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Erin Burnett Outfront

Longtime Trump Assistant: Stormy Daniels Was At Trump Tower; Tornadoes Tear Through Homes In Nebraska; Chants Of "Death To America" During Iran Prayer Services; Secretary Blinken Speaks To CNN After Meeting With China's Xi. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 26, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, Trump's gatekeeper testifies that she saw Stormy Daniels in Trump tower. Prosecutors also grilling Cohen's banker who helped the former president's fixer wire the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

So did prosecutors make their case? Three witnesses today.

Plus, Trump and his allies targeting a top prosecutor in the New York case, accusing him of being a plant for the White House. So who is he? Why is Trump so obsessed with this one individual?

And Taylor Swift at the center of a wild conspiracy theory. It is spreading like wildfire amongst Trump's supporters. A special report ahead.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Stormy Daniels in Trump tower. Trump's longtime assistant on the stand late today. She said she saw Stormy Daniels in Trump Tower and she testified that she maintained contacts for both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal for Donald Trump.

Trump's longtime gatekeeper, Rhona Graff, was in many ways to Trump's right-hand for 34 years. And this moment on the "Apprentice" accurately captures her central role in organizing Trump's personal and professional life.


RHONA GRAFF, TRUMP ASSISTANT: Hi. This is Rhona in Trump's office. He asked me to call you and tell you to meet him tomorrow morning at the New York Stock Exchange?


BURNETT: I can tell you as a reporter if you needed to reach Trump, you call Graff. I Anytime I was at Trump Tower to see Trump when I was a business reporter or on "The Apprentice", she was there, at her desk and at his office door.

She came and went from his office at her own whim. And that was unique. She was always formal. He was always Mr. Trump to her, but she had stature and she controlled access to him.

In fact, she wants told "Real Estate Weekly", quoting Rhona, everybody knows in order to get through to him, they have to go through me.

And she told prosecutors she not only remembered seeing Stormy Daniels and the reception area of Trump Tower before Trump ran for office. But then it was, quote, unquote, office chatter that Trump wanted Daniels on "The Apprentice", something that Daniels actually talks about in her recent documentary.


STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: He said, you're actually really smart. Somehow, the conversation about "Celebrity Apprentice" came up, and his angle was, I'll get a lot of attention for putting this blonde, adult actress on TV. And I was like, NBC would never let me on television, and that's when he's like every season, I get to pick one person that they can't overrule. It's my wildcard.


BURNETT: Now, you know, Graff was not a friendly witness for the prosecution. She remains loyal to Trump's. She was only on the stand for about a half an hour, but even in that context, and maybe, maybe in that context, what she said today about Stormy Daniels being at Trump Tower and Trump having that contact information for McDougal and Daniels was very important.

Also important was another witness on the stand today, the man who actually arranged Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels. Gary Farro worked at First Republic Bank and he testified that Cohen contacted him just days after that "Access Hollywood" grab them by the p tape was released. Now, remember, at that time, Trump's campaign was in panic mode, and Farro testified that at that time, Cohen sat up -- setup not one but two LLCs and the second was called essential consultants.

It was done on October 26, 13 days before the election, and that's the shell company that Cohen then used to pay Stormy Daniels. And remember, it is that it is that payment and Trump's reimbursement of that payment to Cohen that is at the heart of this criminal case.

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live outside the courthouse tonight.

And, Paula, you know, David Pecker, crucial witness on the stand and continued and continued and continued, but then they were able to very quickly move through more witnesses. So where do we stand right now looking into week two?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. All in our first week of testimony, prosecutors only really got through one significant witness, of course, the former tabloid king David Pecker of you just mentioned.

Then they use their last two hours on a Friday to put on these other two witnesses really quickly, mostly to help them just move some exhibits into evidence.

But Rhona Graff who you were just talking about, she prompted something we have not seen throughout this entire trial. And that is a genuine smile from a very unhappy defendant.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we have another day of court, freezing courthouse. It's very cold in here. Former President Donald Trump's still not warming up to the reality of being on trial in the New York hush money case.


Today in court, David Pecker, the former publisher of the "National Enquirer", was back on the witness stand tying Pecker's non- prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors to an agreement he made to sell the "National Enquirer", a deal contingent on the investigation into his company being resolved. From a timing standpoint, it would have added onto the stress of the transaction, Pecker testified.

They also tried to show how Pecker had other reasons beyond just helping Trump win the White House for running negative stories about Trump's opponents. Pecker testified that his magazine ran stories about Bill and Hillary Clinton prior to the 2015 Trump Tower meeting, where an agreement to help Trump was allegedly breached.

