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Sources: Trump Bracing For Possible Conviction; Biden Ramps Up Outreach To Black Voters With Polls Showing Him Losing Ground; Now: Day 2 Of Jury Deliberations In Hush Money Trial. Aired 12p-12:30p ET

Aired May 30, 2024 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "INSIDE POLITICS." I'm Dana Bash. A Manhattan courtroom is again, setting the agenda for the 2024 campaign. Right now a jury is deliberating, weighing and measuring the facts presented by the prosecutors and whether they've made a convincing enough case to convict Donald Trump.

The 12 Jurors spent the morning listening to a court reporter read pivotal excerpts from testimony of Michael Cohen and former tabloid publisher David Pecker. Donald Trump is inside the courthouse. He's not allowed to leave the building until there is a verdict or the jury breaks for the day.

So what's going through his mind? Well, you might call it the Freddie Mercury strategy. He's convinced that nothing really matters. And he actually believes that he will likely be found guilty. Now, this is all reporting from our very own Kristen Holmes, who starts us off outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan. What are you hearing, Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, Dana, I mean, to be clear, the big hope for Trump's team and the former president himself is that there is a hung jury that this ends in a mistrial. Not that he is convicted. However, when he is talking about this case with his allies, with his donors, he has told some of them that he believes it is likely he will be convicted.

He cites the fact that the jury is from Manhattan, a area that is mostly made up of more liberal leaning voters. Remember, Donald Trump's team believes at the heart of this, that whatever the verdict is, at the end of the day, that it's going to be political.

In fact, yesterday, they were actually circulating around the 2020 election data. They even sent it to me saying, essentially, if you look at this map, it would mean out of 12 residents in Manhattan, at least one of them is a Republican or right leaning voter. Their excuse for that, or the reasoning behind that is that that could lead to a hung jury or a mistrial.

Now, we have no reason to believe that this is going to be a political decision. We know that these jurors are taking this very seriously. You have to remember that Donald Trump and his team, they're sitting there in this room, and they really have no idea what is going to happen. They are reading through the same tea leaves that we are reading through right now and trying to decipher if there is any movement within that jury. If there was going back through, any kind of potential for a sympathetic jury. But at the end of the day, they really don't know how that is going to end.

BASH: All right, Kristen, thank you so much. We will get back to you if we hear that buzzer go off and if there are more questions from the jury.

OK, now we want to go to the White House and the Biden campaign, they are watching very closely. CNN is Kayla Tausche joins me now live from the White House. So Kayla, President Biden hasn't said much about Trump's criminal trial so far.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's all been strategic, Dana. President Biden throughout the course of the former president's legal drama has been relatively quiet, pointing instead to the independence of the judicial system and of law enforcement.

But that's one major challenge when it comes to whether he would weigh in on this issue and how he would potentially do it and what he would say. Appearing to celebrate a guilty verdict would really reflect poorly on his prior perception of neutrality. As would condemning anything less than that, whether there's a mistrial or a hung jury, as Kristen was just reporting the possibility of.

But the other issue is Biden schedule this week and next. Today is the ninth anniversary of his son Beau's death. And it's normally a day of family mourning and remembrance. Tomorrow, he'll come back to the White House where he'll meet with the Belgian Prime Minister, and also host the Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, which is normally a lighthearted event.

And aides tell me if there had been a very quick verdict, then perhaps Biden would have mentioned something offhand at the rally that he held in Philadelphia yesterday. And while it is true that aides can set up a seal and a podium pretty much anywhere in the world for him to deliver remarks, that there are a lot of challenges to doing that, especially given that next week, he'll be traveling overseas to France for a state visit and for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Now so far the campaign has taken up the mantle of that messaging, trotting out Robert De Niro and the January 6 police officers, but that's gotten mixed reviews. David Axelrod, a top Democratic strategist, panned the situation that devolved outside the courthouse saying that it played directly into Trump's hand and appear to be more like a Saturday Night Live skit.

And yesterday on CNN, Kate Bedingfield, who's a longtime aide, extremely close to President Biden, and his inner circle, also said that it was a waste of resources. That it didn't reach the type of voters that Biden at this point really needs to reach. That most of the people who would have seen that display already have their minds made up. And she thought that it also fed a talking point to the Trump team.

That's why aides so far are noncommittal as to whether Biden will weigh in and how he will do it. But of course, the substance of what that verdict is, is what matters most. Dana


BASH: OK, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. Kayla. Let's talk more about all of this with my terrific reporters here. Laura Barron-Lopez of the PBS NewsHour, CNN's David Chalian, Margaret Talev of Axios, and CNN's Priscilla Alvarez.

