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Laura Coates Live

Trump Becomes America's First Felon President; Laura Coates Interviews Republican Byron Donalds; Trump Campaign: Fundraising Website Crashes After Verdict. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 30, 2024 - 23:00   ET





ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Today, we have the most important voice of all, and that's the voice of the jurors. They have spoken. Donald J. Trump has been convicted of 34 counts.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: An American president turned convicted felon 34 times over. Tonight, the jurors have spoken, but the voters have not. This story is far from over. In fact, it might be just the beginning.

Welcome to a special edition of "Laura Coates Live" on this very historic night.

Tomorrow, the 2024 presidential campaign enters a new, more uncertain phase. Donald Trump is now newly convicted, and he will address the cameras at Trump Tower, of all places, at 11 a.m. Eastern. Now, we got a little bit of a taste of what his message might be when he spoke after hearing the verdict, 34 counts worth, today.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people. And they know what happened here. We didn't do a thing wrong. I'm a very innocent man.


COATES: Well, the 12 New York jurors who sat and watched him inside for, what, 23 days inside that very courtroom, they didn't think he was innocent. After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, they came back with this verdict sheet. Guilty on all 34 counts.

And the Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, thanked the jurors for following the law, he said, and convicting Trump of concealing a scheme to corrupt the 2016 election. Reporters asked him about the insults and the criticism he received from Trump, his allies and, by the way, even some in the media. His answer?


BRAGG: I did my job. Our job is to follow the facts and the law without fear or favor.


COATES: Now, Trump's failed defense centered largely around trying to discredit the D.A.'s star witness, Michael Cohen. Trump's lead attorney, Todd Blanche, standing by that exact strategy.


TODD BLANCHE, DONALD TRUMP'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The jury convicted. So, at the end of the day, they -- they looked past what we thought were fatal flaws in Mr. Cohen's story and his past, and they reached a guilty verdict.


COATES: So, what about Michael Cohen? Well, he took kind of a victory lap tonight. He called the verdict an important day for accountability. And in typical Michael Cohen fashion, he had a few words for Blanche's decision to dub him the gloat. Remember, that's it for the greatest liar of all time.


UNKNOWN: You have an acronym for Todd?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I did. I was going to call him a SLOAT, which is the stupidest lawyer of all time.


You cannot listen -- you cannot listen to your client when you are trying to create a defense, a defense that is as important as this one is.


COATES: We see the irony here in that statement about a lawyer listening to a client, right? Okay, I'll move on. As papers and magazines print their historic covers like this one from "The New Yorker," with Trump inches away from handcuffs, he won't actually learn his punishment until July 11th, sentencing day, otherwise known as Laura Coates's birthday. Will there be prison time? Stay tuned.

Lots to get to with our panel tonight. Alyse Adamson, former federal prosecutor, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, CNN legal analyst and former chief assistant D.A. at the Manhattan D.A.'s office. Karen is counsel for a firm representing Michael Cohen, but she does not have any contact with Cohen. She does not work on his case. Also with me, Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst, Lanny Davis, former attorney for Michael Cohen, and CNN legal commentator and former Trump attorney, Tim Parlatore. Also here bringing in the non-legal section of the bench, Devlin Barrett, a law enforcement reporter for "The Washington Post."

Glad to have you all here. And before the world thinks I was throwing shade about a sentencing day, 7-11 really is Laura Coates's birthday. I accept gifts and chocolate. Devlin, let me go to you first here. Devlin, you were there in the courtroom. This was an extraordinary moment. We were all waiting with bated breath for weeks now to see what might happen, what this jury of 12 would decide. Take us inside the courtroom, the moment when Donald Trump, a former president, is hearing the guilty verdict, 34 counts being read. What was going on?


DEVLIN BARRETT, LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, I just want to step back a minute because it was a really wild sequence of events. And it started with the judge coming out because it was the end of the day. You know, trial normally goes to put stops for the day at around 4:30.

And just before that, the judge came out and basically said, we're going to tell them to go home soon. You know, you can start packing up and we'll all be here tomorrow morning. And if you can imagine sort of like it's a cartoon panel and like the words are still in the bubble above his head as he's saying that, and he then says, actually, we got a note at 4:20, and the note at 4:20 says, we, the jury, have a verdict.

And so, all these people who had been stressed out all through the day and had been coming down and were relaxing and sort of like going the long, slow drive to, you know, calm down, suddenly amped way back up. And then you had to wait. But then the crazy part was you then had to wait 30 minutes because what the jury needed was 30 minutes to fill out the rest of the form.


BARRETT: So, they're sitting around waiting for the paperwork. Blanche and Trump, Todd Blanche, Trump's lawyer, were very jovial and joking right up until the moment they heard that there was that note. And then suddenly the entire room, including them, got very serious and just waited. And the tension built and built and built. And then the jury comes out, and they read their verdict. And it's guilty each time. They go through it quite quickly. And it was very tense. And, you know, the whole room felt it.

