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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Lawyer Cross-Examines Michael Cohen. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2024 - 11:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: The just overrules an objection from the prosecution to that question there.

And this is exactly the line of questioning that tripped Michael Cohen up when he testified in Trump's civil fraud trial. That's when he said, basically, well, I didn't really plead guilty. I just did it because I had to.

And the question was, well, are you lying then or were you lying now? And Michael Cohen still does not seem to have a good answer or good defense for that.

REID: There is no really good answer. And in the civil trial, he wound up getting in a really heated exchange. Some have described it as a yelling match with Trump's defense attorneys.

Now, our colleagues inside are reporting that jurors appear to be paying attention to this back-and-forth. They're pretty attentive to everything, but they know right here Michael Cohen's credibility is on the line.

And Todd Blanche, given a day off to kind of regroup, see how his approach on Tuesday works, he has been much more effective in undercutting Michael Cohen's credibility. I reiterate we still haven't gotten to the actual testimony in this case, what he has testified on the stand.

But they're really laying the foundation that this man is a liar who refuses to accept responsibility.

COLLINS: Well, and Todd Blanche is in no hurry. I mean, he plans to question Michael Cohen until 4:00 today, as long as they are going to be inside that room.

He said it will at least go that long. So, I mean, they will get to that. But it does speak to what their strategy is here, that they are getting this into what he lied about before to undermine his credibility on the lie that they say is a lie that matters the most, which is Trump's involvement in this.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And my understanding is that, yes, they will get to that, but that was

not the crux of how they were going to handle this defense. Their point of this defense was to undercut Michael Cohen, was to paint him as a liar, a continual liar, to say that he was only out for himself, and that he was so anti-Donald Trump that he would do anything to see Donald Trump go away to jail or go to prison.

Right now, you're seeing that in action. Of course, again, they will get to the actual crux of this case. But what they wanted to do for their defense was spend as much time as possible undermining this witness.

COLLINS: Yes. And Michael Cohen said: "Correct. And then I was going to prison as a result."

So, he is saying that he omitted that information from Congress, because the most effective line of defense that you have seen from the defense team is, Michael Cohen has lied to all of these branches of government, and so how can the jury trust him now?

HOLMES: And under oath.

COLLINS: Yes, and under oath, which he is now.

REID: Yes. Exactly.

And prosecutors knew that going into their direct. So, in their direct, it was a linear, chronological direct examination where they had him atone for some of his issues. But I wonder, right now, if the prosecutors are looking at this and wishing that they had done more and they had brought more of these problems out in the open on direct and gotten out in front of it and not allowed Todd Blanche to introduce some of these issues.

COLLINS: Well, and every prosecution witness meets with the prosecutors to rehearse and kind of go over what they're going to answer, what they're going to push, be pushed on how they're going to answer that.

It's kind of -- it does make you wonder, were they prepared for this moment? Did they know it was coming, and he didn't do well when he was on there rehearsing? I mean, Lanny Davis, Trump -- or Michael Cohen's former attorney, said in total he spent over 100 hours with prosecutors.

I don't think that's just from Alvin Bragg's office. I think it's also from the previous ones as well, but it's a lot of time.

REID: It is. I will say that his performance on direct was solid. So all that work that they put into someone who is this complicated, this volatile, has this many feels about what's going on, that was a solid performance that they got.

Now, right now, he's saying that he accepted responsibility -- it moved a little quickly. Blanche said that Cohen got credit for accepting responsibility in his sentencing, even though he lied to the judge, right, about accepting responsibility, here trying to paint Cohen again as someone who is duplicitous, possibly even a hypocrite.

They're really methodically attacking Cohen's credibility. And this appears to be far more effective than just throwing up the cheese cartoon tweets and everything that they were doing on Tuesday.


They're basically saying, Michael Cohen will say he's lying or say that this is what's happening when it benefits him in the situation that he's in.

HOLMES: For whatever he wants the outcome to be, he will lie. And that's where they're going to get with this hatred of Donald Trump, is that, if the outcome that Michael Cohen wants is for Donald Trump to go to jail, he will lie to get that outcome, which is what they're kind of saying here on all the past lies.

OK, I don't want to go to jail, so I'm going to lie to this judge. I don't want this to happen, so I'm going to lie to this judge.

