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Double Legal Threat for Trump Today, $464 Million Bond Deadline in New York Civil Fraud Case and Hearing head of Hush Money Trial; Trump in New York Court for Hearing in Hush Money Case; Today, Deadline for Trump to Post $464 Million Bond. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 10:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to our special coverage. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington alongside Kaitlan Collins in New York.

And moments ago, former President Donald Trump arrived at a Lower Manhattan courthouse. This morning, he's facing double legal trouble, the prospect of a criminal trial and the possibility that some of his prized commercial properties could be seized by authorities in New York.

Today, for the first time in American history, we could learn when an ex-president goes on criminal trial. You can see him right there arriving at the courthouse. The judge overseeing is hush money case is expected to set a court date after Trump allegedly bribed a porn star to cover up their affair.

Also this morning, this carefully cultivated image of an American business tycoon is also at risk.


Trump's real estate assets including his quote babies as he calls them could be seized if he can't make a nearly half billion dollar bond payment in his civil fraud case.

But, first, our coverage begins with the hush money hearing. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live in New York outside the courthouse.

Kaitlan, we just saw the former president arrived a few moments ago and it sounds like he had a couple of choice words, words we've heard many times with choice words.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, calling it a witch hunt, calling it a hoax, something that we had heard have heard from him for months, if not going on a year now, ever since he was indicted in this case. He had been outside the courthouse here for quite some time, but just now got out of his motorcade and entered the courtroom.

I should note his attorneys who you saw there with him had already been inside the court room, Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles. They had exited the courtroom and they went back inside, as you can see, alongside him. The district attorney here, Alvin Bragg, had already been inside their room when Trump entered.

I should note, as all of this is going on, it's all about timing here, and the question of when this case is going to happen and when Donald Trump will become the first former president to actually go and face a criminal trial that was expected to start today but it was delayed in recent days after new documents, hundreds of thousands of them, were turned over to Trump's legal team, something they are claiming they need more time to sort through because they believe it could be exculpatory for the former President.

We heard pushback from Alvin Bragg's office on that, agreeing to at least a 30-day delay, but, really, all of this is going to be to the judge and what the judge inside that courtroom determines.

CNN's Paula Reid and Kristen Holmes are both here outside this Manhattan courthouse. And, Paula, I think it's important to remind people, because we've been talking to all the different judges here, this judge has been maybe the first that we have really seen who has very aggressive, in addition to Judge Chutkan in Washington, when it comes to timing and cutting Trump's team off when they've tried these delay tactics, which we know has been their strategy in every single case. This judge has been very strict. I wonder what that portends for what the judge will do today.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, it's interesting, because Trump's team is asking for 90 days, if the case is not dismissed. We don't expect it is going to be dismissed. So, they're asking you for ninety days to review this new evidence that was handed over by federal prosecutors.

But the district attorney is saying, no, look, he's delayed this 30 days, until April 15th, that's enough time. We can start then. Only a small portion of this evidence is actually relevant.

So, now, it's up to the judge how long you delay this case. Do you say, all right, we're going to go forward on April 15th? Do you try to split the difference? Do you like 45 days? We will be watching. But as you said, Judge Juan Merchan, he has been pretty aggressive trying to keep this case on pace.

But, I mean, the Trump team has successfully delayed it. This was supposed to be the first day of trial. Instead, The Trump lawyers are going to be in there arguing for postponement or possibly even dismissal.

COLLINS: And of all the cases that he's facing, Kristen, obviously this one -- his team says at least publicly that they are the least worried about what it means for him as far as the legal danger that he's in. But, certainly, personally, it's been one of those difficult cases for him because it's, you know, kind of revived one the most sensitive issues that we were dealing with his first year in the White House, which was, of course, paying Stormy Daniels the hush money to cover up the story of their affair, their alleged affair before the election, something that was affected his relationship with the first lady that she was angry about. And now here is still at the heart of what he is potentially going to be on trial for, for the first time, and may be the only time before the election.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's tawdry. It's embarrassing. It's definitely not something they want paraded around. Melania Trump, the former first lady, obviously does not want to relive any of that.

But I do want to point out what we just saw from Donald Trump, which is very different for what we've seen in a lot of these other cases and trials and hearings, which is just a very brief moment at the cameras. And likely that is because he is not paying that close of attention to this hearing today. He is fixated on that bond money.

