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CNN Live Event/Special

Now: Trump Defense Cross-Examines Michael Cohen; Cohen Testifies He Talks About Trump "Six Days A Week". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 14:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Now, that's OK because that goes to Michael Cohen's bias against Donald Trump. That matters here.

So we went right to this issue of, you have this sort of all-consuming personal hatred and a vested interest in this case.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And they're continuing to just sort of piggyback off of that.

The questioning now, Blanche shows Cohen an email to see if, quote, refreshes his recollection." Cohen reads the email for several moments. "Yes, I see that."

The recollection that they're referring to is about Blanche telling Cohen that the prosecution told Cohen, cut it out, and clearly, he didn't.

So what they're trying to establish is that Cohens hatred for Trump is so deep that he's even defying the prosecution in this case, who had who said just keep it under routes.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And they're -- they're saying this is the real Michael Cohen. The Michael Cohen who has been on the stand before full of remorse, a good guy, that's not Michael Cohen.

Michael Cohen is the guy who goes on -- on Twitter and writes things like this about the people who are going to be prosecuting him, and about the former president of the United States.

And so that's the guy you should understand did all these things and lied all these times. And don't feel sorry for him. You know, he's not anybody you want to feel sorry for. He is out to get Donald Trump and everyone who surrounds Donald Trump.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A little bit of trial practice, one-on-one, why the attorney showed the email to Michael Cohen as opposed to read it to him.

The email itself is likely hearsay. It can't be just introduced as evidenced by an attorney reading it. It can be used to refresh the recollection of a witness who does not

remember something. So you just show it to them and say, does this refresh what you said I don't know to a moment ago? Yes. OK, now, please continue.

And now he asks him the question.

BORGER: Well, he's always done his own (INAUDIBLE). That's what they're trying to do. They're trying to just bury him with his own words.

HONIG: And it's about more than just, is Michael Cohen and good person or bad person? I mean, that matters.

But really what this goes to is you have an intense bias in this case. You have one outcome that you stake your professional future on. They're going to get to the T-shirt that Michael Cohen was wearing the other day showing Trump behind bars.

And I think that's really potent cross-examination. It's, frankly, insulting to the jury. It's their decision. It's not up to Michael Cohen if this guy goes to jail or not.

And it shows that Michael -- Michael Cohen is sort consumed by this white-hot hatred for the defendant, which is fair game.

WILLIAMS: And "lying little shit" or whatever the line was, was a question that I'm quite confident -- you know, Todd Blanche well -- quite confident he knew was going to get objected to because it's an irrelevant question.

But he knew he could get under the witness' skin and plant the seed for the jury that he just pops off on social media and --


BORGER: And see if he gets under --


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A very blistering cross-examination. It's only just beginning. We'll watch it very, very closely.

Our special live coverage will continue right after a very quick break.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Right now, Michael Cohen is back on the witness stand and he is being cross-examined by Donald Trump's lead attorney, Todd Blanche. Being questioned about comments that he made on television and social media about this case.

We're following it all closely. Right now, he is being asked if he leaked to CNN that the D.A.'s office had taken his phones, that he had turned them over to the district attorney's office just over a year ago, before Donald Trump was ultimately indicted in this case.

With me now, is CNN's Kristen Holmes and Paula Reid.

And I should note that we're not the people that I believe that Michael Cohen is being alleged and told that he turned his phones over to the district attorney's office.

But, Paula, can we talk about how this started? Because right off the bat, it was expletive-laden.


COLLINS: And Todd Blanche was asking Michael Cohen about comments that he has made recently about Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, and about Donald Trump himself.

REID: Yes, they had many choices on how to begin this cross- examination and Todd chose to start with a TikTok from Michael Cohen where he attacked Todd Blanche using some expletives.

Now, Todd Blanche also points out the fact that these two men have never met. It's unclear exactly why this selection was made.

But based on my conversations with sources familiar with their thinking, they want to establish that Cohen is so blinded by hatred for Trump and so obsessed with this trial that you would attack someone he's never even met.

COLLINS: And the other thing that they're criticizing him for, right off the bat, in front of the jury, is talking about this case, going on television, giving interviews about this.

And Todd Blanche got him, after a few objections, to concede that, yes, the district attorney's office had asked him, prosecutors here, to stop talking publicly about the case, which we already knew because they've said it privately.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And actually, right now, too, so you said that CNN already had the info on the phones, talking about leaking that the D.A. had the phones and all you did was confirm. Michael Cohen says, "No, sir. I don't recall."

We've heard a few "I don't recalls" or "That sounds right." Blanche has been really pushing him to say, does that sound right or is that right? Many of the times we've seen Michael Cohen say, "That is correct."

