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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Defense Grills Cohen On Earlier Colorful Insults Of Trump; Full Transcript Released Of Day Two Of Michael Cohen's Testimony; Michael Cohen Faces Intense Cross-Examination; Cohen Agrees He Started His "Redemption Tour" While In Home Confinement; GOP Allies, Including Speaker Johnson, Defend Trump At Courthouse. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 20:00   ET



BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: After, there's going to be a high- level meeting in person at the White House between teams from the U.S. and Israel exactly about the operation in Rafah. And I suspect that this understanding to, let's say, put on hold the further expansion of the operation in Rafah will continue until after that meeting.

So, I think the Biden administration managed to buy another, let's say, a week or two weeks ...


RAVID: ... before Israel goes to the next step of its operation in Rafah.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Barak, thank you very much for sharing your reporting and analysis.

RAVID: Thank you.

BURNETT: I appreciate it. And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. AC360 starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us. We were expecting fireworks in the first day of cross-examination of Michael Cohen, the one-time fixer for the former president, turned witness in his criminal hush money trial and we got it. No sooner had the defense begun after morning of the prosecution front-ending all possible attacks on Cohen's character than defense attorney Todd Blanche repeated a colorful, shall we say, insult that Cohen had used to describe Blanche online. That prompted a sidebar with the judge who asked Blanche why are you making this about yourself. The attorney said that he wasn't, that he had a, quote, "right to show the witness' bias." The judge sustained the objection.

The trial got back underway, but it long - wasn't long before Blanche returned to Cohen's propensity to mouth off on social media. Blanche asked Cohen, quote, "'And on that same TikTok, so again on April 23rd, you referred to President Trump when he left the courtroom, you said that he goes right into that little cage, which is where he belongs in a,' and I'm going to clean up the language here, 'effing cage, like an animal.'" Do you recall saying that?" Blanche asked. Cohen responded, quote, "I recall saying that."

That sort of set the tone for the rest of the hearing when the former president's attorney, a former federal prosecutor, tried to undermine Cohen's credibility as well as his recall of conversations with the former president. It wasn't the only drama either. Allies of the former president, including House Speaker Mike Johnson and several others who appeared to be in town for a VP audition, showed their numbers. And for the second day in a row said what a former president under gag order cannot.

Joining us tonight, a former U.S. attorney, Michael Moore, former federal prosecutors; Jeffrey Toobin and Temidayo Aganga-Williams. Also CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins who was in the courtroom this morning; former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig; and correspondent Kara Scannell, who was also in the courtroom.

Kara, what was your impression inside?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The cross seemed to be the last thing that we all heard, so it kind of sticks in our memory. But this morning, what the prosecution also did was use Cohen to wrap up their case, going over month by month, all of the elements of the crime, the alleged crime, the invoices that Cohen said were falsified, the check stuff that he said, the descriptions were falsified. And then the checks signed by - majority of them signed by Donald Trump that he said was all false, all because of the retainer.

Then the prosecution tried to get ahead of all of Cohen's past legal run ins and everything. But then the cross, I mean, that was - we were expecting some fireworks here. What stood out to me was Cohen remained composed the whole time, even as he was parsing words with Todd Blanche over whether he had lied to the special counsel during the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation or whether he had given an inaccurate statement. They were going back and forth.

Cohen even killed the whole time and then relenting and telling Blanche, okay, I lied. But he didn't he didn't break his cool and he didn't give in on some of these other things. But the real theme of the day was Blanche trying to establish by throwing Cohen's words back at him from his podcast, from his book, that he hates Trump and that he's on a revenge tour and he's trying to make money doing it. Cohen acknowledging made $4.3 million on the sale of two of his books.

COOPER: Which is actually quite a lot for the sale of 2,000 books. And Kaitlan, what was it like in court?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Not surprising, though. I mean, he is - he was Donald Trump's former attorney who took guilty pleas and went to jail. I mean, I think there was a lot for him to write about that people were interested in.

COOPER: And a lot of time to write.

COLLINS: And a lot of time to write and reflect, as he talked about and testified today. I do think the prosecution's arguments this morning with Michael Cohen were really interesting for the reasons that Kara just laid out, but also because there were a few moments where everyone realized it was a big moment from his testimony where Michael Cohen said the reason he paid Stormy Daniels that money was to ensure that the story wouldn't come out to hurt Donald Trump's chances of winning the election.

And if there had been no election, he said he never would have paid Stormy Daniels most likely. There were those few moments that kind of - as we were hearing about the documents and about comments he made about Trump, it kind of crystallized why Michael Cohen was there.

What really surprised me is when the cross started this afternoon, Donald Trump had this demeanor of where he was kind of just closing his eyes again for sustained periods of time. He wasn't always watching the witness stand. I believe only once or twice was he seen kind of looking over because he has to lean over to actually see the witness.

And that's not the way anyone expected him to be engaged, I think, especially as it was his attorney's time to grill Michael Cohen. He - when Stormy Daniels was getting cross examined, he was paying quite close attention. It was not the same way today, which stood out to me, given, of course, his hatred for Michael Cohen is much higher even than Stormy Daniels.


COOPER: Elie, how do you think Todd Blanche did? I mean, he is actually not an experienced trial attorney, correct?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's experienced trial attorney on the prosecution side, but defending is very different. And by the way, prosecutors are not very experienced at cross examination. I'm just going to say candidly, I thought the cross examination was unfocused and underwhelming.

I followed minute by minute as we were doing our live coverage. I just reread the whole thing. There were moments, I think, where he breaks through and scores points. But by and large, he was jumping from topic to topic. He missed some obvious moments.

