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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Former Trump Aide Hope Hicks Testifies In Hush Money Trial; Trump: Gag Order Will Not Stop Me From Testifying. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 03, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Trump, even becoming emotional at one point following what an insider described as a Perry Mason moment when she said Trump thought it was better for the hush money payments to be revealed after the election than before.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Jake Tapper today.

And we are live outside the New York courthouse where today, one of Donald Trump's most loyal aides and the first former Trump White House employee to testify, took the stand in the hush money cover up trial. Hope Hicks acknowledged to the jury she was nervous to testify at times. She giggled in one instance, actually cried on the stand leading to a brief delay in the trial.

Now Hicks describes starting to work for the Trump organization in 2014 before becoming the Trump campaign spokeswoman in the 2016 race, and ultimately, the White House communications director. Now she testified about the campaign's panic behind the scenes when they learned of the now infamous Access Hollywood tape that Donald Trump was upset when he heard the news and staffers agreed that this was a crisis.

Picks went on the testify that when she learned about Karen McDougal, who alleged a nearly year-long affair with Donald Trump, when contacted by "The Wall Street Journal" just four days before the 2016 election.

I want to dive right in with CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid and Manhattan criminal defense attorney Stacy Schneider.

Paula, let's start with you, because this was a significant day. Everyone was waiting for Hope Hicks to testify, see where she was going to go with things, given her proximity to the former president. But the atmosphere I think was also critical in this moment. Hope Hicks said from the top, I'm very nervous.


MATTINGLY: She cried at one point. What was going on?

REID: It built to a crescendo because at the end of her direct examination from prosecutors, she testified that Trump told her he was aware of the payment that Cohen had made it to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, because remember the heart of this is allegations that he falsified business records that appeared to be a retainer for Cohen, but this suggests that Trump is aware that Cohen paid Daniels and knew it wasn't for legal services, that it was indeed hush money, and he also told her that he knew that suppressing that story was a good big ahead of the election, whose glad that it got out after the election.

And that's all very powerful for the prosecutors' case. And it was a few moments after she said that while they were switching to defense lawyers, that she broke down on the stand, one of our colleagues on the side said it was when she realized that she had just provided something really damaging against her former boss.

Now, we'll say, once defense attorney has got a crack at her, she also provided some helpful testimony to them, most notably that Trump was concerned about the impact that the Karen McDougal story would have on his wife, and that's really a large part of the defense.

So, definitely the most emotional day that we've seen on the stand so far.

MATTINGLY: And to that point, the build from the prosecution kind of laying out the entire timeline over the course of several hours and it was at the very end that we got those critical moments from Hope Hicks that Paula was just detailing, what do think the jury's take away from today should be?

STACY SCHNEIDER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE TRIAL ATTORNEY: Today was like a blockbuster of testimony from Hope Hicks. It was unbelievable. There were so many points scored for the prosecutions case, which is this builds up and background of the story leading up to the election and why allegedly Michael Cohen's payment to Stormy Daniels was in aid of the campaign as the prosecution has gotten previous witness to testify to, but what was also what was happening here, in which the jury was taking in, was that every time Hope Hicks described Michael Cohen, it was what was with this tastes.

And there's this theme coming out from the defense, from Trump's team that Michael Cohen might've gone rogue on this and they're going to try to prove it.

So by Stormy Daniels saying he was inserting himself in the campaign, he wasn't really part of it, but he was called -- I'm sorry.

MATTINGLY: Hope Hicks.

SCHNEIDER: Not Stormy Daniels. Hope Hicks, thank you.

We're expecting --

MATTINGLY: A lot of different players. SCHNNEIDER: Stormy Daniels is coming. We -- there are a lot of little tidbits that Hope Hicks toss to the defense, even though she's the prosecution witness.

But when Paula was describing her crying, I think its so significant because of the fact that the defense is in calling her as a witness, and she and Trump had a very long term excellent relationship. He was very fond of her. They fell out in 2022.

And for her to be crying on the stand, I know what that feels like because he's scary and she knew that she had stepped into it and said something that was not going to help him when she revealed that he was aware of the payments to Stormy Daniels, even though that was after the election, it shows knowledge and intent.


And we are not expecting -- we meaning the attorneys who tried these cases the time, no way, I don't care what Donald Trump says. I don't think he's going to take that stand. It would be way too dangerous.

MATTINGLY: To what you were saying that there were points that Hope Hicks had during the cross that are effective, it's such a good background of Hope Hicks, because she's not one of those people who totally turn on Donald Trump, right?

