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CNN Follows The Developments On Trump Hush Money Trial. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired April 23, 2024 - 12:00   ET




VOICE-OVER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: I'm Jim Sciutto, live from outside the Manhattan Criminal Court. Former Chief Executive of American Media David

Pecker, owner of course of the "National Enquirer", is on the stand right now in the case against former U.S. President Donald Trump. This is CNN's

special coverage of the Hush Money trial.

The testimony has resumed now on day two of Donald Trump's historic criminal trial in New York, and already there's been plenty of drama. Right

now, former "National Enquire" publisher David Pecker is back on the stand. Prosecutors say Pecker helped Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign

by killing negative stories about him and attacking his rivals.

Earlier, a hearing was held to determine whether Trump should be held in contempt of court for, prosecutors allege, violating a gag order that

prohibits him from publicly attacking witnesses and jurors. The judge repeatedly scolded Trump's attorneys, told them, quote, "You're losing all

credibility." He did not, however, immediately rule on that motion.

On the left side of your screen, you will see key updates from the trial. There are no cameras allowed in the proceedings, but CNN does have

reporters inside the court keeping us up to date on what's going on. Everything they see and hear is going to appear on that side panel.

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins me now. And Brynn, I wonder if we could begin with the first events of the morning, which was a quite contentious hearing

over whether Trump violated this gag order. Prosecutors allege he did so repeatedly, and the judge clearly was not entertaining any of the answers

from prosecutors, sorry, from his defense attorneys very well.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the defense argument was essentially all these posts that are in question. He's trying -- the

former president is trying to defend himself against other attacks that are coming at him. And the judge repeatedly asked the defense, well, show me

those receipts, show me the text messages.

What are you arguing against? And the defense really wasn't bringing anything up. And he said, I've been asking you eight or nine times to

answer my question and you're not. And so, that's when it really did get contentious. And we really, you know, there really was no defense at that

point by Trump's team.

SCIUTTO: And it seemed like the judge wanted to establish that Trump knew what he was doing.


SCIUTTO: And the defense attorney saying, well, he was just reposting. And the judge, he was getting quite detailed about, no, he had to put quotes

around the quote. You know, that's an active step by the former president.

GINGRAS: Yeah. And that particular tweet that you're referencing, right, this was after a Fox News host essentially said that there were, you know,

people, operatives inside the jury decision. That was a big one for the prosecution to bring up because they are essentially saying, look, he's

attacking the jury here. And, oh, by the way, the next day there was a jury member who was seated who said, I don't want to be on this jury anymore.

So, that's a real threat. And for the defense, they basically couldn't have a defense to that. And the judge was really, like you said, pointing out,

say, you heard this on T.V. and then had to actually type it out with quotes, with capital letters. And so, really --

SCIUTTO: It wasn't just a repost button. That was the point.

GINGRAS: Exactly. There was an actual deliberate move to put this out there.

SCIUTTO: And of course, Trump leaves the courtroom and then claims that the jurors are 95 percent Democrats. So, it seems that he's continuing on the

witness now. On the witness stand is David Pecker again. The focus here really establishing his role and Trump's involvement, according to

prosecutors, in these catch and kill stories.

GINGRAS: Yeah. And also just the relationship, right, between the two men. They've known each other since the 80s. David Pecker has witnessed Donald

Trump sign checks, be very deliberate in his business moves.

SCIUTTO: That's also important, right?

GINGRASS: It's very key.

SCIUTTO: Because that's part of the prosecutor's case. Is it not to say he knew where this money was going?

GINGRAS: Exactly. The defense argued in their opening statements that, you know, Donald Trump just -- it was a bookkeeping error. Kind of what we saw

in the civil trial, right? Same sort of defense. But yeah, it's important because it's showing, no, he really knows what he's signing those checks.

So, yeah, I imagine that's what the plant, the seed they were trying to plant there.

But this essentially, like you just said, talked about the relationship with David Pecker, but also, more importantly, about that meeting in August

2015 between David Pecker, between Donald Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen, how that established and what the rules were going to be

about these catch and kill stories, publish things that are positive about Donald Trump and get rid of stories that are negative. And so it's really

the sort of building the framework to what this whole case is all about.

SCIUTTO: Which -- and that's part of their argument, in effect, that this was a pattern, that the Stormy Daniels story was not isolated. It was part

of a broader plan.

GINGRAS: Exactly.


SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras, thanks so much. We know we'll have more to report. So, from close friend to key witness for the prosecution back on the stand

today, as we noted, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, prosecution claims he met with Trump and Michael Cohen, as Brynn was just

saying there back in 2015, to begin a scheme to catch and kill potentially damaging stories about Trump.

With more on David Pecker, let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman in Washington. So, Tom, tell us about Pecker, the man, but also his relationship with

Donald Trump through the years.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pecker is clearly the first prong of a three-pronged attack against Donald Trump. He's an old friend they met in

the 1990s. They shared this -- Pecker had the "National Enquirer," Trump was a celebrity who wanted attention. Boy, did they feed off of each other.

Headlines and photographs and ratings from shows -- all sorts of things.

He said they talked all the time. He is the one now who is describing in court how he agreed to be the eyes and ears of the campaign to suss out

problematic stories out there. And more importantly, to exercise this catch and kill option, meaning when he saw a problematic story, for example, a

woman who was saying, I had a relationship with Donald Trump, he would catch it by buying the exclusive rights to the story, and then he would

kill it by putting it on the shelf where it could never be seen again.

That is the role that he plays as the first prong in this attack, by establishing for the prosecution that as an old friend of Donald Trump's,

he knew what was going on and this really was happening. Of course, second prong will be like Michael Cohen saying, yes, and there was this illegal

activity and all that. Third prong will be the law saying, yeah, that is illegal.

You can't do it. That's what they're trying to get to with the jury. But right now, this old friend, David Pecker, who Donald Trump worked with for

years and years and years, is standing up there facing down his old friend and saying through his immunity deal, yeah, he did some things here.

SCIUTTO: It's quite a witness, quite a first witness, given the closeness of that relationship with Trump through the years. Tom Foreman, thanks so

much. Our senior crime and justice correspondent, Katelyn Polantz, she's of course been following all the action today in that courtroom just behind me

on the 15th floor.

Katelyn, the morning was contentious, no question, and now the afternoon with this witness testimony is central to this case. Begin if you can with

the morning and about the judge's questions and reactions to the defense attorney in that hearing on whether Trump has violated the gag order.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah, prosecutors swung for the fences, Jim, in this gag order contempt hearing saying that

Donald Trump violated the gag order set by the judge in this case willfully, that he was intimidating witnesses, namely Michael Cohen, both

in a series of social media posts and a campaign website, a series of posts, as well as outside of the courtroom yesterday on camera, as we had

noted at the time that it was happening.

And then they also pointed to a post on Truth Social about jurors and the prosecutor said they were quite concerned about juror intimidation. The

judge needed to make Donald Trump stop doing this and enforce the gag order by holding him in contempt, potentially fining him or making some other

decision there.

The judge had harsh questions for Donald Trump's counsel, Todd Blanch, saying at one point that he was losing credibility with the court because

of the arguments that he was making and also trying to clarify exactly why Donald Trump was doing these things and that Trump himself was personally

not just amplifying what others on the Internet were saying, but was typing quotes around things that he heard, such as on Fox News about the jury,

accusing them on April 17th of being liberal activists, which did ultimately result in a lot of concern over the jury.

And one juror after that post, we don't know if it was connected directly, but after that post, a juror said they were no longer uncomfortable. They

had heard from friends and family who was able to identify that juror and was excused. Where that leaves us, we're still waiting. The judge has not

decided yet what to do and if he will hold Donald Trump in contempt and how.

SCIUTTO: And we -- the judge has options here. First of all, he says to decide if he believes that Trump did violate the gag order. And then the

range of options include fines, but also as prosecutors noted in the courtroom this morning, incarceration is at least an option, although

prosecutors said they're not seeking that step at this point in time.

So, how soon do we expect a decision from the judge on whether the judge believes he did violate this gag order and then imposes some sort of


POLANTZ: Well, Jim, it's fair to say we're not going to expect a decision in the next two hours on this before 2 o'clock, because right now the judge

is hearing or taking witness testimony from David Pecker that is being presented to the jury.


So, he's on the bench, everybody's in that courtroom. There is a possibility he could be writing something, we could get it later, but these

sorts of contempt proceedings, you're right, they can result in fines, they can result in warnings, they can result the whole way up to telling a

defendant you're going to jail if you do it again or you're going to jail pretty soon.

SCIUTTO: Now, we have the testimony underway of David Pecker. Do we know how long this testimony is expected to last? Will this be over multiple

days? Because, of course, after the prosecutors speak to him, defense will have the chance for cross-examination.

