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Laura Coates Live

SCOTUS Will Hear Trump's Immunity Claim; Laura Coates Answers Callers' Questions; Standoff At USC Campus Between Protesters And Police; Trump Allies Charged In AZ Electors Case; Tabloid Publisher To Resume Testimony. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 24, 2024 - 23:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Sounds unbelievable? Well, believe it. It's actually real life because it's exactly what's going to happen just a few hours from now, tomorrow morning.

And Trump, he can't be in two places at the same time. In fact, he doesn't have a choice in the matter where he gets to be. As a criminal defendant, he got to sit in that Manhattan courtroom and get a readout of the oral argument in Washington, D.C., maybe over at lunch break over a courthouse deli sandwich.

Now, the question before the Supreme Court, does a former president have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for anything related to his action while in the White House?

Let's put it in plainer language here. Is a former president above the law? Now, make no mistake, what the Supreme Court decides may very well define this election, and don't think Donald Trump does not it for a single second. That is why he has been on a kind of a tear about immunity for months now.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a president doesn't have full immunity, you really don't have a president.

A president of the United States has to have immunity.

If you don't have immunity, you can be blackmailed.

You have to have guaranteed immunity for a president.

A president has to have immunity.

As a president, you have to have immunity.


COATES: Immunity seems to be the operative word here. But the fact is, no matter what the court does now -- I mean, Donald Trump's criminal election subversion trial, the one from Washington, D.C., has already been delayed from its March 4th start date. Hell, it's going to be May next week.

Team Trump thinks there's a win right there, even if the justices ultimately rule against him, because it's all about, say it with me, for all you Brady Bunch generation, not Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, but delay, delay, delay, with the goal of pushing Jack Smith's election interference case after the election. Now, a source close to Trump putting it this way, telling "Rolling Stone" -- quote -- "We already pulled off the heist."

I want to bring in CNN's legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig, law enforcement reporter for "The Washington Post," Devlin Barrett, who is also the co-author of the "Trump Trials Newsletter", and former attorney for Donald Trump, Jim Trusty.

Glad to see you, guys, all here today. I mean, not a whole lot of legal news to talk about, so I don't know why you're all here right now. We're scraping the bottom, right? Is there a thing happening in the court tomorrow in Manhattan? Of course, there is. It's a huge day.

I'll begin with you, Elie. You say, of the arguments Trump is making for immunity, one is stupid as hell, but the other isn't half bad. These are some good choices.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, also, one is not really being made. Donald Trump is no longer arguing, I'm automatically immune for everything that happened every second of the four years I was president. He made that earlier, but he has wisely abandoned that argument.

COATES: Because?

HONIG: Because it's a loser, because it's a ridiculous argument, it's not going to win, and some of the analysis sort of ends there. But there's more to it. Now, to the actual two arguments he is making, the stupid one, to use a technical term, is this claim that he has to first be impeached by the House, then convicted by the Senate, and only then can he be indicted. That leads you to the ridiculous Seal Team 6 hypothetical.

The not ridiculous one, though, and this is where I think the Supreme Court is going to be focused tomorrow during the questioning, based on the way they phrased the question, is the claim that he is immune to the extent he was acting within the scope of the job.

Now, I personally don't think he was acting within the scope of the presidency, but I do think this is a good argument that a federal official who is acting within the scope of his or her job could be criminally immune.

COATES: So, this is going to be a case, Jimmy, if you think about it, it's not going to be, perhaps, just a one singular issue. I suspect the Supreme Court will look at this about what an official act really is. Does it constitute that in this case?

And then, of course, the issue of immunity, which means that for a hearing on April 25th and the term ending in June, there's no guarantee we actually hear a response before June. Does that matter in terms of, obviously, the timing of any trial that comes next?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, it does. And, you know, I bristle a little bit at the idea of delay, delay, delay. Yes --

COATES: How about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia? That's a better one I could have used.

TRUSTY: Look, I remember the -- I remember the football on the nose. I remember the whole episode.

COATES: Joe Namath? Oh, my God. Okay, okay, I got it.

TRUSTY: So, we can talk off-camera about this --


-- but -- for a couple of hours. No, I mean, look, I think there's a couple of things. One is the immunity, whether you call it absolute or not, that's what they were saying at first, then they walked right into the SEAL team trap, the reality is it has always been a little closer to qualified.

It's really talking about the outer -- what are the outer reaches of official responsibilities, and those and inward can be covered by immunity. That's a reasonable position, and I think one that may well win the day.

But, you know, then you get to this point. The crazy thing of all this, you talk about delay, is the Supreme Court could decide, let's tackle all the merits, let's talk about what the outer limits are, we'll establish this immunity, and then you'll have follow-up litigation about the specific facts --

HONIG: Right.

TRUSTY: -- with each judge at the lower court deciding, does this fall on this side of the line or that side of the line, and it's a very gray continuum even if the Supreme Court establishes this test.