Running those stories was beneficial to AMI, Pecker testified.

After his testimony wrapped up, prosecutors used the last few hours of the day to call two additional witnesses. The first was Trump's longtime assistant.

TRUMP: Rhona, let me have the calls, please.

REID: Rhona Graff was a fixture in Trump's office for decades. She testified how before Trump became president, she was his gatekeeper, keeping close track of his contacts, emails, phone calls, and meetings.

She told the jury it was a very stimulating, exciting, fascinating place to be.


REID (on camera): There is no court on Monday, so on Tuesday, they'll likely wrap up with Michael Cohen's banker, and then it's not clear who the next big witness will be. They have not said so publicly. We're also waiting, Erin, for the judge to issue his opinion about Trump's alleged repeated violations of his gag order, with hearing during earlier this week about approximately ten violations, prosecutors added more later in the week, another hearing scheduled for next week.

At this point, it's just unclear what exactly the judge's strategy is by holding out on a decision there.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Paula.

And all of our experts here with me.

Jeremy Saland, let me start with you, criminal defense attorney, a former Manhattan prosecutors. So as I said, you've been in these rooms.

So Rhona Graff confirms two contacts she maintained for Donald Trump were Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, and that Stormy had been to the office and there was discussion about her being in "The Apprentice", which Stormy herself has just said in that documentary clip, I played.

Did she give the prosecution what they needed from her?

JEREMY SALAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She certainly did. And she did it unwillingly under subpoena.

I wouldn't measure her in terms of quantity. I'd measure her in terms of quality, meaning it was short, but it had value. That value corroborates David Pecker while there's no -- there's no agreement, for example, no emails, for example, understanding how there's a separation.

But yet there's obvious communication put Stormy Daniels there. It absolutely establishes that foundation that is necessary to move it forward. So, very basically, if David Pecker is kind I'll use a term, the bread of this, of that sandwich. You know, you're going to get Michael's, pardon me, Michael Cohen, he's going to be the bulk in that middle, but its all that other pieces and puts it together to make it one story that works and cells and is accurate. The all corroborate each other exactly.

BURNETT: Exactly, and as I said, it doesn't -- whether Trump did or did not have a liaison with Stormy Daniels may not be relevant to the case, but it is relevant perhaps now the jury proceeds whether he was wronged and paying. I mean, it's important and this goes towards that.

Manara also criminal defense attorney, former New York prosecutor, did Rhona deliver what you think that she needed, even considering she was not -- she did not want to be there. She was not friendly?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was clear to me that she wasn't co-operative, that she did not want to be there because, you know, this woman having worked for Donald Trump, for 34 years, she knows the goods. She knows the good and the bad of Donald Trump. So she wasn't really wanting to cooperate with the prosecution, but I

think as Jeremy said, the primary goal of getting from her was one, no emails. And number two, the Stormy Daniels had been in that building because now Donald Trump cannot deny that he does not know Stormy Daniel, because you have a confidant, someone that is close to you, someone that you trust, and someone who's reliable and credible before this jury because she doesn't have an ax to grind, saying that she saw Stormy Daniels inside of that building on the 26th floor where you reside.

BURNETT: Right, exactly. And maintaining in those contexts. I mean, you know, those are -- those are those are black and white facts.

Now, Jeremy, when you're in the room today, the defense was not given a witness list in advance. All right. So they don't know who's coming when and I'm sure he's sitting there dreading the day of Karen McDougal, and it can't, you know, cheering for when Michael Cohen walks out there. But nonetheless, what was his reaction when Rhona Graff comes out and takes the stand?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah. This was our fourth day of David Pecker's testimony and from the start, Trump seemed not interested. He was zoned out, I think for most of it was a lot of rehashed and when they called Rhona, he perked up. He stood up, he sat up in his chair. He turned toward her, who's actually watching her testimony, unlike what David Pecker.

And when his lawyer, Susan Necheles, started question him, he really started paying attention because she started with questions, what did you think of him as a boss?


And she's a good thing to say about him. She worked with him for 34 years and his lawyer she asked, did he did he respect your intelligence and when she said I don't think I would've been there for 34 years if she hadn't.

That was the onetime today were Trump actually crack a smile in court and seem to be enjoying Rhona's testimony. So it was a brief moment, but it was I think actually a positive witness for him, at least for that purpose.

BURNETT: He saw it that way.

Was there any reaction some of these moments that were talking about when its Stormy, Daniels was in Trump Tower, any reaction from him?