She hasn't had books. She hasn't been on cable TV. She hasn't gone completely against him. There's no sense of veterans have much publicly at all, and there were points during cross-examination worth the defense got what they wanted, that he is very short.

REID: Yeah, absolutely. Even on direct, she had very warm comments even though they've been estranged since the January 6 investigation, there were very warm comments that she had about his gift for messaging, his work ethic. She's clearly not someone who is hostile to the defendant.

And so that makes it more powerful, anything that they can get out of her and on defense on the different cross-examination. Not only did she talk about how concern Trump legitimately was about the impact this could have in his family. She also talked again about Michael Cohen, as I keep saying, no one has anything nice to say about Michael Cohen, is the one thing that unites both sides of this case is no matter who is doing the questioning, something negative about Michael Cohen always comes out.

And here, she's talking about how he was the fixer but because he's usually broken things, and not a very charitable comment.

MATTINGLY: And she's sort of laughing, and I laughed, too, when I read -- she's funny.

SCHNEIDER: I love when she said Michael Cohen doesn't have a decent or nice bone in his body, but, you know, it's something like that. It should -- everyone is just so against Michael Cohen. But the big takeaway from Hope Hicks' testimony is Michael Cohen, no

matter how hard Trump's defense is trying to distance Michael Cohen from campaign activity. He's still calling Hope Hicks all the time and saying, I've got this intel on Stormy Daniels, I've got a negative statement on Stormy Daniels retracting the story, so campaign, don't worry because I've got it covered.

So, you know, whether he was in the campaign or out of the campaign or acting as Trump's attorney, it's all connect -- Trump's world is all connected. The campaign, his private life, Michael Cohen, and even though we were talking about just now and throughout the broadcast today, how the defense scored this victory because they were able to get Hope Hicks to say, yeah, Trump was really worried about Melania.

Well, why wouldn't he be? It's an allegation about an affair. It's disruptive, but that doesn't take away the motive and the intent and the concern Trump would very likely have on his campaign and bringing in the whole trial is about bringing all of these witnesses into show. Trump's motive and can -- an intent allegedly was to benefit his campaign, his family may have been a motive, but it's likely secondary considering all the machinations we've seen so far, and we're not even halfway through the trial.

MATTINGLY: Right, and so, pushing towards that moment where they directly connected to the former president, which is clearly something they had been trying to do.

All right. Guys, stay with me. I do want to bring in CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin. She was the White House communications director under former President Trump.

And I'm not sure you can find a lot of people who have a kind of a more analogous path than Hope Hicks than you, Alyssa, on some level, including the idea you've testified in front of different panels related to the former president. You've held the role, you've been in the rooms as you guys have been trying to figure out how to respond to crises, this once, specifically.

But I'm interested. You worked in the same White House at the same time in 2020. What did you -- what was your read on how Hope Hicks was today?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, listen, I thought it was a mixed bag and I expected that I said as much in advance. Hope Hicks is not me. I was never expecting I was going to welcome her to the Trump resistance after this testimony.

Her testimony was never going to be Cassidy Hutchinson going in front of the January 6 committee. She is somebody who is loyal to Trump to the very end. She never spoke out about January 6. She just kind of quietly went into the night.

We learned that I guess they haven't been in communication and some time. But I think what she did, she's a very shrewd person. She's calculating how she operates. She was there under subpoena and she said exactly what she needed to say to not perjure herself, to not incriminate herself, but nothing more than that.

So, yes, there were some wins for the prosecution, obviously acknowledging or being able to state that Trump acknowledged the payment that Michael Cohen made. That was a big win, but there were also some key ones for the defense. And I have to think that's by design.

She has such genuine affection for Donald Trump, for his family. She was almost like an extended member of his family, so I think this explanation about he wanted to make his family proud. He didn't want Melania Trump to see the newspapers, I think that's going to resonate with the jury.

And I just want to share one thing, Stephanie Grisham, who was sort of what Hope Hicks was to Trump to Melania Trump pointed out that Melania Trump consumed all of her nose, she's a voracious reader on social media and online, not through print newspapers.


So that wouldn't have really helped her from learning about this just as a factual matter. But I think it was an incredibly mixed bag. If that was the key star witness, you know, I don't know that. I think it's a rock solid case in many ways.

MATTINGLY: Can I see -- you make a really important distinction about kind of your path host White House, and Hope Hicks's path, which I think people need to understand it.