Here, we have an update here. Cohen says: "Again, I don't know how Judge Pauley made his determination. Judges, as you know, have a wide range of discretion over guidelines."

Again, they're really trying to push his buttons here. It's clear that the biggest reaction they have gotten out of Michael Cohen is this line of questioning about lying to Judge Pauley. He's still going back to it here.

COLLINS: What's interesting is, it was Alina Habba in that civil trial who on this very line of questioning is what tripped Michael Cohen up.

She's been inside the courtroom almost every day. She's not at the defense table. She's not part of this team, but she is seated in there. And this was -- there are -- she has her critics and detractors, and they criticize how she's handled other cases overall for Trump.


But I have heard from people who say that was the one successful line of questioning that she had to fluster Michael Cohen on the stand.

REID: Yes, she was successful in getting a reaction out of Michael Cohen.

Maybe that is the most valuable thing you could give this client. But she was not successful in getting positive outcomes for her client in the civil cases where she represented him. I mean, she lost, and she lost badly.

Here, Todd Blanche may be able to do the same thing, but with a more successful outcome. We will see. Now Blanche pressing Cohen on whether Judge Pauley would have liked to know he had lied.

"I am certain he would have."

Blanche: "You blame a lot of people over the years for conduct that you were convicted of."

"I blame people, yes."

And Cohen -- and this goes potentially to the heart of this case. We have previously had Trump Organization accountants testifying that they were just cutting checks based on invoices, falsified invoices, that they received from Michael Cohen.

Is that enough, right, to sow the seeds of doubt, reasonable doubt, in the mind of one juror that, hey, maybe this is not beyond -- proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Donald Trump, engaged in a conspiracy to falsify business records based on the testimony of Michael Cohen, that this is someone who always shifts blame for things that he has done?

HOLMES: I just want to go back really quickly to the Alina Habba back-and-forth.


HOLMES: Yes, the outcome was not good for Donald Trump, but that entire case didn't hinge on the testimony of Michael Cohen, the way that this one does.

So, whether or not this would have a different impact remains to be seen. Now, Cohen confirms that he has blamed his accountant, the bank, federal prosecutors, the judge, and Donald Trump.

COLLINS: I mean, that's such a great point that everything that's happening right now matters so much because this could be the ball game for this entire case...

HOLMES: This is the game. It is the game.


COLLINS: ... when it comes to the jury.

Blanche says: "Does the outcome of this trial affect you personally?"

Michael Cohen says: "Yes."

David Oscar Markus, a defense -- criminal defense attorney who was once offered a spot to defend Donald Trump and turned it down, is joining me again now.

David, as you're listening to this, as Todd Blanche appears to be gaining steam in his cross-examination of Michael Cohen, he's asking him: "Does the outcome of this affect you personally?" And Michael Cohen acknowledges, yes, it does. How does that sit with a jury?

DAVID OSCAR MARKUS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Here we go, Kaitlan. Finally, we're getting to -- we're getting Michael Cohen exposed.

As a criminal defense lawyer, this is what we have been waiting for and it's finally happening. So criminal defense lawyers around the country are excited about this.

And what we would do here is keep hammering all the lies he's told to all these different people, not just Congress, not just judges, not just juries, but his wife in his personal life. And then you can tie that up with -- you know, finish that line of questioning with, if you were on the jury, Mr. Cohen, would you believe you?

I mean, it's pretty amazing. Not only is he lying, but he has his personal stake. It is -- this is an incredible witness. And it's really crazy that the prosecution has decided to end with this witness. It's risky.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, obviously, the prosecution, they felt really good about how it went on Tuesday once Todd Blanche, the defense attorney here, was questioning Michael Cohen.

It's unclear, obviously, how they're watching all of this, but they will have a chance to question Michael Cohen again. You know, how does that -- how does that work? Can they undo any damage that Todd Blanche inflicts on him? Or is it something the jury kind of has to weigh one against the other?

MARKUS: No, they will have a chance to rehabilitate him on -- on redirect examination.

And the real strategic decision for Blanche at this point is, does he want to run out the cross for the whole day so the jury is left with the cross? And so the prosecution doesn't get that redirect before the long three-day weekend, or do you let them finish today and finish completely with Cohen, so he doesn't come back on the stand on Monday?

