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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Michael Cohen Testifies In Trump Trial; Cohen Testifies About Payments To McDougal, Daniels. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 13, 2024 - 16:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: He also testified about are each about how he tried to delay the hush money payment until after the presidential election. He recounted his conversation with Trump about ultimately paying Stormy Daniels. Cohen testified, I'm quoting now, there's no reason to keep this thing out there. So do it. He expressed to me, just do it. Meet up with Allen Weisselberg and figure this whole thing out.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I'll be back in two hours, 6:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

And we continue to follow the breaking news out of Manhattan and where the man at the center of the hush money payments scandal is testifying right now in Donald Trump's criminal trial. Michael Cohen is detailing exactly how he came to pay $130,000 to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels, who came forward about an alleged episode with Donald Trump in the days before the 2016 election. Cohen testified not only did Trump know about the $130,000 payment, but Trump directly approved it and said that he would pay Cohen back.

And the prosecution is using Cohen's testimony to present both an offensive and defensive case, offensively by establishing the Cohen was the man behind the payments, not just to Stormy Daniels, but also to 1998 playmate of the year, Karen McDougal, and defensively by trying to establish that Cohen frequently lie on behalf of Donald Trump, getting that out there ahead of time before the defense has their say, and by trying to corroborate nearly everything they can that Cohen says with actual factual evidence, text messages, emails, phone records.

Let's get straight to CNN's Paula Reid.

Paula what have been your biggest takeaways from Michael Cohen's testimony so far?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this highly anticipated appearance by Michael Cohen on the stand has paid dividends for prosecutors so far. He told the jury that at long before Trump announced his candidacy for the White House, he was worried about stories from women and how they could come out and potentially impact his candidacy. Cohen testified that Trump told him, quote, you know, that when this comes out, meeting the announcement about his run for the White House, just be prepared. There's going to be a lot of women coming forward.

Cohen then testified to how involved he was and suppressing negative stories about Trump in the lead up to the election. And that in the wake of the "Access Hollywood" tape, how he personally similarly facilitated that payment to Stormy Daniels. But what was new -- what we haven't already heard so far in this trial is how involved Trump was. He testified that he constantly kept Trump updated on this ever to pay Stormy Daniels this hush money testified that he needed Trump's approval, is certainly wanted credit for getting the story suppress, but he described Trump as a micro-manager, testified to how in the loop he was.

Now, he also testified that Trump promised he would get reimbursed. He said Allen Weisselberg, the former CFO of the Trump Organization, and I spoke to Mr. Trump. We expressed to him that I was going to front the money for the hush money to which he was appreciative. Any stated to me, don't worry, you'll get the money back.

Now, in the timeline the testimony, we are in late 2016 right now, Cohen is expected to wrap up the next half hour or so. So we haven't quite gotten to 2017, which is, of course, when these documents at the heart of this case were allegedly falsified.

TAPPER: And, Paula, what do we know about the defense strategy for cross-examining Cohen? Obviously, a lot of us are backing it to be rather brutal.

REID: Yeah, totally fair. It will be brutal. Michael Cohen knows it's going to be brutal and cross-examination of Michael Cohen is the Trump defense, which is why Todd Blanche, the lead attorney here, he hasn't been doing very many of the cross-examinations of witnesses. He has been exclusively focused on this cross-examination.

We can expect that this will go as long if not longer than the direct examination and it will be a multimedia presentation. Many of the things Cohen has said about Trump can and will be used against him. Really, Jake, the greatest challenge for prosecutors or excuse me, for defense attorneys is just calling down all of the statements, all of the attacks that Cohen has launched against the defendant in the past several years. Really, most of his identity is attacking Trump.

So, defense attorneys are going to seize on that and try to paint him as a liar. Sure. Who was out for revenge, which is of course the name of one of his books.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Let's bring in our panel. We have with us, Victoria Nourse, who served his chief counsel for then Vice President Joe Biden, former Trump payroll corporation attorney Bill Brennan, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, and CNN's Jamie Gangel.


Right now, just to give you an update on what's going on inside the courtroom, right now, Michael Cohen is testifying about the reimbursement of $130,000 and he's talking similarly about the calculations, the back of the envelope as it were calculations by Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

I think we have a copy of that document that we can show you that they're referring to. It's $130,000 plus additional funding that went into what Cohen was paid. And just to -- just to get you up to speed, one of the things that's been going on is it Michael Cohen is talking about how a day or two before Trump left for the inauguration in January 2017, Trump officially made Michael Cohen his personal counsel.