HERB: There really -- you know, there wasn't. And I think it will be interesting to see as trial goes on and we get to the Karen McDougals on the Stormy Daniels, if that continues to be the case. But so far in this first week of testimony, he has not reacted when they brought this salacious stuff up.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Stu, meanwhile, David Pecker, four days as part of four days finishes his testimony, and obviously, you've known him for decades. So the last question asked of David Pecker for today was, does he believe Trump -- does David Pecker believes that Donald Trump cares about his family, right? There have been a lot of questions about why Trump would do these things, was to protect his family or as Pecker said, was it for the campaign?

The last question, does Trump care about his family? Pecker replies, quote, of course, I do think that cares about his family, that surprised you?

STU ZAKIM, WORKED WITH DAVID PECKER: Very much so because Trump thinks about Trump, and his family clearly throughout all this is almost been window dressing, just so it makes him look like he's a family guy, but his focus is always been what's best for me. That's why he picks the people he works with. And that's why he's been doing what he's doing with the power play.

So the family, for a politician, obviously, it's a necessary optic to have, but his feeling towards them. No, they're just tools for him to advance his own cause.

BURNETT: So, that moment surprised you.

I mean, Bernarda, at the end of the testimony of David Pecker and I guess its in a sense, it's hard to put it together and its probably hard for the jury, too, right, because it happened over four days and there was a day off in between -- you know, this was a complicated sometimes if he just sat there from start to finish, and then we all learned that you don't just do direct and then cross, you then do redirect and re-cross and I'm thinking, oh, my god, this thing isn't six weeks is going to be 16, but that's another thing.

Who did David Pecker helped more?

VILLALONA: David Pecker definitely helped the prosecution out, because they laid out -- David Pecker laid out the foundation. He gave us the background information, and he also changed the narrative. This is not just hush money case. We're talking about the purpose of this money, of killing these stories. What's that help this campaign.

And you're hearing it from someone that I think was relatable to this jury. I think the jury's going to find him credible, find him believable. So, even he was engaging in these catch and kill schemes and when we go into a supermarket used to see the "National Enquirer" be like, oh, my God. And now we know how that gets to be the front page of the paper. You got the information that this is exactly how it worked out when it came to Donald Trump and when it came to Michael Cohen.

And this is something that I think the jury in plain terms, are able to digest. In the end, they don't know how to apply this information. But shortly after closing arguments and though extra read back to get more of his testimony, read back, there'll be able to put it all together.

BURNETT: So, Jeremy, when you were -- what else stood out to you and you're talking about the difference that you noticed in Trump's demeanor when Rhona Graff was testifying as opposed to David Pecker, was there anything else you notice when move up the jury and their reactions that?

HERB: You know, and I think the last witness we had, Rhona -- Rhona had some interesting testimony. She talked about Trump. She talked about Stormy Daniels, and then we went to a banker and I think then the atmosphere in the room, it dropped another level.

BURNETT: This was Friday at 5:00.


HERB: It was 3:00 but close enough exactly, exactly.

And so that's where this trial is headed, at least it seems for the next couple of days, the banker he talked about, very mundane regulations and eventually, we got to how he -- how he had opened Michael Cohen's bank account, but they were laying the foundation. This is its heart and so documents case. It's got a lot of salacious deals around it, but the prosecution is going to have to take those steps.

And so with the jury and with Trump, we're going to see a lot of downtime in the mix with Michael Cohen and Stormy.

BURNETT: Right, you got to mix in a little of this salacious, you know, sex, part of the story, right? Jeremy, and then put in what its about. So do that that point, guy Farro, the banker, Michael Cohen calls this guy days before the election sets up this two LLCs. And uses one of them to pay Stormy Daniels in the context of the date, of course, is right after that "Access Hollywood" tape, which is anyone forget and remember that was when Chris Christie refuse to go on a Sunday shadow and defend Donald Trump, right? This was a campaign and complete free fall at that moment. And this is establishing what the campaign did.

SALAND: And we've said this 1,000 times and I know you would agree with me. You don't leave common sense at the courthouse footsteps, you go in, the jury takes that with them, and you're following. Not the quantity you're following, the quality of that evidence. Now you have Rhona Graff who's giving you the presence, corroborating how things were done in terms of no emails and setting that foundation.


Now you have the banker says, here are the fake account, lot of fake accounts, but here the shell companies to move the money to make the payment. It's piece by piece by piece. You can't do this just on the shoulders of Michael Cohen and thighs on the shoulders of Michael Cohen, right? To everything else around him to lift him up. Otherwise, there is no case.

BURNETT: Right, right. You can't -- you can't have it -- I know he has long felt that they were going to do that and that he would be he would say it but then they would prove it separately from Michael Cohen. SALAND: Move Michael Cohen to the side. He's critical, but everything

around him.

