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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Now: Prosecution Making Closing Argument. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 16:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This morning, we also heard the defense claim Trump was actually a victim of extortion. They also tried to discredit Michael Cohen, referring to him as, quote, the greatest liar of all time. The jury was told from the start of today's hearings that they would be long and they said they were prepared to stay longer than normal.

I'll be back in two hours at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with CNN. Our special live coverage of this truly historic criminal trial continues right now on THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

Donald Trump's hush money trial is in its final phase as the prosecution is in the midst of giving its closing arguments. Court will be back from break at any moment. The prosecution has been arguing that President Trump, quote, corrupted those around him, and he got them to lie and covered up, unquote.

Trump picked Michael Cohen as his fixer, the prosecution says, quote, because he was willing to lie and cheat for Donald Trump. This follows nearly three hours of closing arguments from Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche, who attacked Michael Cohen using Trump like nicknames, calling him the GLOAT, not the GOAT, the GLOAT, the greatest liar of all time. He also said that Michael Cohen is, quote, literally like an MVP of liars and added, quote, I don't know how many lies is enough lies to reject Mr. Cohen's testimony, unquote.

But one of the last things that jury heard from Todd Blanche, the defense attorney, was Blanche bringing up the prospect of Trump going to prison. You're not allowed to do that. And that did not fly with the prosecution or Judge Juan Merchan who called it outrageous and suggested that the mentioned a prison time was part of an effort to elicit sympathy for the defendant.

CNN's Paula Reid is outside the Manhattan courthouse.

Paula, let's discuss the defense in one sec, but first, what are we hearing so far from the prosecution? I guess Mr. Steinglass is about an hour 40 in. He thinks he's about a third of the way done. But what is his message been so far? PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And that timing is likely something done of the jurors wanted to hear means it could be a late night for them, but they started off their closing by assuring the jury that they just need to tune out the noise and that prosecutors have receipts to support the charges that they have brought in this case. But before they get the documents at the heart of this case, they had to deal with some of the "it" that has been brought up during the course of this trial, starting with the testimony of Stormy Daniels.

They acknowledged that she does not like the defendant and there were parts of her testimony that likely made the jurors uncomfortable. Then they moved on to their key witness, Michael Cohen and look as many commentators have said, no prosecutor, their right mind would call Michael Cohen voluntarily, and the prosecutors told the jury, they said, look, we didn't pick him at the witness store. This is our witness.

But they suggested that the defenses argument that this case relies on the testimony of Michael Cohen they said that is deflection and instead they characterized him as being a tour guide who just merely should walk the jury through all of the evidence. After they were done with that, they began chronologically. Prosecutors went back way, back to 2015, and so far Jake, they've been focused on the conspiracy, where they charged the falsifying business records as a felony because they've argued that this was all part of a conspiracy to suppress negative stories about Trump to help him win the White House in 2016.

So, the past hour has really we focus on that, talking about this catch and kill effort and how catching and killing some of these stories that these were the biggest contributions that a campaign ever received. But as Steinglass said, he still has served more hours to go.

TAPPER: And the thesis of the defense's closing argument, Todd Blanche, was that Michael Cohen, the star witness, cannot be trusted but after that, one of his very last comments about Cohen and the defendant, Mr. Trump caused the judge to reprimand him. What happened exactly?

REID: Yeah, Jake, this is one of the most dramatic moments of the day. And here's what Todd Blanche said. He said, you cannot send someone to prison. You cannot convict somebody based upon the words of Michael Cohen. And the reason this was third rail for the judge is because it is not the jury's job to sentence Trump. Their job is to compare the facts to the law and decide whether to acquit or convict the defendant. They do not handle sentencing.

So the judge shot back calling this quote, outrageous. You know that making a comment like that is highly inappropriate. It's simply not allowed, period. It's hard to me to imagine that it was accidental in any way.

And when the jury came back after, they received a curative instruction. Now, of course it's impossible for them to forget what they heard. But the judge encourage them not to take into consideration those and remind them that they are no way responsible for sentencing, but I think part of this, this is the strategy, the defense's strategy reframe this issue of trust in Michael Cohen and just remind people that the gravity of the situation and ask those jurors if they want to convict someone, or they want themselves convicted based on the word of Michael Cohen.


