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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Defense Cross-Examines Michael Cohen; Michael Cohen Endures Intense Afternoon Of Cross-Examination. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia probe, and Cohen's testimony before Congress.


They also pointed out Cohen's open hostility toward Trump and his team, that he expressed right before the trial began. The prosecution says Cohen, is their last witness, and the defense may begin to present Its case for Donald Trump as early as Thursday. No trial on Wednesday.

Thanks very much for joining us. 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: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are following breaking news out of Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial in New York City where right this minute, Michael Cohen is facing an incredibly aggressive cross-examination. So far, Trump attorney Todd Blanche has gotten Cohen to confirm that he wants to see Trump convicted in this case, that he makes money off of his anti- Trump social media posts, and even sells merchandise showing Trump in jail.

Earlier today, prosecutors had Cohen explained why he felt there was the pressure campaign to keep him from turning against Trump. And how and why he eventually flipped from a loyal confidant to a cooperating witness. Prosecutors also tried to get ahead of the defense by having Cohen admit to multiple lines. He has previously told including his plea of not guilty -- his plea of guilty to the tax charges the sent him to prison.

Cohen also owned up to the fact that he lied to the American people about the payments to the two women, saying he apologized, quote, for lying to them for acting in a way that suppress information that the citizenry had a right to know in order to make the determination of the individual who was seeking the highest office in the land. This is back in October 2016.

CNN's Paula Reid is outside the courthouse for us in New York.

And, Paula, this has been a quick moving and tense back and forth between Michael Cohen and Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney.

Cohen is asked, he was just asked a second ago if he indeed called Trump, the defendant, a Cheeto dusted cartoon villain. I don't know if that was on your bingo card, Paula, but that is about the tone and tenor going on in the courtroom right now.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: My bingo card is quite crowded for this much anticipated cross-examination and, look, Todd Blanche, he came out swinging. His first question to Cohen was about himself. He asked, quote, you went on TikTok and called me a crime little expletive just before the trial began, Cohen responded. Sounds like something I would say.

Then Blanche went right to some recent attacks that Cohen has made against Trump during the course of this trial. And then went to emphasize how many times prosecutors have asked Cohen to stop talking about this case. And he has refused all appearing to try to paint Cohen as being, quote, obsessed with the defendant. Now, in response to that accusation, Cohen said, I wouldn't say obsessed. I admired him tremendously.

But then defense attorneys went through a list of positive glowing things that Cohen said about Trump before they had a falling out, including saying that he was, quote, a good man, a man who cares deeply about his family -- his care about his family, of course, being central to the defense -- and, quote, kind humble and honest. Those are not words that are usually associated with the former president. But one thing you'll see here, Jake, is that Todd Blanche is really jumping around a lot.

He's not going through a linear cross-examination and I'm told that that is tactical because they know that Cohen was prepared over the past year by prosecutors for a chronological line of questioning. It appeared quite comfortable under direct, under that approach. So they're jumping around a lot to try to throw them off his game.

TAPPER: Paula, do we have any idea how long the defense is expected to cross examine Michael Cohen, who I believe the prosecution has said, is there last witness.

REID: Yeah, surprising a lot of people that prosecutors won't put anyone after Cohen to button up what he has to say to the jury. What the defense attorneys, they are expected to continue their cross- examination of Michael Cohen through Thursday. The only day we have left this week, Friday, there's no court because Trump is expected to go to his son, Barron's graduation.

That means next week, that could leave a redirect and re-cross, making it somewhat less likely that the jury will get this case before Memorial Day.

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

Let's discuss with our panel here. We have with us, former Trump Payroll Corporation attorney Bill Brennan, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero, who worked at the U.S. Justice Department, and Michael van der Veen who defended Trump during the second impeachment trial.

First of all, Michael and Bill, just so you know, the Phillies just beat the Mets again, the game afforded nothing, just FBY.

Got a few Philly boys in the house here. I've got to clear -- take care of business. Sorry. I assume you're a Mets fan.


TAPPER: Not from New York. Jersey?

Anyway, let's start with the very first exchange, because after introducing himself to Michael Cohen, the very first question that Todd Blanche asked Cohen was, quote, you went on TikTok and called me a crying little shit. That was just before -- just before the trial began. Cohen nodded and says, sounds like something I would say. The prosecution objected. The judge struck the question from the record.


But obviously, Michael, let me start with you. The jury remembers whether or not it's stricken from the record.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Sure. And the reporting that I had was his first question actually was, you and I have never spoken.

TAPPER: That's right. That's right.

VAN DER VEEN: So he was setting that up to then go after the TikTok.

So, it's hard to sit here and second quarter back what Blanche did but, you know, Adam Leisure, the young lawyer in my stable thought that the first question should be, do you consider yourself an honest man? Because no matter what the answer is there, it's a bad answer, and sets up the cross.