I mean, it's a really tough decision. You may want to end with the cross, draw it out, so the jury has that cross for the whole weekend and it sits with them. I think, if I was a lawyer, that's what I would want to do.

COLLINS: OK, so you think Todd Blanche should basically -- because they're ending at 4:00 today because a juror has a previous commitment. You think Todd Blanche should go right up until 4:00.

So then, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that's all the jury's thinking about?

MARKUS: Right.

Now, the downside to that is, the prosecution will have Friday, Saturday, Sunday to work out their redirect. But I think the upside of having the jury just sit with this liar for the whole weekend. And then, when you come back next week as the defense lawyer, you say, this is the witness they ended with.

This is the witness they need to prove their case. This is why you can't believe him. You make your closing all about Michael Cohen. You don't -- you ignore almost the rest of the trial. You focus the jury on this witness.

And they have a lot to work with. Todd Blanche is scoring today. It may not be the home run that he had hoped for the other day on Tuesday, but he's jabbing and he's hitting. He's landing punches, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And Cohen, we're told his measure -- his tone is still measured, but he does appear annoyed.


I mean, on Tuesday, he had this very even tone. He was saying, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am," to the prosecution. He did not sound like the Michael Cohen that we are all so familiar with. And, right now, his tone, we're hearing from reporters in the room, appears to perk up as Blanche is asking him about the corporations that he had to receive monthly tax payments from.

He says there were 16 of them and said that that's standard in the industry. I mean, for Michael -- if you're Michael Cohen on the stand, he knows this. He used to be an attorney. How does he maintain his calm or even tone that he had projected on Tuesday?

And how does the jury take it if he's very calm and measured when the prosecution's questioning him, but he has a very different tone when the defense is up there jabbing him?

MARKUS: Right.

And he -- as -- you hit it exactly, right, Kaitlan. In closing, you would say as a defense lawyer, look at how rehearsed he was on direct. He was composed. This -- that's not the real person. You saw the real person on cross, when we started questioning him. His demeanor completely changed.

And you would talk about how he wasn't just singing on direct. He was composing. And you want to really differentiate between how he was as a witness on both direct and cross. And that's effective. The judge is going to give the jury in the jury instructions all the things they should look at to judge witnesses.

And Michael Cohen's ticking each one off for the defense as to why he shouldn't be believed.

COLLINS: Yes, we will see. Of course, it's hard to know what this jury is thinking.

I have been in there, and they're kind of stone-faced the entire time. But we do know they're paying close attention right now. David Markus, thank you for that insight.

And, Paula, as, you know, now Todd Blanche is getting into this line of questioning, I mean, if he's this successful about 11:00-ish a.m. -- they have been -- he's been on the stand for a little under two hours. There are still hours left to go.

REID: Yes.

COLLINS: They haven't even taken their morning break yet and they still have a lunch break, and then they will come back. And it's going to go well into the afternoon.

REID: Absolutely.

I mean, I was told this could even go until Monday. Unclear if that's including redirect and recross. But I was told to expect Michael Cohen to still be on the stand come Monday. But he has plenty more to do.

Now, here, the prosecution is objecting to a question from Blanche about whether Cohen told his wife about that loan that they took out -- he took out, a home equity loan that he took out to make the payment to Stormy Daniels.

COLLINS: But didn't Cohen already say on the stand that he had not told his wife?

REID: Exactly, yes. I think they're going to make that point, right?

This whole thing about lies versus omissions, I would anticipate that's where they're going. But the prosecution objected. So there's a sidebar right now. And Cohen is apparently looking toward the jury with a small smile and shaking his head.

I'm going to ask our colleagues inside the courtroom if the jury had any reaction to that, because, So far, they have had very little reaction.

COLLINS: Yes, and that's important, because, initially, Michael Cohen was not looking at the jury when he was speaking with the prosecution, but there were key moments where he talked about not getting a job inside the White House, and he would turn his body and look at the jury and was explaining this relationship that he has with his daughter now.

I mean, he did explain that he didn't tell his wife about that. That's why he said he chose the home equity line of credit, because it was paperless. Nothing would come to his house. And his wife, therefore, would not find out.