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

Let's bring in our panel. We have with us Gene Rossi, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, Tom Dupree, Brandi Harden, and Tim Parlatore.

It's a great firm. You have my business,

So let me -- let me just start with you, Tim, because the prosecution has called out Trump's attorney for what they say is an inconsistency. They said this, quote, Blanche said Michael Cohen stole $60,000 because it was grossed up. So that means that defendant is trying to have it both ways, right? Donald Trump is trying to have it both ways they're saying. They're denying the 420,000 was a reimbursement at all, claiming payment for legal services rendered in 2016.

But if that's true then there was no theft. He's getting paid for legal services in 2017. They can call him a thief and claim this wasn't really reimbursement, but not both. So first of all, this -- you really need to know a lot about this case that you have any idea what the hell they're talking about.

The jurors do but there's this one moment where Michael Cohen basically admitted that 60,000 of the 420,000 he was supposed to pay to somebody else and he didn't he just pocketed it.

Does it make sense for the prosecution to get in the weeds? Is this a cleanup they need to do?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, it's kind of a complicated point and I think that Todd Blanche, in a way invited it by making some of the arguments that he did. I mean, the idea that no part of this 420,000 is a reimbursement, that it's, you know, 100 percent illegal fee is not something that a jury is going to buy, you know?

Clearly, he's being paid back for the Stormy Daniels payment. Clearly, he is being paid back for the Red Finch, which, of course, he inflated but --

TAPPER: And they're not -- and they're not paying him back as a reimbursement, which would have no taxes. They're hiding it.

PARLATOR: Right. And that's a silly thing here. And a lot of this comes back to Michael Cohen because he could have very easily just submitted a simple invoices says $130,000 expense reimbursement, $20,000 expense reimbursement, and Donald Trump would have been perfectly happy to just pay that amount as opposed to $420,000. But for the defense to go in and say, oh, yes, this was all legal fees I think it impacts their own credibility and that's where Steinglass I think trying to go with this of, you know, the defense is trying to have it both ways and I think it gets very much into the weeds and I don't know what the jury is going to going to think about it either way. It's a complicated piece and I think it would have been better for the defense, it's always better to concede bad points and focus on the good points and say, look, yes, this was a reimbursement but --

TAPPER: But Donald Trump didn't know about it.

PARLATORE: Donald Trump did not -- and it's not even about he didn't know about the reimbursement, is that he didn't know that the bookkeeper --

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: -- use the drop-down menu to say legal fees, that that was not something that Donald Trump said. Yes, use that drop-down menu so that we can conceal this and lie.

TAPPER: So, the judge now says they're going to break around 5:00 p.m. The jury is entering the courtroom. The court officer is back at the bench speaking with Judge Merchan, and just a reminder, I'm going to be rudely interrupting everybody during the trial to bring them tidbits of information. I apologize, one and all.

But, Brandi, let me ask you that. What Tim just said makes -- to me, makes sense because I don't know that they have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald -- that even if you believe the prosecution's theory of the case, that Michael Cohen was doing this and Allen Weisselberg was doing that, and McConney was doing this and all these people were doing all this stuff, I don't know that they've proven that Donald Trump knew.



HARDEN: They absolutely have not. And I think, you know, time and time again, people keep talking about what might be missing or what's not quite there. That is, in fact reasonable doubt when things are missing, when there are facts that to want to hear and you look to the prosecution and say, so where is that thing. That means unfortunately here, he should be acquitted.

And I think that because there are certain things that the government has to prove here, certain specifics that he knew he had specific knowledge of these things. Those are just things I think that that have fallen by the wayside. They just have not established those things in this particular case.

TAPPER: So I guess the way, Tom Dupree, that they've tried to get at this is that's why they had all these passages from Donald Trump's books that he wrote or with the help of a ghostwriter and they had editors reading these passages and it's basically how hands-on is and how we know is everything. But does that prove it?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's the thing. It's circumstantial. It's inferential. It's asking the jury to draw conclusions over books that were probably ghostwritten.

I mean, look, my problem with the prosecutors' case the way they've put this on is they needed to come in with a Hemingway like presentation. Instead, they came in with a Tolstoy-like presentation, one that was too long, one that was unnecessarily complex and frankly, one that may well have admitted the critical facts they need to prove that Donald Trump committed these felonies.


