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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Stormy Daniels Testifying In Trump Hush Money Trial; Stormy Daniels Testifies About Payment At Center Of Trump Case; How Americans Are Reacting To Trump's Criminal Trial. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 07, 2024 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

It has been the most compelling day so far in Donald Trump's criminal hush money cover up trial, because for the very first time today, we heard testimony from Stormy Daniels who's alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump is at the very heart of this case.

Remember, the rendezvous itself was not a crime, not in Nevada, and nor would be any alleged hush money payments tough to Stormy Daniels. The crime according to the New York district attorney is the falsifying a business records that were used to conceal the payments to keep Stormy Daniels from telling her story publicly in the days leading up to the 2016 election.

But today, Stormy Daniels told her story under oath, explaining how she met Trump at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Then, got a dinner invite where the meeting location turned out to be Trump's hotel room. Mr. Trump allegedly greeted her at the door in satin pajamas and to spare you the details that she revealed in court, we'll just say one thing led to another, another being the alleged sexual encounter.

But the defense took major issue with much of the explicit content and moved for a mistrial, saying that all those details that she had been told that the prosecution and Stormy Daniels have been cautioned not -- not to tell had nothing to do with the case itself. And the defense attorney said that her testimony had gone over the guardrails that the court had set. Judge Juan Merchan has denied the motion for mistrial.

Stormy Daniels right now is being questioned by Trump's attorneys.

Let's get straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, you were inside the courtroom all morning. What were those moments like in the room as Stormy Daniels testified, especially about some of the details that the judge had cautioned the prosecution from steering away -- to steer away from?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: I mean, it was uncomfortable, Jake, and certainly intense. And that was what it was just the prosecution questioning Stormy Daniels, that was before the cross-examination started that's happening right now, but it was kind of this moment in the courtroom where there was actually another witness who testified before Stormy Daniels got on the stand talking about Trump's books and quotes from him, of how frugal he was, and how involved he was in his business.

No one even remembers that because, of course, everyone at that point understood the Stormy Daniels was going to be the next witness on the stand and she testified that she had not seen Donald Trump's since 2007. So it's been 17 years and now here they are coming face-to-face inside this courtroom as she walked behind him at the defense table and took the stand, and then about 10 or 15 minutes into her testimony, the prosecutor asked her to stand up and identified Donald Trump.

And she kind of had to lift up out of her chair. She pointed to him, noted that he was wearing this navy blue jacket, but -- Jake, I mean, it was just remarkable to see how Trump was reacting as Stormy Daniels was testifying. And as you noted, going into those explicit details about how they met. You know, he was kind of grimacing at points when she talked about what he said about Melania Trump. The only time she was brought up that he noted to her that she said they did not even sleep in the same bedroom. He had a scowl on his face for most of the time.

But he was paying attention, Jake. There was a period for a sustained amount of time where he was closing his eyes like we've seen in other instances, as this travel has been going on, he was paying very close attention. At one point, that seemed to be now in denials when she was telling stories about that night they met, but certainly paying attention, Jake.

TAPPER: And right now in court, Trump attorney Susan Necheles is suggesting to Stormy Daniels that her story that she told under oath earlier today about a man threatening her, Necheles, the Trump attorney, is suggesting that the man never existed. Stormy Daniels said, yes, absolutely, he existed. Necheles said, is the story made up? Stormy Daniels said none of it is made up. And the court is taking a brief afternoon break.

I wonder, Kaitlan, if you could describe Stormy Daniels' demeanor. Do you think she came across as credible from the excerpts we were given from inside the courtroom, it sounded like she tried to make some jokes, even X-rated jokes at least once and they didn't seem to go over particularly well with the jury.

How did she seem?

COLLINS: Yeah, that seemed to kind of be a defense tactic from her, just essentially talking about her line of work and what she does and obviously, it's not like an accountant or a publisher getting up there and talking about manuscripts that they review. And that was the witness went before her.

So, I think that was why she was making those jokes -- talking about her business, talking about certain competitions, that there are Miss Nude North America was one of the ones she brought up. And she was very personable and casual in conversational. And I think

that is why she was kind of making some of those jokes, but, Jake, she was speaking very quickly. She seemed nervous when she initially got on the stand. There were at least four instances that I counted where the prosecution had to ask her to slow down because the court reporters couldn't keep up with how quickly she was telling her stories.


And then there were two instances where the judge actually intervened and asked her just to directly answer the question that she was being asked, not to meander or to give details about what the tile looks like in the suite of where she said she met Donald Trump, at that Lake Tahoe Casino.

