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Donald Trump's Hush Money Trial; Michael Cohen Currently Testifying in Trump Trial; Trump Gag Order Appeal Denied by New York Appeals Court. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 10:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR AND HOST, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": And he felt he needed, it was extremely important to me. The questions and the lies were about the Trump Tower Moscow project, specifically the number of times that I claim to have spoken to Mr. Trump about the project as well as the time period for those conversations. That's what Michael Cohen lied about and was later found guilty of lying to Congress.

Asked why he lied. Cohen said, "Because I was staying on Mr. Trump's message that there was no Russia, Russia, Russia." And Cohen confirmed that this time in 2018, he continued to pressure people like Keith Davidson to also lie, except that he was lying about the deals with Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

Asked why he did so, Cohen said, in order to protect Mr. Trump. Susan Hoffinger, the prosecuting attorney, is now asking Cohen about the January 2018 "Wall Street Journal" story about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Cohen says, at the time, he did not tell the truth about his involvement in the payoff and the fact that Trump repaid him. So, what is -- Cohen testified that he spoke with Trump about the false statement he was going to give to the media.

So, Lanny Davis, what we have here is Michael Cohen acknowledging his lies. They were going to come out sooner or later. Better, I guess, in the prosecution and Michael Cohen's view to have them come out on his terms. Acknowledging his lies, and he is saying he did these lies that he was later found guilty of on behalf of Donald Trump,

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Well, actually, he did that way before what we're hearing today. He did that in front of the American people and internationally on live television --

TAPPER: No, I know. But I'm just saying in the --

DAVIS: -- when he --

TAPPER: -- before this jury, I'm saying.

DAVIS: Before this jury, he is saying what he said back in front of the American people. I lied. I'm ashamed. And he's got to look at the jury and be believed that he is regretful. Whether the jury accepts somebody who owns up to his lies and whether they then look at documents that support what he's saying is the question for the jury, and I do understand there might be some doubts in the jury.

But I do know that he acknowledged his being a liar for Donald Trump way before, and the night before his testimony before Congress. We talked about how he was going to own his lies and not try to defend himself.

TAPPER: So, Cohen says that when he told Mr. Trump the false statement he was going to give to the media about the Stormy Daniels story, about the $130,000 payment, about the fact that he paid it and Donald Trump paid him back, Trump responded, good, good, when he gave him that statement.

Hoffinger is now walking Cohen through text messages he sent with Keith Davidson, the attorney for both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. Text messages in January 2018 around this time of "The Wall Street Journal" story.

Bill Brennan, I mean, these are the cards, that the prosecution has been dealt. They have, this witness who is admitted to have told lies. What is the best way to present this information, this potentially damaging information to the jury?

WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP PAYROLL CORP. ATTORNEY: Well, Jake, Susan Hoffinger is smart to get it out ahead of time because certainly Todd Blanche will do it. But with all due respect to Lanny's recitation of, you know, he lied. He came clean. The mea culpa. He lied. And then he lied again. And then he lied again.

He lied to the newspaper. He lied to Congress. He lied on his tax returns. He lied when he did the refile (ph). And every time it's, I'm done lying. I know this, jurors can tolerate a lot. They really don't like liars. And if there's a moat between everything we've heard so far and the felony, that second crime, and he's the bridge across the moat, the jury's going to have a tough time with that, and the judge will instruct them false in one, false in all. If you believe this man lied once, you can disregard his entire testimony.

TAPPER: So, Keith, right now, what's going on is they're describing how Michael Cohen tried to get Keith Davidson to lie as well. This is around the time that "The Wall Street Journal" breaks the story of this payment to Stormy Daniels, $130,000.

Hoffinger is now walking Michael Cohen through these text messages that he sent. Here's "The Wall Street Journal" story from January 2018. Trump lawyer arranged $130,000 payment for adult film star's silence. Hoffinger is walking Cohen through the text messages he sent with Keith Davidson to get him to deny it too.

Davidson texted Cohen January 10th, 2018, "Wall Street Journal called Stormy. She didn't answer. They say they are running story and have deadline of tonight for her to comment." Cohen says, back to Keith Davidson, write a strong denial comment for her like you did before. So, that is what's going on right now.

Hoffinger asks, who benefited from this agreement? The defense objects. Lawyers are now in a sidebar, having been in court last week to tell you what that looks like. It looks like nine lawyers running to the front of the room, and they're all huddling, and the judge sits up and talks to them. You can't hear anything. And those of us who use -- those in the audience who use binoculars to try to see faces or whatever, are told we cannot use our binoculars during that period. They don't want anybody reading any lips.