It looks like Blanche is very strategic in what he's going to do here. And I think he's going to be making Cohen bob and weave, bob and weave, and then come at them with the big ones.

What's interesting is, I think at the end of what offense you did in the direct examination really streamlined and help the defense because she went -- she tried to take the wind out of the sails for all of his credibility problems. But really what she did is she put all of that in context. So now, Blanche doesn't have to go build his own context. It's already been done.

TAPPER: It's already there.

VAN DER VEEN: And he could get real direct on the cross. I think he is going to be in a good spot.

TAPPER: So, Todd Blanche asked Cohen about his podcasts where he speaks about Donald Trump. Blanche asked, have you regularly commented on your podcasts that you want President Trump to be convicted in this case? Cohen said, yes, probably. Blanche said, do you have any doubt? Cohen said, no. They've also gone through times that he has really aggressively said he wants Trump to be, you know, thrown in f-ing jail or whatever.

Does that hurt Michael Cohen or does really even matter, what do you think?

CORDERO: I think it hurts him some. I mean, they're going to go after any particular opportunity that they have to show that he is either compelled to lie or has an agenda and is just wants to do anything that he can in court to be able to lead towards Donald Trump's conviction. But, you know, Jake, I was here with you when this case first -- the indictment first came out and I thought it was underwhelming at the time. And as the trial continues, I still am not seeing the prosecutors, at least in this -- until this point, get to the part where they really have demonstrated that at the former president had the intent to commit the underlying crime and --

TAPPER: Which was to influence the election?

CORDERO: To influence the election. And so, there's a lot of things about the testimony of Michael Cohen and the personalities and the dynamics and the Trump Organization and the loyalty and sort of all these parts that have come out about my Michael Cohen, but my big question is when they finally wrap up with Michael Cohen, what is the defense is going to do? Are they going to actually present a defense or are they going to stand up and say, you know what? The prosecution hasn't met its burden.

TAPPER: What do you -- what would you do at this point? Assuming there's no other big blockbusters that were not expecting, right, assuming that this is the case and we pretty much know how the prosecutions case is going to end. Blanche is asking Cohen if he said Trump needs to wear handcuffs and to do the perp walk, people will not be satisfied until he's sitting in a cell. Cohen says, I don't recall saying that, but I don't put it past me.

He says going through the list now Blanche said that of strong statements that Michael Cohen has said, the one earlier that I was paraphrasing was he said I truly f-ing hope Donald Trump ends up in prison, and Cohen said that sounds more like my language on mea culpa as opposed to in a different podcast. But in any case, going through all this stuff.

Blanche follows up: Is it fair to say you're motivated by publicity? Cohen response: I don't know if that's fair to say. I'm motivated by many things.

WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP PAYROLL CORP. ATTORNEY: Well, what does that even mean, I'm motivated by many things?

TAPPER: Well, the same way, but Donald Trump was motivated by many things, perhaps.

BRENNAN: Like Trump, whether you can --

TAPPER: You can say take multitude still.

BRENNAN: -- you despise Donald Trump, or you want to vote for him, he's the defendant.

He's American citizen on trial. This witness is perfect for Todd Blanche, and all the people -- you know, second guessing, each and every question, sit down, get your popcorn, let Mr. Blanche, do his job. He's -- and the judge will charge to this jury, Jake, that if a witness has a bias or skin in the game, you take that testimony with caution.

You know, the witness is supposed to say, they rob the bank, they drove the car. It was blue and it was raining out. Not I want him in jail. I got a little silly little tee shirt on.

This Cohen is reprehensible.

TAPPER: So Cohen is asked if he loves being on TV. He says, yes but more so when he was on TV on Trump's behalf less now.

Blanche confirms with Cohen he did not meet with the Manhattan D.A.'s office between such and such dates.


Cohen's manner is still very even, we're told.

Would you just rest your case if you were the defense, the prosecution, let's assume they finish their case whenever this crossing examinations over. And there's a redirect, et cetera, et cetera, and the prosecution says, okay, the prosecution rests.

Would you if you were Todd Blanche say what we rest to, like they didn't -- they didn't meet their burden?

CORDERO: I think there's a good argument in favor of doing that. I mean, at this point, unless they really think that there's something that comes out from Michael Cohen's testimony, I think at this point there would be a strong argument for the defense to just stand up and say, look, the prosecution hasn't met its burden in this case. Here's all the things that they have to prove. They haven't gotten there. And it's time for everybody to go home.

I think -- I don't know that they'll do that, but I think there's an argument in favor of that.

TAPPER: It's kind of a baller move when defense attorneys do that, but I wonder would this client accepts at that he likes people fighting for them. You know that better than I do.

