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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Now: Sixth Day Of Testimony In Trump Hush Money Trial; Former Attorney For Daniels & McDougal Grilled In Hush Money Trial; Trump Claims He's Not Allowed To Testify. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 02, 2024 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Daniels' story of affair with Trump and said he understood that suppressing it would, quote, help Trump's campaign.


Trump's defense team, however, tried to paint Davidson as an unethical lawyer who works with unsavory characters and portrayed the deal as more of a shakedown.

Today's testimony isn't just over yet. You can catch me later today two hours in "THE SITUATION ROOM", 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to watch "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching.

Our special coverage continues right now on THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The criminal hush money cover-up trial of former President Donald Trump is well underway right now in Manhattan. On the stand, right now, is a man named Douglas Daus. He works for the Manhattan district attorney's office, but as opposed to previous days that were focused on bank records, today, we are knee deep in shady deals and sleazy details.

Mentioned today were other celebrity scandals involving Hulk Hogan and Charlie Sheen. More on that in a sec.

But the reason we heard all of this today was because of this man Keith Davidson, who took the stand. He is the attorney who represented both Stormy Daniels, the adult film star and director, and Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playboy playmate of the year, when negotiating hush money payments arrange to keep them twice quiet about alleged sexual encounters they had with Donald Trump, ones that Mr. Trump denies.

And jurors saw the actual confidential settlement agreement between Daniels and Trump with Mr. Trump's signature. The documents used pseudonyms, the ones that were more available. Stormy Daniels was Peggy Peterson. Donald Trump was David Dennison. And in this document, David Dennison was paying Peggy Peterson to keep her mouth shut. Former President Dennison -- I mean, former President Trump paid close attention to cross-examination of Keith Davidson, the attorney, as the defense attorneys tried to poke holes in Mr. Davidson's credibility, resulting in at least one particularly testy exchange.

Let's get you up to speed on what's happening in the trial right now with the help of our panel.

Trump right now in the courtroom. Trump is on a phone call when the recording starts. It's a recording that Michael Cohen made. And when he hangs up, Cohen can be heard saying, great call by the way, big time. This as prosecutors playing the recording from a 2016 telephone call and you hear Trump's voice.

This is the first time in the trial that they have heard, the jurors have heard Mr. Trump's voice.

As we pop back and forth between what's going on in the trial now and what happened a few minutes ago, let me go back to something Shan Wu, Keith Davidson said on election night 2016, this is the attorney who negotiated this, the Hush money agreement allegedly, Keith Davidson said he texted the "National Enquirer" editor, Dylan Howard. This is on November 8 the night that Donald Trump won the presidency, 2016. And he says, what have we done?

Mr. Davidson explained there was an understanding that our efforts may have been some way strike that. Our activities may have in some way assisted the present so dental campaign of Donald Trump, why is that relevant to this prosecution?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's really gold for the bus fusion because they need to establish the intent to do the other crime, which in this case would be the election interference. So they're Davidson talking about the fact that right in real time as the elections happening, he understands what they may have accomplished.

TAPPER: So right now, in court, prosecutors are showing a transcript of the last 46 seconds of the phone call that Michael Cohen recorded and where the relevant discussion of opening up a company happenings. I believe Jamie Gangel, this is opening up a shell corporation by Michael Cohen in order to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels for $130,000 and hide it from anyone else and not have Donald Trump's fingerprints directly attached.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, he actually opens up two. He doesn't fund the first one, then he does another one called Essential.

TAPPER: Essential Consulting, yeah.

GANGEL: You see a sense of urgency then in the timeline. We're now at the end of October, about two weeks before the election. The thing that struck me from this afternoon's testimony, two things. One, audio recordings and how the jury reacts to that.

TAPPER: Right. The audio recordings. So this guy Daus is a guy who is an expert with the prosecution, with the Manhattan district attorney's office and he has introduced two phones that used to belong to Michael Cohen, an iPhone 6S and an iPhone 7. One of them has gold case, always classy, and they're playing some of the cell phone messages and the like.

Remember, everybody might remember when Michael Cohen's office was raided and his phones were seized. This is back when he was still Donald Trump's good graces. And that's some of the evidence being presented here.