Now, they could wade into the facts, but I don't think they're going to. I don't think they've had enough of a record to allow them to do that. So, it could be a very good day. We'll know, I think, from the questioning, you know, how a lot of the court is leaning. I think they're going to be pretty transparent in terms of where they're going based on their questioning.

But, again, I don't think there's any chance this plays out on kind of the speed merchant model that Jack Smith and Judge Chutkan were embracing in the beginning, you know, talking about speedy trial for the public, which is kind of a very academic argument. So, it's going to be interesting, but I think we've got a long way to go before it's all finally settled.

COATES: You know, in that Colorado case, to bring it back to the idea of what the court might be looking at, in that Colorado case about Trump, whether he's on the ballot or not, they had a record of a lower court trial, and they still didn't get to the issue of whether they found to be an insurrectionist or otherwise. They didn't want to go there. They don't want to go there. Likely here as well.

But you have a lot of, now, fodder for your Trump trials newsletters, right? The longer this might go back down to a lower court, that means the further out any trial might ever be. The question is, is that the win if you're Donald Trump?

DEVLIN BARRETT, LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think it's certainly his top priority. Like, if you ranked what he wants most, he wants these trials after the election, period. And he has, you know, sort of in his mind, he has a justification for that.

I think Jim is exactly right that I think sometimes the conversation around this immunity argument is that once the Supreme Court decided, then it's off to the races again. I think in some ways, depending on what they say, how they say it, this could actually get more complicated once you have the ruling because then you have to apply that ruling to the facts of this case.

And I really think what you're talking about, when it comes to this whole immunity argument, is that the big gorilla in the room is all the future presidents, because we know conservative justices care a lot about presidential power.

And I think you saw even in the appeals court arguments, you saw that Republican judges are worried that whatever they say about Trump will have a negative impact on the president 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, and they're worried about that. So, where do they draw the line? And that's why -- how this could get really complicated.

COATES: Well, forget the future presidents, though, Elliot (ph). Interesting, I get this question a lot, and we have some viewer questions later on we'll talk about as well. Forget the future ones. How about the past presidents? We've had a lot of amicus briefs who've written on these issues. You haven't really heard from Clinton. You haven't heard from Obama on this issue specifically. You haven't heard from Bush on this issue as well. You know, why do you think they're not wading into this in this realm?

HONIG: So, you can look at this from either way if we're talking about what's good policy, what's best to protect the institution of the presidency. On the one hand, I think the more obvious argument is, why should anyone be above the law? Why should anyone get a pass from criminal prosecution? That's the easy one.

The one that I think we need to think about, though, on the other side when we're thinking about the institutional needs of the presidency is we don't want prosecutors lodging indictments against presidents or any other federal official for something they did within the scope of their job.

I'll give you an example. Let's take the SEAL Team 6 hypothetical, right? Can a president order SEAL Team 6 to take out one of his opponents? The answer is no. The smart answer is no, he cannot, because that's outside the scope of the job.

But what if some aggressive prosecutor in Arizona said, you know, Joe Biden's border policies are unacceptable, and someone crossed over the border and committed a murder, so I'm going to indict Joe Biden for manslaughter? Now, that would be a prosecutor run amok. That would be crazy, but it happens.

I mean, there is a prominent former federal prosecutor who was urging Donald Trump to be indicted for manslaughter for his handling of COVID. That's outrageous. And if some actual prosecutor tried to indict a president for that kind of thing, that's the scenario that immunity is designed to protect against and protect the presidency itself.

COATES: Well, talk to me about the idea of qualified. You mentioned qualified immunity, which is a term we often think about when we're talking about, you know, a law enforcement official who is engaged in behavior. It has been a very tense thing because, of course, you have to have almost precise facts and fact patterns that line up to say, well, unless they were on notice that this precise conduct was a problem, they are not going to be found to be liable for their actions.

But you're talking about qualified in a different context. There are contingencies based on what they're actually doing. What do you see as the limits in terms of campaigning and trying to, he says, just enforce the rule of law, I wasn't trying to help my campaign, I was just telling you that as the role of the head of the executive branch, I have to enforce the laws, and if I thought one was being broken, that's part of my job, I just happened to be the candidate. What is the line?

TRUSTY: Yeah, well, we don't know. We may find out. We may not. Look, they could still come up with some creative standing-type ways to actually push back. I mean, there's all this full briefing about whether Jack Smith is a superior officer or an inferior one. So, this thing could still take a crazy U-turn where they don't actually get to the merits.

But I feel like even though Justice Roberts is kind of reluctant to have the fingerprints on these giant cases that deal with the elections, that he's probably going to have to do it in this case.


COATES: Do you think he wants to have fingerprints on it?

TRUSTY: No, quite the contrary.


TRUSTY: I think -- well, I think he's worried about the reputation of the court. He's worried about the way people are so freely attacking the court's credibility and legitimacy. You have these veiled threats of, maybe we should have 27 justices. And so, I think he's very keen to trying to build coalitions even though that's a pretty difficult stretch with, you know, three and six, the way they're divided.

