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CNN Live Event/Special

Judge Won't Let Prosecutors Bring In C-SPAN Pictures As Evidence, Prosecutors May Recall Archivist To Testify; ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants For Hamas & Israeli Leaders; Cohen Called Back To Stand To Testify That C-SPAN Photo Shows Schiller With Trump Minutes Before Key Phone Call. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 14:30   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial.

CNN's Paula Reid and Kristen Holmes are with me here outside of the courthouse in Manhattan.

Just to review, while we've been in break, a couple of things have been happening in the courthouse.

They are now taking a break because they are still dealing with this this issue of a C-SPAN video that shows, purportedly, Donald Trump and Keith Schiller, his body man, together on the day that Michael Cohen said he had a key phone call with the two men.

Now, the attorneys, the defense and the prosecution, Paula, are still arguing over this. And there's a question about whether or not they will have to bring that C-SPAN technical witness to basically stipulate that this video is what they say that it was taken at the time that it says that it was.

This might actually potentially delay the end of this trial and the beginning of the next phase of it, which would be jury instructions and perhaps closing argument.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: At this point, the judge is asking them to see if this witness -- his name is Robert Browning. He's one of the first people we heard from. You remember he got on the stand. He's a guy from Indiana. He's the C-SPAN archivist. He testified how he was so nervous.

And the only reason he had to testify was because the two sides wouldn't agree to bring in some C-SPAN archival footage.

Well, oddly, as we expect this case to close, we are back arguing over another piece of C-SPAN archival footage. A potentially important piece of footage that shows Trump with his body man, Keith Schiller, on the same day that Michael Cohen has previously testified he called Trump to talk about the hush money payment. But defense attorneys got him to admit that he may, instead, was talking about a 14-year-old prankster.

Now the reason this video is important is because it suggests that both men were together. And perhaps when Cohen called Trump -- or called Keith Schiller, he could have easily spoken to Trump if they were in physical proximity.

Todd Blanche has fought against this as hard as he fought against anything. But it can't come in without it being verified because the two sides won't agree.

So right now -- as Trump is heading back into court, right now, they are trying to get this poor archivist back from Indiana and on the stand tomorrow, which would mean --


PHILLIP: -- walking back into the courthouse with his attorney, Todd Blanche, walking right behind him.

REID: This would mean that the jury would have to come back in tomorrow, which we didn't they would come in tomorrow. We expect that the lawyers would be here to argue other issues.

But this would be quite an inconvenience for the jury. But prosecutors clearly think that this is such a significant, if not very brief, piece of video footage, that they have to go through these steps.

So this is really kind of a markable little event here.

PHILLIP: It very much is.

And I want to bring in now former federal judge, John E. Jones III.

Judge Jones, thank you for being here.

As we're discussing here, this is a crucial question before Judge Merchan. He has to decide how this goes. He's already said he doesn't want to just allow this into evidence.

First of all, do you think that was the right call here, given that the C-SPAN witness has already been on the stand for other footage. Does it make sense to have him come back to admit this piece of video?

JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Unfortunately Abby, it does. And he's just being careful. Judge Merchan is being careful. Because there's a very strenuous objection by the defense that the foundation wasn't laid for this particular part of evidence.

And so Judgment Merchan is saying, look, I hate to do this but you're going to have to lay a proper foundation.

I'm sure the conversation at first, at sidebar, the judge was looking at defense counsel and saying, are you kidding me, you know that this is authentic. Why can't you just stipulate? But this is a death-cage match. And they're not going to stipulate to

anything at this point.


JONES: So I think that's what -- he's doing so what he has to do.

PHILLIP: Yes. And just to underscore for people why this matters, I mean, this is really the crux of both the defense's best shot that they've taken at Michael Cohen and his credibility.

And also it establishes a key part of the prosecution's argument, which is that Michael Cohen informed Trump at a very key moment about what he was doing to resolve the Stormy Daniels matter.

If this is not handled properly -- and you alluded to this -- is the concern here from Judge Merchan, that this could be a huge issue upon appeal?

JONES: Well, you have to have a substantial error or set of errors to have a case come back to be retried.

You know, there are errors that affect the integrity of the proceedings, and there are harmless errors. I can't say whether letting it in over the defense's objection would be harmless or not under the circumstances.

But obviously, the defense thinks that this is highly damaging. Because it goes to the heart of where they think they scored points on their direct examination.

And that's why Blanche and --



PHILLIP: And -- and, Judge --


PHILLIP: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Judge. I'm sorry to interrupt you, Judge.

But we are back in session here. They had just taken a quick break.

It sounds like the prosecution is saying that C-SPAN is prepared to book travel for this witness, which could mean the jury's back tomorrow and they've got to hear this.

JONES: Yes. I think that's what's going to happen. Because again, the foundation for one doesn't mean foundation for all.