VAN DER VEEN: I do. And, you know, I think he liked to push, push, push and get as many witnesses on as he can, but I think this strategy is probably, right. You know, this case hasn't gone in the way I think it was billed to go in. So as the -- as the days go on, it in this case looks weaker and weaker. I think it's probably less that they have to put on for defense. I -- in the beginning of the trial, I thought for sure he was going to

testify. He's the kind of guy who wants to testify. He's testified before.

And now I'm not sure if it would be a smart move because, you know, he's got a lot are open books to go into, too.

TAPPER: Yeah. And I have to say he has seemingly in the last few days, at least shown that he is listening to his lawyers. He hasn't violated the gag order when he goes out there. He only attacks the people he's allowed to attack, not the witnesses, not the family of the prosecution, not the jury. He only attacks the judge in the case itself.

BRENNAN: Which he's permitted to do.

TAPPER: Exactly. That's what I'm saying. He's abiding by his instructions.

BRENNAN: What kind of move what's that again if they don't call any witnesses?

TAPPER: Baller.

BRENNAN: The Baller move.

TAPPER: Like a basketball, yeah.

BRENNAN: I'll tell you what, and I don't want to fall into the trap that I just set up myself, which is don't second guess this wonderful defense team, but I would like to -- we spoke about this a little earlier and Elie Honig made a great point.

You call an FEC lawyer, you calling on elections lawyer and ask them anything? But what about this? If you did this, would that be illegal? It depends.

TAPPER: It depends.

BRENNAN: I thought that would be a great move, but normally who would think, Jake, that four weeks into it, prosecution putatively resting now, they're not calling anybody else. You'd have three lawyers on this networks saying, we don't see anything here.

TAPPER: It is interesting, although, yes, it is interesting.

Blanche asked Cohen whether he thanked the new D.A. team for continuing their investigations in January 2021, when D.A. Alvin Bragg had just taken office replacing Cy Vance Jr. Sounds correct, Cohen says. Blanche then asks Cohen about meeting with someone who worked for the D.A. at the time, Mark Pomeranz. Hoffinger objects, attorneys are now at the bench. This is I think the attorney trying to muddy the waters, or introduced the fact that there's questions about Mark Pomeranz who wrote a book in which he said that the D.A. Alvin Bragg was two chicken to bring this case and then the D.A. Bragg did --

BRENNAN: Well, Pomeranz was a former federal prosecutor.

TAPPER: Right.

BRENNAN: And a long, distinguished career doing white collar defense. He was basically retired and Cy Vance asked him to come back to look at the Trump case. I believe the case that Mike and I did and also the evaluation case.

And during that time, he saw the inner workings of the office. This case was pooh-poohed and this case was not supposed to be bought.

CORDERO: I don't think it's going to be that helpful for the difference to go after the prosecutors though? Especially now in the last couple of days as the former president has perhaps buttoned up his activity a little bit because one of the ways that he could harm himself the most is to really push a confrontation with the court and with the judge. So it -- I think it's in the interests of his defense for them not to go after the prosecutors and for the client.

TAPPER: But just some of the contexts at the time, the D.A.'s investigation was focused on the accuracy of Trump's financial statements used to obtain loans and insurance. That investigation was essentially dropped and then the New York attorney general, Letitia James, filed civil charges on that. That case went to trial, as you know, the judge ordered Trump to pay nearly half billion dollars in penalties.

Blanche is restarting. The judge has ended the sidebar, asking Cohen if it's correct that he wasn't meeting with the D.A. about this case. Cohen says, sounds correct because it was about the different case. It was about financial fraud, alleged financial fraud, although I guess proven now.

During the time period between his meetings with the D.A. in 2019 and 2021, Blanche asked whether Cohen wanted the district attorney's office to publicly and knowledge he was Cooperating. I would say so, yes, Cohen says.

This is all ongoing right now. We're bringing it to you from inside the courtroom. Everyone, stick around.


We're going to squeeze in a quick break. This intense back-and-forth with Michael Cohen on the stand question by Trump's legal team. We're going to take a quick break.

Back in a moment.


TAPPER: We're back with our live coverage of Donald Trump's criminal hush money cover up trial.

Right now, right this second, Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, is cross-examining Michael Cohen and he is not pulling any punches. Let's bring in trial attorney Misty Marris and criminal defense attorney Jeremy Saland.

Jeremy, what is Blanche's overall strategy right now? What is he trying to show the jury?

JEREMY SALAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it's all about credibility, honesty, ethics, integrity and if Blanche can make this more about the guy who's standing or sitting there in court as opposed to his client and falsifying business records, he's winning. So that's his goal. His goal is to make Michael Cohen unable to give it straight answer, which he's doing okay. I'm reading that his tone is all right, but he's not being unequivocal. He's sort of equivocating.