And when you think about that, what do you think it was like for Hope Hicks to be in a courtroom ten feet away from the former president, in front of a jury and the high-stakes case like this?

GRIFFIN: Yeah, I couldn't help but think about that because she had such a close relationship to Donald Trump. I think this was truly emotional for her. I mean, this is someone unlike other senior staff like myself, she would go and have dinner at Ivanka and Jared's house. She was close with the family, like truly a friend of the family.

So I think for her, this was a lot more. She felt like she was having to testify against somebody that she cared about.

For someone like me and others who spoke out just about his unfitness for office, the -- you know, just the oath -- trying to overturn the election, the events around January 6, it was frankly a lot less emotional. It was truly just this is what's right for the country. It's the obligation we felt we had as public servants who collected a taxpayer salary. This is a very different individual without regard.

That said, she's credible. She's in the room. I think she shared some incredibly useful information and did, if anything, giving clear, very clear, made clear that Donald Trump was aware of this payment from that Michael Cohen made on his behalf.

MATTINGLY: Yes, there's no question about that. And I think, you know quite well that he was involved in everything when it came to statements and the like, despite what may have been presented otherwise.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, it's always a pleasure. Thanks so much.

GRIFFIN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, a dramatic day for sure at the Trump hush money to cover up trial. What it was like to be inside the courtroom today as one of Trump's most loyal advisers spent hours on the stand?

Our Laura Coates, she's just out from the court. She's going to join me next. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: We're back outside the courthouse where Donald Trump's hush money trial just wrapped up for the week.

CNN's Laura Coates joins me now.

And, Laura, you were inside the courtroom on what was unquestionably a fascinating day.


MATTINGLY: I think Anderson said when Hope Hicks walked in, there was like there's an electricity to the room given her relationship with the former president.

Walk people through what you saw, what stood out to you?

COATES: Oh, well, that current continued. I mean, the idea that we were all waiting to hear from somebody who's maybe the connection between the campaign -- remember the whole purpose of the prosecutions argument is that this was all done to try to benefit the campaign. Well, she is that link to get us from the stories of catch and kill, to now what happened.

What was striking to watch the former president walking to the courtroom, you're talking about somebody who you are so accustomed to being in these opulent settings by design and intentionally, here he is, an ordinary defendant in a criminal courtroom where a judge walks into the corner courtroom and just says, is the next witness ready? Where jurors are filing in, walking behind him, where you would normally have a buffer zone that's quite extensive Secret Service. Now you've got different court personnel who were lining the hallway, lining the actual aisle.

But in all respects, it showed you just how this is an actual criminal proceeding in this level. What was also striking to me was how emotional Hope Hicks became. It was a moment that I think people were not expecting to see.

MATTINGLY: I don't want to interrupt, but explain it to me, because there's no cameras in the courtroom. COATES: Right.

MATTINGLY: We're reading our sensational reporters who were getting live feeds if every thing is being spoken. You were involved in that today, too, we appreciate it.


MATTINGLY: But it didn't seem like there was anything that drove that moment, and then all sudden, they're taking a break. She's crying in the stand. What happened?

COATES: So, there are two moments you can point that. So when she was done during examination, shed been talking her body was turned toward the jury, most of the time away from the former president of the United States. She was answering her questions towards parts the jury.

And then the direct examination ended where the prosecution ended on in discussion about, you know, a point whether she believed that the campaign would have been impacted by the publication of these articles are of these stories and she acknowledged and back was the case. Then there was a moment when, you know, Emil Bove, the attorney for Donald Trump, came up and took to the lectern.

And when he got up, he had an ordinary questions bill essentially talking about, you know, wanting to direct her to a next moment in time. And then her body kind of turned and she gulped for a second. She closed into herself momentarily and her head began to bow, and then she turned for a second away to lift her hair back and turned her face away, at which point it was apparent that she was becoming emotional.

And you can tell but the attorney for Trump was a little befuddled in that moment as to what he had done. His hands raised for a moment, he looked over so briefly towards the counsel table to see if there's a moment that triggered and then to the jury quickly to figure out how they were receiving this, because no lawyer wants to get up there and have somebody who's already soft-spoken, told you she's nervous when she walked into the room, you know, somebody who had a slight figure in terms of being not a big presence in the courtroom, was not a charismatic or overly verbose person, but that now whatever he had said, made the jury thinking what happened here.