And the jury's not going to like this. They're not going to know exactly why it happened this way. But it's prolonging their time. I, frankly, think that jury has to be getting fatigued now. There's also the issue of recency, with the jury that they can see this -- this clip, close in time to when they're going to hear closing arguments, the charge and deliberations.

That may resonate with them. And that's, I think, why the defense is fighting so hard.

PHILLIP: Judge Merchan is saying, if scheduling were an issue, if time were of the essence, I would agree with you. It sounds -- it's not entirely clear what that's a reference to.

Scheduling might be an issue, but time is not necessarily the limiting factor here.

Judge Merchan also saying we agreed this morning we're basically going to have a week down, we're sending the jury home for a week to do nothing. There's no prejudice.

There is a scheduling thing here that was dealt with this morning. It was thought initially that they could get to closing arguments by this week. The judge said it's not going to be until next Tuesday.

Some of it is about the timing of when closing arguments occurs. Does it make sense to you that, going into a long weekend like Memorial Day weekend, that maybe neither the prosecution nor the defense would want to present summations before such a long period of time when the jury would not really be able to deliberate.

JONES: Well, there's two problems with that. Number one is that you don't want to have closings and then a four-day break and then come back and charge the jury next week. Nor do you want to charge the jury this week, perhaps, and send them out on a Thursday afternoon where they may feel rushed in their deliberations.

I think he's doing exactly the right thing. You have to take into account these long holidays. It's better to have them come back fresh, hear the closing arguments next week. And then hear the charge right after the closing arguments.

That's more seamless. And that's what he's saying that, look, I know you have to fly this guy in, but we've got time to present another witness.

PHILLIP: Yes. And as we're speaking here, it sounds like Judge Merchan is going to allow this witness to be called. Donald Trump reacting a little bit to it in the courthouse. This is a blow for the defense for sure.

Judge John E. Jones, III, thank you very much for joining us.

JONES: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And much more -- much more of our special coverage of the hush money trial of Donald Trump after a quick break.

Plus, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for the leader of Hamas and for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN is live from The Hague. That's next.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Biden is pledging to stand with Israel and calls the warrant applications by the International Criminal Court against Israeli leaders, in his word, "outrageous."

It comes as the world's top war crimes court announced it is seeking arrest warrants for Israels political and military leadership. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are now both wanted on charges stemming from the war in Gaza.

The court is also seeking warrants for Hamas' top political and military leaders for crimes against humanity for the October 7th terror attack.

CNN's chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, broke this story in an exclusive interview with the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan. She's joining us now live from The Hague.

Christiane, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement earlier today saying the U.S. rejects the prosecutor's equivalence of Israel with Hamas, saying, and I'm quoting him now, "It is shameful."

How is the ICC responding?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it's responding by, A, saying that there's no equivalence. And actually, I also talked to other very senior jurats, including former leaders of a war crimes trial against Slobodan Milosevic, you'll remember during the Balkan wars.

And he says there's no equivalence. These -- these are just charges where the evidence leads.

Now, in terms of the other criticism, which is Israel is a democracy, and this is the first time the leaders of a democracy have been thus charged by the ICC, why couldn't they do it?

I did ask the prosecutor about this. And he told me that they had tried over a period of years, that they hadn't got the kind of meaningful responses from -- certainly not recently, from the Israeli authorities to do it themselves.

And this is part of that conversation.


AMANPOUR: Israel is a democracy. They have a judiciary, they have low enforcement, they have elected leaders. Why do you need to do this when they have a system that could do this?

KARIM KHAN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: I'd much rather Israel does it. I mean, Israeli, you're right, it has a very good Supreme Court. It has very qualified, brilliant lawyers.


But even if you read recently public information -- for example, in "The New York Times," I think, the Bergman and Metalli (ph) Report. If one goes back to the '80s and look at the Cupp (ph) Report, a deputy attorney general of Israel who said that Israel was unwilling and unable to investigate crimes in the occupied territories.

If one looks at the Sassoon (ph) Report. If one looks at general - you have a three-star general that was in Washington, D.C., between 2019 and 2021, who said there's no accountability.

The simple truth is that, for all the application of the law in the territory of Israel, unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be applied with vigor or sincerity in the occupied territories and in Gaza.

And this is why we have to move forward.


AMANPOUR: So on the substance of the charges, he leveled charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the three Hamas leaders, including, obviously, for mass killing. They call that extermination of -- for the taking of hostages, for these rapes and the sexual abuse, even in captivity, for torture and the others.

On the Israeli side, they also talked about mass killings. They cited that inside Gaza of civilians. But they also focused very heavily on using starvation as a weapon of war.

And this is the first time that has been -- that charge has been leveled by this court. It would be the first time that that charge is prosecuted.

If indeed -- and this was only a first step, Wolf, if, indeed, these demands for arrest warrants are upheld by the pretrial panel of judges at the ICC,

BLITZER: Which we assume it will be.