OK, so we are seven. What does that say seven hours and 10 minutes in to jury deliberation and --


BASH: But who's counting? We are. And as we continue to monitor that. We do have a moment to talk INSIDE POLITICS, which we haven't been able to do much because of this, this fascinating trial that's been going on.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Although, as you noted, not disconnected.

BASH: It's totally connected. But I want to connect it even more right now. Understanding we have no idea what this jury is going to do. But what we do know from our reporting, and that of our colleagues, is, as we just heard, sort of the prep going on, on either side.

CHALIAN: Yeah. And the context for that prep is that we're not sure how much of the electorate is actually going to be moved by any outcome here in the trial. And so that also will factor into how the campaigns respond to it.

Is there a truly moveable universe where there is a return on investment, for digging into this? Obviously, the Trump team, I think, if you look at the predicate that they've set throughout this whole thing, I think we'll see nothing change in their messaging in the aftermath.

It's been that this is a rigged trial. This is all a political prosecution. And I think they're going to stick with that. Because that does, they think, sort of walled off a swath of the electorate from being open to having this impact their thoughts.

I think the Biden calculus here is going to be a little bit trickier for them to figure out what targeted voters of theirs are really going to be interested, a Biden either hammering away if he's convicted that Trump is now a convicted felon, and using that as framing every day. Or perhaps trying to stay above it all, and just respect the jury process. Whatever they come down on, I think they have a trickier calculus.

BASH: And going back to the Trump team, this caught our eye. This is a headline from POLITICO, and it certainly dovetails with Kristen's reporting. Trump team thinks all vertical outcomes work for Trump, the former president's advisors and allies plan to situate any outcome within the same grievance narrative that he's been cultivating for years. So it's like press F4 on the computer.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yeah, I mean, it's heads, Trump wins, tails, you lose. So I mean, that's the -- and strategy that they're using here with these criminal cases is also the strategy that they use with the election writ large, which is laying a foundation of no matter what the system is rigged.

So if he ends up winning the election, or if he ends up, you know, being found not guilty, then great. But if he does, well, the system's rigged anyways, and my voters believe that. Now when it comes to Biden's campaign, you know, we just have a new poll out at PBS NewsHour that finds it 10 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of independents, if Trump is found guilty, that they could be swayed. That their votes could change.

TALEV: That's right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And so that's the -- it's at the margins. It seems like a small -- very small amount, but in those battleground states, the margins is what matter?

TALEV: Yeah, if it's a 1 or 2 percent race. All of this is going to matter. I think the conventional wisdom up until now has been that on the political side, if there is a conviction for the former president in this legal case, that that would hurt him.

I think the Biden team's real concern is they have no role in this legal fight. But they live with the implications of it. One of the conventional wisdom isn't right. What if there's the boomerang effect? What if it somehow either helps Donald Trump or makes no difference at all? And in the back of their minds, they were like, well, let's see how the case plays out. Right.

So -- but it is -- for the base, they've already decided and the conviction might even ramp up turnout. For the diehard Trump opponents, their minds are already made up. He's already guilty in their minds. What about the Nikki Haley voters? What about the disenfranchised kind of independents who aren't really sure they want to turn out anyway? Would a conviction make a difference?

We've seen in polling people saying that a conviction against a candidate would make him less appealing candidate for president. But is it this conviction? Or is this different than, you know, classified documents or trying to sway votes or some of those other things, so we don't know.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and I think the challenge is what -- how do they message on all of these fronts? That's the challenge for the Biden case. Because when this trial first started it was about counterprogramming.

The former president is in the courtroom, we're out here working for the American -- BASH: Ignoring it.

ALVAREZ: Ignoring it. Where -- the President was traveling. He was talking about the economy, about health care, about the issues that voters care about. But then what we saw this week, and we saw an admission from the Biden campaign, the media circus, they called it, was in front of the courtroom. So they went there and they said, you guys are here every single day. So we're going to enter the fray, and we are now going to attack, or go on the attack as well on this particular issue.


And so they have clearly evolved. They're trying to get more aggressive. They consistently say, and the president's allies say, that he's a fighter and that they want to see more of that from him and this more aggressive phase of the campaign.

But what it also shows is that there is a grappling of how do you communicate to those voters who are on the margins that the president is the better choice here because of what Donald Trump is going through in the courtroom.

CHALIAN: And I think we should just stipulate one thing here, because I think sometimes when we talk about all of this, we lose sight. Being a convicted felon, that's a bad thing. Just objectively, that's not a great credential.

So, yes, there could be the boomerang effect. Yes, it may not be determinative as a negative in the outcome of the 2024 presidential race. But in no universe does Donald Trump want to be running this race as a convicted felon. And in no universe is that like an attribute that he may embrace it for political reasons.