GANGEL: You don't have a gold iPhone case.

TAPPER: No, where's my phone? It's pretty -- it's just a black rubber.


TAPPER: I'm not glassy.

GANGEL: The reason recordings I think are striking, one the content of them. You know, is it interesting? Will there be moments that stay with the jury?

But the other is its sneaky to record someone and that may play -- I mean, maybe Michael Cohen would argue, I had to record these calls to protect myself as proof but most people I think don't like the idea of calls being recorded. So that may play against him.

TAPPER: So Douglas Daus testifying right now and Emil Bove, Donald Trump's attorney, is up for cross-examination of Daus. Not sure what exactly he will go after Mr. Daus for, he processes digital evidence in the unit of the Manhattan district attorneys office called the high-technology analysis unit. He seems to be basically just providing stuff that has to do with phone calls and records on the calendar of Michael Cohen and the like.

Jim Trusty, former Trump attorney, Davidson in his testimony earlier recall the phone conversation with then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen. This took place in December 2016. Trump had already one.

And in this conversation, Davidson says Cohen said something to the effect of, Jesus Christ, can you f-ing believe I'm not going to Washington after everything Ive done for that f-ing guy. I can't believe I'm not going to Washington. I've saved that guy's ass so many times, you don't even know that f-ing guy is not even paying me the $130,000 back. That's the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels.

If get to you one second. I just want to bring people up to speed. Bove is asking Douglas Daus about his work on Iraq, doing forensics and intel collection and the differences between that work and the work he does for the Manhattan district attorneys office. We'll see where that goes.

But in any case, this venting by Michael Cohen, two essentially opposing counsel really, I mean, like somebody who has been negotiating with Stormy Daniels, attorney what do you make of it? And do you think the defense could make some hay of this?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Yeah, finally, something that cross examine him about, you know? He was such a perfect witness and now this slip up.

I mean, look, I think you -- you have an embarrassment of riches in terms of what you do with Cohen.

And again, the strategy should be all through this trial, focus entirely on Cohen. Don't fight tech analysts. Don't worry about even David Pecker, different people that have little foundational bits of information. They're not the fight.

Even the stuff that's going on right now feels foundational. Setting up sometimes, it's setting up some -- some contacts so you can do a chart to say, look at all these people are all talking around the time of the election. The substance ain't great. I would agree that a lawyer or tape recording his client and then having these bitter outburst is not a great look and maybe we can bring Avenatti to comment on it.

But it does not look good in terms of Cohen and we're already just seeing the tip of the iceberg and how much they're going to be able to cross-examine them on.

One of the real quick thing, if you have a second, just to be a Navajo wind talker, I want to help decode Peggy Peterson and whatever the other name, David --

GANGEL: Dennison.

TRUSTY: Dennison?

TAPPER: David Dennison.

TRUSTY: Probably plaintiff and defendant. That's probably the decode that they're working on here. So I figured I'd help the viewers.

TAPPER: I appreciated those student names were hard to crack.

Bove, Trump's attorney asks Douglas Daus, to confirm that the integrity of the data matters more in a criminal case because people's rights are at stake.

Kristen Holmes, Donald Trump earlier today, said that, let's go to number six, by the way, a full-screen six, if we could, our court reporters inside the court have mentioned that Trump has closed his eyes quite a bit, including while Keith Davidson testified about his conversations with Michael Cohen. One Trump attorney whisper to Trump, he acknowledged, but did not open his eyes.

Trump today on Truth Social posted: Contrary to the fake news media, I don't fall asleep during the crooked D.A.'s witch hunt, especially not today. I simply close my beautiful blue eyes, sometimes listen intensely and take it all in.

It's actually not so different from what Maggie Haberman said, who was one of the most authoritative Trump journalists that there is, that he does sometimes close his eyes in her view to focus and calm down and not lose his temper. But just because his eyes are closed, doesn't mean he's asleep.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. He doesn't like anyone saying that he's falling asleep because this entire argument and this election is that he's running against sleepy Joe Biden and he is this virile 76 year-old or 77 year-old up against an 80-year-old.

Now, I will say, you know, one of the things that has been very hard for Donald Trump is to actually sit through all of this testimony. It's not just because he has agita, he wants to get up and walk around and because he's angry, but also part of his that he knows everyone is watching him all the time. This is a man who cares very much about appearances. He plans every kind of media appearance he has.

