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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Defense Calls Attorney Who Advised Michael Cohen; Dramatic Day In Court As Judge Spars With Witness. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 16:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Judge Merchan ruling just a short while ago, that Costello can testify about potential, quote, inconsistent statements made by Cohen during his testimony.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'll be back later today, 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.

And the prosecution has rested its case and now it's Donald Trump's turn. His defense team has called a witness, Robert Costello, an attorney, who at one point advised Michael Cohen. Costello has claimed that Cohen's lied about him under oath during this trial.

This comes after a shocking revelation on the stand earlier today, threatened to rock the prosecution's entire case under intense questioning by the defense. Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, the star witness for the prosecution, admitted that he stole from the Trump Organization and we're not talking lunch money or funds taken from some transaction that has nothing to do with the charges against Trump. We're talking we had $60,000, technically larceny, that was part of the $420,000 payment made to Cohen that was allegedly falsified to reimbursement for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. That payment or those payments that make up the $420,000, that's the crime at the center of this trial, whether they were falsified.

Even though the prosecution had technically raised the issue of this $60,000 theft earlier in the trial, they didn't really spell it out clearly to the jury. They certainly didn't explain that this was a crime. In fact, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig points out that larceny over $50,000 in New York is actually a class C felony, which is more serious than the charges Trump is on trial for right now, being either a misdemeanor are the most a class E felony.

Prosecutors have to prove that Trump himself falsified or directed the falsification of the business records. But with Cohen's testimony, introducing theft into this alleged hush money cover-up deal, the defense could now try to use this to raise reasonable doubt over whether Donald Trump truly knew the details of what but he was paying here.

Lets go straight to CNN's Paula Reid who's outside the courthouse in Manhattan.

And, Paula, we'll talk about Costello in a second. He's on the -- he's on the stand right now making his displeasure known with some of the rulings. But explained to us exactly how Cohen's stole this money from the Trump Organization. He admitted doing this and why it could impact the prosecutions case?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he stole this money by lying to Allen Weisselberg about what he should be reimbursed for.

There's a tech company called Red Finch. And he said that he had paid them $50,000. So, when we saw that critical piece of evidence with Allen Weisselberg and Cohen was sat down to sort of hash out how much he should be reimbursed, $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels, plus this money for Red Finch, what Cohen revealed on the stand is that he actually skimmed 60 percent of that.

Let's take a look at how Todd Blanche elicited this from Cohen on the stand. Here, Blanche asked him, he said, so the $50,000 that you got back from red finch, you only actually paid the red finch owner $20,000, right? Cohen said, yes, sir.

So you stole from the Trump Organization? Cohen said, yes, sir. You didn't just steal the $30,000 because it was grossed up, it was $60,000. Cohen said, yes, sir.

A stunning moment because when he was originally questioned on direct examination by prosecutors, he did concede that he's skimmed some money off, but prosecutors failed to ask him Jake just how much he skimmed off. You might assume as a few grand. But here getting him to confess that it was actually 60 percent of this and then when they had an opportunity to try to rehabilitate him on redirect. His defense was basically -- well, I felt that I was oh, this because I had been wronged in other ways.

And the biggest problem for prosecutors is that the actual criminal charge here is falsifying business records. They're alleging that Trump directed these business records to be falsified to cover up the hush money payment, a problem is now you have a big percentage of the money Cohen received from documents that he even said he falsified this invoices for also based on lies that he told the all the other person in this conspiracy.

So this testimony, this was another punch that Todd Blanche managed to land on Michael Cohen, unclear what the jury will make of it though.

TAPPER: All right. Paula, lets walk through what's going on on the stand right now because it sounds rather intense.

The defense has called Robert Costello as a witness. He was a lawyer who at one point had advised Michael Cohen in the last few weeks. He has been coming out and saying that Michael Cohen is lying about him on the stand.


He testified before Congress, before Republicans in Congress, and some of what's going on right now is for instance Costello said that he Cohen told him ten to 12 times during their meeting, I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump's. So that's -- he is there to impeach the credibility of Michael Cohen. But what's going on is that Costello is really expressing disdain for Judge Merchan's rulings.

Costello shakes his head as if he was exasperated when judge Merchan sustained an objection from the prosecution about one of the answers, at another time when the prosecution objected, Merchan told the lawyers to approach the bench and Costello could be heard saying on the microphone, ridiculous, just saying ridiculous while the attorneys are at sidebar. Then in another time, there was another objection which was sustained. Costello, lets out a "Jesus!", that's my interpretation, but that's how one says such a thing when they're frustrated.

Merchan leans forward and says to the witness, Mr. Costello, sorry, and then Bove returns, no, no. And then and then at one point, the judge actually asks for the -- for the trial to take a minute. He tells the jury the leave the room. This is a pretty extreme thing to do, and he tells Costello in a raised choice --

REID: Jake, Jake, the judge has just cleared the entire courtroom.


REID: It appears that now, this has escalated to ease concern and the overflow is cut. We're not getting any more information. I mean, the fact that this has escalated to this extent, this is part of why there was disagreement within the Trump world about whether they should call Bob Costello.

