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Michael Cohen Admits To Stealing From Trump Organization; Now; Michael Cohen Back On The Stand After Admitting To Stealing From Trump Organization; Trump Defense Ends Cross-Examination Of Michael Cohen. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 11:30   ET



ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: A big lesson for everybody, don't take the attacks personally because once you start doing that, it'll affect your judgment. And keep your ego out of it. I think that's another big lesson in my book.

I went to work for Donald Trump for ego-related reasons, Jake. I write about that in the book. And I got that wrong. I had my pride and ego in my decision-making. And I think Michael Cohen right now is trying to take all of that and put it in a jar and putting it in a drawer in the kitchen, and just focusing on answering the questions without getting emotional.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Have you talked to Cohen since his testimony began?

SCARAMUCCI: I have. Yes.

TAPPER: How's he doing?

SCARAMUCCI: Oh, I think he wants it to be over. But I think he is -- I think he's extremely focused. But I think it's an important message to get out there. He didn't cause this case. You know, the facts were such.

You can't be a Michael Cohen and get the district attorney to bring a case like this. You can be a Michael Cohen and be a key witness. But he didn't cause this case. This case got manifested by an overwhelming amount of evidence related to the case.

TAPPER: Anthony, I'm going to bid you adieu, but what's your book again, so people can go out there and get it? I know Father's Day is coming up.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Father's Day is coming up, Jake. I'll sign one for you, OK? Well, I even put Happy Father's Day in the book for you, Jake.

TAPPER: Very sweet. That's very nice.

SCARAMUCCI: It's "From Wall Street to the White House and Back."

TAPPER: You're --

SCARAMUCCI: And thank you for the compliment on the picture, Jake. I --

TAPPER: It's very handsome. It's very --

SCARAMUCCI: It meant a lot to me.

TAPPER: It's very -- there it is. There it is. We're putting it up there.

SCARAMUCCI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Available right now at and Go to your local indie bookstore. They need -- they need the help. Anthony Scaramucci, always good --

SCARAMUCCI: I'll give you -- I'll give you my air brusher's phone number, Jake, for your next book. OK?

TAPPER: I need it. I need it. No question about that.

A busy morning for Michael Cohen on the stand, a potentially bruising morning for the prosecution's case against the former president. Cohen admitting under oath that he stole from the Trump Organization. The court just went into a break. Much more on CNN's special live coverage ahead.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of Donald Trump's ongoing hush money trial. Cross-examination is going to pick back up again in just moments after Trump's attorneys elicited some damaging admissions from Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, and fixer this morning, with Cohen acknowledging under oath, yes, that's correct, that he did steal from the Trump Organization. We will see soon after the defense is done with him how prosecutors are going to try to rehabilitate Michael Cohen and his reputation with the jurors who are sitting right there to his left, 12 of them, when of course they will be the ones who ultimately decide this case.

CNN's Paula Reid and John Berman are back here with me outside of 100 Center Street where that break is happening right now. Eric Trump is already responding to Michael Cohen's concession in court that yes, by saying you know, I paid a certain amount for this when instead I really only gave this company $20,000, I did steal from the Trump Organization. Eric Trump says this just got interesting. Michael Cohen is now admitting to stealing money from our company.

You know, what the big unknown here is how the jury hears this -- how they're taking that.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. COLLINS: Michael Cohen has not come off as a -- you know, a saint in this case for even before he got to the witness stand. What's clear -- or what's unclear is how the jury takes that and what it does to his credibility in their eyes.

REID: That is absolutely the question right now. What's interesting is our colleagues inside are reporting really for the first time in the entire course of this trial that several members of the jury are seemed distracted -- disinterested. We've never heard that from our colleagues. When I've been in there, I've never seen that even on a day when two accountants testified and then went to individual pay stubs and invoices that it was deadly boring but significant.