So I think he's doing a good job poking holes and showing the agenda, showing that he's dishonest and showing he's not to be trusted.

TAPPER: One of the things going on right now, Misty, is the attorney, Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, is driving at the confinement of Michael Cohen when he went away to prison during he said -- he's asking about his home confinement because he was sent home.


This is during a period where a lot of prisoners were going home because of COVID. So Cohen is explaining the terms of his home confinement where he could spend three hours a day outside side anywhere in the borough of Manhattan. He said he could go anywhere. Initially, he wore an ankle bracelet, but that turned him -- turned into him carrying a cell phone. The Bureau of Prisons would track him via the phone, randomly call to check on his whereabouts. He is still on supervised release. He tried to get out of it, but he was denied.

I was looking for a reduction in the home confinement portion. Cohen says, adding that in addition to his cooperation and also wanted his work at Otisville, that's the prison, to be credited.

This is a presumably Mr. Blanche reminding folks, hey, this guy is -- this guy's a convicted felon, folks.

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yeah, definitely reminding he's a convicted felon. Also reminding hat he's always looking for an easier way out, something that will lower his sentence. And that's really all wrapped in what we're talking about, the credibility.

There's several different aspects. Number one, he's a known liar. He's lied multiple times. He's lied to federal courts. He's lied before Congress. He's a liar.

The second part is he has a direct animus against Donald Trump, and that's where we're seeing the breakdown of the relationship and we're also Jake coming out the gate with those TikToks. That's Michael Cohen's mindset at the time of the trial, not looking back to 2017, 2018, and that's really the defense strategy to just undermine his credibility at every turn.

TAPPER: So Cohen was seen wearing a t-shirt on TikTok, that shows Donald Trump handcuffed, wearing an orange jumpsuit that says Mar-a- Lago correctional facility behind bars, presumably, Jeremy, you -- there's the picture right now, quite a fashion statement, presumably, the prosecution would rather have a Michael Cohen who had spent the previous three years just going about his business quietly, privately, although I guess he cant be an attorney anymore and not being so vituperative, and angry against Trump, so that he could come on the stand in more sorrow than anger.

That's -- but as Donald Rumsfeld once said, you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.

SALAND: Yeah. You know, some little kids say you get what you get, you don't get upset. They've got Donald -- pardon, Michael Cohen used two years. I think they should have or at least tried and I'd like to believe they did try to get him under wraps much better, as opposed to allowing him to go on these rehabilitation redemption tours and TikTok and podcasts.

But he has created this of his own making and, you know, one of the problems that they have now is I don't think they did the job. They should've, on the direct to bring everything out so clearly. And now on the defense, they really needed to have a home. Michael, just say yes or no, stopping evasive, stopping equivocating, just to own up to it.

Yeah. I was angry. Yeah, I tried to get a better deal. I don't want to be in jail all that time. Who would want to be in jail all that time?

So I think that He's not doing himself any favors then and he's really not doing himself any favors now, even if it's calm and Michael -- pardon me, and Blanche is poking those sort of holes to make this a not the credibility and integrity of Michael Cohen, so that ultimately, it's the Michael Cohen show, not falsifying business records.

TAPPER: And, Misty, Michael Cohen just testified that he's made roughly $3.4 million in sales of his two books over the past four years. He says he doesn't know exactly, but he would say around $400,000 for the book "Revenge". That's a lot of money for two books. I mean, that is like, I know lots of authors. I've written books two, that is very, very successful.

Being a member of the resistance, as it were, has been lucrative for Michael Cohen. I assume that will be something that Todd Blanche tries to hit home.

MARRIS: Yeah. They've already talked about it a bit. He said, isn't there a financial incentive? I believe that T-shirt we were just talking about was merch. I don't -- I doubt it will be as successful as the books. But the books that's a significant financial incentive to be out there and be anti-Donald Trump.

And does that matter if you're just a citizen? No, but does it matter if you're the star witness in his criminal trial? Of course.

And so, that's why the defense is going to focus on that and keep in mind, Jake, there will be an instruction in the jury instructions that will say, if you don't believe one thing he said Michael Cohen, you can choose to believe none of it. And I think that's what the defense is going to say. They're going to say you should disregard his testimony in total.

Now it's up to the jury. None, some or all of the testimony, but this is where the defense is going and why credibility is such a fundamental part of this cross-examination.

TAPPER: Misty Marris, Jeremy Saland, thanks to both you.

We're closing in on the final minutes of trial today.


It has been an eventful day in court. Trump's defense team trying to tear down the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, Michael Dean Cohen, how will this intense day end? Keep it here to find out.

We're going to pay some bills. We'll be right back.


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

The court just wrapped four the day with Trump attorney Todd Blanche grilling Michael Cohen like a shrimp in the Trump hush money cover up case.