So, that's what's going on, right now. What exactly is the objection here? Hoffinger who benefits from the agreement, the defense objects. Lawyers now at the sidebar. The objection is sustained. What is -- what -- why -- what is -- why would the objection be sustained?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it sounds like it's probably a relevance objection, but then Hoffinger comes back and basically re-asks the same question. So, sometimes it's just a matter of wording. So --

TAPPER: Who would benefit from the joint defense agreement? Cohen says, I believe several people would benefit, but certainly President Trump.


TAPPER: So, the idea is it's -- it wasn't just Trump. It was a bunch of people benefited from this. Hoffinger then asked, did you understand that you would benefit? Michael Cohen says, yes, ma'am. He would benefit from this joint defense agreement.

So, I guess the idea was, maybe they were -- maybe the defense was afraid that they were insinuating that Michael Cohen was being paid to lie, et cetera, et cetera. And she's, no, no, no. I -- I'm not trying to get him to say that. He benefited from it too. He didn't have to pay for his own attorney.

HONIG: I think that's exactly right. And a lot of times what happens at those sidebars is sort of, you just need to reconfigure the question a little bit so it doesn't lead down that forbidden road. But the D.A. did get the question in and she did get the answer.

TAPPER: So, Cohen says he knew that Stormy Daniels statement denying the sexual encounter was false. Cohen says he told Trump he was getting the denial from Daniels.

So, Kasie Hunt, what we have here is Michael Cohen instrumentally at the center, according to him, so maybe you don't believe him, but according to him, he's at the center of this cover-up. He's telling Donald Trump I'm getting a denial. He's orchestrating the denial with Keith Davidson, who's Stormy Daniels' attorney. He is also lying to "The Wall Street Journal". He is also telling these lies and orchestrating lies as well.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. And -- you know, and he -- he's testifying to say that he did that because he was trying to demonstrate -- in part because he was trying to demonstrate how loyal he was to Donald Trump by doing this -- TAPPER: And also, he wanted to protect Donald Trump.

HUNT: Right.

TAPPER: He loved Donald Trump.

HUNT: Right. And, you know, I do think that that's really where, at least, if I were a juror in this case and you're trying to decide, OK, this guy's acknowledging he lied. Are the circumstances that he finds himself in now ones that allow him to tell the truth? Are they that much -- are they that materially different?

I would argue that if you look at the way that Trump has treated Michael Cohen in the years since they had their major break, you could plausibly say, OK, I -- this man was under a lot of pressure. He was the president of the United States. He was very wealthy. Kind of in control over -- I mean, Michael Cohen's whole life was wrapped up in this man.

TAPPER: Yes. And -- but we -- and we have this theme because we've been hearing this from Michael Cohen throughout his testimony about whenever he did anything for Donald Trump, he would run to Donald Trump's office and tell him, hey, boss, look what I did for you. And like -- and it was very important to him to demonstrate that he had achieved that for him.

And this happens again. He said he told Trump he was getting the denial. One, to get credit for expressing that I was continuing to ensure that he was protected and stayed loyal. He wanted the credit for it. Cohen is now explaining his January 17, 2018 text to Davidson. I have her tentatively scheduled for Hannity tonight. Call me after your trial. Cohen said he wanted her to go on Hannity, that night.

Jamie Gangel, I don't think I'd ever heard it. Did you -- was this in the record before? Or did we know that he had tried to get her onto --

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The Hannity piece was before. I think, maybe --

TAPPER: That was --

CHALIAN: -- in Keith Davidson's --

TAPPER: -- we knew that already. Cohen said --

CHALIAN: -- testimony.

TAPPER: -- I wanted to continue to promote the statement that there was no relationship and that Trump had no involvement. And then they go and find a place where Stormy Daniels would be able to tell these lies. And that's the show they picked.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, this is one of the many times I wish there were cameras in the courtroom, which I do every minute, because I'm very curious about Michael Cohen's tone now. He exceeded expectations yesterday, by all accounts. His demeanor was calm. He calls, the attorney, ma'am.

I -- this is now a pressure point. Not the same as when he goes under cross-examination. But this, it's starting to get uncomfortable.

CHALIAN: I just want to say to that point.


CHALIAN: I believe Kara Scannell in the court, our reporter earlier said that his tone thus far throughout the day has been even toned.


