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CNN This Morning
Former President and Current Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to Testify in Civil Fraud Trial against Trump Organization; President Biden Falls Behind Former President Trump in Polling of Battleground States. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired November 06, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That's a fascinating development. Jim Sciutto, thank you.
And CNN THIS MORNING continue right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Morning, everyone. In just two hours, Donald Trump will take the witness stand, and he will testify in a Manhattan courtroom. The former president and current Republican frontrunner will be questioned in this civil fraud trial that could cost him hundreds of millions of dollars and bar him from doing business in New York.
MATTINGLY: Israel's military says it's carrying out, quote, significant strikes on Gaza as it works to encircle Hamas forces. The latest bombardment comes as the heads of 18 aid organizations, including agencies at the U.N., issued a rare joint statement calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in both Israel and Gaza.
HARLOW: And President Biden falling behind former President Trump in key battleground states that he carried in 2020. This is a new poll from "The New York Times" and Siena College. And Biden's campaign is downplaying the survey, but some democratic lawmakers are calling it all, quote, concerning.
This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FROMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is a minor case that could end up being a big deal if he mis- testifies. If he says something in court that is under oath that is false, it's going to be a lot of trouble for him, particularly with a judge that is already given him two gag orders. So I know the guy pretty well. He'll be very subdued. He'll be polite and respectful in that court. That's my prediction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Interesting. Is that the Donald Trump we will see on the stand today? Anthony Scaramucci thinks so. That's what he told us just moments ago about his former boss, Donald Trump, preparing to take the witness stand. You are looking at live pictures of Trump Tower.
The former president expected to leave there shortly. He'll head downtown to a New York City courthouse where he is set to testify when his civil fraud trial resumes. His business empire, reputation in the business world at stake. This case strikes at the heart of Trump's identity as a real estate tycoon, and prosecutors accuse him of exaggerating his wealth by billions of dollars and inflating the value of his properties.
MATTINGLY: This all comes as Trump faces 91 felony charges and multiple criminal cases, while also being the Republican frontrunner for the White House in 2024. Just a few issues converging here. CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is with us live on set. All right, there are a million questions that I have, but I want you to walk us through what's actually happening today, what we're going to see.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So today he is being called as a witness for the prosecution in this case. And his job is to convince a judge -- there is no jury here, this is a civil trial -- that he and his co-defendants did not defraud banks and insurance companies. Now, the judge has already found that they are liable for fraud, and this is focused on penalties. There's a possibility that he may not be able to do business in the state of New York going forward.
So he has a big task in front of him. It's interesting to hear in your interview with Scaramucci that he's confident that he's going to be calm, cool, and collected on the stand, because while we have seen him be that person in depositions, he's done, he's said, over 100 in his life, he has been on the witness stand before, he's never been on the witness stand as a candidate who's trying to portray himself as a martyr. So this is really going to be interesting. We'll see if he's right.
HARLOW: I was struck by that, too. I really was.
MATTINGLY: Paula seems skeptical.
REID: I am skeptical.
HARLOW: She is an attorney, by the way.
REID: Because of how he's behaved so far over the past few weeks. We've seen him violate a gag order twice, he's been fined twice by the judge for attacking the judge's clerk. That is not something that most defendants would ever do. It's ill-advised. So he clearly thinks there is some sort of political advantage here to acting out, acting up.
HARLOW: What do you think prosecutors -- it's notable that you said he's being called by the prosecution, he's not a defense witness. What will prosecutors ask?
REID: I think they're really going to focus on what's at the core of this case, which is the valuation of many of his properties. And again, this goes to something that could be a little triggering for him. This is very personal. He has built a persona as this billionaire tycoon, and they're going to want to talk about valuation for various properties. His Doral golf course, 40 Wall Street.
I think one of the most sensitive is going to be the value of his Mar- a-Lago resort down in Florida. He has taken issue with the fact that the judge found that to be valued around $18 million. One of his lawyers suggested that it would likely be closer to $1 billion and said it was, quote, the Mona Lisa of real estate.