POLANTZ: Yeah, there is a likelihood that he could come back tomorrow because we do have less than two hours left of the proceedings today before

the jury goes home for the day for Passover. This is a situation where the prosecutors are questioning and then the defense comes back and questions,

and then the prosecutors get another crack, if they so choose.

Right now, the prosecutors have gotten David Pecker to get to the heart of things pretty quickly, establish his closeness in Donald Trump, his

understanding of how Trump was so motivated to protect himself and also was very closely watching money.

And then, on top of that, has already testified that they had mutual agreements, the sort of agreements between friends, including that David

Pecker and Trump knew that the "National Enquirer" and this former chairman of the publishing company could be the eyes and ears of the campaign,

protect Donald Trump from stories where women might want to come forward and allege affairs with him while he was running for president.

And the way he would do that is have positive stories in his publication about Donald Trump, negative stories about his opponents, and get in

contact with Michael Cohen. This is according to the testimony already. Get in contact with Michael Cohen if something came up where a woman had a

story to tell. They would find a way to let Michael Cohen know on the Trump campaign and get that story buried.

And that is the prosecutor's allegation, is that it was not an isolated affair. It was part of a pattern, part of a strategy carried out multiple

times. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much, as always. So, for some legal perspective on this, let's speak now to Attorney Areva Martin.

Areva, good to have you on this afternoon. I wonder first if you could give your sense of that hearing this morning on the question of the gag order.

It was contentious. I wonder who you think has the upper hand at this point.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Well, when a judge tells a lawyer that you're losing all credibility, the lawyer is not winning. The lawyer is having a

bad day and that's exactly what the judge said to Trump's attorney. He says, you're losing all credibility as the lawyer tried to spin and make

excuses for why Donald Trump was engaged in the kind of conduct that clearly violates the gag order.

It's clear to me that the lawyer has lost complete control, if he ever had any control, over Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is not listening either to

the judge or the attorney. So, it was very clear from that statement from the judge that the judge is, in fact, frustrated with Donald Trump and his

attorney, and with respect to the attorney trying to constantly spin and in some ways distort what Donald Trump is doing in violation of that gag


SCIUTTO: Is it possible, and you're a lawyer asking because you've made arguments yourself, is it possible that that's intentional on the part of

defense attorneys and perhaps performative to try to give the impression to the jury that the judge has it in for the defendant? This is Trump's

argument outside the courtroom as he attempts to adjudicate this case in the court of public opinion. But inside the courtroom, is there any

potential strategic justification for having that kind of back and forth with the judge, or is that a complete loss?

MARTIN: Well, I think it's clear that a big part of the defense here is that this is some kind of political prosecution, that this is being

directed by Joe Biden and the White House, and that there's no legal basis for the 34 charges against Donald Trump.

And of course, the defense team wants this jury to believe that this is not a case that would have been brought against anyone other than Donald Trump,

that it's only been brought against him because he's running for president, and that this is an effort to prevent him from winning the presidency

again. So, anything that the lawyers can do that conveys that message to the jury, I think they're going to take full advantage of that.

SCIUTTO: We'll see how the jury looks at it themselves. Areva Martin, please do stay with us. A lot more questions to dive into. Coming up, we're

going to have more on the Trump hush money trial when we come back.



SCIUTTO: While Donald Trump is in court, his rival, President Joe Biden, is on the road campaigning. Today, he is in Florida, and that is bad news for

Trump, who has to be in court every weekday except Wednesday, as long as the trial goes. But he is making the best of it, coming out to speak to the

press before and after court, traveling when court is not in session.

Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Washington with what's at stake politically for Donald Trump. And Jeff, it's become a familiar argument. Trump, pretty

much every time he walks into that building behind me and when he leaves, will say it's unfair that I'm here. I should be on the road campaigning.

How has he managed to keep campaigning even in the midst of this trial schedule?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, Jim, this is something that really has been a choice of the former president up until

this point. In fact, he used many of his illegal proceedings both in New York, in Atlanta, in Florida, various jurisdictions as a campaign stop, if

you will, during the primary.

He could have been campaigning when he wasn't. It's Tuesday today. I can't recall a Tuesday that Donald Trump has had a campaign rally or he's

actually visited a campaign state. So yes, this certainly has encumbered him, but it absolutely is something that it's not new. He has chosen to not

be on the campaign trail nearly as much here.