And so then he turned and said, well, do you need a moment? And at first, she I think questioned and pause. Then looked back and said, yes, I do, and then turned her head completely the away as if to shield her face from being visible of crying.

Now, right behind her, there's a bailiff and there is their tissues. There's water and she is turning her body away, as if, you know, self- conscious of what was happening. Then they got up, as she walks around she is having to pass by the former president, somebody who was like a family member to her, remember with her and Ivanka.

And Donald Trump, the former president looks up towards her, and I could see his face very clearly. He looked a bit concerned in the moment, not as if the concern that coming seed said had hurt his case, but that he was concerned, his eyebrows were to parse different ways to look at her face and she covered her face, and her hair, and then slink around as if to shrink herself.


It was a moment that you hadn't seen and was not expecting. And then he stood stoically and sat there, looking straight ahead. Both his attorneys were on his -- on either side of his body, Todd Blanche, Emil Bove. Ms. Necheles was down, a lawyer down the table. She had not spoken to them, but they were both trying to speak in his ear. He kept looking straight ahead of him, as if in that moment, the weight was there.

Now, in thinking about what would have triggered that, it could have been either she's overwhelmed by the entirety of this. I mean, you're talking about someone who said she's not spoken to him since 2022, after having been so close to him, his family and then there was a moment when she's acknowledging that this was an issue for the campaign.

But there was a lot of testimony that came in about how he was concerned about Melania Trump. He respected his wife. He asked for newspapers not to be delivered to the residents when there was unfavorable headlines that may have impacted her perception of him. She talked about all of those things in that moment. I think that she was sincerely overwhelmed by where she was in that moment.

MATTINGLY: This is foreign where the closest advisor that the former president has had on the stand. I mean, he clearly had a friendship that went back decades with David Pecker, didn't a close relationship at all some of the other individuals who have testified should with the C-Span guy, like everybody should want to be friends with the C- Span.

What was his reaction throughout the course of the testimony?

COATES: You know, he was pretty stoic, in fact, looking straight ahead. I kept leaning and cranking my neck to see every time there was a moment how he was receiving it when the first lady -- formerly -- had been I mentioned, what he said it, but what he looked about it. It seemed to me, unlike the demeanor were hearing about when say David pecker, who was someone who knew for decades it wasn't like somebody who is who knew everything about them, although he certainly had a relationship with them it took a very different scenario.

And I couldn't help but wonder, given that Hope Hicks at first come into the family operation through his own daughter, Ivanka, they're not that far apart in age, frankly Ivanka and Hope Hicks, although Hope Hicks is younger. And I couldn't help but think of bout the fact that she was being brought in and part as a kind of character witness in the way that Rhona had been, the right-hand woman of Donald Trump.

They both talked about him and being having their trust and respect. They both talked about their relationship, the excitement and what she called chaos, but a good chaos at times. But then and there was this moment fell when she described the Access

Hollywood tape and the fallout as a crisis. She wasn't mincing words. She wasn't trying to hedge and suggest I mean, wasn't a thing. I mean, I guess it was.

She knew that it was. They talked through the Republican response what was happening at that time. He was leaning in. I understand as well on those issues, but I was looking to the jury. I wanted to see how the jury was receiving her because in the end, that's all that matters for the prosecution.

And I noticed that when they were taking notes and her testimony first before she was crying and emotional, they were looking towards the person asking the question, the prosecution, he looked back at her almost like a tennis match. But then after the moment she began to cry they were leaned in to understand, I think in part what had happened, but also what was going to happen next.

Was she going to be triggered somehow again? Did her testimony the offend Trump in some ways? Did it help the prosecution? And I think that was the moment you realized how much of an important witness this was, for the same reason you were leaning in waiting for Hope Hicks or some connection to come in, so was the jury.

And I'll end you with this because this is how Emil Bove ended. He said, so after all going through her resume and working for the White House, et cetera, he asked her, but in all this, you had no idea was going on back at Trump headquarters and documents, right, in business records? And she says, no, I did not ,which remember that's why we're here. We're not here just to talk about whether he respected his wife or her opinion right here and talk about whether or not Mitch McConnell or Senator John McCain criticized Trump. We were here because its a falsified business records case.

And so as important of a witness as she was to connect the dots, the area where the prosecution must prove is there a case about falsified records -- well, that's a missing jigsaw piece that we will look forward to hearing in the de account.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. Clearly, they're driving to trying to present that case.

COATES: Oh, yes.