Legally speaking, he is likely going to be advised to just stick to the defense that there was a clause in there, banks should do their own due diligence, and that valuation is more of an art than a science. Just stick with the "art" theme. I think that's what the lawyers are hoping he will do.
MATTINGLY: But I think that raises the question, and this gets to the skepticism, and I think it's merited, which what Anthony was saying, which is, do you think he can do that? Do you think he stick to the art, not a science, I'm not going to stick specific numbers on it? His life is numbers, and specific numbers.
REID: He can do it. And the reason I say he can do it is because he's done so many depositions over the course of his very litigious career, and we've seen where he can be the consummate executive, a little bit of a cranky executive, but he can stay on script.
But this is different because he is once again running for the White House. This is not just what happens in the courtroom. It's also what translates to the court of public opinion. This is also, there's a human element. This is very personal. He's watched his children testify, two of them, Ivanka will go, expected later this week. This is about his business, his identity. And that can make it difficult for anyone to follow a script.
HARLOW: Paula Reid, thank you very much.
MATTINGLY: Well, when Trump testified about this case before the New York attorney general's office last summer, here's how that went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I decline to answer the question.
I decline to answer the question.
Same answer. Same answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: We counted so you didn't have to. He invoked the Fifth amendment more than 400 times, though he did answer questions more thoroughly in a later deposition.
Let's turn now to CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig. All right, Elie, talk to us. How is this testimony going to play out inside the courtroom?
ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is going to get interesting really quickly. In this any case, the party who calls the witness to the stand gets to question them first. Ordinarily, that's the easy part. That's what we call direct examination. It's usually a friendly witness, it's usually been prepared, and only after that do we get to cross-examination where the fireworks start.
But really important to know, here, the party that is calling Donald Trump to the witness stand is the attorney general, Letitia James's office. So they're going to get to question Donald Trump first. And only after that are we going to see Donald Trump's own team get to question him.
A couple of other courtroom dynamics we need to watch for here. First of all, the dynamic between the judge and Donald Trump. There has been tension between them. The judge has made several legal rulings against Donald Trump. Donald Trump has made several non-legal attacks on the judge. Will the judge be able to keep Donald Trump in line?
And finally, really important to notice, this jury box is empty. There is no jury. The judge is presiding. He is also deciding the case, so he will be watching the witness with that in mind.
Also, one other thing we need to watch for the in the next couple of hours, will Donald Trump take the Fifth? All indications are that he will not take the Fifth, that he will testify coming out of his camp, but he does have that right to take the Fifth. This is a civil case, but he can still say, if my testimony might be used against me, I can take the Fifth, as we just saw in that clip. Phil, in this case when he was deposed over a year ago, he took the Fifth over 400 times.
Important to know, if he does take the Fifth, there's some risk. The judge can do what we call draw an adverse inference, meaning the judge can assume the worst about what Donald Trump's testimony would have been. So if he takes the Fifth, there's a real downside here.
HARLOW: If he doesn't take the Fifth and answers questions, would you expect his defense to be largely in line with what his sons have testified, that the accountants did it, not us?
HONIG: I do. I think we're going to see a very similar defense here. Let's remember, the allegation again, this is a civil suit, the allegation by the attorney general is that the defendants, Trump and his businesses, grossly inflated his personal net worth by billions of dollars. I think we're going to see a couple of main defenses here.
First of all, as his sons did last week, Don Jr. and Eric, I think Donald Trump is going to try to push blame down the line and outside. He may say, look, those financial statements, I didn't prepare them, I just signed them. I relied on my accounts. That only gets him so far, though, because the Trump Organization as a whole is a defendant here.
I think we also are going to see Donald Trump try to defend the alleged overvaluations of his properties. Paula just talked about, if we look at Seven Springs Estate, that was assessed at $30 million or so. Donald Trump and his organization have claimed that it was worth $260 million. Obviously, a huge discrepancy. Trump has actually said publicly, I think my valuations were low, if anything. We'll see.
