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Closing Arguments Wrap In Trump Hush Money Trial; Closing Arguments Over In Trump Trial; Jury Will Get The Case Wednesday Morning; Transcript Released Of Closing Arguments In Trump Trial; Prosecution Wraps Its Closing Argument; Trump Hush Money Trial; Ronan Farrow On Catch-And-Kill Evidence; Stormy Daniels' Attorney On Closing Arguments In Trump Trial. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 20:00   ET



TERRI AUSTIN, HOST AND LEGAL ANALYST, LAW & CRIME NETWORK: They'll talk about the law. And they'll deliberate and we'll see how long it takes them.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And because, Ryan, there's 34 counts, even though I understand that it's often - signature here or signature here. By definition, they have to get organized, right? So this quick 45-minute verdict which I know the Trump team had thought would, obviously, very bad for them. It would seem very difficult to imagine that. Just because of the sheer number of counts.

RYAN GOODMAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not sure, because the 34 counts are almost like the same count 34 times.


GOODMAN: It's almost like every check and ...

BURNETT: So you think it is - it could be fast, it's possible.

GOODMAN: It's possible.

BURNETT: Wow. All right. Well, thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Good to see you. And tomorrow, we'll see what we get. Thanks for joining us. Our breaking news coverage continues now with Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.

It went from early this morning, late into the evening and it just wrapped up. First, the defense and then the prosecution, the first criminal trial ever of a former president having their final say. Jurors will get the case tomorrow.

Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, until moments ago, walking them step by step by step through the former president's hush money payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election and the alleged scheme to hide it from voters.

Now, he emphasized how much of the case in his telling did not rely solely on the testimony of former fixer Michael Cohen, whose faults he acknowledged, saying, quote, "We didn't pick him up at the witness store."

As for defense attorney Todd Blanche, he accused Cohen of lying to the jury, calling him, quote, "The MVP of liars and the GLOAT," which he said stands for "greatest liar of all time." He wrapped up by listing 10 justifications for reasonable doubt, the final one being Michael Cohen.

Blanche also earned a scolding from the judge for saying, quote, "You cannot send somebody to prison," unquote, based on Cohen's word. Judges make that decision, not juries. The judge will instruct jurors on the relevant points of law tomorrow, after which the former president's fate will be in their hands.

As for him, he went into today complaining online that the prosecution gets the last word, complaining during a break this afternoon that the prosecution's closing arguments were, quote, "Boring." We're waiting to see if he'll have anything to say tonight.

With us is New York criminal defense attorney, Arthur Aidala; CNN Legal Analyst, Norm Eisen; CNN NEWSNIGHT's Abby Phillip; THE SOURCE's Kaitlan Collins. All three were in the court. Also CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and CNN's Kara Scannell outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

Kara, let's start with you. What was the mood like in these historic and lengthy, lengthy closing arguments?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The marathon of closing arguments. I mean, the jury's attention was wrapped throughout this day. They had been inside that courtroom for more than 10 hours listening, what almost seems like could have been yesterday, to Donald Trump's team give their closing arguments.

And then the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, just finishing moments ago. His closing arguments lasted almost five hours, four hours and 41 minutes. They were focused on both of the attorneys as they spoke. I've looked at them multiple times, and they were all looking directly at the lawyer, looking down at the monitors in front of them when evidence was put up on the screen. The lawyers, both of them, went through excerpts of transcripts, some of these text messages, the phone logs, all to remind the jury in the prosecution's case that they do have evidence, that there is evidence beyond Michael Cohen, and that they should find Donald Trump guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

And then in the defense's case, trying to poke holes in the testimony of Cohen and in some of the other evidence that they have, suggesting that if this was really a big conspiracy, why wasn't David Pecker involved in the ultimate payment to Stormy Daniels, so a lot of focus and attention by the jury today.

Donald Trump, for his part, had actually turned his chair about 90 degrees at one point to watch his lawyer give the closings and watch the jury as they were taking all of this in during the prosecution's closing arguments. Trump was facing forward. He didn't really seem to be paying much attention to that, occasionally leaning in to look at the monitor himself about some of the e-mails and text messages that were put up.

But a long day - a day that really tested the patience of people in there. But the jury did seem to be wrapped. The judge checked with them several times to see if they wanted to keep going. And at one point he asked them publicly in front of us, not having an officer do it behind the scenes. And the jurors nodded their heads in agreement that they wanted to stay. But this now finally coming to an end just a few moments ago, Anderson.

COOPER: Norm, you were there both for the morning session and the afternoon session. What jumped out at you? What were the high highs and low lows?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was a long day. I thought the jury hung in there. The first thing you look for is, is the jury continuing to pay attention? And they did. It was fascinating to me, the strategy of the defense and the prosecution, Anderson, because they were opposite strategies. The defense honed in on the three critical issues in this case and said, you can't prove these 34 records were false. You can't prove Trump intended to defraud with these false records that he knew they were not income, that they were reimbursements.


And you can't show that he was covering up an election conspiracy.