And as you noted, he was sitting in his car for quite some time before coming in. He was posting on Truth Social over and over again actually just seconds before he walked through those doors about that bond, saying it was ridiculous, that he would have to pay this, quote/unquote, made-up amount, talking about one of the things he's most sensitive about in that New York civil fraud trial, which is the value of Mar-a-Lago, constantly talking about the idea that it was definitely not worth $18 million, but more than that.

That is at the heart of what Donald Trump is focused on right now. So, I think it's very telling, instead of seeing him come out and talk about this trial seeing him post about his trial or this hearing, and instead you're hearing him still talk about not meeting that bond and that bond money.

COLLINS: And it's also remarkable, just as you know, we covered Donald Trump when he was in the White House, and to see this moment culminate here today, where it is the New York attorney general that today could start enforcing that order from the judge.

We don't expect that she's going to be seizing Trump Tower or Mar-a- Lago any moment now, but she certainly could freeze his bank accounts. She could move to seize those assets.


And also he's inside this courtroom, being indicted after having been indicted by the Manhattan district attorney. I think it speaks to the whole story of what's at stake here and the biggest thoughts (ph) that are being posed to him in the place that he called home where he built his wealth, which was now, you know, is at real risk today.

REID: Yes. It's fascinating because this case combines the personal, the legal and the political. At the heart of this case, right, is in alleged affair, efforts to cover up paying back Michael Cohen, who, of course, turned on him.

I do want to give a couple of details that we have from inside the court, because right now there are no cameras inside the courtroom, but we do have our colleagues in there who are giving us some updates. And to Kristen's point, I mean, this really does seem like Trump is not very happy to be there. They say he's seated behind his defense attorneys. He's hunched over. He does not look very happy. He's sitting at the defense table in between his two attorneys, and they're waiting for this to get underway.

But, yes, he definitely seems like he is feeling the gravity of this moment, potentially the first criminal prosecution that he will face here, the Manhattan district attorney and the possibility of having some of his most treasured assets seized by the New York attorney general. Even by Trump's standards, this is an incredibly significant day for him.

COLLINS: Yes. And, Jim, it all comes back to timing here in the question of what the timing is going to be in this case when he's going to be on trial, but also what he is going to do now that the clock has run out to put up that half a billion dollar bond.

And as of right now, we have not heard any update from his legal team that he has found any kind of an 11th hour solution to this.

ACOSTA: Yes, the delay tactics have worked on a variety of fronts. It might not work in that particular matter, but we'll continue this conversation. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Join me now as we continue our coverage, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates, CNN Chief Domestic Correspondent Phil Mattingly and CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig.

Laura, we were talking about the bond payment that's come due just a few moments ago, but this hush money trial, it was scheduled to start today, but was delayed when prosecutors turned over, what, 100,000 pages of new documents.

Do we know anything about those documents? And we were saying earlier, it sounds as though we're going to get a trial date set, perhaps today in this hush money case. What does that mean?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, the irony, because everyone criticized the Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, for having the audacity to go first, they kept saying. He leapfrogged, of course, the special counsel, and they wondered why he'd want to do that. Now, it turns out he might be the only trial to actually go before the general election after all is said and done.

It's an important case, although it's very backward-looking in terms of the 2016 and the hush money payments case.

The documents at issue are very important, though, because they're going to claim on the Trump side that you have violated discovery rules. I was supposed to have these a long time ago. Is there some reason you didn't give them to me before? If you know them as a trial date set, why don't I have them?

But what's in them is going to be very important. Is it something that's going to be inculpatory or exculpatory, meaning it will show some innocence on the part of Trump or otherwise? They're going to argue in court today they need much more time to go through everything, although most law firms associate, I'll tell you, 100,000 documents, okay, it's over the weekend, thank you very much. Having been an associate myself, it was over the weekend, thank you very much.

But at the end of the day, they're going to try to say that you withheld documents because your case is either bad or you didn't want me to see something. If that persuades the judge, that could be very consequential.

ACOSTA: Yes. Elie, I mean, Trump has played this delay game pretty masterfully this entire, you know, saga that we've seen on a variety of fronts for Donald Trump. But in this case, I mean, it does seem as though time is running out. As Laura was saying a few moments ago, it looks like this will be the one trial that will happen before the election and, you know, folks might say, oh, well, this one this one is not as consequential as the others.