Every single one of his 18 jurors, the 12 jurors, and the six alternates were paying rapt attention. But the fact that during Todd Blanche's -- the end of his cross here before the break, that the jury seemed disengaged, that's a big question mark. Have they already made up their mind about Michael Cohen's credibility and they don't need to hear any more? Are they not buying what Todd Blanche is selling? It's fascinating, but the first time throughout this entire trial that we've ever heard that from the inside.

COLLINS: Ron Kuby just said he thought Todd Blanche was going on too long. I mean, Todd Blanche has had some successful moments in this, but you do risk kind of losing the jury as you're trying to put together these final pieces here.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, I didn't go to law school. You'll be happy to know. I didn't go to business school either. But there is a term in economics called the incremental rate of return.

In the incremental rate of return, each additional bit you get back from what you introduced is getting smaller and smaller and smaller here, it seems for Donald Trump's lawyers. Yes, they are introducing more things that Michael Cohen may have fudged or lied about or may be inconsistent, but it may be that each one is less and less effective with the jury. And I do want to note. Eric Trump claiming that he's realizing for the first time that Michael Cohen stole from his company.

I don't know if Eric was here. I think he was here last Monday, right? This did come out in testimony before under direct.

They did not use the word steal. But the first time it was brought up in this case that Michael Cohen pocketed, literally kept some of the money he asked for in a reimbursement there was one week ago where the defense I think, a huge success today was reframing it and getting Michael Cohen to answer yes to the question of did you steal. But the actual information about what he did, came out a week ago.


COLLINS: That's a great point. One, you know, Trump's allies are -- they fill the front two rows of the courtroom. They're not always paying attention. I often -- we're not allowed to have our phones. They're locked on their phones. They're not always closely watching the testimony.

I think the one person I saw watching the closest was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. He was the one who was not on his phone the whole time. He was looking straight ahead as the testimony was happening last week.

But this is information that already came out to the jury. I'm sure the prosecutors will likely point that out when they decide how they're going to address this because that's their first mode of opera. What they've got to do when they start questioning Michael Cohen is to rehabilitate him in the jury's eyes.

REID: And they've got some work to do. Remember, they also have to go back to that phone call that Michael Cohen admitted on the stand last week, may have been about a prankster and not about the hush money payment. They have to clean that up. They have to clean up what has happened today.

But sometimes when the defense team goes on too long, I've seen this in civil cases related to Trump too. It's because they're kind of working over their client, right, getting in points that are important to him. It's part of client maintenance. It's what's preventing Trump from having outbursts in the courtroom like he so often did during the civil litigation.

It's not even apparent. Though Trump is really paying attention. We've seen reporting from inside the courtroom that even he has been sort of in and out of attentiveness during the course of Todd Blanche's cross- examination here. So, unclear what Blanche's long game is, how long he's going to take, and to your earlier question, where is he going to land this plane?

BERMAN: Right. I mean, I -- again, I think he probably wants to drive it back to just Michael Cohen. One of the things I think the world to an extent has forgotten about, Michael Cohen is on trial. Right? It's --

COLLINS: He's being judged. He is not on trial but he's being judged.

BERMAN: He's being judged. But if Donald Trump was on trial, I do think the defense has effectively changed the focus least in the world, maybe not inside the courtroom, to Michael Cohen. And if he can leave that jury with the impression, it's Cohen that's on trial, that's good for that.

COLLINS: Well -- and Michael Cohen is the prosecution's last witness. We already know that. And so, with the announcement from the judge this morning that closing arguments are not happening tomorrow but that they are expected to happen a week from tomorrow, next Tuesday, is there a possibility that Todd Blanche is kind of painting this picture of Michael Cohen, and he'll pull the threads together when they do the closing argument? And this isn't his closing argument. This is just their cross-examination of the last witness from the prosecution side.

REID: That's exactly right. Both sides will use their closings to pull together everything they put before the jury because Todd Blanche has been all over the place. One would expect when he finally gets before the jury who is not trying to trick or knock off course like he is with Cohen, that he will present a linear narrative.

