Return to Transcripts main page

Laura Coates Live

Hope Hicks Testifies; A Rare Trump Win The Battle Over The Gag Order; Potential VP Picks To Gather At Mar-a-Lago. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 03, 2024 - 23:00   ET






Come here. Come here, Hope. She's shy but not that shy.

HOPE HICKS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thank you all so much. And thank you, President Trump. I have stage fright, so --



TRUMP: She's great.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, from sharing the stage and stage fright to taking the stand, a nervous and emotional Hope Hicks faces her longtime boss and friend, Donald Trump, in court.

Welcome to a special edition of LAURA COATES LIVE alongside Abby Phillip right here in New York. And it was a dramatic day in the Manhattan courtroom for Trump, who now has spent 11 days sitting and hearing testimony in his criminal trial.

And, you know, today, I got to see it in person with my own eyes. And let me just tell you, when she was speaking, the president and the jury and myself were listening very intently. And, yes, she did cry on the stand. I'll tell you what happened there in just a moment.

But what the defense is hoping the jury keeps in mind is the answer to the final question she was asked. Here it is from the transcript, "In 2017, while you were focused on your job at the White House, you didn't have anything to do with the business records of the Trump Organization 200 plus miles away from New York City, did you?" Her answer, "No."

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Hicks there testified that she did not have knowledge of the falsification of business records. That's the actual charge against Trump, so that's really important. But as one of his closest days, she bolstered a key part of the prosecution's narrative, that Trump was involved in the deals to silence damaging stories before the 2016 election.

Today, Hicks was asked about a 2018 conversation that she had with Trump after that "Wall Street Journal" story broke that had the Stormy Daniels hush money payments in the story.

From the transcript, Hicks says, "President Trump was saying he spoke to Michael, and that Michael had paid this woman to protect him from a false allegation, and that -- you know -- Michael felt like it was his job to protect him, and that's what he was doing. And that he did it out of the kindness of his heart."

COATES: Now, the question went on, and this part is really important to the prosecution because Hicks suggests that it's unlikely that's being generous, that Cohen did any of this on his own.

Here was the question that is asked: "And did the idea that Mr. Cohen would have made a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels out of the kindness of his heart, was that consistent with your interactions with him up to that point?" Here was her answer, "I would say that would be out of character for Michael." "Why would it be out of character for Michael?", she was asked. "I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person, um, or selfless person."

I want to bring in CNN political analyst Natasha Alford, also contributor for CNN, Leah Wright Rigueur, Washington correspondent for "New York" Magazine, Olivia Nuzzi, and former prosecutor and defense attorney, Imran Ansari. Also, here, legal analyst and former prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.

I mean, it was a stunning moment, by the way.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And you were there for it.


PHILLIP: So, tell us about that moment, first of all, the one that everyone is talking about, the tears.

COATES: I mean, I was there for it, and I was also here for it. And here's why. I was there to see what was happening. And, you know, I can't overstate this, Abby. I've been in so many trials, so many courtrooms. The fact that this was a drab routine state courtroom, the only thing different was Donald Trump was inside of it. When she walked into this courtroom and when she was testifying on the stand, my mind and my eyes went directly to what Trump was doing and what he was saying.

And at the time that she started speaking, when first started crying, it was just the end of the prosecution's case and there were questions for her, followed by an otherwise really just benign question about trying to ask her about her work with the Trump Organization, at which point she sort of -- her body all of a sudden became all the more guarded, and she began to tremble. Her chin was trembling, her lips were trembling, and she turned her face away.

It was the first time anyone realized there was an issue. In fact, the defense counsel sort of put his hands up for a second, almost in a, I don't know what happened just now.

PHILLIP: What did I do?

COATES: What did I do?

PHILLIP: He hadn't even really done anything.

COATES: He hadnt done anything at that point. And then she turned her face completely. And when she's turning her face away, there's already a box of tissues there. A bailiff is looking to her to try to help her. And he asked her, do you need to have a moment? She says, crying at this point, yes. And then they had her get off the stand.

The jury at this point is completely honed in. They are locked in to figure out what she's doing, what's happening, looking over at Trump, and there's a clear view of his profile. And when she walks past him, she makes no eye contact, but Donald Trump looks up at her. His eyebrows are kind of raised as if in concern, like genuine concern for her.


She walks around him and kind of shrinks her body as she passes and leaves. And it was this moment I thought it read as authentic, but also, I wondered how the jury was going to see that moment.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, the prosecution in that moment -- I mean, that could go both ways.


PHILLIP: And you've talked about this. You -- you're a former prosecutor.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

PHILLIP: You would have handled maybe that aftermath a little bit differently, maybe asking her what was going through her mind. But that definitely could backfire with someone like Hope Hicks where her sympathies are not totally clear.

