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Opening Statements Underway In Donald Trump's Hush Money Trial. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 22, 2024 - 10:00:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hi and welcome to a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, where the time is 6:00 p.m.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erica Hill in New York, 10:00 a.m. here. We are outside the courthouse where Donald Trump's criminal trial has resumed.

Opening statement set to begin just a short time from now, the judge is now giving the jury his instructions in this historic trial. Former President

Donald Trump is of course seated in the courtroom as he arrived taking a moment as he often does to stop and talk to the cameras and use that

opportunity to slam the case in the process.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is done as election interference, everybody knows it. I'm here instead of being able

to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it's very unfair.


HILL: The former president saying it is very unfair. Of course he is required to be in court for this case. He has pleaded not guilty to 34

felony charges.

Donald Trump's accused of falsifying business records to conceal "damaging information from voters" this is -- those hush money payments in the run up

to the 2016 presidential election. Hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Joining us now is CNN senior and crime justice reporter Katelyn Polantz who's been following this all very closely.

So, as we look at where we stand here, things really getting underway. The judge giving the jury instructions. There was one juror earlier this

morning, before court began who actually went and spoke with the judges and the attorneys. This juror was concerned about all the media attention that

this trial has received. And there was some currency -- maybe jurors could drop out, ultimately the jury is going to stay. What more do we know though

about the concerns?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, we just know that the juror had concerns about media attention on this case and told the

court in advance of this.

And so, the judge took the juror into chambers. It was a female juror, we don't know that much about this juror that she had called Trump, our

president in her voir dire, but there wasn't much more that we could really flesh out of where she stands on things. She had some concerns. She talked

to the judge, the prosecutors and defense team were also in chambers talking with her, took about five minutes. And the judge ultimately said

she's going to stay on the panel at this time.

These things may come up. We saw a lot of jurors coming back for a second day during the jury selection process last week, where they were saying,

you know, I changed my mind. I can't -- I can't do this.

And so, that's possible. But that's why you have six alternates. Yes, at this point, no alternates are being used. And we're wrapping at 12:30

today, because one of the alternate jurors actually has a dentist appointment to see.

HILL: Life goes on whether you're on the -- you're on the jury or not, still need to get the teeth taken care of.

We had another important ruling this morning from the judge on what was called -- it was known as the Sandoval hearing, which happened Friday

afternoon. This was essentially to determine if Donald Trump took the stand, the defendant if he took the stand, what he could be asked about on

the stand, and the finding from the judge was pretty broad.

POLANTZ: Yes, the judge is allowing prosecutors to ask Donald Trump if he goes into that witness box, a bunch of lot of -- about a lot of things that

happened in lawsuits that could reflect upon him negatively to the jury. The things his defense team was concerned about. This will factor into

whether his team wants to put Trump on the stand. He says he wants to testify. But we'll see as this case goes on. If he actually takes the


The things that the judge would allow the prosecutors to ask about are things like that civil fraud verdict against him, the judgment of hundreds

of millions of dollars from the New York A.G., there's a hearing that just got underway on that too, as well today, if he can continue appealing that,

challenging it.

The findings in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, can he be asked about that? Can it be asked about violating a gag order in the civil fraud case?

There are a couple of things that he's not going to be able to be asked about specifically that he filed a frivolous lawsuit against Hillary

Clinton in Florida that got tossed out pretty quickly.

But the bulk of what Donald Trump's team did not want him to be exposed to in front of the jury, if he's a witness testifying for himself. They are

not winning those arguments. The judge said that's all fair game here.


HILL: It is fascinating. And we'll continue to watch that. Katelyn, thank you.

Also, I want to call your attention to this special graphic that's on the side of your screen just to let you know what that's for.

We're actually really using that throughout the trial to keep you posted, keep you updated. We know there's a high level of interest in this historic

case. So, you'll see some of those developments again throughout the trial on the side of your screen. We'll continue to dig into them as well.

But just so you know, that's why that's there and popped up. And you see, it's telling you right now, basically what's happening in real time. Judge

Merchan telling the jurors as he's giving them the instructions, noting, which is, of course, critical to the U.S. Justice system that the defendant

is presumed innocent until proven guilty, or if proven guilty.

Also, with me now from Washington, National Security Attorney Bradley Moss. Bradley, good to have you with us. So, as we look at -- you know, Katelyn,

just laid out for us what the judge said couldn't be included if Donald Trump decided to take the stand. It is remarkable how much of that would be

allowed in. I think I know the answer. But I have to ask you, do you envision a world where it would make sense for Donald Trump knowing that to

in fact take the stand?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Let's be clear, there is no chance on God's green earth that Donald Trump is going to take the stand in

this case, he'll talk up a great game about how ready he is to testify up until the last moment, but then the day before whatever he would have to

you know, actually take the stand, he'll issue some posts on Truth Social, they'll say his lawyers talked him out of it, and that he's got such a

great defense, he doesn't need it.