My panel is back with me along with CNN's Jamie Gangel, and we are, of course, waiting for the defendant, Mr. Trump, to come out and deliver his remarks for the day. He usually has many thoughts about what happened in court and he has been pretty good in recent days in abiding by the gag order that prevents him from a attacking witnesses or jurors, which apparently was also something he had to be reminded to do.

So, Jamie --


TAPPER: -- Blanche asked Michael Cohen about his motivations.

GANGEL: Right.

TAPPER: He quoted an excerpt of Cohen's book, disloyal. First of all, $3.4 million for two books in like the last --

GANGEL: It sounds good.

TAPPER: All right. Well, you're -- I forgot I was talking to Daniel Silva's wife. Never mind. Sorry. Sorry about that. Petty cash for --

GANGEL: I'm going to be in so much trouble at home.

TAPPER: Petty cash in Silva households.


All right. Well, for most authors, unless you're David Baldacci, James Patterson, or Dan Silva, $3.4 million is a lot of money for your books.

Anyway, Blanche asked Michael Cohen about his motivations. He quoted an excerpt of Cohen's book, "Disloyal", where he writes, quote, I wanted it all, power, the good life, public acclaim, fame, big deals, fast cars, private planes, the excess and glamour and zest for life, Cohen says.

And then he's asked about that and Cohen says, yes, those are my words. Yes.

GANGEL: Yeah. First of all, he lives in mid Manhattan. What he's going to do it with a fast car. I grew up there, beyond me.

What I've been curious about is we spoke about this before cross began, Michael Cohen has really kept an even tone throughout the direct, even when the questions got difficult. I wish there were cameras in the courtroom and sounds, so we don't know.

TAPPER: Yeah, its crazy. Just let me just underline that is wildly anachronistic that they're not lighting cameras in the courtroom. I understand that doing it for every case or whatever, but like this is hugely of the public interest. It's not 1832, I mean, like the public is sophisticated about these things, open up, open up the court cameras.

Anyway, sorry. Go ahead.

GANGEL: At the very least audio, the Supreme Court does audio. You can tell a lot from audio, but at least in reading the transcript and thanks to our colleagues, who were in court as they're giving us this real-time translation, it doesn't feel as if it reads so even and so calm.


GANGEL: He seems to be playing some semantics and some of the answers. I'm not sure that's great with the jury, but I don't know. I'm not in the room. I'm curious to see what that's like.

TAPPER: Michael, let me let me ask you. Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney, says, he anticipates he's going to finish by Thursday to take a break on Wednesday. That court hears other cases, so court resumes for this trial on Thursday, and Todd Blanche, things are going to be done by Thursday, then the prosecutions cases essentially over.

Are you surprised a day and a half?

VAN DER VEEN: I'm not really surprised me. I mean, I don't know how many times you can call him a liar and continue to keep making your point and you know 3.5 million, I'm not sure. I believe that anyway, coming from Cohen. So -- but cross-examination is where the matter. It's like a beat and sometimes you just like shooting three-pointers, sometimes just hit ten in a row and it all comes in crosses the same way.

If you're in rhythm, it'll go and you can end -- if you're out a rhythm, you're going to want to cut it shorter if you can.

TAPPER: Judge Merchan saying to Todd Blanche, no rush, take your time. Do what you need to do. Judge Merchan says, I have to say for all the criticism of him, I think at least based on what I've read and my when I got to go to court on Thursday, he has run for very professional -- yeah.

WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP PAYROLL CORP. ATTORNEY: I've been knocking around this courtrooms in this country for 35 years. Mike and I spent eight weeks in front of the Judge Merchan. I'm not talking about his political bent. I don't know what his political bent is. I don't care.

The man starts on time. He's consistent. He's even-keeled. He let you do your thing.


BRENNAN: I mean, a pleasure to work in front of him.

TAPPER: He just seems very professional and I have no idea --

BRENNAN: Gentleman.

TAPPER: Zero idea what he thinks about the case.

BRENNAN: No, I just want to be treated well. He was a total gentleman to work in front of you.

GANGEL: I do think some of the Stormy Daniels testimony was not relevant.

TAPPER: Gratuitous on that day.

GANGEL: And he could have just --

TAPPER: Let me just cut you off. Let me cut you off. We'll come back to you on an sec. Here's Mr. Trump, the defendant.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much. As you know, I'm under a gag order, so I can't really answer those very simple questions that you're asking. I'm under a gag order. Nobody's actually seen anything like it.

But we talk about subjects we're allowed to talk about. I would love to not be under gag order. I'm the Republican nominee for president. I'm leading in every poll and I have a gag order.

So I think it's totally unconstitutional. They will test that. This will be tested because this should never happen to another candidate or another person, what's happening here.