COATES: Yeah, that's such a great point because you never want to ask a question you know the answer to. At the same token, it was just kind of left out there. When she came back, she said something, like, sorry about that and thank you for that. And then you guys, when she sat there, there was never a moment when the defense also said, so why were you so emotional? What -- what led that?

Now, Jennifer, you've tried many cases, and you can imagine, on the one hand, it could have endeared him to the jury to suggest, look, I'm -- I obviously saw that you were crying. On the other hand, she could have something very helpful to the defense or very harmful. JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yeah, I don't think you want to ask the question. Maybe you say something, like, are you all right, can we proceed? You know, you want to show that you're human, but I don't think you want to get some speech about, you know, how sad it is for her because how great Trump is and so on and so forth. And I think it all --

COATES: Maybe the defense wants that, though.

RODGERS: The defense does. But I think it all actually works well for the prosecution because she was so believable and authentic. And she did give the prosecution some good points today. I think they're going to be able to use some of the building blocks she gave them. So, I think they're probably happy with that one.

COATES: You're nodding. You agree.

IMRAN ANSARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, absolutely. I think, you know, Hope Hicks got off the stand, and a lot of people thought she may be a mixed bag in terms of the testimony she gave. Some helpful for the defense and Trump. But largely, when you take it a look back and you look at her testimony and see what the prosecution needs to prove at the end of the day in this case, it's going to be helpful testimony for the prosecution. And the most important part, she came off as credible.

Michael Cohen is going to come into that courtroom and be the witness that's going to get beaten up on credibility. She came across as credible because you didn't really know if she is still sympathetic with Trump in some way. She's there on a subpoena, not testifying willfully for the prosecution but by way of a subpoena, and I think that gives her testimony credibility.

COATES: Olivia, take us back, though. For many people -- I mean, I had never heard her actually speak before today. I mean -- very few. And there was that moment on the stage, of course, we know. But who was she to Trump when they were still in contact?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: She was the senior most communications official. She was not the press secretary. So, she was never out there speaking for the administration, speaking for the campaign on camera. She has never appeared on camera other than when she's on her way to testify or, you know, be a part of some sort of investigation or a trial like today.

And she was sort of someone who was known to the press corps who covered Trump and known to Trump world and known among people who sort of treat MAGA as like, you know, I don't know, like the "Grateful Dead" or something that are familiar with all the different characters.


COATES: (INAUDIBLE) all of a sudden? Hold on. What is happening?

NUZZI: (INAUDIBLE) actually. But they -- but they -- she was not someone who is known to kind of passive viewers and consumers of news. And she was very powerful. She's very close to him, very close to the family. The way into the Trump world was through the Trump Organization, through Ivanka Trump. And she was someone who was very trusted and who kind of proved how trustworthy she was over years and years.

And the campaign was very small in 2016, in the beginning, before he got nomination, before that seemed inevitable. They were first a laughingstock. And it was really -- it was not a first-choice campaign for like top staffers in the right-wing political world. It was staffed by people with kind of seedy backgrounds, not a lot of traditional political experience. And in the case of Hope Hicks and several others, really no political experience.

PHILLIP: The real reason that the -- one of the main reasons of -- the prosecution needed her in this case, needed her today, was to take us back to the Access Hollywood moment for the campaign, and to take us there, immerse us in what it was would have been like in Trump world at that time, when that tape came down, and how that changed everything, and how, if anything, had come after that, like a Stormy Daniels allegation. What that would have been like? Was she effective?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. I mean, this -- this question, how's it playing, right? She brought that up. She showed that Donald Trump was constantly asking, how am I looking, right? How are these stories impacting people? And I know very little shocks us these days, but that Access Hollywood tape was pretty disgusting, right? Think of all the women who came out during the Women's March wearing those hats because of what he said.

And so, Donald Trump doesn't apologize for much, but this was the one instance in which he actually did issue an apology, of course, after deflecting, saying, you know, all this is just locker room talk. But eventually, he had to give a very sincere apology because he knew just how badly this has impacted --


COATES: Let's actually play that moment just for my -- I mean, people have amnesia after all these years. But he actually did apologize. They actually played it in court today. let's listen to this.


TRUMP: Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong, and I apologize.


COATES: What could have been more authentic than that, Abby?


PHILLIP: I apologize. I mean -- I can probably count on --

UNKNOWN: (INAUDIBLE). PHILLIP: -- one hand the number of times that he's ever used that phrase. But he did in that moment, which really tells you everything you need to know about how important it was.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it tells you that he was terrified, and he was -- it also tells you that the campaign really thought that this was it, that it was over. You know, one of the things that came out in court, that has come out -- that has also come out is that Trump wasn't just terrified about the effect that it would have on his political campaign, he was worried about Melania.

He said, have I hurt Melania? What would she do? What will -- how will this -- how will this affect her? But also, what will her response be? How will the world see me? How will women see me?