The only reason he is being called is because the client insisted that he be called. There were people on Trump's team that thought he would be too much of a liability --

TAPPER: Yeah, so, Paula --

REID: -- and the fact that the judge has now reprimanded him for staring him down --


REID: -- this is really taking a --

TAPPER: So, yeah, that's what I was -- I was getting to that yeah. He told Costello in a raised voice when he told the jury to leave, Mr. Costello, you're to remain seated. The jury leaves. Then Costello, after another sustained objection. Costello rolls his eyes, lets out an audible sigh, side-glances the judge. The judge says, I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. The

judge says, you don't give me a side eye, and you don't roll your eyes. The judge says, when there's a witness on the stand, if you don't like my ruling, you don't say jeez, you don't say strike it. Costello holds a long glare at the judge.

Judge Merchan says, are you staring me down? Then the judge says clear the courtroom there's yelling by security officers at the press to leave the video is cut. Courts security says nobody can come back in.

Paula, you have a JD, you've been covering court cases for quite some time. Have you ever seen anything like this?

REID: No, this is unbelievable and I know bob Costello quite well. I've talked to him for about a decade. The fact that he would allow this happen on the stand, it suggests in many ways that he is probably posturing for the defendant. Remember, it's the defendant that overrode his own defense attorneys. They said this is not a good idea. Do not put Costello on the stand.

He overrode them because he loved Costello's performance in Congress last week where he attacked not only Bob Costello, but also this case, and the judge.

So the fact that Costello would conduct himself in a trial like this potentially jeopardize a case like this. I am actually pretty surprised but it validates the concerns that have been expressed by members of Trump's defense team about why they did not want to call Costello and also reminds us why when the defendant calls the shots and not the defense attorneys, you can have something like this happen.

TAPPER: And, Paula, I mean, Bob -- Robert Costello, Bob Costello, he is an attorney, right? I mean, he knows how important it is more than the average Joe on the street to show respect and definitely prince to a judge's rulings. I mean, these are just objections that are being sustained. I was there last week or the week before and, you know, I mean, Judge Merchan sustains objections from both the prosecution and the defense, I know the defense doesn't think he's fair, but as a general note, what I saw seemed in keeping with courtroom proceedings.

For him to do that, that's knowing hostility. I mean, that is knowing animosity towards a judge's ruling.

REID: Jake, this is -- this is unbelievable that he would engage in this kind of conduct force, forced the entire courtroom to be cleared. I reiterate they've always been concerned about Costello. Costello is the only defense witness called before the grand jury in this case. His testimony he said resonated with grand jury, but he didn't stave off an indictment.

He was not expected to be called until late last sweet when Trump said he had to be called.

[16:10:02] This is so over the top, undermining everything the defense has tried to do for their client over the past week or so, it's unclear what impact this is going to have on the case itself, but this is exactly why certain members of the defense team did not want to call him. But again, I've dealt with him for a decade. I am pretty shocked that this is the way that he behaving on the stand.

Look, he has animus towards Michael Cohen, no doubt. He also has some ill will towards the judge. But the fact that he would engage in this kind of behavior, in a criminal courtroom and the historic case of this nature is truly shocking.

TAPPER: Yeah. And members of the media and the people in the gallery are being allowed back into the courtroom.

Let me get my panel to weigh in here and I apologize ahead of time, per usual for when I interrupt you to tell you what's going on inside the courtroom. But first, let me start with Katelyn Polantz who has been covering this now for quite some time.

I'm pretty surprised. What about you?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I'm pretty surprised, but, Jake, this is maintaining order in the court.

TAPPER: No, no, I'm surprised about bob Costello who was a member of the bar would say "Jesus" when a judge makes a ruling he doesn't like and he's -- he's not -- he's not -- he's not the defendant. He's a witness.

POLANTZ: Yeah, and staring at the judge, sighing, rolling his eyes. That's clearly not the sort of behavior that you would expect out of a witness. And we can't say exactly why he's doing what he's doing, but he is quite an experienced attorney and he is in this circle of people around Donald Trump, who's been on the legal side of things more often then in this position as a witness. He was Steve Bannon's lawyer. He was really Giuliani, his lawyer.

He has been a lawyer in these cases for quite some time in this context, he's a legal adviser to Michael Cohen trying to put that fine point for the defense team that Michael Cohen's the lying liar who lies?


POLANTZ: Whether that's going to come across because of this level of disruption remains to be seen will be for the jury to decide.

Alyse Adamson, what do you think? What do you make of it all?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, I am really shocked the only time I've ever seen a courtroom cleared is when there's an actual security concern, somebody has yelled something threatening, the defendant has got up and made movements toward the door. That's when they clear a courtroom. So this was in extreme step, but one that was necessary because it is

right, he -- Costello was showing no decorum for the court, a complete disrespect for this judicial process. And you know what? It undermines the defense's case because they need him to be more credible than Michael Cohen.

But when assessing the credibility of a witness, which the judge will instruct demeanor is one of the things that the jury can take into account when assessing the credibility and think about the demeanor we've just seen.

TAPPER: Tim Parlatore, what -- what do you what do you make of this? All? Because I have to say bob Costello elderly gentleman walks in, has a good story to tell about why Michael Cohen either lie then or is lying now, one of the other, why, why do this? Speculate for me?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER LAWYER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Oh, I was good because I don't have a good answer.