But Jim, what we are seeing today is really such a fascinating look into why Donald Trump ran for president in the first place and the help that the

National Enquirer gave him when he was deciding whether to run for president

One of the most interesting things I think we have learned overall this morning was a poll in the "National Enquirer" said that some 80 percent of

its viewers or readers said that Donald Trump should run for president and that helped inform his decision to run. So, regardless of the impact that

this has on the 2024 election, we don't know what the politics will be. It is a fascinating window into what essentially drew Trump in to run for

president in the first place.

SCIUTTO: And just a short time ago, jurors were shown a list of positive stories that the "National Enquirer" ran during that campaign, which is

part of their argument here. Not only did they kill negative stories, but they ran positive stories in this somewhat symbiotic relationship between

Trump and Pecker, who is on the stand.


So, Joe Biden, he is in Florida today. Can you tell us what he's speaking about today?

ZELENY: Well, Jim, he's going to be campaigning on reproductive rights and abortion, really drawing attention to one of the biggest political changes

we have seen in generations. And that, of course, is the Supreme Court Dobbs decision effectively overturning Roe v. Wade. Florida now is ground

zero again for this because of two reasons.

One, there is a six-week abortion ban in place. And two, voters in November in Florida will be asked the question of whether to enshrine the protection

of abortion rights in the state's constitution. That is something that we have seen in state after state after state passed.

Now, there's a high threshold in Florida. Sixty percent of Florida voters have to vote to protect this. So the question here is the president

traveling to Florida to draw attention to this. They're tiptoeing a little bit into are they going to campaign in Florida? Could that be a

battleground state again?

Of course, it used to be a central battleground state. Democrats have not won this in a presidential race since Barack Obama did in 2012. But

President Biden going to Florida to keep the attention and spotlight shined on abortion rights, they believe that is the central element to potentially

winning this presidential campaign. We'll see. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. And there'll be an abortion -- abortion measure on the ballot in Florida in the fall, which is one reason Democrats believe they

might be able to motivate their voters. Jeff Zeleny. Good to have you.

Well, as we've been speaking, the jurors inside the courtroom are hearing some of the negative headlines run by the "National Enquirer" about who?

Well, Trump's rivals in 2016, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" is with us. Areva Martin, back as

well, civil rights attorney, legal affairs commentator.

Areva, first to you. What we're hearing from prosecutors now is they're laying out just the depth and breadth of the strategy, which was not only

to catch and kill a story like the Stormy Daniels alleged affair, but also to run positive stories about Trump to help his campaign and notably

negative stories about his rivals at the time, a negative story about Ben Carson, a negative story about Ted Cruz, Republicans then running against

Trump legally. How important is that to their case?

MARTIN: It's very important to the prosecution's case. They're trying to lay out that this was a scheme, a scheme designed by Pecker, by Michael

Cohen, by Donald Trump to create this chaos in some ways with respect to the election and to suppress votes for Donald Trump's opposition and to

increase support for Donald Trump.

They wanted Donald Trump to be painted in a positive light so that he could sway more jurors to vote for him. They wanted to suppress, as you said,

those negative stories, stories that might cause voters to vote against Donald Trump.

And the more that the prosecution can demonstrate what those stories were, who those individuals were. Let's not forget Hillary Clinton. She is also

one of the opponents that Pecker liked to talk about in the "National Enquirer," like to run negative stories about Hillary Clinton supporting

Bill Clinton, who was characterized as a womanizer.

So, I think the more evidence that's presented to this jury about the elaborate nature of this scheme and the efforts to suppress votes and to

increase, suppress votes of the opponents and increase votes for Donald Trump, the more the jurors are going to be convinced of the case brought on

by the prosecution.

Prosecutors just noted in the courtroom that Michael Cohen was actually sent PDFs of the stories before they ended up in the paper, which

substantiates this idea that they were, well, they were working together on this.

Ron Brownstein, very basic question to you politically. And the fact is, we won't know the answer to this till voters vote in the fall. But does Trump

look good politically in the courtroom?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he doesn't. But we don't know whether that outweighs his argument to his supporters that the whole

thing is fundamentally illegitimate, which, by the way, may end up being the key issue in the trial, as well.

I mean, I think the prosecutors are well on their way toward documenting that what they alleged, in fact, occurred.

And in many ways, their greatest threat may be whether there's anyone on the jury who accepts the basic Trump argument that this is all

fundamentally illegitimate and politically motivated and no one else would be prosecuted for this crime.