There's no way he would want to be on that stand. Putting aside he has a terrible penchant for perjuring himself and, you know, misstating facts.

The idea that he would subject himself to that kind of cross examination, be out of control, having someone else be in control over him to ask these

embarrassing questions, going to his credibility and its truthfulness, there's no chance. He'd lose control, his lawyers would throw themselves in

front of a moving truck to make sure he does not take the stand.

HILL: And one of the things that can also be brought up is a violation of the gag order, a separate gag order, we know there's going to be a hearing

on what prosecutors say are at least 10 instances where they believe Donald Trump has violated the gag order in this case that the judge said.

And yet, that gag order, of course only applies to certain people. It only applies to Donald Trump, it was interesting, his campaign sending out an e-

mail over the weekend, railing on the case, saying that it relies on testimony of some of the most disreputable and fame thirsty characters on

the planet.

Even if Donald Trump is not making the statements, there is concern that some of the statements out there could in fact impact the jury. How closely

are you watching that?

MOSS: Yes, this hearing tomorrow is going to be wild because he hasn't stopped, even putting aside what the campaign is putting out. And they may

have some wiggle room there in terms of their ability to make remarks through the campaign.

What he's been posting for the last few days leading up to this hearing tomorrow on the gag order violations seem to almost certainly be in

violation of strict terms of Judge Merchan's orders.

So, the question becomes, assuming Judge Merchan includes, yes, he did, in fact, violate the gag order. What is the actual punishment he'll impose?

The D.A. isn't asking for anything beyond monetary fines right now, which Trump could easily pay and stricter warnings to Trump. But Merchan has a

lot of discretion.

And so, there's going to be a point here, especially if Trump doesn't get the hint, based off what Merchan says of does Donald Trump gets stuck in

jail for a night or two? And do we set off that political bombshell if that in fact happens?

HILL: Which would be -- which would be remarkable. As the judge is also going through these instructions to the jury reminding them again, of

course, if that burden of proof is not met by the prosecution, they must find the defendant not guilty.

This is a big moment for anybody who's ever served on a jury. It is a very solemn process. Most jurors tend to take it very seriously, take their role

very seriously. How do you think though it's different if at all for these jurors as they're sitting there in that box, and the defendant that they're

looking at is one of the most well-known people on the planet, the former President Donald Trump?

MOSS: Yes, so it certainly has to be intimidating. And we've already seen that when we went through the jury selection process last week, people who

were getting worried there was a you know, the media attention. Some of them wanted out, they felt they couldn't be impartial, or they didn't want

to face the scrutiny of being that jerk.

But what was selected ultimately with these 18 people who are on this jury, including the alternates is a very nice, you know, sort of a collection of

different people from Manhattan, varying levels of degrees in education and race and backgrounds. It'll be a very legitimate during the context of what

you would expect to pull from that area where this crime, you know, is alleged to have been committed, and amongst people that Donald Trump for

decades lived amongst, because he viewed himself as one of the kings of Manhattan.


So, it's very much a jury of his peers. These people are going to have to sit through a lot of very boring testimony actually, because a lot of it's

going to be about documents and false ledgers.

But in the end, I expect that they will do their duties every jury does across this country.

HILL: We are told that the opening statements for the prosecution. Well, we'll hear a little bit more perhaps about some of that evidence that may

be coming their way. Those are expected to last about 40 minutes from the defense respecting about 25. And then the first witness who is expected to

be David Pecker will take the stand. What would you be looking for specifically or listening for, I should say, in that first witness?

MOSS: So yes, David Pecker is the first witness for a simple reason. He along with Michael Cohen and Donald Trump hatched the scheme, he was the

Medias component of the ultimate scheme to catch and kill these stories. And to prevent these various damaging pieces of information from coming out

in the weeks and months before the election.

He's a critical cog in this entire machine. He got immunity from the feds back in 2018, when the Southern District of New York was looking into this

and they ultimately prosecuted and convicted Michael Cohen, the media organization who was running the National Enquirer got a non-prosecution


He has critical facts, but he's a bit of a wildcard because this was a longtime friend of Donald Trump. And as far as I can tell, he hasn't ever

stopped necessarily being friendly to Donald Trump.

So, he will certainly have critical information and eyewitness testimony, but how much the prosecution has to do to drag it out of him will be

something we're all watching.

