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Laura Coates Live

Stormy Daniels Wraps Testimony After Combative Cross- Examination; Black Airman Fatally Shot by Police in Own Home. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 09, 2024 - 23:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, JOURNALIST: And who is he trying to be now? And how does he want to behave now? We know how he behaved in 2006, according to Stormy Daniels. How is he going to behave in the next couple of weeks? Is he going to testify? Is he going to speak on his own behalf?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is not about manhood. This is about criminal activity.

STELTER: Oh, I don't think -- I don't think the audience cares as much about the business record.

NAVARRO: Listen --

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Well, they -- you know what?

NAVARRO: -- unless you're getting paid to -- unless you're getting paid to follow this trial, most Americans are not.

PHILLIP: This is -- at the end of the day, this will be about whatever the jury thinks about all of that.

Everyone, thank you so much. And thank you for watching a special edition of "NewsNight" on Trump's hush money trial. Our coverage continues with a special edition of "Laura Coates Live," next.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Stormy Daniels fights back against attempts to shame her and her career, another Trump insider tearing up on the stand, and the judge rebukes Donald Trump's lawyers. Welcome to a special edition of "Laura Coates Live."

So, we knew all this was going to be coming out, right? But we didn't actually know it would be this explosive for this amount of time. Trump's team attempting a full-on assault on Stormy Daniels's credibility on now day 14 of this hush money trial.

Defense Attorney Susan Necheles, who was the one grilling Daniels for hours, trying to paint her as being only in it for the money, trying to make it appear as if she had a huge vendetta against Trump, trying to make her appear very unstable, and trying to tarnish her work as an adult film actress and director. And through it all, Stormy wasn't having it. She was defiant throughout. She stood her ground and defended her character in spite of the oncoming assault.

And in one of the more combative exchanges, Necheles going after Daniels about whether she made up everything about Trump. Necheles asking, "So you have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear real, right? Daniels responded, "Wow. I'm a -- that's not how I would put it. The sex in the films, it's very much real. Just like what happened to me in that room."

Look, we knew that Trump's team wanted to appear aggressive in going after Daniels, but here's the thing I've been thinking about: What if their strategy actually helps the prosecution's case?

I mean, if the defense wants the jury to believe, and they do, that this woman is all about the money, she only cared about that and her bottom line, that she was, you know, ruthless and shrewd and had every intention of making sure the story got out there somehow, some way, at cost to anyone but herself, well, isn't that exactly what central casting would look like for the person that you'd want to pay off to keep quiet?

Tonight, we will dig into how that could play into the jury's thinking. And speaking of intense testimony, we also heard from a Trump insider who worked in the White House, just outside the Oval Office, by the way. And her name, Madeleine Westerhout. And the prosecution is using her to try to connect the dots of what this case is really about.

For those of you who forgot, with all the details that have been coming in, it's about falsified business records and the 34 counts of it, the scheme all to try to keep Stormy Angles quiet and hide it, according to prosecutors, from the transparency of an election.

And her testimony, by the way, it did lay some of the groundwork for trying to bridge that gap and connect the dots. But she also showed that she wasn't there to tear down the former president. Even crying, she described her White House departure. And the days of crying and shouting back and forth of witnesses, that wasn't enough. The judge, well, he scolded the defense again after the jury left.

He rejected two motions brought by Trump's team. One was a modified gag order so that Trump could now talk publicly about somebody who was no longer a prospective or future witness but a past witness, Stormy Daniels, and get another move for a mistrial based on what they thought was the unlawful and wide scope of questioning that came in about the details of the alleged sexual encounter and beyond.

A lot to unpack, and we've just got the right group to do all of it. We've got CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz, CNN opinion contributor and former House GOP investigative committee counsel, Sophia Nelson, former Trump attorney Jim Trusty, CNN political commentator Karen Finney, and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. All of you have to have shorter titles because my mouth is --


-- like they're all here. They're all here. The gang is here.

UNKNOWN: And we're out of time.

COATES: Thank you for coming. So great to have you. I'll start with you, Jim. You're like the best one-liner to tell me about this. So, first of all, they needed to try to discredit Stormy Daniels. That's the whole point of the cross. But a really effective cross is one where you just get yes and no responses. Stormy, she was talkative, she was defiant, at times combative.


Why did they spend so much time with someone who technically, according to the falsified documents themselves, is irrelevant?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Right. I mean, the relationship is irrelevant. The fact that there was an NDA is not disputed. I think there was a shift of strategy that's not great. I mean, I've preached from the beginning, if you're on the defense side of this, your entire strategy is making a referendum on Michael Cohen. The entire case rises or falls on his credibility. That's the perfect battlefield. I mean, you can cross-examine him for seven or eight months and still be getting good points. So --

COATES: But please, don't do that.