Christiana Amanpour, in The Hague for us, excellent reporting. Thank you very, very much.

And just ahead, we'll go back to New York for the latest on the Donald Trump hush money trial. Major developments as the prosecution and defense reach a deal to admit a potentially key photograph into evidence. Jurors are being shown the photograph right now.



PHILLIP: And welcome back to our special coverage of Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial. Michael Cohen is back on the stand after the prosecution and the

defense struck a deal to admit a photo showing Keith Schiller with Donald Trump on a key date and time.

Just to catch you up here on what has transpired, the jurors were just shown the photo in the courtroom. And Michael Cohen then was asked to identify Keith Schiller.

We're going to show you now that video that the photo is from.

And, Kristen Holmes, tell us which one is Keith Schiller and --


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The one in the red tie. That's Keith Schiller walking off with -- you see in slow motion, red tie, white shirt. You can see him there. And then they walk off the stage together.

Now just to be clear, this video was not admitted into court. Just a still frame from it. And a stipulation was read. This was in order to not have to have the C-SPAN archivist come back.

The stipulation was that the -- both parties have agreed that the still photograph taken at the end of a video be submitted. The video concluded at 7:57 p.m. on October 24, 2016. It's signed by both the prosecution and defense today, May 20, 2024.

Now obviously, what this shows is that this is same time or roughly five minutes later, 10 minutes later that you would -- that you know that Michael Cohen called Keith Schiller.

So this was -- the prosecution was wanting to have the entire video showing their walking off the stage together at 7:57. Instead, they're just having this screenshot.

But this was really the crux of both of their cases, and a very important moment here, because this is the biggest punch that we saw Todd Blanche land.

Because we know about that call. Because the fact that Michael Cohen had been texting Keith Schiller beforehand. This shows that Schiller and Trump were together at that time.

The prosecution wanted to enter this in here. The defense really wanted it out.

PHILLIP: We're hearing a little bit from inside the courtroom about Trump seeming pretty agitated as this was being worked out.

And there was a prospect that they could have to -- everyone would have to come back to court with the C-SPAN witness to stipulate to this basic question of fact, whether or not the video is what they say that it is.

The defense ended up caving here. We wouldn't be talking about this having just been resolved if they didn't just decide to let it go.

REID: Yes. Finally, they agreed to stipulate. It's pretty clear that everybody is getting a little restless. For the first time, our colleagues are reporting inside and a few were able to see this.

But while you were in court, the jury even getting restless earlier during cross. The defendant clearly restless. The judge is aggravated, right? People want to move this along.

So the defense we made the right move in just stipulating, let it in, and move forward.

PHILLIP: I mean, there were some choices made by both the defense and the prosecution to do an extremely lengthy cross and direct of Michael Cohen.

I mean, there were -- the jury this morning -- I'm not surprised to hear that they were, to a degree, getting restless. Because that process was going slowly.


REID: I'm going to update you from the court. I'm getting ahead of the side stream. Don't -- don't kill me, Control Room.

But right now, Todd Blanche is saying that, yes, they're going to put on Bradley Smith, he's the election expert. He'll be on briefly. Potentially, Bob Costello.

Kristen and I broke the story last week --


REID: -- that this is a possibility. It appeared that they probably wouldn't call him because they got most of what they needed from Michael Cohen.

But here, Todd Blanche telling the judge that they could potentially call Mr. Costello. Then they put a paralegal on just to get in some evidence.

But that would be significant that he's saying that, honestly, we're going to think about Mr. Costello, depending on how this morning goes.


So I was previously told that the decision about Costello would rest on how Michael Cohens testimony went. That's not over because they're clearly right now on redirect. Then they'll have re-cross.

But from what Todd Blanche is telling the judge, the possibility of Cohen-Costello is still --


REID: -- a true possibility. PHILLIP: It sounds like they're -- I mean, they're still deliberating

over this.

Real quick, before you jump in, Paula, how unusual is it for, at this stage, they're almost to the end of the prosecution's final witness, and the defense is still not sure how they're going to proceed with their -- with their -- their defense case.

REID: This is something that you can always do. I mean, you don't have to definitively say who you are not going to call. You bring people in. You call them, or you don't.

What's so surprising to me is, my reporting was pretty rough rock solid early last week that Bob Costello was not going to be called. But based on his performance before Congress midway through last week, the defendant was so impressed he insisted that he needed to be called.

HOLMES: And I do want to mention one thing about that testimony before Congress. It was about Michael Cohen, in which he talked about how Michael Cohen was a liar.

So you can see why the former president might want that --


PHILLIP: -- designed to get Trump's attention in a way.


PHILLIP: Paula and Kristen, stay with me.

We're going to sneak in a quick break. We have much more of our special coverage of the Trump hush money trial after a quick break.