HILL: Bradley, great to have you with us. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Also here of course, senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz. So, Katelyn, as we're waiting for opening statements getting under way, the

judge giving the jury his instructions. This is not a -- this is not a quick -- I'm going to read you a couple sentences. This actually takes some

time as he's walking the jury through their roles.

POLANTZ: And it's a really important moment, because it's when the jury is learning how this works, right? These are regular people, New Yorkers

called to serve on this jury. So, the judge is explained to them things like this is how you can decide if someone is not guilty or guilty. The

prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. That's what that the -- he will explain what that means. He will talk about the burden

of proof that it's the prosecutors who have to prove the case, not the defense disprove what they're saying.

And so, as this is being instructed, remember, it's a very contained and very -- it's a scene in the courtroom, not just where the jurors are

listening to the judge and taking some brief notes. Trump is also there. So they're very likely watching him, seeing him look at them. Our reporters

are saying he had his eyes closed for some of this portion of the jury instructions. It's a very contained controlled environment, and how Trump

behaves in the courtroom while all of this is playing out. That's also very important as the jurors are going to be weighing the credibility and the

evidence against him.

HILL: Everyone watching each person in that courtroom incredibly closely. Important to know, we won't see those jurors though, and we won't see them

in the courtroom sketches. I was thinking we wanted to sketch her or one of the courtroom sketch artists on Friday night who reiterated they have been

told they cannot sketch any of these jurors, and that is to protect their privacy and to preserve what can we preserve their anonymity.

Katelyn, thank you. I know you're not going far, thankfully nor are we. We're going to continue our coverage of this historic hush money trial. And

of course, you can find it throughout the day online as well, live updates there, what is happening in court as it happens, also additional

information on the key players here and what is at stake. You can find that on the politics section of the CNN page. Stay with us. We're back after a

quick break.



HILL: Welcome back to our continuing coverage here on CNN. I'm Erica Hill outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan where opening statements are set

to begin later this hour in Donald Trump's criminal trial.

At this moment, the judge is actually giving the jury its instructions. The former president is seated there inside the courtroom. And as those

instructions are being given, of course, everyone sees it one another there. Reminder, Donald Trump is there as a defendant because he's charged

with 34 felony counts rather of falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of what's known as hush money paid to adult film star Stormy


That was of course in advance of the 2016 election. And prosecutors say that's crucial here because they say the former president did it as a

candidate then, because the election was coming up and he didn't want that information out there. Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to those


Joining us now David Sanger, CNN political and national security analyst and defense attorney Misty Marris who's with us as well.

David, as we watch this, it's fascinating to me just how much interest there, it's not just here in the United States but outside the country as

well. What is hinging on this trial not just for Donald Trump, but frankly, what it says about where the country is?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there is - - there's some risk for the U.S. along the way here. But I think there's also some opportunity as well.

You're absolutely right, there has been fascination abroad. As you know, I was living in Germany for a few months the beginning of the year, and you

would see in the subways, headlines about developments in the Trump trials, you know, in a way that we would never have hear about a foreign trial.

On the one hand, I think there are many abroad who don't understand why the first trial is not about the core questions of whether or not the president

tried to illegally seize power through manipulating the election. And of course, explaining that the way these come to the calendar works on these

is not easy.

But on the other hand, I think there is a respect for the United States of the rule of law actually does reach as well to the president and former

president. And it will be interesting to see whether that plays out over time, and whether we could actually strengthen the American image.

HILL: You know, picking up on that point, I also want to bring in Misty Marris here. Misty, as we look at this, to David's point, there have been

questions of both outside and inside the country about why this is the first case to go to trial, when some other cases are seen as more

consequential in many ways.

Just remind us why we're seeing this play out today in this courtroom behind me and why we are not yet seeing, for example, the classified

documents case or questions about January 6.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. So, there's multiple cases going on. This is a state level prosecution in New York, this one was on

track and actually move forward without a lot of delay.

However, the other cases, for instance, the federal case involving January 6th, there is a very, very important Supreme Court decision that needs to

come out before that, and it relates to presidential immunity. Arguments on that are going to be happening next month, and then a decision isn't likely

to come until into the summer.

And so, with the presidential immunity question hanging in the balance, that case in Washington about January 6 cannot move forward. The classified

documents case in Florida, again, it's in a little bit of a procedural oblivion, there are all sorts of challenges that need to be worked out by

the federal court before that case can move forward.


And of course, the state level prosecution relating to January 6th in Georgia was railroaded by all of the hearings relating to Fani Willis and

potential impropriety in selecting a special prosecutor Nathan Wade. So that's also in the procedure oblivion.

