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Closing Arguments Set To Begin Tomorrow In Hush Money Case; Biden Campaign Hopes More Focus On Trump Will Remind Voters Why They Voted Him Out Of Office; Axios: Cumulative Inflation Since Biden Took Office Is 19 Percent; Biden Lays Wreath At Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 27, 2024 - 12:30   ET



KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's the first time this has been asked of Judge Aileen Cannon to consider something like this for Trump. He has gag orders on him in other cases but we're waiting to see how the judge responds here and how quickly she does so as well. Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: All right, Kaitlan Polantz for us.

And now, let's get some perspective on the hush money trial and what to expect this week in Judge Merchan's courtroom. We have former federal prosecutor, Gene Rossi, and criminal defense attorney, Ron Kuby.

Gene, I want to start with you. When you look at what's coming --


MATTINGLY: -- in terms of the closing arguments and summations that are ahead, what do you think will be most critical for the prosecution?

ROSSI: OK, every closing -- and Ron probably could talk about this -- every closing is your final mosaic. And it's not really a painting, it's tiles, but I call it a painting. And what you want to remind the jury is, remember what we said in our opening, and remember what the burden we embraced. We're now here to say we've met our burden.

Here's what I would focus on. Circumstantial evidence. If they rely on Michael Cohen's credibility, or Michael Cohen period, they're going to lose the case. They have to use Michael Cohen as sort of affirmation of what the circumstantial evidence entails. And it's very simple. They wanted a catch and kill of Karen McDougal and specifically Stormy Daniels.

And that was going to destroy their campaign if it came out, Stormy Daniels. They have to connect those false invoices to that act of catching and killing the Stormy Daniels story. I represented Keith Davidson, her old attorney. So I am very familiar with the timeline from October 24th to October 28th. It's actually very devastating, the calls, the texts and all that. So they have to remind the jury that yes, Michael Cohen was important, but we could prove our case or come close if you will, without him because of circumstantial evidence and common sense.

Last thing I want to say is this, the defense did not have to put on a case. They did not, but that they did. And they ended with a categorically horrible witness, Mr. Costello, that corroborated Michael Cohen. That was very bad for the defense. And I would remind them of that in my rebuttal, not in my initial closing.

MATTINGLY: You know, to that point, Ron, if you're the defense, if you're Todd Blanche and his team, how are you approaching tomorrow?

RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you've heard the prosecution talk about timelines and this witness and that witness. Let's go right to the heart of the case, pretend you're getting surgery. Surgery will decide, your life or your death.

It's crucially important to you and you're lying there in the operating room. The cold, the lights, the people all around you and you look up at the surgeon who will soon have your life in his hands and he pulls down his mask and it's Michael Cohen.

Do you just breathe a deep sigh of relief and allow yourself to be put on your or do you jump off that table, rip out that IV and go running like hell out of that operating room? Because if you do, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is a reasonable doubt.

MATTINGLY: I have like six more questions here I want to ask you guys. Can I ask, Gene, though, to that point --

ROSSI: I have a rebuttal to that.

MATTINGLY: I know. That's why I wanted to ask because everybody's my guest from the panelists around me and everyone stopped, froze and listened to exactly what your defense counterpart was laying out. How do you top that?

ROSSI: Easy, members of the jury. This is rebuttal. We're not saying the beginning. Mr. Kuby eloquently put on a closing argument, but here's the problem with his argument. Who picked that surgeon for 10 years? Who chose Michael Cohen? Members of the jury, when we have a conspiracy, we don't get to pick angels, nuns, priests, rabbis.

We pick the people whom the defendant picked, and he chose Michael Cohen to do the surgery on his Stormy Daniels deal. He chose Michael Cohen to do the HELOC, the fake bank loan. He chose to give Michael Cohen hand deliver in the Oval Office $235, 000 checks. We're not here because of our choice. We're here because of Donald Trump's choice. That is beyond a reasonable doubt.

KUBY: All right.

MATTINGLY: Go ahead, Ron.

KUBY: All right. So you can't always get what you want.

ROSSI: He doesn't get the bottom.

KUBY: I recognize that.

MATTINGLY: I know. We're going to cheat and let him have a rebuttal here.

ROSSI: I know, I know.

KUBY: The rebuttal is, you know, I don't get one, which is just as well, because that's where the prosecution always lands.


And they call the worst people, mafia, killer, father, daughter, rapist, murderers, to testify, and those people are believed because their testimony is corroborated. But Trump's defense team isn't speaking to 12 jurors plus alternates. They're speaking to one person and that's Donald Trump, you know, which is a very bad way to run a case.