COLLINS: And how does -- you know, the overarching point from the last hour of questioning has seemed to be Michael Cohen made a lot of money off his proximity to Donald Trump. He talked about other clients he had. He talked about how much he's made from his podcast, what he made from his book.

And it kind of seemed to be this instance of he was willing to lie for Donald Trump and protect him when it was financially lucrative for him. And then when it stopped being so, he took a different tactic and now has his podcast and his books that he's made money off of. And I should note. Todd Blanche is back there questioning Michael Cohen right now, John.

BERMAN: I think a little bit is about the motivation, right? Suggesting that you need to be doing this now because this is the way you have a career since you've been indicted and you know, imprisoned as a criminal. You have to be doing this. And that may be the motivation for your testimony for the story the defense says that you're making up about this, it ties back into really trying to discredit him.

COLLINS: Well, and obviously, you know what this has -- this isn't all just Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is not the only person here. He's not the only evidence here. There's also the documents that we've seen --

REID: Yes.

COLLINS: You know, when they were trying to trip him up on what exactly he had been discussing on October 26. Saying that there were other matters that Michael Cohen was working on. We've seen the e- mails from Michael Cohen to Keith Davidson saying --

REID: Yes.

COLLINS: That was the day he was transferring the money. And of course, we know subsequently paid it to Keith Davidson to pay Stormy Daniels.

REID: I think it's also -- now, that I've had time to reflect, I think in that moment, Todd Blanche was also trying to call into question Cohen's memory. How is it that you so clearly remember conversations you had with Trump on that day, but not other conversations related to media appearances? In hindsight, I think that was the point he was trying to make. But again, if it took me an hour to figure that out, unclear if the jury figured it out on the spot.

COLLINS: And you're -- the jurors sitting there taking notes and moving along with the trial.

BERMAN: Yes. I'm just curious. Both sides seem to have left so much for the closing arguments. I can't remember a case that I've covered where yes, they go through direct and cross, and they get the evidence out there. But literally, the main point they're going to make isn't introduced until the closing argument -- until the very end. They both have a lot of work to do.

COLLINS: And right now, they're talking about this show that Michael Cohen says is being shopped around called The Fixer. He says it hasn't been picked up yet, which I think prompted so after --

BERMAN: Shocking.


COLLINS: Inside the courtroom, John, so you still have a chance. That's a -- that's good news for you. Cohen's being asked about a run for Congress. Is that true? Blanche asked. He says yes, sir.

REID: That's -- again, getting to his motivation. Is this all part of a political conspiracy against the leading Republican candidate for the White House? That's I think, where they're trying to put that particular point.

It all goes to Cohen's motivation. His hatred of the defendant has been well established. But now here, they're trying to stack up motivations for him to lie. One, for him to make money. Two, because he has political motivations.

So, again, Todd is all over the place. This is not a linear or chronological cross-examination but that appears to be one of the things he is trying to say here. Cohen confirms he told the reporter that one of the reasons he should run for Congress is because he's got the best name recognition out there.

I'm not sure that's true. He certainly has name recognition, but I don't know that anyone would objectively call it the best. And he comes with an enormous amount of baggage even by American political standards.

BERMAN: I mean, one thing I will say. He won't be the first character in this drama to consider running for public office.

REID: Sure, ye.

BERMAN: Stormy Daniels, didn't she --

REID: Yes.

BERMAN: Didn't she throw her hat into the ring for governor in Louisiana?

COLLINS: Yes, that's a great point. She testified about that that was being pushed and that she would check if she got in a dispute with someone who's putting it out there. It wasn't her actually putting the materials out there.

But Michael Cohen is someone who a point that he made when Todd Blanche first started questioning him was, this isn't a new story that I'm telling, that I have been telling the story in effect for six years now. And if you go back, I was so struck when I watched Michael Cohen's -- I rewatched his congressional testimony, it is largely the same story of what he has been saying right now. He says my name recognition is because of the journey I've been on. They're asking if it's because he's affiliated with Donald Trump.