I'll give you an example. The first question, which you talked about in the warm up there, Anderson, was wildly inappropriate and I think miscast the stakes. Blanche came right out and he said, we've never met, you and me, Michael Cohen, right? And Michael Cohen said no. And he said, yet you called me a crying little shit on TikTok.

Immediate objection, sustained. It's not relevant what Michael Cohen thinks of the lawyer. It's very relevant what Michael Cohen thinks of the defendant, which he got to later. But if you're Todd Blanche, you don't want to make it about Michael Cohen versus the defense lawyer. You want it to be Michael Cohen versus the truth.

So I'm not impressed by what I've seen from the cross so far. He has a day to figure it out. He said he's going to take all day Thursday, but I think he needs a change in course here.

COOPER: What do you guys say?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with you. I do think some of what he did was pure tactics. I mean, I think this moving around and not having this timeline cross examination is a good thing because, you know that Cohen, like any other prosecution witness, has been prepped ad nauseam to tell their story. So you want to get them if you're cross-examining, you want to make them tell the story on your terms and not to follow the script that they've been in, so I kind of see that.

I really took away that the jury's probably seeing and thinking right now that Cohen is a grifter and a waffler. He clearly is making money off this. He clearly somebody who's got his hand in the till to try to sell his books. And as long as he can keep hating Trump and things go south for Trump, then he can make money.

COOPER: Question is does the - do they look at the president - former president that way? I mean, (INAUDIBLE) ...

MOORE: I don't know yet. I mean, honestly, because - then Cohen didn't help himself. He's kind of critical here because he's the only thing the state has to make this connection to make this case a felony and that - to move it from a misdemeanor business records case to say we were doing it because we were trying to, basically, break the federal law, the campaign finance law.

And so he's got to do that and right now he's been so hedgy and cagey during his cross and not want to answer questions, juries pick up on that. I mean, they will pick up if he answers the questions completely and gives this very vivid memory to a prosecutor and then to the defense attorney. He suddenly doesn't remember what he did yesterday or is not so sure about it. They pick up on that.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think that's true at all about the felony issue. I think Hope Hicks, who was obviously favorably disposed towards Trump, also talks about how they had to keep Stormy Daniels quiet because of the election.

I think it was, as Elie said, a kind of stumbling start in terms of the theatrics. But he certainly did establish that Trump - that Cohen really can't stand Trump, and he hates him, and he's bitter and he's on a revenge ...

COOPER: Not hard to establish.

TOOBIN: Not hard to establish.

What I'm waiting for is an explanation for the evidence other than the prosecution's evidence. (INAUDIBLE) version. Look, Trump - Cohen paid one hundred-thirty thousand dollars to Stormy Daniels. Trump paid him $420,000. The prosecution has a clear explanation for why these transactions took place. And if they believe that, he's going to be convicted. The one thing we didn't get at all today and there's a long time to go

is, well, okay, if that's not the explanation for why this money changed hands, what is it? And Blanche didn't do any of that today and we'll see if he ever can come up with it.

COOPER: Do you believe - do they have to provide that or is just a reasonable doubt enough to poke holes in what the explanation is by the prosecution?

TOOBIN: Well, you need - I mean, yes, reasonable doubt is enough, but doubt, you know, as prosecutors like to say, doubts have to be based on reason. I mean, there has to be a reason that these transactions took place other than the prosecution's explanation and I haven't heard it yet.

COOPER: Temidayo, what do you ...

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, I think if I'm the prosecutors, I'm feeling pretty good right now. I think they're on their way to conviction. And I think, the entire burden always, always rests on the prosecution, but jurors are everyday rational people. And at some point they start to need a counter narrative. You have to give them something to hold on to.

You simply can't say that this guy lacks credibility. I think what was effective here is because throughout this trial we've heard so much, frankly, about what a scummy guy Michael Cohen is. Multiple witnesses, including Hope Hicks, have said the problems about Michael Cohen.

And by the time we get to Michael Cohen, there's a way in which I think he was a little bit of under-promising and over-performing. And when he gets up there and he comes off from what I've read with a calm demeanor, right? He's not fighting. He's not over the top. He's really coming and he's honest.

And what's effective, I think, is that on direct, a lot of the most damaging things that Michael Cohen come out through the prosecution and that's on purpose.


Because by the time you get to the defense, you're trying to go over some of these old threads. But it's not for the first time you're hearing that he has issues with Donald Trump or that he's lied before or that he's a criminal. He said all these things before and owed none to them. So I think it loses some of the oomph that when - the defense lawyers come up.

COOPER: Let me ...

COLLINS: Let's say the thing is you have to - Michael Cohen needs to be flustered. That is what Trump's team is trying to do. It didn't seem like they were very successful at that today. There were a few points where he said, well, that's not a lie. It's an inaccuracy. And Todd Blanche said, okay, what's the difference? And then he said, okay, it's a lie. And so he did - was caught off guard a few moments on those parts. But

when the prosecution was up and they were asking Michael Cohen about what it was like for the FBI to come and to raid his hotel that he was staying in because his house was under renovation, his home, his office and what that was like. He was describing that he was frightened, despondent, angry. His life had been turned upside down.

And he talked about this call that he got from Trump a few days later. And we had heard at the time Trump called him maybe four or so days after the raid - called him back, really. And he said that Trump told him, don't worry, I'm the president of the United States. There's nothing here. Everything's going to be okay. Stay tough. You're going to be okay.