So, the short answer is the procedural status of those other cases still have legal issues to iron out before they go into the courtroom. This case,

the judge had a relatively expedited track, and Donald Trump actually tried to get this case delayed but wasn't successful in doing so. And that's why

we see this case moving forward as the first one, which was a surprise to many, but it's the one that's going to hit the courtrooms first and paved

the way for the rest.

HILL: This is such a historic case, because it is the first time, the first criminal trial for a former president.

David, people are also looking at this because depending on what the outcome is, there could be the presumptive Republican nominee, a man who

could very well retake the White House.

I mean, we are far out from the election in many ways, but not and it's a dead heat right now. People are also looking at this because depending on

the outcome, what could that mean, if there was a second Trump presidency?

SANGER: Well, it would be a pretty remarkable seeing. I mean, we could be - - if he was -- if he was convicted here, could be in the position where he couldn't vote for himself. But of course, he could still legally run for


This is a state trial, so he could not pardon himself. If he won the president seat in the federal trials, there's a lot of speculation that he

would try or more likely that he would derail a prosecution once he was in office.

In any case, almost all prosecutions would be delayed until he was out of office. So, it tells you that the stakes for former President Trump in

running are pretty high because he's not just running for office, he's running for his freedom here, whether or not or potential freedom, whether

or not he would stand trial.

And then, of course, there will be the constitutional questions that will have to be adjudicated if once the president comes in, could he interfere

in his own prosecution?

Now, we're not there yet. But it is very possible that this state case may be the only case that goes to trial before the election.

HILL: It is such an important point to make. And Missy, as we look at this in terms of those other cases, as you were walking us through some of

those, there is, of course, a hearing with the Supreme Court coming up on Thursday to address Donald Trump's claim of presidential immunity. That

obviously would not apply in this case, this is separate, he was not in office at the time.

But looking at that, that is -- that is incredibly consequential. And that playing out just yet another reminder of how much is at stake here legally

for Donald Trump all happening at once and all happening in the same week.

MARRIS: Absolutely. So, this New York case would not be impacted by that presidential immunity argument, as you said, Erica, but that presidential

immunity decision by the Supreme Court that has impact way beyond Donald Trump, that's going to answer questions about the level of protection that

a president has while they're in office, and what would constitute something that's actionable from a criminal perspective if they're serving

as the president.

So, that hearing is incredibly consequential for Donald Trump not only relating to the cases that apply to which would be the January 6, a federal

case of being prosecuted in Washington, but also repercussions for forever relating to that question and that issue of presidential immunity.

So, that is a very, very key hearing. And the ultimate decision made by the Supreme Court, obviously impacts Donald Trump, but has a historical impact

as well.

HILL: Missy, David, really appreciate it. Thank you both. Stay with us, everyone, we're going to have much more on this historic trial as our

coverage continues here, including what to expect when those opening statements began expected just a short time for now -- from now.

Of course the judge currently giving the jury its instructions, reminding them alternate jurors have to pay close attention just as the other jurors,

despite it being an extraordinary emergency that would lead to one of them stepping in, they need to be ready to go should that happen. Stay with us.

We'll be right back.



HILL: Welcome back to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Erica Hill in New York. This is a live look outside the courthouse here in lower

Manhattan, where Donald Trump is in the courtroom. The defendant there sitting there as the judge gives the jury its instructions in this hush

money trial.

It is of course historic, because it is the first time a former president has faced -- has been in a criminal trial here. We're waiting for those

opening statements which should get anyway underway any moment. Again, the judge right now giving the jury their instructions in this hush money


Here's a little bit of what's happened so far since everything restarted on this Monday morning. Of course, reminding everyone, the judge reminding

everyone that the defendant, the former president is of course presumed to be innocent throughout these proceedings.

The judge also made an important ruling on what prosecutors can and cannot ask Donald Trump should he choose to testify.

Joining me now is CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz. So, as we wait for these opening statements. Let's walk through what has

happened today. Specifically, that ruling on what attorneys could ask Donald Trump about were he to take the stand, it was very broad and covered

almost every other case that he is currently involved with. And it also covered a gag order, which he violated from a different judge in a

different case.

POLANTZ: A different judge, different case, but a very similar gag order to the one that exists here where he couldn't comment on court stuff, he did.

And he was fined $10,000.

In this case, the criminal case, the judge is saying that if Donald Trump takes the witness stand, the prosecutors have a lot to work with that they

can ask him about. They wanted to ask him about all of the lawsuits that he's faced and lost his civil fraud verdict. That was the one where there

was a gag order that he violated. That verdict is quite significant from New York State against him. He's trying to appeal it to hold it off at this

very moment, in fact.

And then, on top of that, they'll be able to ask about the defamation cases E. Jean Carroll one against Donald Trump also resulting in sizable verdicts

for defaming her.

