, particularly in the morning? But it's maybe not headline making in terms of the documents, it's never - it's kind of boring to listen to, but it is important for the prosecution's case.

TOOBIN: Huge, hugely important, because this is a case about providing - about creating false business records. The jury saw the business records today for the first time.

I think this case is coming down to one thing. It is quite clear that the government has proved this was money reimbursed to Cohen for hush money. I don't think there is any way the jury can believe these were actually legal fees. I also think that means the records were false. I mean, these were not legal fees.

But the thing the government has improved, and they didn't prove it today, was that Trump created these records or was involved in the creation of those records. And I think that's going to be the prosecution's challenge as the rest of the case unfolds, because that's just not there yet I don't think.

COOPER: Why can't you make the argument that any payment to a lawyer is a legal fee? I mean, what does a legal fee mean? Is there some official definition?

AIDALA: If I may.


AIDALA: That's a great point. And people have asked me about that. My dad asked me about it walking into the building. I think the difference here, Anderson, is he took out like a home equity line of credit or a home equity loan. If he just said, look, I'm going to write - I know you're caught up, I'm going to write it out of my own escrow - we can't do it as escrow - my own operating account and you'll cover me - on it later.

It would smell a lot better or look a lot better than I'm putting my own - I think it was his family residence --

COOPER: Right. AIDALA: -- up on the table. And I just need to say this, I thought

Judge Merchan today handled himself perfectly the way he handled Trump with the gag order. I really do. I think --

COOPER: You think it was smart to mention the jail?

AIDALA: I think - I just think he handled it - look, I work in that courthouse. I want the sanctity of that courthouse to be preserved, whether it's Donald Trump sitting there, Joe Biden sitting there, George W. Bush sitting there or anyone else, I want the sanctity of that courthouse and I want everyone to have to follow the rules and abide by the rules.

And basically, Donald Trump's fate regarding jail or not jail with the gag order is in his own hands. He could handle himself like the way he did today. There was clearly no violation for what he said today or he could thumb his nose and force the judge's hand and that would be unfortunate.

TOOBIN: Wow. The George W. Bush case will be very traumatic.

COOPER: Kaitlan, you got some interesting details, I understand, just a short time ago about what ...

PHILLIP: Retribution.

COOPER: ... witnesses on the stand can actually see and can't see.

COLLINS: Okay. So this is really fascinating to me. I talked to one of the witnesses who testified. Obviously, we're not going to say which one, but they told me because we watch the witness and we watch the defendant. We watch the jury when you're in the room. Kara, obviously, has been there every single day observing this. And we talk about whether or not the witness is looking in Donald Trump's direction as they're answering questions or when they're in the room.

I talked to a witness. You can't actually see Donald Trump from the witness stand.

COOPER: You cannot.

COLLINS: Because where they're seated, they're - the juries to their left and the judge's bench extends out so far. It's more exaggerated than in this graphic that we're showing there where the judge is right there in the middle. But it extends out so far that as the witness, unless you greatly exaggerated your posture and leaned forward, you cannot see Donald Trump. The only person you can see is the first member of his defense team who is sitting in that first chair.


Typically, it's been Emil Bove who's been conducting the cross- examination. But this person was surprised to learn that when they walked in the room, you walk behind Donald Trump and his attorneys, you go to the witness stand. And once you're sitting there, you can't actually see him as you're delivering your testimony. AIDALA: That's deliberate, by the way, because witnesses - forget

about this case. But if it's someone who robbed you or someone who murdered someone in your family, it really intimidates someone to have to point and say so - a lot of times when an identification, an in- court identification has to take place, the individual who's on the witness stand has to stand up and say, oh, yes, there's the person over there. And a lot of times, if I'm not at the first position that Kaitlan just described and I'm in that third position and like the defendant's in the middle, I get up and go behind the bar with the court's permission and I sit in the front row because I want to be able to see the body language and everything, so - but it's not just a coincidence that you can't see.

COLLINS: But can the person - if you're sitting where Donald Trump is, can you - can he see the defendant or does he kind of ...