I think that's one reason why the prosecutors this morning made this stunning prediction that it could take them four-and-a-half hours to present a closing argument, which should have been a major red flag to anyone listening that if you take -- if you need four and a half hours to present your case, it's too long and too complicated for a jury.

TAPPER: Karen, I know you're not as skeptical of the case as others on this panel. What are we missing?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look I was a prosecutor for very long time. So the way I see this is everybody is discounting what Michael Cohen had to say and Michael Cohen does provide direct evidence that goes right to Trump in this case. But the thing is yes, he has credibility issues, but I think Steinglass put it correctly when he said we didn't pick him at the witness store, right?

We love if a crime occurred in front of a bus full of nuns, but instead, it occurs around the type of people that the defendant associates himself and every one of them has challenges, right? The defendant, Donald Trump, and that's what Steinglass is calling him, is the defendant because that's what he is here.

He picked David Pecker, he picked Stormy Daniels, he picked Michael Cohen. He relied on Michael Cohen for years and years and years to do all of his dirty work for him. And who do you think is going to do this kind of thing for you on your behalf and P.S. everything that Michael Cohen says that is crucial to this case is corroborated.

And so I do think look, I know the four-hour thing for a summation. I tend to be long-winded. I think prosecutors and someone's going to tell me to stop talking in a minute, but I'm winded, I know that.

TAPPER: You're not long winded. I don't know.

AGNIFILO: But, no, as a prosecutor, you're not -- it's not a show. You have to methodically -- the defense attorney is the one who is more showy and frankly, theatrical. As a prosecutor, you're just trying to prove your case. You're not trying to be anything special or you want to be credible well, you want to take the jury through the evidence, whatever it takes and if it takes four hours, it takes four hours.

But reasonable doubt, when you hear that charge beyond a reasonable doubt, every prosecutor you get a pit in your stomach because its such a high burden that you're going to take the time you need to have to give your summation.

TAPPER: So, Gene, just right now in the courtroom, Steinglass is trying to set the de payable for what October 2016 was. Four weeks before the election, the campaign was rocked to its core with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. Steinglass notes that Hope Hicks, when she testified former White House aide, Hope Hicks, told jurors that the news of the Access Hollywood tape was so explosive it eclipsed the coverage of a category -- of a category four hurricane.

So I guess, Steinglass says, it was a category five hurricane, this event.

What's -- what's the point here?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Old man and the sea, Hemingway. If you focus on October 7 to October 28 of 2016, you will have an old man and the sea moment. And what Steinglass has to do is focus on a timeline.

I represented Keith Davidson. I know that timeline like the back of my hand, too vividly but from October 24 to October 28, it was a perfect storm of contacts, communications, and verbiage between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. And it had one purpose. It was to fulfill the scheme that was hatched in an August of 2015 at the tower meeting. That is the old man in a sea theme that they've got to focus on.

And I got how to say this about closing arguments.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

ROSSI: I don't want to talk about books. I want to talk about the final mosaic. And right now, looking and listening through this, I think that the prosecutors are ahead on the final mosaic. What's that painting or tiles, if you will, that you want to leave the jury? And it may take four hours. It may take three-and-a-half.

I don't think the length is going to matter here because these jurors are focused and they are going to listen to every word until the last dog dies.

TAPPER: So as while Mr. Steinglass is weaving his mosaic, we're going to squeeze in a quick break.

Panel, stick around. The prosecutor patient is continuing to make their closing argument. We'll bring you all the latest.

Plus, Trump's defense blasted Michael Cohen's testimony in their closing arguments. Might that matter to the jury? We will ask someone who knows New York courtrooms and Donald pretty well. That's next.


[16:18:30] TAPPER: As both sides make their final arguments to the jury. I want to bring in someone who knows both Donald Trump and New York courtrooms well. Stacy Schneider, former "Apprentice" contestant, and criminal defense attorney.

Stacy, it's great to have you back.

So right now, the prosecution is presenting its closing argument. Steinglass has been speaking almost two hours. He said he's only about a third of the way done.

Too long do you think? What's your take?

STACY SCHNEIDER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's never too long. You win or lose your case in closing argument and the prosecution has to tie everything up for the jury. All the pieces that came out because as we all know, Michael Cohen cannot be the dependent -- the depending factor to make or break the case.