NUZZI: That's the key thing, what will her response be? I have a very hard time believing, having covered Donald Trump for almost a decade now, that he was worried, have I hurt Melania? You know, if she is embarrassed, because he was worried about his relationship or worried about her as a human being.

But the optics of having your wife very angry at you, she did take a backseat on the campaign going forward. It did take her a very long time to come to Washington. We know that Karen McDougal in particular really upset her.

I remember I was profiling her. I ended up never publishing the piece. But for months and in that time, "New York" magazine put Stormy Daniels on the cover in a women in power issue, and it was like this very beautiful portrait of Stormy Daniels, and I had done the interview, and the profile fell apart, the access fell apart, and I learned it was because Melania was so devastated to see Stormy Daniels in this sort, of you know, valorized way on a magazine cover.

COATES: We know it was less than elegant and was -- Michael Cohen is being introduced in almost every aspect of this trial. I mean, he is like -- he might as well be the glass of water next to every witness. And they drink from this cup, and they go, oh, it's time to mention Michael Cohen, because look at the words that he has been described about him so far.

And today was no exception. I mean, Mr. Fix It, he was somebody -- I think Hope Hicks said today, they called him "tough the fixer" because he broke it first. And then there was this moment today where she said, "I used to say that he liked to call himself 'a fixer' or 'Mr. Fix It,' and it was only because he first broke it that he was able to come and fix it."

Now, this caused laughter in the courtroom. She was laughing at this point in time. Others were laughing. And the defense was probably, like, yes, tell me more, tell me more about this. What is the impact of now somebody, as you say, who is read as authentic before a jury again previewing the fact that she, too, does not take Cohen, well, seriously?

RODGERS: It's fine. It is fine with the prosecutors. And here's why. Prosecutors are used to having dirt bags be their cooperating witnesses, right? You have murderers, you know, robbers, rapists, etc. on the stand, and what you say to the jury is, listen, you may not like this guy, but I'm going to tell you why you should believe this guy, right? It's all the corroboration. It's what the other witnesses say. It's the documents, etc.

And one of the things that Hope Hicks did today, which was good for prosecutors, is she also put Michael Cohen in the middle of this. She said Michael Cohen was talking to Trump about this stuff. He was talking to David Pecker.

You know, he -- you know, she could take us through the timeline from the campaign's view of how all this happened and how the narrative changed. You know, the first thing out was affair never happened, payoff never happened. Then it was, okay, well, the payoff never happened. Then it was, okay, well, the payoff happened but Michael Cohen didn't and I didn't do it.

I mean, she took us through all of that, dishonest all of that was, and how Michael Cohen was the one who would have known. And then the last thing that's so helpful is, can you imagine that Michael Cohen really would have painted himself without Trump knowing? She says, nope, can't imagine that. That's golden.

COATES: Would you have spun that? You've been defense counsel, as a prosecutor as well, but would you spun that to suggest that he wouldn't have done it for any reason other than not maybe direction of Trump but self-gain? Remember, we've heard testimony that he says he was shocked that he wasn't going to Washington, D.C. after all that he has done, wanting to be part of the administration.

Could you see the defense counsel saying, well, yeah, he did it for Trump because he wanted to be benefited in the end?

ANSARI: Right. I mean, I think that would be a good point that the defense can make when you're really facing this testimony about Michael Cohen, him not being someone who's looking out for himself but rather someone who's a yes-man for Trump. That's the way you're going to spin that testimony in many ways, right?

Look, at the end of the day, these are building blocks that the prosecution is putting before this jury. They've embraced all the bad about Michael Cohen because they have to. There's no escaping that. And I think Hope Hicks's testimony today is just one block in the puzzle that the prosecution is putting together on a very difficult indictment, a difficult indictment that many people are critical of.


But I think they're putting forward the evidence, and the defense will have to come forward with arguments like that when facing a (INAUDIBLE) like Michael Cohen.

NUZZI: I want to say something about Michael Cohen. People keep talking about how, oh, this can be so difficult for the prosecution because he's a known liar. He was convicted of lying. This is going to be sort of a slam dunk for the defense. And I don't really agree with that. He has spent the last several years becoming the sort of resistant celebrity explaining himself and getting kind of cerebral about it and philosophical about it.

And if you watch him in his many interviews, he has become friends with Stormy Daniels, they've been on each other's podcasts, he's sort of like a lot of former Trump aides just in public unpacking why he did it, why he felt that way about Donald Trump, why he was willing to lie for him, and it has been very interesting to behold, but it does not read as false at all.

COATES: What he's also, though -- I mean, that's from a prosecutor standpoint, they do not want every instance to be able to be compared against what he might say on the stand. And the defense is going to say and suggest, he may be honest, but he also does not like being the only person punished compared to Donald Trump.

