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Both Sides Rest In Trump Hush Money Trial; Giuliani Being Arraigned In AZ Election Case After Evading Authorities; Fulton County DA Fani Willis On The Ballot Today In Georgia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 21, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: 22 witnesses and reams of evidence. The jury in Donald Trump's first criminal trial will head into deliberations next week with an enormous amount of information. Luckily, CNN's Elie Honig is at the wall to synthesize what we have seen and what you think, Elie, we're going to hear from both sides as they give their closing arguments.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Dana, we have all collectively been in this trial for over a month, and now the evidence is closed. So let's take a couple minutes and go back through the key points that both sides, I think, are going to be stressing on closing.

First of all, starting with the prosecution. It's important to understand, in order to understand this crime, how the actual payments happened to Stormy Daniels. First, Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 of essentially his own money. He paid her about a week and change before the 2016 election.

After the election, Michael Cohen was reimbursed a total of $420,000 from Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. And those payments were styled as legal fees, retainers. Now, Michael Cohen is the key witness for the prosecution here. He testified in a way that directly links Donald Trump to the payments.

For example, at one point, Michael Cohen testified that he, meaning Trump, expressed to me, just do it. Go meet up with Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, and figure this whole thing out. Now, the prosecution, though, is going to say to the jury, you don't have to believe Michael Cohen in isolation because they will point to documents that support Michael Cohen's testimony, including several pages of handwritten notes that lay out how they were going to structure that $420,000 payment.

Not sure you can see it here, but these are handwritten notes from inside the accounting apparatus at the Trump org, where they arrived at the $420,000 figure. Also, prosecutors are going to say, look at the actual financial documents. Look at the checks. Some of them signed by Donald Trump himself with that distinctive handwriting, the invoices, which say retainer, meaning legal fees. And so that is the heart of the criminal case put on by the prosecutors are going to say Michael Cohen plus the documents should lead you to a conviction. Now, here's what the defense I think is going to argue. First of all, they're going to say they poked holes in key parts of Michael Cohen's testimony.

For example, Michael Cohen testified about this one phone call on October 24th when he said he called to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it. Now you may remember this from earlier this week or last week. There was a key moment where the prosecution suggested that actually that call, if you look at the text, was about something else.

Michael Cohen was getting these harassing texts from a 14-year-old kid. And the texts that lead up to that call are all about the harassing 14-year-old kid. Cohen text Keith Schiller, "Who can I speak to?" Schiller says, "Call me." Then the call happens.


So the defense is going to argue that that call did not happen. Certainly did not happen as Cohen described. And then the other big point that offense is going to make is Michael Cohen admitted straight up, he stole from the Trump org. He stole from part of this $420,000 payment. Therefore, they'll argue Donald Trump really did not know what was going on. How could he know if Michael Cohen was able to steal money from him during it?

So then there's a couple minute preview of what I think we're going to hear when the parties come back for closings next week. I'll throw it back to you. And legendary New York defense lawyer, Ron Kuby, I think is standing by.

BASH: You're really good at that, Elie. You should do that for a living.

Now I do want to thank you for the preview. I do want to bring in Ron Kuby, who is a legendary criminal defense attorney. Thank you so much for being here. First, let's start on the defense and how the defense finished this morning.

What do you think about the decision to call Robert Costello and call him last?

RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It obviously was a bad decision. Robert Costello did not add anything to the defense and came off as hostile, nasty, combative, and untruthful. Within that though, I think his actual testimony is less important than we might make it out to be just, you know, it's the most recent thing that's happened. So I think we give it a false sense of importance.

I think the fundamental problem with Robert Costello as a witness is a problem that infects the entire case here, which is for four and a half weeks, we have heard from grifters and liars and crooks and thieves and just slimy people doing cruddy things, and they are all Donald Trump's people. From, you know, Costello down to Cohen down to Pecker and, you know, you come away with the sense of this is just not how honest people do business. So if the juror says, after this in the course of deliberations, gosh, who would believe that Donald Trump would be associated with this? The answer is, all of these are Donald Trump's people.

Prosecution didn't pick any of them. Donald Trump picked every single one.