He found out that his its bonus, which usually was included in the Christmas card, the check for the bonus was -- he was angry beyond angry because Trump has slashed is bonus by two-thirds. Trump laughs to himself in the courtroom when this happens and nodded, as Cohen testified, he was beyond angry. He said I was truly insulted personally hurt by it, didn't understand.

He said he immediately went to Weisselberg's office and in some colorful language expressed to him how truly off and angry I really was. I use quite a few expletives. I was even for myself unusually angry.

So one of the ideas here that they're trying to establish is this anger that Michael Cohen had and they're trying to get it out on their terms. The prosecution because obviously anything negative that there is about Michael Cohen, the defense is going to introduce, the feeling obviously better that the prosecution get it out there first.

Let me start with you, Victoria, if I could, because the Stormy Daniels payment right before he went to the bank to make the Stormy Daniels payment, Cohen says he had to phone calls with Trump. Cohen says he would never have made the payment without Trump's approval. And that quote, everything required Mr. Trump's sign off. On top of that, I wanted the money back.

That seems like a point that the jurors can relate to, wanting to be paid back.

VICTORIA NOURSE, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL FOR VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Uh-huh. Yeah. I mean, I think Cohen has been doing a good job of explaining that this was all about the election, that this is not just, you know, we call it hush money and all that tawdry stuff that my Republican mother rest your pieces, rolling over were in her grave about, this is really about the 2016 election and what they're doing it step-by-step, showing through the admission of the documents and all this boring stuff about who said what, when, that Trump was there, Trump ordered this and Cohen wanted to be repaid. TAPPER: So lets bring up that Weisselberg note that I referred to earlier, which has been introduced into evidence, and it's Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, paying back Michael Cohen and figuring out how much should be paid back if they gross up the number, so that after he pays the taxes on this check, Cohen would get back the full amount of money he owed.

If they gave me the $180,000 and they didn't gross it up after taxes onto it, it would be $90,000, Cohen says. But, Bill, I suspect that you have a different take on how credible Mr. Cohen is seeming?

WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I do, Jake, is surprisingly enough. I mean, this guy is a polluted source. He could be the dictionary photograph for polluted source. He's a narcissistic sycophant that put his star on Trump's wagon. And when he didn't get what he wanted, which was a D.C. job, he turned on him and now he's got an ax to grind.

And, Jake, those jurors don't leave their common sense of the door. What they see a witness like Hope Hicks who apparently has no ax to grind, they take her testimony, has the ring of truth. This guy wrote a book called "Revenge". This guy, Michael Cohen is about Michael Cohen.

He said earlier, I think in today's testimony from what we saw on the screen, he was hoping to monetize his role as the president's attorney. I mean, I think Blanche will have him on the stand for days and Collins got an allergy to veracity. So it's going to be an interesting cross.

TAPPER: One of the things that they're trying to establish here is that the money was actually he was paid in excess of $130,000 because it gets getting into the weeds a little bit, but if they did it as an untaxed expense reimbursement, then he would -- it would be less money than if he took it as income because reimbursements were not grossed up any in any case.

They've already lost me, but that's why -- that's why I have an accountant.

This all comes after Cohen failed to pay Stormy Daniels by in the first agreed upon deadline --


TAPPER: -- and what it looked like Stormy Daniels might take her story somewhere else, Cohen says, Trump told him, quote, he stated to me that he had spoken to some friends, some individuals, smart people, and that it's $130,000.

You're a billionaire, just pay it. There's no reason to keep this thing out there. So do it. That's what people said to Trump as Trump relayed to Michael Cohen.


He expressed to me, just do it, meet up with Allen Weisselberg and figure this whole thing out.

ROSSI: Right.

TAPPER: Does that have the ring of truth to you? Does that sound right?

ROSSI: Well, here's the thing. I want to go to what Bill said. There's an incident in early December, I think Keith Davidson talked about it. I represented Davidson. And Michael Cohen was so mad, believe it or not, Bill, Michael Cohen thought he could be attorney general the United States. Now, we all laugh at that. But Trump told them he's not going to be attorney general and told them he's not even go into the White House.

So an early December, this angers building and you get to crescendo with the bonus, but to go to the invoices, I call them the souffle invoices. They go from 130 to 420. I think that if the prosecutors explain this rationally and we common sense because I did a lot of tax cases and Cohen does reasonably well, I think they're going to get over that hurdle of connecting the invoices to the election interference.