And today, we had a very -- I think a very good day in court, but you see what's happening and you'll have reported because they can't talk about it too much. But I think it was a very, very good day.

The voters are getting a John McLaughlin, probably number one poll number with Fabrizio. John McLaughlin's probably the number one pollster. And voters are getting it. They don't like the idea that the courts are deciding the presidential election.

Well, so far, my numbers, we're leading by a lot. As you know, against crooked Joe Biden.

Charlie Hurt, a great person, great reporter: The problem for Democrats is that the extensive polling now shows that the voters see through this scam and don't like what's going on. Watching 100,000 enthusiastic people gathered along the boardwalk in New Jersey beach this Saturday as you probably saw to support former President Trump on Saturday evening gives you some idea how terrified Democrats are of Trump.


Well, I'm not saying it. He's saying it. I don't think they're terrified. If anything, they're fascists.

Whatever happens, they cannot face him to be fair and honest election, there's no way anybody else is going to beat Trump. And they're using election interference to try and do it, and he then goes, because they lose and they know it, and if it's a fair election basically saying they lose and they know it.

Jeff Zeleny of CNN, oh, CNN: As I talked to the voters across the country in these battleground states, many of them aren't paying attention. The reason the president is having trouble, President Biden is having problems, is because young voters, voters of color, and inflation, young voters, voters of color and inflation. That is a problem for Biden.

Byron York, great person, great reporter, journalist. For months, Democrats had hoped that the specter of Trump trial will cut into the former president's support. Now were in the fifth week.

Can you believe I've been any for five weeks instead of campaigning? It's a shame, which, of course, is a dream. It might not be working the way they anticipated, but that's what they wanted to do, keep me in here as long as possible, as long as possible.

Now we're in the fifth week of the trial, with wall to wall media coverage that appears to have not affected Trump's support at all.

"The Real Clear Politics" analyst Sean Trende wrote recently, the political science literature is pretty consistent that this is the time when the electorate's views are about the election and it starts to harden and basically, the segment doing really well. You're seeing all the polls.

Alan Dershowitz, a great gentleman. This is election interference at the most obvious and every American, no matter whether you're on the Trump's team or against him, whatever political affiliation is it, and it goes on to say he's a Democrat. He can't be right about everything because he's making a big mistake.

If you're Jewish and you're a Democrat, and that includes Alan Dershowitz, you ought to have your head examine. You see what's going on with Israel.

But he goes on, and Democrat, you should be equally concerned how the legal system is being weaponized and abuse for partisan purposes.

Remember this, all over the world, they are watching this trial and they're saying what a disgrace this is and a big disgrace for New York. You know, I love this state. I love this city, and they've got to get back. They've got to get the legal system back, because businesses are leaving, people are fleeing, the businesses are leaving, because they can't go through what I'm going through.

Speaker Mike Johnson was here a little while ago. He says, just apply common sense. Take a look at what's happening. Just apply common sense.

A great gentleman, Victor Davis Hanson, none of the five civil or criminal case that's currently lodged against former President Donald Trump -- by the way, all going through Washington. This is all election interference by Biden -- have ever had merit, none of them have had merit.

These criminal and civil trials are merely the continuation of extra legal efforts of the last eight years to destroy a presidential candidate in lieu of opposing him in a transparent election. Enemies like China and Russia now boast that America's new political prosecutions are similar to those of their own system, and even more so. That's Victor Davis Hanson and he goes on with a beautiful statement and I won't bore you, but the public is important by him at all. And they agree with him 100 percent.

To see any president who would go through the justice system, et cetera, et cetera -- yeah, it's a disgrace what's happening. This is something that shouldn't be happening.

Tom Fitton, I've carefully tracked @therealDonaldTrump trial up in New York. The prosecution in, quotes, prosecution, meaning persecution has been presented. Any evidence of a crime by Trump whatsoever, Judge Merchan's -- he says very negative things about -- no matter what are said about the judge, I'm not going to say that today about the judge.

Matt Whitaker, former acting attorney general, deeply concerned about the trial in New York targeting President Trump. It's very unfair, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Brett Dolman, gag order is a tool utilized to protect defendants. Rarely, if ever applied to one side. They've never seen anything like his gag order, you have (INAUDIBLE) and hopefully you will never again.


It's never seen before. It applied to only defendants. You have a constitutional problem without ability to say anything about your own case.

I am not allowed to talk about big portions of my case and nothing like that's ever happened. They're allowed to talk, the other side, but I'm not.

Governor Doug Burgum, who is here also. Many politicians were here today, many congressmen and senator, et cetera. You've met some of them.

We know from the polls that President Trump is leading all over the country and the conclusion is that the American people have already acquitted President Trump.