And then they went into this pressure campaign to keep an attorney who was aligned with Donald Trump to not flip and cooperate with prosecutors. My question was how the jury takes something like that, where they kind of did this compelling story of what Michael Cohen was facing.

COOPER: Let me just ask you, as somebody who knows Michael Cohen from - I mean, I don't know how much you actually know him, but from television and probably interviewing him, was he likable on the stand? I mean, was he the Michael Cohen who is the guy in the TikTok videos who ...


COOPER: ... seems to like hear - to hear himself talk and he was not that person.

COLLINS: As you know, I spent five hours this weekend watching Michael Cohen's ...


COLLINS: ... testimony from Capitol Hill. And it actually is really informative for how he was on the stand I thought. I think if you want to get an idea of what Michael Cohen is like on the stand and Kara was there for the cross so she can answer that better today. Then that's a really good way, because - and Lanny Davis, his attorney says, we testify - we tried the night before. Michael Cohen blew a gasket when they were kind of impersonating what Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows would do. And Lanny Davis said, great, if you do that, Republicans will be high fiving you tomorrow.

It was a similar method today where he was really trying to be calm. He was saying, yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. He was looking at the jury. I mean, he was really trying to not be the boisterous Michael Cohen that you see on TikTok or on television.

SCANNELL: I mean, extremely controlled, especially for anyone who's dealt with Michael Cohen or seen him in interviews. He can be so bombastic and he is so reactive to what someone says and almost always wants to have the last word. And in this, he is - it's just tremendous control on his part of answering the questions even when Todd Blanche is going toe to toe with him parsing things, he is not raising his voice. He is answering the specific question.

And at times he tried to add a little bit more to it. And so Blanche would punch back and say, that's not what I asked you. But he didn't take the bait and he didn't react in the way that I think a lot of us have seen Michael Cohen react.

COLLINS: Yes. Not taking the bait is notable for Michael Cohen.



COOPER: Temidayo, were you surprised that the prosecution is not calling everybody else that they're resting on Michael Cohen? Because there was a lot of talk beforehand of is he really the best person to leave them with from the prosecution standpoint? It must be a sign the prosecutors feel like he did a good job.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Well, I think what it shows you is that the Michael Cohen we saw today was part of the plan and he's showing up the way they expected him to show up. When I was a prosecutor and handling trials, you want to put weak witnesses kind of in the middle, right? It's not - it's - you don't want to end on someone that you think is going to get up there, get battered and really end on a weak note, because that's not what you want, either the defense to go into closing arguments with or you want the jury to be thinking of the last bit of your case.

The fact that they're ending with him, to me, says, one, they feel confident they've made their case. And I think, two, that they have belief that he's been a strong witness for them. I think they planned this. I mean, prosecutors are not going to - that's not a last minute decision that ...

COOPER: Right.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: ... you know what? We'll just stop with him. At that point, they've thought about the elements, they thought about their case. And I think it bears out because by the time we get to Michael Cohen, a lot of the critical elements of this case from David Pecker and Hope Hicks, like Jeffrey was saying, have already been established.

So Michael Cohen, I think, is really crossing the Ts. But he was not a witness that you thought before he got on that this case was bare bones and he had to build the entire thing up. He's here to really close it up.

TOOBIN: And I think Kara's point about how they ended the direct examination with putting in the checks and the documents, it's important to remember for all the drama, this is a case about false business records. They put the records in front of the jury at the end of their case and I think that was very much intentional.


TOOBIN: And if there's a conviction, they will have made the right decision.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, thanks for being with us. Everyone else is going to stick around.


The full transcript of today's testimony has just been released, including more of Cohen's colorful descriptions of the former president on social media and on his podcast and just why the defense wanted those words in the record.

Plus, what the jury may make out of these attacks on Michael Cohen's character. A jury consultant joins us ahead.



COOPER: So this time now, we've just gotten the full transcripts of the contentious testimony between Michael Cohen and the former president's defense attorneys. They have come out. We should point out that opposing counsel in the hush money trial got a preview of Michael Cohen as a witness back in October when he testified in the former president's civil fraud trial, including how he would handle the credibility issue. This is what he said ahead of that testimony.


MICHAEL COHEN, FMR. PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: My credibility should not be in question. Yes, I pled guilty to a 1001 violation, which was lying to Congress. But I have also requested that people continue the sentence. And the sentence is I did it at the direction of in concert with and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump.


COOPER: Joining us now with those transcripts is our very own John Berman. So they - defense was painting Michael Cohen as a man who hates Trump and bents on revenge. What are some of the highlights or the lowlights?


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in this case, I suppose there should be a warning here about language because it crosses over from PG-13 into rated R here. You spoke a little bit about how Todd Blanche right out of the gate said crying little S. Elie said the word here.

About five minutes later, he dipped in even more to some greatest hits from Michael Cohen. He's talking about Cohen's TikTok. "You also talked on social media during this trial about President Trump, have you not?" Michael Cohen says, "Sounds correct, yes." Blanche says, "So, for example, on April 23rd, which is after the trial started, correct?" Cohen says, "Yes." You referred to President Trump as dictator D bag, didn't you?" Cohen says, "Sounds like something I said," which, by the way, is one of the answers he gives very commonly or sounds like something I said.

Blanche says, "And on that same TikTok, so, again, on April 23rd, you referred to President Trump when he left the courtroom. You said, 'he goes right into that little cage, which is where he belongs, in a effing little cage, like an animal.' Do you recall saying that?" Cohen says, "I recall saying that."