But this -- again, they are establishing several things. One, they want to know, they've asked this now multiple different ways, "Have you been following the trial closely?" Then they show examples from social media of him following the trial.

They have also said that you talk to the press and you sent beyond the prosecution, even though they asked you not to talk about this case. As Paula said, this all goes to this idea that you are so blind with hatred that you would go beyond even the people prosecuting the case on this.


COLLINS: And what this started out with is they're not even just saying that he's commenting on the case. It's the way he's commenting on this case.

At one point, they were reading Michael Cohen a quote, Todd Blanche was, where he said that the "Donald Trump should crawl back into a little cage that he belonged in," meaning the courtroom.

That he referred to Todd Blanche -- and I'm quoting Michael Cohen here, so apologies -- as "a little shit."

And then he also was referring to Donald Trump as "Donald Trump, the dictator."

I mean, they're -- they're bringing out everything that Michael Cohen has said to say, this is not a credible figure for this jury to be listening to or the sympathetic figure who earlier, to the prosecution, was answering, "Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am," and was talking about his misdeeds.

REID: It comes across as obsessive, fixated on the defendant and that's what they want to get across. Reasonable doubt in the minds of at least one juror that Michael Cohen is so blinded by his hatred of the defendant that he cannot be trusted in terms of the testimony that he's given for allegedly falsifying documents.

It's also notable that they're getting something that we've all known for a while, which is the frustration that prosecutors have had with Cohen and his relentlessly speaking about this case.

He has been told multiple times to stop talking about this case. The judge only told them to stop late last week. But this has been a continued frustration.

And it's funny. It feels like the only thing that is really proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the course of this case is that everybody has been frustrated with Michael Cohen.

I mean, that -- the criticism of his character, the way he conducts himself, this is something that is universal across all sides of this case.

HOLMES: And just one thing I want to point out. This is also to try and get under Michael Cohen's skin. They want him to be reactive. They know that he's a reactive person. They know that this has been him on his best behavior.

They believe it is good for them and it's good for the defense if they can get him to have some kind of outbursts.

COLLINS: Blanche is pushing him right now on having very specific recollections of his conversations with Trump but no recollection of his conversations with the media.

Because he was saying, you know, they were asking, well, did you deny, did you tell CNN this and other outlets, and he's saying, "I don't recall that."

HOLMES: Yes. Again, they're going to try to go through -- this is going to be all about painting him as not actually knowing what was going on or remembering what was going on.

And essentially, that he was following the case so closely that he might be making some of this up in order to be presenting the case in a certain way. Because again, back to the basics, he is so blind with hatred here.

COLLINS: And now Cohen is saying, "What I was saying to you, sir, I don't recall even having these conversations with Wendy Davis about not going on television," which we know, of course, they did have Wendy Davis, Trump.

Michael Cohen's former attorney has been very careful himself about what he can say about this case.

REID: That is right. And I remember a period of dealing with them last year around the time of the indictment when there was, again, pressure from Michael Cohen to stop talking to the press, to stop going on television.

I mean, this pressure has been there for years, but really reached a crescendo as they came to indict Trump. But it's clear Cohen has not stopped. He has been relentless in his attacks on the defendant.

And that is a problem for prosecutors, but a great opportunity for the defense.

COLLINS: And Jeff Swartz is a former Florida judge and current law professor, who is also joining us now.

And, Judge, when Todd Blanche came out of the gate with those questions about what Michael Cohen had said about him, what he had said about the other attorney on this case, Susan Necheles, what he had said obviously about Donald Trump, those questions, I believe all three of them, the answers were stricken from the record.

Meaning, yes, the jury heard them, but they're not actually going to be in the transcript. But still, the jury did hear them. Do you believe the judge made the right decision there?

JEFF SWARTZ, FORMER FLORIDA JUDGE: I think he did. I think that those type of questions regarding counsel on the other side are probably improper for them to ask.

Whether they like or dislike the attorney that's questioning him is not the issue. I think that it's proper to strike those questions and those answers.

But that's like tying -- trying to un-ring the bell. It's been heard. It's like saying, don't pay attention to the pink elephant in the site -- across the room.

They're going to -- the jury is going to pay attention to it. They're going to see how he feels about all of the people involved on the defense side of this case.

But that's not to me only -- it's meant to me only to get under his skin, to get him angry. Because most of what he testified to, he has been corroborated by other witnesses. It has been corroborated by documents. They laid the foundation perfectly to withstand this.

And if Michael keeps his cool, if he does not give -- let these things get under his skin and respond in an angry manner, he will end up, in the end, winning the day.