So, look, at the end of the day, I think they probably get to the merits of it, but they're not going to really set. There's no easy way to set a factual line to say, this is the outer limit of presidential responsibility.

So, you're going to have litigation that may bubble its way all the way back up to the Supreme Court about if you make a speech on January 6th where you criticize the election process, is that still within those outer limits or is that somehow taboo? And none of us really knows.

But I think ultimately, big picture, you know, I think they're going to be sensitive to the idea that we're descending into a weaponized world where law enforcement is being used too freely to go after political figures, and particularly President Trump.

So, he may not be the most sympathetic figure. You don't have the ex- president's club rallying behind him. But I think if you look systemically, creative prosecution going after a presidential candidate should be a bad word, and I think they may be sensitive to that.

COATES: Well, I'm going to rename tomorrow hypothetical Thursday based on what I think is going to happen.

HONIG: They're going to be flying in court.

COATES: They're going to be everywhere. And for the love of God, CNN, let's not cover 27 Supreme Court confirmation hearings should that ever come to pass.

But I want to turn now to some of our viewers who are calling in with their questions on presidential immunity. I've got, let's see here, let's go to Dean from Albany, New York. Hey, Dean, what's your question?

DEAN, CALLER FROM ALBANY, NEW YORK (via telephone): Yeah. Hi. My question is whether or not we should be asking Clarence Thomas to recuse himself because of his wife's efforts to overturn the election.

COATES: That's a great question. Let me ask you, Devlin. What do you say about that?

BARRETT: Well, first of all, shout out to Albany. I'm from Troy.


I just want to say, I think this is a very popular notion on the left. I don't think it has legs. I don't think the Supreme Court was designed to work this way. To the idea that the Supreme Court is trying to get out of some of these fights, would rather not be in some of these fights, I get why the situation is fraught, and I get why people are suspicious of Thomas' motives. But I think if you look at all the instances of recusal on courts and by judges, this doesn't track, this doesn't work. And so, I don't think it's likely, I don't think there's a way to make him do it, and I don't think he has any interest in doing it.

COATES: Yeah, there's no way to make him do it. That's the thing about the old phrase it's good to be the king, well, it's good to be a justice. It's not the same criteria for when one has to. Although, if there was something that was even more precise, then there is certainly pressure that could be exerted, but let's talk about that.

Chris from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, what's your question?

CHRIS, CALLER FORM CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA (via telephone): Does the fact that the Supreme Court is hearing this case mean they see some merit in Trump's argument? Thank you.

COATES: Well, certainly, they don't have to take this case. Do they, Elie? They've chosen to take this case, and we wonder if they would.

HONIG: I think if they thought that this argument was completely meritless, they would not have taken it. I think they think it has some merit. I think the reason they took it is because it's such a big, important, unresolved issue.

And that's what the Supreme Court is for. You know, there was a debate -- I mean, Jack Smith was sort of all over the map on this one because, remember, after the district court, the trial court, Jack Smith said, hey, Supreme Court, it is urgent that you take this case. Only you, only you can fully decide this. It's such an important issue. Supreme Court said, no, you're going to go through the normal appellate channels here.

Went to the Court of Appeals, Jack Smith wins, and then he says, don't take it. Supreme Court, don't take it. No, no, no. And, of course, they're going to take it because it's a huge issue of constitutional law with no precedent.

BARRETT: But don't you think that also means that they don't like -- some significant number of the justices don't like something about how the appeals court landed on this? I keep thinking they took it because there's something in that ruling that they're not comfortable with.

HONIG: Yeah, I understand. I think that's a natural intuition.

COATES: For the audience, the lower court ruling, they could have chosen not to have taken up the case, and the lower court ruling would have stood. That would have been the final decision had they not --

HONIG: Right. So, they could have said, no, thanks, we'll leave the Court of Appeals opinion in place. Jack Smith, you win. Donald Trump, you lose. But the Supreme Court doesn't take cases only to overturn them. They sometimes think this is big and important.

And also, we want to establish the rule for the whole country right now. The D.C. Court of Appeals is very influential, but it wouldn't be binding on New York or Mississippi or California.

COATES: Also, I mean, imagine, I wonder if there's an ego of the Supreme Court that wants to have the final word. I don't know. I'm just guessing here. Francis from Greensboro, North Carolina, what's your question?

FRANCIS, CALLER FROM GREENSBORO, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): If the Supreme Court agrees with Trump's argument, would President Biden also be covered in that absolute immunity?

COATES: That's a great question. Jim, let's turn to you on that.

TRUSTY: Well, most importantly, I went to Wake Forest, so go Deacs.

COATES: I didn't even plan this. I didn't even plan it, people. It just happened.

TRUSTY: If they're going to do -- if they're going to do the Albany stuff, I'm going to do the North Carolina stuff. All right?



So, I'll see you at Biscuitville. But, look, I -- yeah, this is going to be -- and this is why it's really interesting. We've just never had a situation where the Supreme Court felt compelled to weigh in on the -- on the limits or non-limits or absence of immunity for a president. So, it will affect every president, you know, for the rest of time. I mean, it's going to be a huge decision if they really get to the full merits of it.