It is rather sorted. It is rather unseemly. This doesn't feel like a big political or legal win for Donald Trump. What do you think?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, look this is a criminal trial of a former president and current presidential candidate. It is a big deal no matter how you slice it. And you are right, of course, Donald Trump's strategy is to delay. That's what any reasonable defendant or defense lawyer would be doing in this situation. There have been prosecutorial missteps, as Laura was just talking about.

These documents, it's important that people understand, in a criminal case, a prosecutor has an affirmative obligation to turn over materials that would be helpful to the defense. It's actually the only area of law where a lawyer has to turn over stuff that's good for the other side. And prosecutors are paranoid about this. If I got anything that was good for the defense, I would shoot it out as soon as possible because you don't want exactly this situation.

What's happened here is just about a month ago, Trump's team started getting 100,000 documents that very likely, according to the reporting and according to the briefs, relate to Michael Cohen.

So, we have to remember, the reason the feds, my former office, declined to prosecute Donald Trump, the big reason is they didn't trust Michael Cohen. And these documents are the feds papers on Michael Cohen.


So, what's going to happen today is Trump's team is going to say, this changes everything. This completely blows up Michael Cohen. We need to push this case off forever. And the D.A. is going to say it was inadvertent and these documents are really no big deal and we're ready to go in April.

COATES: But, yes. Unpacking a little bit more, you know, as well as everyone else, the SDNY are the feds, you've got the Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg. There is a disconnect between who actually had the documents and then who has to turn them over.

And I know we talk about the Southern District of New York, from which you're an alum, otherwise SDNY, but that's part of the tension here for Alvin Bragg going into court, right, that he has to say, look, Your Honor, I'm with you on my obligation. It was their fault, not mine, do not punish my trial.

HONIG: And there's something to that. I mean, the briefing that we've seen so far, the D.A. was saying to the feds, by the way, the office were not only I used to work, but Alvin Bragg used to work and Todd Blanche, Donald Trump's lawyer, all used to work, but the D.A. was begging the feds, hey, we need this stuff. And so I think there's going to be a lot of finger pointing at the Southern District.

ACOSTA: Elie, you've worked with everybody in New York.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: But also there's always finger pointing at SDNY and SDNY, A, loves that and, B, doesn't care.

ACOSTA: But, Phil, you know, Trump, I mean, we just saw him come out a few moments ago, he said it was a witch hunt, he said the usual things that he says, and his base usually goes along with it. But as Elie and I were discussing before we got started here, there could be a political price to pay for Donald Trump. The political bill may come due.

If there's a conviction in this hush money case, we've seen poll after poll show, there is a percentage of independents out there who will say, you know what, a convicted felon, somebody who's been convicted in court like this, I can't vote for that guy.

MATTINGLY: I think what's so striking about this day, both in this and in the effort to secure a bond, which, as Kaitlan was noting, they've gone totally radio silent whether or not they're going to be able to do that, but up to this point, his lawyers have made very clear they can't, is the kind of courthouse campaign strategy has undeniably been effective up to this point.

It was this case, when it was brought by Alvin Bragg, that started his total political turnaround, raised a ton of money in the Republican primary, all of a sudden he started shooting up. Ron DeSantis would point to that day, almost a year ago, where he said, that's when everything changed for us. It's effective in the sense that nothing has actually happened yet to him.

If a court date is set today, if Letitia James starts moving to cease his assets, to freeze his bank accounts, to go after his properties, things start happening.

I was talking to a House Republican on Friday who said, you know, what's strange, very big Trump supporter, talks to the Trump team, says, this feels different because something is actually happening to him. We thought the delay tactics would last forever. Whether or not that has a political repercussion to it, I don't think anybody really knows. Clearly, their tactics have worked quite well up to this point in a primary with Republicans.

Now, he's in a general election. What does it do to money? What does it do to polling? But also, what does it do to him? We've seen his reaction. We've seen how he operates, not just on social media, but when he speaks publicly later today, does that turn more people off? We're talking about a slice of about 150,000, 160,000 people that are likely to decide this election. Where are they when things actually start, when there are repercussions, when tangible things are happening to them, we're about to find out in the coming weeks.

ACOSTA: Yes. We've seen how the collective weight of all of this is affecting him. We don't know what it looks like when it all comes crashing down. That's what we haven't seen.