TRUSTY: No, no, no. You know, we're going to be done by 2025.


But, look, he's a target-rich environment. It's going to be a lot of fun to cross-examine him. But you want the jury to be thinking the only way we convict is if we believe this guy. And I have to say, from the other witnesses, not Stormy, it does seem to be gravitating towards he's the guy that could supposedly deliver this kind of cryptic theory of what's going on with the ledger and the check entries.

So, I think what happened is they started off kind of disciplined, then they had the ability to regroup over time, and they're talking to the client as well and they're thinking --

COATES: Not just any client. A client who probably has a lot to say.

TRUSTY: Fairly-opinionated client.


TRUSTY: But they're looking at it and they're saying, boy, she got in a bunch of gratuitous stuff. The original discipline was, let's not object too much, let's not make it look like she's hurting us. Well, that let her get into all these insane, vivid details that hurt. So, they come back after the break and they go, we got to go strong after her.

And so, you know, this has played out with the mistrial motion as well, that strategy of kind of taking it on the chin but acting like it doesn't hurt, and then trying to come back and essentially opening doors with their cross-examination for a harmful redirect. So, kind of spiraled into a different case for a few hours with this cross- examination. I don't think that was particularly helpful.

But I will say, she's also a fairly target-rich environment. I mean, when you have somebody on the stand talking about how she has been talking to dead people and getting paid for that, there's going to be some New York jurors that are like, this Ouija board crap is -- well, they might not say crap, but this Ouija board stuff is really getting kind of silly and crazy, I can't trust this woman. The problem, again, for the defense, they spent too much time dignifying her as a witness for a case that's about paper entries.

COATES: I mean, I happen to have loved "Sixth Sense." It was a hell of a movie.

TRUSTY: Yeah, it was. I see dead people.

SOPHIA NELSON, CNN OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: But you know why that happened, right? Trump went into the room and went crazy on his lawyers and said, you go after her and you deal with her, and that's exactly what happened. And that's why you had all this focus on Stormy Daniels, to your point, when you shouldn't have. And I think they hurt themselves, actually, the defense did. I think it'll be interesting to see what they do to Cohen. But I think she hurt them.

COATES: I mean, look, it was the way that they went after her. And I got to tell you, I -- and maybe it's because I have been a sex prosecutor before, Karen.


COATES: And one of the tactics people often will use is they, in their defense, will try to do and say anything to try to suggest that somehow, the person who is stating that there has been a sexual encounter -- again, this is not someone who has claimed sexual assault --

FINNEY: Right.

COATES: -- or rape. She has said that this is consensual. She has repeated it over and over in the crossing, that she's not a victim. But they were intent on trying to talk about the number of sexual porn that she had done to get to the partner count. They were trying to have the jurors be disgusted by her.


COATES: And I got to tell you, jurors, they're not prudes. And I don't know that they actually think to themselves, I have to think you're disgusting to believe you.

FINNEY: Well, also, it was a time-tested tactic, right, of attacking a woman for having sex, for having what some might think is too much sex or rough sex or getting paid for sex or, you know, all of it. I mean, they were trying to make it all very unseemly to go after her credibility.

But I kept thinking, you all could have avoided this whole thing if you just would have stipulated to the fact that they had sex. We would not have had to hear any of it. But Trump won't do that, right? Fundamentally, he says, it never happened. And so, that is why we've had two days of testimony from Stormy Daniels.

And you're right. I mean, it's -- you know, who knows how the jurors took it? One thing that struck me was just from the tone and tenor of how the defense attorneys were questioning Stormy Daniels versus Hope Hicks versus, right, for some of the women on the jury, they might have not recognized that. So, you're going to bully this woman and you're going to coddle these other women. Now, I understand --

COATES: Some of whom, by the way, were the same age now or when they started, perhaps, as she was when she had this alleged encounter.

FINNEY: Correct.

COATES: And to that point, Katelyn, I want to hear from you because I am constantly wondering when there are two jurors you've got to please, right, you've got to please the 18 that are in the room and convince them. There's going to be 12, ultimately, who will decide the case. You've got the larger court of public opinion and the electorate.


What's more important to the Trump campaign, trying to prove that he did not have sexual relations with this person or -- oh, that was a Clinton thing --

FINNEY: Hey, I was there.

