Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Sex, Lies And Audiotape, Trial Turns Tense With Stormy's Ex- Attorney; Judge Losing Patience With Trump Team Over Gag Order; CNN's Post Analysis On Day 10 Of The Hush Money Trial Of Former U.S. President Donald Trump. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 02, 2024 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Sex, lies, and that audio tape, Donald Trump's hush money trial, has taken a detour into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. The lawyer who played the go-between between the Trump led-effort to buy Stormy Daniels' silence gave the jury some critical facts about the pain process to get this deal done.

Now, that lawyer also got a dose of hardball from Trump's lawyers. Now, did it poison his credibility with the jury? Well, we'll find out.

I'm Abby Phillip and you're watching a special edition of NEWSNIGHT.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Coates, and today's day inside court, I mean, it was filled with unsavory stories, to say the least. I mean, the sex, and there was plenty of that. And not just the rumored tryst between the former president or a porn star or a Playmate, the defense put Keith Davidson's life on display for the story and his noir-like character arc, apparently, as the guy who makes things go away for the rich and the very famous.

The lies, now there were plenty of those from the former president, including, well, this one.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag order. I guess, I can't even testify on that.

I'm not allowed to testify because this judge, who's totally conflicted, has been under an unconstitutional gag order. Nobody has ever had that before. And we don't like it, and it's not fair.


PHILLIP: Again, that is a lie. And maybe most importantly, there was the audiotape today, the surreptitiously recorded conversation between then-candidate Donald Trump and his then-fixer Michael Cohen, about that cash deal that Trump wanted to use to bury those stories about these alleged encounters.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, so that -- I'm going to do that right away.

And I spoke Allen when it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Listen, what financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay. So -- no, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.


PHILLIP: We'll be hearing and hearing about that audio tape a lot.

Here with us in studio is Robert Ray, Ana Navarro, Joey Jackson, Jennifer Rogers, and Donte Mills.

So much to unpack there, but let's start with the audio tape. Actually, Robert, I'm curious about your take on this. I mean, that tape really gets at the heart of this, which is Trump's voice, the jury hearing it really for the first time. But also Trump weighing in on this deal, talking about how it should be done to a degree, and acknowledging that he understood what was being done on his path.

ROBERT RAY, REPRESENTED TRUMP DURING FIRST IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Yes, I suppose so, except that that's not really what the charge is. The charge is whether or not he had the intent to conceal as part of advantaging a campaign or to commit a campaign finance violation.

So, you know, yes, they have him on tape. The question is, is that indicative of intent --

PHILLIP: Intent to conceal?

RAY: Yes. Well, it's around --

PHILLIP: He says he wants to do it in cash. Most people would agree that would be something someone would do if they don't want a paper trail.

RAY: It's around the edges, but it doesn't really get to the heart of it, which is the question of which is what makes it a felony, the issue about whether or not it was done or intended to benefit a campaign. And that the prosecution doesn't have.

What they hope to have is enough other surrounding atmospherics where it would be reasonable. They're going to argue in summation for the jury to infer that Donald Trump had that requisite intent.

So, there's a lot of atmospherics that happened today and I concede the public interest in the salacious and the unseemly and the Hollywood and the sort of, quote/unquote, extortion that goes on to do catch and kill and all the rest of this that's going on, and I guess we're in Day 10 of this, but the question is what's its impact ultimately on --

PHILLIP: All right. Robert just threw out a bunch of bombs there. I know you --

RAY: On the ultimate question, which is whether or not he has criminal intent.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, let me give you the counterpoint to that. So, I'm a defense guy but I'll be a prosecutor person just to respond to that. This is critical information. What's critical? Critical with respect to Donald Trump's knowledge in that conversation between Cohen and Donald Trump.

Why is that? Here's why. Number one, now granted they were talking about the Karen McDougal deal, correct?


The Karen McDougal deal was not -- that was the Playboy, right? Excuse me, Playmate. But what it does is it gives Trump some knowledge with respect to what Cohen is doing. It gives Trump some knowledge with regard to what his fixer is up to. It gives Trump some knowledge with respect to deals like this being made.

So, what you can do is argue, and you know this, Laura, you can argue to the jury reasonable inferences. So, Trump knew about the Stormy -- excuse me, he knew about the Karen McDougal deal. He spoke with you with regard to how it would be financed. You had every conversation with him about that, but he knew nothing about Stormy Daniels. He had no knowledge as to what was going on there. That's just not a reasonable inference.