HOLMES: Well, actually, I have a question for you on that.

So, when he is talking to the jury, we know that we have heard from our reporters that he is very measured, that he stays on message. But is he personable? Because I think that's also a question. Is he connecting at all with the people he's talking to? COLLINS: I think it's a question for the jury. You can't speak for


But what I could compare it to was Stormy Daniels and Keith Davidson, of course, the attorney who negotiated her deal with Michael Cohen. They would look at the jury. Stormy Daniels was basically looking at the jury every five seconds. As she'd make a joke, she would kind of look to them.

Keith Davidson, essentially, was never even looking at the prosecutor. He was turned fully to the jury and talking to them. And it seemed really compelling, because he was kind of telling them a story.

Michael Cohen would sometimes answer a question and then look over at the jury to kind of see, how did they take that? What did they think of that?

REID: Right.

COLLINS: And so it's not clear if they have kind of established a rapport inside that room.

REID: They haven't seemed to laugh or find too many people charming.

The one time we got a readout that they laughed was when, I think, a paralegal from the Manhattan district attorney's office said that he really enjoyed making spreadsheets.


REID: And that got a giggle from the jury.

So it doesn't appear that they're really tipping their cards about who they find compelling, except for the paralegal.

HOLMES: But it does also show that Michael Cohen seems to know what's at stake here and who he's trying to reach, the fact that, after this more aggressive line of questioning, he is looking at the jury, giving a small smile, the way that you said that, every time he was trying to explain something, he turns to the jury.

I mean, he clearly knows who he's trying to convince here.

COLLINS: Yes, he has an audience.

And Blanche was asking about a March 20 -- March 9, 2018, statement that Michael Avenatti put out saying the money had come from Cohen's HELOC. That is a home equity line of credit.

As we know, Jake, that's important. That is what he ultimately used to pay the $130,000. Blanche is now asking him if he deleted text messages at this time, saying he deleted all the messages he had with his wife on March 11, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Indeed. And asked about that, Michael Cohen says: "I'm not -- no, sir, I'm not aware of that," Cohen says. [11:15:04]

TAPPER: But we are also aware from previous testimony that he took out this home equity line of credit for $130,000 to cover the Stormy Daniels payment in his testimony without his wife knowing.

So, I suspect that might be part of where Todd Blanche is driving this car right now to say that not only has he lied to several courts and to Congress, at least by omission, and Congress in the Trump-Russia investigation, but, by omission, to his wife as well.

Blanche is right now moving on to Cohen's statements to Congress in which he said he never asked for, nor would he accept a pardon from Trump.

"That was false, right?" Todd Blanche says.

And I'm sure he has receipts to back up he whatever says.

"I never asked for it," Cohen says. "I spoke to my attorney about it."

And Tim Parlatore, former Trump attorney, is back with us.

What do you make of whether or not Todd Blanche is landing any of these punches on Michael Cohen?


I mean, he definitely seems to be hitting his stride here and getting under skin a little bit, which a good cross-examination goes for the facts. You don't have to necessarily get under somebody's skin or break them. I mean, that's more of Hollywood than reality.

But this to me looks like a very good transition, where he's taking a lie to Congress about pardons and then transitioning that over to -- the next few questions may be getting into what Bob Costello had said yesterday and going to the specific communications, which he did testify about on direct just a little bit differently, the so-called back channel from Bob Costello to Rudy Giuliani.


TAPPER: So there you go.

Michael Cohen says he -- quote -- "reached out to his attorney to see whether it was legitimate" in terms of this idea of a pardon from Donald Trump, or then-President Trump, but said a pardon would be a nightmare.

And, look, I mean, I think what we're seeing here is a guy who has been all over the map politically and with various claims. And a lot of those claims have -- did not disappear into the ether. They're in test -- contradictory what -- witness testimony, like Bob Costello, perhaps, or text messages or testimony before court.

And Michael Cohen is going to emerge from this definitely bloodied. DANA BASH, CNN HOST: No question about it.

And I just want to say, to your earlier conversation, when I said liar -- lying liars who lie about lying, I wasn't making that...


TAPPER: No, no, you weren't saying that.