But that's going to be an uphill climb because the judge has already found before this trial started that Trump committed, quote, persistent fraud by submitting false and misleading statements of financial conditions. So Trump is going to have to argue to the judge, essentially, you got it wrong. We undervalued our own assets.
MATTINGLY: What are the stakes here? This isn't prison. This is a civil trial. What could he risk losing?
HONIG: His entire business is really the short answer to that. The attorney general is seeking financial penalties of up to $250 million, and this is one of the things that is still in dispute, the judge is going to be watching for. And he could lose his business certificate.
As of this moment, the judge in his pretrial ruling has actually said, I will suspend your business certificate. If that holds, it will stop Donald Trump's ability to do business in New York state and potentially more broadly. So really, it is fair to say that his entire business and financial future is at stake with this testimony today in this trial as a whole.
MATTINGLY: No pressure. None at all.
HONIG: Small stakes, no big deal.
MATTINGLY: Elie Honig, we appreciate it. Thank you.
HARLOW: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up a diplomatic tour of the Middle East as he tries to broker a humanitarian pause in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasefire so far. We will ask Israel's ambassador to the United States what happens next.
MATTINGLY: And the Biden campaign downplaying a new poll, polls, where the president trails his predecessor in five critical battleground states. How Democrats are reacting to those polls ahead. David Axelrod questioning whether Biden should even stay in the race. He's going to join us. Stay with us.
HARLOW: Any minute now, Donald Trump will leave Trump Tower, he'll head downtown to the courthouse where he will take the witness stand in about two hours in his civil fraud trial. His business empire, his reputation both on the line this morning, with prosecutors accusing him of exaggerating his wealth by billions of dollars and inflating the value of his properties.
Our Kristen Holmes outside of Trump Tower waiting for him to head down. You can't overstate the importance of this. Yes, it's not a criminal trial, but this is the crux, the core of what Trump stands for -- business.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's who he is as a person, personally, but also politically. It's what he ran on, this brand that he was wealthy, that he had all of these assets. If he could do it for himself, he could do it for you, the American people. And this really goes to who he is.
And I am told that he is telling allies that he feels confident, that he's not worried about testifying on the stand. But there are obviously going to be some concerns. Anything that he says under oath can be used against him in these multiple other trials that he is facing.
And we talk about those trials, and this is so complicated right now. I talk to his campaign advisers all the time about how exactly they are going to navigate all of these trials and running a political campaign in 2024. And essentially, it is going to require the legal team and the political team to work hand in hand. The lawyers have to sketch out the days they believe that he will be in trial, that he'll have to actually sit there.
Then they give it to the campaign who works out a soft schedule around that to try and figure out when he can actually host events, and it might just be weekends.
One adviser telling me it's completely unmanageable long term, and this is really just the beginning. I mean, Poppy, right now, we do expect Donald Trump to be done in one day. That is what we've heard from his advisers.
However, if this does bleed over, which is completely possible, this could then conflict with an event that he has Wednesday night, meaning that he would go back to court on Wednesday, finish up his testimony, and then fly directly to Miami for his counterprogramming rally he has to the debate on Wednesday night.
So there are a lot of logistical gymnastics that his team is going to have to do as he continues to run for president.
HARLOW: Certainly. Kristen Holmes, thanks for the reporting.
MATTINGLY: Joining us now is Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. He recently testified against Trump in the civil fraud trial. The first time in five years they were actually face-to-face.
He is the author of the book, "Revenge" and the host of the podcast, "Mea Culpa." Thanks for joining us.
I will start with what we heard from Anthony Scaramucci last hour. We played it at the start of the show that he predicted Trump was going to be kind of calm, cool, collected, stay within the normal bounds of things on the witness stand.