If they do it properly, if they screw up and fall on their face, Donald Trump's going to have a hung jury and acquittal. It's as simple as that.

TAPPER: So when he first learned that Stormy Daniels is looking to sell her story, Jamie Gangel, Michael Cohen testifies that he went to Donald Trump immediately. Cohen says Trump told them to handle the story and the Trump said, quote, I want you to just push it out as long as you can just get past the election, because if I win it, I will have no rela -- it will have no relevance because I'm president and if I lose, I don't even care.

So this would undermine in any claim that Donald Trump did this because he was worried about what might happen to Melania.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think testimony like that goes to guilty, guilty, guilty. I mean, it really just lays it out. Otherwise, you wouldn't -- you know, why did they were they waiting out until why did he want to wait until after the election? That is not about Melania or his family being upset. It's about the election.

Can I just address my friend Bill here? Who he gets in trouble on social media for some of our conversations which he doesn't deserve. We talked before we came on. You talked about Michael Cohen and his personality and veracity, he and Donald Trump work together for ten years. I would say in a certain it's fair to say they were a match made in heaven for those ten years.

Michael Cohen conducted himself the way Donald Trump conducted himself. And I think jurors, you're the lawyer, you'll tell me they look at who's on the stand? Their reaction goes beyond the evidence and the testimony. There's common sense that goes into this.

And I think Michael Cohen has, by all accounts, his tone has been even he has said he was ashamed. He has apologized. I'm not saying it gets you all the way there. But I think it helps me.

BRENNAN: Jamie, I agree with you on that.

GANGEL: Oh, thank you.

BRENNAN: I know I do, but here's a cycle of the last six or seven years with Cohen. He lied to Congress. He lied to the IRS. He went to prison he came back. He said, I'm redeemed. I've seen the light, and then he had more allies and now he's redeeming.

This guys have more comebacks than Ike Turner, as he testifies from that stand today, he is shopping a reality show called "The Fixer" that anybody little pick it up. This guy always has skin in the game it makes him a --


TAPPER: All right. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. I'm going to come back -- I'm going to come back to you. You get first shot at it out of the gate.

Stay with me.

Michael Cohen right now detailing how he made the payment to Stormy Daniels, testifying that he took out a home equity loan. He tried to hide it from his own wife. Did he act under Trump's orders or on his own as a faithful servant?

My attorneys are here and they're debating what's at the heart of the case. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we're back with our breaking news coverage. Michael Cohen is testifying in Donald Trump's hush money cover-up trial in New York.

Right now, Cohen is discussing how he was allegedly reimbursed for the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels in the days, right before the 2016 election.

My panel's back with me.

So one of the things going on right now, they have this intense examination, direct examination, not the difficult cross, but Cohen, when asked about the accounting being used, that I didn't really think about it. I just wanted to get my money back.

At the time, Cohen says he thought he would get the $420,000 back in one lump sum. This $420,000 -- if you're wondering how 130,000 became 420, I think this is what it is. Okay?

You start up with the $130,000 that they pay Stormy Daniels and there's some group called Red Finch (ph) Consulting that Michael Cohen hired to rig online polls at Donald Trump's the has again, nothing legal about that either. So that's 130 plus 50. That's $180,000. Then if they just give that money to Michael Cohen, he would have to basically pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars of it. So they doubled it. So he gets back in net. If you remove the taxes, what he originally spent and then an additional 60, that gets you up to 380, and then additional thousand dollars because Allen Weisselberg felt bad that Michael Cohen got stiff that of a decent Christmas bonus.

Okay. I think I finally understood that.


TAPPER: During the conversation because Cohen thought he was going to get it back into $420,000 back one lump sum, Allen Weisselberg turns around and says, while were talking about this, were going to pay you over 12 months, as like a legal service rendered, since I was going to be given the title of personal attorney to the president, Cohen recalled.

The prosecuting attorney, Susan Hoffinger says, did Weisselberg then show you this document? We can help put that document up again because now it's relevant again, calculating the payment there it is the payment and he says, yes he approved it. This is going to be one heck of a ride in D.C. Cohen recalled Trump saying.


So, what's -- what's the purpose of all this, of all this testimony?

NOURSE: Well, the idea is to get to some sense that where the documents and his testimony match, so that the jury sees that it's all consistent. Otherwise, they're going to ask questions in the jury room about why is it not just what you did? Bravo in the math.

Why was it such a large payment?