AIDALA: No, he's got - he would ...

COLLINS: ... the witness, does he have to lean over?

AIDALA: Yes, he would kind of have to look over. I prefer it on every defendant that they can't see the witness because the juries that's what the jurors look like. How is the defendant reacting to that's the guy who robbed me, that's the guy on the subway who stole my stuff and, you know, you don't want them being, you know, making any movement. So I'm happy that they can't see each other.

COLLINS: Michael Cohen probably too.

SCANNELL: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) Trump today, though, dramatically change his position to be able to watch one of the witnesses. And he was craning his neck and a chain - like turned his chair so he could see. But it does also explain why he's looking at the monitor a lot of the time ...


SCANNELL: ... because that's probably his best view of seeing what the witnesses are expressions are.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Everyone else stay with us.

Coming up next, what the former president said back in 2018 when he was first asked about the payment Michael Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and where he got the money for it. That and how the witnesses today described some of the process. The full transcript is just out. John Berman is going through it. He'll bring us that.

Plus, the latest in the war against Hamas, the ceasefire proposal that fell through and whether Israel is about to go into Rafah.



COOPER: As stunning as it is to see a former president United States on trial facing felony charges, it was also pretty stunning when the president was asked about the hush money payments to - aboard Air Force One back in 2018.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why Michael - why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to her allegation?

TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know. No.


COOPER: Well, he did not know about the payment to the porn star, he said, and he did not know where Michael Cohen got the money to pay her. Both were lies. Now, the question is, were the records of his reimbursements to Cohen for said payoffs falsified and was it on his orders? Today, the prosecution began trying to answer those questions. CNN's John Berman just got the trial transcript for more detail in - about what was actually said in court.

So what more did the bookkeeper, longtime Trump Organization employee say in her testimony about how Trump signed the checks?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he did sign them, which is important, I think. And this is from Deb Tarasoff, as you said, the accountant there. This first exchange you don't have because we just got it in. But the attorney, Chris Conroy, asked, "Who could sign the checks for the DJT account in 2016 or 2017?" Answer, "You're talking about Mr. Trump's personal account?" "Yes." "Only Mr. Trump," she said. "Was that true back in 2016 and 2017?" She answers, "Yes."

"If you know," the attorney asked, "Is that still true today?" Deb Tarasoff says, "Yes, it is." Question, "That was any check. It didn't matter the amount." She answers, "It didn't matter."

Now, that was for signing the checks. Then in about a minute later, they started asking, did he have to sign a check if he was sent a check to sign, because Allen Weisselberg signed off on an invoice, did he have to sign it? The question, "did Mr. Trump have to sign a check because Mr. Weisselberg approved it?" Deb Tarasoff says, "No. If he didn't want to sign it, he didn't sign it." Question, "Did you ever see situations where he didn't sign checks?" Her answer, "Yes." "What would happen in those situations," they asked. Answer, "He would write void on it and send it back." Question, "How do you know he would write void on it?" She answers, "It was signed in a Sharpie in black. That is what he usually does."

HONIG: This is great testimony for the prosecution. A couple of reasons, first of all, it's visceral. You can see even just the detail about the Sharpie, right? We all know he uses the Sharpie, but ...

COLLINS: He loves the Sharpie.

HONIG: ... yes, exactly. He loves the Sharpie circles, hurricanes and stuff. But you can remember that, it's a lasting image. The other thing is he has the ability and the resources to say no. He is involved enough that some checks, he says, not signing this, not legitimate, void. Yet he's signing these checks to Michael Cohen. Now, the defense will come back on that. But this puts the defense on its heels. This is a really important point in favor of the prosecution.

COLLINS: Because essentially they're saying that he didn't just do whatever Allen Weisselberg handed over or whatever checks he sent to the White House, which is when he signed these checks to Michael Cohen. And that was the testimony also from the Trump controller - the organization controller who told the story about how Trump tried to fire him when he first started his job. He went in and Trump was on the phone and said, you're fired. And then Trump hung up and said, okay, you're not actually fired, but you need to start paying closer attention to the bottom line here and making me financially whole. And that just because a bill is due doesn't mean you pay that bill in full of what they're asking, that you negotiate it down.