TAPPER: But you don't know, but it's informed speculative.

PARLATORE: Look, in full disclosure. Bob is a friend of mine.


PARLATORE: I've known him for a while.

TAPPER: Did you expect this?



PARLATORE: No. Bob is the former head of the criminal division in the southern district of New York U.S.'s attorney's office. He's very experienced criminal lawyer.

I know that he has been frustrated that generally with the process. I know that when he went before the grand jury, he was very frustrated that --

TAPPER: Frustrated with what?

PARLATORE: With the district attorney and the way that they presented the case where they wouldn't ask him the questions or let him testify about certain and things and he brought a lot of the emails and they refused to submit them to the jury. So maybe this is some of that frustration boiling over.

You know, while certainly you don't want to have this kind of behavior in front of the jury, I will tell you that much of what were seeing right now is after the jury will let out.


PARLATORE: And one thing I was thinking before -- before this is the volume of objections coming from the prosecutor's office. It struck me that it could have a negative impact of the jury of saying, oh, this is something they really don't want us to hear -- there must be something some there, there.


PARLATORE: I don't know if Bob may be -- if this increases that or if neutralizes it.

TAPPER: We're going to squeeze in a quick break. Shan Wu, I'm going to come to you first in the next block. I apologize. Everyone stay with me if you're joining us.

The judge has just cleared the courtroom and then reopened it after a rather tense exchange. With defense witness. How will this dramatic day 19 of the hush money cover-up case and CNN's covering his trial gavel to gavel.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news coverage of Donald Trump's hush money cover-up trial after an unexpected and dramatic moment, Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom after a confrontation with a witness, Robert Costello, confrontation between the judge and the witness. Questioning of this witness has now resumed.

Let's bring back CNN's Paula Reid.

Paula, walk us through what happened, how things are going on the stand now. And if you have any idea what the hell was behind all that?

REID: Yeah. That's the question. I'm texting sources inside the courtroom. Mine are close to Costello asking them effectively that, what the hell? I mean, Bob Costello certainly wants to testify in this case.

He has personal animus towards Michael Cohen. He's clearly there to undercut his credibility, but to get in tussle with the judge overseeing this case that he cleared the courtroom proceeding, some sort of security risks. I mean, that is extraordinary.

I've spoken to the Costello for years. I know him quite well. This is out of character.

Now one possibility I'm going to raise is usually the motivation for most people who act out either civil or criminal court in front of former President Trump, which is they are performing for an audience of one. This could very much be performative for the defendant.

We've previously reported that Costello is owed millions of dollars his longtime client, Rudy Giuliani. We broke the story that region Giuliani and Bob Costello went to Trump at Bedminster to effectively beg him to pay what Giuliani owed Costello.


He still owed millions of dollars in legal fees.

Some of this performance I wonder, is it to curry more favor with the defendant? Hopefully get paid some of that money because otherwise, Jake, this does the client no good acting up like this. There's no other real incentive to behave this way towards the judge.

Say anything you want about Michael Cohen, Costello can and does, but to engage in this kind of behavior in historic criminal case is outrageous. And the only logical explanation I can get from sources so far is that he is performing to ingratiate himself to the defendant.

TAPPER: Well, no doubt he did that.

Our panel is back and let's update everyone as to what's going on. The jury is back. Emil Bove, the defense attorney, is back no discussion of what just transpired. He brings up an email between Costello and Cohen.

You were at the bottom of this message. I will not pester you if you do not want to talk. You know how to reach Jeff and myself, Bove says. This is what's Costello wrote to Cohen, Costello said what he meant was he wouldn't hear from me again unless he contacted me. Phone records are being displayed on the screen to the jury. There are screened means all over that courtroom in each juror has his or her own screen.

The next call after the email was Cohen calling Costello, and the prosecution then objects. Susan Hoffinger, the judge says, I'm going to allow it. Yes. Costello asks a judge before proceeding. Sounds polite, but then Costello begins talking about the email and Hoffinger once your objects again and the judge sustained this time.

Costello said the call from Cohen was one hour, 36 minutes, and 15 seconds over Memorial Day weekend. Sounds like a lovely way to spend Memorial Day weekend. Costello shakes his head slightly with an open palm gesture at the ruling. Merchan doesn't say anything about the gesture, but they asked Costello to keep his answers narrow, asking whether he gave Cohen legal advice on the 96 minute call without getting into details? Yes, Costello says.

Bove shows the jury an email from June 7 and phone records. The call -- the call lasted 46 minutes. The email from Costello says that after you called me back, I left a message for Rudy Costello testifies after reading the email that Cohen him to call Giuliani on his behalf, Mr. Cohen making constant object a complaints about Rudy Giuliani and what he was saying to the press, Costello said.

As he began to say, Cohen was also complaining about his lawyers not being paid by Trump at this point in 2018. Merchan sustained an objection from Hoffinger, another prosecution objection. Sustained.

Merchan then cautioned Costello, Rob Costello, the witness to again, only answers the questions he's asked. Again, Merchan says to the witness, please just answer the question.