What do you think? You spent more time with him over a period, a lengthy period of time than just about anyone.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: Yes, unfortunately. I don't see it the same way as Anthony does.
Yes, at the beginning, he's going to try. He is going to try very hard to stay within the lane, because he already knows that he and the judge don't clearly see eye to eye, and so he'll try to stay in the lane.
But as the prosecutors continue to drill down on him with information and with allegations that he overinflated his net worth by billions, that's going to irritate him because his net worth, his statement of financial condition, it is really a combination of his id, his ego, his super ego all meshed into one narcissistic sociopath.
HARLOW: You testified in this trial, and you said on the stand, he (being Trump), would look at the total assets and he would say, "I'm actually not worth $4.5 billion, I'm really worth more like six." And then you went on to testify that Allen Weisselberg, the former CFO of the Trump organization would reverse engineer the properties to make that math check out.
Did Trump know how that all worked?
COHEN: Of course. What we would do is we would take in a document from the year earlier, and we would give it to Donald and that's where he would make that mob style type of statement, "I'm not worth four-and- a-half, I'm worth five. In fact, I could be maybe seven or eight. You and Allen go back to Allen's office and figure it out." That's the way he would speak.
Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what he wants, but then being with him for over a decade, or Allen Weisselberg for four decades, we knew exactly what he wanted. We accomplished that task. We then returned to his office in order to provide him back with the document for his sign off.
HARLOW: But then you also did testify on the stand that essentially Trump had not specifically told you to do that, he implied, and then Trump used that to go to the judge and say, look here, clear me, and the judge said no way, but it does seem like your testimony contradicted itself.
COHEN: No, because it's the word "specifically." In other words, he never specifically used the words, no different again than a mob boss.
Michael, Allen go to the back, reverse engineer by numbers in order to inflate my assets. It was the matter of the word specifically, and I wanted to be truthful when answering that question. No, he did not. But it doesn't need the term specific in order -- the difference between implied right, and implicit.
MATTINGLY: Would there be repercussions if you had not done it? And I think one of the questions is, you know, the implication of what he wanted that you knew, because you and Allen had worked with him for so long, had you not delivered on that, what would have happened?
COHEN: I probably would have been fired, but there was no such thing at the Trump Organization. If Donald Trump tasked you with something, you did it.
MATTINGLY: Even implicitly.
COHEN: Even implicitly.
HARLOW: It's just so interesting that this poll that is really good for Trump in "The New York Times" this morning, in a head-to-head matchup against Biden comes on the same day that he is testifying and could potentially lose his entire business empire and the ability to operate it within New York.
You know his mind, how do you think he's processing those two things on the same day?
COHEN: It's very difficult for him. You know, he's very myopic and how he thinks. Right now, he is concerned about what's more important to him and that is his net worth, that is his company, because again, that is him. That is who he has purported --
HARLOW: More important than the presidency?
COHEN: Yes, for right now, because he believes that when he -- in his mind, he thinks that he'll be victorious in this New York attorney general's case, and he will use that to propel him into the White House.
The poll has all sorts of issues that I personally don't understand when I was watching your show this morning. For example, how he's rising in the polls with Blacks. To me, it doesn't make any sense.
This is a man who could not utter, for example, George Floyd's name during this horrific, horrific time in American history. And yet, he is rising in the polls, or even amongst Muslims who refuse now to vote for Biden will only vote for Trump. Let's not forget the very first thing that he did when he was in office in 2017 was try to enact a Muslim ban.
HARLOW: I don't think we should group groups together like that. It's not a single vote for Muslim voters or Black voters.
COHEN: No, but what they're saying is that it increased and it doesn't make any sense to me. I think there's a lot of issues with this poll.
MATTINGLY: One of the questions is, okay, if he were to win and have a second term in office, what would he actually do? And I think it's important to note that they haven't been subtle.
He and his advisors, people that are close to him, they have policy proposals, they have plans, and "The Washington Post" is reporting that critical to those will be the Justice Department, really kind of punishing some of the people that went against him.