COATES: You know and I think when you heard at first 30 minutes about the verdict form, people thought, would it be a mixed verdict? Would some of these counts be, you know, either an acquittal or otherwise? Will the actual dissection of both the different -- of the 34 different counts a really important moment to think about those highs and lows?

Let me go to you, Tim, because you have represented in the past Donald Trump. And you and I have spoken about what that tension feels like in the room when you're waiting for a verdict, when you're thinking about all the woulda, coulda, shoulda, and really the Monday -- well, at this point, the Thursday afternoon quarterbacking. You just actually heard the Michael Cohen talking about trashing Todd Blanche and the defense strategy. Listen to what Blanche had to say about that tonight for a moment.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Who ultimately was in charge of the defense strategy here? Was it you or was it Donald Trump?

BLANCHE: It was both of us. If there's a lawyer that comes in and says that they're in charge of their defense strategy, they're not doing a service to their client. Every decision that -- that we made, we made as a team.


COATES: I mean, that's not exactly true, right? I mean, you do want to dictate not because you are trying to undermine the opportunity to have a voice, but you didn't listen to your client and totally deferential every time, did you?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, you have to remember, this is only Todd's second trial as a defense lawyer. So, it's only the second time having a client to listen to.

As a criminal defense attorney, you -- you know, I have the experience. Yeah, I went to school. I learned how to do this. I'm the professional at running a trial. My client is a professional at building a real estate empire at whatever it is that they do. And so, I always have that conversation of like, hey, look, if we're doing a real estate, you know, using Trump as an example, I would say something along the lines of, if we're doing a real estate deal, I'm going to follow your lead. But here, this is my battlefield. So, I need you to follow my lead. I need the input from the client. They know the facts better than I do because they lived it.

But as to strategy and how to maneuver around a jury, unless I have a client that happens to be themselves a trial lawyer, they are not in the battlefield that they are comfortable and trained and experienced in. And so, the lawyer has to take lead.

COATES: Yeah. You've had many clients. And one of your clients has been Michael Cohen, by the way. We have talked for a long time about, you know, this distinction. Obviously, Donald Trump was the defendant in this case. But Michael Cohen, oftentimes, the people looking and hearing about this trial and his credibility issues thought that he was the defendant. How do you think he is feeling tonight?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: Well, I just watched him. He's very happy and feels, as I watch him, I haven't talked to him, vindicated. But we spent over an hour with the most professional lawyers I've ever been surrounded by, which are the Manhattan D.A. prosecutors, questioning Michael and showing us how they were going to proceed. And why I said what I said so many times to you and others on this station was a result of that experience. It was all about the documents and corroboration and testimony from Trump friends and allies. From the first day we were there through almost a year, my trips from Washington to New York early in the morning, it was all about the documents.

So, when I saw the defense strategy and some people on television spending most of their time attacking liar, liar, pants on fire --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

DAVIS: -- I knew in my view as a lawyer, and I'm not a criminal lawyer, it wasn't going to work because the jury is going to believe their lying eyes.



DAVIS: And that was ultimately probably what happened.

COATES: I mean, common sense is not left at the door, right? We're thinking about how things go together. And we spent a lot of time, all of us reading tea leaves, wondering what they would do, based on our experience, obviously, as prosecutors, and thinking about it. But, you know, what stood out to you, Elise, in terms of that focus on the credibility of Michael Cohen? I mean, there had been a lot. And in fact, Michael Cohen had a lot more to say this evening when he was speaking, I believe, with Rachel Maddow earlier.

And let me just play for you one of the comments he said because he thinks it was Donald Trump who was really dictating and ultimately tanked his own defense strategy. Listen to this.


COHEN: I don't think if you probably asked Todd whether this is the way he really wanted to run this defense, I can assure you he would say no, but it was never his call. It was Donald's call. And despite now that he lost, I'm sure we're not going to see much of him anymore.


He says he's going on to help him in Florida and otherwise, but if Trump dictated the defense strategy, did he cut off his nose to spite his face?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yeah. Look, Laura, I think that's very possible. I mean, think of the data points we have from the former president. Not shocking that he would be dictating his defense. I think that that would make sense because I always -- I was asking myself, strategy wise, why was Todd Blanche doing what he was doing? I understand Tim's point that he's a brand-new defense attorney, but he's not a brand-new lawyer. And he was really -- he was doing two things. He did the spaghetti defense. He threw everything on the wall to see what stuck, that was true in his summation. And then he did spend too much time attacking Michael Cohen. And there were other things in this case that he could have spent time on to actually hone in on reasonable doubt because it's very clear this jury believed Michael Cohen. And they were able to do that because the prosecution very wisely focused on collaboration.