So they used kind of an inductive approach. They organized the evidence, Todd Blanche, by those three issues. The prosecution took the exact opposite, a chronological or a deductive approach. It felt like they reviewed all 200 plus exhibits that they have put into evidence in this case. At times it was painful. That's when we were watching the jury. As Kara said, they hung in.

But I thought that was necessary. Don't - as a prosecutor, don't leave anything on the table. If the judge will give you the time, if the jury says I'll stay till eight o'clock, argue till seven 7:59. And the weight, the overwhelming weight of the evidence, that was the prosecution approach.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it was striking how different the two closing arguments were, because Michael Cohen loomed over both of them, but in very different ways. Todd Blanche was trying to basically eviscerate Michael Cohen and any credibility he had with these jurors, repeatedly saying he lied to you and trying to make it personal almost for them.

Josh Steinglass, the prosecutor took a very different approach, and he kind of had this very conversational style. He was almost incredulous at some of the arguments that Todd Blanche had made. He made no hesitation in turning back to point in Todd Blanche's direction or point at Donald Trump, who he almost never referred to as Donald Trump. He just referred to him as the defendant, the defendant, the defendant repeatedly. And he was kind of scoffing almost at what Todd Blanche had said in his closing arguments. And he would say, you know, I'll get back to that ridiculous point later or they really want you to believe this. Trying to kind of create this idea that whatever Todd Blanche had said in his closing argument was just not believable for them.

COOPER: By the way, that's the Trump motorcade leaving the court.

COLLINS: Which is notable because Trump didn't speak leaving court, which he normally does.

But the other thing that they tried to do with Michael Cohen that stood out to me, because I was in there this afternoon as he was in his lengthy closing arguments for the prosecution, is he was saying, this isn't all on Michael Cohen. The documents that we have here, which he referred to as the smoking gun in this case, which is the one that has the math jotted down on how they would pay Michael Cohen back, didn't come from Michael Cohen. It came from Jeff McConney, a Trump organization employee who, as the prosecution noted, has no ax to grind with Donald Trump.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: I did think, just reflecting back on the morning session where I was in the court, you know, the Trump team, they did present some things that were just beyond belief. I mean, the idea that no one in Trump's orbit thought that the National Enquirer running negative stories or positive stories about Trump would influence the election in any way, beyond belief.

COOPER: That was the whole point of that meeting with David Pecker.

PHILLIP: That was the whole point of the meeting. I mean, and the idea that Donald Trump, just as a person, would not believe that. So look, the good news for the defense is that they don't have to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not on them to do that. But it did make me wonder, some of those moments where maybe in some cases they were twisting the evidence in ways that did not actually comport with what the evidence actually was, in ways that they asserted things.

Like, for example, they called the Access Hollywood moment basically a nothing burger in the campaign. Again, a ridiculous assertion if you were there, you were a human being in the United States of America when it occurred. Those moments, I think, cut against their credibility in some crucial ways. Will it make or break this case? I don't know.

But part of the argument that they were trying to make to the jury is that Michael Cohen cannot be believed. Michael Cohen is the person who is the serial liar, the fabulist. And yet, I think the prosecution tried to make this point when they got their turn in closing statements. You cannot also make statements that are kind of beyond belief and then have the jury want to believe you and disregard everything that Michael Cohen has to say.

COOPER: I want to hear from Arthur and Elie in just a second. But for those of you who are in the courtroom, the - it's different when you're inside versus what we on the outside in the morning were reading from our folks inside. Todd Blanche's - his closing statement felt meandering when you were just reading the text on the outside.

Did it play meandering in the room? And I'm wondering, for the prosecution's closing, did it feel like five hours?

EISEN: It felt like more than five hours to me. I'm a very restless person, but I thought it was the right thing to do for them to use all that time. Blanche is a meanderer. He is not a linear person. We saw this in his cross-examination of Michael Cohen.

COOPER: Is that strategy or just lack of experience in this kind of trial?

EISEN: Today, it was a strategy because he wanted to hone in on all the places where there can be reasonable doubt in the order he thought of the difficulty of proof. He wanted to go from stronger, less strong to weakest.


He hit them with the best shot. But it did meander at times. The jury does not - I think the jury does not like Todd Blanche. I think they prefer Emil Bove. I think they like Susan Necheles better. I don't think they're fond of ...

COOPER: You're like a juror whisperer.

EISEN: ... I don't think they're - come on, (INAUDIBLE) ...

COOPER: And by the way, this is a jury that ...

EISEN: ... and we saw that, too.

COOPER: ... this is a jury that does not show a lot. So that tells me you have been analyzing them.

COLLINS: But they smiled several times as Steinglass was making his thing, which it did go on at length and there were some dry moments where he was going through the documents. But he also would pepper in these quotes, like the one where he said Donald Trump didn't pay a porn star or pay a lawyer, but he was paying a porn star and funneling the money through an attorney.

When he was talking about he didn't go to the witness store to get Michael Cohen, he was making the point, this is who Donald Trump chose to surround himself with. So it was really long, but he had these little lines.

And I saw some of the jurors smiling at some of Steinglass' lines, which is a big deal because they don't have expressions typically.

COOPER: Oh, yes.