BASH: Exactly.

CHALIAN: But that he embraces in any way personally.

TALEV: But also in no way is this the top issue on almost any voters list, is he --


CHALIAN: Without a doubt --

BASH: I want to turn a little bit to a little bit of a different topic in the 2024 campaign. And the question which were all following, which is the fight for voters of color, which are traditionally, you know, in the Democratic wheelhouse. And the Trump campaign is making a very aggressive push for.

And one of the questions is whether or not the way that the Biden campaign is doing it, going after the specific things, accomplishments that the Biden campaign has gotten for the minority communities, particularly African-Americans, going over, saying that they have -- actually, let me just play for you Raphael Warnock, because he explained this morning on CNN the way that he approaches it, and he thinks that the Biden campaign is doing it right.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): As someone who preaches every Sunday, I can remind you that there's a reason why we show up every Sunday, and that is that people need to be reminded. And so I don't think that what the president and the campaign is doing is any different than what the preacher does every Sunday, reminding us of the good news.

And the great thing for us is that we've got a lot of good news to share.


BASH: So the good news that he's talking about are student loan forgiveness and many other, again, accomplishments on the Biden side. I just want to sort of give you the alternate argument. And it's not sort of the listicle and the specifics, the laundry list, if you will.

It is, as Donald Trump says, African-Americans are getting slaughtered, Hispanic-Americans are getting slaughtered, he means economically. And it reminds me of what Brad Parscale, who was -- started out in 2016 as the digital media director, had no political experience at all, told me and has since told others, about the way that they approached the ads and also the messaging. And it goes back to an iPod, not iPad, not iPhone -- iPod, we're definitely dating ourselves. And it's the way that it makes you feel.

He used that, and others in the campaign ended up agreeing with this as a North Star for messaging. Not what have you done for me, what will you do for me? But how do you feel?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yeah, I mean, this is a struggle for the Biden campaign, and they admit that it's a struggle for them, because when other Democrats talk about what the president has accomplished or talk about what his administration has accomplished and what they've been able to do with him, they say that that message works really well when they're out on the campaign trail.

And a number of democratic pollsters have told me that, like, their candidates that they're working for right now are outperforming President Biden on the same exact message that President Biden is running on. So there's a bit of cognitive dissonance going on right now, I think, amongst American voters.

Also, there are a number of great economic factors. The fact that Americans believe that unemployment is at a 50-year high, when it's actually almost at a 50 year low. I don't know if that's totally an indictment on us and the press or if it's also the fact that President Biden is not the best messenger out there right now for Democrats to convince voters that there are these great economic markers. Here's what I've done for you, here's what I want to do in the future.

Because you're right, Dana, I mean, voters do feel a certain way about the economy, even though it doesn't match sometimes even what they admit, which is that their personal finances are better now than they were previously.


So that's something that Democrats are saying, the way that they think the president needs to address it, is just be out there constantly in front of voters, in the communities and send out as many surrogates as he possibly can, potentially younger ones, to make that argument.

ALVAREZ: And take note, too, that President Biden did that yesterday with Vice President Kamala Harris. They don't often go on the campaign trail together, but they were trying to court Black voters in Philadelphia, which is crucial for them. The state of Pennsylvania is crucial for them.

And to your point about surrogates, I was in Georgia for one of the president's campaign rallies, and that's going to be a tough state this time around, especially because there's not as many down ballot races. So they can't get that enthusiasm. It needs to come directly for the president.

And so I was talking to Democratic strategists on the ground who said, look, we need to fan out. There's not going to be these other candidates that can get voters excited to go to the polls, so it needs to come from the president. And they have folks like Jim Clyburn, and the president is also doing interviews with Black journalists. But it's not easy.

BASH: OK, everybody, stand by. We are keeping a close eye, of course, in New York at the courthouse there as we wait for the jury's verdict in the Donald Trump trial. We're going to get thoughts on the day's developments from a criminal defense attorney and a jury consultant next.

And later, Republicans buy movie tickets, too. New CNN reporting from our own Priscilla Alvarez, who is right here, on how Hollywood stars are carefully calibrating their approach to the 2024 election and how public or private to be about who they're going to back at the ballot box.



BASH: Right now the jury is in its 8th hour of deliberations in the Trump hush money trial. The verdict could come, literally at any moment. The jurors are back in the jury room after spending the morning rehearing pivotal pieces of testimony from Michael Cohen and David Pecker.