I believe that's true, and I believe that a large portion, 80-some (ph) percent say this trial is a disgrace. And so are the others, by the way, if you look at the way they're going.

Take a look at what's going on in Florida with deranged Jack Smith. He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He got caught doing things in you're not supposed -- that's why we call deranged Jack Smith. He's a deranged person.

Representative Byron Donalds, terrific young congressman: This is a travesty of justice. Look around New York. New York's got a lot of issues that he talks about the issues. We have people being killed right outside and yet we have 20 prosecutors sitting over there for what most people, almost every single legal analyst says, no crime. There's no crime. But we've got al the D.A.'s in there and this is no crime.

Corey Mills, this is nothing more than election interference in its finest, the American people see the sham indictment for what it is.

So, that's it. Look, the trial is knowing very well. It's the fourth week. I've been stuck in here for four weeks and I call it the ice box, and we call it the ice box.

Now today, very -- this is what they should are you looking at right here as what they should. This is called our new wave of crime, migrant crime. I call it Biden migrant crime because he's allowed probably 15, 16 million people into our country, having no idea who they are. Many are from prisons and jails, many are from mental institutions and even insane asylums. They're emptying out all over the world, they're coming into our beautiful USA and this is a man just charged with the death of a three month-old baby is right here.

This is what we're allowing into our country. No checks, no nothing and then on the academy, interest rate are rising at a rapid rate and inflation is going up very, very powerfully. And you know what, in take place you really it's a country buster, inflation over the last, if you looked over 500 years, you look at countries with inflation, they have busted, they bust up countries, and that's what we have.

We're breaking record inflation, and it's back and people are dying because of it. You would have had no inflation with me. We were down to practically nothing. You have record inflation and it's back and you have very high interest rates. People can't buy homes. They can't buy anything.

They go for food and its 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 percent more than it was just a couple of years ago. So that's a shame.

We'll be back tomorrow. Again, we had a very good day. I think we're exposing this scam for what it is.

Thank you very much.

REPORTER: Do you have anything in your legal team?

TAPPER: All right. The defendant, Donald John Trump, going through a litany of issues he has with the trial, reading a number of supportive statements from MAGA media and from Republican politicians who accompanied him to court today, including the House Speaker Mike Johnson. He had a lot to say there.

And the man for the job is our fact-checkers for CNN's Daniel Dale.

Daniel, a lot there, a lot going on there. Anything you want to correct?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: There certainly is, Jake. First, a Groundhog Day fact check. I think I've done like five times on your show, former President Trump claimed that this trial is all election interference by President Joe Biden. There remains zero evidence whatsoever that President Biden has had any involvement in this case, which as we know, was brought by a locally elected prosecutor, Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg.

Former President Trump claimed that we have record inflation. We do not have record inflation. We have a 3.5 percent inflation rate, that is relatively high by recent standards, but its nowhere close to the all-time record of more than 20 percent. We did have a four-year high back in June of 2022. But it has since come way down to about a third of that.

He again said that we have many migrants coming in from mental institutions and insane asylums. I repeatedly asked his campaign to substantiate that story with any evidence whatsoever.


They've been completely unable to do so.

He said he's leading in every poll. As we know, we certainly leading and many polls, but not all of them. Ive looked at an ABC/Ipsos poll from this month.

TAPPER: Daniel, can I just interrupt for one second. I'm sorry. Just on the migrant thing.

He also said, unless my ears deceived me, that Joe Biden has let 15 to 20 million migrants into this country. There has certainly been illegal immigration in the last few years, I've never heard anyone come close to that number in terms of the estimates, 15 to 20 million. That's actually the estimates of how many undocumented immigrants there are in the country right now in aggregate.

DALE: Even higher than the aggregate number. And it's hard to fact- check, Jake, because they'll say, well, the gotaways. You know, we don't know the total number who evaded Border Patrol.

TAPPER: Right.

DALE: So, I can't give you a precise number, but that number, according to experts, is way too high.

Back to the polls, he's -- you know, he said, I'm leading on every poll, he's certainly not.

He said he's not allowed to talk about big portions of my case and nothing like that has ever happened. That's kind of vague, but this is not the first gag order in American history. These gag orders are relatively commonplace. He is not the first person to be barred from attacking the witnesses in his criminal trial.

TAPPER: All right. Daniel Dale with a sampler, a sampler, some fact checking. I appreciate it. Thank you for sticking up for those facts. We always appreciate it.

We have heard from prosecutors and from defense attorneys. My next guest is a retired judge. We're going to get a new take on the case so far. Plus, the potential influence of Trump's high-profile guest-list in court, Speaker Johnson, among them.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with more of our continuing coverage of Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial, day two of Michael Cohen's testimony just wrapped up.

With me now for a judge's perspective on the case is retired U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin.

Judge Scheindlin, thanks for joining us.