COATES: In advance -- I mean, it wasn't just -- they didn't have to wait for him to testify. He was the end of it.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. Michael Cohen is such an interesting witness. He's unlike any cooperating witness I've ever dealt with. I've dealt with a lot, and a lot of really bad people have done way worse things than Michael Cohen.

On the one hand, I've never seen a witness with the combination of textbook -- textbook credibility problems that Michael has, the prior convictions for fraud, for perjury, for lying to Congress, the other uncharged, un-criminal lies to the media, to his family, to banks, et cetera. And combine that with the bias. I've never seen a single witness who hated and openly hated the defendant, wanted him to go to jail as badly as Michael Cohen.

On the other hand, the name of the game everyone at this table knows is corroboration. The single word prosecutors say most, spend the most time thinking about, is corroboration. And Lanny is right, the documentation, the handwritten notes, the checks, the other witness testimony, David Pecker's testimony, none of it was 100% corroborating of Michael Cohen. There was still a bit that the jury had to take in his word, but a lot of it overlapped and reinforced what Michael Cohen had to say in a way that it really minimized that leap of faith that the jury had to take in Michael Cohen, and hence the result.

COATES: So, do you think -- I mean, people are really critical, Karen, throughout the entirety of this. Remember, they criticized the D.A., Alvin Bragg. They talked about the audacity of him going first. That was the first initial irritation. Then it was, how dare you elevate from a misdemeanor to a felony? It was, which is your predicate crime? How are you elevating in the long run? Do you have enough to go on here? It said the feds didn't want to touch this. They went on and on. Is he vindicated tonight?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, look, the Manhattan D.A.'s office has this storied tradition that dates back way longer than Alvin Bragg. It dates back to before Cy Vance, Mr. Morgenthau, Frank Hogan, Thomas Dewey. I mean, the Manhattan D.A.'s office is really just a place that has always believed in prosecution as something that is not political. There's a big sign when you walk in the door that you see every time. It's a quote, I think, from Hogan. It said, you can't play politics with people's lives.

And they really drill that into you when you're there. Politics have no place in there. And that's why there's this mantra of you bring cases without fear or favor, you follow the facts wherever they lead. And it's drilled into every single assistant that's in there. And I worked there for almost 30 years. And that is so important to everybody there.

And Alvin Bragg came in and -- and people were skeptical. He was new. And that happened when Cy Vance came, too. You know, whenever there's somebody new, people were skeptical. And he was not afraid to -- he was handed a case that other people thought he should have brought against Donald Trump. And he took one look at it and he says, I'm not bringing that case. That was the criminal version of the case that Letitia James ended up bringing. And he took a look at this case and he decided to bring this case. And -- and that was his judgment. First of all, he was elected by the people of Manhattan.


COATES: But for that reason, I'm going to cut you off, but for that reason, there is a difference between so-called line prosecutors that are not elected, not political appointees in any way, shape or form, don't campaign in order to get their job. And the fact that he is somebody who was elected, that was baggage that many would look at and say, okay, it may be true of the office not to have politics, but that was part of the criticism of him, that there was skepticism because he was elected. Was that fair?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think it's fair to criticize any -- when you're the elected D.A., you're -- you're half prosecutor, half politician, unlike the career prosecutors, like you said.

COATES: Right.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think it's fair criticism, of course. I mean, I think public servants and prosecutors should always be tested and questioned. That being said, I personally know the assistants in there. I know Josh Steinglass. I know Susan Hoffinger. I know all the assistants who did this case.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: There is no D.A. that could tell them to bring a case that they didn't believe in -- would never happen. They would walk out the door before they would do something like that.

COATES: Well, they were successful in convincing the jurors that they had met their burden of proof and history was made. Stick around, everyone, please.

Trump's most loyal supporters are rallying to his defense tonight, including his potential VP picks. Congressman Byron Donalds is one of them, and he joins me next.



COATES: Members of the Trump family and Republicans are rallying behind former President Donald Trump tonight. Don Jr. raging, saying -- quote -- "The Democrats have succeeded in their years-long attempt to turn America into a third world shithole," his words, not mine. Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump posting an image of herself as a small girl with the caption, "I love you, dad." Republican allies reacting with fury.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): This was certainly a hoax, a sham. This was devastating for the average American.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This is the most outrageous travesty I've ever seen. And the problem here is Democrats have crossed this line.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I've never heard constituents so frustrated and so angry at what they've seen.

SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): They are so afraid of Donald Trump that they're willing to ruin our election system.

STEPHEN MILLER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: My reaction, like that of many Americans, is one of fury, outrage, contempt.