Now he knows there are reporters in the courtroom watching him all the time. So it's difficult for him to get through all of this knowing that there is a moment where he's trying to just figure out how to comport himself, how to handle himself, knowing that people's eyes are on him for eight hours or more a day?

TAPPER: Yeah, that wouldn't be fun for anybody. I want to talk briefly about this 2018 statement that Keith Davidson drafted for Stormy Daniels. This is the denial that was brought up earlier today. It referred to a romantic relationship between Trump and Daniel saying, quote, I'm saying with complete clarity this was absolutely false.

So, Davidson was asked about this statement that and its adherence to the truth. They know it's denial. There's no truth to it.

And he said, quote and extremely strict reading of this denial would technically be true with an extremely fine reading. I think you'd have to hone in on the definition of romantic, sexual, and affair. I don't think that anyone had alleged that any interaction between she and Mr. Trump was romantic. I don't think that anyone had ever alleged that there was a relationship between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. I believe a relationship is an ongoing interaction.

So this is him trying to justify what seems like a pretty false statement that he issued on behalf of Stormy Daniels in 2018?

TRUSTY: Yeah. Again, lawyers are just coming out beautifully in this trial he quibbling over, what is sex or what is is, and he gets into this notion that it's not really a hush money payment. It's consideration for something that happened. And I'm like, what's the old fashion word for sex, for money? I can't remember.

TAPPER: Right.

TRUSTY: But it's just kind of an amazing amount of quibbling and sometimes lawyers just lose track of the fact that there's 12 people with normal common sense that are not hanging on these ridiculous technicalities and giving him any credits. So --

HOLMES: But I won't --

TRUSTY: So, it's not -- it's critical to the guilt or innocence ultimately. This is all just tawdry, but it's a bad moment for him to quibble over that stuff.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're closing in on the final minutes of this big day in court for the hush money cover up case. Why others celebrity sex tapes were mentioned in court today. We're going to get to the relevance of that, ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we are back with our breaking news, Donald Trump's criminal hush money cover up trial is underway right now in New York.

CNN's Paula Reid has been monitoring every step of this case from just outside the courthouse.

And, Paula, the tech analyst for the Manhattan district attorney's office, who's on the stand right now. He continues to talk about Michael Cohen's iPhones. Jurors have a lot the detail to follow right now.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, he's going in depth on what metadata is and how it's important in the work that he does.

But he's the ideal witness for prosecutors to use in this last hour that they had after the testimony of Mr. Davidson wrapped up, because if they weren't calling all another big witness, for example, a Hope Hicks or Karen McDougal. There would be tipping their hand to the defense. They would only have an hour to do direct and then the defense would have all night to prepare.

And as we know as of now, the prosecutor strategy is not to tip their hands, not to share who the next witness is, to keep that advantage from the defense. Now, they argue they're not sharing names because they're worried that the defendant, former President Trump, will tweet about these witnesses, try to intimidate them, but it makes sense that they're using this last little block of time to have this particular witness come in, bring in something the evidence that they need to be validated, likely cell phones from Mr. Cohen and then educate the jury on where the information on that phone is, that it's relevant, what it is, verify it, sort of in and out on the stand here.

This is very technical witness, but there is a strategy to why they're calling him now and not one of these blockbuster names.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks so much.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo was with me. She was the chief assistant district attorney for the Manhattan district attorneys office, also here, Criminal Defense Attorney Bill Brennan, who represented Trump's payroll corporation in previous years.

Thanks so much to both of you for being here. Let me start with the fact that Trump's attorney has been bringing up Keith Davidson's work on other celebrity scandals. For example, the defense name-dropped Charlie Sheen, bringing up an alleged $2 million payment to Davidson's client. They mentioned the time Davidson was investigated by law enforcement as part of 2012 extortion probe tied to Hulk Hogan. He was not implicated in that probe. This had to do with a Hulk Hogan sex tape.

Then they asked Davidson about a settlement deal he tried to negotiate with somebody seeking $100 million from boxer Manny Pacquiao after a big fight. Then they press Keith Davidson on whether he helped someone get paid in connection with the 2010 TMZ story about the rehab treatment of Lindsay Lohan.