Elie, Arthur, let's hear it from you. ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So I'm definitely going to defer to the people who are in the room because there's no replacement for that. I mean, I'm looking at it like our viewers and watching each individual update come up.

Ordinarily, I would think a five hour closing is outrageous. It goes against everything I was taught, it goes against everything I've ever done. I never gave a closing anywhere near five hours. You lose the jury. It's a terrible idea. But hearing Norm say that the jury, first of all, they were asked, do you want to stay and indicated yes, and that they continued to pay attention. That makes a difference for me. If you still have their attention, I don't think it's disastrous to do this.

I agree based on what we were able to see. I thought Todd Blanche's closing did meander. I don't think meandering is a strategy. I think it's a fault. You can attack a prosecution case aggressively and effectively in a direct and compelling way.

And to me, the whole argument about this had nothing to do with the campaign from six weeks ago when this case started struck me as a stretch. And I think it remains a stretch now under the evidence. I would have dropped that, honestly.

The whole part about you don't concede it explicitly, just give it the back of the hand. Stormy Daniels denied this ever happened, right? Hope Hicks told you it was about the family. Focus on the documents and connecting Trump to the documents. That's where the defense lies. That's where I think Blanche had his better moments.

COOPER: Arthur?

PHILLIP: It had a feel of throwing everything at the wall ...


PHILLIP: ... that might stick.

ARTHUR AIDALA, NEW YORK DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Okay. So I'm going to take a page out of Elie's book and I'm going to defer to the people in the courtroom. But I am sitting here with three national anchors and all three of you know it's all about editing, right? You could go on, I could give you guys all, (INAUDIBLE) we're going to talk for three hours. You'll figure out something to say. It's all about editing it down.

And you know, Elie talked about his training. I was blessed to be trained in the Brooklyn DA's office. I remember Angelo Morelli (ph). I thought I gave a great summation. He's like, shut up. Just shut up, Arthur. Enough, you're going on and on. But I was 26 years old. I was 27 years old. I was 28 years old, so I learned.

And it's - honestly, it's a similar skill set on television. You can't go on and on. You get this. You get 30 seconds, 15 and then you got a countdown. It's the same thing with a jury. You have to be like, okay, there's a limited amount of time. I get that they're looking at them just because they're looking at them. You don't know where their brain is at. Well, that was a really good burger I had at Memorial Day. Like you don't know where they're thinking and where they're lapsing in and out.

But Abby, when you talk about losing credibility, to me that's the most important part. It's one thing for a jury not to like the lawyer, not to like have kumbaya with the lawyer. But it's another thing to not believe him or think he or she is trying to sell him a bill of goods that just doesn't make any sense.

And the example you use, I do agree with saying that that Access Hollywood thing was a bit of nothing. I mean, I know that summer day sitting at home, it was not a bit of nothing. It was a big deal.


PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, there were so many moments like that. They described - he - they were trying to poke holes in the recording of Donald Trump, fair enough. But the way that they tried to poke holes in it, I thought also really stretched credibility, suggesting that Trump didn't say things that you could hear him saying on the call, even describing how the call ended inaccurately by saying that Michael Cohen - you couldn't hear Michael Cohen picking up the other call.

That's not at all what happened. He was recording on his phone, received an incoming call, which ended the recording. And so to - look, if you have an iPhone, you know how that goes and misrepresenting that to the jury, I think, does not help that.

COOPER: Kara, I mean, who sat inside the court, the other thing that - one of the things he may have misrepresented was - implying that, well, the National Enquirer doesn't matter because its circulation was 350,000 at this time, when in truth, you know, the impact of a National Enquirer story can be far beyond the number of actual subscribers who, you know, pay money to read the National Enquirer or look at it even on the checkout stand. It has a ripple effect. Other people do reporting based off it.

SCANNELL: Yes. I mean, one of the things that Blanche had said was that, you know, the National Enquirer had such a low subscriber rate compared to The New York Times.


But then on closing arguments by the prosecution, they said that that was kind of absurd that everybody who's in a supermarket who checks out at the register is going to walk past and see the headlines of the National Enquirer.

Remember, David Pecker had testified that he didn't want to get involved with the Stormy Daniels deal because he didn't want to do a story about a porn star because of these - because his tabloid is on the supermarket shelves and that some of these supermarkets wouldn't want to see that. So certainly the prosecution came back at that point by saying that, you know, even though the circulation may be lower than that of The New York Times, it doesn't mean that the number of eyeballs that aren't passing this when everyone is checking out at the grocery store, they're still going to see that. So they tried to correct that part of it.

And you know, yes, it's true. If the National Enquirer does have a true story, then that would be something that other national organizations would follow and try to match.

COOPER: There was also testimony during the trial that David Pecker didn't even care what was inside the pages of the National Enquirer. All he cared about was the front cover, because the impact of that checkout line and just people seeing that front cover, that for him was such a huge priority.

Kara Scannell, thank you. We're going to take a quick break. John Berman joins us. He's been going through the transcripts of tonight's extended closing arguments. We'll talk about what could stand out for the jury.

And later journalist Ronan Farrow joins us. He was reporting on catch and kill, gave us such an early and clear window into the world that jurors have been shown in this trial.