BASH: I was saying that that's the whole approach.

TAPPER: You were saying that they were portraying him.

BASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: Yes, they were portraying him.

BASH: It just occurred to me that I should probably make that clear.

Look, this is -- in addition to the axe to grind, the motivation, this lying situation and the lying picture that the -- that Todd Blanche, the Trump defense attorney, is painting is the whole ball game, is the whole ball game when it comes to Trump's defense.

And the question is, as we have said many times, but it bears repeating now, whether or not the jury is going to take this for what it's worth, but really take into consideration the signed checks, the invoices.

TAPPER: And I wonder -- and I wonder Todd Blanche -- if whether Todd Blanche is going to -- and this is maybe the Hollywood -- I have seen too many Hollywood versions of this, but he could drive Michael Cohen to, if Donald Trump had kept you within the fold and had offered you a pardon, would you not still be in Donald Trump's camp?



HUNT: I mean, that seems to be where they're going.

Our team is working on this right now. I think it's not -- right. I mean, that's -- said, a pardon would be a nightmare.

I mean, but that -- that absolutely makes total sense. And it also paints Michael Cohen as someone who basically just does the self- interested thing, kind of blows with the wind, and doesn't necessarily mean anything that he's saying.

Now, I don't -- I don't know how -- if you're the jury, how you grapple with something like that, because it does seem a little bit obvious to me that that's the case, that, like, Michael Cohen is not telling the truth now necessarily out of, like, the goodness of his heart, but because it's...

TAPPER: This is where he landed? HUNT: This is where he landed? Yes, exactly. And...

TAPPER: And, right now, Blanche is asking whether Cohen's lawyer explored the possibility of a pardon -- quote -- "because you were 100 percent open to accepting it."

And I wonder if he has a text message of Michael Cohen saying, "I am 100 percent open to accepting it."

HUNT: "Yes, sir," he says.

TAPPER: "Yes, sir."


TAPPER: All right, so he's -- is it possible?

Yes, so now he's acknowledging that he was 100 percent open to accepting it.

HUNT: And does anyone doubt that, if he had been given this, if Donald Trump had been more willing to kind of put more of his own skin in the game to protect Michael Cohen, that Michael Cohen would have stayed in the fold?

I mean, I don't doubt that.

TAPPER: But let -- let -- just to underline this point, Jeff Zeleny, it's not just that Michael Cohen said he didn't ask for a pardon, and it turned out a lawyer was exploring it on his behalf.

He said before Congress, I would not accept a pardon, not I never asked for, but I never asked for, nor would I accept. And he just admitted that he was 100 percent open to accepting it.


So, again, we just have -- I mean, Michael Cohen just admitted to a new lie.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so he's lied to Congress. He's lied to prosecutors in a courtroom.

I think that, again, when you're a juror, we do not know how they're processing all this. But my guess is, they are less in Michael Cohen's heads than we all are in terms of knowing this whole story. They are seeing this. So, again, I think to -- it's his demeanor and his presentation.

And there was so much lying going on and other things. I mean, if you look at the documents, that's why they have the receipts and the paper trail. We will just have to see how this all goes. But we haven't seen as much -- and I'm interested in hearing from our reporters who are in the courtroom.

How's the former president doing during all this time? TAPPER: Well, it just says, Trump has been looking in Cohen's

direction from time to time...

ZELENY: Well, here we go.

TAPPER: ... while he testifies...


ZELENY: So, all that...


TAPPER: ... which is different from how he has been in court in general.

ZELENY: In terms of sleeping and putting his eyes back.


TAPPER: Well, not sleeping, but just, like, looking straight ahead.

The judge is over here, the witnesses over there. When I was in court last week, a week ago today, he didn't look in Stormy Daniels' direction once, from as far as I could tell. The witness comes in behind you and then goes up.

ZELENY: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: But, here, we're told that he is looking at Michael Cohen.

Trump leaned forward to read the congressional deposition testimony on the screen when it was pulled up, when he said that -- when Michael Cohen said in 2019 that he had not asked for, nor would he accept a pardon from Donald Trump.

And he just admitted, Laura Coates, that he was in fact 100 percent open...


TAPPER: ... to accepting a pardon from Donald Trump.