So here are the questions. Did you ever put any pressure on Michael Cohen to do anything? No.

Did you ever pressure him to interact with Rudy Giuliani in a certain way? No.

Did you care about President Trump's interests while speaking to Cohen, Bove asks. No, Costello says. My obligation was to Michael Cohen.

Trump is paying close attention and is looking in the direction of the witness stand.

Shan Wu, the objections here why is the prosecution objecting so aggressively? What exactly do you think they're trying to keep out of this case?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They just wanted to keep it very narrow. I mean, we're talking before this started about why it isn't all hearsay when he was commenting on Cohen's prior testimony. And because of the prior inconsistent statement, thank you for pointing that out, so it's got to be very narrow. It's got to be a very specific statement, which is a prior one. That's inconsistent. That's why they're really trying to --

TAPPER: What's the prior -- what's the prior inconsistent statement that they're trying to point out?

PARLATORE: Yeah, anything that Michael Cohen said on direct that he previously told to Bob Costello something that's inconsistent with that. So he can talk about those things. But if -- if Michael Cohen says remember or if he didn't testify about something in his testimony, then Bob can't talk about it.

TAPPER: So if he told and Costello has testified that Cohen told him years ago, I swear to God, I don't have anything on Donald Trump --


TAPPER: -- that is obviously contradicted by days and days of testimony, two books and hundreds of podcasts, episodes and TikToks. It is okay to introduce Costello saying he told me something different.

PARLATORE: Not only the fact that he said that at the time, but also at that time, Michael Cohen was still facing jail. And so that's when he had the greatest motivation to say something about Donald Trump to save himself as opposed to after he gets out of jail saying all this stuff on a revenge tour.

TAPPER: Alyse, I don't know how much the jury has been affected by the wild crump and fracas we saw earlier today, to quote Bloom County. But it does seem as though this has in general been a great day for the defense. ADAMSON: Yeah. I would say so. You had that wonderful gotcha moment where Michael Cohen admitted that he stole the money. I think it was $60,000. And now, they're calling this defense witness, who is seemingly undermining a story that Michael Cohen had told.


And look, even though what Costello is testifying to is not really the heart of the case about the hush money. I think it's important with this general theme of Michael Cohen lies and as Tim just said, he -- he was lying at a time when he should have been motivated to then tell the truth to throw Donald Trump under the bus, so to speak, but he didn't. He said he had nothing on it.

TAPPER: Let me ask you. So the documents -- the so-called, you know, smoking guns according to Michael Cohen's friend Lanny Davis, the idea that there is an Allen Weisselberg statement. And Allen Weisselberg's right-hand man, McConney, both of which seem to have this like a receipt of this for this, this for this, this for this, these are the falsification allegations are built into this.

The idea that Donald Trump was being stolen from within this document and no -- certainly not Donald Trump, but nobody would sign off on something if they knew all the details in which they're actually being stolen from, how much do you think that undermines the case? Because one of the things Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's former lawyer and friend, had said on this very set last week forget Michael Cohen, look at the documents.

Well, now we know the documents have falsehoods, not just the alleged falsehoods that the prosecution is alleging, but Michael Cohen falsehoods.

ADAMSON: Yeah. I think it's incredibly damaging, right, because this whole time, we've been saying, as you said, look at the documents. Documents don't have a motive to lie, but there are lies now in these documents. I think the prosecution is really going to have to focus on the fact that the math kind of adds up, right?

We see the $130,000 payment, right there in the document, then we see the handwriting acknowledging it, and then putting $50,000. We know the $50,000, some of it was skimmed, but the reality is --

TAPPER: Most of it was schemed.

ADAMSON: Most of it is schemed, yes, that is true.

TAPPER: It's true, 30 out of 50, yeah.

ADAMSON: Most of it was schemed, but the reality is, the math does add up. These were payments and they're more consistent with what Michael Cohen said. They were then retainer payments. So is it damaging, incredibly damaging, but does the prosecution still have a story, a narrative that's borne out by that documentary evidence? They do.

TAPPER: They do. Everyone stand by. We're standing by for the defendant in this case, Donald Trump, to speak after the shocking day in court.

Right now, Attorney Susan Hoffinger with the prosecutor mission, is grilling Robert Costello, defense witness. She's asking Costello if he was hoping to represent Cohen. Cohen -- Costello replies, I wasn't hoping anything. It wasn't my email.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be back in a moment.



TAPPER: A testimony in Donald Trump's hush money cover-up trial today expected to end at any moment. We're going to bring you any comments Mr. Trump makes once he leaves court.

Quite a day. We just saw the courtroom be cleared and then reopened after a confrontation between the judge and a defense witness. Also, Michael Cohen, the prosecution's key witness today, admitting he stole $60,000 from Mr. Trump.

Our panel is back in just to give some updates on what's been going on right now.

The prosecution is a grilling the defense witness, Bob Costello. Bob Costello was very disdainfully expressing his disagreement, shall we say, with judge's sustaining of the prosecution's objections to the point that the judge felt it necessary to clear the room and to reprimand the defense witness who seemed rather, at least by accounts inside the courtroom, hostile to the judge.