So, this is a lot that the defense will take into consideration as they weigh whether to call Donald Trump take the stand. He says he wants to be a

witness on his own behalf. He is very likely a man who may be tempted. He did so in one of the E. Jean Carroll cases. He took the stand, made quite a

scene in the courtroom, attacked the judge, derailed things.

This is a criminal case. And he would be under oath. And there will be a decision his defense team will have to make. A lot of legal analysts out

there say it's really tough for someone to take the stand and testify and sway a jury in their favor.

HILL: Yes, especially we know all those other things could come up. Some other moments I just want to touch on that happened earlier today as I eat

my hair here, sorry, Katelyn. There was -- there was one of the jurors who had expressed some concerns, but will ultimately stay on the jury. Just a

quick update too from inside the courtroom. Opening statements are now underway.


So, we'll be getting some more of that. We're expecting the prosecution when their opening statements to last about 40 minutes. Then, the defense,

we're told will probably take about 25 minutes for theirs.

When it comes to this juror, that juror raised concerns about the media attention, specifically, and whether she could continue, had a meeting, had

a sidebar with the judge and attorneys, ultimately came back, the judge said, this juror is going to remain. This is though not the first time that

we saw this concern. We saw it last week during jury selection.

POLANTZ: Yes, and many of those jurors were able to remove themselves from the case. This juror is staying on. There are alternates. The judge

explained today in the last 30 minutes or so to the jurors, if there is a reason for you to be pulled off the juror -- jury, and an alternate is

subbed-in, there are reasons for that. But we need the alternates pay as close attention to this, as the jurors themselves in case one of those has

to step in.

But now, we're into opening statements. We have this jury of 12, we have the six alternates. They are watching Trump, watching prosecutor, Matthew

Colangelo, and his opening words from our reporter, Kara Scannell in the courtroom.

This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover up, the defendant, Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016

presidential election. Then, he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again.

They are going to spend the next several minutes explaining to the jury, this is what you'll see, evidence, witnesses. This is what we have

collected in our investigation that we're going to show you in the coming days through all that witness testimony through the exhibits, we're going

to bring into this trial, then, the defense team will make a short statement on their end. And we expect that to be largely about undermining

witness credibility.

HILL: Yes. Specifically, we're expecting, perhaps, Michael Cohen's name to come off from the defense at certain points.


POLANTZ: Perhaps.

HILL: Katelyn, here with me, I also want to bring in former state and federal prosecutor, David Weinstein. David, good to have you back with us

this morning.

In terms of this opening statement, as Katelyn just laid out, we are going to hear from the prosecutor, as they started with that opening line, giving

us a roadmap, essentially, of where they intend to take this case.

There are some questions about what kind of evidence will be brought, and that people may not be aware of. What are you expecting, we may learn in

terms of clues for what's ahead from the statement?

DAVID WEINSTEIN, FORMER STATE AND FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think a lot of the things that we're not aware of that they are going to bring in are going to

be documentary pieces of evidence, things that can't be cross examined, and things that are going to support and build up the testimony of the live


You just mentioned, they are going to attack the credibility of Michael Cohen, they are going to attack the credibility of all of the government's

witnesses, especially people who benefited from either deals with the government or deals with the defendant himself.

So, the things to look for are those pieces of evidence that corroborate statements made by these witnesses, that can't be cross examined, that

can't be shown to be untrue, that bolsters the testimony of these witnesses, and helps the prosecutors build their case.

HILL: In terms of those witnesses, she (PH) were expecting David Pecker to be the first witness. He is the former head of AMI, American Media, which,

of course, published the National Enquirer. He -- was doing this exchange for immunity, AMI had a separate agreement.

When you look at what he could bring, as the first witness, walk us through why the prosecution would choose David Pecker to start this off.

WEINSTEIN: The prosecution wants to tell a story. And they want to open with someone who was on the inside, someone who is a former co-conspirator,

someone who is going to set the stage for this criminal conspiracy, and who better than the person who engaged in the cover up itself, the one who did

the catch and release, the one who's behind finding these stories, determining whether they are true or false, and then, going out and seeking

to hide them in an effort to further the conspiracy that the prosecution has alleged.

So, start off with a bang, start off with somebody on the inside, and let these jurors know that these are the types of witnesses they are going to

hear -- people who cut deals, and you have to evaluate what the deal was, why they made the deal, and what benefit they got, and then, did they tell

the truth?

But this sets the stage and tells the story right from the beginning.

HILL: We -- and we can see. I just want to point out for folks to on their screen. You can see some of those updates coming in from the courtroom. In

terms of what we're hearing in the opening statement, again, prosecutors laying out what this case is about what they allege happened here.