TAPPER: Well, this -- and by the way, now we have the explanation as to why we were denied this bit of broadcast history. Cohen reads more texts and Davidson, her attorney says, she -- that Stormy Daniels was not able to go on Hannity that evening. So, Cohen texts Davidson later that night. Keith, the wise men all believe the story is dying and don't think it's smart for her to do any interviews. Let her do her thing, but no interviews at all with anyone.

HUNT: Those men, a little wiser than Michael. I have to say the suggestion that she should have gone on Hannity to do anything of any kind would --

TAPPER: Would have --

HUNT: -- would have been a questionable political proof --

TAPPER: Well, it would have definitely brought the story more oxygen --

HUNT: Right.

TAPPER: -- as they say, and ultimately decided, you know what, people aren't really picking up the story to the degree that we were afraid that they were going to. So, let's move on.


The jury saw these text exchanges when they were entered into evidence earlier through Keith Davidson's testimony.

GANGEL: So, my point on tone is just if he stays calm, do these lies make sense to the jurors? Do they understand that he was doing this to protect the boss? And also, when he's quoting Donald Trump, again, this is not some anonymous defendant, does it sound like Donald Trump in these cases? And bottom line, who had the motivation in all of this?

TAPPER: Do you -- Bill Brennan, you don't think that the jury is going to distinguish between the lies he did for Donald Trump and what he's saying now? I mean, because there is an argument that I think Lanny would make. And Lanny, please jump in at any time. Where it's like, look, this guy was very loyal to Trump and he lied, yes. He has a record as a liar, yes. But almost all of that, removing the taxi tag -- taxi cab medallions, almost to that was just in service to Trump.

BRENNAN: Jake, he can't make -- prosecution can't make the argument that all of the lies were at the behest of the defendant. He lied on his taxes, it had nothing to do with the defendant. He's lied in other areas. And I'm not surprised that his demeanor is controlled because he's been through a lot, this man. He's been to prison. He's testified before Congress. He's been publicly humiliated. He has had the benefit of phenomenal legal counsel like Mr. Davis.

I mean, he's ready for this.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BRENNAN: We'll see how his demeanor is on cross, but nobody, no jury is going to -- want to hear, you know, he made me do it. He told me to jump off the bridge. Nobody wants to hear that. Let's just --

TAPPER: So, Lanny, just to update everybody with what's going on. So, Hoffinger -- Susan Hoffinger, the prosecuting attorney is now showing Michael Cohen the January 30th Stormy Daniels statement. There are two Stormy Daniels denials issued in January 2018.

One of them, for "The Wall Street Journal" story, one of them right before she goes on Jimmy Kimmel. Both of them are denials. Both of them are lies. Both of them -- I mean, according to Stormy Daniels, that she did not have any sexual relationship with that man, Mr. Trump., and that there was no hush money paid.

Hoffinger shows, the January 30th annual statement, which was issued before she was on Kimmel. Cohen says, he knew the statement is false. How did he know? Because he's the one who wrote it. Hoffinger asks whether he knew the statement falsely said that she did not receive hush money. Cohen said, again, he knew it was false because I'm the one who paid it.

All right. Lanny, sir.

DAVIS: So, I've never been a prosecutor, but I'm told by prosecutors that people are convicted not just in organized crime cases, but in other cases where the principal witness are murderers, are liars, are people coming out of prison to testify and juries will convict using not saintly witnesses.

So, I'm sure that Bill and I agree that it's up to this jury, and we're both speculating, and his speculation may be better than mine because he may be more experienced. But I am saying that holding Michael standard to be a saint when he's owning his lies for Donald Trump, almost all of them except the tax issues.

And whether the jury buys his contrition is the key. A lot of witnesses in these big cases that have criminal records that result in convictions, they're not showing contrition. So, we just have to see --

TAPPER: How about that -- BRENNAN: But, Lanny, there's a distinction though between the example

you use and what we're seeing here. I've handled a lot of mob type cases and gang type cases. And the prosecutors will get up and say, hey, we wish we could bring you priests, rabbis, and clergymen, these are the people that these defendants associated with.

DAVIS: Right.

BRENNAN: And they shot people, they stabbed people, they extorted people. But not so much with the lying. This guy, a former lawyer, this guy just lies and then he lies again, then he lies again.

DAVIS: So --

BRENNAN: And I'm sure Mr. Blanche will get at the fact that that he tried to, "Monetize" his role as personal attorney. And that as we sit here on this panel today, he is shopping a reality show called "The Fixer". This guy's an opportunist and people love the story of redemption once, but they don't like it coming back to the well and back to the well and back to the well.