COATES: -- or -- or -- or was it that this is a weaponized government?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Judge Merchan actually addressed this with just the lawyers at the end, after the jury leaves, and says to them, I don't know why you guys weren't objecting more whenever these facts were first coming out. Not only were you not objecting as these details are coming out into the record from Stormy Daniels, the stuff that's making Donald Trump embarrassed as a candidate. His lawyers are saying that to the judge, he's embarrassed as a candidate. He wants to be able to publicly talk more to refute her story.

And they didn't. And they reminded the jurors today during the cross of all of these details, and the judge said, you know, there were other ways that you could have done this, and you didn't. Your approach was one that is not working here legally for you to claim a mistrial at this point.

COATES: Talk to me about her. I mean, Stormy, by the way, is no shrinking violet, as we've seen. And at one point, they'd asked for the gag order not to apply to people like her. She doesn't need protection, was part of their argument. Michael Cohen as well. She has been tweeting tonight, and she has been trying to provoke.

POLANTZ: Yeah, she gets off of the stand, six hours of testimony over two days, and tweets. Real men respond to testimony by being sworn in and taking the stand in court, obviously taking a shot at Donald Trump there.

COATES: Who is she talking about, Joe?

JOE WALSH, PODCAST HOST, FORMER ILLINOIS REPRESENTATIVE: But see, Laura, that's why I think this just all politically helps Trump. Stormy has nothing to do with the crime. You're right that Trump probably said, go after her, but in a weird way, if he can make this about Stormy, and it's just a weird, yucky fling that he had, politically, his supporters think this doesn't matter. And if she's out there tweeting --

POLANTZ: Is this about what's happening in the courtroom or is this about what's happening in the discussion afterwards, outside the courtroom? He wants to be able to counter her message --

WALSH: Right.

POLANTZ: -- that's being shared about the reporting on what's happening, what she's saying in the courtroom publicly --

WALSH: You're right.

POLANTZ: -- and the judge is saying, no. And that's what she says, too. Do it in the courtroom. Put the facts there. If there needs to be a counter to what she's saying, the place to do that is not in the public --

WALSH: Right.

NELSON: He's not going on your oath, though, because he knows that's a whole big problem for him. So, no lawyer -- am I right? -- is going to let him on the stand. Am I wrong about that?

TRUSTY: Well, look, there has obviously been pretrial rulings that would affect him dramatically in terms of testifying. The judge --

COATES: He could be crossed in a lot of different things.

TRUSTY: Somehow, E. Jean Carroll is relevant to this case. There are all sorts of stuff they'd cross-examine on. But the reality, I think, is just more straight tactical decision. You want to make it all about Michael Cohen, period. Anything else is a distraction. President Trump being on the stand, telling his story, it's a distraction.

And the reason why they appear inconsistent with these other witnesses is they're getting friendly crosses, they're getting concessions without raising their voice. That is by far the best tactic here for all of these witnesses that are controllers, that are Hope Hicks- types. They're upset. They're throwing stuff out that helps or hurts both sides a little bit. But ultimately, don't turn it into a battle where you look like they're hurting you. And I think that this -- I think, you know, go back to the gag order for a second. The gag order has become simply a measure of ego at this point. The jury is sequestered. They're told, hopefully, don't pay attention to any media.

COATES: Well, sequestered not in the literal sense. And they're told not to be able to look at media. They're not in a hotel by themselves.

TRUSTY: Right, right, right. I mean, I always wonder when the judge says, don't pay attention to the media if they're not all getting on their phones on the ride home. But look, the reality is, you know, they're being told, don't pay attention to anything happening about this courtroom, just pay attention to what happens in the courtroom. So, Donald Trump saying anything from A to Z that's not criminal on its face is not affecting the jury.

POLANTZ: They are trying to protect witnesses. That's the other piece. It's not just them.

COATES: Well, here's the thing. I mean --

TRUSTY: Well, it's hard to be sympathetic when Cohen and Stormy now are taunting from the freedom of their speech while --

COATES: Well, Cohen said, though --

TRUSTY: -- somebody who's on trial has to say --

COATES: Remember, Cohen has said --

WALSH: It's a political hammer for Trump.

COATES: Cohen has said in the past that he's going to stop now. The problem is for both Stormy and Michael is that they have said a lot for years. And they are -- you talked about rich targets in the sense of being able to cross on them. Everyone, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, don't you worry, especially what was the indictment candle. Oh, I'm bringing that up and all the merchandise, too.

I want to bring in someone who has been in court all week, Aysha Bagchi. She's a Justice Department correspondent for "USA Today" and also a lawyer. Asha, thank you so much for being here. I have a lot of questions. And one of them, let me just get right to the point, I want to know, what was the jury's body language and reaction to the discussion and the cross-examination by Necheles against Stormy Daniels? How were they responding?