Bill Brennan, the purpose of bringing up all of this is what?

BILL BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP PAYROLL CORPORATION ATTORNEY: To show the jury who they're hearing from. I mean, this is an individual who preys on people with problems. And while it may not be illegal, it certainly -- it smacks of distasteful. And today was as the world turns, I mean, it was like a soap opera episode.

This is -- this -- people like this in our profession, lawyers, are the reason that the public has the opinion, the low opinion they do of lawyers. He wouldn't admit to hush money. He said, well, it's really consideration.

I mean, I had a guy one time many years ago in a robbery case. He's going, can we say it was just an involuntary loan? No, we can't. It is what it is.

I mean, what -- I think when the jury hears from Cohen, who is a polluted source, who is all over the board. You heard Davidson say, one day, he's calling, screaming and threatening him. And the next day, he's calling, he's morose. Why can't I come to Washington?

And at this point, Jake, it's important to remember that the AMI people, the Davidson crew and Cohen are all kind of in a little cabal together.


And while Trump has been mentioned and spoken about, they really haven't tied it to him yet.

TAPPER: Interesting stuff. Karen what do you make of the fact that all these salacious celebrity scandals are being brought up. And one of the other things that Trump attorney Emil Bove was bringing up in relation to this. I believe it was him. He's right now, Mr. Bove cross-examining this tech person, Douglas Daus, who works for the Manhattan D.A., you probably know him, in fact.

He is explaining right now that the data has a heart -- has a hash value like a digital foot -- fingerprint. Bove asking Daus whether he has first-hand knowledge of why the recording of Mr. Trump cut off and Douglas Daus says, he's does not. This is, I suppose, just trying to establish what the prosecution was trying to establish that these recordings are real.

Emil Bove, I'm not sure what he's doing, but in any case, Karen, let me just ask you these kind of like other sleazy cases and the idea of where is the line between, hey, I have this story that somebody has and you can buy it and it won't see light of air or not versus extortion, it does seem to be suggesting that this prosecution witness Keith Davidson, is kind of sleep easy. That seems to be what the prosecution -- I mean, the defense is underlining.

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. Without a doubt, the defense strategy is twofold. It looks destroyed the witnesses and just show them to be liars extortionists, sleazy, untrustworthy people to the extent that there was anything they said that was helpful and establish that there's no connection to Trump.

So what he's -- got with -- I think you're going to see a summation in the end that is going to say, look, this is the -- we have exposed the underbelly of journalism, of the legal world but it's -- but it's this cabal of people that had nothing to do with Donald Trump. It's -- they were just trying to curry favor and you saw how Michael Cohen was suicidal I think this witness testified to today, that he didn't get a position in Washington in the White House.

So that's I think what they're going to do and they scored some points today I think, making -- making Keith Davidson look, you know, I think both sides got covered in some mud and the mudslinging fight that happened today, but they scored some points for sure.

TAPPER: Karen, just quickly. Do you know Douglas Daus who works in the Manhattan district attorney's office where you used to work?

AGNIFILO: You, know I'm not sure that our paths crossed, but I am familiar with the unit that he works for. It's called HTAU, the high- intensity -- I forgot what, it's some high-technology unit is what it's about, and it's basically the away for the Manhattan D.A.'s office to do their own analysis of electronic devices that are seized in investigations and they have some really incredible people as you can see from the cross-examination of this gentleman, he worked in Iraq and he's done intel work.

I mean, just the most talented, incredibly couple people work there and lend their expertise to the office to help them solve crimes. It's an incredible unit.

TAPPER: Right, not exactly Milton from office space, right? It's not exactly the pocket protector brigade. This guy served in Iraq.

Bill, I'll come right back to you, but I have to squeeze in a quick break because only select reporters have credentials to actually be inside that courtroom. We're going to talk to two of them about what we all could not see as witnesses took the stand. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of Donald Trump's criminal hush money cover up trial. Our panel is back with us.

And, Jamie Gangel, the -- actually, Kristen Holmes, I owe you a call. So let me say the witness, Keith Davidson today pushback on the prosecutor's characterization the term hush money. He objected to that.