BURNETT: And, Stu, one thing that is David Pecker is our walked off the stand, men had been friends. Again, we put that in quotes, but friends such that they were friends over decades, they have not spoken since the beginning of 2019, according to Peckers testimony.

So do you think they'll ever speak again? I mean, Trump has said nice things about him this way.

ZAKIM: Well, if you look at how once Pecker told his tail that he was required to he also had to make friends with Trump again more like from "The Godfather", it's personal, not business, and this is kind of that relationship anyways, those are pretty apt description.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you all very much.

And next to Trump complaining that New York's criminal trial is keeping him from his wife's birthday tonight.


TRUMP: It'd be nice with her, but I'm in a courthouse for a rigged trial.


BURNETT: Melania Trump's former chief of staff responds, next.

Plus, I'll speak to the sketch artist who sketched this scene from today's trial. Why she says this moment, and if you look closely at Trump's phase, you'll see the intensity there. Why it caught her attention.

And an incredible report tonight on the wild conspiracy theories that are flourishing among Trump's supporters tonight.


REPORTER: You don't believe Taylor Swift is going say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what to believe about Taylor Swift.




BURNETT: Breaking news, Donald Trump attacking the case against him and hyping a new 300-page from one of his top allies, Jim Jordan. The GOP claims Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg only charged Trump in the hush money trial due to, quote, political motivations and animus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have a report that is just put out by House Judiciary on the district attorney's office, which was done by Congress. And so, I guess it just came out a while ago, from moments ago. I obviously yet haven't read it, but it should be interesting.


BURNETT: Interesting he's carrying it around, as I said, 300-page document, you saw him with that giant binder clip. He had it.

It comes as Trump's team is also attacking a key member of Bragg's team, the D.A., with past ties to the Biden administration, and Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT with this special report.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before former President Donald Trump's criminal trial got underway, before jury was seated and before the judge's gag order prevented him from making statements about attorneys, court officials, their relatives, and potential witnesses, Trump had already set his sights on this man, Matthew Colangelo, senior counsel to the Manhattan district attorney, and part of the prosecution team trying Trump's criminal case.

TRUMP: This is all from the DOJ. This all comes out of Washington. They're coordinated with the district attorney and the A.G.

CARROLL: Trump's pre-gag order tirades against Colangelo center on baseless claims. Trump's criminal trial is secretly controlled by President Joe Biden, the White House, and the Justice Department.

TRUMP: His top person, Colangelo and some others have been placed into the D.A.'s office to make sure they do a good job of election interference.

CARROLL: Trump, pointing to Colangelo's past, showing he once served as a senior Justice Department official under Biden before leaving to join the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is prosecuting his case.

Trump surrogates have been pushing this same conspiracy theory about Colangelo, with Senator Tom Cotton saying on social media, Joe Biden's former number three official at the Department of Justice, left D.C. to help go after President Trump in New York.

And Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene promoting the same conspiracy.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Matthew Colangelo should know, he faces years in prison. This was planned from the Biden White House and Merrick Garland's DOJ at the highest levels.

CARROLL: During opening statements Monday, Colangelo referred to Trump as someone who engaged in a criminal conspiracy and cover up.

He previously had this to say about his current position: Assisting with the district attorney's focus on financial crimes will promote confidence in the legal system by making clear that the same rules apply to everyone, no matter how powerful.

Those who know him describe an attorney who was sharp, strategic, and not easily distracted by critic.

AMY SPITALNICK, FORMER COLANGELO COLLEAGUE: He is meticulously focused on the facts, on the law, and how the law was broken, and this is not his first rodeo with Trump.

CARROLL: Colangelo is Harvard-educated and in addition to previously working in U.S. Justice Department, he also served as an attorney with the New York attorney general's office where he oversaw the investigation into the Trump Foundation, which led to its dissolution.

Despite his credentials and no validity to Trump's claims, the falsehood about Colangelo could still stick.

JESSELYN COOK, AUTHOR, "THE QUIET DAMAGE": Yeah. It's dangerous because it works fox be damned. It's clear that for much of Trump's base, what he says will always be accepted as truth, will always stick.


It doesn't matter, for instance, that the Manhattan D.A. doesn't report to Biden or to the federal government. And the result is diminishing public faith in democracy and specifically the justice system.


CARROLL (on camera): Now, in the past, Trump has promoted a number of various conspiracy theories on various topics, including the coronavirus. At one point you may remember, he tried to make it out that Obama wasn't born -- President Obama wasn't born in the United States.

BURNETT: Oh, yeah.

CARROLL: The whole birth certificate thing. He had a thing on climate change claiming that global warming was a hoax.