DAVIS: So, just to --

BRENNAN: I mean, it's just too much with this guy.

DAVIS: I honor your speculation as long as we both agree, I'm speculating. You're speculating.

BRENNAN: Absolutely.

DAVIS: We're all speculating --

BRENNAN: I -- absolutely.

DAVIS: -- what a jury is going to think about Donald Trump and his lies versus Michael Cohen and his lies.

TAPPER: Yes, and prosecutors right now are entering into evidence a February 2018 letter to the federal election commission about this payment to Stormy Daniels in response to the FEC complaint. Cohen's lawyer wrote in the letter, in a private transaction in 2016 before the U.S. presidential election, Mr. Cohen used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford, that's Stormy Daniels' birth name.


Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly. Neither the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign, that's interesting.

Cohen says on the stand, it's a true statement but it's misleading because neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was Mr. Trump itself. See, that's what I was picking up on there that -- like, it is true that the Trump organization and the Trump campaign didn't have anything to do with it. Mr. Trump did.

Cohen says on the stand, it's a true statement, but it's misleading. So, is -- are you allowed to mislead the Federal Election Commission? If not, expressly lie to them?

HONIG: You're not allowed to mislead them. And I don't like that answer if I'm on Michael Cohen's side here. If I'm the prosecutor. Just say, yes, it's a false statement. It's a misleading statement. It sounds -- to go back to the Clintonian example, it sounds very much like what the definition of is, is. Well, it's -- you don't want the jury thinking this is a guy who makes technically true but misleading statements.

And if I could pick up on that, Lanny, you've given us some really helpful insight into things Michael Cohen has said and given us helpful previews. They're coming up to a point where Michael Cohen pleads guilty to personal tax fraud and personal bank fraud relating to the taxi cab medallion business.

Now, Michael pled guilty to those crimes in federal court, Judge Pauley in 2018, under oath. He has since said under oath in a civil suit that he was actually lying when he pled guilty and that he did not commit bank fraud.


HONIG: So, which is it going to be?

TAPPER: Wait. Hold on, hold on. I'm trying to say --

DAVIS: You know, Danya Perry, you're forgetting what she said and you know what she said, that he was coerced on a Friday night. He was threatened to have his wife indicted on Monday morning. And under those circumstances, Danya Perry, a former SDNY prosecutor said, he was coerced into that guilty plea --

TAPPER: OK. So, let me bring back people to this trial in this case if I can. So, Cohen is now being showed text messages he sent to "The New York Times". Pulitzer Prize winning, Maggie Haberman, who we know and respect, in February 2018.

Cohen writes to Haberman on February 6, 2018. Big boss just approved me responding to complaint, meaning the FEC complaint and statement. Please start writing and I will call you soon. Big Boss is, of course, a reference to Mr. Trump. Cohen confirms, and he says, I was going to give it to her first, so she had the scoop.

This is, presumably, an article that Maggie Haberman wrote about Donald Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, denying that the Trump organization or the Trump campaign had anything to do with this payment, but acknowledging that he gave the payment, which is interesting, David Chalian.

CHALIAN: Right. So, somehow still trying to protect the boss in some way, as he said he was trying to do. But it's beginning to unravel right before our eyes. And I don't think -- you guys, we all remember covering this moment, right?

HUNT: Oh, yes.

CHALIAN: So, him saying that he made payments, but that Trump had nothing to do with it, that was never going to be sufficient to end this story. That was only going to demand more of us to ask constant questions as you saw ultimately presented to the president himself on Air Force One.

TAPPER: Jamie.

GANGEL: Right, where he said, no.


GANGEL: But then, thank you, Rudy Giuliani, because there's always the Rudy moment. He comes out and says, oh yes, yes, yes, it's true. They were reimbursements. And I think 24, 48 hours later --

HUNT: Yes, and --

GANGEL: -- Donald Trump changes his story.

HUNT: -- and it's, sort of, interesting in the context of this case now where the felony depends on proving that there were what amounts to campaign finance violations. Because the reason that Rudy Giuliani comes out there that day and says he did this is to say, well, this proves that it wasn't a campaign finance violation. It was paid from his personal accounts.

GANGEL: Right.

HUNT: So, it's a bit of a full circle.