The prosecutor asked, would you use the phrase hush money to describe the money that was paid to your client by Donald Trump. Davidson says, I would never use that word. The prosecutor asks what word he would use. Davidson replied, and Jim Trusty was making front of this not long ago, consideration. It is an interesting dictionary that Mr. Davidson has when it comes to providing basic facts and information, and the jury sitting there thinking, what is this possibly? What language is this guy speaking?

HOLMES: Yeah, I think that one of the things I was going to say and you actually touched on this with your last panel, but was often but Mr. Trusty said, which is the jury, sure, is wondering a lot of why were going back and forth over this. What exactly he's talking about? How could he possibly say that hush money is not the same as this reconciliation payment, or consideration payment?

But what the defense did and know that they want to do is continue to paint all of these witnesses as kind of these creatures who are operating in a different world than everyone else does and Michael Cohen among them and that Donald Trump had nothing to do with it.

And I think that yes, the jury was paying attention to Davidson. Yes, they don't know the ins and outs of being a lawyer, but when they got to that part about the questions about the salacious tapes, the questions about whether or not he had had his bar license at some point suspended while they were doing an investigation. There were a lot of questions there that the jury was clear really paying attention to. They are riveted on and they were doing their job. The defense in terms of what they believe their number one strategy is painting Michael Cohen as this kind of liar and someone who operates in these circles.

TAPPER: Jamie?

GANGEL: I just -- look, there is a yuck factor to all of this that you hear this laid out, but I just think that part of the testimony where they talk about all these different celebrity payoffs was ineffective normalizing it. In other words, what the defense gets out of that was yeah, Donald Trump did this, but so did this actor and this celebrity and this one.

And some of them are at least reported, allegedly paid a million dollars for this kind of hush money consideration.

TAPPER: Right. One of the cases was Charlie Sheen allegedly paying $2 million to one of Keith Davidson's clients who possibly was also one of Charlie Sheen's clients.

GANGEL: And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think --

TAPPER: The other way around I should say.

GANGEL: I missed the part where Charlie Sheen was running for president, right?

TAPPER: Right. Right.

GANGEL: So, it's --

TAPPER: But this ick factor, does it normalize or does it turn the jury off of Donald Trump?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think the latter. I mean, to the extent that normalizes it, it brings Trump into that normal, which is all this yucky stuff has going on. He is part of it. I mean, that whole issue with the idea of these are people who tried to prey on people with problems. Trump had a problem.

So I think the problem for the defense here is what -- I think the biggest problems, they don't have a very coherent theme for their defense. There's no like veering around.

Sometimes they attack people. Sometimes they try and poke holes. Sometimes they weren't trying to get people to talk about Michael Cohen's credibility.

They really need to pick a lane and stay in it because this type of scatter gun approach, I just don't think it's that effective.

TAPPER: Jim, when the defense got a hold of Keith Davidson, things did get testy. He was responding with little or no detail to a bunch of questions about -- from Trump attorney Emil Bove, Bove jab to Davidson about his fuzzy memory saying, we're both lawyers. I'm not here to play lawyer games with you. And Davidson said, you're getting truthful answers, sir. If you're not here to play legal games, then don't say extract. Little lawyer versus lawyer violence here.

How do you think it's playing to the jury?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Yeah. Hard to know from the outside. I mean, it'd be priceless to be in there looking at the demeanor as these exchanges take place, look, but the guy -- clearly, I mean, part of the reason we're bringing out these other high-profile scenarios where there was a consideration payment or reparation --

TAPPER: Hush money payment.

TRUSTY: -- whatever it's called --

TAPPER: Right.

TRUSTY: -- part of that, I think is to just focus in on this attorney. I agree with the concept. You don't want to be to scatter gun. You

don't want to make it seem like you're just attacking everything that moves. And I said from the beginning, I don't think I'd do anything for McDougal or Daniels. I think I would just let them testify maybe a little bit with Stormy because of inconsistencies, but nothing that's really aggressive, nothing that's really combative.

This guy was a little bit of a target rich environment because he's quibbling because he is in this lane of sleazery. And so I think it's a sore temptation to think that you're not going to attack his credibility a little bit. So --

TAPPER: A lucrative lane of sleazery one might think. I mean, he's -- if he is getting 30 percent 40 percent of $2 million payment.