You're talking about his former chief-of-staff, John Kelly, even people like his former lawyer, Ty Cobb. What do you think about that? Do you think that's a real possibility?
COHEN: Oh, Donald is a very vindictive human being. So the answer is 100 percent, and it should really give people pause to start to reflect back to like, 1939, Germany, where Hitler did the same thing.
What is he going to do? He's going to start now turning around and going after kids in campuses who expressed their First Amendment rights. He's going to make them wear -- what -- Palestinian flags on their armbands? I don't -- again, everything with him is violent rhetoric, and the country really better wake up and they better start thinking twice before they start answering questions even in The New York Times/Siena poll.
HARLOW: Michael Cohen, thank you. I know you'll be watching coverage today...
COHEN: You know, I will say.
HARLOW: ... closely. We'll have it all live here on CNN.
Antisemitism rising dramatically since the October 7th Hamas terror attack. New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft is spearheading a big effort to counter that hate and he joins us ahead.
MATTINGLY: And secretary of State Antony Blinken urging Israel to pause its war to let more humanitarian aid reach civilians in Gaza. Israel's ambassador to the US joins us next on what happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: We know the deep concern here for the terrible toll that Gaza is taking on, Palestinians on men, women and children in Gaza, innocent civilians, a concern that we share and that we are working on every single day.
We've engaged the Israelis on steps that they can take to minimize civilian casualties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaving Turkey after his multi-day trip to the Middle East, as CIA director, Bill Burns arrives in Israel. Both officials urging Israel to temporarily pause its war against Hamas to allow more humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza.
Just this morning, smoke was seen near a refugee camp in Khan Younis, a clear sign there is no pause.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to reject the idea of a ceasefire, arguing that won't happen until Hamas releases all the hostages.
Joining us now Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog.
Sir, we appreciate your time.
Mr. Ambassador, to start, there have been reports about humanitarian corridors operated by the IDF that would allow Gazans to evacuate south. Is there a commitment tied to those corridors that there will be no strikes by the IDF anywhere near those corridors as they are operational?
MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE US: Absolutely, as the only strikes that we have experienced are Hamas attacking these corridors in order to prevent civilians from going south.
We are calling on all civilians to go away from the war zone, from the north to the south, where we provide humanitarian solutions and we are building humanitarian zones there. Unfortunately, Hamas is trying to prevent them.
But we are doing everything possible to ramp up humanitarian solutions in the south. As we speak, we are in the process of allowing into Gaza, 130 truckloads of humanitarian assistance and we are doing it in close cooperation with the UN and with Egypt.
MATTINGLY: I want to play something that one of your colleagues, Israel's ambassador to the UN told my colleague on CNN yesterday. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILAD ERDAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
In coordination with the US and the UN, we allowed the number of trucks entering Gaza now with food and medicines to reach almost 100 trucks every day.
So we don't see the need for humanitarian pauses right now because it will only enable Hamas to rearm and regroup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Mr. Ambassador, I think the question is, the statement that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It's not assigning blame to anyone, Israelis included. Is that the position here that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza right now.
HERZOG: There is definitely a major humanitarian challenge in Gaza, because this is a war zone and people had to move away from this war zone and try to get them away from -- out of harm's way.
We are very mindful of the humanitarian situation. We see it as both our obligation and interest to provide solutions, but will do so in a way that does not feed the Hamas war machine.
They have troves of fuel, of food, of medicines which they use for their own for war machine, and they bear major responsibility. They started this war, not we, but as I said, we see it as our obligation and interest to provide solutions.
We opened a joint operations room with the UN and with Egypt in order to provide these solutions. In fact, we are leading these efforts, so when people talk about a pause, let me explain that.
HERZOG: If you're talking about a pause that's designed to allow time for the release of hostages, we are all in.
Most of the hostages are Israelis, so we are the major stakeholders in that.