I'm very clear with my clients at the outset. Look, I don't tell you how to commit armed robberies. Don't tell me how to try your case. Everybody should play to their strength here. But we have seen the defense team make decisions over and over again. That can only be explained by a desire to appeal to Donald Trump's vanity. And that's, I think, perilous at best.

MATTINGLY: We only have about 30 seconds left, so this is just a one word answer from each of you if that's remotely possible. And I understand if it's not. Gene, based on the case you've seen the prosecution lay out over the course of the last month, do you think they made it?

ROSSI: I think there's a 70 percent chance of a conviction on several counts. But there's a fair 30 percent chance of a hung jury. I don't know what Ron feels about this. I don't know if they're going to get an acquittal, but there's a 30 -- 25 percent to 30 percent chance of a hung jury in this case. I do believe that.


KUBY: The prosecution proved everything that they said they were going to prove with remarkably few hiccups. If you have a lone crazy juror who walks into deliberations wearing a tinfoil hat, then you're going to end up with a mistrial. And that's always a possibility.

MATTINGLY: It's the beauty in the system. Guys, thank you very much. That was really great.

Coming up, the buying economy with the -- with inflation - the inflation rate falling. Why does so many voters say prices are still too high? Well, there's actually a reason for that. We're going to tell you what it is after the break.



MATTINGLY: For months, top Biden campaign officials have told supporters, just wait, that sure, the polls don't look great for the president right now. But as soon as voters realize the election is a binary choice, one between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it'll be an easy choice. Listen to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz yesterday at State of the Union.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: When Joe Biden comes to Minnesota, he brings jobs, money, investments, and a positive message. When Donald Trump comes, it's grievances and revenge. So I think the issues will start to clarify themselves. That contrast becomes a binary choice as we get closer to November and they're going to see that it is simply not worth it to go back to what we saw under a Trump administration.


MATTINGLY: November is coming. We're only about 15 weeks away from the start of mail-in voting in some states and the polls, well, they haven't moved at all. The end of the GOP primary race an onslaught of attack ads, Trump's trial nothing has really tangibly moved at least the top line numbers.

My panel is back with me right now. And if I had a dollar for every time somebody said binary choice to me, I would be a very wealthy individual right now, probably more so in the months ahead. Is the theory of the case that you heard from the Biden team, which by the way, they still very much believe that once people's kind of zone in on this, they will recognize what the reality is and that will help Biden. Is it going to happen?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's just so many factors that need to fall into place or that need -- that are out there as, you know, questions for that to happen. I -- you can't underestimate the impact of the economy. And I'm not talking about GDP, I'm talking about personal economy, whether if you have enough money at the end of the day to pay bills and to feed your family.

And if you can, then, you know, you think the economy is OK. If you don't, you don't. And there's a lot of people right now in the don't position. And, you know, that -- I think that is going to have a huge impact on this race and whether that improves.

MATTINGLY: Laura, I want to bring up this chart first, access evidence. It's a really good demonstration. I think, you know, when you listen to economists talk about the U.S. economy right now, there is no question. It is the best economy in the world amongst developed nations. The recovery has been not only I think, without much precedent, but it's also remained robust much longer than anybody projected.

However, when you look at the changing CPI or the consumer price index inflation basically, the -- kind of how normal people feel it, which is that kind of the cumulative inflation effect versus annualized inflation, which is how it's kind of gauge. Annualized inflation sitting at 3.4 percent of that nine -- just a couple of years ago, a clear trajectory downward over that period of time.

19.3 percent in a cumulative basis, which is what people are seeing. It's why the prices are just higher than they were in 2019. That to me seems to be more important to an actual voter than, hey, in these charts, you see it's going down and you may not feel it, but in this sector it is.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, even though prices comparatively to what, two years ago appeared to be down, you're right that overall they -- Americans feel as though it's still is hard to buy all the goods that they want to buy to own a house that they may want to own.

You know, they're looking at whether or not interest rates are going to get cut or not. And so the Biden campaign is trying to make this argument that look at these other things that I've done to help your pocketbook, whether it's capping insulin for seniors at 35, whether it's making it -- Medicare -- an ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which isn't totally felt yet.

And some may not be fully felt until 2025. So, but all those things that they're trying to say, look at what we did to get out of the pandemic.


I will say though that it's just also striking when you look at all those polls of voters who say that they, in swing states, who say that they believe their personal finances are actually better, even though they think that the national economy is bad.

