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CNN Live Event/Special

Michael Cohen Back On The Stand For Cross-Examination. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 16, 2024 - 09:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I thought Blanche said that today might be the last day, that today would be --

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It could be the last day, but it won't be last day of this particular trial.

TAPPER: No, no, no, I mean, of cross of --

COATES: Yes, it could -- it could be depending on how it goes, of course. We know that they're going to end in terms of the government's case in chief on Michael Cohen, but going beyond that.

But ultimately, the jury is going to hear a lot more about why they should disbelieve Michael Cohen. They're going to paint him as the liar, liar pants on fire. They're going to suggest that he has a bias against Trump, that he has a soul singular focus of trying to get him in jail at the expense of telling the truth.

Now, from the rehabilitation part of this, the prosecution, they're going to say, yes, he has told you the truth about being a liar. He has pled guilty to a number of things. There is somebody here who wants you to believe that he's innocent. You can't believe that person.

TAPPER: Yes. So I mean, it is -- I think that they have made the point and I'm not sure -- I actually think it was the prosecution who made the point, this has been lucrative for Michael Cohen. He has made $3.4 million on to books, which is a lot of money for two for books, having written books, I can tell you that's a lot. That's not what I made.

And, you know, the idea that there is money, there's gold in them thar hills, for Michael Cohen and the resistance, joining the resistance being seen as somebody who is, you know, do you remember the cartoon of Robert Mueller as a Superman flying in the sky and then Michael Avenatti was there joining him to fight the fight? I mean, this is how the resistance thinks and there's hundreds of millions of dollars to be made and he's making some of them.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: It is. And, you know, for them to go through the bias I think its important, that you have the prosecution did bring it out. I think it's more important for them to go through the past lies, but even there, you have to cut the lies up into categories. Because if you just go through the lies -- I mean, for example, you lied the Congress to minimize Trump Tower in Moscow, that's not helpful because those are lies that he was lying to allegedly helped Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: And so, if you're saying, hey, back when there -- back when you lied to say Trump didn't do anything wrong, the reality is he did do something wrong. That's not what you want to say as defense attorney.

So you have the lies to protect Donald Trump. You have lines to protect himself but the key -- the thing that would be pure gold is if they can bring out lies that he told on direct.

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: If they can show that he lied about something in this courtroom, that's far more valuable than all of the history of lies that he has to Congress and everybody else.

TAPPER: So one thing I want to bring up, we talked about -- you talked about Rob Costello, who is an attorney who reached out to Michael Cohen on behalf of Rudy Giuliani during the period before Michael Cohen flipped and Rob Costello testified before Congress yesterday.

I just want to give a little bit of that because it's possible that the defense will call Bob Costello as a witness to further undermine Michael Cohen. Let's roll that clip if we can.


BOB COSTELLO, ATTORNEY: What he tries to do as he picks out, cherry- picks certain emails or text messages and tries to make them look like something else. The story he told yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani and I wish somehow conspiring to try and keep him quiet, to try and keep them from flipping. That's the term we use in the trade for cooperating. That's ridiculous.


TAPPER: Mr. Costello, there presumably under oath before Congress and that is what the jury will hear if the defense calls him. You -- would you call Bob Costello?

PARLATORE: Oh, unquestionably. I've talked to Bob Costello extensively. And, you know, first of all, he didn't reach out to Cohen at the behest of Rudy Giuliani. This is before Rudy Giuliani represent the president.

But Michael Cohen reached out to his partner, Mr. Citroen (ph), who he was longtime friends with, and then they brought Bob Costello in and Bob Costello sat with Michael Cohen extensively to try and convince him to cooperate against Donald Trump and Michael Cohen didn't have anything.

Now, later, and this is what he was talking about there when Michael Cohen did decide to try and Cooperate with the southern district of New York, he tried to claim that Bob Costello and Rudy Giuliani were dangling a pardon to try to get them to stay the course, they opened an investigation, a criminal investigation into Bob Costello and Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering. They brought Bob Costello in and what he talked about was he went in and he brought all the emails and texts and he showed them all of that. And that's when the U.S. attorney's office said, okay, you guys didn't dangle a pardon? Michael Cohen was begging for a pardon.

And that's when they decided not to give them a cooperation agreement and that's when they -- you know, the U.S. attorneys office walk away from an entirely and all of those emails that he has showing the lie he told to the U.S. attorney's office, which is identical to the lie he said on direct days ago.