BASH: Will that matter? It's not supposed to matter if the jury deliberates and decides based on the specific instructions, which will no doubt be about the 34 counts and whether or not on each count, Donald Trump based on what the jury heard is guilty or not guilty. How do you think that the defense did with pushing back against overall against the prosecution's case -- cases?

RUBY: I don't think they did a terribly good job. What they have basically tried is a reasonable doubt case. And what I expect the defense to lay out are all the points that the defense believes that they scored and referring to each of those as reasonable doubts.

Here's one, here's another. It's almost like those little cartoons when we were young, you would circle the rabbits on a cartoon page. That I think is what the defense strategy is going to be. Unfortunately, as one judge notably said, a criminal trial is not a search for reasonable doubt. It's a search for the truth.

So I don't think the defense did well. I think the prosecution's case went in remarkably smoothly with only a couple of hiccups. And, you know, we'll see obviously what the jury does, what affects us is -- may well not be what affects individual jurors and the jury as a whole.

BASH: And of course, you know far better than I that all you need is one juror to separate him or herself from the rest of the pack. And there could be a hung jury, which of course is not an acquittal. If that happens, what would happen next?

KUBY: Well, Donald Trump's team has said that a hung jury would be a victory. And that's a nice thing to say. But what might very well happen next, especially since Trump's other criminal cases are on pause and Todd Blanche isn't required in any of them, is the judge could schedule a retrial for July (ph). Or he could schedule a retrial for August a while ago in front of Judge Cannon.

I believe it was Todd Blanche said he's available August 12th. So that would not be a good thing for Donald Trump or the defense. It's another example of be careful what it is you wish for. It's one thing to hope for a mistrial, it's another to actually want a mistrial.

BASH: Yes, such a good point. All of them.


Thank you so much, Ron. Nice to see you. Appreciate it. KUBY: Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

BASH: And up next, talk about a birthday surprise. How Arizona officials solve the mystery of where in the world is Rudy Giuliani, and they've got him in an Arizona court today. We will explain after a break.


BASH: It's not even 1:00 Eastern, and it has already been a major day of legal developments in Trump world this morning, of course, as we've been talking about testimony wrapped up in the former president's first criminal trial. And any moment now, two former Trump attorneys and several alleged fake electors will be arraigned in Phoenix on state charges, criminal charges for their effort to overturn the 2020 election results in Arizona.


That includes Rudy Giuliani, who was officially served at his 80th birthday party last Friday after weeks of an odd game of cat and mouse. There he was at his birthday party posting online, Elie Honig, where he was. So, he gave a bit of a road map to people trying to serve him, that's where he was.

HONIG: Not the most impressive work by law enforcement authorities in Arizona, by the way. It's not that hard to track him down, but now they have served him and he has to appear in court to fight this case. This is Rudy's, I believe I'm counting right, second pending indictment.

He's indicted in Georgia as well. He's been listed as a co- conspirator, unindicted in Jack Smith's federal case. So Rudy's legal problems just keep piling up. I mean, even moving beyond the criminal world. He's been hit with monstrous civil verdicts, including something $140 million plus for defamation of the two Georgia election workers, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman.

He has still -- he's still a defendant in the defamation cases filed by the voting rights -- or not voting rights, the voting technology company, Smartmatic, Dominion. So he's been -- he's lost his law license, he's got all sorts of problems. I don't know what the end game is here. He's been putting it off, but sooner or later, he's going to have to show up and take accountability.

BASH: And Laura, beyond Rudy Giuliani, this case that's happening in Arizona, you know, is happening in a very important swing state in 2024 and is going to -- is already and is going to continue to highlight what the Trump campaign allegedly did in 2020.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: We're now talking about about 50 defendants over four states involving actions taken trying to show erroneously, illegally that Donald Trump was the victor in the race he did not win. Arizona, you're talking about defendants who were charged, all of them, forgery, conspiracy, fraud, all trying to establish that he in fact was victor. He was not. And there is no evidence the contrary to support that he in fact did win. This is so important because when we look at all the people that have had to move, whether it's Michigan or Georgia or even Arizona, there have been some who've already pled guilty to the actions.