I don't know that it will, if you're thinking about, like, Delaware, there's no prosecution coming and he wasn't president. So, there's all sorts of wrinkles to some of the things that have happened factually, but, yeah, this would be a historic moment, a very seismic case.

COATES: So, the viewer question from Laura Coates, where is this Biscuitville?

TRUSTY: Winston-Salem, Danville, Lynchburg, they're scattered around and they're great hangover cures.

COATES: Okay. Sorry, I'm taking notes. That's the viewer question today as well. Thank you so much. Gentlemen, please stand by.

We have breaking news tonight. There are tense protests and a standoff now at the campus of the University of Southern California after a day of protests in some of the most elite universities in this country over the Israel-Hamas war. L.A. Police arresting at least 50, 50 people at the USC campus. I'm going to go right now to CNN's Nick Watt who's live on campus in L.A. Nick, what is happening now?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some protesters are back on Alumni Park, which has been the scene of really long and passionate protests all day. There are guys like this. The atmosphere is getting a little rough now. People like this who won't show their face but are trying to intimidate us by filming us. So, the atmosphere is getting a little unpleasant now, I've got to say. So earlier, what happened? Protesters started -- the guy is still filming me.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm just filming you.

WATT: Yeah. I mean --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm scared.

WATT: Show your face.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm scared.

WATT: Show your face.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm scared.

WATT: Why are you scared to show your face? Anyway, anyway, anyway. So, what happened earlier is from 4:30 this morning, protesters occupied this park in solidarity with other protests around the country. They put up tents. The college told them to take the tents down.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

WATT: Yeah, that's right. So, anyway, then the protesters felt that the college was being a bit nitpicky by telling them to take down banners, so they put the tents back up. So, then college officials came on to try to take the tents down. And it got ugly. There were swearing, there were scuffles. Then one man was arrested.

The police then let him go after the crowd demanded they let him go because the police realized it wasn't worth keeping this one person in custody for the temperature, the heat that it was creating.

So, the protests then built during the day, speakers chanting, and then the LAPD were invited on to campus by USC, and they told the protesters they had 10 minutes to clear. Some protesters decided they did not want to. So, they --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

WATT: -- they linked arms in the middle of this park and they were arrested. More than 50 of them were arrested.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

WATT: Anyway, I think we should -- I think -- I think we should probably go because it's getting a little nasty here. Anyway, more than 50 people arrested.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

WATT: You know, back to you, guys. We need to go. COATES: Nick, I'm hearing what's happening around you. Nick, please stay safe. I'm watching as you are seeing the tensions rise in the area where one of our journalists is reporting about what is happening on the campus of USC, describing the tension, describing the temperature ramping up at exponential degrees, and now having to possibly leave the area because the tension is so high.

This after an all-day long affair and, frankly, for days now across the country. We're seeing a lot of charged campuses in the United States. We'll continue to follow along. We certainly hope that Nick remains safe and continues to be able to report where I know the nation is watching.

There's also yet another state charging top Trump allies for their alleged roles in trying to overturn the 2020 election. This time, it's Arizona. The indictment against Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, and multiple others next.




GOV. KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ): The alleged actions of these extremists are shameful. They undermine the election process in our state, and I hope to see them held accountable.


COATES: Well, moments ago, Arizona's governor, Katie Hobbs, responding after the state grand jury indicted seven Trump allies and 11 so- called fake electors on charges centered around an alleged scheme to subvert the 2020 election.

The Trump associates now facing felony charges includes this yearbook photo. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump's lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, as well as top campaign aide Boris Epstein. Trump himself was not charged in this case, but he is named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Let's go around to CNN national security reporter Zachary Cohen, who is in Arizona right now. So, Zach, what do these indictments say about this so-called fake electors' plot and what are the charges they're now facing?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah, Laura, Donald Trump may not be charged in this indictment, but the indictment does outline an entire conspiracy, alleged conspiracy that revolves around Donald Trump, and it charges several people who are very close to Donald Trump, especially in that period right after the 2020 election where he was trying to overturn the election results, and especially here in Arizona, it was targeting Arizona along with six other key swing states to try to flip that electoral count from Biden to Trump. And look, there's 11 electors, plus seven really close Trump allies that are charged here. The electors, you know, we always assumed that this investigation was focused on the electors themselves, but we've had reporting in the last few months that there were indications -- investigation was beginning to expand, and expand to focus on members of Trump's national campaign and focus on people within Trump's inner orbit. You named a few of them just now that were named in this indictment.


Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Mike Roman. These are people who were meeting face-to-face with Trump. These are people who were on the ground helping Trump put these fake electors together, help them facilitate their signing of those fake electoral documents that we know are not just charged here but also in other states around the country.