AYSHA BAGCHI, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT, THE USA TODAY: The jurors were really attentive. They have been attentive throughout this trial. But they have not been showing their hand. It is not as if they're really telling people in the audience what they're thinking about what's happening.


You can see the kind of thing that lawyers often talk about wanting to see in a jury, where people are turning their heads left and right. They're following where people are testifying. If it's the witness testifying, that's where their eyes are. If it's a lawyer asking questions, their eyes turn there. So, you can really see that they're paying attention, they're taking lots of notes, but it is not as if they're showing what they're thinking.

It was a really tough cross-examination from Susan Necheles today. But the jurors weren't really tipping their hats about what they think. It's just really clear that they're paying close attention.

COATES: Show me and describe the tone that Stormy Daniels had in reaction to the relentless questions from Necheles, where she was trying to suggest a lot about the work that she had done, the number of sex partners she'd had in her films. It appeared from just reading the transcript that Daniels would not be moved and was unbothered. But at the same time, she was defiant. What was that exchange like? Who had the upper hand?

BAGCHI: Yes, I mean, Stormy Daniels is clearly no shrinking violet. If anything, she kind of came more into her own when she was under cross- examination. You could see that she was ready to fight back. That's actually a point that Susan Necheles made today. She showed that when Stormy Daniels has been harassed by people online who might be Trump supporters, Stormy Daniels has responded.

So, we saw that on the witness stand, too, when Susan Necheles was going after her, challenging sometimes really tiny details that Necheles said were inconsistent between stories that Daniels has told.

Daniels was ready to shoot back. You know what? Does it matter? You know, what really is the difference between these two stories? If one time I said that Trump's bodyguard came up to me and said, Mr. Trump would like to have dinner with you, and another time I said, Trump did it, but the bodyguard is sort of Trump's agent, is that really a difference in the stories? My story has not changed.

There was a time when Necheles really went after the fact that Stormy Daniels is an adult film star and basically said, you make up things for money. And Daniels responded, what's happening in my movies is very real, and so is what happened between me and Mr. Trump. So, she had no problem handling a tough cross-examination.

COATES: I mean, also, I still stick to my same thought about that. The idea of, if you want to paint her as somebody who is money-hungry, shrewd, and with no principles, that's who you want to pay off if you want to have their story be quiet. The allegation alone, that, to me, rings credible, that you would be motivated in that way, whether you agree with whether her allegation is true or not.

But then there was this moment, too, where both Trump and Daniels are making money from merchandise. And he's got a mugshot. I mean, look at the screen. We're showing the Trump merchandise. You know, he's got the golden sneakers. He's got bibles. She's selling a candle, comic books, T-shirts.

I wonder how that landed with the jurors, given this idea that it was the pot and the kettle arguing over who's black?

BAGCHI: Yes, I mean, you definitely saw people, two people who are motivated by money. I mean, Daniels really did try to push back against some of that storyline from Susan Necheles. She really said, when it came to 2016, right before the presidential election, she wanted to tell her story, that was more important to her than money.

And then even when she took the hush money deal, what she felt good about is that it created a paper trail. It was a type of document, documentation, that I had this story to tell. So, she felt like she had some protection, and she said she had security concerns.

But definitely, there was a lot of testimony and a lot of evidence that showed that Stormy Daniels cares about making money and has been successful. Today, we heard testimony about Daniels tweeting that she made $1 million, a lot of it from her book, which discussed the Trump history, some from a reality TV show. But she doesn't shrink when she's cross-examined about those things.

Today, when we saw the candle that's on sale on the website touting Trump's indictments, Susan Necheles said, you get $40 for each candle, don't you? And Stormy said, actually, about $7. So, she always had an answer and a comeback. You can definitely see they're both people who think about businesses and think about money. That's true.

But I'm not sure that that'll be the most important thing in drilling down on what jurors think of this story because she owned it. We'll have to see. But it may come down to the real details in her story and whether she comes across as being candid and honest.

COATES: Aysha Bagchi, thank you so much. You know, it really does come down to testimony. Let me remind people. This is about documents. Right? This is not a trial within a trial as to whether or not this sexual encounter happened. It's whether there was the allegation that was sought to be suppressed and falsified business records as a result for the purpose of trying to avoid having the campaign impacted. They've got to bridge all those.

And next, today's other big testimony that got to the heart of what I'm just talking about, the business records.