TAPPER: All right. Laura Coates, back to you in New York.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you. We are going through all that's happening right now. We're seeing again that Trump is not reacting to the testimony that's coming in. You know, there's a lot that's happening and a lot we're trying to unpack in real order and real time here, ladies, because this is very significant testimony from somebody who is supposed to be the narrator. Whether he's reliable, incredible, not the jury, is anyone's guess.

But going through methodically all the invoices, going through the documents, talking about who's giving orders and beyond, going through about whether he's been paid or not. This is all part of the story they're telling. And we are in, by the way, day two of direct testimony.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I would expect that prosecutors will wrap up with Michael Cohen today. But right now, things are beginning to get, as we predicted, a little uncomfortable. They're walking through how he helped Stormy Daniels issue a false statement once her full story became public, and he has to atone for that. Explain why he helped with that then he's really not being honest with the FEC, right? I've already said how he's been convicted of lying to the IRS, to Congress, to banks and pleaded guilty to election related crimes. Here again, he is lying again.


So, we're getting into the many lies of Michael Cohen, which is very different than yesterday, where he was engaging in this effort to suppress negative stories on behalf of Trump. Working very loyally for him. Setting up this LLC, which wasn't totally on the up and up. But now we're getting into a pattern of lies. And this is where the jury has to assess whether they continue to trust this man, this witness, who really the prosecution is heavily relying on.

COATES: I want to turn quickly to Criminal Defense Attorney Ron Kuby, who's with us as well, because it's interesting to think, Ron, about how one is attempting to rehabilitate, ultimately, a witness like Michael Cohen.

Remember, he is not the one who's actually on trial. He's not the defendant in this action. But certainly, as somebody who's on the stand, the defense is going to try to use all the things that Paula has talked about. His credibility, the fact that he has admitted to lying, not only as part of criminal cases, but also in furtherance of the defendant in this action. How do you see this all playing out and how the cross might go?

RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think the cross-examination will be extremely lengthy, not because it needs to be, but because the client, Donald Trump, wants to see his lawyers go after Michael Cohen for every lie, every bad thing Michael Cohen has ever done.

Ultimately, though, I don't see that as terribly effective. Look, I think it's fair to say, at best, Michael Cohen is an approval seeking lackey. And he was Donald Trump's lackey. And as in organized crime cases, you have the underboss being very, very, very loyal to the boss. Not just lying for him, but in more serious cases, committing murder and committing mayhem and committing arson all for the boss.

Then when you feel betrayed by the boss, as Michael Cohen's story goes, then you turn on the boss with the same degree of visceral anger for which you committed your crimes for the boss. It is a common story, a common narrative. And I think the mistake that defense lawyers tend to make, generally, is you can attack the witness as much as you want, but you also have to attack the underlying story.

What is Michael Cohen saying that you can prove is not true with respect to the actual charges? And that always becomes the problem, and that's why the worst killers and terrorists and awful people who are given the best deals to testify end up being believed by juries. Not because they're credible people or even tolerable people, but because the story they're telling sounds true and is corroborated by other evidence and other witnesses. COATES: Important point. Again, you know, you don't have crimes committed in front of buses full of nuns, and certainly the people who are going to be the ones to witness falsification, allegedly, of business records are those who engage in falsifying behavior.

I want to go to Kristen Holmes on this as well, because, you know, he brings a really good point here when you talk about what they have to show. On the one hand, to discredit him. To suggest that Michael Cohen has gone completely rogue. That he does his own thing. He never would have done anything. He doesn't -- following orders from Donald Trump. Also mean Donald Trump was not in control of his own business. It also means that he has to, by trying to paint Michael Cohen as the ability to be a rogue actor, then he is clearly not really the man.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, obviously this is something that Donald Trump is not going to like. But I do want to point out, you know, what we're seeing here, at least reading about how Donald Trump is in the courtroom right now as these stories are unfolding. He's sitting back, his eyes are closed. He has remained relatively calm.

Same thing we are hearing from Michael Cohen. That he has had a measured voice. That he has stayed on message. These are two men who are not known for their discipline. These are two men who are very reactive. Both of them right now are on their best behavior. Donald Trump has been told not to react, not to have the same kind of reaction he did to Stormy Daniels where he was cursing, muttering, actively hitting his attorneys, rolling his eyes, that kind of thing.

Instead, he is sitting there looking forward. Michael Cohen has obviously had hours and hours of preparation. What will be interesting to see is if any of these changes when the defense does their cross- examination. As you said, is some of this going to get under Donald Trump's skin? Some of this going to get under Michael Cohen's skin?