COATES: Joining me now, Republican congressman from Florida and Trump ally, and person who may be on a short list for the V.P., Byron Donalds. Congressman, thank you for joining me this evening. History has been made today and many have had a visceral reaction one way or the other. What is your reaction tonight? Do you respect what the jurors have had to say in their verdict?

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): No, I don't. And I think it is part of the jury's fault. But it's really at the fault of Judge Merchan. His jury instructions were ridiculous by many legal scholars who examined what he gave the jury, and they never saw anything like this.

You have a situation where the actual federal crime about the election was never really identified anywhere through the trial, except at closing arguments by the prosecution. After the defense had finished their closing arguments, the judge repeatedly interrupted the defense when they were trying to bring information to the jury's understanding. You didn't allow an FEC lawyer, one of the top people in the country with knowledge of how the Federal Election Commission actually works and looks at cases like this. They were not allowed to testify in open court in front of the jury.

So, no, I think a lot of people are looking at this case and they see it for what it is. It is a sham. This was a railroad persecution of Donald Trump simply because Alvin Bragg and a lot of radical Democrats in our country, wanted to get Donald Trump. They don't view this as justice and neither do I.

COATES: Well, congressman, a couple of points. You know, you mentioned the jury instructions. A lot of it was boilerplate that has been used before. And the parties did have a chance to come together and decide what they would be. But I certainly hear the criticism that many had concerned about, what was that underlying theory, that so-called predicate crime that would go from the misdemeanor to the felony, but it is allowed to be able to have the jury decide those on different fronts. But I want to focus on in particular the aspect of --


COATES: I'll let you finish in a second, but I want to finish my point first, sir. I want to focus in particular on the point about who it is was bringing in this case, and that's Alvin Bragg. I've heard a number of your colleagues talk about this being the weaponization of the government and because Donald Trump is the political opponent of Biden. But Alvin Bragg is a state level prosecutor. He is not under the purview of the Department of Justice. Why do you assign that fault to him?

DONALDS: Well, two things. Let's go back. First of all, the judge did tell the jury that they can decide amongst multiple different federal crimes to adjudicate guilt on this misdemeanor that they elevated to a felony in state court. So, if you're going to do that, first of all, you have to bring expert testimony from somebody with federal background on those charges. They did not allow that to be brought forward.

Now, specific to Alvin Bragg, the issue here is that he ran on the entire position of getting Donald Trump. That was one of the core pillars of his campaign to become the district attorney in Manhattan. And so now you have somebody who basically said, I'm going to go get somebody, regardless of what the charges might be, regardless of what you might think a potential crime might be. His entire campaign was focused on getting Donald Trump. That's why he's coming under scrutiny, because this is political, not actually about following the law.

And I go back to not identifying a crime. The FEC looked at this. They said there's nothing to see here. They are the arbiters of what is a campaign finance violation. So, for Alvin Bragg to go out there now and say, well, this is interfering with the 2016 election, he's a state level prosecutor. It's not even his jurisdiction. How can he make that claim when the FEC said there is nothing to see here and the U.S. attorney's office said there's nothing to see here?

COATES: Clearly, this will be an issue on appeal, as is the different theories that the jury was able to look at. The judge did hear the concerns from the Defense Council about allowing the jury to have that very notion, and he did offer to have the campaign expert actually testify.


But you're right, it would not have been a substantive testimony. I wonder what the appellate court will ultimately see. But I have concerns, congressmen, more broadly about our system, not just of justice, but in terms of our democracy. When there is this perception or there is a narrative to suggest that our legal system or our courts or a jury trial is somehow so rigged and unfair, people ultimately lose faith in the entire system. And I've sat through enough trials and heard enough verdicts as our nation to know that you can't pick and choose whether the system is fair based on the particular outcome of somebody you're aligned with.

Do you have concerns that by talking about this through the lens you are, that you are undermining people's confidence overall in our system?

DONALDS: No, I don't. I don't have those concerns at all. I think that has been undermined by Alvin Bragg, by Judge Merchan who, frankly, has been very clear about his support for Joe Biden. He should have accused himself based upon that if he was concerned about our institutions. He was not. Now, I'm looking at this through the lens of an American citizen and a member of Congress who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.

I've watched the Biden administration spy on the American people and suppress their First Amendment rights. I've watched the Biden administration ignore Supreme Court ruling when it comes to student loan bailouts, which is unconstitutional, a violation of separation of powers. I've watched the Biden administration ignore people's personal health and make them take vaccines against their own will because they wanted to eradicate COVID-19, another violation of federal law.

COATES: Congressman, I do hear you, but I want to focus on the trial.

DONALDS: I've seen our institutions --

COATES: I don't think we should over talk each other.

DONALDS: Hold on.