So Trump was even saying - he was paying that close attention to what these numbers were, which I think the prosecution was doing to say Donald Trump paid attention to where his money was going.


PHILLIP: And, of course, I mean, when you're talking about what the Michael Cohen payment really ended up being, which was not just the $30,000, but over and above that by $420,000, by three times, basically. The idea that Donald Trump would then say the same man who says you got to negotiate down my bills before I pay it would then say, oh, I don't care that I'm paying him $420,000, which is way more than he was owed.

That is the part that I think is going to be hard for any reasonable person to believe. That's a common sense thing that I think the prosecution put on the table today with that testimony.

HONIG: You can see the defense, though, coming into focus here. What there are going to argue when they started doing it today on the cross exam is Michael Cohen was essentially embezzling, was essentially ripping off his own company because he sees - okay, he lays out $130,000. He ends up getting paid back $420,000.

Now, is Donald Trump the kind of person who's going to say, this is what the defense will argue, okay, Michael Cohen, you laid out $130,000 for me. Great. Here's $130,000 and zero cents back. Or is Donald Trump the kind of person who's going to knowingly say this is great, Michael. Thank you for doing this. I'm going to pay you back triple. The defense is going to go. They want to say he's a penny pincher. You're darn right, he's a penny pincher. He wouldn't have paid $420,000 unless he was defrauded essentially by Michael Cohen.

One more point. This is the same moment in time when Michael Cohen has now pled guilty to ripping off his own bank and to ripping off the IRS for his personal finances. So they're going to argue he was ripping off everyone in sight at this point. Donald Trump was essentially duped by him.

PHILLIP: That is so - I mean, that's actually not how I would have interpreted that - those same set of facts and I think it's reasonable. But I also think it's reasonable for the prosecution to basically argue the idea that Donald Trump is going to be ripped off by Michael Cohen as if he is just a passive player in all of this. That, too, I think is difficult to believe.

COOPER: Was there something in the transcript about that stood out to you, John, about the way The Trump Organization actually operated?

BERMAN: Yes, chaotically, very chaotically and this came out in the defense. Emil Bove asking the controller, Jeffrey McConney. Question, "Now, I think you said before January 2017 was a period of flux and chaos at The Trump Organization." McConney says, "That's putting it mildly." Bove says, "And that's because President Trump had become president United States, right?" McConney says, "Yes, sir." Bove, "And the way of doing business in the company had to change, right?" McConney, "Drastically."

Bove says, "And there was a period where things were in flux because you were trying to figure out how to do that, right?" McConney says, "Yes, sir." "And for the first time in decades, President Trump's main office was in Washington, D.C., hundreds of miles away." McConney says, "Yes, sir." "So he was not in New York as much as he had been previously to sign personal checks?" McConney says, "I don't remember seeing him in New York at all."

And Anderson, there's one other thing I want to point out that was all over the testimony today. It's a person, it's Allen Weisselberg played a huge role in this testimony today. And this is just one exchange. And we have a corresponding document to show you.

Matthew Colangelo, the prosecutor who was asking the questions (INAUDIBLE) says, "Mr. McConney, I'm now showing you a document that's been marked People's 35. Do you recognize this document?" McConney says, "Yes." Colangelo says, "What is it?" McConney says, "This is the bank statement that Allen gave me to put in the files." Colangelo says, "Is there handwriting on this document?" McConney says, "There are two sets of handwriting at the bottom of the document." "Do you recognize the handwriting?" "I recognize the handwriting on the left side of the page, but not the right side of the page." "Whose handwriting is on the left side of the page?" McConney says, "That belongs to Allen Weisselberg." Colangelo asks, "H0ow do you recognize his handwriting?" McConney says, "I've read his handwriting for about 35 years."

COOPER: But now ... TOOBIN: But that document is so important. That document is the most

important document in the whole case.

AIDALA: But so as this - okay, but so is this question and answer on cross-examination.