But, you know, if you look at what's happened so far, Jim, as we talked about in the Republican primaries, in the Republican coalition, Trump has

had enormous success at convincing voters who probably didn't need that much convincing that these prosecutions are really an effort to silence

them by going after him, that that argument that he made an impact on the broader elect remains much more up in the air.


I was really struck by a recent poll by "A.P." and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago that found, not totally

surprisingly, that fewer voters thought this was a serious -- this case was a serious violation than the cases revolving around election interference

and classified documents. Fewer people thought he had committed a crime.

But the striking thing was actually, despite that, the share of voters who said that he they would he would be unfit to be president and convicted in

this case was essentially the same as in the others. I mean, there is a threshold here for voters. If he is convicted, are they willing to put a

convicted felon in the Oval Office? And I think that is the ultimate impact of this case. And we won't know till we get there, if we get there.

SCIUTTO: Right. And I've heard Republican lawmakers express that same fear, not just of the possibility of a conviction, but just the details of this

case, being reminded of the alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and being reminded of this relationship with the "National Enquirer" across the board

on so many stories, positive for the president, negative for others. Areva Martin, lawyers -- sorry, go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: This is going to be real quick. To that point, you know, Biden is probably going to be even more dependent on a gender gap in '24 than in

'20. You know, his vote among men is declining relative to 2020, largely because of discontent over the economy among black and Hispanic men. He is

going to need big margins among women even more.

And obviously, the fact that Dobbs occurred in 2022 helps him on that front, the rescinding of the constitutional right to abortion. But this

case also, for the exact reasons you just mentioned, could allow -- could help him to do something that is probably going to be critical, which is to

maintaining elevated margins with women, because he's probably not going to run, as well, among men as he did last time.

SCIUTTO: Areva Martin, prosecutors, they tell a story, right? We heard that in the opening arguments, in addition to attempting to establish the law,

they attempt to tell a story to jurors. They're well into telling that story now about this relationship on the issue of the law. What do lawyers

have to establish to get a guilty verdict here on the law?

MARTIN: Essentially, Jim, what they have to establish is that Donald Trump knowingly and intentionally falsified business records. At the end of the

day, this is about him writing on these checks that he was paying for legal services when what we now know, based on the evidence, is that he was

actually paying Michael Cohen back because Michael Cohen had taken out loans on his home and mortgaged his house and had done all these

extraordinary things that I can tell you for a certainty, that lawyers don't do for their clients to pay Stormy Daniels this money.

Here's the problem. They have this scheme and the scheme involves them paying money to this adult film actress. But where is the money coming

from? So obviously, Donald Trump is concerned about writing a check directly from his own account to Stormy Daniels. So, they hatched the

scheme where Michael Cohen is going to pay her and then he's going to pay Michael back and make it appear as if he's paying for legal fees.

Now, one of the things that the said in their opening statement is that they're going to prove that these were payments for legal fees. The problem

with that is Michael Cohen is going to take the witness stand to say, no way. I was not performing any legal services. These statements were

directly reimbursements for money I had paid to Stormy Daniels. And that's going to be a problem for Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, you talk about witnesses, Michael Cohen and David Pecker, very close to Trump at the time. They're pretty strong witnesses for the

prosecution. Ron Brownstein, Areva Martin, thanks so much to both of you. And coming up this hour, we're going to have more on the Trump hush money

trial, particularly as David Pecker continues his testimony. That's when we come back.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back, I'm Jim Sciutto. You are watching CNN special coverage of Donald Trump's historic hush money trial here in New York.

Jurors have been hearing more testimony from David Pecker, the former publisher of the "National Enquirer". Prosecutors scrolled through a series

of headlines from the "National Enquirer" a short while ago. Among them, "Donald Trump, healthiest individual ever elected."

And if you've been following our side panel, you've seen in just the last few minutes, David Pecker testifying that Trump's former lawyer, Michael

Cohen, would direct him and the magazine's editor in chief, which candidate and which direction the magazine should go. It's a remarkably close

relationship they are describing here between the "National Enquirer" and Trump.

Let's go to CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz for more. And Caitlin, we spoke earlier about the hearing that took place earlier in

the day regarding the prosecutor's allegation that Trump has not once but repeatedly violated the gag order. And then soon after that hearing, Trump

goes out and talks again about the jury. Tell us what we heard.