So, yes, you can argue that it's on the periphery, et cetera, but I think it goes directly to a very core issue with respect to what he was doing and whether Michael Cohen was just out there acting on his own or whether he had, right, knowledge, and he was acting at the behest of Trump, and that's significant.

COATES: And, of course, none of this is in a vacuum, right? We know that it's not television. Remember what the judge said at the very beginning, right? This is not going to be like a Law and Order or a Perry Mason episode. They're going to have to build upon each of their witnesses. And not one is going to give them everything.

But you look at this, Jennifer, and think, when you're putting the jigsaw pieces together, trying to have a clear picture, they're looking to build on this. This witness said this. This witness said that. The inferences are not just coming from one person, but from the jury's recollection.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, listen, they started with David Packer, who had a meeting with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, all three of them together, talking about during this campaign, you can be our eyes and ears and you're going to figure out if there are problems for us and help solve those problems. I mean, that's where we started.

Then we had a few Perry Mason moments, talking about made for television, with the cross of Keith Davidson and the jury kind of sits up and says, well, wait a minute, maybe the defense is scoring some points. And then prosecutors come back and say, well, wait a minute, we have a tape and we're going to leave you with the last thing that brings us back to Donald Trump.

The weakness of Davidson, of course, was that everything he did was with Cohen kind of leading into this defensive, it wasn't Donald Trump, it was Michael Cohen. And then prosecutors come back and say, no, no, no, we have Donald Trump. Don't worry. We're getting there piece by piece, as you say, Laura.

DONTE MILLS, NATIONAL TRIAL ATTORNEY, MILLS AND EDWARDS LLP: Well, the thing is, when you talk about proving this case, you do have to show intent for you. You have to establish that he knew that this was going on. And that's what that phone call does. He knew that payments were being made. But you also have to establish intent. And I don't know if that's there yet.

And if you look at the defense of what they've been doing cross- examination, they're making it clear that everybody is doing this, right? This is something that high-profile people, celebrities, they're paying people off, and not necessarily because of elections, because these people weren't running for office. They're doing it to save their reputation.

Why can't Donald Trump do it to save his reputation generally, to protect the interest of his family, right? And if that's the case, if the jury believes he was just doing what all other celebrities were doing, then it doesn't meet that felony level of trying to impact an election. And that's where they have to get.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The part that I think is different though is, okay, so we may not have established Donald Trump's intent, but they've pretty much established everybody else around his' intent, his very close circle, right? Whether it's Pecker, Cohen, Davidson, they're all talking about the campaign. They're all talking about what it means. They're all talking about the timing. They're all seedy characters. They've also, I think, established that, but they're the characters that Donald Trump chose to surround himself with. And they certainly knew what they were doing and why they were doing it.

PHILLIP: And to that point, Joey, I know you have a bit of the transcript that goes exactly to that, which is all the folks around them, as Ana, was just saying they were like, oh, oh, wait, hold on, this worked.

JACKSON: They really were. So, let's give you a sense of some of the transcript.

NAVARRO: Please, like if you were auditioning for Perry Mason. JACKSON: My read in court today, question, answer. All right, so here it is. Here's the question. What did you mean when you say, what have we done? Answer, I think that there was an understanding that this is a text between Dylan Howard and I, right? He's the content guy from National Enquirer. And that there was an understanding that our efforts may have, in some way -- I should strike that, that our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Question, and how did Dylan Howard respond to your text? Answer, oh my God. There you have it.

MILLS: If I can just push back a little bit, what does his impression of why Donald Trump did it matter? It comes down to why Trump did it, not why anyone else surrounding it did it. So, on the other side, those payments were made, right? Whether Stormy Daniels knew those payments were made for a specific reason or not, McDougal knew for a specific reason or not, Davidson knew for a specific reason or not, it comes down to why Trump did it. I think that side puts that.


JACKSON: The answer is that jurors, we always say, when we're parading in front of them, you use your common sense and good judgment, to Ana Navarro's point, right? Everyone around you knows what's going on.

RODGERS: The co-conspirators.

JACKSON: Everyone around you, the co-conspirators. Remember the theory of the prosecution. This is about a conspiracy and a cover-up. A conspiracy indicates that there are those around you who are conspiring with you collectively to break the law. The cover-up is in the payment. And so, right, no, there's never going to be, I won't say never because sometimes people are really guilty and it shows. But there's sometimes it's not a smoking gun.

Sometimes you have to rely upon jurors to bring their everyday experience into a courtroom with them. And if everyone knows, the butcher knows, the baker knows, the candlestick-maker must know too, that's the Donald Trump in this.