What a former Trump aide said about a key meeting between Trump and Michael Cohen -- there's his name again -- at the White House.

Plus, a reporter who spoke with Stormy Daniels and saw her nondisclosure agreement before her story went public. And his name came up in court today. I'm going to talk to him about it.


COATES: Now, while we've heard plenty of, well, let's just call it tawdry testimony this week in Donald Trump's hush money case, this is really a case about documents and, of course, about money. Now, in order to secure a conviction, prosecutors have to play a game of connect the dots to establish Trump orchestrated the plan to falsify business records, to cover up the payment from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels. Why? To help his campaign. That's a very important part.

Now, prosecutors hope that today's testimony from former Trump aide, Madeleine Westerhout, helped jurors piece that puzzle together. CNN's Katelyn Polantz at the magic wall with the key points from today and how prosecutors could be setting the stage for Cohen to take the stand. Katelyn, did the testimony move the needle at all?


POLANTZ: Laura, if it didn't move the needle, it at least added a piece to the puzzle. So, the main thing, at the end of the day, that we saw after Stormy Daniels finished her testimony is the testimony of two additional people who were working for Donald Trump.

This is -- these are all of the witnesses that have been on the stand over the past couple weeks that are the chain of people who all were able to see the paper trail. And they were able to bring that into evidence. They were able to talk about things like invoices and checks that Donald Trump was personally looking at signing, signing off on, so that he could pay Michael Cohen to reimburse for this hush money.

But this -- one of these people, Madeleine Westerhout, she was the person sitting outside of the West Wing, and she was able to testify to who was in Trump's frequent contacts. First and foremost, Michael Cohen, pretty important guy there in this trial. There are other people here, but she's helping to establish the connection directly between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.

There's also, of course, TV hosts on here, professional athletes, some other important people in the mix of Donald Trump's world, some family members. But Michael Cohen is super important, having him on that list.

And then ultimately, Madeline Westerhout, she was also able to testify, Laura, about a meeting on February 5th, 2017. She is the person that sent the email to Michael Cohen to get all of the important details that he needed to provide to the White House so he could get in the building.

Prosecutors are pointing to this meeting because they want to allege this is the meeting where the arrangements were made for this hush money scheme for Donald Trump to ultimately give Michael Cohen his $130,000, plus much more, to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.

COATES: Katelyn, thank you so much. I think there are a lot of people watching who are rewinding their show right now with the panel, trying to see that list of people who were on there. They're seeing Serena, they're seeing Tom Brady. I got some questions about that.

Jim, first of all, why do you think they're bringing up all the contacts? What is that? Obviously, the jury knows by now they know Michael Cohen. They know they know David Pecker. We know this. The jury is going to be aware of this. Why is that contact list important?

TRUSTY: It's not --


-- is the bottom line. And look, you know, I think that they've played as hard as they can play with the notion that people in a position to know about bookkeeping don't have a whole lot to say in this case. I mean, you know, we're not going to hear from Allen Weisselberg.

COATES: Weisselberg, yup.

TRUSTY: You know, if Weisselberg is not a witness, which I assume he's not because he was treated like a failed cooperator by the government --

COATES: He's in jail right now as well.

TRUSTY: Right. I mean, still show up from jail.

COATES: Show up.

TRUSTY: But, you know, I think it's almost a principle of exhaustion. Let's have everybody that can say something about how payments are done and who has a voice in that process. But at the end of the day, you're talking about entries that say, for legal services, and supposedly that's a felony, but for legal services, NDA wouldn't be. That's a crazy thin line for criminality, and none of these people are really budging that issue.

To me, it's going to come down to how the judge instructs on the motivation that's required for fraud. And then even if it's a mixed motivation where it only requires some element to be the politics, which is pretty easy to establish here --

COATES: It's got to be substantial.

TRUSTY: Yeah. I mean, whatever the -- whatever that gray area is of substantial, you know, if they can't connect Trump to the entries in any plausible way, which they really haven't done so far, then it means it's Cohen. And Cohen is the right battlefield.

COATES: Does it matter, do you think? I mean, for Trump, he knows full well. He has already laid the foundation and planted the seed that this jury is not going to be fair. He has been slapped on the wrist for that as well, in terms of the gag order. If it comes down to documents, which normally are black and white, how is the political spin going to address that?

WALSH: This is what it comes down to, and that's why I think the whole focus on Stormy Daniels and the other stuff helps Trump. This is a paper case. But to your point, Jim, it -- I mean, it gets really down into the weeds. And Laura, there's a tough -- sure, Trump did what he did to keep this away from the campaign, but that has to be a substantial motivation. That's a tough bar to clear.