We know that bob Costello is frustrated with this entire prosecution and doesn't think that the district attorney was interested in the facts of the case during the grand jury proceeding, according to our friend Tim Parlatore over here, who knows Costello.

So Hoffinger is asking, the prosecutor is asking Costello questions, or talking about she's basically pushing the idea that you wanted to represent Michael Cohen. He says, no, I wasn't. I didn't know him from a hole in the wall. Costello says he met with Cohen because Jeff Citron, that's Michael Cohen's previous attorney, made an arrangement with Michael Cohen and he asked me to come along because Citron was primarily a real estate lawyer.

This is why but you call high-profile case for you, Hoffinger asks. Probably yes, Costello says. Hoffinger pushes Costello to say that Cohen would be a big get for him and his firm at the time. Remember, Costello used to be head of the criminal division and the southern district of New York U.S. attorneys office. He's new to the defense attorney game as it were.

Costello after pauses, I would say no, I didn't want them as a client. Hoffinger is trying to get Costello to acknowledge taking on Michael Cohen as a client would put them into the same orbit as Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Costello's resisting. Hoffinger challenging Costello. He would have been happy to announce going as this client. Email records on April 20th, Costello sent this message to his son: I will be on the team. It will be an honor to have you part of my team. I will be eternally grateful for the help and guidance you've already given me, Michael Cohen, personally, attorney for President Donald Trump says.

This is not public yet. Costello says to his son, so do not say anything to anyone about this. I don't know. Were going to make an announcement, but I've been authorized to contact Rudy Giuliani's counsel. President Trump told me I will be representing Michael Cohen. Costello son responding to the email congratulating him.

What's the point here? She's trying to say that Bob Costello is a lawyer and he has sour grapes.

POLANTZ: Yeah. There's a lot that they're trying to put into the record here of what Michael Cohen may have been like. They're trying to say that, yeah, maybe he wasn't trustworthy when you said that he was saying something different, but Jake, step back for a bit. This case is flying towards closing argument.


POLANTZ: The defense has indicated they might have one other person, a campaign finance expert, that they will call, but we may be minutes away from the end of the evidence presentation on both sides. And just from this afternoon, the extent of the defense case has been trying to nullify certain things, Michael Cohen said.


The defense presentation has been entirely then, if this campaign finance crossword doesn't get called, entirely about Michael Cohen. Is that enough to make their argument to the jury that Trump should be acquitted or to convince one juror potentially to hang or has the prosecution done enough, setting aside Michael Cohen to prove the case, the intent to deceive, to break the law, all of the above in the business records. That's where we are.

TAPPER: Shan is shaking his head and nodding different things. You said what -- where do you --

WU: Where we disagree.

TAPPER: Where do you think? What do you think? What do -- I mean, it does seem as though look, this is the prosecution has rested.

This is the defense. This is their big witness. They might call one or two more other people probably one other person, but we don't know. It's possible that after this, the defense is going to rest. We don't know.

But we are almost done with this case and then it will be left in the jury's hands. And where do you think we are?

WU: The defense still does not have a real good theme besides Michael Cohen. And I think that's going to be problematic for 'em. I mean, all this attack today, I mean, first of all, the whole theft thing was brought out previously on direct. It's not like a gotcha moments, they're coming out.

TAPPER: Yeah, kind of, but it wasn't -- I don't think it was spelled out though. It wasn't like --

WU: Well, they wouldn't.

TAPPER: But I'm just saying, if they didn't -- they didn't inoculate themselves very well on it, I would say.

WU: They may have inoculated themselves enough, but certainly defense tried to exploit it, which they should try to do. The problem with the exploitation there though, is it still goes back to Cohen is not an honest man. Therefore, he has no credibility.

Those are actually slightly different things. He can have credibility about what he is testifying to, even if he is generally a dishonest man, he's been a thief, you know, whatever it is, you know, he was a shell for Trump. Those are slightly different things and they just seems like not in hindsight, they've loaded everything on this notion that you just can't believe Cohen because he's a bad person. He's a very dishonest man.

That I think is going to be problematic for them. There's just too much evidence for the prosecution.

TAPPER: So it is my great chagrin that we do not have cameras in the courtroom and we rely upon these little tidbits coming in from our reporters. Cost -- Hoffinger asking if Costello can be empathetic to someone who's apartment has been rated, given his experience as a defense attorney, Costello says, yes. Hoffinger says, you thought he was being a drama queen, didn't you? Costello says, no, I never met Michael Cohen before and he was putting on quite a show.

Costello says Cohen told him in that meeting that he thought about jumping from the hotel roof because he couldn't handle the pressure. The judge is asking the attorneys to approach the bench. While that happens, I want to run a little bit of sound because we don't -- you're not allowed to hear all this incredible drama going on because of how they do things in New York adhering to a great 1830 system of justice.

But I want to air some of what Bob Costello said the Fox on Friday, so you get a flair for who he is, how he talks, how his presentation is, and what he is testifying to. Let's roll that tape.


ROBERT COSTELLO, FORMER COHEN LEGAL ADVISER: Virtually everything that Michael Cohen has said and I read his testimony, at least the part that relates to me is a lie. And I have documents to prove it.