And the defense attorneys in their closing argument lost a big opportunity because they -- I found Todd Blanche's closing argument to be weak, and ineffective. He got in some points at the end, but what the job of the defense is to do and you're in front of a New York jury with a very loud and obnoxious case is to have a narrative that fits the story and he missed the boat completely.

He could have led with Donald Trump was in the White House in 2017 when Michael Cohen started to get reimbursed and all those checks that Donald Trump signed with his black sharpie, he didn't know what he was signing because Madeleine Westerhout, one of the prosecution witnesses, a former Trump White House aide, had testified that sometimes he signs checks without looking at things or he's in a meeting or he's having a conversation.


They could have taken that golden nugget in their closing argument and hammered away at their point that they made in a very roundabout, lengthy way, which was that Michael Cohen did this on his own because he wants credit for everything. And Donald Trump didn't know about it.

So now the problem is for the prosecution is that the one connection, the one point that will win this case for the prosecution is the jury believing Michael Cohen that he had the meeting with Donald Trump after talking to Allan Weisselberg, Trump's former CFO, about him getting reimbursed and that they went into Trump together and had this meeting and Trump approved the deal. There's no other testimony that's been presented in this trial that Trump approved the deal, except from Michael Cohen's testimony.

So, now, the prosecution needs to show that whether or not Michael Cohen is a credible witness, which he is not in everyone knows that. And it's been acknowledged, it doesn't matter. They've corroborated other pieces and they have other witnesses to show Trump's intent.

TAPPER: As expected, the defense is a painting Michael Cohen as a liar they even enter their closing arguments calling him not the GOAT, the greatest of all time, but the GLOAT, the greatest liar of all time. Do you think that arguments going to go to work?

SCHNEIDER: I don't think its going to work. Ill tell you why. The prosecution has already said in its opening statement and its ongoing that, you know, it's very interesting. You can't have it both ways. The prosecution wants you to believe Michael Cohen lies about everything, and they brought up in the defense closing -- I'm sorry, I meant the defense, the defense wants you to believe that Michael Cohen lies about everything, and the defense brought up in its closing statement that Michael Cohen even lied before Congress.

But the prosecution pointed out that the reason he -- the subject that he lied to Congress about was work he was doing for the defendant, Donald Trump in Russia. So, it's a consistent theme of Michael Cohen's loyalty to Donald Trump to be the fixer, to be the person who cleans up allegedly Donald Trump's messes. And ironically, Michael Cohen's book, which was also introduced to the jury, is called "Disloyal" because there became a point where Michael Cohen distance himself pled guilty in federal court to the very same scheme that Donald Trump is now on trial for in part the election interference, and the prosecution is arguing the defense can't have it both ways.

We know Michael Cohen's a liar. You can make up these acronyms, the GLOAT or whatever you said, Jake. I don't know if all the kids are saying that now. It's the first time I've heard that one, but it doesn't matter that he's a liar. There's enough corroborating evidence to show from all of the other witnesses, in particular, even Hope Hicks, who came on the stand, who had does not have an ax to grind in the world against Donald Trump. And actually gave a crucial piece of evidence which I imagine that the prosecution will bring out as this opening statement continues for the next several hours.

She had said that Donald Trump admitted to her that he knew about the Stormy Daniels payment and that was crucial. And even though he said Michael Cohen did it for me out of his loyalty and the goodness of his tart and Hope Hicks had testified, I don't believe that for a minute. Michael Cohen does everything for credit. He would do something out of the goodness of his heart.

But there's a lot of "there" there that Donald Trump knew about this alleged scheme without just Michael Cohen backing it up. So it's going to be a play on who the jury beliefs.

TAPPER: So you were just talking about Hope Hicks and Steinglass, the prosecutor is going through some of the testimony regarding October 2016 and whether or not the Trump campaign was in crisis. He shows us the jury once again, Trump's comments at an October 2016 rally in North Carolina in which he's denying a story about women alleging misconduct by him.

He raises Westerhout's testimony that everyone is freaking out except for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape and Steinglass said, dismissively, please. He pleased -- it caused pandemonium and the campaign he said. And then he says, because you brought up Hope Hicks, Hope Hicks was, quote, in the room where it happened unlike Westerhout and Hicks said it was a crisis. Steinglass said Stormy Daniels was a walking, talking reminder that the defendant was not only words, she would have totally undermine his strategy g for spinning away the Access Hollywood tape, the idea that it wasn't just locker room talk as well as was his justification at the time that he actually had some locker room behavior.