And you mentioned too, there's multiple felony counts. There's nine counts total. There are multiple felonies. You know, there's -- the top line is a conspiracy count that is similar to what we've seen in Georgia --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

COHEN: -- with that RICO conspiracy count where Trump is indicted. But several of these other people are indicted as well. So, some parallels there. But, ultimately, at the end of the day, people within Trump's inner orbit charged again here in Arizona.

COATES: And yet, Trump, unlike the charges in Georgia, he's not indicted in this case at all. He, I think, is an unindicted co- conspirator in this case. But somebody we have not seen before ever be facing charges for the first time is Boris Epstein. Why is that so significant?

COHEN: Yeah, Laura, the difference there has to do with Georgia's RICO statute. You know, the conspiracy, the way the conspiracy charge is written in Georgia, it is a top-down sort of criminal charge there. In Arizona, the conspiracy charge is a little bit different and may help explain why Donald Trump is not charged in this case. Also, the proximity to the 2024 election may also be a contributing factor.

But I am told by a source familiar that the investigation here in Arizona is still ongoing, and that was in response specifically to a question about why Donald Trump was not indicted. So, we'll have to keep an eye on that.

Boris Epstein, though, is an interesting character in all this. This is the first time he has been indicted or charged in any of these investigations related to the 2020 election despite the fact that there has been ample evidence that he was intimately involved in the fake elector scheme, and he has even admitted it on camera himself.

Epstein is a little different than some of these other co-conspirators and co-defendants in this case. He has remained very close to Donald Trump in the years since Trump lost the 2020 election. He was actually in the courtroom in Manhattan when Trump was arraigned in the hush money case.

And sources have told Kristen Holmes, our colleague, that the reason we haven't seen Boris Epstein close to Trump in the last few weeks and in the start of his criminal trial is because of concerns about the looming indictment here in Arizona and, of course, that has come to fruition today.

COATES: Zachary Cohen, thank you so much. I want to bring in our panel again here. Eli Honig, Devlin Barrett, Jim Trusty. What's your immediate reaction to the fact that Trump is an unindicted co- conspirator and these charges are now in Arizona?

HONIG: These fake elector indictments collectively are a confused -- confusing, inconsistent, at times internally contradictory mess, and let me lay that out for you. Let's take the unindicted co-conspirators out of it because that talk is cheap. You don't have to ever prove that. Any prosecutor generally could just type it back.

Okay. According to Jack Smith, only one person is criminally liable for all the fake electors. Only Donald Trump. Nobody else. According to Fani Willis, Donald Trump committed a crime and some of the Georgia electors did, but not others.

According to the indictment we see tonight, and another one of the states, only the electors are liable, not Donald Trump. According to other states, no electors. Nobody is criminally liable at all. This doesn't make any sense come together. It has become a pile-on. It has become chaos.

And by the way, on top of all this, not a single one of these indictments, which came three years after the fact, has resulted in a single guilty plea or conviction to any serious or any felony case. I need to see the proof in the pudding before I'm at all impressed by any of these.

COATES: Well, Jim, the other aspect of that could be, well, there's no coordination then. There's not the sort of conspiring, at least among prosecutors, to have one consistent theme. Each sovereign is doing something different. What do you say to this?

TRUSTY: Well, I mean, look, it's a two-hour show if you want to get into all the wrinkles of --

COATES: I got time.

TRUSTY: Let's just say this. If you want to dispel that notion a little bit, the guy that did the opening statement in New York was the number 3 official at DOJ until about three weeks before Alvin Bragg's indictment. So, I'm not saying it's a conclusive case of some sort of collusion, but it's a fair question.

Look, I agree with a lot of what we just heard from Elie in terms of the inconsistencies. Some of it, you can chalk up to law. My initial reaction, without having waded into the evidence of this case at all, is really just kind of a baseline sympathy for the electors.

And what I mean by that is, a lot of these people are kind of low- level political activists that are told, if we win in court, we may need you to jump up the next day and be the new elector that supports Donald Trump. A lot of them are on TV celebrating their role, thinking -- the last thing they're thinking is, I'm going to be in a RICO in Georgia or a conspiracy case in Arizona.

So, whatever you think of the Rudy Giulianis and all these other higher figures that are involved, I have just an instinctive gut reaction that these electors didn't sign up for what they're getting prosecuted for.

COATES: What do you say?

BARRETT: I think Jim hits on a good point, which is the if part of that sentence, and I think the distinction you have to make is, what a lot of these folks are saying in their behalf and their defense is, this was just an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass situation. But what the prosecutors are saying, no, no, no, you broke glass to create an emergency to try to get Trump back in the White House.


And that's not okay. You can't fraud your way to a different outcome. And so, that's the accusation. They have to stand that up in court, to Elie's point, and we'll see what happens.

COATES: Well, bringing to you live here from the glass half-empty quad right now --

UNKNOWN: (INAUDIBLE) skepticism.

COATES: There you go. Thanks, guys, so much. Please stand by. And, you know, Trump's legal woes, they don't end here. Stay with us because David Pecker is retaking the stand in the criminal hush money trial tomorrow. What will the tabloid publisher reveal?