And so, there were points where it seemed uncomfortable for her to talk about, you know, what it was like and it was just so intense in the room. I think that's why really no one is laughing at her jokes. I think there is a real question of how the jury perceived her and how they believed her.

The one thing Jake, though, that I do think will be hard for Donald Trump to do going forward is to deny having any kind of encounter with Stormy Daniels, which is, you know, to this day he is done because she did have such intense amount of detail of what he was asking her, about her putting him on speakerphone, about the people that she went with when she went to meet up with him at later occasions. I mean, it was an incredible amount of detail from Stormy Daniels for Donald Trump, who, you know, was sitting there listening to this after he's denied ever even knowing her.

TAPPER: Yeah. And it seemed as though Judge Merchan, who again, the court started today before they brought in the jury and Judge Merchan was pretty clear that he thought that all that Stormy Daniels in terms of the encounter itself, all that she needed to say was that there had been a sexual encounter, that they had had sex and anything after that beyond that -- he didn't think was needed.

And yet, the prosecutors and the witness and did not go along with that. And obviously causing the defense to move for a mistrial, which was denied, but who knows what will happen on appeal, assuming Mr. Trump is found guilty, which is far from a forgone conclusion.

It does -- it did seem as though Judge Merchan was frustrated with the prosecutors. Tell us about that.

COLLINS: It was noticeable, Jake. I mean, I took a moment and you have binoculars when you're in the room because you want to be able to really see their expression to know what you're reporting out, given there are no cameras and truly there to be cameras because it would make such a difference if everyone could experience what, what a few of us have gotten, the privilege of experiencing in that room. He was noticeably uncomfortable as she was going into some of the details.

Really, it was Stormy Daniels's prerogative here though. I mean, the prosecution was asking her pretty open-ended questions. Tell us about that interaction with Trump or explain what the two of you talked about there and she would take those opportunities to go into intense detail.

I mean, it was incredibly detailed. I'll say that Jake and so there was a question where the judge was there was intense moment, a few moments where they were asking her if she was going into this really uncomfortable detail. You could see Trump in his attorneys talking he was passing notes to them.

Finally, Susan Necheles, his attorneys started objecting repeatedly and instead of doing what he has been doing through a lot of this trial where the judges rejected their objections. He was sustaining them. He was going along with them and he took a moment to say something to them and to ask after the brief morning break to ask the prosecution to make sure that they were keeping her to answer just directly what is at the heart of this case, clearly did not want it going out.

And then of course that is what Trump's team was complaining about, Jake, when they got back in the room.

CNN's Paula Reid has been watching all of this and reading all of these updates with us.

And, Paula, if I was describing the intensity in there, this morning, I mean, this cross-examination took on a whole other level just now.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And remember at the start of the day, the Trump team was outraged that they had so little notice about who the witness would be. And so little time to prepare their cross-examination.

Well, clearly, Kaitlan, they're doing just fine. This is a devastating cross-examination. They've gotten Stormy Daniels to concede she hates Trump. That she said that she would dance if he went to jail. They have pointed to the fact that she has said she will never pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars that she owes him. They've effectively undercut her credibility by getting her to talk about conversation she had that at pitching her with her own book.

I mean, this has been devastating for storage we Daniels credibility now, big picture. What does that mean for the case as a whole?


REID: Well, maybe not much because she doesn't have any direct evidence of the falsifying business records, but she could explain today is what exactly Trump was trying to hide between the "Access Hollywood" tape and election day in 2016 -- this illicit sexual encounter with a porn star back over a decade prior.

She was able to explain to the jury that and how she got paid. But I think what we should really take away from today is this is a preview of what Michael Cohen can look forward to -- this kind of sort of devastating, eviscerating cross. COLLINS: Also the idea that they didn't know or that they were caught

off guard by Stormy Daniels being a witness. I mean, the hush money payment was made to Stormy Daniels, so I think that's also -- I was confused by that because every Trump did post about its morning.


He deleted at minutes later.

I saw Todd Blanche, his attorney, huddling with the prosecutor right when they got the court this morning. It's unclear if that's what they were discussing.

But -- I mean, walking out of this, they obviously didn't think they were going to get a mistrial, but this cross-examination may continue on through Thursday when they're back in session.

Yeah. The only have about maybe 20 minutes when they come back from this break as easily could go through until tomorrow, and they're making effective use of social media, something that were likely going to see with Michael Cohen. Everything you have said, everything you have tweeted can and will be used against you once you get on the witness stand as you can see Trump walking in.