So, standby, it's a great point, everyone. I had a deeper look into the connection between Trump and Hope Hicks from someone who worked within the Trump administration. Olivia Troye says this is both their worst nightmares, and she's next.




COATES: Hope Hicks was described by some as essentially another member of Trump's family. So, just how close were Hope Hicks and Donald Trump during their time in the White House and maybe even before?

To dig deeper on that very question, I want to bring in Olivia Troye. She's a former Homeland Security and COVID Task Force advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, who also worked very closely with Trump and Hicks.

Olivia, good to see you. I mean, this was a day that people had been anticipating, a witness that could maybe move the needle further along, get people closer to the actual charges, someone who was known. And right as Trump's attorney was about to begin cross-examining her, she started tearing up. I mean, the court took a break. And you know her very well. What was going through your mind when you heard this?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY AND COVID TASK FORCE ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Quite honestly, I -- you know, I tried to put myself in her shoes in the moment. And I thought about Hope. And I had seen her interactions in the White House. I had seen my own former boss interact with her. This is a very inner circle trusted colleague. And I think -- you know, it's hard to know what she was feeling in the moment.

But I have to say, like, it got to be incredibly hard to sit there and testify in a moment where this is not where you ever wanted to be. I think that she thought that she had, you know, gotten away sort of unscathed. She was in the inner circle and she made it.

And now, here she finds herself testifying before him and trying to, you know, abide by the fact that she got a subpoena and she's in the court and she's trying to be factual, but also trying to sort of navigate the fact that these are her people. This is a circle that embraced her. This is a circle that she worked very closely with. So, you know, I don't know.

At the moment, I thought, is she sort of kind of realizing the moment that she is in, and what she is saying, and she knows that part of it could be hurtful to him? She doesn't want to be doing this. She never sought spotlight. She didn't -- she didn't seek to be anti-trump. Right, Laura? There are many of us that have spoken out. She has not. She has not publicly attacked him. She sorts of has stayed behind the scenes.

And so, also, I think to think, like, what am I doing? How did I get here? What is happening right now? And I think, honestly, when you look at her, I think about so many other colleagues that were in the circle and who remain in the circle. And I think of what a prime example of how eventually, when you're in this circle, eventually, you get called up, and it turns on you.

COATES: Well, you know, I wonder if there's any turning back in that respect. But, you know, there was a moment that she was asked whether she felt that she had the trust and respect of Mr. Trump, which is how she referred to him almost exclusively until she called him President Trump. And she said, yes, she felt that she did have his trust and his respect. Tell me what you witnessed between the two. Why was Trump so trusting of her?

TROYE: It was -- I think she was unwavering. I think she became a confidante. I think he also took her under his wing. I think he was a mentor to her, right? I mean, he pretty much brought her into his umbrella. I think he cultivated her career from what we've seen in many ways.

And from what I saw, I mean, he really was deferential to her. He would look across the room. Sometimes, there'd be other press secretaries in the room. When she wasn't the press secretary, I was there in 2020, where he would bypass everyone and say, Hope, what do you think?

And she was very soft-spoken. She's very -- she had a very quiet demeanor about her, but very confident. And, you know, there were -- these are meetings where there are cabinet officials and people that are serving in these roles, and he would always turn to her and say, Hope, your opinion.

So, he -- it was a sort of dynamic where there was a very tight bond between them. And if you wanted to know how he was going to react to things or what -- how we are going to navigate him, like, I'm going to be fully honest and transparent here, give some insight that I probably never shared, when I needed to know how to navigate Trump to help Mike Pence in some of the most challenging situations that we faced, Hope Hicks knew the approach. [23:25:02]

COATES: Hmm. Well, I guess that is interesting to think about, her as the main gatekeeper and when to almost be the Trump whisperer, even given the fact how soft-spoken she appeared to be in this context.

It actually doesn't surprise me as well to know that he would have relied on who he believed was in his inner circle. Remember, there was that moment through testimony, I think, that David Pecker was saying that, you know, he was sitting in a meeting with Mike Pompeo, who would eventually take on the role he did in the administration, with James Comey, the head of the FBI, and Trump turns to them and says, this is David Pecker, he runs the "National Enquirer," he knows more than any of you. No one laughed because they were thinking, what is going on here? But I can see this happening.

Also, I want to ask you about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, because there was earlier testimony, speaking of David Pecker, that said that Hicks was on a call with then press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, discussing extending the hush money payment to Karen McDougal. Pecker said that they thought it was a good idea. When you hear that, was that unethical for White House employees to be talking about that?

TROYE: I mean, I think so, right? I mean, why are these people involved in the situation? How are they navigating the media like this? I mean, it just goes to show the level of ties that they had in some of these circles and where their focus was and what they were willing to do. There were no boundaries. There were no boundaries in their demeanor and what they were doing.