COATES: All right, the other big story tomorrow, day seven -- can you believe it -- of the Trump hush money trial, with potentially more dramatic and sensational testimony from the former chairman of the National Enquirer's parent company, AMI. He's also the longtime friend of Donald Trump.


His name is David Pecker. And his testimony so far outlines a scheme to use these "catch and kill" tactics to try to protect Donald Trump by burying damaging stories about him while smearing his political rivals. Pecker also testifying it was all tied to helping Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

Elie Honig is at the Magic Wall with a look ahead. Elie, good to have you over there. I mean, first of all, tell us again, how does Pecker set the stage for what's going to come next?

HONIG: Well, Laura, David Pecker is doing exactly that. He's setting the stage, he's getting the jury into the facts of this case, getting them used to the names, the places, the who's who. Of course, as you said, David Pecker and Donald Trump, they go way back. Their relationship dates back to the 1980s.

The main thing he's doing is getting the jury to understand the three main aspects of the "catch and kill" scheme, starting with the doorman, Dino Sajudin. He testified about this on Tuesday. He he talked about how they paid to get his story. It ended up being untrue about an alleged love child of Donald Trump.

Where we left off with our testimony on Tuesday, he was starting to discuss the payoff scheme to Karen McDougal, who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump. We're going to hear him finish that part of his testimony tomorrow.

And then he's going to get to the heart of the matter, the payoffs to Stormy Daniels. Now, it appears David Pecker had minimal involvement in that, but he will get the jury to understand the pattern at play here.

And very importantly, David Pecker testified about a key meeting in August 2015 with three very important participants, Donald Trump, David Pecker, and Michael Cohen where, according to Pecker, this is where they first said Donald Trump is now running for office, and we need to take care of these stories that might make him look bad in the campaign. Very importantly, in the campaign. We're going to hear from Michael Cohen, of course, about that meeting, too.

COATES: Now, tell me, though, about what the cross might look like. We're obviously hearing the direct examination right now with the prosecution. This is their lead witness. They're asking questions. But then the defense is going to have their bite at the apple.

HONIG: Yeah, I think there's going to be a couple main lines of cross- examination. David Pecker is testifying pursuant to what we call a non-prosecution agreement, meaning prosecutors have given him a free pass in exchange for his testimony, and I think the cross-examination argument is going to be, first of all, was there a crime here or not? And if so, why are you walking when they're trying to lock up Donald Trump? How is that fair?

We also are going to hear, I think, cross-examination about who exactly David Pecker interacted with, because he said that the vast majority of his interactions on this "catch and kill" scheme were with this guy, Michael Cohen, and not the boss man, although there were a few with the boss.

But I think they're going to argue that Michael Cohen was essentially freelancing. He was doing this on his own, and David Pecker can only tie things, really, on Michael Cohen more so than Donald Trump.

COATES: So, who comes next after David Pecker? HONIG: Yeah, so, we don't know the exact order yet. We're playing that sort of day-by-day. Of course, we will hear from Michael Cohen. One of the big questions will be, to what extent is their testimony consistent or inconsistent with one another?

We probably will hear from Stormy Daniels, the recipient of the allegedly criminally covered-up payments. We also may hear from Hope Hicks, who was involved in the Trump campaign's efforts to sort of rebound after that really damaging Access Hollywood tape.

And we have already begun to see the prosecution introduce financial checks. They've introduced some of them through David Pecker. We're going to see, among other things, copies of the checks that Donald Trump wrote, and some of them he signed in order to reimburse Michael Cohen.

What the prosecution is going to try to do, Laura, which we did all the time, is build a case that is a latticework, where everything overlaps and supports one another. We'll see if the defense lawyers can poke enough holes in that.

COATES: We'll see. Elie, come on back. Thank you so much. Any day now, Judge Merchan may decide whether Donald Trump violated his gag order. Now, Trump, he has been lashing out because he claims he has been gagged while Michael Cohen has been free to speak out.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Every time Donald opens his mouth, you know that something non-truthful is coming out of it.

What is his goal? Again, it's to incite these followers within which to prevent me from appearing before the New York district attorney, before the Manhattan district attorney, in this upcoming trial.

Troubled people cause trouble. Donald is that troubled person, and he's causing trouble.


COATES: I think the phrase is hurt people, hurt -- you know what? It's fine. But tonight, Cohen vowing to stop talking for now, writing on "X" -- quote -- "Despite not being the gagged defendant, out of respect for the judge, Judge Merchan, and the prosecutors, I will cease posting anything about Donald on my "X" account or on the "Mea Culpa" podcast until after my trial testimony. See you all in a month or more."

Jim, let me ask you about this. Is the damage already done, though, when you're talking about Michael Cohen as a witness? Because when I heard him speaking out as a prosecutor, my instinct thought, well, I may have a gag order for the defendant. I need a muzzle for my witnesses.