And then a few minutes later in the trial, Blanche starts talking about his podcast, Cohen's podcast. Blanche says, "You were called the first one in 2020 as a Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain?" Something he called Trump. Cohen says, "That also sounds like something I said." Again, his common response.

Now, Blanche says, "Now, do you recall around that same time, October 2020, you started talking about your hope that Trump would be convicted of a crime, correct?" Cohen says, "I don't know if those are the exact words that I said, but the sentiment is correct." "You think you might have said, 'I truly effing hope that this man ends up in prison,' is that exact?" Cohen says, "It sounds like my language on Mea Culpa."

HONIG: The fact that Michael Cohen's so obviously and over the top is consumed by hatred for Donald Trump and wants him in prison and celebrating and is selling T-shirts is outrageous. We sort of take it for granted because this has just been Michael Cohen's public persona for the last five, six years. But this should be a bonanza for cross- examination with three federal - former federal prosecutors here. What would you do if you found out the eve of a big trial that your star witness was selling t-shirts showing the defendant in prison? You'd have to think hard about dismissing the case. That is a major flaw in the defense ...

TOOBIN: Especially if he's Cheeto-dusted.

HONIG: Yes. I mean ...

TOOBIN: That would be worst.

HONIG: No, I mean, you're right. Look, the - Michael Cohen has a sort of way with words that can get funny. But laughing about a defendant going to jail is I think it's offensive to the jury. That's not for Michael Cohen to say and fantasize about.

TOOBIN: No, that's the worst part of all the things that Cohen has said. It's one thing to say he's terrible. I don't like him, use all sorts of swear words. But if you are talking about the results of this case ...

HONIG: Exactly.

TOOBIN: I mean, that's what this case is about, whether Donald Trump is eligible to go to prison or not and you have Cohen campaigning for that. That's a very negative, negative side of that.

HONIG: Blanche spent the ...

TOOBIN: And Blanche - and ...

HONIG: He should have spent the first hour on that.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, he - I don't think the jury is going to forget it. He spent some time on it.

MOORE: Yes. I mean, I don't - I think we also have to remember these jurors are not like we are, right? I mean, they may not be watching everything prior testimony and stuff that Cohen has said. And so our expectation is about how he would perform and what he would do might be a little different than what their expectations are.

But he's - he is the crucial witness. I mean, I disagree with you about the - have they proven the case? Because when I went back to look at the indictment today, basically they've got to show that he intended to commit another crime, not that he tried to help his campaign. They've got to show that he actually had the intent to commit another crime. And I don't think they've gotten there yet. And that's why - that's - they hoped they've gotten there with Cohen, but that's - he's got to be the one.

And so without that, that's why they're trying to ding his credibility up on - time after time and whether it's through the comments that he makes on social media with - how he acts on the stand, the wishy washiness of his answers, I mean, that's what they're after.

So, look, you can't believe him. But don't forget, he ran a tape on his client and didn't tell anybody.

COOPER: Temidayo, you believe that they have proof (INAUDIBLE) ...

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Yes, I think they have. And I think, when you're dealing with a cooperator, what you have to think about is corroboration. Federal prosecutors, all kind of prosecutors every day, they put up murderers, for example, and they're cooperators. They put up all kind of people who do - who've done awful, terrible things, much worse than selling t-shirts and wishing that someone goes down.

They've tried to kill people. They've killed sometimes the victims in that very case and juries believe them. Because if you're going to challenge the credibility, you have to place it against a corroboration, I think that's where the counter narrative of explaining why is Donald Trump signing these $35,000 checks again and again and again. They're obviously not for legal fees. I don't think that's a reasonable explanation.

So I think the Cohen question is going to come down to the corroboration, when the jury goes back and they think about all of these witnesses. They think about these documents. They think about what is a reasonable conclusion here, because it's beyond a reasonable doubt, not beyond all doubt. And I think that's where the real challenge for the former president here.

COLLINS: Well ...

MOORE: But you don't ... COLLINS: Go ahead.

MOORE: You don't make an axe murderer, your cooperator, to prove a jaywalking case and that's sort of where we're at.


I mean, they've taken somebody and that - he's got all this baggage and all this stuff and he can't keep his mouth shut even during the trial and they're putting him forward to prove basically a documents case and I think that may hang with you. I agree with you. You've got somebody and you're prosecuting El Chapo and you want to bring in the - somebody that's cut off heads and sold drugs and carries guns and all that as your cooperator, because that's the one closest to the organization, you may have to do it, or the Hells Angels or whatever it is.

But here, you're using a guy that is so compromised, I think. And they had to spend their whole case trying to prehabilitate him, to clean him up. I just think he's ...

COOPER: He's also a guy who, the former president chose to have ...


COOPER: ... by his side for twenty something years.

MOORE: I mean, that's the - but that's ...

COLLINS: I mean, that's the whole - that's actually - I mean, that's the point. When it comes to the optics of how the jury sees this and how they are taking in Michael Cohen, maybe they don't know everything.

But I mean, for everything that Michael Cohen has said about Donald Trump, Donald Trump has said about Michael Cohen. They've shown those tweets to the jury as well, where Donald Trump criticized Michael Cohen for doing what Paul Manafort did not. The fact that Paul Manafort went to jail and saying that he would not flip and talking about how Michael Cohen did and saying no one should retain the legal services of Michael Cohen.

Well, Donald Trump did retain the legal services of Michael Cohen for 10 years. And we're talking about payments that he made to Michael Cohen at the heart of this. I also think the other thing that Todd Blanche got into, and I'm sure he'll get more into it, speaking of how much he made off of his books and after the post presidency or not being in the White House, it's not clear how the jury will take that. It's not like Trump is a normal defendant.