So, your point is a good one.

COATES: Hold up. I appreciate the nursery rhyme, but let me hold on a second. I'm going to give this one a second. I'm not going to hear dramatic reading. But what if a juror heard it differently and heard instead of what have we done, we may have assisted as if you didn't intend to in the first place.

The fact that he's saying what have we done, I could see one juror perhaps thinking to themselves, wait a second, did we just do what we think we did, as opposed to what should have been mission accomplished? That's one risk of this that could actually happen.

RAY: It falls into the so what category and it also falls into the category of, look, this guy, Keith Davidson, quite clearly testified that his agenda among other things included using the leverage of the election in order to extract the payment. That's a very odd way of saying or being able to conclude that the purpose of all this was to influence a campaign.

I think the cross-examination was subtle but pretty effective when you think about it to suggest that, look, what's going on here in this unseemly world is a lot of shenanigans by people who have an agenda, the 40 percent slice of the action that this attorney makes with regard to a recovery. And what they were angling and aiming to do in this environment, even though there was a campaign going on, had anything but to do with the campaign but had everything to do with using somebody who is a candidate in order to figure out how to obtain an objective for a client.

PHILLIP: I do want to make just one --

RAY: To obtain an objective for a client that was financial, where the attorney stood to make an enormous slice of that.

JACKSON: Attorneys are always. That's the purpose, right? You're representing my client.

PHILLIP: I want to just make two --

RAY: So, that's a different agenda.

PHILLIP: I want to make two factual notes here. So, Keith Davidson says he was paid $10,000, which is not an enormous sum of money. But, secondly, on redirect, the thing about the leverage was actually corrected. He said he misspoke. It was not attributed to him or to Stormy Daniels, but to the boyfriend of the publicist. It's a sort of tale. But the point is it wasn't coming from them. It was not from someone who was actually totally tangential to the situation.

RAY: But it doesn't change with the motivation.

PHILLIP: I do. I mean, it changes where that motivation came from, which I think if you're in the jury, that would matter.

I do want to go to Katelyn Polantz, because she has some more about Keith Davidson as well.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Laura and Abby. Let's look at Keith Davidson on the cross-examination, where the defense team is questioning him, not just about these situations where he's talking to Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, but they're also trying to distance him and discredit him from all of what's going on there.

And the way that Emil Bove did that, Donald Trump's defense counsel, in this cross-examination is he tried to make the point to the jury that Keith Davidson, over many years, like a decade, worked for a lot of different celebrities or worked in the realm of different celebrities, representing people who had stories about them that could be negative to silence them. So, those people include Charlie Sheen, Hulk Hogan, Manny Pacquiao, Lindsay Lohan, Tila Tequila, she was out there in the mix as well.

And what was happening in those situations, as far back as ten years ago, one of the clearest examples is with Charlie Sheen, where there were women that Keith Davidson was representing that had stories about Charlie Sheen, and then those stories were somehow buried.

What Emile Bove, the defense lawyer, was trying to say in his cross- examination of Keith Davidson is he kept asking him about extortion or extraction, about how his memory might have been fuzzy around all of these clients he was representing in a way to put him in a negative place for the jury as they're thinking about this man, this attorney representing Stormy Daniels.

Here's a bit of that back and forth related to one of the clients that Keith Davidson represented around Charlie Sheen.


So, Emil Bove asked him, you know who Charlie Sheen is, right? Keith Davidson, I do. And you've represented some clients who you helped get paid by Charlie Sheen, right? I've represented several clients who had claims against Charlie Sheen. And who you extracted sums of money from Charlie Sheen on behalf of, correct? There was no extraction. You took steps to cause Mr. Sheen to pay, correct? We asserted that there was tortious activity committed and valid settlements that were executed.

So, some of this that Emil Bove is doing here in the courtroom before the jury, it's subtle and it's suggestive to the jurors, but it is something that he may try and argue later on, that the defense team might try and argue later on whenever they have all of this evidence into the record.

There's another really brief exchange just so you can see how there's wordplay going on here between the defense counsel and Keith Davidson about what he was doing and what kind of a person he was. Bove asked him, I remember, I'm asking what you remember. All right, can you answer? Davidson, in answer to what? Bove, I'm not asking you to assume anything. I'm just asking for truthful answers, okay? Davidson, you're getting truthful answers, sir. Exchanges like that happened several times over the course of today. That's subtlety and suggestion coming across in the cross that the defense team had for Keith Davidson.