COLLINS: And there's Donald Trump right now walking back in. He's got multiple attorneys with him, Todd Blanche, Boris Epshteyn who was indicted in Arizona recently, Alina Habba, there's Eric Trump, Emil Bove, and several of his political aides and other legal staffers who were there with him.

So, Paula, sorry, continue. You know, what we were just saying, though, is that -- look, I think the biggest test for Trump going forward for the next slide, 45 minutes, is what he's going to do when he comes out because that's usually when he unloads on his frustrations for the day. I think like the most significant legal threat that she poses to Trump right now is that he's going to go off the rails because he's frustrated and violate the gag order. And the judge might have to make good on his threat to send them in jail.

I think if he can keep it together for the next 48 hours, however long Stormy Daniels is on the stand, that would really be an accomplishment because this is a test for him.

COLLINS: Yeah, it certainly is.

And, Jake, I should also note, one of the aides that was there with him, I noticed she's in the courtroom this morning, her name is Natalie Harp. She's a former One American News host. She is the aide who travels around with them and basically helps print out all of the articles that he wants to read, the coverage that he's getting, including in real times during these breaks, we're told.

TAPPER: Yeah, tough to print articles.

Kaitlan and Paula, stay with me because I want to bring in our panel and talk more about what's going on. Let me start with you, Tom Dupree, cross examination has been tense --

very tense, and not just with the defense attorneys and Mr. Trump also between the lawyer that I mean the prosecuting attorneys prosecuting lawyers, and the judge.

But right now, the defense has been pointing out the fact that Stormy Daniels has refused to pay legal fees she owes Donald Trump. He sued her, right, for defamation, something like that, and at what point the defense attorney says to Daniels -- let's bring this quote up -- you hate Donald Trump.

Stormy Daniels says yes. The attorney says you want him to go to jail. Stormy Daniels says, I want him to be held accountable. The defense attorney, you want him to go to jail. Stormy Daniels says, if he's found guilty? Yes.

How might that play with the jury? Here you have one of the star witnesses, although she's not -- she knows nothing about the actual crime per say, but Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, both of them by their own admission loathe the defendant, loathe.

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right. And look, this is a classic cross-examination technique. You go after the witness for their bias, their prejudice against the defendant. The idea being that if you can show she harbors massive personal resentment against Donald Trump, which she clearly does, that potentially would undermine her overall credibility in the eyes of the jury. That she's not calling it as she sees it, that she has a bias, that she has an agenda here, that she's trying to accomplish.

I will say this. I thought the way the prosecution handled her direct examination this morning in my judgment, it went too far. I think the prosecutors made a mistake in diving into the details, the salacious details. They turn the proceedings this morning into kind of a not safe for work event, and they didn't need to.

This is a case about alleged fraudulent business recording, about, you know, how they characterize these payments, what she testified today has no relevance to any of that. And I think the jury very well could say this is going a little too far. Did we really need to hear all of this? What is the prosecution thinking and putting all of this stuff in before the jury?

So I think they're paying a bit of a price for it on cross-examination this afternoon for going that far.

TAPPER: Inside the courtroom, Stormy Daniels has returned to the stand after a brief afternoon break, and we will bring you those remarks as they as they happen.

Ankush Khardori, do you agree with Tom? Do you think that the prosecution pushed its luck a little when it came to the explicitness of the information they solicited from Stormy Daniels?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, look, it looks like they annoyed the judge a little bit, particularly with some of the details. Look, there appear to have been some suggestions at parts of this were not consensual, that Stormy Daniels then repudiated immediately and that seems have annoyed the judges so she said she was blacked out, that sort of thing. And that seems annoyed him because that's a very -- that's a very electrifying allegation, doesn't seem to be one she's willing to stand behind. It should not have come out.

I will say her testimony about the relationship, it is relevant. It became relevant when Trump denied that the encounter occurred and it became doubly relevant when his lawyers opened on that, when they said that this never occurred.

So, yes, the government now is to call someone. And one of the ways you shore up someone's credibility about a story that they say that they were engaging is you ask them about the details.


KHARDORI: Or was it what do you remember what happened?


I mean, that's -- Trump did this. Trump did this to himself.

So before the jury entered Trump's attorney confirmed that cross- examination of Stormy Daniels are going to continue into Thursday. Not a surprise. It's 4:00 p.m. Eastern right now. There's roughly 15 minutes left to testimony, and obviously, the defense attorney has a lot. The defense of -- the team has a lot more to talk about.

Jamie Gangel, when the defense moved for a mistrial, they claimed that Stormy Daniels had changed her story from what she was saying in 2016. That's true. She did change her story. Yes?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there may be some slight differences, but we sat and read the interview she gave to Anderson Cooper. It pretty much lines up.