TAPPER: By the way, first time I've ever been bravoed for math in my life. So, I appreciate it.

NOURSE: Oh, I'm a professor, so I wouldn't deny.

TAPPER: Somewhere Mrs. -- somewhere Mrs. Beecher (ph) is very happy sorry.

NOURSE: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. My sister loves you. She would hate me saying that.

So, anyway, they're trying to make this consistent because that's what you do in a criminal.


NOURSE: You know, they are playing it by the book. They put in the documents. Now, they're hearing the testimony and they all have to match. Otherwise, juries invent reasons why there may be a doubt and one reasonable doubt, one juror can scuttle the case. TAPPER: So, and the defense argument here, Bill Brennan, is that this

money was actually for legal services rendered and Michael Cohen is saying, no, no, no, this is -- Hoffinger says, well, what was it actually? And he says reimbursement of my money.

Now I get that you don't think he's a credible witness, and I'm not going to push back on that. That's certainly your opinion.

Does this document by Allen Weisselberg not buttress what he's saying happened?

BRENNAN: Jake, even if it does, just assuming arguendo that it does.


BRENNAN: Who cares? Red Finch, not illegal, hush money, not illegal. They have to tie it into another crime to make the felony.

And that's where if -- if the last four weeks led to Michael Cohen tying it all together and they don't have Weisselberg to corroborate it or somebody to corroborate it. I can't imagine there's not at least one juror that gets back there and scratches her head and said, this guy convicted perjure, you know, lies about everything like that was wife about the home equity loan.

He's going rogue. I can't believe somebody doesn't have reasonable doubt.

NOURSE: Listen --

TAPPER: Go ahead, go ahead.

NOURSE: Listen, mobsters are not convicted based on, you know, nice little old lady's testimony. They are convicted based on some unsavory characters. And this is a political mobster.

Cohen said it. He did this because women would be upset with what --

TAPPER: Well, let me -- let me put, this -- this is about the Stormy Daniels story. Let me just put up the quote so people know what you're referring to, Victoria.

Women are going to hate me, guys may think its cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign. This is the disaster, a total disaster.

This is about when they find out that the Stormy Daniels story is out there in might break especially right after the Access Hollywood story was out there.

So that's according to Michael Cohen, that is Donald Trump expressing concern about the Stormy Daniels story getting out there, which it did not get out there until years after the 2016 election.

Everyone stick around. We have a bit of drama in these final 15 minutes of day 16 of the hush money trial, we expect core to wrap soon. Donald Trump will almost certainly if past is prologue come out and give us his take on what he heard on the witness stand today. We're going to be watching we're going to be right back.



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

Michael Cohen is still testifying right now on the stand in Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial. After testimony wraps today, we are expecting Mr. Trump to come out of the courtroom and speak.

Let's go to CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's outside the courthouse.

And, Kristen, Trump had a couple of allies show up for him today in court. Tell us who they are and what's his mindset when it comes to these guest lists?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, coming to court with Donald Trump has become the new loyalty test. Many of these people actually are wanting to be at the top of the ticket alongside Donald Trump. Here's what we saw today. We saw Eric Trump, Alina Habba, who was one of his lawyers, but not in this case, a representative from New York, Nicole Malliotakis. We saw the Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville. We saw JD Vance out of Ohio, senator there. He is rumored to be on the shortlist for vice president, as well as attorney general of Iowa, Brenna Bird, who paid pivotal role in his landslide victory in the primary and are the caucuses in that state.

His mindset around having these visitors is that he wants the support. We are told by people close to the former president that he was really upset that more people were not coming out to show their support for him. And also, that there weren't more protesters on his behalf in this courtyard across from the court house.

Remember they have a special little area because siphoned off for these Trump protesters. There's only been about a handful, someday is one or two. Today we saw up to five of the sorry and flag, but not the kind of resounding support that he'd like to see out here, which is, of course, led to him continually saying they're not allowed close to the courthouse, even though we are doing directly across the street from the courthouse.

So that led to his team creating a kind of situation within New York where he would go to locations, campaign events, in areas that because likely to get a very welcome crowd, including construction site. He met with a bunch of union workers, as well as laborers there. He went to a Harlem bodega, places he would get a good reception.

That was in part a reaction to Donald Trump being upset about the lack of support here at the courthouse. Look out for more big names, people who are trying to get attention from the former president, showing up in court tomorrow. We are told that Vivek Ramaswamy will be sitting in court with Donald Trump.

TAPPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

The panel's back with me. We should note that the courtroom has adjourned for the day. Judge Merchan saying, have a good night. See you tomorrow.

Cohen got up pan the courtroom, looked down in his hands for a moment when the Merchan gave the judge -- I'm sorry, give the jury the usual previous missile instructions Cohen then gave us small smile. Hello, and nod over at the jury box, just as judge Merchan dismissed them for the day.


Eric Trump was in court today and -- up here comes Trump. Let's -- let's listen in to the defendant as he discusses today's events. Let's see if he adheres to the gag order to not go after witnesses.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They view this is a scam. I think its a terrible thing that's happening to democracy in this country. And we have a lot of under want to come. I say, just stay back and pass lots of laws to stop things like this.

JD Vance, what's going on? And then courtroom is a threat to democracy and we could not have a country where we get to prosecute your political opponent instead of persuading voters.

AG Bird, as you know her, having respected from Iowa: Let the American people decide who the next leader of the free world will be. Politics is absolutely no place in this courtroom. This is all politics.

Andy McCarty, great legal analysts, said: None of this is illegal. There's nothing illegal. It's called politics. There's nothing illegal.

A lot of people said that. They're all saying that. You know that the one -- the only person who wants is the judge because it's a rig deal. He's conflicted. You want to check that out.

But everybody is saying is no crime. Leo Terrell: Up until right now, there's not a single shred get evidence that President Trump participated in a crime of either falsifying records or hiding a campaign or state or federal finance charge. None of it.

It's been absolutely nothing. Look, they're doing great. You know why they're doing great? They've kept me here for three-and-a-half, four weeks, instead of campaigning. Yet we still have the best poll numbers just came out in "The New York Times" as we discussed before.

Mark Levin: Let me put this as succinctly as possible, there's no crime, state or federal, with which delayed Donald Trump or anyone else. This is a case looking for a legal basis. There is none. There is no crime.

It's Mark Levin.

Again, JD Vance, do the American voters, who are watching this, one opportunity you get to speak up against his sham prosecution and just say the American people should elect the president, not use corrupt DNC prosecutors to help them get elected, which is exactly what they're doing.

Andy McCarthy, again, Bragg has no authority to enforce federal law. The NDA payments were not campaign expenditures under federal law. That's why the FEC and DOJ, which do have exclusive authority to enforce federal law, took absolutely no action against Trump. They took no action against me.

They look -- they said it's done. The only that did is Soros-backed D.A. Bragg who turned down the case. By the way, he turned down the case and it couldn't have been brought six years ago, seven years ago, almost eight years ago. They bring it right in the middle of my presidential campaign.

Bragg, he said we had a case. You know, if you go back, take a look at your earlier records when he came into office, he turned it down and he was angry because of what took place, when he saw that they -- we're going to use this scam. He was angry.

Even Michael Smerconish of CNN, a person four for five weeks into a trial or be told exactly that, which they're being prosecuted for and that hasn't happened. You know what happened? It didn't happen for one very simple reason, because there is no crime.

Here's Marc Thiessen. I don't think it's -- I don't think things are going very well for the prosecution in the court of law. And the court of public opinion, they're doing even worse.

Matt Whitaker: Another day of trial and they're keeping the president of the campaign trail.

Byron York: On the hush money trial, which is not hush money, majority of voters in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan say Trump cannot get a fair trial. That's too bad. That's really too bad.

Andy McCarthy: Bragg does exactly what he's doing. It's improper, completely political case. Maybe Merchan, Judge Merchan is having second thoughts. I haven't come to close proving -- it had not come close to approving fraud or that any fraud has taken place.

There's no fraud here. There's no crime here. This is four weeks of keeping me from not campaigning.

Jonathan Turley: can't imagine any competent lawyer would not be embarrassed by what has happened in this courtroom.


This day is truly going to go down as a day of infamy for the New York legal system, which is true the whole world is laughing now at New York weaponized legal system, watching this unfold, that courtroom as a lawyer is really deeply disturbing. They keep on referring to these documents. The documents don't move the ball. The documents show that the NDA and the payment that is not in dispute there. This is a total -- this is Jonathan Turley, they're not unlawful and it's a federal campaign contribution, there's absolutely no problem.

There's no problem there. You know, the FEC wrote this off. FEC, the elections commission, Federal Elections Commission, they looked at this years ago and they took a pass. They said there's no problem here.