PHILLIP: A lot in there and certainly what you might expect if you have a lawyer on the witness stand.

COATES: No straight answers ever, ever, period.

PHILLIP: Katelyn Polantz, thank you for that.

Up next for us, the judge is clearly losing his patience with Donald Trump as he decides whether Trump violated a gag order once again.

Plus, the former president's defends his behavior and his attentiveness in court with a compliment to himself.

This is CNN special live coverage.



COATES: Tonight, the judge in Donald Trump's criminal trial appears to be losing patience with the defendant, and for that matter, his own lawyers, over Trump's inability to stay quiet. The judge is right now deciding whether Trump violated his gag order on additional four different occasions, just days, remember, after fighting Trump in contempt and warning him of jail time as a possibility.

Our panel is back. Joey, read us that exchange today, because the judge didn't seem to be mincing his words.

JACKSON: The judge was not. So, this is about, as you note, the gag order. So, here it reads official transcript from court. But he's running for president. This is, of course, Trump's attorney. He has to be able to speak.

So, Your Honor is right. He can walk out there and he could go right, that's where that door is, or he can walk out there and go left, that's where the press is, and make a statement, which he's entitled to do and has to do, Your Honor.

So, we are not, the court interrupts him, Laura, and saying what? That's why he is being allowed to do that. That's why that entire area has been set up the way that it is set up to ensure that your client, as a candidate for presidency, has the opportunity to speak about absolutely anything he wants, including the district attorney of New York. But there are just some things he cannot talk about.

And that, of course, goes to the specifics of the gag order, right? He could attack Alvin Bragg all he wants to his heart content. He can talk about Biden. He can talk about the judge, which he does regularly, by the way, but you just can't talk about the witnesses. You can't talk about the jurors. You can't talk about families, you know? So, the judge is just saying, I have to make balanced limits with respect to what your client can do, and that's the exchange.

COATES: Well, part of what he's saying too is, you know, look, I'm just I'm calling David Pecker nice. That's what I've done. I said he was nice. What's the problem with that? Why can't I say that? Why can't I make this statement? And the prosecution --

PHILLIP: You've got to say with a mobster accent?

COATES: Oh, yes. I called him nice. I called him nice. It's a nice house you got there. Oh, too much? Okay, fine. I'm in New York today.

But we think about the saying calling him nice. They're saying no, no, no, no. That's code. He's trying to suggest, stay nice, keep being nice, otherwise there's a problem. And then also the idea of calling the jurors Democrats, he's taking issue with that. What's the problem with calling them Democrats? I'm just saying they're overwhelmingly Democrats and then I had a quick jury This is also kind of a they're afraid of a intimidation dog whistle.

NAVARRO: Yes. Is there a question here? They're afraid of an intimidation dog whistle. There is no doubt that they're worried about witness tampering, juror intimidation, all of these things. And if Donald Trump is good at something -- well, he's good at a few things. But one of the things he's very good at is dog whistles and blowing them in a very effective way.

COATES: In politics, but this is a gag order.

MILLS: I will say this. Donald Trump is phenomenal at controlling the narrative. He knows how to trigger people and get them going. Take, for example, what he said today about not being able to testify. He didn't use that by mistake. He knows he's not going to testify. There's your answer right there. Is Donald Trump going to testify? No, because he already said, the judge told me I can't. So, when he doesn't, and if this goes south, he has that to fall back on because his people will believe him when he says he was instructed not to testify.

He doesn't do those things by accident. So, those words like, oh, he's a nice guy, right? He's telling him, all right, we're still good. We're still good right now. Stay -- keep doing what you're doing. You know, stay low. Don't fire him any shots, and we're still good. He's using those words on purpose. The prosecution is calling it out, but the judge has a very tough line to walk because you cannot restrict speech, and he doesn't want to do that.


PHILLIP: I am a skeptic of this gag order. I've questioned whether it makes any sense to even be deliberating over it. However, I've been convinced, after talking to a lot of you smart attorneys, that maybe it's working, because Donald Trump has not actually, it seems, violated the gag order since he's been punished technically.

So, is it too early to say that, you know, mission accomplished by Judge Merchan that this actually has kind of worked for whatever reason?

NAVARRO: Oh, yes, yes, yes. It is way too early with Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: I am skeptical --

COATES: (INAUDIBLE) whether he should have a gag order or whether he would follow the gag order.