TRUSTY: Yeah, Manny is not impoverished as a former boxer. I don't know about Hulk Hogan's current status, but yeah, look, it is lucrative, but its kind of gross and bottom line is, I think the jury is probably getting a little hungry right now for the actual links to President Trump and his state of mind. Never mind all the way down stream to why does it say legal services, not legal services for an NDA.

I mean, we're not really at the heart of the crime yet, no matter what. But I think they probably want to hear connections. What's interesting to me is if Hope -- if we don't get a whole lot from some of these other names that are out there --

TAPPER: Like Hope Hicks?

TRUSTY: Like Hope Hicks, it really could come down to Cohen being the guy that draws that connection. I just think that's a great battlefield for the defense if that's all plays out.

TAPPER: So Donald Trump spoke just as court wrapped. He also took some questions. We're going to turn that sound around. We're going to squeeze in a quick break and bring it right to you. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And welcome back to our breaking news.

Former President Donald Trump just moments ago spoke to news media after the court wrapped for the day.

Here's what he said when a reporter asked if he himself is going to testify in his own defense.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do whatever they want to us, and I'm not allowed as a presidential candidate, the leading candidate, the Republican Party nominee, and the one who's leading Biden by a lot. I'm not allowed to talk. There's never been any abuse like this before.

This conflicted judge should get out of this case, he shouldn't be -- he should not be having this gauge. It gives us nothing. It's such a rigged court.

So I'm not allowed to testify because of it unconstitutional gag order. We're appealing the gag order and let's see what happens. Thank you very much.


TAPPER: So, that is not the bite that we were going to run there. Apparently, there was a time that he was asked if he was going to testify and he said something along the lines of he's not allowed to testify.

But let's bring in CNN's Daniel Dale who's fact checking what Donald Trump said -- Daniel.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, he kept saying he's not allowed to testify. That is just a lie, Jake. He is absolutely permitted to testify in his own defense and this false claim, this lie is part of a pattern of former President Trump grossly exaggerating what the gag order actually says. He said at a campaign rally yesterday that because the gag order, he shouldn't even be talking to you, his audience.

The gag order does nothing to prevent him from speaking to political audiences, from delivering social media posts about politics and policy, from speaking to the media. It does not prevent him from attacking the judge, the district attorney, prosecuting this case.


President Biden, his political opponent since it is narrowly restricted, it is tailored to three specific kinds of speech. He cannot talk about jurors in this case. He cannot talk about a reasonably foreseeable witnesses in this case with the specific intention of interfering with their participation in the case, and he can't talk about court staff or their families, junior prosecutors, or their families, and so on.

So this claim that the gag order means he can testify, it just conjured out of thin air and its Trump has gone from saying that he will testify to he may be will testify to if it's necessary to now, well, I can't testify. It's out of my hands.

But it's in his hands. He can testify and he just making stuff up.

TAPPER: All right. Daniel Dale, thanks so much.

CNN's Kara Scannell was inside court for all of today's testimony. She's going to join us next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we are back.

Court is wrapping up for the day in Donald Trump's criminal hush money cover up trial. And I'm here with my panel.

We just heard Donald Trump after court saying that he is not allowed to testify because of the gag order. That, of course, is not true. He is allowed to testify. It's a strange thing to say.

I don't even know where that sort of thing comes from I guess.

Jim, just to reiterate the point, he's allowed to testify.

TRUSTY: Yeah. I think the at least the clip I hurt the context of it was pretty clearly talking about the gag order. And I think he used the word testify in kind of an artful way. He really meant I can't talk about the case.

There's all sorts of room to poach and say, you really can't talk about the case. But is bristling to the idea that a judge has done something that's very unusual, which is putting a gang I go order on a criminal defendant during their trial.

TAPPER: Yeah. And Judge Merchan has already ruled that Trump has violated the gag order against -- now, to be clear here, he's allowed to criticize the case. He's allowed to criticize the district attorney. He's allowed to criticize the judge. He's allowed to criticize Joe Biden and the news media and he's just not allowed to criticize the staff of the judge's office, the staff of the prosecutor's office, the jury, and the witnesses.