COLLINS: And right now, Todd Blanche is asking him about multiple warnings that he got from the district attorney's office, that he should not be talking about this case. Michael Cohen affirmed, yes, he did.

Blanche asked what the district attorney's office has said. Michael Cohen said, "Please don't talk about this case."

I mean, of course, Michael Cohen has continued to talk about this case.

Judge, just, you know, watching courtrooms, we don't know what the jury is thinking. That don't give anything away.


But -- but is that something that jury takes into consideration that Michael Cohen has been speaking off and he says now that the district attorney's office told him probably better off if you don't speak about it.

How does the jury hear something like that?

SWARTZ: Well, the jury hears this and they say, OK, the guy is angry. There's no question about that. And I don't think he has really denied it.

To the same extent, they hear it and you -- basically, you're reinforcing what he has said. That is, if you ask, did you say this? Did you say that? Did you speak on social media. And he answers, yes, I did, then he's not lying to them.

He's telling them I did those things. Yes, I did not listen to the prosecutor.

I'd like to have witnesses when I was a prosecutor who always listened to everything I told them. That just doesn't happen.

And in a case like this, with a personality like Michael Collen's, he's not going to pay attention, at least not that closely.

When the judge said stop, he stopped, at least as far as we know. COLLINS: Yes. You said it was fewer than five times they asked him to stop, to stop talking about this.

Judge Jeff Swartz, thank you for that.

Right now, Cohen is saying it's correct that he has not stopped talking about the case. He says, "I'm responding."

Of course, we are watching all this closely. An intense back-and-forth inside that courtroom right now that's playing out between Trump's lead attorney and his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

We'll have much more of our special coverage of this ahead in just moments.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial.

The Trump defense team is cross-examining Michael Cohen right now. Their goal appears to be to get under Cohen's skin. Trump's lawyer is quizzing Cohen about past statements he's made, as well as his ability to recall conversations with Trump.

Our reporter inside the courtroom tells us that Donald Trump is lean -- leaning back with his eyes closed. And at one point, his mouth briefly hung open before he readjusted himself in his chair.

Let's get back to our panel right now.

It has started off, Elie, very, very contentious. The questioning by Todd Blanche, Trump's lawyer and Michael Cohen.

HONIG: A notable shift by the way, from the prior cross-examinations. Stormy Daniels was, to this point, the most aggressive cross- examination. But this is already miles beyond that.

What they're trying to do here, what Trump's legal team is trying to do is establish bias, establish that Michael Cohen hates Donald Trump and really he wants him to go to prison.

And they're doing that through Michael Cohens own words, which he's not quite even fully embracing here.

This -- this exchange, "Have you regularly commented on your podcasts that you want President Trump to be convicted in this case?" Cohen says, "Yes, probably, yes, probably." He said it 500,000 times. I mean, it's all he says.

So if I was Michael Cohen's lawyer and the D.A.'s team, I'd want him to just be more forthcoming. "Do you have any doubt? You said in your podcast you want Trump to be convicted in this case," Blanche asked. "No," Cohen responses. OK. That's a better answer. Of course, he does, no doubt. But again,

this isn't about who's right or wrong between Trump or Cohen, who's good or bad or who's more good or more bad.

It's about the fact that the witness despises the defendant, wants him to be convicted, wants him to go to prison.

Michael Cohen gave them that ammo. Now they're using it.

BORGER: Well, I think they're -- they're saying he's an obsessive about Donald Trump. And he obsesses about getting him convicted. Every --


BLITZER: Todd Blanche, the Trump lawyer, just asked, "Do you want to see President Trump convicted in this case?" Cohens replies, "Sure."

BORGER: Right. And he says that on every podcast and every moment that he can. And he is -- he is a man obsessed with retribution for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Then the jury is shown a photo of the T-shirt that Cohen sells of "Trump in an orange jumpsuit" on his so-called Mea Culpa Web site.

BASH: And that's another aspect of this cross-examination that we've seen over the last couple of minutes. It's not just establishing -- establishing for the jury that Michael Cohen wants revenge and he wants revenge in this case and he's doing what he can.


BASH: Blanche pulls up a picture of a coffee mug for the jury. Quote, "Send him to the Big House, not the White House." The coffee cup reads.


BLITZER: That's how he's making some money. He's selling --

BASH: He's selling -- exactly.

BLITZER: -- these so-called products.

BASH: Precisely, Wolf. It's not just that he wants to see Donald Trump in jail or convicted. It's that he profits, he benefits financially off of the notion that Donald Trump should go to jail.