TOOBIN: Maybe we should look at the document.

AIDALA: No. But, okay, it's so important, okay. It's so important. It's very - I'm not - I'm not denying it's important. And he talks about - McConney talks about all the things he did to create that business record.

And here's the question, "President Trump did not ask you to do any of these things you described." Answer, "He did not."

COOPER: Jeff, why is that document important?

TOOBIN: Well, can we call it up? I - sorry to put people on, yes, there it is. Allen Weisselberg on the left is doing the calculations of how Cohen got paid, $130,000 plus the $130,000 to cover his taxes and then a $60,000 bonus. This corroborates Cohen's version of how the whole transaction went down. So it's not like Michael Cohen made up this whole thing.

AIDALA: No, but Jeff, as you said earlier in this show ...

TOOBIN: Right.

AIDALA: You said that that's not going to be the issue. The issue is knowledge. The issue is President Trump did not ask you to do anything you described. He did not.


TOOBIN: That document doesn't prove that. I agree with you. But, you know, you don't have to prove the whole case with a single document. That case proves a very significant part of the case --


TOOBIN: -- which is that this was not a legal --


TOOBIN: See, Allen --

AIDALA: No, he's in jail.


AIDALA: He's a writer's eye (ph).

TOOBIN: And, you know, if Donald Trump gets acquitted, the fact that Allen Weisselberg has pleaded guilty, gone to prison, and stayed off the witness stand here is an incredible gift to Donald Trump. I mean, this is the definition of a standup guy. I don't think it's admirable since he's a criminal, but I mean, it is an amazing gift that Allen Weisselberg has given Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Just to reemphasize what Jeffrey Toobin just said, the Trump team didn't want this document to be able to be used as evidence at this trial and speaks to, I think, their level of concern about how the jury will read it.

PHILLIP: I think my question always with this -- with Trump and with his intent is, it's -- it comes down to, does Trump have to say, please falsify these documents in order to pay, you know, Michael Cohen, or is there another way to substantiate the knowledge --

AIDALA: Well, he's got to have knowledge of it.

PHILLIP: Because, I mean, he may not have --

AIDALA: If you don't have evidence to substantiate it? Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen's going to take the stand and say, he told me to do it. And as they said, if I'm the prosecutor, I'm not saying you can't get a conviction with Michael Cohen, but I'm going to say a novena before he takes the stand.

COOPER: Much more ahead, including what Stormy Daniels said just last year about negotiations for getting paid. Journalist Ronan Farrow joins us next. He wrote the bestselling book, "Catch and Kill," about the concept that's central to this case.



COOPER: Breaking news tonight from former President Trump's hush money trial. Prosecutors grilling two Trump Organization employees about the alleged scheme to disguise the payments as legal fees, showing jurors checks, invoices, and ledgers.

Here's Stormy Daniels on "Piers Morgan Uncensored" last year, talking about the discussion she said she had with her attorney, Keith Davidson, about getting paid.


STORMY DANIELS, AMERICAN ACTRESS: And then they approached me with the NDA, and I was like, what do you think I should do? And he goes, well, I think you should come forward and stop him. And I go, but as your friend, at least if you sign this and there's payment, there's a paper trial and they can't hurt you.

And I was like --


DANIELS: -- it made absolute sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Joining us now is journalist Ronan Farrow. He wrote about the hush money scheme center of this trial in the 2019 bestselling book, "Catch and Kill." He explored other alleged hush money payments made on the former president's behalf, including the $150,000 payment from the National Choir's publisher to buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story about an alleged affair with Trump years earlier.

I mean, your reporting showed the kind of a roundabout payments used in this system to prevent a paper trail. I mean, was the Trump team successful in this? I mean, did it work?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: I think today's testimony indicates that up to a point, they were successful. And I think this speaks to the way in which prosecutors have sequenced their case, right?

They started out with the wider narrative that gets at intent. This collusion with AMI, the Karen McDougal case, the doorman case, the idea that there was a serial pattern with a specific intent, a conspiracy to subvert the election. Then they get to the heart of the matter. And that's what we saw today.