TAPPER: Isn't that 2018? The interview with Anderson Cooper?

GANGEL: So I may not be able to answer this question which sometimes happened.

TAPPER: You know, but I'm saying -- what the point is that like she initially had denied everything.

GANGEL: Oh, I'm sorry.


GANGEL: Now, I understand.

TAPPER: She initially, she said --

GANGEL: She absolutely did change her story --

TAPPER: Yeah, yeah. GANGEL: -- because she had signed this NDA and she explains why she changed her story because she was sticking to the NDA.

TAPPER: All right. The jury has returned to the courtroom.

We're going to stick -- we're going to come right back.

Everyone, standby, for just tuning in, Trump's defense team is questioning adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels. You can see the updates there on the side of your screen. We're going to squeeze in a very quick break.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news.

Stormy Daniels is on the witness stand right now. She's being questioned by Donald Trump's defense team, specifically Trump attorney Susan Necheles. Necheles is saying and basically questioning Stormy Daniels' ability to tell the truth given the financial stakes.

You are looking to extort money from President Trump, Nicholas asks. False, Daniel says, raising her voice. This has to do with the fact that Necheles is questioning whether or not Stormy Daniels was actually threatened by someone who told her to keep her mouth shut.

This is a story that Stormy Daniels told Anderson Cooper in 2018, I believe, also said on the stand under oath today, and I think is at the heart of when Donald Trump sued her for defamation. There is no evidence that of anybody threatening her, which is not to say it didn't happen, just to say she did not report it to the police and there's no evidence of it.

Necheles returns back to the story from 2011 actually, asking whether she authorized Keith Davidson to have the story taken down. All I know is I wanted it down she said, I was much braver person in 2016 than I was in 2011.

A lot of this back-and-forth about whether or not she has been honest in her testimony before Stormy Daniels testified today, Kristen Holmes, the prosecution spent some time introducing excerpts from two of Donald Trump's books, and they were trying to get the heart of Donald Trump's character.

Let's read some related to his business dealings. One, as I said before, I always sign my checks, so I know where my money is going. I don't know if were going to put up that, this -- the graphic.

And, also pay attention to the small numbers in your finances such as percentages and cents, numbers that seemed trivial add up and have enormous implications. My parents hammered frugality into me at an early age and it's the most important money management skill a person can use. Call it penny pinching if you want to, I call it financial smarts.

What are they getting at here?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a continuum relation from what we saw yesterday, this idea that Donald Trump is obsessed with his finances, that he has his hand and everything that of course he would know. And this is obviously the link part which they're not making. But eventually that, of course he would know if payments from his private personal account were going out and what they were going to because he is so obsessive and controlling when it comes to his business.

Now what we saw on the counter side of this yesterday was trying to paint a picture of the defense of a chaotic time as switchover in Trump Organization because Donald Trump had been elected president because they didn't know exactly how the new systems were going to work. Could Donald Trump had actually been in charge?

We saw one of the records keepers they had yesterday asking questions. Do you actually know what happened once Donald Trump received the FedEx of the check? She said, no, I just know that it got signed and sent back to me. I just received it. So, kind of painting a picture of who knows what was happening on the other end, that there was chaos at Trump Org, there was chaos in the White House.

However, one thing is clear, and this is from anyone that you've ever spoken to when it comes to Donald Trump, he is a control freak, not just about his finances, but about the messaging around them, but the narration around he believes, he is his own best defender --

TAPPER: Yeah. And he's not necessarily wrong and sometimes he's accurate. He would -- he would not consider it to be an insult that he's a control freak.

Right now on the stand, something going on very important. Necheles is challenging Stormy Daniels asking if why she was trying to sell her story, if she had been so afraid by this individual that supposedly threatened her. Necheles is implying that she wasn't really scared. I was terrified. Stormy Daniels says, I just had to change my tactic because it was a new ball game because Donald Trump was now running for president. The truth is you saw that opportunity to make money, Necheles says.

Susan Necheles is Trump's attorney. I saw the opportunity to get the story out. Stormy Daniels says, I didn't put a price tag on it. The jury is now seeing some texts between Daniels' manager at the time, a woman named Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan Howard who was the editor in chief of the "National Enquirer". These are dated June 2016, and they're essentially trying to paint the defense. Stormy Daniels is somebody who would do anything to make money and including making up stories about Donald Trump, including making up stories about somebody threatening her.

DUPREE: Right. There are two lines of attack here that the defense is deploying. Line of attack number one is the inconsistency in our story. Her story absolutely has shifted over time and I think the defense is fairly effectively exploiting the changes in her story over time to undermine her overall credibility.