MATTINGLY: But, you know, you can give you my pool reporter in court.

COATES: Any day, any day, but there's actually a pool, right?

MATTINGLY: Yes, there is and you weren't that. But I just wanted to make sure --

COATES: I'm going to go swimming pool. I wanted to have -- I'm a very visual person.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy, for coming out. We appreciate it as always. Laura Coates, who's in the courtroom today. Also today, Hope Hicks testifying about first learning about that infamous Access Hollywood tape? It was where reporter emailed are asking for comment. That reporter who went on to publish that bombshell is going to join me, next.

Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: Welcome back.

Today in Trump's hush money trial, the prosecution questioned Hope Hicks about her role as Trump's press secretary during the 2016 campaign, particularly during the release of the Access Hollywood tape where Trump was recorded in a 2005 conversation with NBC's Billy Bush saying this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I can do anything.


MATTINGLY: David Fahrenthold was "The Washington Post" reporter who first got a copy of the tape and broke that momentous and bombshell of a story in 2016. He's now an investigative reporter at "The New York Times".

David, I just have to ask, we're talking about this trend of break (ph) a little bit. I'm fascinated, how surreal was this? First criminal trial of a former president, the current front -- or the current presumptive Republican nominee and you're at the heart of a full day here.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was really surreal. I mean, as a reporter, you never really get a chance to see something like this, on the other side and the side of the people who are answering your questions. So it was fascinating for me to see all the reactions and the different -- different sort of responses they went through after that question, I sent in. I only saw others sort prepared responses that came back today. I can see the rest of the story.

MATTINGLY: What surprised you when you've got that fuller picture?

FAHRENTHOLD: One thing -- I guess two things. One was the first response that we got from the Trump campaign from Hope Hicks that day was we had sent them a transcript of what Trump said in that video, and she said that doesn't sound like Mr. Trump, and I always thought really? Like that does not like Trumps to you? It sounds like him to me and I've been hearing him talk -- I just hear him in the speeches.

But she got that response from Trump himself. We now learn Trump said to her, I didn't sound something I would say. So then we sent them the video itself and then they confirm that it was real.

I also was struck by her initial response that one of the options was just deny, deny, deny. You know, before they even tried to figure out whether this tape was real or was really Trump on it, she was in sort of denial mode, and that was the way that that campaign worked. And in fairness, a lot of other campaigns work.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I guess what was different about that campaign? And do you make a good point in the sense, look, campaign press people aren't there to help you most times. Particularly we get the types of stories, I remember your stories, you're doing about charitable giving. You had a full range of investigative pieces that you guys gotten a battles over.

What was different about the battles you have with them versus other campaigns you've covered?

FAHRENTHOLD: Usually, campaigns will try to sort overwhelm you. They'll call you up and yell at you, tell you 5,500 reasons why you're wrong or the things that you're focusing on are not the right things.

The Trump campaign sort of had two modes. One was just silence. You'd send them a bunch of detailed questions. So its something you are writing about and they would tell you nothing. The second was falsehood. They would -- you know, they'd send a bunch of questions. They would call back and tell you something that was 100 percent wrong famously want an example in there.

And my reporting of Trump's charitable giving, I was told by the Trump campaign and no uncertain firms that Trump had given away million dollars to veterans that it turned out later he'd given $0 of.

So those are the two modes, either lying or not responding at all. This was a really rare example the Access Hollywood day, when they finally responded truthfully and said, yes, this was him.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, slight accounting error when it came so this term will give.

Real quick before I let you go, we got about ten seconds left, to see your emails in this type of forum and format, what do you think?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I'm glad I spelled everything right, and I'm glad I was polite. You never know who's going to read your emails or where. So in this case, I was glad I had the right tone and ask the right things in that email.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. If it's a good reminder to all of us who send emails, be liked David.

David Fahrenthold, we really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.


MATTINGLY: Well, today, it was Hope Hicks, what star witnesses might take the stand next week. We're going to talk about that next. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: We're back outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan with we would call a burning question. Is Donald Trump actually going to testify in his own defense? Well, that depends on what day you ask Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would have no problem testifying. I didn't do anything wrong.

I'm testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth, and the truth is that there's no case. They have no case.

Well, I would if it's necessary. Right now, I don't know if you heard about today. Today was just incredible. People are saying the experts, I'm talking about legal scholars and experts. They're saying what kind of a cases is this? There is no case.

Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag I guess, right? I can't even testify.