He claims that right there in the clip that you just put on the screen that we brought a retainer agreement, totally untrue. He didn't see a retainer agreement for at least six or seven days after that, and we have emails that corroborate that.


TAPPER: The judge meanwhile, since I heard that 25-second clip, has said the jury can go home for the day. The jury is leaving the courtroom. The prosecutors asking the judge to instruct Bob Costello to not talk about the case.

I don't know if he's going to adhere to that or not. If not, he's welcome to come on the show and talk all about it.

But what's your -- what's your take on everything that has happened today in court? Because it's been a wild day.

ADAMSON: Yeah, I think wild is the best way to describe it. I think that the defense had a very strong day again, they were able to get Michael Cohen a bit and cross. Think the Costello testimony has been a little uneven. I'm looking forward to really reading the transcript of the cross here by Susan Hoffinger, because it seems like she is -- she has been able to bring out some inconsistencies in his testimony.

TAPPER: In Bob Costello's --

ADAMSON: In Bob Costello's testimony.


ADAMSON: We need him. They're not weedy, but the defense needs him to be credible --


ADAMSON: -- to undermine Michael Cohen, right? Otherwise, it becomes a credibility contests like which one you going to believe, and they've heard a lot more for Michael Cohen. This is just a rebuttal witness.

TAPPER: Let me let me just interrupt because we are really close to the end of this because Hoffinger says she has half an hour, maybe 45 minutes left. This will be tomorrow. Bove says he'll have redirect, but doesn't expect it to be long. It's probably ten, 15 minutes, I would guess.

And Bove says he doesn't expect they're going to be calling any witnesses after Cala -- after Costello.


The judge says that, of course, can change. But it -- based on the information that was just delivered in the courtroom, it sounds as though there's a ban an hour left in in this witness, who will be the last witness, at which point what? At which point closing arguments?

Because they said the closing arguments would be a week from Tuesday. Does that mean who voted? Would I look for here?

It -- they said the closing arguments would be a week get from tomorrow. But if there's only an hour left of testimony in Blanche -- oh, here we go. Blanche is asking for a dismissal of the charges which is what we expected they will do. That's what any defense attorney would do. I don't think that Judge Merchan is going to give it to them. He's going to let a jury.

PARLATORE: He's not. In fact, the way that they usually work that in New York state court, the judge probably asked defense, would you like to make a motion?

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: So it's not like he stood up --

TAPPER: No, get it out of the way. Right.

PARLATORE: So, it's something that you have to do. It preserves the issues repeal. It's unlikely to be granted. And even if it is likely to be granted oftentimes judges will withhold their ruling until after the jury comes back.


PARLATORE: That way, the prosecution has the ability to appeal it if they are going to dismiss.

TAPPER: Katelyn, what are we expecting the schedule to be like? Because if there's only about an hour left of this last witness and that's what we think its going to be based on what the defense just said. Does that mean there's still going to wait another a whole another week, so they don't have the jury dealing with this during the Memorial Day weekend holiday?

POLANTZ: That's possible, although, Jake, this is one of my favorite things about court, the unpredictability of it. I think this morning when the judge said, were definitely not going to be closing tomorrow. That's not going to be ready.

TAPPER: Right.

POLANTZ: He didn't realize that the afternoon would end in the way that it has. Certainly looks like they could close tomorrow. That was the plan he told the attorneys be ready to close on Tuesday. That's when we expect it to be.

There very white --

TAPPER: Tomorrow or next Tuesday?

POLANTZ: No, no, no, tomorrow. So that was what happened last week into Tuesday.

TAPPER: Yeah, right, right now.

POLANTZ: They were prepared to close on Tuesday, knowing that Michael Cohen would wrap Monday and offense case would be short. This morning was when the judge said it doesn't look like were going to get to the end of this by the end of Tuesday. So we're going to have to push closing later.

We just need to see what the judge is going to do. He could say let's go. Let's get on with it. Let's instruct the jury. Let's do the closing arguments. I'm curious if he's going to take more arguments on the motion for mistrial or motion to dismiss.

WU: The advantages to pushing, they haven't started deliberations before a holiday could be either side because a lot of pressure on them to reach a verdict.

TAPPER: Right.

WU: Because no one --

TAPPER: So, they could get out and hit the beach.

WU: Right.

TAPPER: Blanche is arguing right now that the prosecution did not prove their case against Trump. Again, we expected that to happen. Trump is staring the defendant is staring at his attorney. His body is turned almost around to watch Blanche.

Fascinating stuff. Standby, all.

How might this wild day sit with the jurors in this case? I'm going to ask retired judge with a bit of experience in a big moments of big cases.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back as testimony in Donald Trump's hush money case has just wrapped up for the day. What a wild day. The prosecution has rested.

Michael Cohen under defense questioning admitted to stealing $60,000 from the Trump organization or at least from Mr. Trump personally.

Let's bring in retired California Superior Court Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell. She's also the author of "Her Honor", which by the way, sounds like a great TV show. I hope somebody picks that up and you get a streaming series on Max.

Judge, Trump's legal team finished its cross-examination of Michael Cohen. They sought to undermine his credibility but even further.