Trump is smiling at the remark obviously. One thing Trump hates the most Paula, as we both know, is when people try to profit off of him or make money off of his name and likeness. But Michael Cohen has told a consistent story overall about what he was asked to do and how it was done since 2018.

REID: After he turned, right? After he turned. Prior to that, he made public statements contradicting this. He told Robert Costello something different.

And then if you underpin the fact that even on the stand, even on direct examination, there are things the defense has been able to draw out. There were either lies, right, or inconsistent with previous statements. So yes, I think that you could absolutely as a juror find that Michael Cohen's testimony here has been consistent. It has been credible. It matches previous stories.

You could also look at it a different way, right? He's been contradicted even when the span of a few days. He has lied to multiple entities.

He has pleaded guilty to that. There are two completely different ways to see this. And we really won't know how the jury sees it until we get this verdict.

BERMAN: Now, you have Blanche asking Cohen a series of questions confirming Trump's trust in Cohen. Each time, Cohen confirms. I wonder if this has to go down the road of look, you worked for Donald Trump, he trusted you. He was counting on you. He depended on you to make decisions for him sometimes without him.

COLLINS: And Cohen agrees his work for Trump was in some ways traditional legal work and in other ways not. I think that is --

BERMAN: Certainly.

COLLINS: The understatement of the year, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, I didn't -- I didn't have Michael Cohen for Congress on my bingo card for the trial. But apparently, that's where we're going. And Todd Blanche making clear to Michael Cohen that "Your journey has been near-daily attacks on President Trump at least since 2020."

Blanche asked Cohen a series of questions confirming Trump's trust in Cohen. President Trump trusted you. President Trump trusted your counsel. His family trusted you. His wife trusted you.

Every time, Michael Cohen confirms it. Michael Cohen agreeing that his work for Trump was in some ways traditional and in other ways not traditional legal work. Would you keep going with this? I mean, I feel like they've really -- I don't know what more they think they're going to get out of it. And feel like this orange has been squeezed.

TIM PARLATORE, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I think so. I mean, this cross has gone on for a very long time. You know, Todd Blanche, you got to remember, he's a former prosecutor. Just only his second trial --


PARLATORE: As a defense lawyer. And so, he's not an experienced cross- examiner. He has made some phenomenal points for the closing, but I do think that it's probably going on way too long. If he has another point to make, that's going to be major, he should get to that. But especially if the jury is making the kind of faces that they are, you know, have to kind of read the room and -- you know, longer is not always better.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, I feel like they've -- he's gotten in some good -- got body blows.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right, for sure. And Tim's right. I mean, one of the knocks that defense lawyers make with justification against us prosecutors is, we're not great at cross-examination. Because the fact of the matter is we don't do cross-examination a lot.

I do think Todd Blanche has given himself some really important points that he will drive home, I guess next week now, at closing. You -- when it's over, it's over. Say no further questions. Hand the podium back.

TAPPER: Right now, Blanche is revisiting the $420,000 payment. And I presume, although I probably shouldn't, that he's going to go into the $50,000 payment to Red Finch, which it turns out, Michael Cohen stole $30,000 of that, times two, within this $420,000 payment.


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is important because this was the heart of the matter in terms of the actual hush money repayment. There are different checks, $35,000 each after he was already inaugurated as the president of the United States. This is where the crux of the issue. I would have had him sit down a long time ago. But here's the problem with how we began this entire day with the judge's decision to have the conclusion -- the closing arguments next week.

Now, there's all that time for the jury to either A., sit with the fact that Michael Cohen is a liar and that he is now a thief and all these things. Wouldn't have been better for them as a defense, he will go right into it, essentially saying you've heard all of these different statements being made, all this, what haven't you heard, what connections have not been made. And now, the most reliable and who they choose to end with is this person. You have Cohen agreeing that $150,000 is the Daniels' payment and includes what he paid to Red Finch.