All right, Laura, Phil, Elie, stay with me. When we come back, what happens if Donald Trump misses today's deadline to secure that $464 million bond in his civil fraud case? We'll tell you which properties and assets the New York attorney general could go after.

Our special coverage continues next.



COLLINS: And you are looking now at pictures of Donald Trump inside the courtroom here in Manhattan. There are no cameras inside that room, but photographers were allowed briefly. As you can see, Donald Trump is seated at the defendant's table alongside his legal team on the day that was supposed to be the first day of his trial here in the criminal hush money probe, whereas the Manhattan District Attorney's Office refers to it, the election interference case here leading up to what happened in the days and weeks before the 2016 election.

But that trial is not beginning today, and there is a late production of documents to Donald Trump's legal defense team. They're trying to get this case dismissed or at least delayed as they seek to work through this issue. And right now, they're talking about this very matter with the judge in the courtroom there.

And, of course, as we're looking at this, what the judge is deciding right now, what he just told the courtroom is they're trying to figure out why there was a delay in turning over so many of these documents to Trump's legal team, something that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has said lies with the SDNY, the Southern District of New York. The judge is trying to get to the bottom of this.

And, Jim, of course, what the judge just told the courtroom is that they're trying to figure out if any sanctions are appropriate in this case. As I noted, Trump's legal team is trying to get it dismissed, but that does not appear to be a likely outcome. Even they will privately acknowledge that. But all they care about, really, Jim, is getting at least a further delay than even that April 15th date that the judge has set so far. ACOSTA: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much, very interesting.

All right, to secure $464 million bond in his civil fraud case, New York Attorney General Letitia James could begin the process of seizing the former president's assets if he cannot secure that bond. And while the main focus could be on his bank accounts, other assets could also be in play, assets including houses, buildings, cars, maybe even his trademark plane.

For more on all of this, Matt Egan joins me now. I mean, Matt, if you're in New York, I mean, you can't really travel too far across the city without running across a Trump property. I mean, some of these properties have been around for years and have been sort of the backbone of his brand.

As a successful businessman for many years, some would question how successful he's been.


But talk to us a little bit about what kind of properties we're talking about here. Might we see some padlocks? And if so, what are the dollar amounts we're talking about?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jim, it's really important to stress that nothing about this would be simple and straightforward. We are talking about a tangled web of assets controlled by a former president and the presumptive nominee. This is kind of a nightmare.

But let's look at some of these specific New York real estate properties owned by the former president, starting with perhaps the most iconic Trump Tower. For example, this is a triplex in Midtown Manhattan. Trump claimed in 2015 that this was worth $327 million. Forbes, though, values it at just $52 million. That is quite the spread and gets at one of the problems here, which is valuation.

Another property that Letitia James mentions that she sees almost every single day is 40 Wall Street down in the financial district.

Now, back in 2012, a bank-ordered appraisal valued this property at $220 million. However, Trump's statements later valued it at much, much higher levels.

And then another property that's getting a lot of attention right now is Seven Springs. This is an estate and golf course in Westchester County. Forbes has valued this property at $25 million. And just last week, the New York A.G.'s Office filed some paperwork that amounted to preliminary steps before they could try to seize this property. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Matt Egan, those are some big dollar amounts, thank you very much.

Joining me now to talk about this further, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates, Elie Honig, Phil Mattingly, all back with us.

Laura, I mean, this is starting to sound like a legal form of love it or list it. Not sure what a lot of listing could be happening. Not a lot of love for Letitia James.

COATES: Now, I'm going to have to like binge watch that show. Now, you're going (INAUDIBLE) that's going on there. Look, I mean, it is a good show, I'll admit that.

When you look through everything that's happening, you're going to have Letitia James trying to come up with the sum of the parts, figuring out how to get to that very high number. But the deal is she's not going to be the only person who says they have a stake in any of this. She'll have to get in line of other creditors. He might not own these real estate ventures right out on his own. It's not like the average person wants to sell their home. They say, let me ask the husband, maybe the wife, maybe a grandparent, or maybe there's a trust. There are going to be a lot of people who have a stake in each of these properties, and so getting in that line would be difficult.

I don't expect her to have all of a sudden like a seizure sign that's going to be on her particular property, but it does show you that she is now going to be in line as a creditor. And that's significant because she is owed a particular amount of money under this lower court ruling, and there is a bond required.