Joining me to discuss criminal Defense Attorney Ron Kuby, along with jury consultant and Trial Attorney Robert Hirschhorn. Thank you so much, gentlemen, for being here. Ron, I want to start with you and read to you and to our viewers a section that the jury asked to be reread to them earlier today. And this is the metaphor that the judge used to explain reasonable doubt. For example, suppose you go to bed one night when it's not raining, and when you wake up in the morning, you look out your window, you do not see rain, but you see the street and sidewalk are wet and that people are wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas.

Under those circumstances, it may be reasonable to infer, that is, conclude that it rained during the night. In other words, the fact of it having rained while you were asleep is an inference that might be drawn from the proven facts of the presence of the water on the street and sidewalk and people in raincoats and carrying umbrellas.

Ron, again, starting with you, what do you make of that?

RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's nice to know that this law school piece of evidentiary teaching still persist to this very day. This is a way of showing the distinction between direct evidence, where somebody, a witness sees, hears, smells, tastes, what actually took place, and so-called circumstantial evidence, where you have to draw an inference based on what you see or hear. So for example --

BASH: What does it tell you that the jury cared about this?

KUBY: Right. You know, if Donald Trump were seen shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue, that would be direct evidence. If he was seen by somebody carrying a smoking gun down Fifth Avenue after that witness heard a shot, you could infer that it was Donald Trump who fired the shot, but you wouldn't have to infer that, there could be other explanations.

So it seems as though the argument that the defense made, which is the only direct evidence of this conspiracy comes from Michael Cohen. This kind of jury instruction kind of puts that to rest, yes, it's the only direct evidence, but there's a lot of circumstantial evidence.

BASH: And, Robert, turning to another excerpt that the jury asked for this morning, that was from testimony from Michael Cohen and David Pecker. What they asked for was the description of a pivotal August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower between Cohen and Pecker.

And another call in June of 2016 about former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. The excerpts also included Pecker's testimony about not finalizing Trump's payment to the National Enquirer's parent company for McDougal's life rights. Does this give you any insight into where the jury is right now in their deliberations and what they might be thinking?

ROBERT HIRSCHHORN: Indeed, it does. Great to be with you, Dana, and with you, Ron. So the jury is a smart jury. They're thoughtful, they're hardworking. They're dedicated. They're not rigged. OK? They're doing their job.

And what they're doing is, because they're linear and logical, they're starting at the beginning, and this is one of the key moments in the beginning. I think part of the reason why they wanted both the Pecker version as well as the Cohen version was to see how much that lines up. [12:25:00]

Did they tell basically the same version of what happened, or is it different? Because the big issue in this case is going to be Cohen's credibility, and this is going to be one way for them to test that. I want everybody to know, we are not in a sprint. This is a marathon. Everybody. It's going to take a long time because that's what happens when you have smart jurors. So this is just one of what I anticipate a number of questions we're going to get from the jury, because this is really a complicated case.

BASH: It is complicated, which begs the question that I have been asking all morning, Ron, maybe you can answer this. Why make it harder for the jurors? Why can't they just actually physically get copies of the transcripts and jury instructions? Why do they have to have somebody read it to them? It's like having to really cram for a test. And in this case, why not just have the sort of answers there for them as they try to make this incredibly important decision?

HIRSCHHORN: Well, I actually did some research on that today, because I've always known that was the case, but I never quite knew why. And the rule about jury instructions, not going to the jury, which is a New York rule, not a universal rule, seems to have originated with the idea that you want to make sure that all the jurors are getting exactly the same instruction at exactly the same time. And the only way you can do that is if the instructions are read orally in open court to everyone.

The same is true to a large extent of the transcript. But the other issue with the transcript is that not everything in the transcript is read to the jury. The objections that were sustained, the questions that were sustained, the arguments that were had, all of that is redacted out. So the only thing they hear is the actual testimony that was permitted.

BASH: Yeah, that I understand. The other part just, you know, use a Sharpie and redact it. But anyway, we can talk more about that later.

KUBY: But Dana --


KUBY: The jury instructions --

BASH: Real quick, Ron.

KUBY: The jury instructions is like the recipe. And to not give the jury the recipe. Jurors learn visually. They learn by their eyes, not their ears. They retain more information with their eyes. And you solve the problem by giving every single juror a copy of the charge.

BASH: That's certainly how I learned. I'd like to read everything. Thank you both. We're definitely going to continue this conversation very soon. Appreciate both of you coming on.

KUBY: Thank you, Dana. HIRSCHHORN: A pleasure. Thank you.

BASH: And we're going to keep our eyes on the courtroom, bring you any developments from the jury, if there are any.

Next, though, we are going to talk to two women with their fingers on the pulse of the electorate. Two top pollsters come back to break down the state of the 2024 race.