But when you speak to these experts, I mean, they all basically say the same thing, which is that despite the truth, despite the facts because Trump is the one saying it, his core his base, they continue to believe him.

BURNETT: Yeah. This is really incredible when you see that.

All right. Jason, thank you very much.

All right. Well, let's bring in Stephanie Grisham now. She was White House press secretary for former President Trump, and also the former chief of staff for then first lady, Melania Trump. And, Stephanie, you told me that Melania is watching this trial very closely. Obviously, today, we heard from Rhona Graff, Trump's longtime assistant, who had testified that she had contact information for both Stormy McDaniels and Karen McDougal that she maintained for Trump, and that Stormy Daniels had been in Trump Tower and we heard David Pecker say that Trump had asked him twice about McDougal calling her, quote, unquote, our girl, referring to her as how is Karen?

So how does all of this make Melania Trump feel? I mean, some of this -- most of this is new information for her.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure that, you know, exactly what you just said, the fact that he asked about her in the White House, the fact that some White House staff got on the phone with David Pecker to talk about keeping this secret even further, those were new details to me.

And so, I know they were new deals to her, and I'm sure she's not happy about it. Now, make no mistake, she's not sitting home crying over this, but like any woman would be, any married woman, a woman in a relationship, it's not fun to hear these details. And I think that the difference between Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels is that Karen McDougal hasn't been really out there in the news. She says they had a year long relationship that they exchanged I love yous, and I don't care who you are. That's never going to be fun to hear.

BURNETT: No, no, it's humiliating for sure. Obviously, we don't know how closely she is following this, but Trump did complain on his way into court today, Stephanie, about having to be there instead of being with Melania Trump for her birthday. Here's what he said this morning.


TRUMP: I want to start by wishing my wife Melania a very happy birthday. It'd be nice to be with her, but I'm the courthouse for a rigged trial.

She's in Florida. I'll be going there this evening as this case finishes out, this horrible, unconstitutional case.


BURNETT: Now, he also posted a two-minute video on social media for her birthday, highlighting her time as first lady. And that is what really stood out to you today, Stephanie. How come?

GRISHAM: You know, I rolled my eyes when he did that. It was it was so beyond inappropriate, but yet so Donald Trump that on the way into a trial where they are talking about alleged affairs, not one but two, that he had that is wishing his wife a happy birthday.

She and I talked before -- you know, before about how they actually weren't really birthday people, that that wasn't a big deal to either of them, which I think is pretty normal for a lot of married couples that have been together for a long time. And so that was a performance for voters. That was not -- that was not to her, same with this video. That is a performance to try and get voters, to try to get those

suburban women and those independent because he knows that she's a very, very popular first lady and that she, you know, that people really like her. This was just a performance for them. It had nothing to do with her.

It didn't surprise me at all. I'm sure she rolled her eyes too because it was just so typical selfish Donald Trump.

BURNETT: All right. Stephanie, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Good to see you.

GRISHAM: You, too.

BURNETT: And next, I'm going to speak to the sketch artist who caught this moment Trump coming face-to-face with his trusted longtime assistant. So what was Trump's reaction to her testifying?

Plus, breaking news. We've got terrifying video just coming in of a massive and destructive series of tornadoes ripping through the Upper Midwest, neighborhoods leveled reports of injuries. Now, just starting to come in. We have the latest breaking details coming up.



BURNETT: Tonight, at different side of Donald Trump on display in corp. Trump at one point, growing very animated. He urgently addressed his attorney, who was preparing at this moment that you see on your bringing to cross-examine the former national enquirer publisher, David Pecker.

Now this key moment was captured in this courtroom sketch by Christine Cornell, who's been in court every day of Donald Trump's trial, and she is back with me now.

So I just showed it on the screen, but you've got the actual sketch here, oil pastels as you are there that gets you -- going to hold -- are there just pastels?


BURNETT: Okay. Well, I'm sorry.

Okay. So tell me though and well hold it up here so the camera can look at it because its even bigger than this one.

CORNELL: This one?

BURNETT: This one, yeah.


BURNETT: Okay. So tell me why this moment really caught your attention. Donald Trump in his lawyer and David Pecker is here on the stand.

CORNELL: Okay. We've been knocking ourselves out, trying to get something from the Donald and it's really tough because its like watching the moon on the wane and you just see that little toenail sliver most of the time that's all you can see if him.

Today, in the middle of his cross-examination, Mr. Bove's cross- examination of Pecker, Donald, right after the minimal morning break, practically lunged at him because he wanted to get his attention.


He wanted his lawyer to come and sit down, so to speak with him.