REPORTER: Will the gag stop you from testifying?

TRUMP: No, it won't stop me from testifying. The gag order is not for testifying.


MATTINGLY: And Judge Juan Merchan confirming today, as we all knew, the gag order does not stop Trump from justifying, nor does it limit what Trump can say on the stand.

Our legal panel is here. We want to dig into all this.

Paula, I want to start with you. What is your sense right now in terms of when you talk to his defense team, what they're thinking about as they watch this play out, is their client going to testify?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: According to the sources I've spoken with, at the beginning of this trial, this is absolutely something that was on the table. They believed that their client was capable of getting on the stand and adding constructively to his defense.

Now, I pointed out his conduct in the last few civil trials that here just blocks from here, I said, look, he didn't behave himself. He was rude, at times obnoxious, and that really hurt him when it came to the verdicts in those cases. And they said that he had learned some lessons there.

But I think what we've seen is in his answers and evolution, making it seem less likely that he's inclined to do that. That could be because he sees the risks. It could also be because the defense is like, we don't need it. We're really doing well here with the witnesses that the prosecution has put on. I hope they do well with their own witnesses as well.

So at this point, if I had to bet like $5, I won't bet like big money, I don't think that he will take the stand.

MATTINGLY: All right. You've heard. There's money on the table here.

REID: Five dollars.

MATTINGLY: I want to bring Tom Dupree.

Tom, Judge Merchan is yet to rule on the four additional alleged Trump gag order violates patients after initially ruling Trump violated nine times, $9,000. What's your sister when we can see a ruling come down and how much patients do you think the judge has here if these violations continue?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I think we're going to get a ruling on those other gag order issues early next week. I don't think the judge has a huge amount of patients for Trump and violations of the gag orders that happened in the past. That said, the latest batch of alleged gag order violations didn't seem to irk the judge quite as much as the first batch does, although I would expect them to impose some sort of sanction, I don't think he's going to the hammer here.

And as far as Trump testifying, I don't see it happening. If I were on the Trump defense team and he wanted to testify, I would tackle him before he made his way to the podium. It will not help the defense and it will give the prosecutors a Pandora's box of issues to open and cross-examine Trump on.

MATTINGLY: All right. So, we've got somebody 5 bucks on it. Tom is saying he would physically intervening if this happen.


Do you think the former president should testify on this -- as a lawyer?

STACY SCHNEIDER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: As a lawyer? No. My goodness. Defense lawyers never want defendants charged with crimes opening their mouth on the stand. It can go anyway, that it can be broadened.

You say one thing, it's a trapped door to something else. And who is, who is the biggest mouth on the planet? Donald Trump. It would be the last thing.

But the rule of law is that the client decides whether or not they testify and not the lawyer. So that's the one piece of strategy in the case that is all only up to the defendant.

So the lawyers decide what witnesses are calling, they decide the order of the witnesses. They decide what testimony they want to elicit. But this is purely a decision in Trumps domain.

And I want to -- I want to add something a very interesting observation about Donald Trump from today that came out of Hope Hicks, because I was on his television show, "The Apprentice".


SCHNEIDER: And I know how he operates when people talk out of line and when Hope Hicks first took the stand, it was reported from inside the courtroom that he closed his eyes and there's been a lot of reporting on that. That, oh, he's sleeping. How could he be sleeping while this is going on?

And then yesterday, you remember he -- social media posted that I wasn't sleeping when my eyes are closed. I --

MATTINGLY: Beautiful blue eyes, by the way.

SCHNEIDER: My beautiful blue eyes. I'm taking it all in.

I don't think he's taking it all in. I think he is coping. I think he is self soothing when he closes his eyes.

It has nothing to do with sleep. I think he knew the moment that Hope Hicks was taking that stand that it was going to be heartache for him. It was going to be embarrassment for him.

It was going to put together the three pieces of his life that are theme of this trial -- his business operations, his campaign operations, his White House operations, and then lastly, his personal interactions.


SCHNEIDER: I don't think he head much care for any of the other witnesses, even though he said David Pecker, like you said earlier, as his friend of 20 years. He doesn't care about Michael Cohen. He cared about --

MATTINGLY: Hope Hicks.

SCHNEIDER: Hope Hicks, thank you. Keep wanting to call her Stormy Daniels for no -- no reason at all.

MATTINGLY: But to the point though, because actually appreciate the question. I want to ask Tom.