COATES: I do honor -- I want you to --

DONALDS: But I've seen our institutions --

COATES: Congressman, I'd like you to speak, I really did invite you to have -- to give you the opportunity to do so, I will honor that, but I do want to focus on this particular aspect of today's historic announcement because it is part and parcel to what you have been expressing, and that is the justice system specifically.

What my question really is, do you have concerns that by suggesting that the actual trial was rigged or that it was that the jurors themselves did not reach the right outcome, that people will doubt the ability for our system to be thought of as just? I mean -- and I'll just be frank here. In the past, you've spoken out about various verdicts. One in particular involved Derek Chauvin, a very high- profile trial.

And I want to just read for you what you said at the time. Regardless of the result, you said, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process at this dangerously divided moment in our history. All leaders, regardless of party, must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partners -- excuse me, this is Governor Hogan. Hold on. I'm sorry. This is Governor Hogan. I want to read yours. Excuse me. I apologize for that, congressman.

What you had to say in a statement was this. My apologies. One's fate is to be determined by an impartial judicial system that is ultimately in the hands of a jury of your peers -- we saw that today. Today and every day, Americans should celebrate the fact that we live in a nation that awards every person their day in court and the opportunity for justice to prevail under the blindfold of Lady Justice.

That was the Derek Chauvin trial verdict statement. What has changed so significantly for you to doubt the system so strongly now?

DONALDS: Wait a minute, are we really going to compare Derek Chauvin to Donald Trump?

COATES: No, I'm not.

DONALDS: I's not even the same thing.

COATES: I'm comparing the --

DONALDS: I don't even know what that statement means.

COATES: -- system of justice.

DONALDS: But what -- but what I'm saying is, is that you witnessed a railroading prosecution in New York. Couple that with the fact that you have two men running for president. One had classified documents in his house when he was a vice president and when he was a United States senator. The Department of Justice has come out and said that we're not going to prosecute because we frankly think he's an elderly gentleman who shouldn't go before prosecution. That's what the Hur (ph) report says.

COATES: Those are federal cases.

DONALDS: You have Jack Smith seeking those same charges -- but you're talking about the justice system. So, let's talk about it. You have Jack Smith with the same situation. Actually, it's not even the same situation because Donald Trump is a former president allowed to have documents under the Presidential Records Act. And Jack Smith is trying to throw the book at Donald Trump. We've already seen a two-tier system of justice, and now you're watching it unfold with this guilty verdict in New York City.

That's why I'm saying we have a lot of people in our country, a lot of them who are not just Republicans, who are looking at this verdict. And they are saying this is a sham, this is politicization of the justice system, this is election interference against Donald Trump. And they view it that way because they see, whether it's Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, they are treated very, very differently than if it's Donald Trump.

You and I both know they never brought a charge like this against anybody else in New York City. They bring it against Donald Trump. Why? Because they simply want to get him, and that is wrong. You can't compare this to Derek Chauvin. I don't even know why we brought up that statement.


COATES: Well, I brought the statement not to compare and nor did I even intimate that Derek Chauvin and Donald Trump were synonymous. I was pointing out the nature of your statement about a jury of one's peers and having confidence in the justice system. But it is patently false to suggest that no one has ever been prosecuted under existing statutes like the falsification of business records. That, in fact, is not clear.

I know we have to go, congressman, and I hear them talking in my ear, but I can't let you go until I ask you this question, and that is about the politics of this. We're talking a great deal about how you believe it's a political motivation. But there's also an election in 159 days from now. And I'm wondering, given the fact that, as you say, there are many Americans who you believe view this as a travesty, does this conviction help the former president politically?

DONALDS: I don't want to talk about it in those veins because this case has been a joke, an absolute sham. The backdrop of this is you have Americans looking at our country and the failure of Joe Biden, who is the master of disaster when it comes to the United States presidency, and they're looking at what's happening in their lives, contrasting that to what the news media wants to focus on, this case in New York. They're saying to themselves, Joe Biden has been a disaster and they're going after Donald Trump.

This is going to backfire because you have two men running for the presidency. One has done a terrible job and one did a very good job when he was president despite all the acrimony and the backlash in the investigations.

So I think people are going to look at this and say, if they are really going after Donald Trump this hard, when he's just trying to run the country again and he did a better job than Joe Biden, shoot, maybe I should be voting for Donald Trump because what's happening now is truly destructive of our institutions and destructive of our democracy brought to us, frankly, by the Democrat Party, whether that's the state level of New York or the federal level under Joe Biden.

COATES: Well, I'll be curious to see if the voters agree with you, but to remind the viewers that we are not aware of the political leanings of the jurors who decided this case. There were 12 of them who were part of the voir dire process. Congressman Byron Donalds, thank you for joining me.

DONALDS: Thank you.

COATES: There remain a lot of big questions tonight after a historic verdict. Can Trump still run? Is he able to vote? Will he face any prison time? We're going to tackle them one by one, next.