The second point the defense is hitting hard today is this notion that she's doing this all for money that she had dollar signs in her eyes and, you know, it sounds like she's saying, well, the situation changed.


That in the past, he was just this, you know, kind of celebrity real estate developer. Now he's a candidate for office. The First Amendment balance shifted. I don't know if the jury will find it persuasive.

TAPPER: Right.

DUPREE: But that's the line of attack that Trump team has gone.

TAPPER: So right now, these text between Stormy Daniels' manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan Howard, who was the editor in chief of "The National Enquirer". Howard says, I thought she denounced it previously. Rodriguez response: She said she will do it under two conditions. Stormy Daniel says she doesn't know who Dylan Howard is. I don't know what this is in reference to, she says. You want me to comment on something when I don't do the contexts and that's not fair.

But the argument being made is that Dylan Howard from the "National Enquirer" is saying to Gina Rodriguez, Stormy Daniels' manager at the time, you're selling -- what story you're trying to sell me? She already said twice it didn't happen.

Everyone standby. The sketch of the day we're going to bring you right now because there are no cameras in this courtroom ridiculously. This is from courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg. It's depicting Donald Trump looking on today as prosecutors questioned Stormy Daniels. You see the photograph there -- the other image behind Trump's faces, Trump's image, and then, of course, that's Stormy Daniels. It depicts a photo you've seen before there it is, showing Trump and Daniels before any whisper of hush money payment. I believe that photograph was taken before anything untoward may or may not have gone down.

We're going to squeeze in a short break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news, the jury has just adjourned for the day in Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial in Manhattan. And what a day it has been. Stormy Daniels took the stand for the very first time for a total of three hours and 44 minutes.

We could hear from Mr. Trump at any moment as he leaves court. No doubt he has strong feelings about what transpired in court today. The cross-examination of Stormy Daniels we're told will continue on Thursday.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is outside the courthouse for us. And, Kaitlan, Stormy Daniels was getting combative on the stand there

and she was being cross-examined by the defense counsel about texts between Dylan Howard, the editor in chief of the "National Enquirer" in 2016, and her manager, Stormy Daniels' manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez.

COLLINS: Yeah. And, Jake, obviously, we're watching -- Donald Trump is about to walk through that door because I'm looking at his attorneys right now. And one thing that I think we have to watch for is what he says, because obviously he talks almost every day as he walks into court, sometimes going out.

I mean, it's an open I've been hearing from Trump allies all day about whether or not he violates the gag order after for this, I mean, obviously he understands the provisions of it, but see right. We don't really see this, Jake. He's --


TAPPER: Kaitlan, I'm interrupting you right now. I apologize because Mr. Trump is coming out and we're going to take it live. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDFATE: So, this was a very big day, a very revealing day. As you see, their case is totally falling apart. They have nothing on the books and records and even something that should bear very little relationship to the case. Just disaster for the D.A., to the source of that D.A. It's disaster. This whole case is just the disaster.

If you read the legal scholars, we'll see because they're writing about it, they've never seen anything quite like it and neither have I. I should be out campaigning right now. We're leading at all the polls. I'd like to be campaigning. We'd be leaving by a lot more.

But I just want to appreciate that. I appreciate the job you're doing. It's not easy standing there all day, waiting with -- you're hearing the same things that we're hearing.

On another matter as, you know, it's Biden's backers that seemed to be funding the -- what's going on with the Palestinians -- probably not Palestinians -- agitators, bad agitators, really bad and I think our government ought to find out who they are, where they're from, and treat them the same way as they do the J6 hostages.

You've got to treat them the same way. These are agitators. It's really hurting our country. It's happening all over the country in cities.

So what happened last night at the Metropolitan Museum, these are agitators. And in some of the colleges, I think it's about 20 percent students, and 80 percent others. So this is a big problem that they've got (ph) to nip on the bud.

And it's a problem from the left, not from the right. This is a problem from the left. And I hope you're going to stretch that. The economy is not doing well. You see inflation is through the roof. They're not going to be able to lower interest rates if they do. It's clearly political, but it'll be very bad if they do from the standpoint of getting rid of inflation, you have to get rid of the inflation.

Inflation as you probably heard me say it's a country buster. It busts countries and it has for a thousand years. You go back and you look at all time -- Germany, you look at a lot of countries that went through the kind of inflation we're going through. And they're busted. They are just broken up, broken up in many cases into little pieces.

And that's what could actually we happen to us. So we have to get inflation under control. We have to get prices down so that people can bring -- people can live, so they can live.