TRUSTY: Tranquilizer darts. I mean, look, this is a guy -- if you're a prosecutor, you are in absolute agony to have an important witness running his mouth in a way that's going to be used against him.


I mean, every time he's -- you know, tremendous self-restraint to stop after 2,000 times. But every time he goes on TV or a podcast, whether he's inconsistent with things he's said before, which is classic cross-examination, or if it's just bias, that he hates Trump, that's all going to come back in front of this jury. They're going to be showing clip after clip after clip and saying, that's you right there, right, Mr. Cohen?

So, a guy that already has the baggage of being a failed cooperator, a perjurer, a guy that's clearly kind of in the thug life as an attorney, all of these things are just going to be magnified by all these press moments he's had. I just think it's bizarre that a prosecutor couldn't control him and say, you know, save it. Do a victory lap afterwards, but shut up for a minute.

COATES: Is the same true for, say, Stormy Daniels, who's not going after Trump in the same way that Michael Cohen has, but certainly she has gone toe-to-toe with a number of trolls?

TRUSTY: Yeah. Well, let me say this. You know, I think this all goes to the heart of the defense strategy which is, where do you go in terms of cross-examination? I think Pecker is a friendly cross- examination. I do not think you go after him like your friendship has been destroyed. You don't even go crazy about the non-prosecution agreement. You get concessions out of him that he's probably going to give you that are helpful, and you move on because you're keeping the focus on Cohen.

You want the jury to think this entire trial is a referendum on the credibility of Michael Cohen. So even with the women involved, Stormy Daniels, you could say she has been extortionate, she has done some crazy things, she has been inconsistent about whether they had a relationship, touch it lightly, but don't make it an emphasis because you want all eyes on Cohen. That's your best chance of getting either one or 12 jurors to ruin this thing for the prosecution.

COATES: Devlin, you've actually been in court earlier in the week and then last week. This is going to be tomorrow, the first full day in court. We had the dentist's appointment for an alternate juror on Monday, which it better not had been a cleaning but, you know, oral hygiene is important. You had, of course, Passover observance as well on Tuesday and also on Monday. Now will be the first full day for maybe this witness and others talking about what Trump has been like in this courtroom because he's had to sit there. Tomorrow is day seven.

BARRETT: So, he's an interesting defendant to watch because on the one hand, and I say this based in part on watching him during the E. Jean Carroll civil case which was only a few months ago, he tends to move between being, you know, sort of signs of irritation and signs of boredom. But now that the actual trial is underway, he seems pretty engaged, pretty attentive. And, you know, when Pecker was testifying, you noticed him thinking about and listening carefully to Pecker's answers. They obviously know each other.

Pecker is a surprisingly cheerful witness. He's pretty chipper, which is not always what you get in a prosecution witness. But I do think you notice flashes of irritation from him such -- for example, when the doorman issue came up and this whole allegation of some sort of, you know, scandal about him came up, he grimaced and he clearly -- it irks him greatly to have that stuff aired in front of him.

I think he's also just a person, like a lot of people who are powerful and rich and famous, he's not used to having to sit and listen for long stretches. I think that is an issue that's probably going to come up more and more.

But I'm obsessed with this notion of how the jury looks at him and reacts to him and how he looks at the jury and reacts to the jury because in E. Jean Carroll, that dynamic was awful, and if that repeats itself, he could be in trouble.

COATES: Really important. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Another very important day of testimony. Will the defense be able to poke some holes? Will they continue on the trajectory of allowing him to be the upbeat witness or not?

Elie Honig, Devlin Barrett, Jim Trusty, thank you all so much.

Well, tensions are continuing to rise as pro-Palestinian demonstrations are erupting on campuses across this country. Live pictures here from the University of Southern California where dozens have been arrested. What should President Biden do in this moment? That's next.



COATES: We're seeing right now some live pictures out of Los Angeles. Remember, there is a standoff at the USC campuses between protesters and police. We're seeing a line of officers on the right part of your screen where they appear to be forming a line horizontally to try to prevent the protesters from advancing to a different area and trying to push them back and contain them to a particular zone. On the left, we're also seeing an aerial view of the campus at large, where you do see protesters dispersed around the area in different locations.

We're continuing to follow along to see what may happen in these areas. Campus protests are colliding with politics, though, as lawmakers call on colleges to do more to stop the reports of antisemitism that are coming out. At the University of Texas at Austin, for example, today, state troopers marched in lockstep to stop students walking out of class. Republican Governor Greg Abbott said protesters -- quote -- "belong in jail and antisemitism will not be tolerated."

At least 34 people were arrested. You're seeing some of that on the screen right now. That includes a television photographer from the local Fox station in Austin. The station says he was charged with trespassing. Video shows him falling down as troopers arrest him.

But demonstrations are popping up at colleges from coast to coast one week after students at Columbia began camping out and calling for the university to divest from Israel. Columbia has now extended the negotiating deadline with protesters, but the university says some people trespassed onto campus to pursue their own agendas.