COATES: Well, Trump has been convicted. So, what exactly happens next? Trump's legal team is expected to be back in court next week as they appeal the judge's ruling that Trump violated the gag order. Now, three weeks after that, it's the first presidential debate right here on CNN. Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11th. That's just four days before the Republican National Convention even begins in Milwaukee. That's all well and good, by the way.

But there are still burning questions at the top of everyone's mind. Like, can he still run for president? Well, yes, according to the Constitution. Is he eligible to vote? Well, that's questionable and can depend on how sentencing ultimately goes. And will Trump go to prison? Well, we don't yet know. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg didn't say if he would actually be seeking prison time, but that's in the hands of the judge.

With me now, retired California superior court judge, LaDoris Cordell. She's the author of "Her Honor: My Life on the Bench." Your Honor, thank you for joining me this evening. Sentencing is coming up about a little more than a month away. The big question on everyone's mind is, will the judge in that case include prison in the punishment? It could be as high as 20 years total, up to four per charge, though. Would you impose an incarceration sentence?

LADORIS CORDELL, RETIRED CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: Before I can answer that, it's important to understand what a judge considers its sentencing. And this is just solely Judge Merchan. So, judges are supposed to look at mitigating factors, aggravating factors. If there are a lot of mitigating factors, that means a more lenient sentence. If they're aggravators, that means a harsher sentence.

So, if you look very quickly at mitigating factors for Donald Trump, well, there's his age. He's a senior citizen. He's almost 80 years old. He's a first-time offender. That's a mitigator. And he's also not -- this is not a violent offense, although his words have encouraged violence.

So then on the aggravator side, you have, first of all, the number of victims, snd these are voters who are bamboozled because of this hush money, the cover up. There are the contempt citations, almost a dozen where he has violated court orders. And then there's an issue of recidivism. Is he likely to repeat? On a scale of one to ten, I give it a ten. Yes, this man is likely to do all of this kind of stuff again. And finally, a judge looks for remorse, contrition. You get up in front of a judge and say, I'm so sorry I did this, I shouldn't have done it. Do you think Donald Trump is going to get up in front of Judge Merchan whom he has denigrated repeatedly and do that? No.

So, it bodes, in my view, if these are the aggravators and mitigators that the judge is definitely going to not just say, okay, give you a slap on the wrist, go home, I'll put you on probation for a month. That is not going to happen. So, a lot depends on the behavior of Donald Trump when he's in front of the person he has been insulting repeatedly all through this trial. COATES: Would you consider at all the fact that he is a presidential candidate or even change a sentencing date to beyond the Republican Convention?

CORDELL: Two things. Republican Convention, no, I would not change his sentencing date. He's a criminal defendant. He has been convicted. Let them change the date for the convention.


Secondly, with regard to treating him differently, all I can say is that, if you're a judge and you're fair, if you had a low-income defendant in front of you who was not remorseful, who called you names, who attacked you, you would impose a harsh sentence. How is that any different from a wealthy man like Donald Trump who has done and may do the same thing?

So, if we want the public to believe and have trust in the system, it cannot have a double standard. So, what's good for the low-income person who doesn't behave well is good for this wealthy man who doesn't -- who may not behave well in court as well. So, yeah, I mean, absolutely. Get your toothbrush and maybe he's going to cool his heels for a while, depending upon his behavior.

COATES: I mean, to argue the alternative would be to concede that you do have a two-tiered system of justice. Judge Cordell, thank you so much.

CORDELL: Thank you.

COATES: My panel is back with me now. I mean, she's talking about changing the convention. Obviously, if Judge Merchan thinks the same way that she does, Donald Trump is facing actual prison time.

HONIG: That was remarkable, first of all, by Judge Cordell. I mean, perfect prescient analysis by a wonderful judge who has done this job. It's going to be such a difficult call for Judge Merchan. I mean, we've looked at sort of broader studies. There's no case quite exactly like this. But if you look at the comparable pool of cases, the majority of defendants, somewhere in the 70 to 90% convicted of comparable crimes, do not get prison time in the New York system. But I think the judge just articulated the contrary argument. To me, it feels like a coin toss. What Judge Merchan does here, 50-50. The other really important question --

COATES: These are 34 counts.

HONIG: Yeah.

COATES: Thirty-four guilty counts.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Thirty-four guilty counts and a felony.

HONIG: That matters.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: He -- that matters. He has been held in contempt 10 times before this judge. That's -- that's not a normal thing. I personally have never had a defendant be held in contempt and then not just get put in 10 times. That's a huge deal. He has three open indictments, federal and state crimes, right? In other jurisdictions.