TAPPER: Yeah, very interesting.

PARLATORE: All those emails Alvin Bragg has.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

All right. Kaitlan, back to you in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Argue that as a violation and the judge had to figure it out.

TAPPER: Kaitlan?


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. Jake, obviously, we are watching this closely. Prosecutors and the defense team are at the bench is often held the day starts out in court.

This is a moment where are you watching in the courtroom cannot hear what is being discussed. They're often talking to the judge, sometimes how things that Trump has said, sometimes witnesses that they plan to bring or how long on this plans to go. We'll wait to see what discussion is underway right now.

And Paula Reid and Kristen Holmes are back here with me.

And, Paula, you know, we just heard from Trump when he walked into the courtroom, he often speaks to the camera, as he came out, he had, you know, a trail of lawmakers but and candidates behind him. But there was one moment where he was talking about Matthew Colangelo, who as we all know, is a prosecutor on the district attorney's team.

He did not say him -- I mentioned him by name, but this is what Trump had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lead person from the DOJ is running the trial. So Biden's office is running this trial. This trial is a scam and it's a sham, and it shouldn't happen. Thank you very much.


COLLINS: So in addition to one and not being true, that President Biden is running this trial. Obviously, Trump is indicted by a jury here in Manhattan. It is the district attorneys office that is handling this. The question is whether that's a violation of the gag order because of the gag order was expanded precisely because he was attached backing this prosecutor in direct or directly, he's allowed to criticize Alvin Bragg, but he's not allowed to attack the other prosecutors on this team.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I would expect the prosecutors will try to argue that this is a violation because that's a bit of a dog whistle, right? A lead person from the DOJ is running the trial, so Biden's office is running the trial.

And the reason there's a gag order is to protect people who are doing their jobs, either folks showing up serve on the jury, right, or folks who are witnesses, or here prosecutors and the fact that Trump is tying him to President Biden, that's going to be a dog whistle for his supporters, that he could possibly face, could potentially face retaliation. This is the kind of thing that the gag order is meant to protect.

I would expect that prosecutors will bring this to the attention the judge. It's unclear if they heard this year, but I would expect there's probably some litigation about this next week. It's unclear how the judge will see this, but this does appear to possibly be a violation.

COLLINS: Yeah, and you can't actually hear what Trump is saying when you're inside the courtroom, the prosecution team has already in there. But Alvin Bragg's not in there. He doesn't often come inside the court. He's only been in there are handful times and it's also very clear who Trump is talking about because this is the one prosecutor on Alvin Bragg's team besides Alvin Bragg that he's attacked.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think this is Donald Trump going rogue. I mean, remember, he has had multiple briefings with his lawyers on how not to violate the gag order. I know we talk all the time about how Donald Trump can't control itself, which is true.

But there are two things that Donald Trump does doesn't want. He doesn't want to spend any more money and he doesn't want to go to jail. So he has been trying to stay within the means and he really has since that first time that he crossed the line and got fined my $9,000 again, he's fined later, but he has not crossed or violated the gag order for those reasons, he has been briefed by lawyers. Lot of a social media post goes through lawyers. They're vetted before

they're actually posted.

COLLINS: Really?

HOLMES: Now I can't say that's true about the ones at 3:00 in the morning, but there are some that are looked at by certain attorneys before he puts them out because they don't want him violating the gag order. He has been briefed on how to walk all the way up to the line, but not cross it.

Now, we will see whether or not the prosecution takes us up and whether or not the judge thinks he crossed it here. But again, he's been briefed on not what to do.

COLLINS: And, of course, all those lawmakers behind him have gone out on television. The ones who have been there in previous days and done exactly what he is barred from doing through this gag order.

We also have former New York Supreme Court judge, Diane Kiesel, here with us.

Judge, when you hear that comment from Donald Trump, you know, obviously, a lot of this is all up to Judge Merchan to make the ultimate decision of whether or when Trump violated the gag order.

But based on just what you've heard, do you believe that that is a violation?

DIANE KIESEL, FORMER NEW YORK SUPREME COURT JUDGE: Well, certainly. Good morning, by the way. Yes, I would certainly consider very seriously any application by the people at this point to bring it to my attention as another possible violation of the gag order.

This idea that somehow Mr. Colangelo has been personally shipped to New York from the Department of Justice has been floating around the pro-Trump circle for awhile.