But again, this was a very revealing day in court. Any honest reporter would say that. I would recommend you read Jonathan Turley, and Andrew McCarthy, and Alan Dershowitz, Gregg Jarrett, Mark Levin, are very talented people and others, and others.


There's some incredible people out there that are writing about this trial. They're calling it a disgrace. It's a disgrace.

In the meantime, I'm stuck. I'm here, instead of being in Georgia, instead of being in New Hampshire, instead of being in Wisconsin and all the different states that we wanted to be in ,we're not able to be there because we're stuck in this trial, whichever everyone knows is a hoax.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

REPORTER: Should there still be a mistrial?

REPORTER: Why is the case a disaster?

TAPPER: All right. Mr. Trump responding to a rather not safe for work day in court where Stormy Daniels was testifying about her rendezvous with Donald Trump.

Let's bring in CNN's Daniel Dale, who fact checks what we just heard from Donald Trump. He started off criticizing the case, what happened on the case? Daniel, then he turned to protests on college campuses, then he turned to inflation then back to the case.

What's -- what caught your notice?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: There was a lot there.

Some of it was subjective opinion. I won't try to fact check, but a few things to fact check.

One, he claimed again that he's leading in all the polls. No, he's slightly leading in national polling averages, but he's trailing in a good number of polls, especially those that have come out in the last week or so. There are at least a few.

He refers frequently to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor behind this case, as a Soros-backed district attorney. Now, I'd say there's some arguable basis for that, but I think it's important to clarify the facts.

So Mr. Soros, who's a liberal billionaire philanthropists, also a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories, did not make any direct contributions to Mr. Bragg's election campaign. He also says he's never spoken once to Mr. Bragg.

What did happen was he donated to a liberal PAC that then in turn donated to Mr. Bragg's campaign, as well as other reform minded prosecutors. So this is at best a one-step or move relationship.

And lastly, Jake, I think its important Mr. Trump keeps invoking Germany before World War II as an example of what inflation can do to a country -- well, we had March inflation in this country of 3.5 percent, certainly higher than its been in recent years. But when we talk about, you know, pre-World War II Germany in the 1920s, we're talking about 500, 700 percent.

So there's certainly no real comparison between what we have now, what Germany had been.

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

Let's go pop over to CNN's Kaitlan Collins outside the courtroom.

Kaitlan, what was your reaction to what we just heard from Mr. Trump?

COLLINS: I think he was pleased, clearly, with how his attorney did the -- his attorney, Susan Necheles, conducted the cross-examination. Now, she's not done yet. We do expect that this will can you on Thursday morning when court resumes, they are off tomorrow, Jake, obviously.

But Susan Necheles, just to highlight, was the attorney sitting next to Trumps. She's in the first chair. So, in a direct line of the witness, and she was the one that when the prosecution was questioning Stormy Daniels, Trump kept tapping her arm and urging her to object. On at least two occasions that I witnessed, Susan Necheles then did stand up to object and that was in that really intense period of questioning, where still we Daniels was going into incredible amounts of detail regarding her encounter with Donald Trump or alleged affair with Donald Trump which he denies.

He did not mention Stormy Daniels there and said he just talked about the case and of itself and the basis of it really basically the same people that he quotes ever for single day.

But I do think that says something of the demeanor that he had walking out a court before they had started the cross-examination and then once they had started it Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much. We'll look for more of your reporting on "THE SOURCE" this evening. That's tonight and every week night at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Let's bring back our panel.

So, one of the things I want to get to, and if we could prepare that clip with Kimmel, just to give you a heads up, I'm going to run it. One of the issues at play here is Stormy Daniels denying that she had had a relationship with Donald Trump in 2018. She wrote a document and then later that month in January 2018, same month, she signed another document, the signatures did not look the same.

Do we have those -- if we have those, id like to bring them up. So let's bring up the earliest one. So that's January 10, 2018.

I recently became aware of certain news outlets alleging I had a sexual and or romantic affair with Donald Trump many, many years ago, et cetera, et cetera. She's saying it's not true. Rumors that I received hush money for Donald Trump are completely false, et cetera, et cetera.

So that's January 10th. Look at that signature. Vary -- a lot, a lot of style. They're almost as if she's signing the Declaration of Independence.

All right. So then the official statement is Stormy Daniels on January 30th, also denying it, and it's a quite different signature and that has been, a subject of curiosity for some time.


On that same day of January 30, 2018, Stormy Daniels went on "Jimmy Kimmel Live". Let's roll that clip.


JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: Your original statement -- the signature on the original statement does not match the signature on this statement. Did you sign this letter that was released today?