As to what happens next, it's going to be anyone's guess in the timeline of it, but it is significant because he might not want to pay this. It might be novel, but it is now owed and it's based on a judgment by a judge who said that these line up proportionally with what the ill-gotten gains are.

ACOSTA: Yes. And, I mean, he can't just say, oh, I don't want to do it. I don't want to pay, right? I mean, that that's part of the -- and the other thing that I thought was interesting when we were looking at Matt Egan's report there, isn't this kind of what got Donald Trump in some of the trouble in the first place? You know, Trump says it's worth this, but Forbes says it's worth that.

HONIG: That's exactly what I was thinking. Well, if they have to put these on the market, then I guess we'll know who is right with respect to the valuations. This is going to happen very quickly. I mean, Laura's absolutely right. The full process, especially when we get into real estate, will take months or years because there's various people who have interest.

But what Letitia James can do is, I'm sure she's already identified as bank accounts, seize them and essentially take the money out. And that can happen really quickly.

Another thing that's really important to keep in mind, there is a court-approved monitor, a former federal judge, Judge Barbara Jones, who I appeared in front of many times, who's a very good judge, very sharp, she has been installed as the monitor overseeing Trump's businesses. So, if the concern is, well, is there going to be games played here, Trump hiding things, moving things around, not with Judge Jones keeping an eye on things.

So, she's there as sort of a safety valve for the court to make sure things go according to order. MATTINGLY: And I think it's a fascinating point, because based on my understanding, not a lawyer, that's what I'd defer to you guys on, but wide latitude to really see, understand and be able to have a sense of what Trump and the Trump Organization is doing as they try and collect these funds.

And that's important in a moment where everybody has been talking in his orbit and outside over the course of the last week, is there someone who could come in and finance this, so there are a couple of people who could come in. What about backdoor ways in which he could obtain this money? We're going to have somebody who's watching all of that and can report it out. And I think that's been an open question.

The other one, too, is you make a great point about the bank accounts. Trump continuously talks about how he has cash. He has a lot of cash. And the thing is, which is ironic, given what he's in trouble for right now, is he does. When you look at his disclosure statements, when you look at the financial statements, he has a lot of cash on hand, particularly for a developer.


ACOSTA: And he was saying, I have the $500 million.

MATTINGLY: He does not have the $500 million. I'm pretty cognizant or pretty sure of that fact, both based on reporting and on his disclosure forms. But for a developer, he has a lot of cash on hand, he doesn't have enough.

And to Elie's point, that cash would be the first thing that Letitia James would likely go after because it's the easiest thing to get access to. So, that thing he's been touting and talking about, maybe inflating a little bit, as Trump might do, is actually a wide-open target when and if Letitia James starts to try and seize assets.

COATES: That's why his attorneys are so frustrated, I'm sure, because in court today, they're going to have to address his Truth Social postings, in his social media postings, his allusion to the money that he says that he has, whether it's campaign or otherwise, they're going to have to address this. Because one thing he cannot do is hide behind even prospective bankruptcy.

It does not attach. You're talking about judgments by a court. It does not attach for intentional crimes. The idea he'd have to try to do this would be to prove he's first insolvent. And if all of his statements suggest that he's not, then James has a much easier lift to try to get the actual liquidated assets already in the form of that cash.

ACOSTA: Yes, and he can't play -- he can't continue to play three- card monte, you know, at this point. The buildings are too large. You know, they know where they are.

HONIG: Right. Time is up. I mean, but Trump has said that, by the way, in his argument to the appeals court. And, remember, we've not yet heard from the appeals court about whether they're going to reduce the bond. I would guess if they were going to do that, they would have done it by now.

But one of the points Trump makes is he goes, where am I going to go? Like I can't take 40 Wall Street and take off to some country we don't have an extradition treaty with. But I wouldn't be counting on the appeals court. I mean, they theoretically could weigh in, but I would have expected them to have done that already. So, if I'm Trump, I'm not going to keep my fingers crossed waiting for a bailout there.

ACOSTA: All right. Guys, thank you very much.

Our coverage continues in just a few moments. We're getting some reporting from inside the courthouse where former president Donald Trump and his team are arguing for a surprise, a lengthy delay of his hush money trial. We will be live outside the courthouse with all that next.

Stay with us.