People in prosecutorial positions change jobs quite often. There's no evidence whatsoever that he was specifically sent here to do President Biden's bidding. That's absurd and more to your -- more to your point, it could more to misreads point is it definitely could put this man on the radar screen of people who might send threats, might be disturbed at him for taking on this role, and it could endanger him.

So I would consider it very seriously if brought to my attention.

COLLINS: And I should note right now inside the courtroom, Trump is leaning back in his chair as the sidebar where the attorneys are up there speaking with the judge is underway.


They have not yet brought in Michael Cohen, the witness. But, Judge, just on that -- on that note, if the Judge Merchan here does find that it is a violation of the gag order -- I mean, the last time we heard from him when Trump violated the gag order, he said that jail time was on the table in a serious way.

KIESEL: And it could well be, and what a headache that would be at this stage of the proceeding, right, when they're almost looking at the finish line. But remember, there is jail and there's jail. Judge Merchan could choose to do something like a park Mr. Trump in a cell behind the courtroom for the lunch hour, for example, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to put them on a bus and send them to Rikers Island. Taste of jail might be what he would need to stop this.

I do find it fascinating though that it has been awhile, hasn't it? Since there have been such allegation. So I'm a little surprised that Mr. Trump is tip toed in that water again.

COLLINS: Yeah, he had been getting all this credit for not violating the gag order after he did so ten times. And now, we'll see if this constitutes that.

Judge, obviously, Michael Cohen is about to get back on the witness stand for cross-examination by Trump's defense lawyers. They didn't seem that they achieved any knockout blows even in Trump's orbit view on Tuesday, if Todd Blanche is going to have a successful day, what does it need to look like in your view?

KIESEL: Well, I think he has must be careful. From watching the way jurors respond to cross-examination over the years, remember, less is more, okay? He's got a score some direct hits, and then sit down.

He's got to show that Michael Cohen is biased, that he hates Trump, that he's been a convicted liar, that he has benefited financially, very financially from the lies against Trump. And he has to show that it was really Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg who hatched this plan, and Donald Trump's simply sign checks and was none the wiser.

So far, he's done some of that. Has he completely succeeded? I don't know. There's something that, you know, Michael Cohen keeps saying. It sounds -- every time he gets hit with an alleged lie from the past, he says things like it sounds like something I would have said right? So he's kind of adopting it without really saying, yeah, I said it.

I mean, I would hit hard on that if I were Todd Blanche. I'd say, well, if he said it sounds like something, I would have said, I would've said, well, did you say it? And I would just keep pushing him until he either gets upset and loose this is cool or admits it or backs off.

COLLINS: And right now, Judge, I mean, that's a great, great point because that is Michael Cohen is kind of admitting it without acknowledging that he did make that comment.


COLLINS: We'll see how Todd Blanche handles it today.

But right now, there's a pretty lengthy sidebar going on. It's now 9:42, and right now, Susan Necheles is sitting the defense table, one of Trump's attorneys chatting with him. The others are up there speaking with the judge.

You know, when you're in the room as were lucky enough to have been because this is -- it's much more important to be there in the room to actually be able to talk about what's like to be in the room, but you can't hear what they're talking about. They are in discussions with the judge, the defense, the prosecution and the judge. No one else can hear it. If the jury's in the room, they can't hear it as well.

And what's your sense of how crucial those moments are, you know, without us knowing what they're discussing at this moment. You know, it can form or shape what a day is going to look like with a testimony is going to look like, who potentially is going to be on the witness stand.

KIESEL: Those sidebars are very, very important. It means that somebody is telling the judge -- who knows? They could be telling the judge what Mr. Trump just said outside, right? We don't know what's going on in that sidebar.

They could be plotting what's going to happen for the day. They could be talking about schedules. The judge could be chewing somebody out. The judge could just be listening to various legal positions these side is making.

But one thing is very important and I remember this well, you've got to keep your voices down. You've got to keep that expression off of your face, right? Because the jury is watching this, even if they can't hear it, they're looking at it and body language is key at those sidebars, and facial expressions. I don't have the best poker face, so I always put my back to the jury.

COLLINS: You and I both, Judge.

It's been going on for 17 minutes now. The good news is with a transcript comes out about 12 hours from now, we will know --

KIESEL: We'll know.

COLLINS: -- what was said during the sidebar. We will obviously be paying close attention.

Judge Kiesel, great to have you joining us. Thank you for that.

KIESEL: Thank you.