Steinglass right now walking through how things changed for Gina Rodriguez, trying to sell Daniel story, once the Access Hollywood tape came out.


He's walking through texts between Howard and Rodriguez and the hours after the tape went public. And this is -- this is a question of how you interpret different facts because the defense said that Ms. Rodriguez, who was Stormy Daniels manager and Dylan Howard, who was "National Enquirer" editor, that this conversation bubbled back up because of the Access Hollywood tape, not because there was renewed interest in paying them, but because they were opportunists, that's what the defense says.

The prosecution is saying. Oh, no, no, no. There was this attempt to buy their silence on the side -- on the other end of it, not the Stormy Daniels' end.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah. I mean, how is the jury going to really by that? I mean, you heard -- there was also, to your point, Jake, there was testimony from who picks that Donald Trump managed every slogan that went out of that 2016 campaign, that everything was run by him. There was testimony from multiple witnesses that he was a micromanager, including his friend David Pecker from the national enquirer who said, oh, yeah, Trump micromanagers, everything. There was testimony from his employees at everything gets run by the boss. It's run by a small mom and pop show.

So I think it really stretches belief for the jury to buy the defenses argument that this really wasn't that big a deal to Donald Trump. It's just another fire to put out and no big deal hit. And I know him from the show, his hand is in everything.

I even can tell you, we were shooting a scene from "The Apprentice" and Donald Trump stopped in the middle of the scene and told the producer, leave that line in or cut that line out. And I thought what an odd moment, he's even directing, you know, a top American TV producer and how to do the show.

So I can't believe for one minute that Donald Trump would not have his hands in the pot.

TAPPER: All right. Stacey Schneider, thanks so much. Appreciate your insights.

We continue to watch as the prosecution makes its closing argument in the Trump hush money cover-up trial. We're filing those minute by minute developments next.

Plus, we'll take a closer look at how the defense talked about Stormy Daniels as they close their case to the jury.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Now, we're back with our breaking news coverage as closing arguments continue in Donald Trump's hush money cover-up trial. Prosecutor Josh Steinglass started his presentation around 2:00 p.m. Eastern today. He says he's just over a third of the way done. The jury heard defense closing arguments earlier that lasted almost three hours.

Our panel is back with us to discuss.

And right now, inside that courtroom, Steinglass is going through slides showing messages and call records during this two-week stretch when Cohen gave a barrage of excuses to Keith Davidson, Stormy Daniels, attorney, to put off paying her. This is October 12th to October 26.

And Steinglass is also saying, make no mistake, AMI, that's the tabloid empire formerly run by David Pecker, that runs the "National Enquirer", et cetera. Make no mistake, AMI is involved here. AMI is acting as the campaign's eyes and ears, just as David Pecker told Mr. Trump he would do.

Steinglass is also now showing the paperwork that Michael Cohen provided on October 13, 2016, that was false, to First Republic Bank about this bogus shell corporation Resolution Consultants, LLC, the first one that Cohen set up to facilitate these payments. And as Todd Blanche predicted, that's a defense attorney, Steinglass is telling the jury that Cohen falsified the business records to open the bank account.

What's the significance of this you think?

ROSSI: Of opening a bank account?

TAPPER: Well, just the whole like, what does this prove that Donald Trump knew -- I mean, I think we've established pretty well that Michael Cohen set up these shell corporation, rights. And one of them paid Stormy Daniels 130 grand. But has the prosecution proved proven that Donald Trump knew about the shell corporations?

ROSSI: Okay. I will take the defense side on this.


ROSSI: And reason I say that is, putting aside, Michael Cohen, just because he set up a bank account, got a HELOC, that doesn't connect it to the brain of Donald Trump. Donald Trump may have known that Michael Cohen was negotiating something with Keith Davidson, but the HELOC, that could have been something rogue.

TAPPER: Can you tell people what HELOC is?

ROSSI: Yeah, home equity loan of a line of credit.

TAPPER: Okay. So this is when he puts out a second mortgage on his house or whatever to pay Stormy Daniels 130 grand.

ROSSI: Yes. You got to connect that to the brain of Donald Trump, Mens rea is so important here.