PHILLIP: Both, that if a gag order cannot be effectively enforced, if it doesn't have an enforcement mechanism, that matters to the defendant. $9,000 does not matter to Donald Trump. And if you take jail off the table, it doesn't matter. So, why have one and why spend all the court's time on it? But he hasn't violated it yet.

RODGERS: So far, it's working. He has slowed down. And remember, these four statements were made before he came out with his ruling on the first batch of nine. So, he really hasn't violated in a long time and jail is still on the table. Now, will he pull that trigger? Probably not.

RAY: His lawyers are making sure he's paying attention to drawing the line.

COATES: I mean, he's been saying that there are two systems of justice. He's been using that to his advantage, and that's the narrative he's crafting. And I do believe we have a legal system in search of a justice system, but he's trying to suggest that he alone is being singled out for political persecution.

So, if a judge were to say, you know what, he's not going to follow it anyway. So, I guess you, of all defendants, you're the one that doesn't have to have a gag order, you can make comments about the jurors, you can make comments about -- you're not going to follow it anyway. That would, in fact, put him above the law and say, unlike any other defendant, can you imagine having a client who, Your Honor, he's not going to follow it anyway. So, you know what --

NAVARRO: He's now just substituted what he's complaining about, right? So now, instead of complaining about the judge and the jury, he's complaining about the gag order. It's all about, what am I the victim of today? What's my victimization --

RAY: Take Trump out of this for a second. Hold on. Because it's the right thing to do. Political speech is at the top of the totem pole under the First Amendment. You have a an active presidential candidate running for president, okay? He's on trial I get that. One of the problems of a gag order is when you start getting involved in content.

You know, it's one thing to shut everybody down and say nobody talks about this case, it's another thing where, you know, Trump has to deal as a presidential candidate with Michael Cohen who feels free to basically, as a potential witness in this case, who apparently will testify obviously, is free to comment all he wants and Donald Trump is being gagged from having comment with regard to a critical witness in the case while he's a presidential candidate.

This is a difficult situation to be in, I understand, for everybody, for the prosecution, for the defense, for Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, and for the judge. I think it's pretty apparent from what Jennifer said, and I think you're right, that he is paying attention to the line which is the threat of imprisonment, and that message has gotten through.

So far, it should be stated the prosecution has not asked for imprisonment under a citation for contempt. They have simply asked for the penalty of fines.

COATES: But they'd always point to something different. JACKSON: Could we get back to something that's very critical? Number one, you mentioned Michael Cohen can say anything. He agreed to stop, he has stopped, okay? So, let's clarify that. The second thing is, yes, there's a campaign, yes, there's a political speech, but there are also people who are endangered. There are also consequences to when you have a bully pulpit and you have followers like that, there are real consequences.

You remember what happened to the speaker's husband, right, by some deranged person who went in and he inflicted serious damage with a hammer? These are real. A gag order is not, okay, we just want to suppress the person running for president. It's about the consequences of your actions. You can't yell fire in a theater, why? Because your right to free speech ends where it impairs someone else's right. You can't just defame people, why? Because you can impair reputations. You can damage people's ability to support their families. And here, if you're running for president of the United States and you have 70 million people who believe every word you say, whether or not it's true, when you speak to an issue of a witness, that witness can be harmed.

You speak about a juror, that juror is in danger. You speak about a family member, something can happen. They're deranged people. So, we can talk about free speech, all we want and presidential speech and political speech. Let's talk about people's safety and let's remember that our First Amendment has exceptions, and that's one of them.

RAY: Look, I'm all for protecting jurors and I think the integrity of the process needs to be protected, but you can't design a gag order that's going to protect about against what 70 million people might do.


JACKSON: He's not. The proof of that is he's very limited. He's very limited to the family of the judge.

RAY: You've got to be careful. And I think the judge up to this point has been careful.

NAVARRO: Well, he was complaining about the jury political speech. He did carve out.

COATES: Do you see that as political speech?

RAY: Absolutely. Anything he has to say. He's a candidate for president.

NAVARRO: Do you think anything he says is political speech?

JACKSON: So he could talk about witnesses no matter whether the witness is a danger.

RAY: I didn't say he could say anything. Political speech doesn't mean it's not without any constraints. But, you know, the notion that you think you're going to step in and start modulating and having a judge modulate and regulate the content of his speech. I mean, that gets into some serious prior restraint questions that I think his lawyers are right to point out. And I understand the judge has gotten fed up with it. And that's too bad, you know, in my opinion.

I think Donald Trump is going to do his level best under advice of counsel to follow the spirit of this up to the line that doesn't allow or force the judge into the showdown poker, which is to put him in jail.