COLLINS: And right down the sidebar this moment where the prosecution, the defense team, and Judge Merchan are having in conversations still underway right now. We're following that and also bring you constant updates once Michael Cohen is back on the stand, in moments.


You are watching CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: We have some new pictures of Donald Trump in the courtroom. They allow photographers at the very beginning, as we are standing by for round two of the cross-examination by Trump's defense team of Michael Cohen in the hush money cover-up trial.


There was just an unused initially lengthy sidebar involving the lawyers and Judge Merchan. It ended -- last about 20 minutes and ended in short while ago. Judge Merchan said, I apologize for all the whispering. He said that to the jury, presumably.

We're going to find out more details about what that was all about.

We should also note that in court today supporting Donald Trump is an extensive list of Republican members of the House of Representatives. This is courtesy of the Trump campaign there. We have Congress people, Mike Waltz and Bob Good, and Diana Harshbarger and Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs and Eli Crane, and Ralph Norman and Lauren Boebert and Michael Cloud and Andy Ogles, and Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna. A lot of people there to show their support before Donald Trump.

I want to turn now to former "Apprentice" star Omarosa Manigault- Newman, who previously served as a Trump adviser and then split from Donald Trump, famously writing the book, "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House".

Omarosa, thanks for joining us.

So, you know, Michael Cohen well. Have you talked to him recently? How is he doing during this aggressive cross-examination?

OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Yeah. I talked to him often. I talked to him before the trial started in a couple of days back, and he was completely locked in.

I really do believe that folks are underestimating Michael Cohen and how focused he is about what he has to do as a witness. And we've seen that, how discipline and how focus, how clear and concise he's been in responding.

And I think that you'll continue to see that even as they attempt to agitate him and provoke him.

TAPPER: Donald Trump has famously hands-on. There was a moment. Trump's lawyers had a day off in the middle of the cross-examination of Stormy Daniels and there was a noticeable shift in questioning when court resumed. And a lot of legal experts speculating that this was done to appease Donald Trump by the lawyers and also to convince him that he didn't need to violate the gag order to go after Stormy Daniels because they would do it for him in court.

How involved just having worked with Donald Trump, how involved do you think your former boss is when it comes to actually playing a role in the defense team's plans? MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Well, first of all, Donald thinks that he is the smartest person in the room. He thinks that he is smarter than the attorneys, that he knows best. And he talks very often his books and his speeches about his gut his instincts.

And so he is probably leading with his gut in his instinct instead of following sound legal theory and principles. And there's no question that he has directed them to go after Michael. He cares less about the legal outcome, but more about scoring points. And I think that that's a losing strategy, Jake, here.

TAPPER: We should just note inside the courtroom right now, Donald Trump leaning over, chanting with his attorney, Emil Bove, while Michael Cohen walked by into the courtroom, the former president did not look toward Cohen.

The way get the courtroom is set up the witnesses come in behind the defense table and then go are round in order to get up onto the witness table. So it is possible for them to never ever actually lock eyes.

The defense's strategy is to paint Cohen as a serial liar. And there is no shortage of paper trail on that topic.

Why do you think the jury will believe what he has to say?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I think they believe him because Michael has this gift to connect with people. He's probably building a rapport with a jury and maybe folks are underestimating that he can make a connection, that he can cut through everything that they paint did of him.

Certainly, he has told lies in the past. He did that on behalf of Donald Trump, but he's trying to make amends and he's trying to set things right. And I think that the jury will see his sincerity and his effort to try to at least put things back on the right track.

TAPPER: Donald Trump's famous thrift, shall we say, we're told, will be used by the defense as evidence, by saying that it's not likely that Donald Trump would have agreed to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. He is proudly frugal, again, that's a term I'll use right now.

Might that work?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Well, with one exception, I don't know if you recall at the latter part of the election in 2016, Donald was forced to actually put his own money on the line for the campaign. He didn't want to but he did it very begrudgingly.

This is the same case here. Donald wanted to win the election. He was willing to pay the money to keep this story about Stormy Daniels from getting out and so he came up off the money. This is why this is a violation of campaign finance because he's willing to pay money to win and that is the connection. That is the exception.

You're absolutely right, Donald is frugal, but he's also paying attention to every penny that leaves his bank accounts.


So trying to sell the jury that he had no idea that checks that he's writing that is completely contrary to how Donald Trump operates.