And we see this paper trail, and we see the fact that there was indeed, as Jeffrey was speaking to, a set of records that seem manifestly falsified. What is much harder for them to establish at this point in the case is the idea that Donald Trump personally ordered things.

COOPER: The direct order.

FARROW: His direct order, his direct intent. Because by intent, they were keeping his prints off of things. So --

COOPER: If an order was given by Donald Trump, it would have been given to Allen Weisselberg.

FARROW: That's right. So everything was going through middlemen. And I think this underscores why Cohen's testimony is going to be so important, because we heard a lot of from our two witnesses today, well, no, it didn't come from Trump.

And Trump's lawyers, I think, did score Bove asked that directly. And they said, no, it didn't come from him. That does reflect that the scheme to keep Trump distanced from this to an extent work.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, depending what side of the aisle you're sitting on in the courtroom, the idea that it so much relies on Cohen's testimony is, can be kind of terrifying.

FARROW: I think it is terrifying for prosecutors. And, you know, we have a number of people at this desk who have had conversations with people around this case. And what you hear very quickly is they have a thorny matter to navigate with Michael Cohen and his credibility issues, his history of lying. That said, he is going to be a potent witness in this case. They have made strides in getting him to shut up on social media and in other forums. And I think they're going to try their best with him.

COLLINS: And the Trump team is like single handedly focused on Michael Cohen. I mean, notice Todd Blanche, his lead attorney, has not done any of the other cross examination here. It's just been Emil Bove doing it. And, obviously, the prosecution will get Michael Cohen to say what they want him to say when he testifies. Right after that is going to be the cross examination, and they're essentially preparing for it to be blistering.

COOPER: Do you think, I mean, Ronan, given all your reporting, do you think there's any chance that Donald Trump did not know what was behind the checks he was signing?

FARROW: It really beggars belief, given what we heard about the organizational structure today. I think despite the superficial win of Trump's team getting these witnesses to say, no, we didn't get direct orders, what we learned more deeply -- and these jurors are carefully taking notes, they're paying attention -- is that this Byzantine structure in this organization and the particular way they approached these transactions was designed to prevent that direct order from happening.

COOPER: This was not an accident that they had this structure?

FARROW: It was not an accident, and then what we learned about their general practice is that for payments over $10,000, Donald Trump really was in on the decision making. That he was not a passive observer, that this was not such a giant organization that these kinds of things could have happened without him knowing. And the witnesses, despite that weakness I just alluded to, spoke to that over and over again.

TOOBIN: I think Ronan makes a great argument that the prosecution is going to make is, it beggars belief that Donald Trump didn't know. He must have known.


The question is, is that proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Is it --

AIDALA: No, it's more than that, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: You --

AIDALA: It's more --

TOOBIN: Well, OK --

AIDALA: It's more than whether he knew the payment was being made. That's not the crime here. The crime here is, did he know it was going to be recorded in the book --

TOOBIN: Yes, well, it's all part of the same thing. Yes. AIDALA: Right, but it's -- but if they prove beyond a reasonable doubt, Donald Trump knew that the payment was made, they will -- he should be found not guilty.

TOOBIN: It has --

AIDALA: They have to go to the next step that he knew that they were going to falsify the business.

COOPER: But also, Ronan, the fact that he's signing checks in the White House, I mean, it does sort of speak to a level of his in -- of involvement.

FARROW: Absolutely --

COOPER: I mean, he's got a lot of important things you would think that the White House would be doing other than signing these checks.

FARROW: You would think, and it speaks to -- despite the sort of small ball stakes of the actual business accounting matters and this relatively small penalties attached, the actual vast stakes of subverting an election in a way that voters should care about and I think many of these jurors will. That this was a man sitting in the Oval Office involved in these schemes, involved in what looks on its face like dirty accounting.

And that as Hope Hicks spoke to last week, he expressed that he was glad that these stories started to emerge after he got in. That it would have been worse for them if the scheme hadn't transpired in this way.