And I think, again, you know, while we're trying -- while we're talking about something that happened on the campaign, I think this is just a very clear example of the inner workings of this mechanism and this machine and what this effort really was.

COATES: And it's important to remember that she said that they hadn't spoken since 2022. And was this this moment -- I just want to play, I know we have no time, but she testified to January 6th Committee, I want people to remember this, that she did not believe the election lies. And listen to what she said just to keep us in mind about the nature of their relationship after this. Listen.


HICKS: I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging -- we were damaging his legacy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): What did the president say in response to what you just described?

HICKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Undoubtedly, Olivia, that must have been in his mind as he heard somebody he trusted speaking today now in a Manhattan courtroom. Really important to have your perspective tonight. Thank you so much.

TROYE: Thanks for having me.

COATES: Up next, there was a win today for Donald Trump in court, and it does involve what the jury actually cannot hear about Trump's gag order violations. Plus, little Marco no more. The new reporting on Senator Marco Rubio's chances now in the Trump veefsteaks.




PHILLIP: The former president did secure one victory today in court. The prosecution asking Judge Merchan, if Trump were to testify, could they bring up Trump's repeated violations of the gag order? Now, Trump side objected, arguing that the judge would essentially be prejudicing the jury by allowing that.

COATES: You know what? Judge Merchan actually agreed with that. He said, "I think for a jury to hear that this court, the same judge that is presiding over this case has found Mr. Trump to be in contempt on this case, I think would be so prejudicial, it would be very, very difficult for a jury to look past that. So, I agree with Mr. Blanche, and I am going to deny the people's application to go into that."

The panel is back with us here. And just more broadly, I mean, Natasha, we've been talking about this in the past. If he gets fined $1,000, he can afford it. He -- they're not asking for jail time, so he won't get stepped back.

ALFORD: Uh-hmm.

COATES: And now, this jury won't hear about it. I mean, that's a win- win all around in that context.

ALFORD: Yeah, it's kind of like a nothing burger. But I think this fits into Donald Trump's strategy to make himself the victim in every single situation, right? So even if this is not that significant, it's this idea that he's being persecuted. And he's speaking to his base. He's speaking to his voters. This works for him.

COATES: And Leah, that increases the chances, by the way. It takes away the ability to say, this judge is so against me all the time. We've seen at least more than one ruling now where the judge has not indicated some bias against him. Can -- just looking at the broader picture of how Trump is approaching the legal or the justice system, how does this factor in?

RIGUEUR: So, I think there are a couple of things that are -- that we can look at for here, which is that on the one hand, the judge is showing, you know, I'm not -- I don't -- I'm actually objective and I'm fair, and I'm saying that I think this is -- this is prejudicial, right?

But it also means that it removes his ability. It removes Donald Trump's ability, I think, to accuse the judge of being biased, of being prejudicial outside in this larger -- this larger arena, public relations arena. So, in essence, it doesn't do very much for MAGA world, right? He can paint himself as a victim, but he can't paint himself that much as a victim.

What I do think it does, though, is it actually motivates, I think, people watching outside of this, so it allows, for example, the press to investigate and say, well, how is this being treated? How can we analyze the different components? But certainly, for the left, for Democrats, this is another example of the kind of, I think, preferential treatment that Trump is getting and is experiencing.


And while it may be right under the law for the larger picture of how this campaign is being run, people can point and say, this is a man who has not been given -- who hasn't been treated unfairly. He's actually been treated quite fairly. This is just another example of a president who is under scrutiny for a criminal trial, and we should be investigating that.

PHILLIP: I don't want to say that Judge Merchan has gone out of his way to be fair or even-handed with Trump, but he certainly has really tried to take the temperature down at various points. Even today, Trump made his statements yesterday about how he's not being allowed to testify. And the judge just kind of calmly said, just so you know, just want to make sure you're aware --


-- you have rights here, you can testify. Trump is poking the bear in a situation where he really doesn't need to. The judge is treating him, frankly, with kid gloves.

ANSARI: Yeah, I think it's really interesting to see the dynamic between Donald Trump and Judge Merchan because I think Donald Trump is constantly trying to bait him to get him to make a ruling, which he could go, then out on Truth Social and say, look, Judge Merchan is completely biased.

I think he's ultimately totally aware of that, Judge Merchan, and that's why he's so careful in what he's saying in court, including what you said, Abby, this morning about really reacting to what Trump said outside of court, saying, listen, the gag order is not going to prevent you from testifying, and then going further with that with the ruling later and saying, listen, that's not coming. You know, that's not going to be a bad act, that you could question this witness on if he takes the stand.

I think Judge Merchan is being very careful about his rulings.