COATES: Except -- I mean -- I want to go to you, Karen, because, first of all -- in your past life as well --


-- I mean, this is -- we'll talk about the timing of this.


COATES: This is not like in a vacuum, right?

FINNEY: Oh, yeah.

COATES: You had this alleged sexual encounter happen in 2006. The payments, though, were made a few days after, I believe, the Access Hollywood tape came in --

FINNEY: Uh-hmm.

COATES: -- which is a few days before the November election actually happened.

FINNEY: Uh-hmm.

COATES: Take us back to the idea of what was going on about the fallout because that's -- that's the key for them to talk about that substantial aspect, that it wasn't to protect his family, it was because he knew it impacted the campaign.


FINNEY: So, a couple of things. Access Hollywood tape comes out October 8th. And after a rough summer, that was a huge deal, right, because as we now know, right, at the RNC, they were trying to decide, can we replace him on the ticket? He was already having trouble with white suburban women which, as we've noted, continues to be an issue for him in success in campaigns. You know, that's why he hires Kellyanne Conway. They know that this is the kind of story that could do real damage.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

FINNEY: Then, you -- so they're trying to hold it back. October 28th, don't forget, Jim Comey comes out. Now, what saved Donald Trump when the Access Hollywood tape came out, it was Melania. A lot of folks don't remember.

WALSH: Yeah.

FINNEY: It was her coming out affirming that, yeah, it is just how boys talk, locker talk. That created a permission structure for women to say, okay, we can excuse that. If she says it's okay, then it's OK. So, then, as I say, cut to October 28th, we have Jim Comey come back out.

And ironically, one of the arguments that Donald Trump was making at the time was that if Hillary Clinton was elected, there would be lawsuits, there would be, you know, we'd be dragging through the mud because of all of her baggage, cut to here we are tonight having this conversation.

COATES: I mean --

NELSON: You know, Laura, I want to say that this is kind of deja vu. And Karen, you'll remember this with the Clinton impeachment matter and everything that happened. The public never got their arms around the fact that it was not about the sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky. It was about perjury, which is why they were impeaching him. And everything happened.

And I think that's the same issue you're raising here, which is that this is a very sophisticated, down in the weeds, nuanced thing you have to really understand to get to the criminality. And I don't think the public just thinks that deep. I think they see the porn star.

WALSH: Yeah.

NELSON: They see the salaciousness. They go, oh, this is a guy cheating in his marriage, Trump has been a playboy. I mean, I'm old enough to remember seeing the "Inquirer" magazines on the stand as a kid. Trump has been in our life for a really long time doing this kind of stuff. And I think that that's where there's a disconnect, Laura. I don't think the public -- they think it's about sex with the porn star versus what it's really about.

COATES: And you know anything about that, too? Since there's no cameras in the courtroom and there's no audio, you don't know if you're not watching all day long in the coverage. You have no idea who is eliciting that testimony.

When you hear that there are conversations about tweets and about missionary positions and who is wearing a condom and who's not, you think that that's the prosecution who is getting that testimony to come out of Stormy Daniels. And it doesn't -- you think, okay, well, they're trying to do this as opposed to how it's really coming in. It just fuels that same narrative. That's part of, I think, what's nearing the benefit of not having those cameras in the courtroom.

Thank you, everyone, so much. Next, we have one of the first journalists to speak with Stormy Daniels about her story, and he was brought up in court today. So, the question that the prosecution and the defense want answered in the jurors' mind is, does her testimony line up with what she told him back in 2016? Jacob Weisberg is my guest when we come back.




COATES: The saga of Stormy Daniels did not start last year when the Manhattan D.A. decided to charge Donald Trump nor did it begin in 2016 when the alleged hush money deal was even created. It started in 2006 when she alleges she had an affair with Trump at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Now, she says that she first did an interview about the encounter in 2011, but it was never published.

Then in October of 2016, Michael Cohen struck a deal to buy her story in exchange for her silence. The price tag, we all know quite well by now, 130,000 bucks. Now, that deal didn't come to light until 2018, you know, when "The Wall Street Journal" revealed it. A few weeks later, then Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed it existed.

But another reporter almost broke this story first. Joining me now is Jacob Weisberg, former reporter with "Slate" magazine, who spoke to Daniels about the alleged encounter and saw the nondisclosure agreement. Jacob, thank you so much for joining me. I'm really eager to hear your impression of all this, especially because your name was brought up in court today by the defense attorney, Susan Necheles.