Today, House Speaker Mike Johnson led a congressional delegation to Columbia. He wants the school's president to resign. But the school says it stands by their president, and protesters made their voices heard while Johnson was speaking.



I think there's always a place for debate and the free exchange of ideas, but let's not equivocate on what's happening in Hamas -- with Hamas and in Gaza. This is a battle, as Netanyahu said, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, between good versus evil, light versus darkness, civilization versus barbarism. This isn't a close call.


COATES: With me now, CNN political commentator and former senior advisor to Hillary Clinton, Karen Finney, and former Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Charlie Dent. Thank you both for being here. First, let me begin with what we just saw on the screen. Speaker Johnson visiting. He's the Speaker of the House, obviously. What do you make of his visit to Columbia?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know if he needed to go there, but I think he's fundamentally right that these protests have gotten out of hand. I mean, the business of Columbia University, a private school, is education, and education is being disrupted. Students can't get to class. They're being told to go to class remotely now. Jewish students are told to stay away.

And so, Columbia is not able to provide a safe learning environment for its students. I think it's important that they make arrests and clear the campus once and for all. They don't have rights to publicly encamp on private property. So, I think they're right. Now, Johnson, look, he's up there. He's making a political point, but I think his point is a fair one that this needs to end.

COATES: And there is a hook, of course, of federal funding. When you talk about private universities, you still have that hook of why maybe Congress has an interest in this and what they could maybe withhold. But President Biden, you know, condemned antisemitism with the protests.


COATES: He's also facing a lot of pressure to do a lot more than he is right now. FINNEY: Yeah.

COATES: What would you advise?

FINNEY: So, first of all, let me say, I think what Johnson did was pretty shameful because that's throwing gas on the fire. That's not actually trying to say to the university, how can we help you solve this problem? And that's what we should be doing. We should be more concerned about how do we help our campuses create a safe environment for not just our students, all the people who work there, not how can I try to score political points. And I think the other thing --

COATES: What should he have done? Not visit at all, you're saying?

FINNEY: Sure. Why not call the president and say, what can we be doing? How about a meeting of university presidents instead of a hearing? Bring them together and say, what do you need? What resources do you need from us? Because remember, it's also, you know, it's governors and its mayors who are going to ultimately have to deal with this.

So, I think it's, you know, taking an approach that understands this is a community event when this happens and how do -- I mean, I grew up in Berkeley, so we saw a lot of protesting, right? That really collaborative approach is part of how you say our number one priority is people's safety.

Jewish students should absolutely not feel intimidated. No student should feel intimidated. As a Black woman, trust me, I know what that feels like. I don't want anybody to feel that way.

I think, you know, the president, he has condemned the protests a couple of times. He has also -- you know, the Department of Education has resources that they've developed. Again, I think part of it is talking with these campus communities and saying, do you have the expertise and the resources that you need? Because we cannot have this kind of disruption.

But the last thing I'll just say, I think we have to be really careful about, because we certainly saw this during George Floyd, many of the real agitators who are not there to be peaceful are outsiders with their own agendas. We saw students actually even saying that. That has been their experience.

So, I think law enforcement has to be careful. Who's there to peacefully say their piece and their First Amendment rights and who's there really trying to incite violence?

COATES: It's an important point and distinction. You know, we hear a lot about -- I mean, over the last several months, especially since October 7th, and we know the infamous hearing that led to at least the resignation of one president, there's a lot more requests for college presidents to resign in the wake of what's happening. Congress is, in fact, doing just that. Do you think that that is the solution here, to call for those resignations, or is there an alternate course? DENT: Well, I'm not sure that resignation is the proper course of action in the case of Columbia. But it seems to me that these college communities, in too many cases, are far too tolerant of this antisemitic commentary. The river to the sea, Palestine will be free, other antisemitic tropes, the BDS movement, it's antisemitic.

These college presidents would be shutting down these types of protests if these were attacks against LGBT residents or African Americans, as they should. But they've been very tolerant of these attacks on the Jewish community, and I think they're being called out for it. I'm not saying this president needs to resign. She's under a lot of pressure.

But higher education has a lot of reflection to do about this whole movement. It's happening mostly at elite schools, by the way. I'm not hearing this stuff happening at a lot of the state schools across the country. But it's happening at these elite schools.


What's going on in the culture of these campuses that tolerates this type of antisemitism?

FINNEY: You know, one of the things that concerns me, though, is that a couple of things. Number one, disinformation is rampant, so that's not helping either. But also, maybe we need to take a look at ourselves and say, what's the tone and tenor, for example, in Washington? What our leaders are also putting out there, you know, the lack of civility, the lack of open dialogue and conversation.

All of us can be a part of being a better example of how to do that. And I just don't think very few are -- the kids are just not seeing that, I would think, when they're turning on the television. I think more of us should commit to that.

COATES: Well, it might be true that they're not -- they may be mirroring something or we may be seeing a microcosm of what is happening in the greater world as well.

Karen Finney, Charlie Dent, thank you both so much.

And I want to also thank all of you for watching. Our coverage continues.