And the issue I think where he seems most frustrated, at least according to his attorneys, is the fact that he's not allowed to criticize Michael Cohen, who is repeatedly in various media criticizing Donald Trump.

And in fact, I don't know if we have the courtroom sketch, but there's a courtroom sketch of Donald Trump seeing an image that Michael Cohen had retweeted or tweeted of Donald Trump in a prison suit, an orange jumpsuit, and that it was brought up by the defense saying, here's Michael Cohen throwing punches at Donald Trump all the time.

That's the actual Michael Cohen tweet: Breaking, I'm excited to announce my new Mar-a-Lago clothing line during Milan fashion week as we celebrate the fall of the Mango Mussolini. Yes, it's real. And you can get yours today.

Now, that is from September 23rd, 2022. So that's from some time ago, but the point that they're making is Michael Cohen's throwing punches at Donald Trump every day. Why can't he respond?

WU: Yeah. And Cohen --

TAPPER: And there's the courtroom sketch I was asking for where Donald Trump is portrayed and you can see the rather artistic rendering of Donald Trump and it doesn't even look like a prison jump suit. It looks like he actually is in Milan.

But in any case --


WU: That actually might be the superhero costume.

TAPPER: That's an Avengers uniform --

WU: Exactly, right.

I think Cohen is doing a good job of goading Donald Trump into violating the gag order and the problem here, obviously, Trump's defendant, not Cohen and this sort of like its not fair to criticize me. It also does not play into Trump's claim that this is all political attacks. That obviously does not look like a political attack.

Trump wants to make any criticism politics, so then he can say anything back under the umbrella of being political. And that's just not right.

TAPPER: So let's put on our jurors hats over here if we can, you're a juror.

Will actually the jury isn't -- isn't part of the gag order hearing, so never mind about that. You're a voter, okay? And you're hearing this stuff. It might -- it might actually be just like a fundamental issue of fairness. That doesn't seem fair that Donald Trump's not allowed to criticize him when he's constantly throwing punches at him.

HOLMES: Well, the voters that we talked to you obviously don't really care about this case. When I covered Donald Trump and I go to his rallies, so no one there is up an arm --

TAPPER: Did they even know he's on trial?

HOLMES: They do know he's on trial, but they think it's unfair and I will tell you that this case going first one of interesting conversations I had, someone who worked for the Trump administration was very close to Donald Trump actually, no longer has any ties with him, told me that this case going first made him what to put a MAGA flag in his front yard because he felt like it was unfair.

And that's really the sentiment when you go to these rallies that they feel like this is unfair. So when Donald Trump says there's a gag order on him, he can't talk. No ones reading the gag order. No ones paying attention to what the actual logistics are, what the actual fine print says. They just believed the fact that he's saying that he can't talk about certain things.

And then he is and doesn't help that again, one of the lead witnesses here is Michael Cohen, who is out there constantly trashing Donald Trump. And so you have Donald Trump saying, well, he's not allowed to say anything back. He's not allowed to counterpunch and that's his whole thing, voters are -- you know, they stand with Donald Trump on this stuff.

Maybe, but on the other hand, Donald -- I mean, Michael Cohen is going to have an argument to make himself when he is finally before the court and the prosecution will make this argument as well. What you're going to highlight for us right now?

GANGEL: So no question, Michael Cohen lied. But when he gets on the stand, he's likely to say that he lied in the service of Donald Trump.


He was very loyal to Donald Trump. There's the famous quote of, he would take a bullet for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Which is a coincidence because Donald Trump said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and his fans, his supporters were so loyal, they wouldn't -- just saying there's like a metaphor combo going on there.

GANGEL: Right, I know someone who knows both of them very well and their relationship going back and that person said to me that they really thought at the time that Michael Cohen would be the last person to turn on Trump.

So what is Michael Cohen like on the witness stand? We -- he may very well connect with jurors. You don't know.

When someone says, I'm ashamed, I'm wrong. We saw his testimony in front of Congress. That -- we do not know, but if that's the way he presents himself in court, it may give him some credibility despite the lies.

TAPPER: Jim, is it possible that Michael Cohen might come across as more sympathetic and credible than Trump supporters are willing to conceive?