COATES: This is important, because jury instructions are going to be given to the jury at the conclusion of all of the evidence when they're getting ready to deliberate.

And one is likely to be this Latin terms that says, if you're lying about one thing, you're lying about everything. And they want to be able to say, any sort of lie that you have given, even in testimony today, not your past, but in before this jury, they can discount the things you said.

It gives the jury a pass to be able to say, as I'm assessing your credibility in real time, I'm looking at you -- that's why he's turning to the jury to have them see their face. He's well aware of body language and what he's doing, almost pleadingly saying, here's why I'm defensive.

That's important for them. But also keep in mind here a power dynamic at play. You just described what it's like in the courtroom. This is somebody who described himself early in the testimony as the equivalent of a puppy, a lackey who wanted validation and said he felt like he was on top of the world when Donald Trump would actually give him praise.

He's the person now engaged and looking at him. I'm guessing, as the jury, they're thinking to themself, now, why would Donald Trump be so -- more engaged this time? Why is he leaning in? Is there a dynamic, a power play happening? And how will that impact the measured tone of Michael Cohen?

TAPPER: And, Tim Parlatore, I mean, Michael Cohen going before Congress in 2019 and saying he would never accept a pardon from Donald Trump...


TAPPER: ... and admitting on the stand just now that he would 100 percent accept a pardon from Donald Trump, that's a new lie...


TAPPER: ... that we did not know about before.

We -- there hasn't been any evidence that he -- that Michael Cohen has said anything false in testimony in this case, but he certainly is creating a long trail of admissions of times he didn't tell the truth, including under oath.


And I think that may be why Donald Trump is leaning forward a bit more, because I think he knows kind of where this is going, because now we're -- they're bringing out new things that weren't part of the direct that -- as you just said, a new lie nobody knew about before.

And if he goes in next to the part about how, when he asked for this pardon, and then Rudy Giuliani came back and said, the president says no and he doesn't want to brought up again...

TAPPER: Is that what happened?


TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

PARLATORE: And if that -- when -- if that comes out, which they have e-mails of, that will then put into context his then-conversation with his family about, why are you being so loyal to him?

BASH: Why haven't we heard that yet, if they have e-mails of that?

PARLATORE: It was in yesterday's congressional testimony. BASH: Oh, oh, I see what you're saying, in Congress, not here.



And -- and it -- that will...

TAPPER: Oh, that's from Rob Costello.



PARLATORE: That will put that into context.

It'll also then take -- at that point, Todd Blanche should go back to his direct testimony. And one of the great things he did here is, he filled up the day on Tuesday, and then took all day Wednesday where they could take the transcripts of his direct testimony, digest it, and get it all laid out, so that now he can go up and say, OK, so, in your direct testimony, you said...

TAPPER: Yes, well, he says -- he said, Cohen said his public testimony was referring to the present tense...


HONIG: What is, is.


TAPPER: ... meaning, Donald Trump -- well, he said -- and, like, nor -- I wouldn't accept a pardon from Donald Trump because I already -- I mean, not -- and then this is the unspoken part, because he's already told me I'm not going to get one.

PARLATORE: There we go.

TAPPER: He also said a pardon was -- quote -- "being dangled."


TAPPER: This is what Michael Cohen said.

PARLATORE: That's...

TAPPER: A pardon was being dangled.

It does seem to me, Tim, based on what you're saying and based on this line of questioning -- and, Elie, I'd love to get your thoughts on this.


TAPPER: It does seem to me that Rob Costello would actually be a good witness, and the fact that he testified before Congress yesterday on behalf of the House Republicans who are obviously supporting (AUDIO GAP) against this prosecution makes that even more possible.


"So, when you said you never asked for and would never accept a pardon, that was a lie, wasn't it?" Blanche asked.

Well, we will see what happens.

HONIG: Yes, the answer should be yes. Well, of course, it's not.

TAPPER: "At the time, it was accurate," Cohen says...


TAPPER: ... "because at the very" -- this is Cohen's reasoning, not mine. at the very moment that he said it, he would not have accepted it that moment, because he had already been open to it and been told by Rob Costello...


TAPPER: ... via Rudy Giuliani, via Donald Trump, no, it's not on the table.

HONIG: Right.