While we've talked about Trump's wealth and how it's overstated, he is still a really wealthy person. And so it's not clear that this jury of regular people is seeing Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels making money as this great sin, counting against them, given Donald Trump's wealth.

COOPER: John, what more did Cohen say on the stand about Trump's involvement with the payments?

BERMAN: He said it was pretty direct. And this was in the direct examination in the morning where Susan Hoffinger continued what she did yesterday. We have an exchange here about the payments of Stormy Daniels, which was ground they covered yesterday. Hoffinger says, "Why, in fact, did you pay that money to Stormy Daniels?" Cohen says, "To ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump's chances of becoming president of the United States." Hoffinger: "If not for the campaign, Mr. Cohen, would you have paid that money to Stormy Daniels?" Cohen says, "No, ma'am." Todd Blanche issues an objection. The judge overrules it, says, "You can answer." Cohen says, "No, ma'am." Then Hoffinger asked, "At whose direction and on whose behalf did you commit that crime?" And then Cohen says, "On behalf of Mr. Trump."

I do wonder if that gets to the point you were bringing up, Michael. We'll talk about that in a second. I just want to very quickly say, they also got in the direct examination into the Oval Office visit, which is something Kaitlan's been talking about for some time, where Cohen says, "I was sitting with President Trump and he asked me if I was okay in the Oval Office. He asked me if I needed the money. I said, no, all good. He said, because I can get a check. And I said, no. I said, I'm okay. He said, ummm, all right, just make sure you deal with Allen," as in Allen Weisselberg. And Hoffinger asked, "Did he say anything about what would be forthcoming to you?" Cohen says, "Yes. It would be a check for January and February." And then at that point in time, you had not yet been reimbursed for the payments you had made to Stormy Daniels. Cohen says, "No, ma'am."

HONIG: This is a perfect example of what Temidayo and Michael were just talking about. That meeting, the fact that that meeting occurred is corroborated 5,000 different ways. There's emails, there's texts, there's testimony from Madeleine, who is the secretary outside the Oval Office.

No question that meeting happened, no question when it happened. But as to what exactly was said, that's really just Michael Cohen's word. And so he is corroborated, but he's not all the way corroborated. The jury - they can't get around the fact that the jury has to put some faith in Michael Cohen's word.

TOOBIN: Especially about the purpose of the payments. I mean, and that's ...


TOOBIN: ... and that's a very important part of this case, is that did this money - was it a reimbursement? I think there's a lot of proof about that. But also the records, the business records that are allegedly false, they have to trust Cohen, that Cohen - that Trump knew the records were false. That's really on Cohen, and that's a big part of the case.

COOPER: Yeah. John Berman, thanks very much. Kaitlan - Elie you just question how the jury will take all this. Coming up, a jury consultant gives his take on Michael Cohen's cross-examination today. We'll be right back.



ANDERSON COOPER: I want to discuss more about what the jury saw today. They heard since the beginning of this trial about the negative side of Michael Cohen, the liar, the bully, the jerk, according to one witness. How did the jury react to his cross examination? My next guest says Cohen might have even come across as likable and delivered one line the jury will remember forever by saying, quote, "I was knee deep into the cult of Donald Trump."

Joining us now is Renato Stabile, a jury and trial consultant and attorney as well. How do you think Cohen did today?

RENATO STABILE, JURY CONSULTANT: I give him an A as a witness, given the baggage that he's coming onto the witness stand with. If you just took that baggage and you gave it to any witness and said, OK, go testify. He did as well as he's going to do.

I don't give him an A as a person, I mean, I don't think anybody wishes that he did all of those things or said all those things, but having done that, and now taking the witness stand, he did great. He didn't fight, he took the punches he needed to punch, and I think he came off credible.

COOPER: Do you think the defense in their cross-examination, I mean, the way Todd Blanche started it out, do you think it played well with the jury?

STABILE: You know, I don't know that I would have started making it about me and now we saw what the judge said at the sidebar. But, you know, it's very hard to sit here and grade another lawyer's paper when you're not in his position. I thought he did a reasonably good job. He made the points he needed to make.

But Michael Cohen was absolutely excellent. He was very well prepped. I love the line that it sounds like something I would say, because it really takes the wind out of the cross-examination. He's not arguing with him. He's not saying, well, I don't remember. That makes the lawyer, you know, put it in front of him.

Then he says, oh, I do remember. The jury gets annoyed with that. He handled that perfectly. That line, for sure, was scripted by his lawyer. He didn't come up with that, but it was the perfect line.


COOPER: That's a -- what's interesting about that line is, it sounds like something he might say, and it sounds like such a throwaway, casual thing, but the idea that it's been scripted out ahead of time.

STABILE: They worked on that line. They worked on that line.

COLLINS: Yes, because it's like no responsibility. COOPER: Right, yes.

COLLINS: But it's like, well, it sounds like something I would say.

COOPER: Right.

STABILE: It was the perfect line.

COOPER: Yes, and it also blunts, no matter how hard somebody comes at you with that, it sort of just absorbs it and blunts it.

STABILE: That's why it's perfect.

COLLINS: But you know, at that moment at the beginning, when Todd Blanche did ask those questions, they were stricken from the record, the questions and the answers. But, I mean, the jury still hears that. So like, it's still -- maybe it's not on the record, but like, it's still in their mind that that happened.

STABILE: Yes, of course. Anything that gets said in court, even if it gets stricken, even if the judge instructs the jury, you know, disregard that. Of course, if I tell you not to think about pink elephants, that's the only thing that you can think about.