TAPPER: And, Karen, Todd Blanche earlier told the jury that there is no proof beyond Michael Cohen's testimony that Trump knew anything about any of these records are Cohen's activities, but you're saying that's something, and that we shouldn't all dismiss it so quickly. You know, people get convicted all the time on the words of murderers and perjurers and all sorts -- I don't want to say any group that's going to get mad at me, but murderers are safe.

That people get convicted on the testimony of murderers. Come at me, murders. No never mind. Don't do that.

AGNIFILO: So a couple of points. Number one, the word of person alone is enough to convict for almost all crimes in New York, you do not need corroboration.

TAPPER: You just have to believe the person.

AGNIFILO: So you just have to believe the person beyond reasonable doubt.

TAPPER: What if they believe them 50.5 percent?

AGNIFILO: That's not enough. You have to believe them beyond a reasonable doubt, which is and so that's number one.

Number two, the prosecution still has to prove a crime occurred, and I think that's one of the things they're methodically doing here is that there were false business records, that it was done in order to -- for election interference is what they're saying and that this was a crime at that no matter -- that beyond a reasonable doubt, we know Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen committed this crime. There's a felony crime here, okay? Let's put that aside.


Then they have to connect it to Trump, that he was part of this crime, and I think that's where you're going to see the summation go next is what I would predict or towards the end, you're going to -- right now, they're going through this log of proof, proving the crime that the crime happened. There's no doubt that Michael Cohen committed this crime.

TAPPER: Right.

AGNIFILO: That he were charged. He would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that Allen Weisselberg would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, potentially even -- even Pecker, that he was part of this conspiracy as well.

So I think that's what they're doing right now is they're going through --

TAPPER: You're seeing some lovely crimes sketches here from the likes of the artists Jane Rosenberg and Christine Cornell, two of the maestro depicting what they're seeing, their artistic interpretations of today.

Tom Dupree, let me ask you. Put aside reasonable doubt, put aside being a lawyer or put aside being a former Justice Department official, what do you think in your gut? Because we are being told the jurors are told don't put your common sense away at the door when you enter that jury room. In your gut, do you think Donald Trump knew? In your gut, I'm saying. Not -- not beyond a reasonable doubt, just at a bar over a beer?

DUPREE: In my gut, he probably did know, but I can't put aside my being a lawyer and saying 51 percent likelihood --

TAPPER: No, but you're a lawyer. But that's my point.

DUPREE: You got to get to 95 data. That's the challenge for the prosecution, Jake, is that, look, I think they can put on a case and you can make very credible arguments that they got to the 55 percent likelihood that Trump knew based on circumstantial evidence, based on, you know, inferences based on Michael Cohen's testimony. They can get to 55 percent.

But I think what they're having a hard time doing is getting up to that 95 percent they need to get the jury to convict.

TAPPER: Are we -- are these percentages, is this actually taught in law school 95 percent, 55 percent?

HARDEN: No, no, and I'm saying, when he keeps saying 95 --


TAPPER: I don't know what -- I don't --

HARDEN: Well, there's 5 percent reasonable doubt, then. So, it's definitely --

TAPPER: Anything -- any -- so any reasonable doubt is reasonable doubt?

HARDEN: Any reasonable doubt is reasonable doubt, and that is enough to acquit period. And we are arguing that all the time as defense lawyers. If you have even one reasonable doubt, one doubt that you can give a reason for, you have to find the person guilty. I mean, that is the law.

TAPPER: So it's kind of incredible than anybody is convicted thinking when you think of that.

AGNIFILO: Oh, it is.

TAPPER: So nobody actually -- so it's not -- I mean, it's not -- this is the --


TAPPER: Five lawyers here.

HARDEN: That's what it is.

ROSSI: I want to say -- I don't know what the jury instruction is on reasonable doubt if he -- if he defines it. But when I do defense arguments, I always say, you have to conclude beyond a moral certainty that this man is guilty or this woman is guilty. I don't use percentages. I don't even say --

TAPPER: A moral certainty.

ROSSI: A moral certainty.

TAPPER: That's even scary.

HARDEN: It is, and I don't think I would certainly be on my feet objecting morality --

ROSSI: As a prosecutor, you would, but not as a defense.

TAPPER: Right, right. That's what she's saying. She's right.


ROSSI: -- the instruction they give. I don't know what they do in New York.