KIMMEL: Wait a minute. That you can say, right?

DANIELS: It does not like my signature, does it?

KIMMEL: It doesn't look like your signature. So you're saying perhaps this letter was written and released without your approval? Do you know where it came from? Do you have any idea?

DANIELS: I do not where it came from.

KIMMEL: You did not know where it came from.


TAPPER: So she wasn't under oath. You're not put under oath when you go on Jimmy Kimmel, but she was not

telling the truth there. And this came out in court today because, obviously, it is an odd story and strange situation and she said on the stand that she signed Stormy Daniels on that January 30th statement in a way she had never signed her name before as a tip off to Jimmy Kimmel.

None of this is enhancing her credibility, though, I would -- I would suggest, Jamie.

GANGEL: No. and this is the kind of thing that they are going after her on over and over again. I just -- to go back one second Donald Trump, not one word about Stormy Daniels when he came out of court today. Notable, at least thus far, we can count the seconds he has not violated the gag order.

But just, they were very clear with her, and you said earlier they asked her, do you hate Donald Trump? She says, yes. But the prosecutors earlier did establish some key points about the encounter, corroborating phone calls, physical description of the room, admitting she went through his toiletry case, things that jurors may really find credible.

So are there cases where she didn't tell the truth yes. Is she telling the truth now that she's under oath and on the stand, the jurors are going to have to weigh that.

TAPPER: So, Kristen Holmes, Eric Trump, Donald Trump's second son, is in court and he's not happy.

He tweeted: Sitting front row, attempting to figure out how any of this garbage from 20 years ago relates to legal bills submitted by a longtime personal attorney being booked as a legal expense, but I digress. To be clear, they don't give a hoop about the merits of this case. He called the entire case as salacious show and a massive extortion play.

And that is what people in MAGA media are going to hear that message.

HOLMES: Yeah, and what we've started to see now I was told this is kind of the next movement, the turn of the wheel from Trump advisers is that this is moving from just being them painting it as political to them painting it as political in the sense that they want to embarrass Donald Trump, that they've brought these specific witnesses, that the judge allowed, which we know is not the case, but that the judge allowed the prosecution to go too far.

And there are a lot of people who believed that they went too far today in terms of those details. But that because of that, because of the salacious nature of the details, that they're going to push the narrative, that this is not only political, but its an opportunity -- they're using this as an opportunity to paint Donald Trump, to embarrass him in front, of the country.

TAPPER: And those details were embarrassing and we'll talk more about that coming up. Thanks to one and all.

The judge and jury will not be the only voices to get a final say in this case. We're going to get some insight into how American voters are going to weigh in.

Plus, another CNN reporter who was in court. We're going to get her perspective on testimony and reaction and everything going on inside that building.

That's next.



TAPPER: We're back as a head turning de of testimony has ramped and Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial, the former president listing to Stormy Daniels testify for more than three-and-a-half hours about their sexual encounter, which he denies ever happened.

CNN's Kara Scannell has just emerged from inside the courtroom.

Kara, be your eyes and ears. How did Trump, how did others react to the testimony?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Stormy Daniels was on the stand and initially giving her life story, building up to the moment where she alleges that she had that sexual encounter with Trump after a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

And during her testimony at various points, multiple times, Trump was taking notes and pass him to his attorneys and often nudging one of his attorneys who then would object to some of the things that Daniels was testifying to.

In a number of these instances, the judge was agreeing with Trump side because a lot of Daniels answers were weighing into areas where she was suggesting that there was a different power dynamic or that Trump was taller than her and there was a bodyguard outside of the room, suggesting that maybe it wasn't as consensual she has previously said. And the judge ruled in favor of Trumps side during that.

Now, when she was testifying, Daniels's demeanor initially when asked by a prosecutor was very friendly. As a colleague noted, it was very gossipy the way that she was speaking to the jury, telling them what had happened and explaining everything.

Then after the lunch break, we came back and that's when Trumps lawyers asked for a mistrial because of those questions and Daniels answers that went into this suggestion that maybe this wasn't a consensual encounter, and the judge said he was denying it, but he said that Trump's team had a point neat thought that it would have been better if some of the things were not said.

So then when prosecutors begin and continuing to question Daniels, again, they moved kind of rapid fire through this whole period after she signed the NDA, the hush money deal with Trump, the $130,000 payment and move very quickly through those events finishing her direct examination. It was a completely different pace than it was in the morning, when her answers were very long and the prosecution had been giving her a lot of time to explain things. So this then was rapid-fire.


But the jury during this whole period, they were taking a lot of notes. I had noticed at one point, at least five of them writing down in a notebook, flipping the pages in their legal pads that they have to take notes. So they were very actively engaged.