COOPER: Just moments ago, closing arguments in the Stormy Daniels hush money trial wrapped up in lower Manhattan, the prosecution getting the lengthy last word, nearly five hours worth. Tomorrow morning after hearing instructions from the judge, jurors will have the case and the former president's fate will be in their hands.

Joining us CNN's John Berman. He's been going through the trial transcripts for us tonight.

We mentioned this moment when Judge Merchan scolded Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche. How did that play out in the transcript?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So it was - he came right at the end of Todd Blanche's summation where he was once again saying that Michael Cohen is a liar. You can't convict just based on Michael Cohen.

Todd Blanche said, "Cohen came in here, he raised his right hand and he lied to each of you repeatedly, repeatedly. You cannot - you cannot send somebody to prison, you cannot convict somebody," Josh Steinglass, the prosecutor says, "Objection." Judge Merchan says, "Sustained." Blanche then goes on, "You cannot convict somebody based upon words of Michael Cohen."

Now, that was at the very end of the summation. The jury then left the room. They went on their lunch break and there was a conference here and the judge scolded Todd Blanche for what he said here. He said, "I'm going to give a curative instruction. I think that saying that was outrageous, Mr. Blanche. Please have a seat. For someone who has been a prosecutor as long as you have, and a defense attorney as long as you have, you know that making a comment like that is highly inappropriate. It's simply not allowed. Period. It's hard for me to imagine how that was accidental in any way."

COOPER: It's also interesting that as soon as Steinglass said objection and it was sustained, Todd Blanche didn't need instruction about what the objection was about. He knew instantly what he had said was inappropriate, right? I mean, he - because he corrected himself by just taking out the prison part.

AIDALA: Yes, that's - I like to push the envelope in the summation, but that's - you can't say jail. You just can't say jail. You can say, you know, you use your common sense. People don't tell you to check - leave your common sense outside. You know, we all know what happens at the end of a trial. That's not for you to decide. It's up for the judge. But you can't say jail.

EISEN: He didn't push the envelope. He tore the envelope and ripped it into little pieces.

AIDALA: All right. He said jail, Norm.

EISEN: I think he knew.

AIDALA: He said jail.


AIDALA: (INAUDIBLE) he said ...

EISEN: No, Arthur.

AIDALA: Yeah, he shouldn't have said it.

EISEN: That is ...

AIDALA: But he said jail.

EISEN: ... no, that's a red line. You do not - you never talk to the jury about it.

COOPER: All right. So explain to the audience why that is a red line.

EISEN: Because it is so powerfully prejudicial for the jury ...

AIDALA: But it's not their job.

EISEN: ... to involve them in sentencing. That is the role of the judge.

COOPER: So put - telling them that you're going to - you potentially are sending the former president of the United States to prison, that's prejudicial.

EISEN: There's three jobs. The job of the jury is to weigh the facts. The job of the judge is to instruct them on the law so they can apply the law to the facts. And then depending on the verdict, it comes back to the judge to sentence. But in defense of Todd, I will say it seemed to me as soon as he said it, he knew he'd gone too far. He kind of stopped himself. It was like a little hiccup. I think he just got carried away in the moment. And it was not an intentional.

AIDALA: All right. There we go.

EISEN: Or that he flipped.

AIDALA: He made a mistake. He slipped. Come on.

EISEN: He made a mistake.

AIDALA: That's why there's a seven second delay on TV.

EISEN: But he was so hard on Michael Cohen for his mistake when he didn't remember the (INAUDIBLE) ...

AIDALA: Yes, it's night and day, you can't compare those two things.

PHILLIP: Look, this is a bell that is not going to get unrung, okay. I'm sorry, but it's not going to get unrung because it's always been in the atmosphere in this case. Ultimately, this jury is - they're not stupid people. They understand that this case is about finding ...

COOPER: Trump is outside Trump Tower (INAUDIBLE) ...

PHILLIP: ... a former president, Donald Trump, guilty of a felony, which would involve some kind of punishment. And I think that they know that. Todd Blanche evoked it and put it back on the table. I don't think that there's anything that can be done to take that out of their minds.

AIDALA: The judge ...

HONIG: I have a hard time believing that it was inadvertent.


HONIG: And I know Norm's trying to extend the benefit of the doubt and I'll tell you why. At the Southern District of New York, prosecutor's office where Todd used to work, where I used to work, where Alvin Bragg used to work, we were paranoid about exactly that happening. You did not want a defense lawyer, oops, slipping in. If you convict, he'll go to jail or he'll go to jail for decades or he'll go - you'll separate him from his family until his kids are full grown.

And I was so paranoid about it. I would say to judge is right before a closing, judge, obviously they're not going to be mentioning the potential of prison here. Judge would always look at the defense lawyer and go, you're not doing that, right? Defense lawyer would go, of course not.

That is - that was a serious overstep by Todd Blanche. He's lucky it was only a (INAUDIBLE) ... COOPER: John, I want to get back to you because Steinglass acted out a conversation between Cohen, Trump and Keith Schiller, the bodyguard, because this was that devastating moment when Michael Cohen was on the stand.