BURNETT: Wow, it's physically lunging.

CORNELL: He physically lunged. He reached for him and then Bove sat next to him, and then he was very animated, a very directed and very much who felt, oh, that's what they're talking thinking about when they say this guy kind of rules the room when he's there. You felt that energy from him.

I mean, honestly, he's been practically comatose for the last week and a half.

BURNETT: Right. Everything you've described so many times when he's there, you know, looked at his eyes close the listening, but yeah, yeah.

CORNELL: Like this. Well, he's coming to life now and its because this man is one of his oldest friends and they're really made a lot of mischief together. So --

BURNETT: Well, that's amazing. So you finally got this and this is today under cross-examination, all right? So how would you how would you characterize his demeanor? I mean, I can see the intensity here, could you tell the emotion as to whether it was frustration or anger or was it hard to discern?

CORNELL: You know, it was walking in line a little bit because Pecker was in the room to not the judge or the jury, but Pecker was looking at him, wanting to make eye contact with him and Donald looked at him and Pecker had look like, you know, gee, old friend, were still friends, right? I mean, that's what the mood I got from Pecker.

And with Donald, I got like, he blew his cheeks out, like, ah.

BURNETT: And at this moment, there's no jury, there's no judge. You're saying at this moment, no judge.

CORNELL: There's no judge, no jury.

BURNETT: Wow. So it really was but as a personal as a moment could get.

CORNELL: It was very personal moment. And then after that, it was followed by his personal secretary who had

been with him for 30 years and he smiled a little at her and seeing those human contacts is really starting to make a real picture for us.

BURNETT: So, so, Rhona Graff was there right at one point, she tells the court above him and she said some very damning things. She didn't -- she wasn't there to do that. She was not a friendly witness to the prosecution, but you she did say Stormy Daniels had been to Trump tower. She said those things, but then they asked her about her relationship with Trump.

And at one point, Christine, I'm quoting from the transcript from our reporters said, I think that he was fair and what's the word I'm looking for? Respectful boss to me, sometimes you have peak is headed and say go home to your family.

CORNELL: I loved that.

BURNETT: Which I thought was very thoughtful him.

You know, it's funny when she says that I remember and I had interacted with her many times over the years, her saying that to me once. He cares about my family, tells me to go home to your family. I actually had heard her say, I just remembered that now, reading this.

But how did he react to her testimony?

CORNELL: Well, I mean, basically what she testified to was that there were these she made these information contact cards for him. So, yes, definitely had a relationship with both of these women, one of them, especially, Carol?

BURNETT: Karen McDougal, yeah.

CORNELL: Karen? Yeah.

They had two different addresses for her. So he obviously been following her for some time. With Stormy, it was just a single number.

BURNETT: Just a single number?


BURNETT: And did he seem warm looking at Rhona, that there was some sort of a care?

CORNELL: Absolutely, absolutely. I don't think he felt like she was betraying him. I think that he's not denying that he had any contact with these people at all, you know? I don't think that's the issue. I think its much more complicated legal stuff.

BURNETT: Right. Well, Christine, thank you very much. And thank you for sharing this moment. It's worth emphasizing is I didn't -- I didn't notice it until you mentioned the omission that the judge was not there. This wasn't a sort of do this and this I think with the judge that it was such a personal -- CORNELL: No. In fact, when I came in and I saw that and I was

watching, I was afraid I was going to miss it if I tried to start to draw. So I just picked them binoculars and just watched, so I would have it.

BURNETT: In your mind?

CORNELL: Yeah. I thought about whether or not I should have done the drawing of him lunging and then I thought, well, that's kind of like gilding the lily. not exactly story, you know?

BURNETT: Well, it is all amazing. It's also amazing to think about how you look. Sometimes when we hear things, we then remember them after, but that you really want to capture in that instant.

All right. Christine, thank you very much and good to see you as always.


BURNETT: And next, how Taylor Swift has found herself at the center of wild conspiracy theories right now spreading along Trump supporters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting endorsement from Taylor Swift by Biden administration and then who's going to win the Super Bowl?


BURNETT: And a special report tonight inside Iran where chance of death to America are now drowning out Friday prayers.



BURNETT: Tonight, the chilling effect of misinformation. Among the lies, Taylor Swift is a, quote, front for a covert political agenda.

Donie O'Sullivan spent months with Trump supporters to uncover the conspiracies that they believe and how quickly they are spreading even now.

Here is what he found.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT : By now, everyone knows Taylor Swift is a government psy-op. You don't believe Taylor Swift as a government psy-op.

JOE BLACK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't know what to believe about Taylor Swift.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): This is Joe Black.