NUZZI: What happens in that courtroom, first of all, there are no cameras as we know. So that, I think, helps Donald Trump create his own reality about this trial. It almost doesn't matter. His story is going to be his story no matter what Judge Merchan decides to do, no matter what he says. He will still be telling his supporters exactly what he wants to tell them, whether or not it has any basis in reality.

I think Judge Merchan is probably going to learn something that a lot of people who've dealt with Donald Trump for a long time already know, which is it doesn't matter how by the book you are, it doesn't matter how fair you are, it has no effect whatsoever on Donald Trump's behavior or on his narrative about his interactions with you.

COATES: And by the way, sitting in the courtroom, he -- this judge was not like a bombastic, charismatic person. He was almost blending in, not -- I'm not being pejorative at all, but he was not the focus, which is what a judge should not be.

RODGERS: Yeah, but, you know, in some ways, there's no bigger power play than being like, you know what, you can say what you want, like I don't really care. And Alvin Bragg is in the same boat. He didn't even ask to be part of the gag order, right? They're like, he can say what he wants and I don't really care.

And, you know, the judge -- judges are often, usually, actually, conservative, meaning cautious small C conservative in these rulings because they don't want to be overturned on appeal.

And so, when you think about what am I going to do, what am I going to let them cross this guy on, you want to kind of pull it back a little bit from a prosecutor. Prosecutors get a little greedy sometimes with these things.

And the judge is, like, listen, I'm going to protect this record. One of his huge goals here is protecting this record even from the prosecutors who might want a little too much. I think Merchan is doing a great job of that, too.

PHILLIP: Yeah, he's anticipating what could come, which is this is a very litigious defendant. There are going to be appeals, and he's going to drag this out as much as possible.

Stand by, everyone. Trump's veepstakes are heating up this weekend as VP hopefuls go down to Mar-a-Lago to attend a fundraiser. Next, how a potential pick of Marco Rubio could spark a constitutional crisis. Plus, South Dakota's governor, Kristi Noem, forced to backpedal over some of the details in her new memoir.




PHILLIP: Call it the VP version of "The Apprentice" or "The Hunger Games." This weekend, some of the Republicans on Donald Trump's short list will attend a fundraiser over at Mar-a-Lago with Republican donors. So, as Ron DeSantis put it, who will bend down and kiss the ring?

Well, tonight, there are some signs that Florida Senator Marco Rubio could be rising to the top of the pack. But a Trump Rubio ticket could face a surprising hurdle, a constitutional one. "The Bulwark" reports that Trump knows all about it. He says -- quote -- "Marco has this residency problem."

Joining me now is the author of that story and an authority on Florida politics, "The Bulwark" national politics reporter, Marc Caputo. So, Marc, back in 2016, there was a lot of drama with Rubio. Obviously, Trump called him, and he called Trump an embarrassment, a con artist, the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency. Why is Trump looking at Marco Rubio all of a sudden again?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE BULWARK: Well, the two of them grew very close when Trump became president and Rubio began to shape Latin-American policy. And a friendship and trust blossomed between the two of them. But the reality is Donald Trump needs to choose a running mate, and Marco Rubio, on paper, outside of the residency issue, and yeah, the residency issue is a big deal, makes a lot of sense.

PHILLIP: So, Rubio -- a Trump advisor told you that Rubio can almost smell the naval observatory. That is where the vice president lives. Is Rubio really wanting this job? I mean, I have to believe that he doesn't -- he's not fully on board with Donald Trump after all that has transpired with them.

CAPUTO: Well, that's a good question.


I haven't had opportunity to ask him that. But what I can say is that Rubio did run for president. And if he were elevated to Trump's ticket, and if Trump won, he'd be a heart of the -- heartbeat away from the presidency, something he saw before and something he might seek again, anyway.

And the president will be a one-termer. He's 77 years old. He has a pension for eating Big Macs a lot. So, the question is, how long is that 77-year-old got to serve fully? Now, obviously, the same question surrounds Joe Biden. In fact, the question is presented a little more about him. Sorry to be morbid about it.

But these are considerations people think about. Well, you know, overall, I think even if, you know, Trump were 45, Rubio and most other politicians when granted the opportunity to be the number two- person guy, gal, whatever you want to say, in the nation's power structure for politics, they're going to take it.

And there's a lot of signs from people who know Rubio say, yeah, look, they'll probably change residencies -- residences if he -- to do this, to comply with the 12th Amendment of the Constitution.

PHILLIP: Well --

CAPUTO: And if Trump wants to resign early, you might do that.

PHILLIP: Well, break that down for us a little bit because this idea of the 12th Amendment issue, they're both Florida residents which is a bit of a constitutional problem.

CAPUTO: Right.

PHILLIP: The 12th Amendment says that the president and the vice president -- quote -- shall not be an inhabitant of the same state. That is a very specific thing, but it's in the Constitution. So, what is he going to do? I mean, you think he would step down from the Senate. That would create another opening, another active Senate race in battleground Florida. Are they seriously considering this?