COATES: With the presumption of innocence, though. Does that factor in?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Of course, it factors in. But in this particular case, the jury said this was not a porn star hush money case. The jury said he interfered with an election. And so that is a -- it doesn't get more serious than that. So, I think this is one of those 10 to 30% that if his name wasn't Donald J. Trump, he would have been incarcerated a long time ago, given his conduct and this -- and who he is in these charges.

HONIG: That's not quite fair. They did not specify --


HONIG: -- what their basis was. They did not make a finding that he interfered with the election. That's just not true. They found falsification of business records for some other unnamed crime.

PARLATORE: That's correct. There wasn't a special verdict for him. And so, we don't know what target offense, you know, they think it might have been. It may have been for the tax, you know, the tax count. It may have been for falsification of other records. So, we don't know.

COATES: And they never had to agree unanimously on that point.

PARLATORE: Correct. Exactly. And so, without having that special verdict form, we don't know what they actually convicted him of, you know, under what theory. Now, I do think that she makes a great point there that I had not heard before, about the difference in a low- income defendant versus a wealthy defendant with this type of circumstance.

I'll tell you one thing, and I've done sentencing before Judge Merchan, I would not suggest the defendant speak at the sentencing. Of course, that's his right, whether he wants to speak or not.

COATES: Even to say he's remorseful, which we don't think he might say, but even for that reason?

PARLATORE: That's the point. I don't think he would say that. So that's why you don't want him to talk. You're going to instead, you know, say that, you know, my client does still maintain his innocence and he's going through the appellate process. We believe that there are certain appellate issues here, so don't hold that against him, but instead focus on, you know, issues such as the history and characteristics of the defendant, you know, lack of criminal history, all of those types of things.

COATES: Lanny, you're smiling. Why?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, when I heard the congressman talk about a double standard and didn't answer your question, this is a state prosecution, a voted grand jury indictment, and the very same crime that the federal prosecutors sent Michael Cohen to prison for is being disparaged and it's called political when it applies to Mr. Trump. So, if you read the federal prosecutor's sentencing memorandum of Mr. Cohen, it was very harsh because they called this an attack on democracy, not about hush money and sex.

So, I would at least suggest to anyone that considers this to be a double standard. This is New York state. It's a crime. Mr. Trump cannot pardon himself of this crime. And what Mr. Cohen did is serve time. Federal prosecutors working for Trump's Justice Department said that Mr. -- Ellie and I have disagreed on this -- that Mr. Trump directed Michael Cohen, who did the time. Now, Mr. Trump has to face the issue as will he do the time.

PARLATORE: Well, to be clear, his federal conviction was not just for -- the FEC violation.


DAVIS: It was one of many.

PARLATORE: And the other allegations, the fraud allegations, the taxi medallions, the sentencing guidelines on those were so high that the FEC violation didn't even really move the guidelines up. So, he primarily went to jail for the other offenses.

COATES: I don't know about you all, but I'm so curious as to hear potentially one day from one of the jurors to see what went into their whole consideration. It's obviously the right not to say anything. But I certainly hope we will get some insight in the future as to what went into this historic decision to convict by 34 counts a former president of the United States. Thank you to everyone ahead.

Ahead, perhaps the biggest question of all, what will Trump's guilty verdict mean for the election in November? There is one. Well, a fundraising is an indication the 2024 race just got supercharged.


COATES: Well, the fundraising wars are kicking into very high gear after Trump's guilty verdict.


The Trump campaign blasting out this message to supporters, calling the former president a political prisoner. And a spokesperson says their donation platform was flooded with so many people after the verdict, the site even crashed.

The Biden campaign is issuing a warning of its own, telling supporters that Trump is likely setting fundraising records. Now that raises the question, will Trump's supporters stay with him through thick and thin and post-conviction?

Joining me now, CNN senior political commentator Scott Jennings and CNN political commentator Van Jones. Good to see you both, gentlemen. Scott, let me begin with you here because we know that Trump's closest allies, they are really rallying around him. But I do wonder how the guilty verdict plays the Republicans who are maybe on the fence leaning toward independent or just not MAGA.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was hearing from a lot of decidedly non-MAGA Republicans tonight that they are mortified by this. They can't believe the Democrats went through with it. They can't believe Trump was convicted. They think this should have never been brought in the first place. A lot of them are quite certain it's going to be thrown out on appeal. So, I was looking at statements from politicians.

You had people like Susan Collins and Mitch McConnell even out defending Donald Trump tonight. So, somehow, this all had the effect of rallying every corner of the Republican Party around Donald Trump. So, I suspect they are going to raise a massive amount of money. And just like we've seen with other legal entanglements when he has been indicted before, I think you're going to see a boost of enthusiasm from Republicans for Trump here.