So --

HONIG: The problem, though, for Blanche is, the first two questions he asked were both objection sustained. There was the question about, what did you say these mean things about me? And then he started asking Michael Cohen about comments Michael Cohen had made publicly about the jury. Objection sustained.

Your credibility as a lawyer matters so much in front of the jury. And if the first thing the jury see --

COLLINS: The jury can't hear the sidebar.

HONIG: No, but they see the result. They know the result is objection sustained. You don't want to go 0 for 2 right off the bat in front of the jury.

TOOBIN: What about the point that Elie and I were just discussing about, it's one thing to hate Donald Trump. It's another thing to be campaigning for a conviction and a jail sentence when you are testifying in the trial that might lead to a conviction and jail sentence.

I mean, isn't that a level of bias that is bigger than even, you know, like worse than you can imagine? I mean --

STABILE: A 100 percent.


STABILE: Terrible judgment. Terribly out of control. But given that you did those things, he handled it as well as he could have handled it. But you're absolutely right. I mean, what a disaster to be doing things like that. And how out of control is he that his lawyers can't control him. The prosecutor -- nobody can control this guy, but he did well in the witness stand.

TOOBIN: But how does he get an A in that case? I mean, because doesn't that just call into question everything he says?

COLLINS: Maybe not a curve.

STABILE: It does. But the way he answered questions, the way he presented himself, the way he maintained his cool and his calm, the way he didn't fight, the way he didn't try and deflect, that was all absolutely spot on.

HONIG: Have you ever seen a witness with that much and that obvious a personal animus towards the defendant?

STABILE: I mean, look, the one thing you don't have in this case is that he doesn't have a cooperation agreement.


STABILE: So, as you know, somebody with a cooperation agreement arguably has equal, if not more bias, if they're trying to get out of jail. He's not playing any kind of get out of jail free card which when you're crossing a cooperative, that's where you hammer them. You don't want to go to jail.

You're -- you will say anything to avoid jail time. They don't have that (INAUDIBLE).

HONIG: But Blanche did hit on that because he said the first time you approached the Manhattan D.A., you were three months into your sentence. You had three years. And so he did make the argument that you were trying to maybe work your way out a little bit early.

But you're right. I mean, ordinarily, you have someone who's looking at a monster sentence and the cross-examination is, your only way out is through this witness stand and through pleasing these guys, the prosecutors. That dynamic is only very subtly present with Michael Cohen. But on the flip side, you have a guy who I would argue has a greater incentive, which he -- his entire identity.

He is consumed by hatred for the defendant. I've never seen that type of personal hatred and personal lusting for the person to go to jail like I've seen in this case.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: But the one thing I will say, though, comparing, I think, you know, look at Michael Cohen as a person. We're thinking about other cooperators and other witnesses. So this jury, they're thinking about our human story.

And I do wonder, is there a space here where they're seeing the times where they have been loyal to someone and they've been back stabbed? And seeing Michael Cohen as someone who perhaps he has this vitriol inside of him, but he has a reason for that. And I do wonder, is there connection to be made there --

COOPER: That's interesting.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: -- because that did get drawn out, right. He stood by the former president, the former president, and he's now the one who has paid the consequences. So, yes, it's not good for our jury system, it's not good for system of justice, but it is a human story that I think some people will connect with.

STABILE: I agree. He made himself very relatable in that way that he was so loyal to Donald Trump and he was so hurt and, you know, he's now trying to right wrongs that he did. I thought the line cult of Donald Trump was tremendous. That line will be, you know, remembered like forever. It's one of the greatest lines.

But he did really hurt the defense here in other ways. I mean, he said he did 10 hours of work in 2017. Now remember, the defense opened that these were legit legal fees. I think we've seen a mountain of evidence that they weren't. How are they getting out of that?

You promised things to a jury. They promised it multiple times in their opening. They are going to be eating that on summation unless they call some witness to try and justify these $35,000 a month payments.

HONIG: We're going to answer that though. He did say they did get him to say, well, I did work for the family and the guy, I thought there was actually a decent bit of testimony that Todd Blanche elicited. He said Michael Cohen was paid $350,000 a year. Basically every year leading up to 2017 plus a bonus.

So the argument is it wouldn't have been that outrageous or that notable to now suddenly be paying him 35,000 bucks a month, which comes out to 420 per year, so --


COLLINS: But the question is, if what -- if that's what sticks in their mind, that testimony that Blanche elicited or where there was an hour this morning where the prosecution walked Michael Cohen. We saw every single check --


COLLINS: -- of the 11 checks that Donald Trump signed for him. Michael Cohen had to read the invoice that he sent to Allen Weisselberg. He showed the check that Donald Trump signed, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump as well. And every time Michael Cohen said, that was a false invoice, it was for no legal services.

TOOBIN: And they have that document in Weisselberg's handwriting which explains how they came to the $35,000 a month, which, you know, again, the prosecution's evidence fits together. And what I'm waiting for in the defense is how they're going to attack it in a way other than, you know, Stormy Daniels is terrible, Michael Cohen is terrible.

No, what is the alternative explanation for these facts other than what the prosecution has put forth?

COOPER: Well, also, I mean, what's interesting is you have Michael Cohen -- you know, tomorrow there's no court, so the jurors have Michael Cohen in their minds going into a day and they don't have testimony. And then there's going to be testimony on Thursday. Michael Cohen will be on the stand.

And then Friday, there's no court. So, I mean, Michael Cohen is going to be very present in this juror's mind tomorrow and all through the weekend.