One person who's a co-defendant in this case now is Election Integrity Council for the RNC. Another person I think is, you know, is involved in the campaign as well in some degree. There's so many people who are still very much active in the political world right now and the consequences of this, extraordinary.

At the end of the day, remember, this is the former man who was called America's mayor. This is somebody who, as Elie talked about, is an attorney. People who knew better, people who are taking actions to undermine the allegedly the integrity of our elections and here we had yet another state and an important one, the swing state.

Remember Rusty Bowers who was the head of their Republican Party --

BASH: Yes.

COATES: -- in Arizona who famously spoke at the hearing for the second impeachment and these are --

BASH: Right.

COATES: -- January 6 hearing when it came for Donald Trump and under Congress. He talked about his moral compass. He talked about his inability to go along with what they were trying to do.

BASH: Right.

COATES: And he pointed out Rudy Giuliani.

BASH: That was going to be on trial. Yes. You said he's an attorney. I guess he's always an attorney. He just is not a practicing lawyer.

HONIG: Yes, he's --

BASH: He's not allowed to be.

HONIG: License is suspended. He can't appear in court.

COATES (?): Where you care coats.

BASH: Don't go anywhere because we have a lot more to discuss, including something important happening in the state of Georgia today. Don't go anywhere.



BASH: Before the break, we were talking about another Trump related case in Arizona. We're also watching the state of Georgia tonight because Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is actually up for reelection today. And that of course comes as she fights to move forward with the Trump election interference case in Georgia.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I am at a point where I need Fulton County voters to get out and vote. I need people around the country to support me big and small to say that we are going to be a country that still believes in the rule of law.

We are not going to allow people to be attacked while they do their job. It doesn't matter how many times they attack me. I am not going to be broken and I am going to still be standing here doing my job lawfully.


BASH: Jeff Zeleny, what do you -- what are your thoughts on this moment in time with Fani Willis who's become such a lightning rod for the Republicans, and obviously she, I would say, fair to say, she has a lot of support from the Democrats her going -- before voters today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, she's in a Democratic primary today. She's running against Wise Smith. She's largely expected to win this Democratic primary, and then she faces a Republican challenge in the fall, also likely expected to win that.

But, look, it is just a reminder of what happened to the Georgia case that once was going to be potentially the big case for the former president on camera, which Georgia state law allows before the election. That now is not going to happen of course.

The judge also, in this case, Judge McAfee, also going before the voters. So again, a reminder that Georgia law, like many other states, the prosecutors are elected officials and the judges also have to stand for a retention. He was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

But, look, what this has happened in Georgia, it is still a battleground state. Presidentially speaking, it's not near the top here. It's not one that President Biden has to win to hold on. But we'll be watching that tonight. She is expected to win. But a reminder that this case is likely not going to happen before November, which is significant.

BASH: And David, just if you'd kind of take a step back, obviously, New York, that's a local case, not a federal case. You -- we just talked about Arizona where Donald Trump is not being prosecuted, but people in and around him are. And then we're talking about Georgia where he definitely is being prosecuted.

Never mind the federal cases that are on ice for various reasons. Talk about this moment, not just in history, but in the campaign.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Dana, as you were in these last two segments like looking at the Arizona stuff, looking at this and then of course following the trial today, it is amazing to me how much of the campaign story is about the past. It's about the 2020 election.

The case in New York is about the 2016 election, and it is all about the past. Donald Trump himself is still out there as he did in Minnesota on Friday night lying, saying he won Minnesota. He didn't. Today he did an interview in Pennsylvania, lying, saying he won Pennsylvania in 2020. He didn't.

You have these fake electors. You have this case in Georgia where these folks are up for election that are involved in it, but that is about the 2020 race. So much of what we are focused on in this campaign season right now is about the past and not the future.

BASH: 10 second button.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm thinking about Jack Smith and waiting for the Supreme Court decision on immunity. That was the case we thought was going to go first.

BASH: Yes, that's very well said.

Thank you all. Thank you all for your insights, for your reporting, for your friendship.

Thank you for watching Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.