BORGER: This is his cottage industry, which is --

BLITZER: Selling T-shirts and coffee mugs.

BORGER: Yes, exactly. And having people listen to his podcast about Donald Trump.


BORGER: And his book.


HONIG: I mean, this is what Michael Cohen does for a living. And they're arguing not only is he biased, but he has a financial interest in this case.

Because if this comes back with a conviction, Michael will get more hits on TikTok and sell more.

BORGER: Sell more mugs.

HONIG: And if it comes back anything other than a conviction, you can bet those numbers will go down.

WILLIAMS: Here's the question. We don't really know how it's playing in the room, right? He's certainly doing the best, like, based on the words that are showing up.

He's doing the best he can by answering, "Yes, I did that." "Yes. I said that."

There was the one that you'd pointed out a moment ago, Elie, where he hedged a little bit. And then on the follow-up questions, said, "Well, yes, I actually am calling for the president to go to jail or whatever else."

It's tone and demeanor, are really -- are relevant to the jury. And I'm curious as to how they're seeing what they're seeing here.

HONIG: So go ahead.

BLITZER: Todd Blanche, the Trump attorney, pulls up a picture of a coffee mug for the jury, "Send him to the Big House, not the White House," the coffee cup reads.


WILLIAMS: And it really does double up. And just to underscore the point that we've been making here, it does double up. There's two things going on. It's the bias against the former president, but also the profit motive.

And if you notice, it was also something that they used to cross- examine Stormy Daniels as well, that she was enriching herself in some ways off of the case.

And it's the kind of thing that defense attorneys can use to get the juries --


BLITZER: Todd Blanche asked Cohen to confirm he wore that T-shirt on his TikTok last week. Cohen responds, "I did." BORGER: Well, you know, also, earlier in the trial, we heard a lot of

people say, like Keith Davidson, you know, that they didn't like working with Michael Cohen, that he wasn't a likable guy, that he tended to bully people.

And this just guilds the lily here about -- about his nature. And his nature is to attack and that is what he's doing on his podcasts.

BLITZER: Todd Blanche asks, "And you were encouraging people to buy it." Cohen, "Yes. it's part of the merch store," the merchandise.

WILLIAMS: I think what we're seeing here is, like sort of as we've talked about almost a methodical going through every single thing he's made a profit off of. And I'm sure there'll be more.

They've used now the TikTok page. Oh, is that monetized? You getting money from that? Oh, the T-shirt, did you get money for the T-shirt? The mugs, did you get money for the mugs?

And perhaps then they turned to statements and will start confronting him with each one. It's a tactic that's very common on cross- examination.

And more than anything else, as someone crossing someone, just get yes-or-no answers. Make him say yes.

BLITZER: Todd -- Todd Blanche asks when Cohen changed his views about Trump. And Cohen responds, and I'm quoting now, "I guess it would be August of 2018.

BASH: But this is going to be interesting because this is going to be trying to tell another version of or another aspect of the story that the prosecution got out of him.

Which was very much, I couldn't do it anymore. My family didn't want me to be Trump's guy anymore. Why was I doing this? Why was I potentially going to go to jail for him. I needed to change my ways.

And this is coming at it from the point of view of maybe there's another reason.

HONIG: What the significance of August 2018 is that's when he pled guilty.


HONIG: That's when the SDNY came to him. He says pressure, but he pleads guilty. And it's a chicken-or-the-egg thing. Did he plead guilty because he made a clean break in life or did he -- did he make a clean break in life and then plead guilty.

In other words, did he do it for good reasons or did he do it because he got caught?

BORGER: And anyone who's spoken with Michael Cohen understands that he -- he is angry that he is the only person in the Trump orbit to have served time. I mean, that was I guess before Manafort, right?

HONIG: And Weisselberg.

BORGER: But -- and Weisselberg. But early on, he was the only one. And it just sat in his craw, like, I don't deserve to be there.

BASH: "You still live in a building with Trump's name on it, correct?" "I do." What's that about?

HONIG: I'm not quite sure where they're going --


WILLIAMS: -- that you're still continuing to -- you -- you purport to have broken with the defendant, but you still living in his buildings? Like, who are you, man? I think that's the question that they're getting at.

BLITZER: What was interesting also, they were talking about an interview that Michael Cohen gave to George Stephanopoulos. All of a sudden, it's come up in the course of this trial.

I'm going to be speaking later tonight in the "Situation Room" with George Stephanopoulos. We'll get to that as well.


BLITZER: Well, we'll see.



BLITZER: All right, everybody, standby.

We have much more ahead as these developments are pouring in right now. Stay with us. The drama is continuing.