COOPER: I saw a picture this weekend that Karen McDougal seemed to have been reading your book while taking a bath. Do you think she will be called?

FARROW: You know, they fought hard, they -- the prosecutors -- to get permission to let her testimony in, and they got that permission. I think there was, based on my conversations, an intention to do that at some point.

Now, what we're seeing so far is that they have tackled the AMI part of this story, which would be where Karen was involved early on. So I think it's now somewhat more in doubt.

COOPER: Ronan Farrow, thank you so much.

FARROW: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

More coming up with the panel ahead. More breaking news as well, Israel now conducting what it calls targeted strikes in the eastern Rafah hours after Hamas said they accepted a ceasefire proposal, but not the one Israel say that they helped craft.

A live report from the region as well as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman joins us ahead.



COOPER: More uncertainty tonight in the Middle East, where there has been talk of a ceasefire deal accepted by Hamas, sending some Palestinians to the streets of Gaza to celebrate earlier. Those celebrations turned out to be premature. Israel says the proposed -- the proposal brokered by Egypt and Qatar is far from its, quote, "necessary requirements," end quote, and is promising to press on with its military offensive in Rafah, though, it does still seem willing to negotiate.

Tonight, gunfire was heard in Rafah on the Egyptian side of the border.




COOPER: It's the gunfire on the other side of the border, but heard from the Egyptian side of the border.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live in Jerusalem with the very latest. So what are the parameters of the proposal that Hamas apparently agreed to, and whose proposal was that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the first question we had when we saw this news that Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire proposal was which proposal are they talking about? Because for the last week or so, we've been talking about an Egyptian framework, which the Israeli government helped craft and had effectively tacitly agreed to.

But this latest proposal, which Hamas is apparently agreed to, according to a senior Israeli and a senior American official is not that same Egyptian framework proposal. Instead, it is a new proposal updated from that Egyptian framework, which Hamas worked on with the key mediators involved, but it defers from that original proposal in several key respects.

The most important of which is the fact that it calls for an end to the war in Gaza altogether. And that has really been a red line for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And so, what we're hearing is that the Israeli prime minister's office is saying this proposal does not meet their core demands. And clearly, those celebrations in Gaza that we were seeing sadly have been premature.

The Israeli government says it is sending a working level delegation to meet with the mediators to see if a path forward can be achieved to reach a deal. But as of now, that remains very, very unclear. Anderson?

COOPER: And what are you learning about what's happening in Rafah tonight?

DIAMOND: Well, you saw that video of the gunfire that you can hear from the other side of the Egyptian, the rough up border crossing. And our analyst, Barak Ravid, is reporting tonight that Israeli tanks and troops have begun to move in towards that rough up border crossing.

This incursion comes less than 24 hours after the Israeli government began dropping leaflets, thousands of leaflets, on Eastern Rafah, ordering about 100,000 people to begin to evacuate northwards in Gaza. And less than 24 hours after that, we're hearing that gunfire. We're seeing explosions lighting up the night sky above Rafah.

This says the Israeli war cabinet spoke tonight and decided to move forward with the military pressure, move forward with this operation in Rafah in order, they say, to ramp up the military pressure on Hamas. So not only is this aiming to try and capture key Hamas infrastructure in Rafah, they say, but it's also clearly a negotiating tactic as well. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Jeremy Diamond, thank you. It's already Tuesday, the 7th in Israel. It's actually seven months, the day that Hamas attacked.

Perspective now from someone who knows the region well, New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist Thomas Friedman joins us. He's the author of multiple bestsellers, including from "Beirut to Jerusalem." There's a new forward to the audio book out just now.

So Tom, I mean, if Hamas doesn't back away from its insistence on a permanent ceasefire, do you believe any agreement is possible?

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's very clear what Prime Minister Netanyahu wants. He wants a ceasefire and a hostage return, but not a permanent ceasefire, so he can complete the war, in his view, and achieve total victory.


Hamas wants a prisoner exchange, hostage return, any permanency swap fire. So a mosque can -- a leader, Yahya Sinwar, can walk out of his tunnels and say he stood up against the Israelis for seven months plus, and that he won.