BLACK: Are you guys going to cover it like accurately or --

O'SULLIVAN: I met Joe at a Trump rally in Las Vegas back in January.

But CNN, you don't think is accurate.

BLACK: Not really. I think you guys do sound bites.

O'SULLIVAN: You think Trump one last time, I take it.


BLACK: I do firmly believe that there were some election interference.

O'SULLIVAN: Enough that it lost them the election?

BLACK: Absolutely, and all people have to do is a little research to figure it out.


O'SULLIVAN: Hey, Joe, how are you doing?

I stayed in touch with Joe after Vegas.

I wanted to find out more about why Joe doesn't trust someone like me, a journalist from the so-called mainstream media.

So we went to visit get him in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Here we are --

BLACK: In Grand Junction.

O'SULLIVAN: What up into what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

BLACK: Yeah. Why didn't you stay there?

O'SULLIVAN: Some guys come home from Vegas for the new bride? You come back from Vegas, but a bunch of CNN guys.

BLACK: Everybody makes mistakes.

O'SULLIVAN: So if you want to find out what's going on in the world just right now today, what do you do?

BLACK: I check out different platforms that I feel that I can trust.

O'SULLIVAN: One being Telegram.

BLACK: Telegram is definitely one.


Telegram is a platform first developed in Russia that has very few rules.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. We got some were breaking news coming into "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.

REPORTER: The president's Twitter account has been suspended.

BLACK: I feel like that's an insult to people to not be able to look at information to discern it themselves. They're basically calling that person is stupid.

O'SULLIVAN: Telegram surged in popularity after the January 6 attack, when major social media platforms crack down on conspiracy theories and banned people like Trump and banned some of his supporters like Joe.

BLACK: I turned on my phone one day and all of a sudden has been deactivated.

O'SULLIVAN: How does that feel?

BLACK: It was horrible. I liked Facebook. You know, I go to social marketplace. We can do business, you can find things. So its like being cut off of a part of life.

O'SULLIVAN: So what's a channel you follow on Telegram? If you want to see similar news for today?

BLACK: My favorite one that's called Patriot Memes.

O'SULLIVAN: I visited Joe a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl. It was just as the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift was helping rig the game to help Biden started circulating online, because one of the first things that popped up on Joe's feed.

BLACK: Let's go to something that's like news though.

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. So, this is from Benny --

BLACK: This is from Benny Johnson.

O'SULLIVAN: By now, everyone knows Taylor Swift is a government psyop and this is exactly why corporate media is having a meltdown about it.

You don't believe Taylor Swift is a government psyop?

BLACK: I don't know what to believe about Taylor Swift. It's good to keep your mind open. Could she be? Could she not be?

O'SULLIVAN: Because we're a few weeks from the Super Bowl.

BLACK: And they're seeing the endorsement from Taylor Swift by Biden administration and then who's going to win the Super Bowl.

O'SULLIVAN: I call that a conspiracy theory, okay? BLACK: Sure. Yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: What I find most difficult to believe, but the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce Super Bowl conspiracy theory is that you think the Democrats could be so organized to pull al of this off.

BLACK: Very organized.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think?

BLACK: I do, yes.

O'SULLIVAN: We're going to get together as well as reading the Super Bowl. And Taylor is going to back Biden for president.

That's just so much stuff, like that is so much organization.

BLACK: But not that hard to do.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't think?

BLACK: Yeah. Rigging the election, it'd be a lot more complicated.


BURNETT: And, Donie, I mean, its fascinating and so important that you had that conversation, spent that time getting to know a person.

But some of these conspiracies and these lies that you were really tracking down how they're taking root in peoples lives our corroding trust.

How bad is it?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think he just heard it there in the very last thing that you heard, Joe Black say, right, is that you have this absurd conspiracy theory about Taylor Swift, but millions of Americans have been convinced that the 2020 election was stolen.

And if you think about just how vast actual conspiracy that would -- that would need to occur for that to happen its huge, right? And so if people can believe as tens of millions people do, that the last election was stolen. It's just opened up a world to this alternate reality where Taylor Swift can rig the Super Bowl for Joe Biden.

BURNETT: Yeah, it is. It goes to show you what people can believe and people do believe, right now.

All right. Donie, thank you very much.

And obviously that piece was fantastic and fascinating, but you're going to get to see a lot more of it. Donie has a special episode of "THE WHOLE STORY", "Misinformation: The Trump Faithful", and you will get to see all of it in full on Sunday night here on CNN at 8:00 p.m.

Next though, breaking news potentially catastrophic tornadoes right now, leaving a tale of destruction across the Midwest, entire neighborhoods ripped to shreds, trains derailed, and there are reports already coming in an injury is very early here.