COATES: Well, Van, does that -- I mean, money does not always translate to voters in November. We're still a significant amount of time away. President Biden's campaign is putting out a statement saying -- quote -- "There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office at the ballot box." This is getting perhaps trickier, though, the way that Scott explains it. What do you think is the best way for Biden to handle Trump's conviction?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, first of all, I try to call this stuff fair. So, I'm of two minds. First of all, it's got to be said, today is the day Donald Trump became a felon. Today is the day that Donald Trump became a felon. And Democrats are going to use that because that is a big deal to a lot of people. Thirty-four counts are not a small number of counts. And so, you will see Democrats use that and lean on that.

However, on the other hand, I think that you are seeing this rallying effect. I remember when Bill Clinton got indicted and he went up like -- not indicted, when Bill Clinton got impeached, he went up like 10 points. People who didn't like Bill Clinton at all just didn't like that process. So, there is this martyr effect that kicks in.

And so, I think what Joe Biden has to recognize is there will be a rallying effect that he's got to deal with. For the base, this is going to be -- for the democratic base, this is going to be a moment of some kind of vindication. But he's got to get that -- the money from the base now and then turn back to other issues. Just trying to make Donald Trump the issue is not working for Joe Biden. Hadn't worked for him so far. It's not going to work for him going forward.

COATES: Well, Scott, I mean, part of the fundraising boost that you see is who is beside you, who is supporting you. We're talking about members of Congress. But we haven't seen his wife, the former first lady, Melania. We know that she is in New York, but she didn't attend the trial or even the campaign fundraiser that happened this evening. How important do you think it will be for the campaign for her to be seen by his side?

JENNINGS: Yeah, I don't know that we have to see her right away, but we are going to need to see her. And people do want to see her. I mean, I think she would have a big influence and a help to the -- to the campaign. I remember in October of 2016, after the Access Hollywood tape, she made a statement that was -- that was very helpful. So, I don't know what they're going to do. Haven't heard. But if I were them and I could get her to do it, I would -- I would definitely put it out. Absolutely.

COATES: According to the trial, there was testimony that came in that she herself had been one to initiate a kind of spin following Access Hollywood and talking about, you know, locker room talk. And so that had a very big role as well.

Let me ask you, because I want to read for you both. Larry Hogan, who is, of course, a former governor of Maryland and a current Republican Senate candidate, released a statement urging Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process. And when he did so, one of Trump's senior advisors responded on "X" saying, you just ended your campaign.

Van, to you, this idea of one's campaign coming to an end, that's not Larry Hogan thought, but the advisor instead, that by asking people, imploring people to respect the system, that could be the nail in your political coffin. What does that tell you where we are right now?

JONES: I mean, this tells you that we're an upside-down world. I remember when the Republican Party was a party of law and order and respect for institutions. And now, they've become a party of January 6 every day. They just don't seem to recognize. This guy has gotten more legal protection. Donald Trump, he's got more lawyers, he's got more shots on goal.


By the way, he's going to be able to appeal. This is not some overthrow of the process. And by the way, if you don't -- if you think prosecutors got too much power and you think judges could sometimes go too far, welcome to my world. The Black community has been saying this for years. And so, now, suddenly, because your guy is in trouble, the whole system, you know, it's garbage. We haven't given up on the system. I don't know why Republicans are.

COATES: Wait, Van, does that mean you think that he's right to -- Trump is right to try to say to Black male voters that they should be endeared to him because of his own legal troubles?

JONES: No, I'm just saying I don't know what Trump should do. I'm saying that for Republicans to be this outraged by one case they don't like and think the whole system is terrible when you have, you know, literally hundreds and thousands of people going through the same system every day, and I don't hear Republicans sticking up for them, it's just hypocritical.

COATES: Scott, really quick, the last word to you. JENNINGS: Well, I mean, Donald Trump did stick up for people in the criminal justice system. Van, you know because you were there. You worked with him and helped him do it.

JONES: And was proud to do it. And was proud to do it. But I'm saying the Republicans today aren't talking about that. They're talking about one guy and crying about it. Typical.

JENNINGS: Here's what -- here's what Republicans are mad about. We're supposed to be a nation of laws and people are supposed to be tried for breaking laws, and Republicans believe, in this case, Donald Trump was tried for being Donald Trump, not for breaking a law. No one can really explain exactly what he was convicted for. The underlying campaign finance issue doesn't even exist. He has never been convicted or even indicted for the underlying campaign finance matter.

So, people -- I mean, our own Fareed Zakaria, Laura, said on the air the other day, no other defendant not named Donald Trump would have been indicted for this, let alone convicted for it. So, Republicans are feeling pretty raw about that particular issue tonight.

COATES: I certainly respect Fareed, but it's a law on the books because people have been prosecuted under it, and 12 jurors disagreed. Scott Jennings, Van Jones, thank you both so much.

And thank you all for watching our historic coverage today. It continues with "Anderson Cooper 360," and it's next.