Tom, when you -- Hope, Paula talked about this often, how important Hope Hicks was just because of her role. We don't know who the prosecution will or could call on Monday. We know a whole lot of people played very significant roles in this whole process that haven't testified yet. Who do you think is next? DUPREE: Well, I don't know if he's next, but I can assure you, we're going to hear from Michael Cohen at some point. I mean, he's the one who's going to have to connect all the dots here, Phil, because what the prosecutors had been doing is putting forward an arguably compelling circumstantial case. They're showing that Michael Cohen was working behind the scenes, busy is a beaver trying to open LLCs and cut deals and that sort of thing.

But what the prosecutors have yet to do is to directly connect Trump to what Cohen was doing. That's the missing link. They need to draw that line. I'm not sure how they're going to draw that line other than putting Michael Cohen on the stand.

And when they do that, its going to be Katy bar the door and cross- examination because you know, that is the moment that the Trump defense team has been waiting for all of these months.

MATTINGLY: Yes, there's no question about that.

What's your sense right now in terms of this prosecution feel like they need to do more, put more people up, build more towards Cohen? As he -- possibly on Monday.

REID: So, yeah, it's a fair question and we expect Michael Cohen's testimony could take a full week, both the direct and cross. Now we have the whole photos up there.

I think it's less likely now that Kellyanne Conway would need to be called because really the most important thing is she would contribute we expect, you never know, you don't know, is the impact of the Access Hollywood tape on the campaign and Hope Hicks really got it that. Also Karen McDougal, again, her catch and kill deal is not at the center of this criminal case, unclear what additional value she would add.

So I'm sure they might have some other summary witnesses, perhaps these folks who get up, help introduce evidence is possible. They can call some folks who worked at the Trump Organization. We know the defense lawyers will do that to bolster their argument that Trump really wasn't aware of what was going on with the invoices and this retainer, but it is possible that Cohen could go next week.

MATTINGLY: All right. Stacy, Tom, Paula, two weeks down, two plus weeks down. Who knows how many more left? Appreciate it, guys.

Well, today's testimony dredged up a lot about Trumps 2016 campaign. Will that impact the 2024 race? Our political insiders join us, next.



MATTINGLY: We're back outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan for Donald Trumps criminal hush money trial, where we heard some blockbuster testimony from one of Trump's closest aides about his conduct in the run-up to the 2016 election.

So the question politically is this going to impact the 2024 election?

Let's bring in some of our political voices.

Kristen Holmes, I want to start with you. You cover the Trump campaign. You're with them every day. You're talking to them every day.

Hope Hicks very emotional today on the stand. She testified. She last had contact with Trump in the summer and fall 2022. It's almost two years ago.

What do we know about her role? How people inside the campaign view her now?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, people inside of the campaigns still have a lot of respect for Hope Hicks. I mean, what we know about the reason that that she hasn't spoken to Trump since 2022 is that all of this is around her testimony to the January 6 committee being made public. And in that, there was a series of text messages in which she really went after Donald Trump over January 6, she went after -- talking about how this was going to harm his legacy, but also harm White House staffers who hadn't gotten jobs outside of the White House, essentially saying they weren't going to be able to find those jobs when they left the White House.

And this really rankled a lot of people that were very close to Donald Trump, but I will say speaking to people close so both hicks and Trump they still have a mutual admiration for each other. They still talk very highly of each other. I think part of that was clear in the courtroom today. Part of her getting emotional when she was talking about Donald Trump and specific events that happened, Donald Trump looking concern according to our reporters in the courtroom from when she started crying, there.

I don't think this is something that her campaign is necessarily worried about.


I actually think that they more have a fondness for Hope Hicks.

MATTINGLY: You know, to that point, Shermichael, today's testimony on packed a lot of -- just kind of like the greatest hits of worst moments have Donald Trumps 2016 campaign, the Access Hollywood tape, he won in 2016. I guess, one of the questions is, do people care? By people, I don't mean the base, the Republican base, the people who vote in primaries, but the general electorate heading into November?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so, Phil. I mean, I think most people look down on Trump and they're not surprised by the Access Hollywood tape in 2016, and they're not surprised by the salaciousness of this particular case.

It's almost expected. Donald Trump never portrayed himself as this great moral arbiter, if you will, this great spiritual person. It's just not who he is. And the reality is as a strategist, when I think about why people aren't concerned about this, I'm not thinking about Phil, what they're telling pollsters in terms of, oh, I'm a good person, I'm a decent person. I'm thinking about what are the things that they aren't saying?