And I don't know how they're going to basically split the difference on that one because, you know, Netanyahu needs to be able to finish the war from his point of view. And a scene where it needs the war to be finished.

COOPER: Is finishing the war as the Israel sees it, and is that -- do you think that's even feasible? I mean, Sinwar has obviously seems to have done a fine job of hiding thus far.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. You know, I don't see how Netanyahu wins since he's never defined winning other than this elusive concept of total victory. That is, you know, Anderson, wars are fought for political ends. And the political end here from Israel's point of view would be obvious. It goes in, it dismantles, defeats Hamas, then it leaves and turns over the Gaza Strip to some governing authority other than Israel. So Israel isn't occupying the West Bank and Gaza at the same time. But because Netanyahu has refused to partner with the most logical governing authority, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, or any other governing authority, it's never been clear what victory actually means.

Wars are fought for political ends and Netanyahu has never defined the political end of any military victory that he wants out of this war. So he can't win.

COOPER: He also obviously wants to stay in power. There's a lot of belief that as soon as the war is done that there will be a reckoning for him, or at least some sort of judgment on the failures of -- that occurred on October 7th. He's also got this, you know, this coalition of right-wing groups who he needs in order to stay in power.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I mean, there's no question that his ultimate goal is to stay in power so he has the basis to plea bargain in the corruption trials that he's now in the middle of. So that for him means keeping the war going, but at the same time, he faces enormous pressure at home from the Israeli public at large, and particularly hostage families that want a resolution of the war.

So he's in a very difficult situation. But given the fact that, again, it all goes back to the fact, you know, Anderson, that when he started this war, he needed three things, Netanyahu. He needed time He needed resources and needed legitimacy to gather time and resources to feed Hamas.

There was only one way to get the time, the resources, and legitimacy, and that was to have a Palestinian partner. Logical one would be the Palestinian Authority which definitely needs to be reformed, transformed, overhauled with new leadership.

But if he had that partner, he would have bought time with the world, with the Arab world, and have a basically someone to turn Gaza over with because he refused to have that partner because having that partner, he would have lost his crazy right-wing fringe of the coalition that keeps him in power. He's basically stuck and he's left Israel stuck because he's basically put his own political survival ahead of what would take -- what we required for Israel to thrive here.

COOPER: The U.S. has, you know, in the past encouraged at the very least a limited -- more limited operation in Rafah, more targeted strikes against Hamas and obviously trying to take far more -- pay more attention to civilian casualties. What will be the fallout if Israel does proceed with a full ground incursion into Rafah?

FRIEDMAN: I'll be very surprised, Anderson, if they do that. I think they've heard President Biden loud and clear. Administration officials have made clear to me that they would engage in some kind of arms embargo if Israel did engage in a full-fledged attempt to take over Rafah without, you know, evacuating people. I think what Netanyahu is trying to do here is basically close off or enter into that area between Rafah and the Egyptian border, which is one of the main smuggling routes that Hamas is used. Just tons and tons of material have come in from Egypt smuggled under that Rafah border into Rafah.

And there's been -- it's really been a huge problem for Israel and a huge asset for Hamas. So as a way to put pressure on them, I'm guessing what's going on here is is Israel's trying to put herself in a position to really cut off that border or put enormous pressure on it. I think that's what's going on.

COOPER: Tom Friedman, thanks so much.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: We're keeping a close eye on the Middle East. There's much more to come on week four of Donald Trump's hush money trial. The former president held in criminal contempt of court again. The judge warns it could mean jail time next. The latest ahead.



COOPER: Coming up on 9:00 p.m. here in New York, we're continuing to monitor developments out of the Middle East where we're learning more about the ceasefire proposal that Hamas accepted and Israel rejected today. And Israeli strikes on southern Gaza are raising new questions about whether these limited operations will grow into a full-fledged invasion of Rafah, which the Biden administration has been warning against for weeks.

We begin the hour right now, day 12, in the Trump hush money trial.