STABILE: Yes. So strategically, what the defense wants to do is kind of run out the clock on Thursday. They want to keep Michael Cohen on the witness stand. You might see Todd Blanche slow rolling it just to get there.

COOPER: For that reason, because they want --

STABILE: Because then there's going to be some distance. Then there's going to be a three-day weekend because there's no court on Friday. Michael Cohen fades a little bit. And then I don't know what the defense case is going to be. They say they're going to put on an expert witness.

I don't know expert as to what? I mean, they've created a situation where they're disputing that these were reimbursements. They're saying they were legit legal fees. That is the factual battleground that the defense has established. So I don't know what kind of expert do they call (ph).

COOPER: Did they say they might or did they say they definitely will, do you know?

COLLINS: He says that he anticipates -- he -- Todd Blanchett said twice, he anticipates going until the end of day on Thursday. Which means that on Monday, though, Michael Cohen would still technically be on the witness stand if the prosecution wants to do the redirect.

The question is, is if they don't feel like Todd Blanche has been all that effective, if the prosecution does that much redirect with Michael Cohen.

STABILE: They may or Todd Blanche might, you know, calculate, let me stop it an hour before the end of the day. Let them do -- you know, you want to -- you're going to try and end with Michael Cohen on Thursday if you can. You don't want him back on Monday. But I think that's how it's going to be handled.

HONIG: By the way, quick power move that prosecutors do once in a while with a cooperator after a long, aggressive cross. If you feel good about it as a prosecutor that your witness stood up, when the judge goes, OK, Mr. Toobin, redirect, you just stand up and go, no redirect, your honor. It's like, we're good.

I don't think they're going to do that here.

STABILE: Yes, no, I don't think, but it signals to the jury.


STABILE: He didn't hurt us.

HONIG: Right.

TOOBIN: In a short redirect often accomplishes the same thing if you want to clean that up. But that is definitely a power move. And based on at least the first day, I could anticipate the prosecution doing just that.

COOPER: Renato Stabile, fascinating. Thank you.

STABILE: Thanks a lot. Thank you.

COOPER: Really appreciate it.

Coming up, the former president had some political back up today at the courthouse who is, you can see, all seem to share his fashion sense. From vice -- which I'm obsessed with, that everybody has to dress identically too and it's the weirdest thing. From vice presidential hopefuls to the speaker of the House, why they are all made the pilgrimage to get their clothes all in the same colors and get down to the courtroom, next.



COOPER: Once again, the former president had a Republican entourage with him in court today, including more vice presidential hopefuls and this time, Speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency, Speaker Johnson used the opportunity to take shots at today's star witness, something the former president is barred from actually, of course, doing.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge and who is widely known as a witness who has trouble with the truth. He is someone who has a history of perjury and is well known for it. No one should believe a word he says today.


COOPER: Speaker Johnson also professed the innocence of the former president and called the trial a sham. His appearance led former congresswoman, January 6th, committee vice chair Liz Cheney to write this on X. "I'm surprised that Speaker Johnson wants to be in the, 'I cheated on my wife with a porn star' club. I guess he's not that concerned with teaching morality to our young people after all."

And right here in New York, a big fundraiser headlined by the former president, co-hosted by the parents of Jared Kushner. Attendees include more contenders for Trump's VP pick, including Senators Marco Rubio and Tim Scott and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Joining us to discuss is CNN's Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod. She did not bring the dog.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, lock up your dog. She's in town.

COLLINS: The dog's no longer with us.

COOPER: Well, yes, I know.

AXELROD: What a Bizarro, I mean, this really reflects how strange this campaign is. I mean, it used to be that vice presidential candidates would go, you know, to party dinners and they'd do television interviews and so on to sort of audition for the vice presidency.

Now they show up in court in support of their candidate who is on trial for what he's on trial for and they're, you know, basically carrying his words out to the world. But I'm relieved that Speaker Johnson is offended by it. People who don't always tell the truth.

COOPER: The Trump campaign released a fundraising video that according to them was shot inside the courthouse today. Larry Trump, Eric Trump appearing in it with Vivek Ramaswamy. Donald Trump himself actually pops up at the end to give a thumbs up. Is that a first, a fundraising appeal from a courthouse?

AXELROD: I would think so, but, yes, I don't have anything to compare it to because we've never had a president who's been on trial in the middle of a campaign either. But, listen, it does speak to the place that Donald Trump is in right now in terms of the Republican Party.


He is a force. He -- they think he is doing well in this campaign. These guys want to be vice president. That's why they're turning up. It's a command performance in some ways. And for Speaker Johnson, look, Donald Trump basically allowed him to survive.

It -- he went down to Mar-a-Lago. He made his peace with Trump and Trump basically stood down. If he had put his shoulder to the wheel, he could have deposed Johnson when Marjorie Taylor Greene did what Marjorie Taylor Greene did or certainly made it harder for him. So he is paying back a debt and buying an insurance policy on his future tenure as Speaker of the House.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, do you think people like, jurors notice who's in the courtroom behind?

TOOBIN: I'm going to speak as a Manhattan resident. I don't think a lot of Manhattan residents know who Mike Johnson is or what he looks like. So I don't think that is --

COLLINS: Well, also, he wasn't actually in the courthouse today.

TOOBIN: Oh, he wasn't in the court. COLLINS: I'll note that he just --

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: -- made it sound like he was coming or --


TOOBIN: Or to Vance (ph) or --

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: -- you know, I -- you know, to be honest, no. I don't think they noticed. Now, you know, I -- this all made me think of, you know, the way the Kardashian name became famous was because Robert Kardashian who was technically a lawyer, but not really a lawyer, was part of O.J. Simpson's entourage during his trial.