And here is the quote. "And do you recall that in 2016, that at the same time that your lawyer was negotiating with Michael Cohen over a nondisclosure agreement, you were also speaking with a reporter from "Slate" named Jacob Weisberg? Do you recall that?" Daniel responds -- quote -- "I recall talking to someone from "Slate." I'm not sure the name."

Now, Stormy actually called you her back-up in court. Tell me about the conversation that took place.

JACOB WEISBERG, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE CHAIR OF PUSHKIN INDUSTRIES, FORMER REPORTER FOR SLATE: Yes, well, I actually found my way to her rather than the other way around, and it was earlier than October. It was soon after the Republican convention in 2016. And I was trying to convince her to go public with the story, to give it to me in a form I could use it. And she wanted money for the story. And I explained to her that "Slate" and other credible news organizations like CNN, like ABC, don't pay for stories.

She had more experience in kind of a tabloid world in which they do. And she felt the story had value, and she wanted to be paid for it. I think she was kind of indifferent whether she got paid for selling the story or for making the story go away as she did.

COATES: That's interesting because her motivation has been questioned a great deal as to whether she was in fear for her life, wanted the NDA to -- I think the phrase she used was to hide in plain sight, that it would give her some protection or that -- look, at the end of the day, she wanted the money.


But, you, in your interaction with her, she just wanted the money or the story to get out?

WEISBERG: Oh, I think she was much more interested in the money. If she'd wanted the story to get out, she would have let me use it and it would have come out or she would have given it to another news organization.

But I would say that hearing her testimony on Tuesday and again today, the facts have been entirely consistent. COATES: Really?

WEISBERG: The story she told me eight years ago, wouldn't let me use, was the same story, same details. She spanked him with a rolled-up copy of "Forbes" magazine. I remember all the little bits.

What has changed, I think, is her feelings about that encounter and how she -- the kind of emotional content of the experience. When she told me about it back then, she was very dismissive of it. It was no big deal. Trump was ridiculous. She didn't believe anything he said. He said he was going to buy her a condo in Florida, put her on "The Apprentice." She wasn't buying any of it. She kind of hoped it might happen, but she didn't believe it.

Now, the way she describes that is something almost closer to date rape. She doesn't use those terms. She doesn't say it was coercive, but she said on the stand that she kind of blacked out while they were having sex. She felt bullied, that there was a kind of power imbalance. Again, same facts, different feelings.

COATES: And she does talk about that she was challenged on that very point because she says in interviews in the past, she's not a victim. She reiterated on the stand that it was not -- she was not physically or threatened or harmed in any way and describes that is consensual.

At the same time, as you mentioned, it got the defense counsel on their feet that that was insinuation, that it was something different than that. Did that shift for the emotional feelings surrounding the event? Did that strike you as odd or make her less credible to you?

WEISBERG: Not at all. I mean, she used exactly the same language with me, that she wasn't a victim. And if you want a point of comparison, think about Monica Lewinsky, who came to feel very differently about her sexual encounter with Bill Clinton based on what she came to understand about the power imbalance. And so, you can have the same story, but a different relationship to that story, different feelings about the story.

COATES: You actually saw the NDA with Cohen and asked -- she asked you what she should do about it. Do you remember that moment?

WEISBERG: Well, she didn't exactly ask me what to do about it. I mean, she was trying to figure out what to do about it. It wasn't signed. She explained to me about these pseudonym, David Dennison. There was another document which she hadn't seen and which I didn't see, which explained the key that this was her and Donald Trump. And she had this lawyer, Keith Davidson, who was negotiating this.

And the reason she started talking to me again after a gap in October was she thought Trump, having made this agreement through Michael Cohen, wasn't going to pay up. And she understood enough about him to know that he often makes deals and then reneges on them. And she thought after the election, he wouldn't have the interest in paying the money, and she wouldn't get the money. So, she was -- she was -- and then when Cohen did sign the agreement and did pay, then she went silent again with me. COATES: So, she mentioned the idea of the election being a pivotal point, at least when she thought she would get made whole in her request.

WEISBERG: Her entire concern was that after the election, Trump would renege on the agreement and wouldn't pay her.

COATES: An important detail. Jacob Weisberg, thank you so much for joining.

There's a story that I want to tell you more about, and it has nothing to do with the trial today or any of the news that we've been covering throughout the course of this show, but it is extraordinarily significant and has to do with this young man. He's a Florida airman. And he was shot and killed in his own home, his apartment, by police.

His family says that he was playing video games and on FaceTime, and that the deputy went to the wrong apartment. Now, the sheriff's office says, no, it was the correct unit. We'll unpack what happened in just a moment.