And I want to kind to look at their background. I want to look at their research and prepare for this. I went and took a look at the top websites viewed in the country. Two of the most top sites in the country, Phil, are rather salacious, if you will.

So the point that I'm trying to make here is that there are a lot of Americans who will look at this and I say, well, he's a guy. It doesn't matter, just like an Access Hollywood tape came out, a lot of people say, well, that's just the way men talk. And I do believe there's a significant percent of Americans, not just Republicans, who believed that and they will dismiss it.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, Ashley, you know, to that, I mean, I dispute the idea of just how some men talk. For sure, Shermichael wasn't saying that's the case. It's some people think, but I certainly feel the sense I get the sense when you talk to people, it's baked in, right? They know. They were there seven years ago, eight years ago, we've kind of gotten past that.

As a Democrat, how does the Biden campaign counter that at this point?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, when the Access Hollywood tapes came out, I bought it should've been terminal to his campaign. It clearly was not. He was elected president.

But there has been so much that has happened since then that I do think some voters may look at the Access Hollywood tape, plus the January 6 case, plus the classified documents case, plus January 6, just in general and his administration over the four years and say, this is too much and we don't want that. So, it's not just this case that will be a deciding factor, but its still totality.

The one thing about today's testimony though that is like kind of sigh of relief almost as someone who is looking at the 2016 election and saying, how can people not care? Is that when you talk about grabbing some women by their private parts, you know that's wrong. Even if that's just how men talk.

And when you are busted and caught on tape, and it should have tanked your campaign, and the fact was today we know they knew it was wrong, too. For so long and the Trump era and the Trump world and pretended like that's just how men talk, no, they know what was wrong, and now they are had to -- Hope Hicks had to admit on the stand today that it was wrong.

And I think that is an important shift for the American people to know. It's not just the way men talk. It's wrong and it shouldn't be accepted and it shift -- is definitely should not be accepted for a president.

MATTINGLY: Kristen, I know it feels like you're a legal reporter on some level these days, but you are in fact leading our campaign coverage of the former president campaign team. He's actually going to be doing campaign related things over the course of this week, it's got a big fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida. He's going to be joined by several potential vice presidential picks.

What's your sense in talking to -- I know they're trying to knock everything down. Where does that stand right now?

HOLMES: Look, they're still trying to figure out exactly who's on the shortlist. I think Donald Trump himself doesn't really know exactly who's up and who's down because it changes every single day. We know that there have been times when Doug Burgum has been coming out of his mouth nonstop, same with JD Vance, both of whom will be there this weekend.

These candidates just have to spend enough time around him and around his inner circle to make sure they're still getting the favorability around his inner -- inner circle and in his ear in order to possibly be a pick for vice president.

MATTINGLY: All right. We'll definitely be watching that and we'll be back here again on Monday.

Shermichael, Ashley, Kristen Holmes, thank you, guys, very much.

Now the other major news today, a congressman and his wife indicted where there are accused of taking more than a half million dollars in bribes from. That's next.



MATTINGLY: Well, today's last lead, big trouble for Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar. The federal indictment charges to the ten- term lawmaker and his wife accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from foreign entities, a gas company in Azerbaijan, and a bank in Mexico.

Now, before the indictment was announced, Cuellar put out a statement saying his actions in Congress were, quote, in the interests of the American people. And that he intends to continue his bid for reelection.

Now, a live look at the White House. Just moments from now, President Biden will award the nation's highest civilian honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 19 people, including a number of high-profile Democrats, civil rights leaders, scientists, athletes, and entertainers.

You're looking at the full list right now. Among them, Nancy Pelosi, the first woman elected speaker of the House, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, former Vice President Al Gore, also civil rights activists like Opal Lee, known for her efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and Medgar Evers who is being awarded posthumously for him his leadership in the fight against segregation. He was murdered at his home in Mississippi in 1963. Also being honored, actress Michelle Yeoh and TV personality Phil

Donahue. Now, you may remember in 2017, when then President Obama surprised Biden, his then vice president, with the honor.

Well, coming up on Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION", Republican Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota, plus, Ben Sass, the former Republican senator and current president of the University of Florida on campus protests that have gripped the nation. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern, and again at noon here on CNN.

Up next, our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Wolf has a packed show all the Trump trial details in an interview with a sketch artist who has been inside the courtroom. That's "THE SITUATION ROOM". It's coming up next.