CAPUTO: From what I understand, yes. The answer to that is yes. Now, there are two things here. One, the Constitution says that they can't inhabit the same state when the electors needed to choose and to cast their ballots for the president and vice president.

So, this happened with Dick Cheney in 2000 with George Bush. They both lived in Texas. Cheney changed his residence. The extra wrinkle here is Donald Trump, from what I'm told, doesn't want Ron DeSantis to get a Senate pick and to appoint for a long-term time the replacement to replace Marco Rubio.

So, if that's the case, and these are ifs, and there's a lot of ifs and buts and trap doors here, if Rubio is chosen and if Donald Trump doesn't want Ron DeSantis to get the pick, he'll want to -- he'll want Rubio to announce that he's resigning sooner so that it triggers an election this November --


CAPUTO: -- and that would give Florida Senate seats that are open. We haven't had a double Senate -- a double header Senate race in Florida since 1936. I wasn't around then, but it would be extremely unorthodox, but this is Donald Trump we're talking.

PHILLIP: Marc, this is a juicy story. It's a lot of drama with Trump always and this is no different. Thank you for -- thank you for bringing that to us.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And we're back here with the panel here. Harry Enten is here, joining us, senior data reporter.


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I'm here. It's only 11:47. Let's go.


PHILLIP: So, can I quiz you like what's -- what are -- what are the stats say about senators becoming vice presidents? ENTEN: I believe we have one in the White House right now who was formerly a vice president, formerly --

PHILLIP: So, his chances -- you're saying his chances are pretty good?

ENTEN: I'm not saying his chances are pretty good. I have no idea from day to day what goes on in Donald Trump's head, all right? I don't think any of us do. If we did, we'd all go to Vegas and bet the numbers on the roulette wheel. But what I can tell you, you know, if you look at the vice presidents, look, I know at this particular point who's not on that list, short list, anymore. It is Kristi Noem. Apparently, Trump does not want someone who shoots dogs in their spare time.

But what I can also tell you is when we look essentially at VPs and understanding who's strong, who is weak, I like to look at their home state performance, the voters who know them best. Did they outperform basically match or underperform Donald Trump in their last election cycle?

So, we have a few folks that we can kind of go through. Marco Rubio vastly outperformed Trump's baseline in 2022, all right? Well, Look, Tim Scott did the same in his last Senate race. Doug Burgum basically matched the Trump baseline in the state of North Dakota.

Interestingly enough, J.D. Vance, who was just on our network the other night with Kaitlan Collins, actually underperformed the Trump baseline in 2022 despite the fact that he ran in a more favorable republican year. And, you know, based upon that performance that he gave in that interview, I'm not exactly surprised that he, in fact, did so.

So, at this particular point, if Trump is trying to basically pick a safe pick, I go with the first three on that list at this particular time.

PHILLIP: Are you surprised that there are no women? I mean, Kristi Noem, maybe she's off.


PHILLIP: No, but, I mean --


-- people had said that maybe he would try to inoculate himself from his suburban woman problem, which is huge, by picking a woman. And it seems like the idea of a woman being on the pick has really fallen down.


NUZZI: I would say he does like an element of surprise. I remember in 2016, he got very annoyed when people started reporting about the ins and outs of the behind the scenes machinations while they were selecting a vice president. And it became -- I mean, it was not a crazy thing to say, if something got reported, even if it were true, it might just kill that potential nominee back then.


NUZZI: I remember talking to Newt Gingrich, who still thought that he might be the vice president in minutes after Mike Pence was announced, and he was just crushed. And I think you just can't discount the fact that this is a reality show host still and he likes the element of surprise.

PHILLIP: His campaign --


PHILLIP: His campaign manager --

UNKNOWN: Everything is an audition.

COATES: I mean, I don't know how often you guys have seen like crazy town knocked and said, I want in. But people -- haven't you seen the number -- I mean, how he treated his vice presidents in the past?

UNKNOWN: That's right.

COATES: I mean --

UNKNOWN: That's right.

UNKNOWN: They wanted to hang him.

COATES: The they did. And we know what that -- what problems that caused with Vice President Mike Pence. But are you surprised at all that there are people -- I mean, obviously, yes, it's a heartbeat away from the presidency, there is the stature of the position, I understand all that, but a lot comes with this.

ALFORD: It does, but you see the joy on Tim Scott's face as he's like Donald Trump's number one cheerleader. You know, Elise Stefanik has made herself, um, you know, his number one defender even in the face of, you know, impeachment.

I mean, I think that he wants somebody who is loyal, who will not upstage him, and in those moments where you have to make an ethical decision like Mike Pence did, right, to say I will not, you know, decertify or prevent this vote from going forward, this election from being official, um, Mike Pence had his own mind, and Donald Trump doesn't really like that.