MILLS: But if we go back and look, that was a juror who asked to be off the panel because they felt like they were in danger because of all of everything going on around them in the press. So if Donald Trump can go and talk about jurors, if he can talk about the judge's family, the courts, the court staff, you're putting people in danger. And I think the judge is being very careful not to make it too expansive because you don't want to restrict speech. It's very important. It's the First Amendment. Right. But we can't we can't put people in danger, especially when they have the choice or the decision of deciding this case. And you want them to do that when they feel safe.

COATES: Well, we have a lot more to talk about in this very issue, Abby, and we see the importance. Just to remember factually, though, the judge did allow in the last actual order, not only nine out of 10 were found to be things in violation of the gag order. One was in reaction. He said it wasn't clear that it was not reaction to a political attack. And so he is contemplating these very ideas of what's going to happen and going forward.

Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more here. Up next, one of Trump's comments on the campaign trail is raising some serious alarm. Once again, he says he may not accept the election results. And if he loses, there might be violence. Stay with us.




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Between Donald Trump's trial and his campaign stunts, it's easy to overlook one of the most serious comments that he has made in recent days. And it has echoes of 2020.

COATES: Donald Trump suggests that he will not accept the election results, once again, throwing baseless doubts on the democratic process and, quote, "if everything is honest, I'll gladly accept the results. I don't change on that. If it's not, you have to fight for the right of the country".

And by fight, it comes the same way that he will not rule out violence around the election if he loses, quote. "If we don't win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election".

PHILLIP: Now it's eerily similar to the refrain that we've heard from him before.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.


PHILLIP: Now just moments after those comments were made, his followers stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of the 2020 election. Robert Ray and Ana Navarro are back with us, along with CNN political analysts Coleman Hughes and Natasha Alford.

Trump's words are always the subject of debate, whether they matter or not. I think there's no question, though, that after he did this, a version of this in 2020, something did happen.

There was an insurrection on the Capitol. And so this time around, is it really responsible to just treat them as words, Coleman?

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it was responsible last time. In fact, during 2020, when he was debating President Biden and whoever was in charge of that debate, asking the questions, will you commit? The exact same question. Will you commit if you lose? And he said the exact same thing. He said, I don't know. I'll have to see if it's fair.

And I remember right at that time, I tweeted, anyone who cares about the peaceful transfer of elections should consider what he just said a deal breaker. Now, many people at the time would have responded to me, OK, well, look, Trump only does a third of what he says he'll do, which is true.

And so they might have said, he doesn't really mean it. There's no way that you can say that this time. We know what he means by that is heads I win, tails you lose. It will be fair if he wins. And if he loses, it won't be fair to him and his supporters.

COATES: Yeah, Natasha, there are those who might be looking at this and saying, well, one, you take him too literally, right? We remember that resonating again. But also, there has not been the insurrection or a seditious conspiracy charges against him when it comes from a federal case. And so they might say, well, if there was not a criminal connection made, then why should you assume that violence would take place at his hands again?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think that response is just too technical, right? Trump leaves things open for a reason. I think it's very intentional. This whole idea of fighting for your country, it's a rhetoric that allows people to decide for themselves what that means.

So is it violence? Is it intimidation at the polls? Is it running for office? We now see that over 170 election deniers are actually in Congress, right? So it's sort of choose your own adventure in terms of what it means to fight for your country.

But it's not playing fair. It's not playing by the rules of what democracy is supposed to be.


PHILLIP: Let me add a little bit more meat to the bones on the violence piece. This is from the "Time" magazine interview that he had this week. He says, he's asked by the author, are you worried about political violence in connection with this November's election? Trump says, no, I don't think you'll have political violence. The question, you don't expect anything? Trump says, I think we're going to have a big victory and I think there will be no violence.

If we win, there won't be no, there won't be any violence.

NAVARRO: And you know, this is, I was thinking today, I actually think this trial is helping Donald Trump because, but for the fact that we are doing dramatic readings and trying to decipher what's going on through court sketches, we would have led with that Time magazine interview, which has so many things that should alarm Americans who believe in democracy.

And instead we're doing that. So I actually think the trial in a way is helping Donald Trump because it's diverting our attention from the horrible threats, threatening, scary, dictator-like, authoritarian things he is saying and things like that "Time" magazine. It's also keeping him off the campaign trail where he says a lot of stupid, horrible things every time he's out there.