Tim Scott: objective is to keep dropped off the campaign trail as all they tried to do, keep him off the campaign trail.

Here's "The New York Times". It just came out with so while ago where we're leading in every state, and every -- the five key states, we're leading very substantially, I might add.

So, it's all -- it's really a very sad day for the country. It's sad for New York, I mean, New York, that a judge is highly conflicted at a level that nobody has seen before for can possibly think of it. And you should go out and check it out, but we have a corrupt judge, and we have a judge is highly conflicted and he's keeping me from campaigning. He's an appointed New York judge, appointed.

Do you know who appointed him? Democrat politicians, he's appointed. He's a corrupt judge and he's is conflicted. The judge and he only let us go out and campaign and get rid of this scam.

Every single legal analyst, even CNN, even MSDNC, are saying, there's no case here.

Thank you very much.

REPORTER: When is the next time you'll be on the campaign trail instead of mingling with wealthy donors?

TAPPER: All right, a rather angry defendant saying there's no case here.

And for the record, although we certainly have people such as Mr. Brennan on our panel here who are arguing that this is not a strong case. It's certainly not the view of CNN per se that there is no case here. We are discussing the qualities of the case, the good, the bad, there's disagreement. We do have people who are in Mr. Trump's side on this.

BRENNAN: Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

TAPPER: On whether -- on the issue -- on the issue of whether or not this is a good case. That's all I meant.

BRENNAN: When I look at this --


BRENNAN: They're might as well be one of those things when they used to put the blue around the face. This is an American citizen on trial.


BRENNAN: And they have to tie it up to another crime and they've yet to do it. This has nothing to do with the fact that I represented him.


BRENNAN: I'm no Trumper. I have no political agenda. This is --

TAPPER: No, no, I'm talking about your view --

BRENNAN: I do --

TAPPER: -- of the quality of this case.

BRENNAN: I think they haven't made it out yet.

TAPPER: That's all I'm saying.

BRENNAN: All right.


Anyway, but, Jamie Gangel, very angry and he seemed angrier today than in any previous day. I guess it's day 16.

He seemed angrier today with Michael Cohen's testimony, than he did on either of the days where Stormy Daniels was testifying. And at least one of those days she said some things that were rather embarrassing and even some people who are in favor of this case thought that the prosecution and the witness went too far, but he seemed angrier than ever today.

GANGEL: So what do psychiatrists call it? Is it transference that he's, you know, he's not allowed to say anything about that. Michael Cohen. He hasn't broken the gag order.

TAPPER: Oh, yeah.

GANGEL: Right?

TAPPER: That's good --

GANGEL: Despite all this.


GANGEL: On the other hand, he was yelling about the judge. He's allowed to yell about the judge. And so, he went there.

I just one other issue --

TAPPER: We should note this judge is widely respected.

GANGEL: Judge Juan Merchan is one of the most well-respected judges at 100 Centre Street.

TAPPER: But they're all those who say --


TAPPER: Yeah. Yeah, and there are under are those who say that that he should have recused himself because his daughter does work for Democratic consulting group of sorts. I'm not saying he should have, but I mean that is when he says he's conflicted, hes not the only one that thing.

Gene, you want to say something.

ROSSI: I just want to say this when you see a defendant like Mr. Trump rant and rave and just stipulate and go off at tangents, my mind was going to explode. What that tells me is that he sat through several hours of testimony and it hit home. It hit home.

TAPPER: Well, this guy was his fixer, Donald Trump for all his faults, he knows that Michael Cohen in my view, was connecting with the jury. Now, I wasn't in the jury, but that's a guy who knows at what Michael Cohen said was accepted, or at least listened to by the jury.


That's what I see from that high. I had defendants that reacted like this. And here's what -- here's what Mr. Trump cannot do during his trial, the rest of the trial. He has to keep a poker face which will be impossible because that jury is watching his reaction to everything that Michael Cohen is saying.

And if Michael Cohen says something and Mr. Trump is reacting angrily, the jury is going to say it must be true.

TAPPER: But we don't know that they're seeing that. We don't know that the jury is seeing the --

ROSSI: Well, we don't know.

TAPPER: We don't -- I mean, they might just be seeing him with a stone face. We have no idea from what --

ROSSI: I don't think he has a stone face.


NOURSE: Let me just respond to the legal argument he's making here. I could get 100 law professors in here to say that falsifying crimes is a basic crime. Falsifying documents under New York state law.