And that's how, you know, he -- that name became famous. But, here, I think this is much more of an inside political game to gain favor with Donald Trump than it is to affect either the jury or even people in that matter (ph).

AXELROD: It's also -- we -- you know, Trump is doing what Trump did before the 2020 election. He is pre-spinning a result and they are abetting that effort in delivering a message that this is a political trial, that there's no foundation for it, that Michael Cohen is a lying reprobate who's bent on revenge.

This is all part of what Trump does so well, which is to kind of set the terms of the debate. So if things go badly, he can say, well, we all know what this is about.

COOPER: And --

AXELROD: And they're now a party to it.

COOPER: Kaitlan, you spoke to Doug Burgum about the trial. He was there. Let's just play that.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA: When you've got a judge that donated to Joe Biden, when you've got prosecutors that supported Joe Biden, when you've got the judge's family members that are benefiting financially, as Democrat operatives. And then when you've got as you just said on the lead in this whole trial, you know, rests on the credibility of someone who spent three hours this morning, describing in great detail how we lied to a grand jury, how we lied to a Congress and how we lied in court cases.

And so this is a, you know, it's just a tough thing. I mean, I -- prosecution's got a tough job to try to build their case on someone who's a serial perjurer.

COLLINS: You know, the one thing that sitting there listening to Michael Cohen testify, which is, of course, who you're referring to, I mean, Donald Trump hired Michael Cohen. So for everything that you just said, I mean, that is the person that Donald Trump chose to be his personal attorney.

BURGUM: Well, I think you -- yes, that's true that he did hire him, but I think that you'll win the cross-examination, you're going to come out. You heard a glimpse of it this morning that Michael Cohen leveraged the title that he had. He wasn't even doing work for President Trump. And he was signing up clients left and right at $4 million in revenue leveraged that.


TOOBIN: It's actually interesting saying he wasn't even working for Donald Trump. That's part of the prosecution's evidence in the case. I don't think they're going to be calling him Doug Burgum as a witness but, I mean, it just shows that, you know, if you don't know the facts of the case, maybe you shouldn't talk so much.

COOPER: You better be careful. They're going to take that red tie back.

COLLINS: But also, what's so interesting about this, I mean, is the -- this is also clearly a tryout for people who either want to be vice president, people like Doug Burgum, or want to be in the cabinet, or are hoping Donald Trump will help them with their political fortunes.

It wasn't that long ago when Doug Burgum was challenging Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. He was asked if he'd ever do business with Donald Trump, but he said no, and he said that the reason that was is because he just believes it's important that you're judged by the company you keep.

Now that he is seeking to be Donald Trump's vice president, he is obviously out there arguing on his behalf. The other thing that I've also found interesting that we've heard from Doug Burgum and JD Vance who seem to be out VPing each other here, is they both criticize the judge's daughter. That is exactly what Donald Trump was doing when they expanded the gag order to prevent him from doing it.

I asked Doug Burgum if Donald Trump instructed him to do so, which would violate the gag order, he said, no, that he was just here as a volunteer.

COOPER: I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but we just showed another photo, a little wider shot (ph) of the one we just showed before. A fourth guy popped up in a red tie. I mean --


COLLINS: That's Cory Mills of Florida, Byron Donalds, Vivek Ramaswamy, obviously, and Doug Burgum.

COOPER: I think they're spreading.

AXELROD: There are notes written on the back of those ties. COOPER: Yes.

HONIG: Can I ask a different question?

COOPER: Yes, please.

HONIG: You're -- you've obviously have a lot of experience advising Democratic candidates for president. If you were advising the Democratic nominee right now, would you tell him to go harder on Donald Trump's pending legal troubles? Put aside this hush money case, I know it has limited appeal, but how about the January 6th indictment, the classified documents? Do you think Joe Biden should be doing more and more aggressively on that?

AXELROD: Look, I think that when you look at the people that he needs to get, I think the people who feel strongly about that issue, at least at this juncture, he's getting those people. He may be able to persuade some at the end on this. The people he really to get in the people who are hanging back and aren't as engaged, they're very much motivated by things like economic issues.

And I think he has to draw a sharp contrast on some of those issues. In some ways, there's a lot of knowledge about this.

COLLINS: Well, on that point, the other thing that Doug Burgum did say that I think does resonate with voters when we look at the latest polls from the New York Times and Siena is he said Americans care more about their grocery bills than what's happening in that courtroom behind us.


COLLINS: And, I mean, that is a point that you don't hear from Donald Trump often when he comes and speaks to the cameras, but it is something that you have heard from a lot of these Republicans.

AXELROD: Oh yes, listen, I've said from the beginning, if you're sitting around the kitchen -- and I feel strongly about these democracy issues, I think they're very, very important, but if you're sitting around the kitchen table talking about the Democracy in the future of democracy, probably because you don't have to worry about the cost of the food on your table. If you have to worry about that, it's more likely the thing on your mind.

And I think there I've been -- you know, I've said before, I think the president needs to lean into those issues a lot more. He seems more intent on defending his economic performance and getting credit for the good work that he has done in many ways and not really advocating for people in a tough economy because of the inflation.

COOPER: David Axelrod, good to have you. Thank you.

Next, more on the cross-examination of Michael Cohen and Trump's demeanor during it all. We'll be joined by someone else who was inside the courtroom. We'll be right back.