Today, Cohen admitted to larceny, to stealing thousands of dollars, $60,000 from the Trump Organization, an actual worse crime, although he's not been charged with it, then the misdemeanor felony that Trump has been charged with.

What is your reaction to what we've heard from Cohen? LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, RETIRED JUDGE: Before I can answer that, I

just have to tell you, Jake, oh, the trials and tribulations of a trial court judge. And as you lamented today, it's so sad that we don't have video of what happened in the courtroom and I still don't understand, even without video because we want to protect the jurors identities, why there was an audio stream, so people could actually hear what people are saying.


CORDELL: So with regard to the testimony of Michael Cohen the media is all, this is a bombshell. It's not a bombshell because the jury has already heard him testify that he took money he shouldn't have taken.

What happened today is that the defense put a name on it that you stole it, actually committed larceny. And he says, yeah, okay. I did I stole it.

So what portrayed -- what is portrayed in the media is not what the jurors are ever going to see if they are following the judge's instructions, not to look at any stories on TV or read anything about this. It's another piece of information for them to consider.

TAPPER: Yeah. And, well, look -- what look --

CORDELL: It was the most --

TAPPER: Go ahead. Go ahead. Keep going.

CORDELL: Go ahead.

TAPPER: No, no, no, pleas, keep going.

CORDELL: What was most shocking was the testimony of this last witness, this lawyer, who had the audacity to make a comment about the judge's ruling on an objection and then to try to stare down the judge, and I will tell you, I really admire how the judge handled it, which was you don't stare me down and you better get it together.

And this is -- this is a lawyer. So did he help the defense because I think the defense after they had finished before this witness, thereabout ready to pop the champagne corks, and it's like no, no, no, no. I don't think this witness really helped the defense at all.

My guess they call this witness because maybe their client wanted them to do that because he really didn't add anything and really created more of a problem than a help.


TAPPER: One of the things going on right now in the courtroom is because obviously, the defense is making a motion to dismiss all the charges. Blanche says when Trump sign the checks for Cohen and the White House, a holdover from Trump Tower in New York, quote, there's no evidence that there's any idea or any intent to mislead or to hide or to falsify the business records. Blanche also argues there's no evidence of another crime being covered

up in connection to the false business filings, which is how this goes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

There's no evidence zero, that anyone was thinking about a campaign finance charge in 2016 when this payment was made to Ms. Daniels. Blanche now says, how is keeping a false story from the voters criminal? Referencing the other story with the fake story about the kid that Trump had that wasn't -- it's not a true story. He said that's not a catch and kill, your honor, and certainly not criminal catch and kill.

So, anyway that's still going on there. I don't know anybody who thinks Judge Merchan is going to just dismiss -- dismiss the charges. But Blanche is saying there's no the way that the court should let this case go to the jury, relying on Mr. Cohen's testimony, and without Mr. Cohen, there is no case.

Well, what do you make of that? I know its standard procedure for the defense attorney to say this. But what do you think of the case he's making here that there's no way that the judge should let this even go to the jury based on Mr. Cohen?

CORDELL: Right. I disagree that this is a routine that all defense attorneys do. This is really what we call the directed verdict saying, judge, all of the evidence is in now and they have not -- they -- the prosecution have not proved each element of the offenses that Trump is charged with beyond a reasonable doubt. And the key in this case is his Trump's intent if there is a connection, did he intend that this payment be that these falsified records that that be to assist in the commission of another crime, and that is with regard to interfering with the election.

So, this is not just routine I do think they have a point to make. They are saying that the prosecution didn't connect all of the dots that get them to Trump, and it is reasonable for the judge to seriously consider this. This isn't just kind of thrown up there, just to make a record.

I do not believe that the judge will grant this request, meaning we're going to take it away from the jury. Hear all the facts, and even if five find all of the facts here to be a certain way, they don't amount to a crime. I'm just going to dismiss it and not take up the jury's time.

That's what they're asking.


CORDELL: Rarely does a judge grant a directed verdict, but it has happened in some time. I do not believe it will happen in this instance. I think this is a man for the jurors because they're fact finders. And then to determine do the facts comport with the elements of the crime and if so, find it beyond a reasonable doubt.

TAPPER: So the Blanche, the defense attorneys arguing there's no conspiratorial intent that makes this misdemeanor a falsifying business records a felony to hide because -- because of hiding get information from voters, because the payment to Stormy Daniels, he says was not part of any catch and kill scheme. AMI, the tabloid empire wanted nothing to do with it. And Michael Cohen is not a media company he argues. Merchan jumps in and says to the defense attorney, so you're asking me to find Michael Cohen not credible as a matter of law and Todd Blanche says, yes. And Judge Merchan says, okay.

Judge Merchan asks again, you want me to take it out of the jury's hands and decide before it even gets to the jury that as a matter of law, this person is so not worthy of belief, Merchan asks again. Blanche says, we didn't just catch him an ally, your honor, he came in with a history of lying. So again, he is probing as you are suggesting, he should do, Judge Merchan as to what exactly the defense is asking here for.

Blanche says he testified and he lied under oath in this court room. The consequences of that lie, if accepted by the jury, is a conviction.

What do you think? What do you think you would do here?