Todd Blanche revealed or got, you know, pointed out that there was a 14-year-old who had been harassing Michael Cohen on the phone. And Cohen had called Schiller or texted Schiller about what can I do about this 14-year-old.

BERMAN: Initially, Cohen had testified that that phone call, for which there is a record, that that phone call was with Trump to tell him that the payment to Stormy Daniels was going through. You were there for the testimony. Todd Blanche elicited that it looks like there was a phone call at exactly that time with Keith Schiller where they talked about this 14 -year-old boy.

And then Cohen on the stand basically ended up saying, well, maybe I talked about both things. So Josh Steinglass, the prosecutor here, tried to show that you could talk about both things inside the length of the phone call, which was 96 seconds, because they have a record for that.

So what Josh Steinglass did is he goes out there before the jury today and he basically times himself and he says, "Let's try a little experiment. I will be Cohen." And he fakes a call here. "Hey, Keith, how's it going? It seems like this prankster might be a 14-year-old kid. If I text you the number, can you call and talk to his family? See if you can let them know how serious this is. It's not a joke. Uh- huh. Yes. All right. Thanks, pal. Hey, is the boss near you? Can you pass him the phone for a minute? I will wait just a couple of seconds."

And then he pauses and waits for Schiller to fake hand the phone to fake Trump. And then he goes, "Hey, Boss. I know you're busy, but I just wanted to let you know that the other thing is moving forward with my friend Keith and the other party that we discussed. It's back on track. I'm going to try one last time to get our friend David to pay but if it's not, it's going to be us to take care of it. Aha. Yes. All right. Good luck in Tampa. Bye."


BERMAN: And when he timed it, it was 49 seconds, which is way less than the 96 seconds of the actual call.

COLLINS: So this was ...

PHILLIP: I'm actually very surprised that this was allowed to happen. Because I felt like he kind of injected hypothetical things that did not actually happen into the minds of the jury. That's kind of amazing.

COLLINS: But what was remarkable about it, it was actually a really strong moment when you were in the room in court because Josh Steinglass held his - a fake phone up to his ear as he did this and he did pause.

BERMAN: Sorry, I didn't do that.

COLLINS: Yes, sorry. Well, I would have told you beforehand, but - and he did pause for a few seconds when he was saying, okay, wait to pass the phone to the boss. And it was actually a powerful moment in court because what he was trying to do was restore Michael Cohen's credibility from that moment a few weeks ago. The question is, of course, you know, the jury just had a week off. Did they remember that moment, was it distilled in their mind or was today actually more helpful in making the case that multiple things could be discussed on that call.

And the point that he drove home after that was that the defense wants the jury to believe that Michael Cohen is coming in here to say anything he can to get Trump convicted. And Josh Steinglass is saying, well, if he was, why wouldn't he have gone further than the moments where he said, actually, Trump denied to me having a relationship with Stormy Daniels or Trump did this or I don't recall about that conversation. He was saying Michael Cohen can forget things. That doesn't mean he's lying to you.

HONIG: The bit with the phone is a good piece of stagecraft. Like I'm - I respect that. I'm envious of that. I wish I would have done something like that as a prosecutor, but it's also a cheap gimmick. That's not the point of what Michael Cohen got caught in there. The point is not, he couldn't possibly have discussed both things in a minute, 36. Obviously he could - easily, he could have.

The point is Michael Cohen never said a word about the text with the 14-year-old kid in the grand jury, in his prior statements to the prosecutor on direct. On direct, it was a very clean story. I just called Donald Trump, it was about Stormy Daniels. Then he gets caught. Then you see him backtrack in real time and come up with this, oh, well, maybe it was both things. That's the point that goes to his credibility.

They really - it's a nice - not you, Berman - nice piece of stagecraft by the phone.

BERMAN: I did love the phone, I'm sorry.

HONIG: By the, by the prosecutor. But to me it's actually misdirection.

COOPER: All right. John Berman, thank you. Great. Everyone stay with us. There's a lot more to discuss. We're going to be joined by the attorney of the man at the center of both closing arguments, Michael Cohen, next.


[20:32:55] COOPER: As the transcripts we've been reading show, the defense aimed a lot of their rhetorical ammunition at the credibility of Michael Cohen, quoting the former president's attorney, Todd Blanche, saying, "And the last thing I'm going to talk about that gives you reasonable doubt is what I've been talking about for the past several hours, Michael Cohen, he's the human embodiment of reasonable doubt. Literally."

Joining us now is Michael Cohen's attorney Danya Perry, who is also a former federal prosecutor. First of all, you're -- I'm wondering what you made of Todd Blanche, all the things he said about your client, about Michael Cohen on the stand today. Were you surprised by any of it?

DANYA PERRY, MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER: I wasn't surprised because he gave a full preview of his argument during the lengthy cross- examination, and it obviously was the theme that they hit over and over again, beginning with opening statements.

And I think that's pretty much all the ammunition that he had, and he obviously hit it very hard. Michael Cohen just told me that, by his count at least, he called -- Mr. Blanche called Mr. Cohen a liar 85 times. I don't know if anyone's actually counted that, but it sounds like it was a lot of times. And, you know, I think that that was a miscalculation, not just because I'm, you know, here to support my client's credibility, I think he was very credible, very honest, very forthright, very composed on the stand.