TAPPER: So Steinglass is right now walking through more phone calls as a negotiations over the deal briefly fell apart.

And we have to remember here, Tim and I have to go to a break in a second. So keep this quick, but like were talking about 12 people from Manhattan.


TAPPER: Right? I mean, were not talking about 12 lawyers who are very learned and there are two lawyers on there, right? But they're not like on international television. We're talking about -- 12 people behind, you know, it might be different.

PARLATORE: Yeah. I agree. And this is a very different jury because it does have two lawyers on it. And so I do think that that in some ways kind of raises the burden.

TAPPER: Although one of them works in the prosecutor's office, or was he -- was he removed in --

HARDEN: Yeah. ROSSI: I think he was removed.

TAPPER: Okay. Never mind. Take it back.

PARLATORE: It's a civil lawyer and I believe corporate lawyer, but they at least understand these principles. And so I do think that that kind of raises the stakes for the prosecutors a bit more.


PARLATORE: Look, juries are funny things you can instruct them all day on reasonable doubt. But sometimes they decided things for different reasons, that its one of the reasons why Todd Blanche got admonished by talking about jail because sometimes juries, if they think -- well, I think it did it, but I don't think you should go to jail for it.

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: They'll acquit. So --

TAPPER: Very interesting. Everyone stick around. We're going to keep talking. We're still watching as the prosecution makes its closing argument in

the Trump hush money cover-up trial.

Coming up, I'm going to talk with one of President Trump's attorneys to get his reaction to the prosecutions closing.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with continuing coverage of the closing arguments in the Donald Trump hush money cover-up trial.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is still addressing the jury. We know the jurors agreed to go long today in order for closing arguments to finish in one day instead of have to take it into Wednesday, I guess it is.

Several Donald Trump's children, adult children, Don Jr., and Eric and Tiffany Trump, were all in court today.

Also among the former president's supporters in court was Will Scharf, one of Donald Trump's attorneys who represents him in Supreme Court presidential immunity case.

And Mr. Scharf joins us now.

Hey, Will. Good to see you.

So you were in the courtroom all morning for the defense's closing argument. One of the things that was interesting that Todd Blanche brought up earlier, the defense attorney was that Eric Trump actually signed off on one of the checks to Michael Cohen and Donald Trump Jr. signed off on one of the checks to Michael Cohen. And if they were part of some criminal conspiracy, how come the prosecution didn't call them as witnesses? And I'm wondering, did the presence of Eric and Donald Trump Jr. make that argument stronger?

I mean, because the jury could sit there and think -- well, they're right there. I mean, they could have testified. Why didn't the prosecution called them?

WILL SCHARF, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think one of the things that Todd did most effectively this morning, Jake, was poke holes, glaring holes in some cases in the prosecution's presentation of the case.


He pointed out which witnesses hadn't testified, which people that are key to the prosecution's theory of the case. The jury simply hadn't heard from.

And I think the net effect of that was focusing far more attention. A lot of attention on Michael Cohen, who has Todd repeatedly pointed out, is just a wildly not credible witness for any number of reasons.

So I think that was a very effective strategy on Todd's part and it seemed like the jury was interested. We had a very interested jury throughout the morning, clearly very attentive. So we viewed this morning as having gone really, really well and we'll see how -- how the case wraps ultimately.

TAPPER: So right now, Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, is making his closing arguments and he's talking about that there were six calls and three years between Cohen and Weisselberg, but two of them happened in these three days leading up to the Stormy Daniels payment. He said this is right here, pointing to a call in the records between Cohen and Trump, the lasted three minutes, and this is right before Cohen went across the street to the bank open the account that would complete the wire transfer to Stormy Daniels' attorney.

Steinglass showing jurors the bank records Cohen submitted to open this account for Essential Consultants, LLC, which he falsely claimed was real estate consulting company. Steinglass shows the jury a record for the wire transfer from Cohen to Keith Davidson calling the $130,000 payment or retainer. The prosecutor says this wasn't a retainer. It was a payoff.

Now, it's true that Mr. Trump didn't sign these documents himself. That's kind of the whole point, Steinglass says.

What do you say to that, Will?