TAPPER: Don't ask for it ever again.

So he's like, hmm, what am I going to do now?

HONIG: It's easy to not want something once the ship has already sailed.



TAPPER: Although he said it was still being dangled, but who knows?


There was a really important moment in the cross a few minutes ago. Sometimes, when you're going through a long litany, as the defense team is here, a long litany of lies, you want to pause and sort of wrap it up with a bow and signal to the jury, here's where we're going.

And there was a question from Todd Blanche a few minutes ago where he asked Michael Cohen: "The reason why you lied was because the stakes affected you personally," and Cohen answered: "Yes."

And then Blanche asked: "The outcome of this case affects you personally?"

And Cohen said yes. And that's a moment where you -- you expose your theory.


HONIG: You argue to the jury through the mouth of the witness. And that will be the theme at closing.

Any time this guy has a personal stake, whether it's psychological, familial, financial, seeing his wishes fulfilled, he will lie. He's done that through his whole life. Why is now any different?

COATES: Yes, it's important to reorient people as well, because it obviously -- with the testimony that we have seen, it appears that Michael Cohen is the defendant in this case.

He is not the defendant in this case. And the jury is likely at this point in time wondering about the presentation of evidence, the burden of proof as it relates to Donald Trump.

And I just want to go over again what they actually have to prove with respect to Donald Trump. It's about these 34 falsified business records, the intent to defraud, intent to actually conceal other crimes, the making of these false documents and business records, right, all those things.

And you got to have the documentary evidence. This is why they went to such great lengths to make sure that things like this came before the jury, the breakdown of the payment, why they went to lengths about the signed documents from Donald Trump and the reimbursements, why they mentioned -- of course, they're talking about the ways in which to question his credibility.

But, remember, the convictions is what the jury actually will be hearing about. And we have gone through these things. But, most importantly, they have got to go back this original point that everyone sees in the calendar.

This is obviously jumbled. It goes after Inauguration Day, once he's the president of the United States, every box in red showing you how many falsified documents were made and the timeline of everything.

But they have to actually go back and prove these factors.

TAPPER: And here we go.

COATES: Here we are.

TAPPER: So, Todd Blanche is now moving on to Cohen's conversations with Robert Costello.

That's the attorney that he had spoken with after the FBI raided his home and office.

And, again, Dana Bash, Robert Costello was testifying before Congress, House Republicans, yesterday and laying out all the ways that his conversations -- and, apparently, he brought receipts, e-mails and texts and the like -- that what Michael Cohen is saying is not accurate.

And Michael Cohen very clearly was portraying when he was being asked by the prosecutors Rob Costello as some sort of, like, seedy, shady character being sent his way by Rudy Giuliani: Hey, if you want to...

BASH: To shut him up.

TAPPER: Yes, to shut him up.

Hey, if you want to talk to President Trump, talk to me, and then I will talk to Rudy, and then we will talk to Trump. And Mr. Costello is saying that's not -- and also Tim Parlatore is saying that's not at all what was going on.

The court is taking a brief morning break.

Let's run this sound bite from Rob Costello testifying before Congress yesterday.


ROBERT COSTELLO, ATTORNEY: What he tries to do is, he picks out, cherry-picks certain e-mails or text messages and tries to make them look like something else.

The story he told yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani and I were somehow conspiring to try and keep him quiet, to try and keep him from flipping. That's the term we use in the trade for cooperating.

That's ridiculous.


TAPPER: So, that's Bob Costello, who, as Tim Parlatore has said, is portraying -- presenting a very different story than Michael Cohen is about their interactions and might be called as a witness for the defense once the prosecution rests, Dana Bash.

BASH: Yes.

And we have been talking a lot about the sort of receipts, the paperwork, the texts, the checks, the invoices that the prosecution has to try to make their case beyond or in addition to the testimony that they're getting from Michael Cohen and other witnesses.

And the question is whether or not Bob Costello is going to bring the same kind of receipts, same kind of paperwork to back up what he is saying, what he said yesterday to Congress.

TAPPER: Yes, if he -- if he indeed testifies.

BASH: Right.

TAPPER: We still don't know what the defense plans on doing.

The trial is taking a brief break, so we're going to take one too. [11:30:00]