And there was -- he gave no reason for the jury to believe that he wasn't telling the full and complete truth. Actually, sometimes he overallocated to things that, you know, at some point the defense said, so you lied to Congress, you know, on this and this date, and Michael said, yes, that he hadn't. So, he's over admitting to crimes and to bad conduct, if anything.

I think he handled himself very well on the stand. And it's no wonder that the defense went after him.

COOPER: They clearly were trying to rile him up at times when he was on the stand. He remained very calm really throughout, which is sort of a side of Michael Cohen a lot of people haven't seen. People were surprised by that. There was that moment when Todd Blanche, you know, got into the 14-year-old boy phone call that Michael Cohen had not previously disclosed or talked about. I don't know if prosecutors had not caught it as that occurring before the Keith Schiller phone call.


How does -- how do you explain the fact that Michael Cohen had not identified the involvement of the 14-year-old as part of that phone call?

PERRY: It's exactly as you say, he -- it had been many years, right, that was in 2016, and he simply had forgotten what was a much less salient point from that conversation. Once he was reminded of it, it did come back to mind. It had been, you know, a young prankster who basically made it impossible for Mr. Cohen to conduct his business.

And so, it did come back to him, but it wasn't the most impactful part of that conversation. And as soon as he was refreshed, he recalled it. And truthfully, and I think in a very common-sense way, said, oh, yes, that did happen, but look how much we're able to accomplish in other conversations. And I think the prosecutor made a really strong point of that in his summation.

And I think even the recorded conversation that related to Karen McDougal, which was less than 96 seconds in, you know, the important part of it, also makes the point that a lot can be accomplished. And so, I don't think that was the aha moment that Todd Blanche tried to make it out to be. And in fact, I think it kind of to hurt him once the evidence said, yes, both these things can happen at the same time was brought back to bear.

COLLINS: You said that you talked to Michael Cohen. I'm assuming that's today. I mean, what did he make of it -- was both sides talking about his credibility in the sense of obviously Todd Blanche called him the GLOAT, the greatest liar of all time in his closing argument. He did use the word liar, it seemed like every other five seconds in conjunction with Michael Cohen's name.

But then Josh Steinglass also addressed that with the jury and said, you know, we didn't go and pick him up from the witness story. He's not an ideal witness. It was essentially his implication there saying that Trump was the one who surrounded himself with Michael Cohen. I wonder what he made of that testimony today.

PERRY: Yes, that was -- Elie will back me up on this. That's a tried- and-true trick of the prosecution. They say, we would like to bring, you know, nuns and boy scouts to you as witnesses, but we're not the ones who picked them. It's the defendant who picks them as their co- conspirator. So, that was expected.

And I think, you know, I have to hand it to the prosecution. A lot of times the prosecutors will kind of eat -- you know, eat that and just say, look, we know he's not -- you know, he's lied a lot and he's done this and that. Here, I think they were really honorable in supporting him and all the different ways in which he was corroborated, in which also the jury could count on the fact that he was now telling the truth, that he has turned a corner, as he said, I think, in a part of the testimony that was really emotional and really impactful.

And I watched the jury listening to Michael Cohen talk about his journey and about how he came to this place that has really cost him and his family so much.

COLLINS: You're representing Michael Cohen, but you also know Todd Blanche. What did you make of him saying to the jury, don't send Donald Trump to prison based on Michael Cohen's words, which he was later reprimanded by the judge over?

PERRY: Yes, Elie and I have seen that trick also many times. There are a lot of tricks here, right? I mean, people who have -- who've been around the courtroom will see them. And it's a classic jury nullification argument. They are trying a little backdoor trick, right, to tell the jury, like, don't, don't put this guy in prison. This is where he'll end up, particularly in a case of this magnitude, and that's so unprecedented when you have a former president and a presidential candidate.

They -- he wanted to backchannel to the jury that, you know, the import of what they might be doing by convicting him. And it's totally against the rules. The judge was right to admonish him. And, you know, he thought, why not go for it? Because if we get an acquittal, we're done. And if -- you know, I may as well just go for it. So, he's not going to be reversed on it.

NORMAN EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Danya, I know you can't talk about the preparation and the attorney-client privilege that you did with Michael, but I do want to ask you about one signature moment that really stood out for me in Cohen's testimony and his connection with the jury, and maybe you'll tell us how that came to be.

I noticed that as he got comfortable on this stand, he would turn away from Hoffinger, who was examining him and talk directly to the jury and the jury would focus on him, almost like they were having a conversation together. Was that something -- just tell us one thing, was that something you practiced in prep?

PERRY: Well, I appreciate you noting that. And Anderson, I appreciate you noting his demeanor on the stand. And as you say, that's not the Michael Cohen everyone knows.


But I will say, yes, we spent a lot of time in preparation. But this was truly all heartfelt. I do believe he's turned a corner and he's a different person than the Michael Cohen that you heard on those recordings or even that he -- the way he presents sometimes in his podcast.