TAPPER: Do you think he will testify?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: You know, there's a side of me that thinks that the showman and Donald, the desire to get up and perform. He thinks that he can convince anyone if he says things over and over again, that those things are true.

So there's a side of me that thinks that his ego, his narcissistic tendencies wants to testify but I also know that he sees the legal jeopardy in that and that would probably seal his fate. So I'm going to say no, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Todd Blanche is back at the podium and the cross-examination of Michael Cohen has resume.

Elie Honig, I'm not sure where they left off the other day, but there is -- there is a certain degree -- to a point in which jury fatigue can set in and you don't want to arouse their anger by belaboring the point.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: For sure, you have to be aware of that as a trial lawyer on either side. A full day of cross examination is a lot and they're going to judge it on whether this is relevant or whether this is just nonsense.

By the way, we should note, there was an update that came by, Jake, while you are interviewing Omarosa that said there may actually be court this coming Wednesday.


HONIG: The judge said that if any juror cannot sit on Wednesday, they will not, but they might have caught on Wednesday, which tells me they're starting to think about potential end game. If, for example, Cohen's cross finishes today than the defense case happens on Monday and then they close on Tuesday, judges will have jurors come in, even on what used to be off days to deliberate.

So there may be an inkling that this thing is headed towards a potential quicker ending point that we expect.

TAPPER: Right. And right now, Michael Cohen is being asked about his interactions with a former investigator with the district attorneys office to whom Cohen gave his phones in 2023. What's that about?

COATES: Well, remember, there has been a consistent drumbeat by the lawyers for Trump to suggest that Cohen manipulated his phones and some way or that there was an infamous phone call. I keep calling a phone call, the infamous conversation between Trump and himself that he --

TAPPER: Recorded on his phone.

COATES: Recorded on his phone that later going to show he says as an innocent explanation to David Pecker to try to quell his anxiety about whether good actually paid for Karen McDougal, whether the jury believed that or not, but there's still a concerted effort.

Which is why you heard from the prosecution. They were -- there, by the way, they sidebar the judges bench. This after a pretty lengthy sidebar already happened this morning. I think about 20 minutes long, so we don't yet know what they were talking about and why.

The judge did apologize for all the whispering, which has happened to the bench with you're on. But at the end of the day, I mean, Cohen has been shown versions of text messages and beyond. They're going right back to his own words. They're being used against them. And as Elie points out earlier and I want to go back to just the way in which they are going to use it -- I mean, the words are going to be used as weapons, whether its his book sales, whether its his podcast, the merchandise that he has, the comments that he's made about Donald Trump.

But again the biggest text that's important here, the star witness are 34 falsified business records. If the prosecution is unable to reorient the conversation towards that or if the defense it gets so far away from that, that fatigue at the jurors, the idea of what do we still here for can set in.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What would it tell you if the defense doesn't address that at all?

COATES: Well, to me, that would be a huge mistake not to address the falsified records because this is the core of the issue. They have to point out whether he had actual knowledge of it, whether it's just him and Allen Weisselberg, did not talk about it means they leave the opportunity for judges, the juries to think, where is Allen Weisselberg? Why is he not being mentioned here on it?

If they don't address it, they're showing me that they only believed the jury thinks about whether or not Michael Cohen is a credible and reliable narrator?

TAPPER: So, right now inside the courtroom, we should just note just to just update everybody, Cohen is being showed, Jonah, redacted versions of texts that he exchanged with this investigator with the district attorney's office at the defense attorneys table, at the defense desk. Trump is whispering with his attorney, Emil Bove while Michael Cohen is reviewing these messages.

HONIG: This is picking up where the cross-examination left off on Tuesday. One of the narratives that the prosecution wants to put in front of the jury is Michael Cohen made a clean break from Donald Trump. He came forward. He did the right thing because he had this moment of conscientiousness or conscience.

But the prosecution has pointed out that Michael Cohen was shopping himself and his potential testimony far and wide. He was begging. He tried to cooperate with Robert Mueller, didn't work out in part because he lied to Mueller about Congress. Tried to offer himself to the Southern District of New York, they said, no, thank you. We don't find you fully credible.

He even tried to get in an offer himself to the D.A. very early on while he was still three months into hi, what was supposed to be, three-year presence.

So, the argument that Trump's team is making here is this is not some altruist who's seen the light. This is a guy who came forward because, A, the usual reason people cooperate because he wanted to get out of prison early and, B, he has this longstanding intense, not longstanding, but intense.