SCHARF: I'd say a few things. I think you can put a lot of lipstick on a pig and its still remains a pig. This is a pig of a case. It's a case that most normal prosecutors, nonpolitically motivated prosecutors would have never brought because of how heavily it depends on the credibility of Michael Cohen, who frankly has no credibility. The only guy who can the testified that President Trump was aware of

what was going on, that he had anything to do with this is Michael Cohen. And I think that's a fatal flaw in this case. I think the most persuasive testimony throughout this trial in terms of the actual elements of the offenses charged were Deb Tarasoff and Jeff McConney, two Trump Organization officials who tests five persuasively that the reason these records were made, the way that they were was just because that's how the Trump Organization always booked payments made to lawyers.

That in and of itself is fatal to the prosecution's case. It's fatal to their theory of business records fraud here. And again, I think Todd did an outstanding job this morning of refocusing the case on the actual records in question, as opposed to all the tabloid gossip and sensationalism that we've been getting really since the start of this trial.

TAPPER: All right. Trump attorney Will Scharf, thank you so much.

And just inside the courtroom right now, Steinglass notes that the day Cohen signed the wire transfer document to send the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels assistance October 28, Cohen had a call with Trump. Steinglass says it's no surprise that the sex happened in 2006, but the payoff happened 10 years later. And that's because the defendant's primary concern, Donald Trump is the defendant, of course, was not his family. But the election Steinglass, the prosecutor.

We're back next with continuing coverage of the Trump hush money cover-up trial and the prosecution's closing argument, which is ongoing.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with CNN's continuing coverage of the closing arguments in the Trump hush money cover-up trial.

CNN's Kara Scannell is just stepped out of the courtroom.

Kara, I'm sorry to drag you out of there. I know it's still going on, but we got to hear an update. I'm sorry. And you're our woman inside.

What's have been like in there today during these closing arguments as far as Trump's reactions throughout the day and the jury, how are they taking it?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, when Todd Blanche Trump's lawyer was giving his closing argument this morning, Donald Trump at one point, had completely turned his chair so his body was facing Blanche and facing the jury as Blanche was giving his best defense to Trump, focusing a lot of his attention on Michael Cohen, calling him the greatest liar of all time. And also just really trying to undercut and distance Donald Trump from the actual paperwork in this case, the falsified records.

So Trump was very focused on Blanche and the jury again, today, I saw a lot of their eyes directly looking at Blanche and then also looking down at the monitor. That's where the evidence pops up. And Blanche was referencing snippets of testimony, who's also pulling up some emails and other records.

You saw jurors looking back and forth. One juror has had kind of a like half smile in her face all day. Another juror's lips have been pursed. And this -- these expressions have carried through to both now when the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, is getting his closing argument. He's been going on for a couple of hours now.

So, it started out kind of meandering, trying to rebut specific statements that Todd Blanche had made in his closing, and then he switched to the narrative of this story. Taking the jury painstakingly through the evidence in this case, the text messages, the phone calls, all of these catch-and-kill deals.

He just got to the Stormy Daniels deal when I left and he's still have some way to go to get to the alleged falsification of the documents in this case. And during his closing arguments, Trump is more -- he's looking more ahead. He has leaned in to look at the monitor in front of him, to look at some of the testimony that has been pulled up. These phone records, the text messages so during a release, small print, so you really have to only an in, in order to see it.


And I've seen Trump lean in a few times to do that.

The jury, though again, same -- same concentration. A lot of eyes looking at Steinglass, even as this has been somewhat tedious and going through the details, the juror's eyes have been fixed, a glance down at the screens and they've been paying throughout, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, Kara, just follow up on that because a lot of -- not it's not unanimous, but there are some legal naysayers on my panel and have been on all day thinking the two-and-a-half, three hours for the defense close and four-and-a-half, five hours for the prosecutorial close is just way, way too long.

You're saying that that is not your impression that that's what the jurors think, at least based on their facial expression. There's no -- there's no little -- when I talk too long, my teenage kids, there is a reaction and I'm talking about going from 30 seconds to one minute. You don't even get that from them?

SCANNELL: You know, Jake, we're not seeing any sorts of looks of boredom on the jurors' faces. Their eyes are still looking at Steinglass as he's talking, as we've been in this marathon day. And their attention seems to be that really kept to what he's saying and to the evidence that's being put up before them on that monitor.

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

The court is going long today. The prosecution is still making its closing argument. The latest developments next.

Plus, what is Trump thinking about this final phase of the case? A former w White House insider will join us live.