There was a moment where Michael was, you know, very cool and his demeanor was, you know, understated. And then there was that moment where the -- where Todd Blanche played --

COOPER: Oh, my God, I was there for that. And that was crazy.

PERRY: I was like, oh my God,

COOPER: I was like -- I hadn't hear the podcast. I was like, oh, my God.

PERRY: But that's a persona. You know, he takes on this dramatic -- you've been on his podcast. I've been on his podcast. He -- you know, he presents in a certain way. He's an entertainer. But that's not -- the Michael Cohen that showed up for court is the Michael Cohen who is did have a change of heart and decided as much as it put him in harm's way and his family that he was going to wear the white hat and, you know, do what he thinks is the right thing.

COOPER: Daniel Perry, thank you so much. Really good to have you. Appreciate it.

Everyone else stay with us. Just say, we're going to dive deeper into the Stormy Daniels payments and catch the kill scheme at the heart of this case with someone who knows the details very well. Ronan Farrow, who's investigative reporting this, has been extraordinary over the years, will be here next.



COOPER: Welcome back. We want to return focus to what prosecutor's claim is powerful evidence that exists beyond the testimony of Michael Cohen. They were speaking of the testimony of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and evidence detailing what's become known as the catch and kill scheme involving, among others, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Something our next guest has reported extensively on.

We're joined now by journalist Ronan Farrow, author of the book, 2019 bestseller, "Catch and Kill," which explored the hush money scheme at the center of this trial and revealed a lot about it. Ronan, so the prosecution today called Pecker, the former CEO of the National Enquirer's parent company, utterly devastating. They called his testimony and that it "eliminates the whole notion that this was politics as usual."

To you, is Pecker among the most important of all the witnesses called?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: I think one of the canniest moves the prosecution made and how they built this case was to emphasize Pecker to the extent that they have and also to put him first.

You have to understand, although the charges are about these payments to Stormy Daniels and the question of the intent behind them, whether and how they were concealed, and obviously, in the very protracted close today from Steinglass, the prosecutor, we got a tick tock of that in almost brutalizing detail.

That said, the prosecution needed to recontextualize all of that with the prerequisite knowledge that this was part of, as you said, what they say is a catch and kill scheme, an effort to subvert the election hatched in that meeting that they talked about so much that pecker was present for in Trump Tower.

So, especially in light of the fact that the later case, about the stormy payments specifically, had to deal with this double-edged sword of Michael Cohen being important connective tissue that they were conveying to the jurors and Michael Cohen having some evident questions about his credibility and his checkered history in the public eye that, of course, we saw the defense really sees on today.

Especially in light of all of that Anderson, Pecker became very important. And the argument that the prosecution made today to jurors and to the public that Pecker was really their star witness rather than Michael Cohen became very important in the end.

COOPER: Todd Blanche, you know, went -- in his sort of meandering closing statement, went down this road talking about catch and kill, saying essentially that Karen McDougal wasn't catch and kill, sort of raising questions that does catch and kill even exist?

FARROW: Well, to give you a sense of that, I was in touch with sources around my reporting on AMI, then the parent company of the National Enquirer, just today, and the prevailing opinion within those circles, including senior AMI folks who were really involved in an oversight role as this play -- this scheme was playing out, the prevailing opinion seems to be that it strains credulity to accept the defense's argument here that Donald Trump just had no knowledge of this.

And today, Todd Blanche argued, well, to assert that Donald Trump always knew about his business dealings, the prosecution had to deal with decades old books saying he's a micromanager, but it's really more than that. This is a clear-cut case where his representative Michael Cohen was doing something quite extraordinary as an act of loyalty. And one piece of evidence after another, what the prosecution called a mountain of evidence, seemed to suggest that he was behind it.

So, the question really here is not whether there's sort of an evidence surface level case, it's going to hinge on, is it beyond a reasonable doubt and can they get all of those jurors on board?

COOPER: Now, that some time has passed, I'm wondering what you make of the importance of Stormy Daniels testimony in this trial.

FARROW: Well, Stormy Daniels was a really volatile courtroom moment. And I think like Michael Cohen, putting her on the stand was something of a risky maneuver for prosecutors. It was a double-edged sword. It certainly diverted the case they were making into tawdry underlying facts that aren't really germane to the charges being asserted. But they made a calculation that that was important, Anderson.

It was important to establish that Donald Trump was in a state of urgency and desperation when this scheme was undertaken, that he really needed to conceal this in that particular window of time in order to remain electable, especially with women voters. That's also, of course, why they fought to introduce as much as they could about the Access Hollywood tape and only succeeded to a limited extent.

But the prosecution is hoping that all of that will add up to jurors saying, OK, we get why this scheme was undertaken.


COOPER: It was also one of the things that Todd Blanche spent a fair amount of time today on essentially saying, well, that just wasn't the case, that the Access Hollywood tape really wasn't as big a deal as most people would probably remember it being or that -- you know, that these things were not as important as the prosecution is making them out to be. FARROW: And I think Hope Hicks' testimony was, like Stormy Daniels, quite pivotal in conveying to jurors, or at least prosecutors attempting to convey to jurors, that that's not quite right, that this was a campaign and a circle of people around Donald Trump that were thrust into crisis, and that there was a reason for him to undertake this extraordinary effort to, in the prosecution's terms, subvert the election.