CORDELL: So the defense is making exactly the argument they should make and Judge Merchan has asked the question, you're asking me to determine the credibility of Michael Cohen, which or narrowly should go to the jury. That's exactly.

TAPPER: Let me for one second, your honor. I apologize.


TAPPER: Because he's saying exactly what you're like literally -- as the moment you're saying it, it's coming in, he says, you said this is the judge. Now, you said his lies are irrefutable, but you think he's going to fool 12 New Yorkers? So he's saying we should give it so bad. Let's let the jury slap it down.

CORDELL: Exactly, exactly. So that's an indication that Judge Merchan is not going to take this away from the jurors. I'm going to say leave it to them to determine Michael Cohen's credibility. In addition, in determining the credibility, the jurors are also going to look at all the paper trail, the documents, follow the money. So all of that -- and it isn't just he was here on the witness stand and no one should believe him.


There's more information that was produced evidence produced at this trial that can determine the credibility of all of the witnesses.

One big problem, the product the defense has when they get to closing arguments, they have denied that was ever an affair between Trump and Stormy Daniels. They've just said it didn't happen. If the jury believes Stormy Daniels, the defense has a problem. They can't back down at all. So if she's credible then it is credible to believe, then that there

was the hush money payment and that Trump was a part of it. So Donald Trump, by denying that this affair exist, this affair existed, has really painted them into a corner. And I think that's problematic in the end.

TAPPER: All right. Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, author of her honor. What that was really that was really fun talking to you all exactly. The Judge Merchan was taking in and saying pretty much everything that you said, except a minute later.

Thank you so much for being with us.

And let me bring in Kara Scannell, who is in the courtroom today.

So, Kara, you know, we are at a disadvantage out here in the real- world. If you can call a cable news set, the real-world, because we're taking in this information from brilliant reporters like you, trying to absorb it, and trying to imagine what it is like in there. And we have no idea what it actually is like in there.

When Michael Cohen was revealed to have committed larceny of $60,000 within the documents that are the split alleged smoking guns, according to the prosecution and Michael Cohen fans, was that as big a bombshell in the courtroom to the jurors as it felt out here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, these jurors have hoped faces and they've had poker faces this entire trial. They let on very little about their reactions to testimony as its coming out, even last week when Todd Blanche, Trump's lawyer, kind of cornered Michael Cohen about that phone call in October of 2016. They didn't really rack -- they didn't react much today either, even in that moment where Michael Cohen was asked by Todd Blanche if he had stolen $60,000 from the Trump Organization, Cohen's answer, throughout this whole testimony was again, measured, just agreeing that yes, he did steal from them.

And Blanche followed up. You haven't been charged with grand larceny. The prosecutors know that you stole this Monday and Cohen said, no, he hasn't. So it didn't have the same kind of moment as last this weeks of testimony when Blanche cross Cohen on that phone call, but it certainly was admission something that was not exactly shaped that way by the prostate when they brought this out on their direct examination of Cohen.

Cohen had said that he did take the money and he said that he thought he was owed it, but it has a little bit more of the drama today because the outright blanche outright asks Cohen if he's stolen. Cohen agreed that he did, but it didn't have that same kind of reverberations through the courtroom as we felt last week.

TAPPER: Right, it's not "Law and Order" donk, donk. It's an actual courtroom.

Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

So, right now, just to bring you inside the courtroom according to the tidbits we're getting, the prosecution, Mr. Colangelo, is now arguing that several documents corroborate Cohen's testimony, namely the records brought in through Jeff McConney's the -- both though, the Weisselberg memo and the one that his right-hand man Jeff McConney wrote memorializing the reimbursement plan.

Colangelo says that at a minimum, a reasonable juror can conclude the invoices, the ledger entries, the sign checks with check stubs, all contain false information, meaning falsification of business records. Colangelo now says that there is also an overwhelming record of concealment that supports and intent to defraud on Trump's part what do you make of it? What do you think?

ADAMSON: Yeah, that's the right argument to make to overcome this directed verdict, I believe is the correct parlance for New York --

TAPPER: Which is -- which is telling the judge, just throw this thing out. Now, don't even let the jury weigh in.

ADAMSON: Correct, like it's a matter of law, they're going to have to acquit the defendant. The standard is really the prosecutor -- the prosecution has to have proven by sufficiency of the evidence that a reasonable juror --

TAPPER: By the way, this just -- look, Judge Merchan is saying he's going to reserve his decision on the motion to dismiss from Trump's team. So he's not -- he's just tabling it for now.

ADAMSON: And I think that's what Tim said that -- I believe it was Tim said that they were going to table it. They were going to do closings and then if as a matter of law, if they must direct the work, then they will -- he will issue his ruling and issued acquittal --

TAPPER: Not appropriate to do it before closings?

ADAMSON: Not appropriate to do it before closings because you want to preserve that issue for the appeal which the government would most likely take.

TAPPER: Right, and you don't want either side to be able to say he didn't even listen to our closing or whatever.

ADAMSON: They want to be -- right. They want to be able to make all there arguments and preserve their ejections.

But I think the prosecution is correct that they have established at least -- by the sufficiency of the evidence that are reasonable. Juror could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That's all they need, a reasonable juror with the evidence that has been elicited, could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.