This is the defense of someone I agree who knows that the testimony has hit home because he's taking a legal argument, he's making a legal argument. And this is not exactly what I would expect if someone who was innocent.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all. I appreciate.

The retired judge who has been watching this case closely joins me next. Her take on the prosecutions case so far, what the defense needs to do, how high-profile witnesses such as Michael Cohen can theoretically change the dynamics of a courtroom. That's all next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with more of our continuing coverage of Donald Trump's hush money cover up conspiracy trial.

With me now to give a judge's perspective of the case is retired California superior court judge, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell. Also the author of the book, "Her Honor".

Judge Cordell, thanks for joining us.

This was one of the biggest days of the trial so far, certainly the one that seemed to make Mr. Trump the angriest. What does it feel like as a judge when you see a big witness on -- upon whom the entire case might hinge take the stand. What does that like as a judge?

LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, RETIRED JUDGE: Well, thank you for inviting me on Jake first, I have to tell you, I chuckle when I hear various pundits weighing in about how various witnesses like Michael Cohen are likely to be perceived by the jurors, and I presided over many criminal jury trials, some of them high-profile, and I stopped trying to second-guessed jurors. It -- you just -- just can't do it.

So Michael Cohen testified today and this is one half of the case, meaning it's the prosecution side. We don't know how he will hold up in cross-examination. My guess is that he will be well-prepared. He's no dummy. He knows the questions that are likely to be asked to him. And that's why the prosecution went to some extent, maybe they should have done a little bit more talking about the bad stuff about Michael Cohen that he was the fixer and he considered himself in Trump's thug, those kinds of things, so that it won't hit the jurors brand new when the defense steps up.

But so far, you know, we haven't -- we mustn't lose sight of and particularly as a judge, presiding, I'd hear all these various witnesses. You can't lose sight of why people are there in the courtroom and they're there in a courtroom because a crime or crimes are being alleged.

And in this case is about the intent. So, if they've established and they will that documents were falsified, I think they will do that.

Then the issue is and part of the crime is did Trump with knowledge of these falsified documents do it with the intent to commit amid another crime or to aid or conceal the commission of the crime. And so that's the issue here, the intent.

And, you know, how do you prove intent, Jake? You can't unless you get inside somebody's head at the time. So we can't do it that way, then it's proved by circumstantial evidence. And in a trial court, circumstantial evidence is given the same weight

as direct evidence. So that's really what this case is about. And Michael Cohen now is kind of pulling all the pieces together.

So it is a fascinating story. It's very sad that these kinds of things were going on. But we've only heard part of it. The other part is going to come from the cross-examination of Mr. Cohen and whether or not any defense is put on at all.

TAPPER: Michael Cohen might be the last prosecution witness. Do you think its smart to end the case and the presentation of a case on the testimony of somebody who does have a record, a convicted record of being -- of lying and perjury?

CORDELL: Yeah. I think it's fine. And the jurors, they're not naive people. And I'm sure there have been other people who have testified in courts who don't have great backgrounds. That's really in my view, that's not going and I have an impact on the jurors.

I do want to add, though, that with regard to the defense side, Donald Trump's latest rant just a few minutes ago in front of everyone, it was a rant, is exactly the reason why he won't be testifying. He is a loose cannon.

And another point about that rant, he said, and I hope people listen very carefully, that there was no crime. He did not deny anything. He didn't deny the payment. He didn't deny the affair. He just said what I did was not a crime.

So, it's very, very interesting. So I think its just proved that he is definitely not going to be testifying because he can't be controlled once he starts talking.

TAPPER: As a judge, have you ever been surprised by a jury?

CORDELL: Absolutely, all the time. And thank you for asking that because, you know, I've presided over trials, be they drunk driving trials or be they big felony cases. And the jurors will go off and I'm sitting there thinking, you know, there'll be they are like 20 minutes because this is a slam dunk.


Oh, no, no, no. And it's really interesting what jurors gets their attention when they're in there. They also have the written jury instructions with them in there, and they take their jobs very, very seriously. And sometimes to my surprise, they get hung up on some issues that I thought were non-issues.

So I think most trial judges are surprised quite frequently about what jurors look at, what they think is important and what they don't. So I'm -- this case, it's very interesting. You have all these different people and that's what makes jury deliberations so interesting, right? You have all these people gather. They have come from different walks of life. And then you're going to a get all these viewpoints and at some point

the hope is they coalesce behind a decision because, of course, the decision has to be unanimous.