Obviously, the defense is hoping that it gets under Michael Cohen's skin and they see some kind of reactive moment because that is what they're hoping to do as they try to paint him as this kind of reactive character who, as you said, went rogue.

COATES: Let me bring you back in here, Mr. Kuby, because we're learning a lot of different aspects of it. One of them is that he's reading a statement back in 2018 and he says, just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump.


He also goes on to explain that the line validated what he had said about providing his own funds way for the transactions. On this point in particular, there's been a lot of testimony about an alleged sexual encounter between himself and Stormy Daniels. References made to catch and kill stories for Daniels as well as McDougal.

But if you are the prosecution in this case, you don't actually have to prove that either of those things happened. It just has to matter to the jury that they believe the allegations could possibly come out, which would incentivize a catch and kill and then a cover-up.

KUBY: Well, that's correct. Even if the jury were to disbelieve Stormy Daniels, which at this point, given the job that was done by the defense and sort of scoring an own goal with her cross- examination, I think the jury probably does believe Ms. Daniels. But even if they didn't, it becomes sort of the same issue that you can falsify business records, and you can pay cover-up money for stories that are not true.

And we know that from this case because there was a story that Donald -- a false story, that Donald Trump had fathered a child that was being peddled by a doorman. And they implemented, they tried to implement a type of catch and kill around that as well. I think, ultimately, they didn't pay for it, but they were perfectly prepared to --

COATES: And excuse me, I want to -- I want to get back to -- excuse me. One second. I want to get some breaking news we have. I want to bring in Paula on this because I'll come right back to you. We have some news about an appeal that Donald Trump has filed with respect to the gag order. What's going on?

REID: That's right. He has railed against this gag order. Also, though, filed formal appeals and his appeal against this gag order was just denied by the appellate court here in New York. He has argued that this is unconstitutional. That as a candidate for the presidency, that his speech is political speech. That it should be granted the highest protection, and that he should not have restrictions in terms of the people he can attack.

Now, under this gag order, he can attack the District Attorney Alvin Bragg. We know he can and he does. Also same with the judge, Judge Merchan. He rails against the judge almost every single day. But he is prohibited from attacking any witnesses in this case, which includes Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen. Also going after the prosecutors or members of the judge or other people's families.

Now, with Michael Cohen, I do want to caveat the fact that there were some alleged violations of the gag order recently that had to do with Michael Cohen, and the judge actually let them slide. He said that you can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these, considering the attacks that he faces from Michael Cohen, are not political speech. But here, this appeal of trying to get the gag order overturned or undone has not succeeded.

So, that's not a surprise. But they have been railing against this. Litigating against this This is a pet issue for the former president. It is not a surprise that he has not been successful in getting this overturned. But I will note that the judge has backed off a little bit in terms of the strict enforcement against people who attack him, like, for example, Michael Cohen.

COATES: And Kuby, on this very point, it's important to think about, right? Because we know that the judge was asked if Donald Trump were to take the stand, which we know it remains a very big if that he doesn't have to decide until after the close of the prosecution's case here. But if he were to take the stand, the prosecution wanted to mention the gag orders in front of the jury, the violations.

And the judge said, with respect to the gag order violations, he wasn't going to do so. As the judge, these juries are around him the entire day. They have a level of respect for him. So, to hear his decision that there had been a violation might be unduly prejudicial. But tell me what your reaction is, the fact that they have now denied the appeal with respect to the gag order.

KUBY: It was absolutely no surprise, and I don't think it was a surprise to anybody. Whatever -- however you want to label Donald Trump's speech, the right of a trial judge to protect the integrity of the criminal legal system is paramount. And a judge's power is at its absolute height when it comes to protecting witnesses, jurors, and other trial participants from danger and intimidation.

So, that was -- this was always going to play out the way it just played out. The fact that they can't mention the gag order violations should Donald Trump testify is irrelevant. They have more than enough material, and I think Judge Merchan made the right call. But I think we should stop speculating about whether or not Donald Trump's going to testify and instead speculate on what excuse he's going to give for not testifying.

So, on my bingo card, I have him saying, there was no case anyway. So, why should I bother? They never had a case. I'm not going to testify. That's my bet on what he's going to say when he doesn't testify. Other people should weigh in.

COATES: Well, here's a person on your bingo card, Kristen Holmes, yes, we didn't think was going to come on there. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now being mentioned in court today. First of all, there must be a list of people who, throughout this trial have been like, please don't say my name. I don't want to be a part of this. Why am I being mentioned from the catch and kills on to now?