The defense will, of course, have the chance to respond in its own opening statement. following the prosecution. We're told that's going to last about

25 minutes, likely going to be attacking some of these witnesses and their credibility.


Just a reminder for folks at home, the defense doesn't really have to do anything here. All of the onus is on the prosecution. They are the ones who

need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. How important though, is it for the defense to set the stage for their own narrative in that opening


WEINSTEIN: I think it's as important as it was from the beginning of jury selection. If you look at the questions they asked, they have been planting

the seeds from the very beginning. Can you trust these people who are coming forward?

Did the government overreach? Does a prosecution going too far, they are they trying to twist these facts.

I think, for me, what I want to find out, are they going to over promise? And they are going to tell these jurors right from the beginning, you're

going to hear from the defendant, and then, depending on how things go, they might change their mind.

So, is that card one they are going to be put out on the table right now? I think they're going to hold it close to the vest. But again, I think their

opening is going to be a lot about nothing to see here, folks. Nothing wrong really happened here. This is not about some conspiracy, there is no

falsification of records that took place. This is an overreaching gamble by the prosecution.

And in the end, they can't support what they say they brought forward, they won't meet their burden of proof, and you'll have to find them not guilty.

HILL: We've heard some of the pushback on this case is that it took so long for us to get here. Reminder, this happened in 2016 leading up to the 2016

election. Does that come into play?

WEINSTEIN: I think it does, because it has been a long time. You know, they have to be careful about how they put that in front of the jurors. Look,

they -- within the statute of limitations. So, that's not an issue, and that's a legal argument.

And so, the passage of time affects the memory of people. And so, I think that they are going to talk about it taking so long. And why didn't they

come out here beforehand. And they're going to weave that in with? Well, they had to find people who were willing to change their testimony, who

were willing to cut deals.

Look how long the prosecution has been putting their case together, and this is all they have? I think that's how the length of time that's

transpired is going to play into the defense's case.

HILL: David, appreciate it. Thank you. Be sure to stay with us. We're going to continue to walk you through what is happening in the courtroom. Again,

opening statements underway as a prosecution walks us through the case, essentially, the jurors will be hearing. Stay with us.


HILL: Welcome back to our continuing coverage here of Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York City. Prosecutors now in their opening

statements and just saying very clearly as they are laying out, of course, in that opening statement, what they are doing is laying out their case.

The assistant D.A. saying that Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, and fixer made the hush money payment, in the attorney's words,

"at the defendant's direction," and said he did it to influence the presidential election.


That is the meat of this case and what prosecutors are alleging. Of course, as we see this pay out there, are 34 felony counts tied to falsifying

business records, which the prosecution says were done to cover up hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, ahead of the 2016

election to keep that damaging information out of the news, out of the public eye.

And joining me with more is CNN SENIOR crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, as we're watching, we're getting these updates from

inside the courtroom,

Prosecutors putting their opening statement out there, and very clearly saying, we've got the evidence, we've got the paper trail, we are going to

show you that it was, in fact, part of the decision related to the 2016 election.

POLANTZ: Yes, and they say that they're going to start at the beginning -- August 2015. We know their first witness is very likely to be David Pecker,

the former chairman of American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer.

And at that moment, August 2015, they are explaining to the jury that what they'll hear from Packer and others is that Trump -- Michael Cohen, his

personal attorney, and David Pecker, all sat down in Trump Tower and had a negotiation or a decision, or an agreement that they all came to where

Packer was going to be, "the eyes and ears" of the campaign.

That strategy, prosecutors are saying is going to show there were three things that were happening., One, to make flat -- make flattering stories

about Donald Trump, be out there in the National Enquirer. Have attack stories about Trump opponents.

So, stories that would make his opponents look bad, other people in the Republican Party. And then, crucially, there was also an effort to prevent

information from getting out there. That is the piece of this.

The Stormy Daniels' payment to keep her quiet. The other payments to women, to Karen McDougal, that American Media was part of, that Pecker has already

said publicly that yes, he was -- he did that.


HILL: Yes. Has said that Stormy Daniels came to him.


HILL: And said, I'm going to go public with a story. He then, in turn, went to Michael Cohen.


HILL: Said, hey, this is going to happen. Then, this $130,000 payment is made. And this is where we get into these felony counts. Right?


HILL: So, the payment is made, Michael Cohen is reimbursed. Donald Trump on his way into court one day last week said completely unprompted. Oh, these

were legal expenses. This was all -- this was all legal. The prosecution is saying, not so fast.

POLANTZ: No. And we actually went through this, way back in the day. When Michael Cohen was being investigated for the federal crimes, he ultimately

was charged with and served some time in prison for, there were hundreds of thousands of documents of his collected whenever authorities went to his

law office, they got those -- and one by one, the court system went through all of his records, a very, very small amount of what Michael Cohen had at

that time in 2016, was attorney-client work product.