And Daniels in her gossipy way was kind of making jobs, trying to be a little bit funny making a little fun of herself and the jurors that I was looking at, the one at these some of these moments did not react at all. Should they kept a very straight face while she was saying some of these things that had generated some smiles and smirks from those in the courtroom?

Then Trump's team began their cross-examination, and Susan Necheles there, his attorney takes so much different tack. She is fairly aggressive. She asks a lot of rapid fire questions, repeating some of these questions, asking, you know, you lie, didn't you? You heat Donald Trump, don't you? You want to see him in jail, don't you?

And in this instant, Daniels's demeanor changed quite a bit. She folded her arms, answered some of these questions a little bit more off kilter. She was forceful and pushing back on some others, but it was definitely a different demeanor for the jury to observe on cross- examination than when the prosecutors asked her questions, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

As Donald Trump's hush money to conspiracy trial unfolds. The jury will ultimately decide if he broke the law. But it's also playing out in the court of public opinion this case, and voters are weighing their choices come November.

Frank Luntz is a long time a pollster who tracks the pulse of America.

Frank, how are voters responding to this trial?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: Well, if you're a Joe Biden supporter, you think Donald Trump is guilty. If you're a Joe Bi -- if you're Donald Trump supporter, you think this is all ridiculous.

In the end, we are arguing for about 1 million voters in seven states and they're the only ones that matter. And the longer that the trial goes, the more than Trump's able to demonstrate or at least accuse the trial of turning him into a victim, and the more than Trump weakens from those who are looking at this saying, why is it so chaotic?

Jake, I believe that Trump is weaker today than he was two weeks ago. But in the end, I don't think that this trial, at least until a verdict is delivered, is going to have a meaningful, measurable impact on public opinion.

TAPPER: So you don't see it having much of an impact on the 1 million voters and those eight states?

LUNTZ: I think that they're frustrated. These are people who look at the economy. They prioritize inflation, immigration, and abortion more than anything else. And the trial to them is kind of a distraction.

But in the end, what happens in April is not going to -- or May, is not going to determine what happens in October. And more importantly, in November.

It does appear as though Mr. Trump is playing something of a game of chicken with a judge over the gag order. Although we should note this afternoon, Mr. Trump abided by it and did not criticize the witness, Stormy Daniels, no matter how much he may have wanted to.

But he has previously said, I think it was yesterday. He said that he would go to prison for the First Amendment, meaning he wants to be able to speak his mind and he'd be willing to go to jail for that. If he were ultimately jailed, even if just for a couple hours for continuing to violate the gag order rules, what effect might that have on the electorate?

LUNTZ: Two great question. Every time Trump looks like he's done, his numbers go up. From the indictments, from the investigations, from being thrown off the state ballots, from saying things that no other person could get away with -- every time he's done it, his numbers have gone up.

I think that jailing might be different, but he's claiming that he's a victim. He's claiming that the entire force of the government is being used against him and I'd say to those who think that this would be a bridge too far, Donald Trump knows how to turn every moment into victimhood and there should be no exception.

TAPPER: It now appears that the other criminal trials that Trump faces for the classified documents for election subversion on January 6 are likely not going to happen before November do those issues and do those pending cases way on peoples minds?

LUNTZ: Yes, they do. And again, I'm going back to just those million voters, because they're the only ones that really matter at this point. It will be a deciding factor in whether you trust Trump or trust Biden. But things that are affecting people in their own daily lives is actually a higher priority.

And I believe that when you get to Election Day and they're going to pull those levers, that choice will not be between which character or attributes or traits matter. In the end, which one is going to make life more meaningful, more livable, and more affordable? I think that's what's going to determine the election rather than the things that are happening over these three, four weeks.


TAPPER: As we -- all right. Well, Frank Luntz, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and your insights.

CNN teams who have been in court daily for this trial notice something different about Trump in court today as he listened to testimony from Stormy Daniels. That's ahead.

Plus, reaction from someone who knows Trump well, his former White House communications director is going to join us. That's all ahead.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Breaking news this hour, Israel is vowing to keep up its operations in Gaza until Hamas is eliminated, or another hostage is returned, while the terrorist group has its own response. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Jerusalem. We're going to go to her live in a second.

Plus, President Biden today condemning the alarming rise of antisemitism in the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many people denying, downplaying, rationalizing and ignoring the horrors of the Holocaust and October 7th. It's absolutely despicable. And it must stop. Silence.


TAPPER: Biden's comments as recent pro-Palestinian protests spill well beyond college campuses.