POLANTZ: He did. Donald Trump is right now waiting to see what the judge does. If he is fined a thousand dollars per violation, as the prosecutors

ask, or more because prosecutors say Donald Trump was intimidating or potentially intimidating witnesses and jurors, namely because he was

commenting about Michael Cohen in a series of social media posts on his campaign website.

And then, prosecutors say, yesterday, after proceedings in the very courthouse where he's on trial. Here's more of what Trump said at that



DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial? He got caught lying

in the last trial, so he got caught lying, pure lying.


POLANTZ: That was about Michael Cohen. That was the proceedings earlier today in court where the jury was not involved. That is something that the

judge is looking at separately. Heard legal arguments and will make a decision on whether Trump should be held in contempt of court and what the

punishment for that may be. Now, though, we're in the jury trial. David Pecker, the former chairman of American Media Incorporated and the

"National Enquirer," he's on the stand.


He's testifying about how involved Michael Cohen was in the Trump campaign in 2016, how David Pecker himself was willing and interested in helping

Trump at that time had agreements with the then candidate, essentially mutually beneficial agreements where they shared information about damaging

stories that could come to light so that Trump could use Michael Cohen allegedly to bury them. All of that building towards these allegations of

falsifying business records. Jim.

SCIUTTO: On Trump's, just briefly, comments about the jury, he said, if you could recount briefly, he claimed that 95 percent of the jurors are

Democrats. Do we believe this this might fall under the gag order, too? Yes.

POLANTZ: Yes, prosecutors say this was one of the most troubling things that Donald Trump did to violate the gag order when they argued this

morning. How that came out was that Fox News did a segment about jurors that were being selected during juror selection before the full jury was

seated. And then Trump quoted from that commentary from Jesse Watters on Fox News, saying that there were liberal activists being seated on this

jury. And then a juror quite soon after got a call from friends and removed herself from the jury.

SCIUTTO: Sure, she was concerned about well-being targeted. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much. So, the jury now is taking a short break while the

lawyers discuss a legal matter. We're going to bring that side panel back once the testimony resumes. Lots of updates there as the trial continues.

Author and journalist Ronan Farrow helped to uncover the catch and kill practice at the "National Enquirer." Ronan's reporting will actually be a

key piece of evidence in this criminal trial. And he joined Anderson Cooper Monday to discuss exactly why Pecker was called as the first witness for

the prosecution. Have a listen.


RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": There's a reason prosecutors are putting him first. He's right at the heart of this scheme.

He was the guy in the position of power at AMI, the parent company of the "National Enquirer". And he was present for this meeting that prosecutors

have focused on so much in August 2015, where allegedly this whole scheme was brokered.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This was a meeting between him, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.

FARROW: That's right. At Trump Tower. And the crux of this was that there was a very explicit agreement made that they talked openly about this being

about how can you -- the "Enquirer", help during the election? And Pecker saying, well, we can buy up stories.


SCIUTTO: That argument central to the prosecutor's case. Let's take a closer look now at some of the legal questions in this case. Gene Rossi is

a former federal prosecutor and was assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, joins me now live from D.C.

So, Gene, you heard accounts of the hearing this morning on whether Trump violated his gag order based on what you know, the kinds of comments he has

made. Do you believe he has and do you believe the judge will sanction him?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Okay, if this were Donald Smith and not Donald Trump, there wouldn't be a hearing on whether he violated the

gag order. The judge would have already ruled. But because we have the former president of the United States and you have all the political

machinations involved and free speech, I think what's going to happen is the judge will find that Mr. Trump has clearly, clearly violated the gag

rule on multiple occasions.

What is the remedy? I think he is going to impose a fine. I do not think he's going to incarcerate to defend Mr. Trump, although if it were Donald

Smith, he would be incarcerated. So I think what the judge is going to do is give both sides, both the attorney and Mr. Trump, a tongue lashing, make

it very clear that if it gets any worse and it continues, that he will be incarcerated. The judge needs to lay down the law because at some point, at

some point, the judge is crossing the Rubicon into the ridiculous.

SCIUTTO: It's such an important point as to how you or I would be treated for similar behavior as opposed to Trump, because, of course, Trump claims

it's all unfair. They're only targeting him because he's a politician. What you're saying is that, in fact, he's getting special treatment here --

special treatment as relates to the gag order?