The type of records that you would have, because you were doing legal work. And so, the prosecution isn't just going to be talking about Michael Cohen,

and what he said and David Pecker and what he said, it's very much going to be connecting this all back to the campaign. This was all to aid Trump as a

presidential candidate in 2016.

HILL: Katelyn, thank you. I'm glad you're not going far, as we continue to walk through this.

Also, with this right now, criminal defense attorney Amy Lee Copeland, who's also a former federal prosecutor in the State of Georgia.

Amy Lee, as we're walk -- watching this, what we're getting from our -- from our colleagues inside the courtroom, as we get this play by play of

the opening statement, laying out so clearly, this is the timeline.

As you know, as Katelyn just noted, they said we're going to go back to the very beginning, and we are going to start on day one, essentially, of how

this plan came together, and why we believe, based on our evidence, it will show that this was the results. So far, how would you read this in terms of

an opening statement, in terms of effectiveness?

AMY LEE COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's compelling. Erica, I mean, as you quoted the words of the prosecutor talking about how this was

a conspiracy, a cover up, the hairs on the arm stood on it, it was a chilling description for what could otherwise be a pretty boring documents


And so, the state here has the documents which are not going to change with time, because they were generated back when they were generated. And then,

they have kind of the flavor, the spice of having live witnesses. I think Mr. Pecker is going to be an interesting and engaging witness for the


I have heard it earlier commentators saying that the state may have some trouble getting information out of him, given his history with Mr. Trump.

But he will be under oath. And I am sure that he wants to see his immunity deal stay in place.

So, it's going to be an interesting presentation. And it's going -- sounds very powerful.


I can't imagine a state casually trying to prosecute a former president in the United States. And so far, what I heard, there is nothing casual about


HILL: And so, we should point out to that opening statement, also noting that to your point, David Pecker, they were saying David Pecker here was,

"not acting as a publisher, he was acting as a co-conspirator". So, it's that deeper role that they are really going to want to dig into.

COPELAND: They are and he will have had conversations with the former president, with Mr. Cohen. And they are certainly going to probe what those

were. And in terms of both the conversations and what the documents to the extent they exist actually show.

HILL: You know, it will be interesting too though, as they tell that, they will need to prove that Donald Trump was in fact a willing conspirator. And

all this that he knew, right? That it was being done because he wanted to keep the information out of the public ahead of the election, because he

didn't want it to in any way, color, how voters may think about that. I mean, anything about him, rather.

How difficult or not, do you think it will be to connect those dots back to Donald Trump?

COPELAND: Well, it all depends a lot on what Mr. Trump actually said. And those may, you know in evidentiary rules, like I said earlier, there are

rules that people have to follow in trials.

And statements that Mr. Trump has made are not hearsay, people can testify about what he said. So, I expect that these witnesses will testify a lot

about Mr. Trump's own words.

Additionally, if this is a conspiracy case, and it is. A conspiracy just means an agreement. So, it's not just words, but it's also how someone acts

in accordance with what the alleged agreement is.

So, I suspect the state is going to have ample evidence to show that Mr. Trump acted in accordance with what the agreement was. That this just

wasn't a happenstance cooked up by other people. That he went along with it.

I think there's going to be evidence of a meeting in the White House with Mr. Cohen. Now, I think Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump are the only people there.

But I understand that there might be proof that meeting occurred just from Mr. Trump's calendar.

HILL: As all of this is playing out, of course, Donald Trump, the defendant is in the courtroom. The jury sitting there, they had some lengthy

instructions, about half an hour's worth from the judge. Just give us -- what is your sense based on your career, based on your history of what it

might be like for those jurors in this moment, given who the defendant is? Does that change anything.?

COPELAND: Well, I am sure that is a very uncomfortable experience. Just doing your duty as an American citizen making a small amount of money on a

daily basis, taking an ample time off of work, to all of a sudden sort of being indirectly thrust into the national spotlight.

Some of the jurors were ferreted out. The juror who came back and said, you know, I can't do this. I've gotten contacted, that's been resolved. And

that's why we have alternates.

But I am sure that these jurors feel the weight of history on them. I am sure that this is engaging all of their waking moments. Jury duty can

always be stressful, it can always be, you know, boring. It is always important. It is especially important here.

HILL: Absolutely, Amy Lee Copeland, as always, appreciate your insight, your expertise. Thank you.

I'll be fair to stay with us. Our coverage continues. Opening statements, of course, still underway being delivered at this hour. You're seeing some

of those updates live on your screen from our reporters in the courtroom. Our coverage continues after this.