TAPPER: What do you expect the defense to hit on beyond Michael Cohen's credibility when they do their cross of him? Do you think that they will try to undermine some of the evidence? What do you think their focus will be again beyond credibility, which I expect will be their obvious focus?

CORDELL: Sure. There are three important parts -- there are only three important parts to a trial. There's documentary evidence. That's audio recordings, transcripts, invoices, emails, copies of checks. There's witnesses testimony, and then the other, the third important part, are jury instructions. So the witness testimony is really jurors or fact fighters.

So they're gathering facts. They have documents, and now they're listening to the witnesses. So what the defense is going to do with Michael Cohen has tried to shake that testimony one, yes, credibility.

But also, their position, and I think it's an unfortunate one is Donald Trump's position is none of this happened, nothing. He's just denying everything.

So it's really going to be hard for them given the documentary evidence that's already in to show that Michael Cohen is a liar. I just think they want the jury to dislike him so much that they just don't want them to give me the time to him, in which case the case will fall apart. I mean, he is the key once they have laid down the foundation.

TAPPER: All right. Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time and expertise.

Court has adjourned for the day in Donald Trump's hush money conspiracy trial. Michael Cohen testifying on the stand today for around five hours. Prosecutors expected to resume direct examination tomorrow morning.

CNN's Kara Scannell was inside the courtroom today.

Kara, how was Mr. Trump's demeanor when Michael Cohen was on the stand?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Donald Trump for a lot of the testimony today was sitting back in the chair with his eyes closed not reacting too much. But there were certain moments when he did react. One was when Michael Cohen brought up Melania Trump and Trump had made a face and in that context, Cohen was talking about Melania Trump and what her reaction would have been had she learned about the Stormy Daniels story, just as Trump was negotiating, according to Michael Cohen, to try to bury it.

The other time was toward the end of the testimony, Trump would pass notes to his lawyers when Michael Cohen was getting some to some of the details of the his conversations with Trump about his bonus. And when Michael Cohen was talking about his bonus, he said that he was angry, even for myself, unusually angry about having his bonus cut by two-thirds. Trump had kind of laughed to himself and smiled and reacted to that, clearly suggesting he had some kind of memory of that.

But throughout, Michael Cohen himself was very measured even when talking about some of these conversations, he spoke slowly. He was very deliberate in the words that he chose when he's answering these questions and we did not see any kind of reaction from him or him losing any cool while he was on the stand, Jake.

TAPPER: CNN's Kaitlan Collins was also in the courtroom today.

Kaitlan, did the jury seem engaged?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Oh, they were completely engaged, and, Jake, they have been throughout this trial, but one thing I'll say about this jury is you cannot tell how they feel about certain pieces of testimony or certain moments inside the courtroom. You can't really discern anything from their faces. They're kind of expressionless during this.

They are paying very close attention and they certainly were as Michael Cohen was on the stand because as the jury came in after the lunch break, which is the first time that I was in the courtroom today, they picked up their notepads immediately. They had their pens in their hands. They are watching very closely.

And there were times when they're getting when Michael Cohen got in there where he was only speaking directly to the prosecutors. He put on his glasses as he was reading text messages or emails off the screen that shows because the evidence in front of them, but he wasn't really looking at the jury, but that seemed to change later on as the testimony went on, there were moments where he would explain why he took out the home equity line of credit.

He would look directly at the jurors.


There was another moment where it attempted to be some kind of effort to humanize Michael Cohen to this jury, to maybe endear him to them. He was talking about his close relationship that he has with his daughter and how she was worried that he wasn't going to get a job inside the administration. And then there showing those texts, he was looking directly at the jury as they were -- as he was telling that story, Jake.

And the other person in the courtroom that I was watching closely is Todd Blanche. That's Trump's leader attorney here who was seated all the way to the right of the defense table. So he has the best view of the witness. He was watching Michael Cohen intently. He was often chewing on a pen and writing notes and watching him so closely because, of course, Todd Blanche is going to be the one who cross- examined him when the prosecution has done with them. TAPPER: All right. Thanks to both of you, really appreciate it.

Kaitlan, of course, we will look for more of your reporting coming up tonight on "THE SOURCE" at 9:00 p.m., only on CNN.

Unique perspective next hour from a criminal defense attorney who was also inside that courtroom today as Michael Cohen testified.

And another big story in the next hour, this one in Baltimore, where crews plan to demolish parts of that collapsed bridge that are still sitting on a container ship in that Maryland port, that demolition is expected literally any minute.

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