ROSSI: Jim, here's the irony. He has his argument to his MAGA followers that it's a witch hunt and he's only being prosecuted because he's Donald

Trump. But at the same time, the way these trials have been conducted, not just in this case, but in other cases, he has been -- been treated with kid

gloves, kid gloves. And that -- that means that he's being treated favorably because of his position, not unfavorably.


SCIUTTO: Do you see the judge here that that hearing this morning on the gag order was contentious at times and you saw the judge losing patience

and he and he said the prosecutor -- rather the defense attorneys, had lost all credibility. It sounds like his patience is wearing thin. Do you

believe and granted it's early, it's only we're only on the first witness now, but do you believe that he is sufficiently establishing control in

that courtroom?

ROSSI: I think -- I think Judge Merchan, in my view, is doing a marvelous job. He has a recalcitrant defendant. It's the -- it's the most historic

criminal trial our country probably will ever have. And he is handling it with grace, patience and dignity. He is showing a little bit too much

patience for me because I'm a former prosecutor and I would never tolerate the conduct of Mr. Trump.

Well, I think at the end of the day, he is not going to take the bait. He is not going to go into that area where Mr. Trump wants him to. And that is

to find him in contempt and incarcerated. If Mr. Trump is incarcerated, I think one of the happiest people in the world will be Mr. Trump because he

can raise money off of that.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, it's something he did, of course, with that mugshot from the case in Fulton County in Georgia, raising money off that. Gene

Rossi, thanks so much for sharing your expertise.

ROSSI: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And coming up this hour, we'll have more on the Trump hush money trial as David Pecker's key testimony continues. That's when we come back.


SCIUTTO: It is day two of testimony in Donald Trump's unprecedented hush money criminal trial. The court is now taking a short break. Donald Trump

walked out of the courtroom for just a moment. In addition to being the defendant in that courtroom, Trump is, of course, the presumptive

Republican nominee for president in 2020 to '24.

And while Trump is in court, of course, he is off the campaign trail. Trump claims the trial is therefore an act of election interference. And part of

what he says is an effort to keep him from getting his message out to voters. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

CNN's Alayna Treene joins me now live from Washington. Jeff Zeleny fact checked that claim earlier to note that Trump in some of the other legal

proceedings voluntarily showed up at court because he calculated it was in his political interest to do so.


But I wonder how the campaign has been responding as you speak to them to events here at the courthouse in the last couple of days.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, there's a couple of things I want to point out here, Jim. One is that a lot of the messaging around him being

stuck in court while, yes, he is required to attend court four days out of the week. It's also a messaging tactic for him.

It's something that they recognize plays well with Donald Trump supporters, even though I mean, I've covered Donald Trump throughout his entire 2024

campaign and for many other years. And he often did -- not would not hold more than two campaign events in a week. And under the current trial

schedule, he's still able to do that.

So, I just want you to keep that in mind here. But as for events that are happening in the courtroom, I think it's very clear how angry and

frustrated Donald Trump feels. I think the novelty of the first week of being in court has started to wear off.

He is very visibly agitated by this. And that's what you're also hearing when he addresses the cameras. And I do just want to quickly read for you

what Donald Trump posted on Truth Social about the current gag order as his team was having a hearing on this this morning.

It said, quote, "Highly conflicted, to put it mildly. Judge Juan Merchan has taken away my constitutional right to free speech. Everybody is allowed

to talk and lie about me, but I am not allowed to defend myself." He went on to call it a kangaroo court.

But look, this is the type of messaging, again, that on one hand, Donald Trump thinks plays very well with his supporters. But it's also clearly a

big point of frustration for him, too. He really does believe that it is unfair that he is not able to attack witnesses, specifically Michael Cohen,

which is what his attorneys were arguing this morning. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, and the prosecutor is alleging that he attacked jurors as well, which the judge is saying goes beyond -- beyond a right to free

expression or to defend himself. We'll see how the judge decides on that. Alayna Treene, thanks so much. All right, so to the politics and senior

political analyst Mark Preston joins me now.

Mark, it's going to be some time before we have hard data as to how this trial is affecting Trump's support either way. What is your sense, having

covered this campaign and many campaigns through the years, does this help or hurt Donald Trump's run for the president, for his supporters and others

to see him, perhaps undecided voters to see him in the courtroom?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in the spirit of politics, let me answer this like a politician, Jim, because I think it

plays out two ways. First of all, in the short term, I don't think this hurts his campaign in the sense that what Donald Trump is doing, what he

has done, what he is facing is not a surprise to us. You know, he has been under investigation for several years. We knew these cases were going to


So, in many ways, people have already made up their minds. And this is playing very well with Trump's base, where the concern is, though,

ironically today as -- as the primaries are taking place in Pennsylvania, where this does hurt him is it hurts him with women who live in the suburbs

that color these cities in some of the most important states, one of them being Pennsylvania, looking at Michigan, as well, and of course, Wisconsin.