HILL: We're back with our continuing live coverage outside the Manhattan criminal courthouse, inside history, of course, taking place. Opening

statements now underway, the prosecution presenting its opening statement, and Donald Trump's hush money trial. This is the first ever criminal trial

of a former U.S. president.

We are getting some really interesting details from this statement from inside the courtroom. You can follow them along as well in real time, as

you see there on the side of your screen, as the prosecution is laying out its case.

Donald Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment in 2016 ahead of the presidential

election. And the prosecution laying that out now.

I want to bring in my colleague, Katelyn Polantz, who's here with me, we are seeing some very specific evidence be referred to by the prosecution.

They say they're going to talk about the recording of a phone call between Michael Cohen and former President Trump.

They are going to talk about also decisions that were made in a separate deal to keep information out of the public eye ahead of the election. That

is not what's on trial here, but they are bringing it in why. Just to set up a pattern of behavior?

POLANTZ: A pattern of behavior and just show that this was all part of the campaign. This wasn't just a one off with Stormy Daniels that she had a

story to tell.

What has been so far articulated by the prosecutors is they are telling the jury, not only are you going to hear about what American media was doing

with David Pecker, he'll be expected to be the first witness.

They also were here a recording Michael Cohen took with his cell phone in September of 2016 with Trump talking about not the Stormy Daniels payment,

but a payment made of $150,000 to a woman named Karen McDougal, a model and actress she had approached the National Enquirer through a lawyer and said

I have a story to tell in 2016 about an alleged affair with Donald Trump.

And at that time, that is when David Pecker, his organization and the editors there said to her, oh, well, we'll find a way to get you money to

get your life rights to this story.

And then, what they did once they acquired the rights to the story is buried. And so, that's the idea of catch and kill that we're going to hear

playing out not just in this, but in a couple other instances.

What David Pecker is very likely to be testifying about Karen McDougal, is not the falsification of records charge here, that is about the separate,

$130,000. How that was marked on checks in financial records of the Trump Organization, to Michael Cohen, those are the charges, but it is a very

similar pattern, and a very similar idea as far as what Trump wanted to do, and why? Politics.

HILL: It's interesting too, they are noting in that call that apparently on that call, the for the former president allegedly was suggesting to make

the payment in cash, people would often make a payment in cash if you don't want a paper trail.

POLANTZ: Yes. And the other thing that is really interesting in listening to what our reporters are saying the prosecutors are presenting to the jury

right now as their opening statements is, this is going to be not a boring business records case.


POLANTZ: This is going to be a case that digs into the campaign that we're likely to hear from these meetings that were occurring in Trump Tower as

Trump was running for president, these discussions with David Pecker.

And then, what other witnesses like Hope Hicks, a top campaign official, we're also witnessing at that time. And that there were -- it wasn't just

people around Trump like Michael Cohen that was doing these things. Trump was involved in these conversations directly.

And apparently, that Michael Cohen has recorded some of those cell phone calls we had with his former boss.


HILL: Which that it's facing. I want to bring in David Weinstein, who's still with us as well. The fact that we're learning about these recordings,

we're also they are talking right now, and we had a decision earlier this morning about this Access Hollywood tape, which, of course, when that came

out ahead of the 2016 election that created a bit of a firestorm, if you will.

The judge this morning, reiterated his initial decision from last week that, that tape cannot be shown in court.

However, the transcript essentially it could be e-mails that reference it could be. The prosecution is bringing this up now and reading those

specific words that Donald Trump said that were so troubling to some people. The fact that they are working that into the opening statement.

What does that tell you about how important they view this as a piece of evidence?

WEINSTEIN: Well, I think that they view it as important, because as you mentioned earlier, this goes all the way back to 2016. And why did they

take so long to bring it forward.


But more than anything else, they want to show how involved the former president is and was in this conspiracy. They are trying to knock out right

from the beginning, the ability of the defense to say, these other people did all of this without his knowledge, he had no idea. This is not the way

he operates. This is not a pattern in practice that he engages in.

And now, the prosecution is saying, oh, yes, it is. We've got recordings from Michael Cohen, where he acknowledges what's going son. We've got this

transcript of the Hollywood Access tape, where he talks about what he can do and how he's above the law. And they are trying to paint a picture of a

defendant who is exactly that -- above the law, and more than anything else involved.

Head and shoulders, hands and feet within this conspiracy, and that's what they need to do to knock out that lack of intent.

HILL: David, thank you. Be sure to stay with us.

I'm Erica Hill, outside the courthouse here in New York. Details coming out about the opening statement from the prosecution in Donald Trump's criminal

hush money trial. We'll be back at the top of the hour with more.