So there is a disconnect right now where some voters are feeling as though their personal ability to lead the life they want to live is good. And the Biden campaign is struggling to make them connect the dots with, well, if you feel that way, then why wouldn't you want to vote for President Biden?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And I think part of that too is the messaging aspect of it. I mean, Biden going on a podium and saying, hey, look at what our administration has done. Yes, that can galvanize and I can speak to some voters, but it really means who else is talking -- as their friends talking about it are Congress people that are going to their constituents and talking about what Biden has done even on the Democratic base.

That is really going to speak volumes. It's getting your friends. It's getting your families to really understand and connect the dots. And really make it clear of what Biden has done in the last four years and how their lives have improved. But it's the daily cost that they feel on a daily basis.

But it's really going to be the messaging and who's communicating those messages about the economy and what the administration has done. That's really going to be key to this campaign.

MATTINGLY: Is that -- when you talk to Trump folks, is that their be all, like, I know they've got a 20-point advantage on immigration. I know where they stand kind of on just about every issue with the exception of maybe climate change and abortion in terms of a head to head matchup. But when they look kind of -- and they're very candid with you, are they saying it's the economy?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, no, I actually do believe that they think that immigration will play a role, that crime will play a role, that obviously one of the things that they do is, you know, really kind of bang their drums on linking immigration to crime.

I do think the economy is critical, and I will say that I know what the polls say about people saying that they are better off -- that they feel better off, but nationally, I don't think it's as well. But when I'm at these rallies and talking to people, I mean, person after person after person tells me that they wish that groceries were cheaper, that they wish that gas was cheaper, that they feel like their lives were better.

And I know again, that these polls are showing that people -- some people in these swing states are feeling like their personal, you know, economics are better, but the people I'm talking to don't feel that way. And they really feel like they would rather be in a position that they were in when they thought that they could afford groceries and they thought that they could afford the gas and they thought that they could afford to buy a house. Maybe not right then, but one day.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And that very much complicates the binary choice scenario when they're looking back and saying, maybe I was better then.

All right, panel, thank you guys very, very much.

Coming up, President Joe Biden's message about freedom as he honors the fallen this Memorial Day. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: That was President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin listening to taps after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It is part of a somber service marking Memorial Day.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is live for us at the White House. And Kevin, just a short while ago, President Biden wrapped up his Memorial Day remarks. What was his message?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, certainly this is a solemn day for any American president. Standing there in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier among the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, you can really sense that the president will feel the weight of that job on their shoulders.

And, you know, the president reminded us in his speech that we're only about a week and a half away from the 80th anniversary of D-Day, President Biden will be in northern France next week, honoring the thousands of U.S. and allied troops who died as part of the Normandy landings, all in the goal of protecting democracy.

And, of course, that has been an all-consuming theme of President Biden's presidency, protecting democracy, particularly in this election year. And you heard him in his remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater talking about troops as this chain of commitment, not just to a president, not to a place, but to an idea, this idea of the United States and what it represents in terms of democracy.

Listen to what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom has never been guaranteed. Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it in battle between autocracy and democracy. Between the greed of a few and the rights of many, it matters. Our democracy is more than just a system of government. It's the very soul of America.


LIPTAK: So a resonant message on an election year Memorial Day, particularly just given the fraught international situation that the president finds himself in, confronting two grinding wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Of course, the president has committed to not deploying American troops to those battlefields. He just recently reemphasized that commitment, but that doesn't mean that the U.S. hasn't been pulled into the fray.

Certainly the risks to U.S. troops have been laid bare. It was only in February that the president traveled to Dover Air Force Base to be with grieving families as their loved ones remain were returned after being killed in a drone strike in Jordan.

So certainly that day and Memorial Day, a searing reminder to the president of the consequences of his decisions and the weight of this job, Phil

MATTINGLY: Yes, certainly. Kevin Liptak at the White House for us, thank you.

And finally, a word on today. This isn't some aggressively political monologue, I promise. Just a simple request. Please, take the time to recognize what and who this day represents.

I ask because the bonds between those who serve in their families in the rest of America, they are smaller than ever before. I ask because those who lost fathers and sons, mothers and daughters in combat or after they came home, the real reason for this day, they feel that, they see it for those families.


Gold star families today is about men and women willing to give everything. So you could focus on your cookouts or your travel logistics. It's not a celebration of the start of summer, but instead a somber remembrance of service and loss. And it's not just a today thing, that is an everyday thing.

It's an everyday thing for the family of Colonel Thomas O'Dea, who was killed in Vietnam on Christmas Day in 1968. You can see his headstone in Arlington National Cemetery right there. The flowers, as they are every Memorial Day, placed there by his daughter. Placed there by my mom.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN New Central starts right after the break. Have a wonderful day.