So yeah, I mean, look, I'm going to take, as long as there are people like the El Paso shooter who take him literally, as long as there are people like the January 6th insurrectionist who take him literally, I'm going to take him seriously.

COATES: Speaking of January 6th, I don't know if you guys saw the interview last night that Kaitlan Collins had with Senator J.D. Vance, who apparently is still on a short list, but essentially of a V.P. candidate in the VP stakes for Trump. But there was this one when he was beginning to, even with Trump off the campaign trail, minimizing what happened on January 6th, even questioning the validity of the fear of Mike Pence. Listen to this.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Kaitlan, I'm extremely skeptical that Mike Pence's life was ever in danger. I think in politics, people like to really exaggerate things from time to time. I know a lot of folks in the Democratic Party--

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, THE SOURCE: I think Mike Pence would disagree with that, Senator.

VANCE: A lot of folks in the Democratic Party, Kaitlan, act as if January the 6th was the scariest moment of their lives. I think, look, January 6th was a bad day. It was a riot. But the idea that Donald Trump endangered anyone's lives when he told them to protest peacefully, it's just absurd.


COATES: I mean, many would argue, look at that. I remember seeing the footage of members of the Senate running for their lives, being told to take off any of their pins or identifying insignias of any kind so that if they were attacked inside of the Capitol Rotunda, otherwise they would be harmed. But this sort of rewriting of it, this history, I mean, what is your reaction to this, Robert, when you hear this, the minimizing of what happened on January 6th, even questioning whether there was even true fear for his own life of the vice president?

RAY: What I've said since the moment it happened is that I did not think that the then-president's conduct with regard to the three hours that was the delay in telling his supporters, you know, cease and desist and go home, was a huge error in judgment.

I have never believed that that error in judgment was sufficient to warrant prosecution. And so we can have a long debate about whether or not it was incitement to insurrection and all this other stuff and whether, you know, Mike Pence's life was in danger and so on and so forth.

Look, we ought to be about, I mean, look, we've got one trial where apparently we're going to re-litigate the 2016 election. Now you want to talk about this one where we're litigating the 2020 election. And we're supposed to be focusing on the election that we currently have, which is the 2024 election.

I think what Donald Trump was saying to answer your original question is I don't really find that the accuracy of results and the integrity of elections is all that big of a deal if the electorate is clear about who the winner should be. We only get into these, you know, difficult situations because the election is so close and a few thousand votes in a couple of states actually make a difference on who the winner is going to be.

I mean, I think what Donald Trump is communicating is I'm running for president. I intend to win. And if I win, it's going to be a large enough margin of victory that you're not going to have any of this nonsense about violence or question the integrity of voters or anything else. It's going to be a clear enough mandate where the country has spoken.

PHILLIP: He lost by a bigger margin to Joe Biden than he won over Hillary Clinton. So the idea that it's so close that you can't decipher it, he was the one who created that myth in the first place.

COATES: We're also closer to the election because of the delay, litigation-wise, to push it closer and closer. But let me ask you a next point, though. I think you were getting ready to say, I mean, part of the concern here is, is it all in the rearview mirror? I mean, talking about re-litigating aspects of it, isn't it relevant to know what the behavior of a president might be if he were to reclaim the Oval Office?

[22:45:04] ALFORD: There's a direct line between the past and the present, right? When you say fight like hell for your country and you think about what he's saying now, these are, I think, pretty clear directions to people that anything goes, that if I don't win, that means that something went wrong.

And I think this is the power of a lie. You say it over and over again. You sow doubt in people's minds, where even those who thought that January 6th was abhorrent as it was maybe start to question whether there might be something to what the rioters did, right? It's about the repetition of the lie to increase that.

NAVARRO: And the reason we are re-litigating it is because the candidate is Donald Trump again. If the Republican candidate was Nikki Haley or was any other candidate, this question would not arise. But we are re-litigating it because the guy whose words led to an insurrection on January 6th is running again. And so we already know what his words are capable of ensuing.

RAY: And you have ensured that he is the candidate by attempting to A, take him off the ballot in Colorado and other places, but for the intervention of the United States Supreme Court. And you have ensured and elbowed every other Republican potential candidate out of the way as a result of four indictments in an election season against the leading presidential candidate.

And as the result of that, yeah, we're going to re-litigate this because the country is going to make a decision about whether --

NAVARRO: I haven't ensured anything. Listen, the Republican -- Donald Trump owns the Republican base whether I like it or not.