What do you make of the cross-examination so far? Do you think Todd Blanche is doing a good job at undermining Michael Cohen's credibility?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, RETIRED U.S. DISTRICT COURT OF JUDGE: I think he's doing what I expected he would do.

He's trying to say over and over again that Cohen is a liar, that Cohen has a motive to get Trump and he's repeating that as a mantra over and over again, that he's out for revenge. He wants to see Cohen behind -- I'm sorry, Trump behind bars. So it's not an unexpected cross-examination. It's a little bit disconnected. It's a little bit all over the place. It's been a little bit difficult to follow. But other than that, he's making the points you would expect them to make, all of which is helpful when he gets to summation.

TAPPER: Are you surprised and do you think it's wise for the prosecution to and their case with Michael Cohen given the givens when it comes to his credibility?

SCHEINDLIN: I think so. They wanted him to tie up all the loose ends, to be the one who could say I was in the room with President Trump. And this is what he said. So you needed that dramatic ending because up until then, all the evidence was there, it was circumstantial. It was documents. But now, you have the man in the room saying what happened.

Now, of course, it's only his word as to what Trump said in the room. There's no third person in the room in the meetings that Cohen testified to. So, the jury is going to have to believe his version of what Trump said in the room.

TAPPER: You've noted that Trump has an obvious workaround on the gag order against him talking about the jury or witnesses by having his supporters such as Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and other political figures come to the courthouse and themselves openly complained about Cohen on Trump's behalf as Speaker Johnson did today, criticizing Michael Cohen before the cameras.

What about their presence inside the courtroom do you think? Can that dynamic influence the jury in any way?

SCHEINDLIN: I don't think the jury knows who these three people are, but I do think it was wrong of them to walk in during the testimony, walked to the front row, be seated. And I thought the judge did the exact right thing in ignoring it and not making a big point of it. If he had done that in front of the jury, the jury would have focused on these people and maybe even figured out who they were.

But I must say, I thought it was very inappropriate for this speaker of the House to do what he did today.

TAPPER: I guess the speaker of the house didn't walk into the room itself. It was Todd Burgum, the governor of North Dakota, and two members of Congress from Florida.

SCHEINDLIN: Fair enough.

TAPPER: So maybe they wouldn't have been recognized. But as a general note, do you think the presence of these political VIPs in the room or even the presence of his family. Certainly, I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with any of them being there, but do you think it has any impact on the jury at all, any of them?

SCHEINDLIN: I don't think the political figures have any effect on the jury because I don't think the jury knows who these people are. But family, it's always interesting. Jurors look at the family and the family, you feel a little badly sometimes for defendant when their family is there, I don't know that would be the case with this person and this family, but often it is, and defendants do like to bring their family to try to get sympathy from the jury.

TAPPER: What do you make of the missing witness as it were? Allen Weisselberg, who wrote the document that is perhaps the most damning document in this case. It's the one where it looks as though -- at least this is the prosecutions theory of the case. And Michael Cohen's argument is that this is the repayment of the hush money in such a way so as to disguise what it was.

Does Mr. Weisselberg not testifying undermine the prosecutions case at all?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, I do think that's going to be a big theme of the defense summation. I expect the defense to say, where's the man who really knows? Obviously, the D.A. was afraid to call him, the D.A. didn't call him. The D.A. has a burden of proof here. The D.A. should have called him.

By the way, when I say D.A., I mean, the people -- people should have called this witness. So I expect they're really going to hammer on that missing witness idea.



TAPPER: What do you think of the case so far? Do you think the prosecution has met the burden and proved that not only was -- were these business records false, but it was done in issue -- in the service of a different crime, hiding information from the public, election interference.

SCHEINDLIN: Well, that is exactly the right question. So I think the misdemeanor of falsification of business records has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. The felonies a little tougher because you have to say that Trump knowingly and willfully intended to violate the election law of the state of New York by unlawful means. And the unlawful means is to violate the federal campaign finance law.

So it's a little bit complicated because the unlawful means in the state statute refers to the federal statute of campaign finance violations. The very charge that Cohen pled guilty to, and that the federal authorities would not charge Trump width. So that's the harder part, but Cohen went a long way toward making that case in his testimony, he said as much at the purpose of this and Trump knew it was to make sure that that this didn't get out before the election.

And he had that great quote that Trump allegedly said, if I win up, it doesn't matter, I'll be president and if I lose, who cares? So he really makes that -- he ties that together. So if the jury believes that Trump said it, then well, then, then that's proven that Trump did this with the intent to commit a different crime and that would make it a felony.

TAPPER: All right. Retired U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

While Donald Trump is dealing with this hush money trial, one of his former top advisers is one step closer to go into prison. I'm talking about Steve Bannon. How the DOJ is coming for him next.