Let me just revisit for a second for everyone to look at this, on the tablet, please, about the hush money trial payment and what we're talking about. Here's the breakdown we're talking about. $130,000 made to Daniels. 50,000 you're talking about, Jake, to Red Finch about the actual polling. Remember, they have this times two over here, right, to get the $180,000 plus 50,000 hours to the actual bonus of Michael Cohen.

This is the breakdown. And what they've used up until this point to show this has been the notes taken by McConney about what this and how does it break down. Taken from of course, Allen Weisselberg.

Now, this is so important. Every name being mentioned on cross- examination, Allen Weisselberg, Rudy Giuliani, Bob Costello, about even Trump's references and beyond, we have not heard from these people. Allen Weisselberg, we will -- we will not hear from my understanding. He's in Rikers and also will not be a cooperating person on these things.

Also is this claim here, Blanche asks, did you -- but didn't you claim that $35,000 a month on your taxes? Did you? Blanche asked. Hoffinger objects. Now, they are side-barring.

Now, first of all, we haven't heard much objection from the prosecution until now. One reason might be because they don't necessarily want to show that their feathers have been ruffled, that they're nervous in some way before the jury, and strategic in talking about these things. But up until now, you haven't heard much attempt to try to stop or slow down the traction being gained by the defense counsel here. But in any event, you have to go back, if you are the defense team, to what the prosecution has or has not been able to prove. And the money in the documents are so important.

TAPPER: I'm trying to think right now. Let me -- I'm turning to my jurors over here. And, Jamie, you're the jury foreperson in the -- on this -- on this --

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm do -- I'm do -- I love having undue influence.

TAPPER: And this -- and the three of us are jurors. But I'm trying to think, putting myself as a juror, what would have been a compelling way to introduce everything now that we know pretty much everything that has been introduced. And I think a narrative where Michael Cohen is part of a -- again, this is just what I think would have worked on a jury.

Criminal enterprise, that is the Trump Organization, and trying to extricate himself from that has been a journey in a path. You're going to hear all sorts of stuff that he did that was horrible but what you have to decide is whether he's telling you the truth today it's worth -- to the best of his ability as opposed to whatever they did. But I don't know that it's been presented as compelling away as it could have been.

GANGEL: As the only person who's been a juror, instructions on the law, I think focus the mind of the jury. That's where they will have heads. Tim is nodding.


GANGEL: But you know, they've -- they will have had weeks of testimony. They will decide, do these lies make sense to the jury. They will, you know, have a feeling about who they like, who they don't like, was Donald Trump motivated to do this?

TAPPER: Tood Blanche. Do you have a financial interest in the outcome of this case? Cohen. Yes, sir. Trump is turning toward the witness stand with his arm perched on the back of his chair looking intently at Cohen.

And Michael Cohen admitting that he has a financial interest in this trial because if he is the dragon slayer, he will be worth more. Again, that's a moment of truth. He's admitting -- he's admitting that his -- as a -- you know, as a Knight of the resistance, this will be good for him if Trump is found guilty. We'll see how much the jury rewards him for that.

GANGEL: But I just think what we're waiting for here are going to be closing arguments, and then those instructions from the judge. This is a tricky part of law -- of New York State law. I think it will focus on who had the motivation. And do they look at Michael Cohen and say, whatever he is, he is, but this makes sense?


TAPPER: Right. If -- and Blanche is saying, because if President Trump was convicted, that would benefit you personally and financially, right? Blanche asks. And just to remind our viewers, Michael Cohen has testified that he's been paid $3.4 million for two books that he's written.

Surely, there would be a third. Any publisher would put that out there except for maybe Regnery, I suppose, but pretty much any publisher because it will make money. No, Sir Cohen says, testifying that he talks about the situation in his podcast and TikTok and they make money that's a -- you know, that would benefit you personally. No, sir.