We've got the very latest though. We're going to share with you what we do know coming in.

And a rare look tonight inside Iran where outrage to the United States is reaching a fever pitch.


BURNETT: Breaking news, this video is just coming in. This is the massive and destructive tornadoes that have just torn through the upper planes. This is Nebraska and when you see these images, you can see just how wide look at the width of that tornado who's absolutely gigantic. It's almost like you can't even tell that's what it is, but it is a tornado there.

You can see that the far right edge. The destruction stretching first far as the eye can see. Entire neighborhoods are gone. We are now just starting to get ports of injuries. We can't tell you much more about the severity, but numbers because it is just starting to come in.


This video also shows the strength of the storm which derailed an entire train that you're looking at there. Rescue crews say they are going now door to door looking for people who may be trapped to understand the depth of the damage in Nebraska tonight.

Meantime, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is speaking out tonight to Iran, telling Iran to not be too confident.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What the Iranians learned, I'm not really sure, but what they should learn is that, first of all, their systems don't work as advertised.


BURNETT: It comes after Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel. And tonight, our Fred Pleitgen is inside Iran with this rare and important look for you.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Iran's hardliners flexing their muscles, screaming "death to America" and "death to Israel" at Tehran's main Friday prayers.

The staunchly conservative prayer leader saying the Islamic republic will not back down. Iran has warned it will take an even harder line towards the U.S. and towards Israel in the future, saying that if Israel attacks Iran or its assets one more time, the Iranians will strike back from their own territory.

Tensions in the Middle East remain at a boiling point after Iran launched a massive drone and missile attack against Israel in retaliation for the bombing of its embassy compound in Syria, killing several top Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Israel, the U.S., and other allies managed to take down most of the Iranian drones and missiles. But Israel then hitting back with a limited strike against an airfield in central Iran. The hardliners flying massive Palestinian flags, ripping into Israel's operation in Gaza and the U.S.'s support for Israel. The message here, Iran is ready for a confrontation.

That, in fact, we are even happy about this, this man says. We are praying day and night for a second and third attack.

And he says, we've had these threats for a long time, but the difference is now the people are strong. The IRGC is strong and the army is strong. And we have strong tools.

And this cleric says, if the Islamic Republic of Iran will have more conflicts in the future, it doesn't mean we are warmongering. We're just reacting to the bullies.

But on the streets of Tehran, concern that current tensions could escalate and even turn into war.

I believe the situation will get worse, this man says, as both sides are more combative, In my opinion, it will lead to war and the calamity for people.

This woman says, we are definitely concern, worried but what can we ordinary people do about it.

Iran's leadership says its military is ready for combat even as they say war is not in their interest.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


BURNETT: And also tonight, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing, meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Our Kylie Atwood is there with him and he spoke to her exclusively about the United States diplomatic efforts in Israel-Hamas war.

And Kylie joins us live now from China.

Kylie, tell us more about your conversation.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Erin, we had a wide ranging conversation. We spoke in part about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and U.S. officials have said that they believe the way out of this war would be a historic deal that includes normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and a clear pathway forward towards a two-state solution between Israelis and the Palestinians.

But they've also said a ceasefire needs to be in place in order for that deal to actually come to fruition. But I asked him if it would be possible to rule out the framework for that deal before there's any ceasefire in place in a way to push ahead towards a halt in fighting. And he appeared to leave the door open to that.

Listen to what he said.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been clear about what the vision is and beyond that, we've been working intensely to flesh it out, working with our partners, working with European partners on this as well. And I think the more concrete it becomes and the more it moves from the hypothetical and theoretical to something that's actually possible, that's real then everyone involved is actually going to have to make decisions and make choices. And so we're doing this work and were trying to make it as real as possible so that people do decide.

ATWOOD: To share it before ceasefires in place.

BLINKEN: I think certainly that's possible. We've again, been actively engaged on this. And what -- ceasefire or not, we will continue to make these possibilities known. But in order to actually realize this, there's going to have to be an end to the conflict in Gaza. And as I said, there's also going to have to be a resolution to the Palestinian question, or at least an agreement on how to resolve it.


ATWOOD: Now it appears that is a shift in thinking in the potential order of events to get out of this conflict. But of course, the framework for this potential deal isn't even done yet, and it will be a major battle to get all parties to agree to this deal, not the least of which would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- Erin.

BURNETT: Of course, he's been staunchly opposed.

All right. Thank you very much, Kylie Atwood in Beijing tonight.

And thanks so much to all of you for being with us.

Anderson starts now.