RAY: But we're really re-litigating it also in part because a good chunk of the country, apparently now close to more than 50 percent of the country, thinks it was a bad idea to elect Joe Biden in the first place. That's why we're re-litigating it.

So there's, you know, everybody takes a message.

NAVARRO: If Joe Biden were running against anybody else, this would not be a question. It's a question not because of Joe Biden. It's a question because of Donald Trump, a man who did it once and is going to do it again.

PHILLIP: All right, everybody.

RAY: Did what once?

NAVARRO: Said things that led to an insurrection. Told the proud boys, stand by.

PHILLIP: We got to leave it there, everyone. Stick around for us. Much more ahead.

But tonight in Charlotte, President Biden visited the families of the four law enforcement officers who lost their lives in a deadly ambush. They were killed while attempting to serve a warrant at a home.

It is the nation's deadliest attack on law enforcement in eight years.

COATES: And one of the fallen is Alden Elliott, a Marine, an officer, a husband and a father. And today the city honored him with a procession, a man who left his home for work like any other day, but this time never returned. Alden leaves behind a young son. And we want to take a moment to share with you the obituary that he wrote about his dad, something a child should never have to write.

PHILLIP: Theo, who is 12 years old, writes, my daddy is a hero. He died getting the bad guys. That's what he was good at. He's a Marine. He's a police officer. He is kind and patient. He keeps my mom and I safe. He is my daddy, the best daddy.

We love playing video games together. He really likes Mario, Zelda and Metroid Return of Samus. We collect Pokemon cards. I have a Charizard that he helped me get graded.

COATES: He and I have watched every Star Wars movie and series. My daddy loves playing and watching baseball. His favorite team is the Dodgers. He is an expert marksman, perfect score every time.

For my 12th birthday, he bought me a dirt bike. He bought himself one too so that we could ride together. I will learn how to ride it and we will ride together one day, daddy. He was the best man I will ever know. And I hope to be just like him.




COATES: Is Donald Trump's V.P. search turning into an episode, well, of "The Apprentice"? Well, this weekend, he and the RNC are hosting a fundraiser before bigwig donors and trotting out specific names to headline. Some of the contenders include J.D. Vance, Doug Berga, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, and others.

Our panel is back with us now. I mean, let me ask you guys, Coleman, when you think about this, who are you thinking might be the one to have the odds ever in his or her favor?

COLEMAN: Yes, I mean, if I were the decision maker, I think you can make a strong case for Marco Rubio. You saw how between 2016 and 2020, Trump had a huge rise in support with the Hispanic community. And it would make sense for him to try to double down and triple down on that trend, which could have a really material effect in some key states. And Marco Rubio might be the guy to help him do that.

NAVARRO: I don't see it that way. And I'll tell you why. First, I think Marco is so much more eloquent than Trump. And I'm not sure that Trump will ever fully trust him. Right.

But also, Marco Rubio is Cuban-American. The Hispanic vote is not monolithic. We're not one homogeneous group. And I frankly don't think Marco and what he stands for and him being Cuban-American, will it help in Florida? Yes. But that's Trump country already. That's very much red right now. Will it help in other states? Will it help in Arizona? Will it help in Nevada? I don't think it'll help us much. I don't think Marco Rubio carries the punch with the pan-Hispanic community that he does in Florida with the Cuban-Americans that are already in the bag for Trump.


COATES: How about Governor Kristi Noem? Her book --

PHILLIP: I was going to say, she's not exactly on the short list anymore. I didn't see her on there.

COATES: It might be a list, but her not on it at this point in time. Why is she off all of a sudden?

ALFORD: I think it's a little awkward, right? You don't want someone who's putting you unnecessarily backwards. And it feels like such an unnecessary story to tell. Like, why would you ruin your chances when you know how important this moment is by telling this awkward story?

But I do think, you know, I agree with this idea. He doesn't want to be upstaged, right? You saw what he told Vivek. Don't speak more than a minute if I introduce you.

He wants somebody who's going to be loyal, almost like a puppy. And I think, you know, Tim Scott --

NAVARRO: No, don't do a puppy right now.

ALFORD: Well, that was on purpose. But Tim Scott, you know, the sort of excitement, the sort of, I love Donald Trump, that's just kind of, it's a sort of a blanket approach to loving Donald Trump. I think it's that simple. And I think that there are some Black voters who are open to being persuaded, not the majority. And Tim Scott might be able to do that.

PHILLIP: All right, everyone. Thanks for being with us this hour. Robert, Anna, Natasha, Coleman, thank you all. And stand by, our coverage continues next.