Whether jurors will care and whether the public will care as they process the information from this case, that's another question. But I do think in terms of making what was a pretty difficult case on the prosecution's part, this could have gone sideways in a lot of ways that it didn't. They really -- they cleared a lot of the hurdles they were looking to.

COOPER: Yes. Ronan Farrow, thank you so much.

FARROW: Great. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We're now with the panel. Do you think the jury, Arthur, fully realizes the catch and kill scheme is as tawdry? I mean, Todd Blanche was essentially saying today that this is just how campaigns are, that this is just sort of business as usual.

AIDALA: Well, after five hours from the prosecution, if he didn't do a good job somewhere in there explaining it, then shame on him.

I think so. You know, there are times in the trial when you have to have guts as a defense attorney to stand up after a prosecution witness and say, I have no questions. And then in summation, you say, you know what? I didn't ask Stormy Daniels any questions. She doesn't matter. She doesn't matter. They only called her to embarrass him. They only called her to prejudice you. It doesn't matter if they fooled around or if they didn't fool around.

You know what she really is, though. You heard it. It was her testimony, folks. She's an extortionist. She's an absolute extortionist. She wanted money. She wanted money for her story the same way she wanted money for sex her whole life.

COOPER: We should point out that Todd Blanche did not say it doesn't matter whether or not this happened. He said my client denies it happened.

AIDALA: Yes. And I don't --

COOPER: Which is obviously important for his client.

AIDALA: You know, I disagree. I disagree with that strategy. And that's why, as a defense attorney, in my retainer agreement to this day, it says the attorney shall determine the strategy of the case. So, it's -- with the exception of whether the client testifies or not, the client overrules me.

But in terms of what I say or what I don't say, they put it -- they sign on the dotted line, I determine how we question a witness. COOPER: So, you're an attorney who actually does have a retainer agreement?

AIDALA: Yes, I have many ones. Anything over 3,500, I got it. That's the law in New York State.

EISEN: And that line in Arthur's agreement is one of the reasons he's not representing Donald Trump.

AIDALA: I'm going to take the fifth. I'll take the fifth on that one.

EISEN: There are all these aphorisms among trial lawyers, slim to win, less is more.

COOPER: What's slim to win?

EISEN: Slim to win means shrink your case down, remove everything that is not essential, do not keep the jury until 8:00. It's -- these are theories of discipline, but the problem is that when you have Donald Trump for a client, there's plenty of evidence that he makes demands. We had reporting, Kaitlan had reporting, that he was pushing for Robert Costello. That was an absolute disaster for his case.

Apparently, he liked --

AIDALA: Did that come up? Those of you who were there, did Costello come up?

EISEN: It was mentioned in past.

PHILLIP: Vaguely. It was mentioned in past.

COLLINS: No, Costello came up.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it wasn't a lot.

AIDALA: On both sides?

PHILLIP: The defense mentioned him to -- very briefly, to talk about how he -- Michael Cohen claimed that they didn't have much of a relationship, they didn't have a legal relationship when that was not the case, or, it was a very minor part of --

COOPER: The prosecution made fun of him. The prosecution was like --

PHILLIP: Yes. It was a very minor part of the case.

COOPER: Didn't they say something to the jury, like, well, you heard his testimony. So, you know what that's -- you know, the value of that.

PHILLIP: I mean, one of the things sitting in the courtroom just listening to all -- the various parts of this case is that sometimes it does feel like you need to be a lawyer to sort through some of the things that are being discussed here and that's not what they've got. They have a jury -- AIDALA: Well, they got two lawyers --

PHILLIP: -- except for those two lawyers.

AIDALA: -- on the jury.

PHILLIP: Except for those lawyers, but they have a jury of just regular people. And I do wonder sometimes how this is all going to go down because it is -- it -- it's gotten in the weeds, both because the defense has brought things to the table that they shouldn't have, and also because the prosecution has too, it's gotten complicated and I'm not sure who that's going to benefit at the end of the day.

HONIG: And to build on that point, what's going to happen the first thing tomorrow morning is the judge is going to spend an hour plus reading a 50, 60-page jury instruction. You want to talk about weeds, just wait for tomorrow. I mean, it's going to get deep.


And then because it's New York State, the written jury instruction does not go back into the jury room with them. So, we're going to see notes throughout the week saying, hey, can you explain to us again the third element of the second crime?

So, you're right, Abby, the whole trick here is taking it out of the weeds and making it comprehensible to a human being.

COOPER: More new details, excuse me, from inside court coming up. We'll also hear from Stormy Daniels' attorney and get his take on closing arguments. Plus, the pivotal moment ahead for the former president with a jury getting the case tomorrow morning. We'll be right back.


COOPER: It is just before 9:00 p.m. here in New York. The end of a nearly 12-hour day for jurors. In the first, the former president's four criminal trials. We'll get the case tomorrow. And with it a job that no jury has ever had before, deciding whether or not to convict a former president of the United States and current candidate for the office again of as many as 34 felonies.

Today was the final chance for both sides to persuade them. We're talking about it tonight.