I talked about on my podcast, I talked about on TikTok, and they make money. And that's how I was viewing your question whether Mr. Trump is ultimately determined guilty is not going to affect whether I speak about it or not. I'm getting kind of confused about this. But in any case, it is clear that Michael Cohen will benefit financially.

Blanche continues to press him on whether it will benefit financially as Trump is found guilty either way. I guess he's saying, either way, I'm going to make money.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: And they've already established that.

COATES: Right.

BASH: They've already established, you know --

COATES: Yes. BASH: Two days ago, that he does make money off of Tiktak -- TikTok, that he does make money off of his podcast --

TAPPER: But it says it's better he's not found guilty be -- for me, because it gives me more to talk about in the future -- what he's really thinking outside --


TAPPER: While he's thinking outside the box, let me bring in former federal prosecutor Alyse Adamson. Alyse, we all enjoyed your wisdom and expertise relayed earlier in the program. I have to say, first of all, what do you think about this revelation that Michael Cohen committed larceny by his own admission against Trump? And do you think that undermines the documentary evidence in this case, given the fact that part of the $420,000 is at stake, here is $60,000 that he stole?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. What do you think about the revelation? I mean, for most of us, it's not much of a revelation, right? We already know that Michael Cohen was kind of a shady guy. We -- the prosecution brought out a lot of that on direct. And just generally, that's what's known about him.

I think the problem was that the prosecution didn't do a good job of having Michael Cohen explain why he did that. I mean, I think there's a good narrative there about the bonus. He felt like he was stiff, and he was owed that. So, there was -- there was a good story there that I think the prosecution didn't latch on to and the way they could, and then the defense capitalized and really struck some impressive blows with that line of cross.

Now, with respect to the documentary evidence, I don't know if that's really going to carry the day. Todd Blanche is doing what any good defense attorney would do. And that's kind of chip away at every piece of evidence. They want to raise reasonable doubt. And the documents are just like the absolute heart of this case.

Now, whether or not Michael Cohen fleeced a little off the top is actually irrelevant as to whether or not Donald Trump approved of the $130,000 repayment. So, if you believe Michael Cohen about that piece and the documents bear it out, then I think the prosecution can still prevail. But that's a pretty big if given the credibility blow.

TAPPER: Yes. So, just so we -- just update you and update our viewers, Todd Blanche just ended the cross-examination of Cohen. The last few bits are this. Blanche confirmed with Cohen that he would like to get revenge on Trump and has said "Revenge is a dish. Best served cold."

Cohen confirms he meant it when he said it on his own podcast and now again in court. It's true that you will lie out of loyalty, correct? Blanche asks. Yes, sir. Cohen response.

And Blanche ended the cross-examination with that exchange. So, he is established that Michael -- in these last questions that Michael Cohen wants revenge, and that he is willing to lie out of loyalty or for whatever reason. If you're a juror, how do you -- how do you take that?

ADAMSON: Yes. Once again, I think that came out on direct as well.

TAPPER: Right.

ADAMSON: I don't think anybody is questioning whether or not Michael Cohen kind of wants to get back at the former president. He's mad. He did -- he did jail time.

So, I think -- you know, I think it was helpful to the defense and kind of hammering home their theory -- their alternative theory of this case, I don't think that carries the day for the jury. I don't think that final piece was like the death knell. I do believe Todd Blanche's earlier point about the stealing and that being a surprise was far more impactful on the jury. I'm not in the courtroom, obviously --

TAPPER: Right.

ADAMSON: But I could imagine there were some probably wrinkled faces at that confusion because this was the first time they were hearing about it.

TAPPER: So, Michael Cohen was on the stand for almost 16 hours over the course of four days. Now, it's time for the prosecution to do the cleanup on aisle 59 there in courtroom 59. What do you expect from the prosecution on redirect?