COATES: Twenty-three-year-old active-duty airman Roger Fortson was inside of his apartment. His family says he was playing video games when he heard a knock at his door. Seconds later, he was shot at least five times in his own home by police. And tonight, after pleas from the family, police are releasing the body camera footage. It's important for you all to see. But I have to warn you, this is extremely graphic.



UNKNOWN (voice-over): Sheriff's office, open the door.


Sheriff's office, open the door. Step out.


Drop the gun! Drop the gun!


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Drop the gun!


UNKNOWN (voice-over): 312 shots fired. Suspect down. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: At the time of the shooting, Fortson was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend.


The family releasing a portion of that video tonight. And I warn you again, it's incredibly disturbing.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): I can't breathe.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Do not move. Stop moving. Stop moving. Hang on, man. We got an ambulance coming for you. Don't move.


COATES: The police are saying -- quote -- "Our deputy responded to a call of a disturbance in progress where he encountered an armed man." Tonight, that officer is currently on administrative leave. The sheriff's department is requesting an investigation. Still, the family is demanding more information, insisting the officer went to the wrong apartment. The sheriff's department, well, they refute that.

Here's Airman Fortson's mother and her message to the sheriff's department about her now deceased son.


CHANTEMEKKI FORTSON, MOTHER OF ROGER FORTSON: To the sheriff's department that took my gift, I need you guys to tell the truth about my son. I need you to get his reputation right.


COATES: I want to bring in Ben Crump, who's representing the Fortson family. Ben, to hear that mother described her son as a gift just breaks one's heart into a million pieces. How is that family doing tonight?

BEN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Laura Coates, they are devastated beyond their belief. He was the brightest hope for his family. In fact, he took care of his mother as well as his 16-year-old little brother, Andre, and his 10-year-old angel, Harmony. He talked about living his dream as a United States Air Force member to give his family a better chance of the American dream. So, they are devastated, Laura.

COATES: This is a nightmare for any family, an absolute nightmare to think about, just watching that unfold the way it did, the amount of time between the door opening and the shots fired. Tell me about the FaceTime video that you released tonight. What is it that you're alleging happened? CRUMP: Well, his girlfriend was on FaceTime video with him for a substantial amount of time. And it is troubling. They talk about a disturbance. However, he was in his apartment alone on FaceTime with his girlfriend, with his dog, and there was no disturbance. You look at his history. He is an American patriot. This is a good kid. No criminal history whatsoever. He respects authority. He was a registered licensed gun owner.

They -- his girlfriend talked about -- they heard a knock at the door. He asked who it was. He and his girlfriend didn't hear anybody identify themselves, she said. But then, he opened the door. And less than a split second, Laura -- I mean, he's trying to comply. He said, step back. Roger steps back. I mean, you see this kid comply.

The officer never said, drop your weapon. And after he shot him and was on the ground, Roger was even complying then as he's fighting for his life. He says, drop the weapon. And Roger said, I did. And then you hear on the FaceTime video where he said, I can't breathe, I can't breathe. And the officer said, don't move, don't move. I mean, it's like, why didn't you try life-saving maneuvers? I mean, it's so troubling, Laura, on so many levels.

COATES: I mean, this is not sadly the first time we've even heard about someone being shot in their home by police officers. And, you know, you represented many families. We have all been watching what has been happening. I mean, these are not analogous scenarios. But when it comes to, say, a Botham Jean or a Breonna Taylor, I could go on with -- Atatiana Jefferson. Just to name a few people who were all gifts to their families.

There is an investigation that is now pending. We have sometimes seen what happens in investigations. What do you expect to happen? How are they approaching the investigation? Is it in a way that you feel confident?

CRUMP: Well, the family, as his mother said, do not try to justify this unjustified killing. On that video, Laura, at the beginning, somebody from the leasing office, they say, what apartment is it? She says, I'm not sure. They asked her again. She says, I'm not sure. But then, she says 1401 apartment.

And we believe they were wrong. They were simply at the wrong apartment. There is nothing to suggest that Roger Fortson was in a domestic dispute with anybody. And now, this innocent prince, this U.S. airman, this gift to his family, is dead.


COATES: This is an active-duty person as well. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin saying through a spokesperson tonight that he is -- quote -- "closely watching the reports of airmen force and fatal shooting." And I do wonder what we might see from the military's response of what has happened to one of their only 23-year-old active-duty airman described by his mother as a beloved gift.

Ben Crump, thank you so much. CRUMP: Thank you, Laura. God bless you.

COATES: Thank you to you as well. And I want to thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.