Go out to Nevada. You look down at Georgia, North Carolina. So, that's what they're really concerned about, is the women who live in these suburban

counties, Jim.

SCIUTTO: A question for you, Mark, because I've been coming down here since the start of jury selection. And while on the first day, I did see some

Trump supporters out. Today, I can't see a single one. And I know Trump has spoken about the possibility that his supporters would come out to show

their distaste with the trial. Do you have a sense of whether they are engaging with this trial, following it closely, being energized by this

trial? How would we measure that?

PRESTON: Well, you know, certainly. And if you go look on like Truth Social or look at some of the social media companies that tend to cater to the

right. Yeah, people are following it. No question about that. But keep in mind, there's also a bit of exhaustion right now. This is just one of many

trials. It's in Manhattan. It's the middle of the week and we haven't seen any action.

Now, if Donald Trump were to violate those gag orders or seem to be in violation of the gag orders and he were to have to go behind bars for even

for a couple of hours, then I think you'd see action take place, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Joe Biden today is in Florida. He's going to a state where Democrats believe they have an opening now with Florida's highly

restrictive abortion law and the fact that there's going to be a referendum on the ballot in the fall, which they hope will motivate Democratic voters.

Tell us how central that is to Biden's campaign strategy at this point.


PRESTON: Well, it's going to be abortion, abortion -- a woman's right to choose. I think they're probably a little bit optimistic. Democrats are

thinking that they can take back Florida. Florida has been trending as a conservative state for several years now, but it is a good state to go to

not only to raise money.

But to talk about this issue, because by talking about this issue, you're talking about a state that has 13, I believe, perhaps more individual media

markets in that state. And then you have everyone else in the country watching Joe Biden go down and talk about abortion in Florida. So, it

actually helps him with some of these other states where they think that they have a chance of winning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. And a similar strategy, one might say, in Arizona, given the heart, the very restrictive abortion law there. Mark Preston,

thanks so much. We showed you live pictures just a few seconds ago. That was Trump and his attorneys walking back into the courtroom after a short

break. We're going to be back from outside the Manhattan courthouse with the latest just after our own quick break.


SCIUTTO: The former "National Enquirer" publisher is back on the stand now after a brief break in the Trump criminal trial. Earlier, David Pecker said

he agreed to use his magazine to boost Trump's presidential campaign, squash scandalous stories about him, publish critical stories of those

running against Trump. Let's go back to CNN's Katelyn Polantz. What are we hearing from prosecutors now as Pecker is back on the stand?

POLANTZ: Yeah, they're just getting, going again after a short break with David Pecker. But where they were was highlighting this August 2015

hatching of a plan where the "National Enquirer", with David Pecker as the chairman of AMI, making an agreement that he would be in frequent contact

essentially with Michael Cohen to help the Trump campaign, to put out positive stories about Donald Trump, to put out negative stories about

Donald Trump's opponents.

And to crucially help the campaign know if there was something negative coming from women who wanted to allege affairs with Trump so that the

campaign, Michael Cohen especially, could go and find ways to bury those stories, connecting it all back to the campaign, that crucial thing that

the prosecutors want to highlight here that was motivating Donald Trump, that this isn't just a business records of a dispute.


This isn't just about how he was marking down payments to lawyers. This was all about Donald Trump's political motivations and the personal interest he

had in paying off women to keep them silent as he was running for president.

SCIUTTO: And just very quickly, court is going to break at 2 o'clock today because of the Jewish holiday and then not be around tomorrow and then back

on Thursday?

POLANTZ: Indeed, Thursday is going to be a pretty big day for Donald Trump on a lot of fronts. We're going to very likely get more testimony from

David Pecker, if not with prosecutors questioning him more to bring out more facts and more indications of what he knew that could set up other

witnesses. There also are big Supreme Court arguments related to his January 6th case in Washington, D.C.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be covering both of them. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much. That does it for this hour of special coverage of the Trump trial.

I'm Jim Sciutto outside the courthouse. Thanks so much for watching. Amanpour is next.