TRUSTY: I think on direct. I just don't see how he manages the storm of cross with all of the video clips, with all of the quotes they're going to be able to play, just on the bias part, not about having a criminal record as a liar, not about, you know, saying things like I should be in the White House, but just on the pure bias, he has given them a flood of information.

And let me just raise a point to watch out for with Cohen in coming days here. You know, the gag order. Whatever you think of a gag order, President Trump violated it, got fined the maximum amount for contempt you can be fined. But there's a different issue with Cohen which is he made comments yesterday about witness testimony. He started talking about, oh, David Pecker did a nice job saying this, that and the other.

In every trial, every serious trial you have in this country, you have a rule of sequestration of witnesses, where they are purposely out of the courtroom, not able to see the other witnesses with some exceptions, not allowed to see the other witnesses' testimony. Cohen is taking in testimony and commenting on it. I would not be surprised if you see a motion to exclude him on the whole for violating a very important rule for the administration of justice, which is keeping witnesses from parroting the testimony or molding their testimony to what other witnesses have said.

So, I'd be real curious to see if they take that tack and file something in the next couple of days because I think they have a record that would support it.

WU: Oh, that would really be on the judge. I mean, the judge is actually instructed going not to like watch reports exhibit, like that.

TRUSTY: He's a lawyer. You should be able to comply with the rule of sequestration if he's a liar.


TAPPER: I believe he was a lawyer. He's been disbarred. So I mean, I don't know if that's an excuse.

TRUSTY: They don't do a memory white.

TAPPER: But I'm just saying he has been disbarred.

So CNN's Kara Scannell was inside the court today. She had a completely different vantage point of what played out today.

Kara, first of all, can I just ask you a question? Are you able to see the jurors where you are?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, I have a clear view of the jury from where I've been sitting both in the morning and the afternoon, and the jurors were following along. We could see them looking at the monitor, that each of them have a monitor before them where the evidence is put on that. We could see their eyes focused on that, when the attorneys were directing them to look at what are the documents that were entered into evidence in the case.

And we also said them closely following the testimony of following both the lawyer asking a question whether it was the prosecutor or Trumps attorney, and a witness answering. Both Keith Davidson, who is an important witness in this case, who is describing so much of this in detail, but also paying close attention to the last witness on the stand, someone who works in the district attorneys office doing forensic analysis.

They were following along with his testimony, which in comparison was relatively dry, talking about the chain of custody when you get a cell phone and how do you extract data from the cell phone? They were all actively paying attention. You could see their eyes focused on them about the witnesses and the attorneys.

So I would say that they all seem fairly engaged in this even when the testimony was both more riveting or when there was audio being played, but then also when it was a little bit drier. TAPPER: Is it different, the jurors reaction, depending on different days? And the reason I ask is because, for instance, last week, there were some rather dry testimony being about bank records from a banker who I don't think it ever actually even met Michael Cohen face-to-face or maybe he had, but he was not intimately involved. He didn't know why Michael Cohen was setting up the shell corporations, et cetera versus Mr. Davidson, who is a lawyer that traffics a lot in sort of sleazy cases and there were mentions of Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels and Hulk Hogan and Charlie Sheen and Tila Tequila and all these individuals today.

Were the juror -- are the jurors paying more attention or are their eyes open? Is there any difference at all?


SCANNELL: I mean, I would say that they are paying attention in both different kinds of testimony. I mean, I can't read their minds, so I don't know if there happened to be looking if there closely listening to it, or if other parts of it are more riveting, but you definitely do see a lot of attention being paid by the jurors.

I haven't noticed any of them appearing to space out or look away. I mean, even when the testimony is relatively dry, it's being tied into to what the allegations are in this case, setting up the shelf, the shell company wiring the instructions, or is the banker testified that Michael Cohen was always in a hurry, that everything was in urgency.

So he's giving some sense of flair to the testimony, even if underlying documents might be driving this as a case about falsified business records.

TAPPER: That's right. It sure is.

Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

From recorded conversations played in court to mentions of celebrity sex tapes and testimony. There's much more to discuss.

Plus, coming up, we're going to hear from another reporter was also important for all of this.

Plus, there's some other news that happened today.

We'll be right back.