So, there's always somebody who's willing to kind of be a flunky, and I think he's going to need that, but someone who also adds something to his campaign.

RIGUEUR: So, there's also the question -- I think the question of loyalty is incredibly important. loyalty above all else particularly given the fallout from the 2020 election and with Mike Pence. But there's also the point, I think, that Natasha made about he can't have somebody that's going to upstage him.

And I would think very carefully about somebody like Marco Rubio who does have the potential to upstage Donald Trump, and especially in his eagerness to be vice president and to be one heartbeat away from the -- from the presidency, has made it quite obvious that this is something -- this is the job he really wants to have.

Um, I think we also have to think about what is the -- and this is -- this is going to sound a little bit crazy but it's late at night, so I'm going to go ahead and say --


-- the aesthetics of the kind of pick that Donald Trump wants. Tim Scott doesn't necessarily have the aesthetics in terms of, is he married, we know he's engaged, but also in how he presents himself, right?

PHILLIP: He could be married.

RIGUEUR: He could be married --

PHILLIP: By November.

RIGUEUR: -- but it's something that is a question and a concern in Trump world that we have to take seriously as well.

COATES: By the way, um, any one of these people who might be chosen is going to have to debate Kamala Harris, vice president. I mean, assuming this is debate and that's a big assumption right now. But, um, how does she stack up in terms of maybe the popularity or how people view this?

ENTEN: Yeah. I mean, you know, Joe Biden, at this particular point going into reelection, is one of -- in one of the weakest positions for a president, uh, at this particular time. And Vice President Harris is also in a very weak position if you look at the polls. In fact, I went back and looked at vice president's -- vice president's popularity at this point in the presidential term. The only person who's on the same level as her is Dan Quayle back in 1992. Whenever you're comparing a VP to Dan Quayle, you know you're in poor position.

So, I'm not exactly concerned if I'm one of these Republican VPs taking on Vice President Harris. But, you know, I guess the good news for Vice President Harris is most people don't really vote for the VP anyway because remember, Dan Quayle managed to get elected in the first place. So, if he could be elected to VP, then anyone could be elected as VP.

ALFORD: What I will say, though, is that in those debate moments, she is pretty fierce. She does have these moments that, you know, the audience remembers. I remember when she went toe-to-toe with Mike Pence. So, I try to imagine someone like a -- you know, Burgum sitting across from Kamala Harris being memorable. It's kind of -- I feel like he's a little bland, you know.

PHILLIP: It's a good point because it wasn't just the fly that everybody --

UNKNOWN: It wasn't just the fly.

PHILLIP: It wasn't just the fly that made that debate. She performed well on the debate stage. She preps for this stuff. I do think -- I mean, the first rule of vice-presidential picks, though, is do no harm, right?

ENTEN: Keep it calm.

PHILLIP: I mean, it is really not about any electoral anything. It's just don't screw anything up.

COATES: But you also want -- I mean, especially, we know, you mentioned the woman problem for Trump, perhaps. How about there is all this polling that suggests that Black men are, um, wavering in their support for President Biden? Enter Tim Scott. I know we've been talking about this off -- you know, offline in different ways.

I mean, Sunny Hostin was on "The View," our colleague formerly at CNN, and she was speaking about Senator Tim Scott as potentially someone, well, let's have her say it.



SUNNY HOSTIN, CO-HOST OF "THE VIEW," ABC NEWS SENIOR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANALYST: Just to speak for African-American voters, if anyone thinks that Tim Scott is such --


-- okay? The audience is cracking up. Anyone who thinks that Tim Scott is going to bring over a bunch of Black men, they really need to just get with it because Tim Scott is the only African-American senator in the Republican Party for a reason.


ENTEN: I would just say this. He may not bring over a ton of Black men, but how close was that 2020 election if we're just talking about a small percentage? I remember when Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman back in 2000, the first Jewish VP nominee, and what happened? He was able to scrounge a few extra Jewish votes and it nearly won Al Gore the state of Florida because he did so well in Palm Beach and Broward County.

RIGUEUR: But that's not who Tim Scott is for. In fact, if we look at the numbers, Black voters actually punish Tim Scott more so than they punish Republican -- white Republican voters who hold similar politics, right? They're punishing him because he's Black.

A Tim Scott pick is for white moderate voters who are deeply uncomfortable with the racial politics of the Trump administration. That's the kind of asset that he brings in. That's where he would be really, I think, incredibly important.

PHILLIP: I tend to agree with you on that one.

COATES: Well, we'll see what happens on his name tag tomorrow at the veepstakes at Mar-a-Lago. Thank you, everyone, and thanks so much for watching.

PHILLIP: Our coverage continues with "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's next.