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Trump's Hush Money Trial; Trump's Defense Makes Closing Arguments. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 10:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: McConney testified they didn't know why Weisselberg grossed up the money. Cohen said he didn't care why the figure was $360,000, he just wanted to get his money. While McConney said, nobody would know. The witnesses, this is Blanche now, the witness -- the witnesses who actually testified in this courtroom, one says, I don't know and I didn't care, and the other said that nobody would know, Blanche said.

So, this is -- when Lanny Davis was here, ally of Michael Cohen, who thinks that Donald Trump is guilty, he said that that document that we just showed you, the Weisselberg memo, he called it a smoking gun and here we have the attorney, Todd Blanche, saying just trying to completely undermine this do you think he's doing a good job?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think he's effective in that he is pointing out that there are still some questions left unanswered when it comes to the jurors, and the witnesses he's saying who actually testified in the courtroom, as Jake's point, talks about the idea of who said what. One said they don't know, one said that nobody could know. And now, they're talking about the Oval Office meeting on February 8th.

It's important for this defense. Their only real leg to stand on is to suggest that there were enough holes punched. You cannot trust who was actually in the courtroom. And you have to question why certain people were not in the courtroom. They're talking also about the hyperbole. They have pointed out a number of times here when they talked about Donald Trump and his books through ghost fires and not -- and whatnot about what he was saying and why.

But they're saying, hold on his general knowledge of invoices, even through testimony is not specific knowledge of these 34 documents is important here. And Blanche says, it was a big day by the Oval Office. He told you that he's not -- he's going to the Oval Office for the first time in his life meeting his boss.

But it goes back this idea of what the instructions to the jury were initially, that they can use inferences. Todd Blanche wants to suggest that inferences are one thing, leaps beyond the pale and things that were never in evidence cannot be made. TAPPER: So, Todd Blanche is saying it was a big day. He told you that he's going to the Oval Office for the first time in his life meeting his boss. This is about the Oval Office meeting that Michael Cohen had with Donald Trump on February 8, 2017. Six days later, Cohen e-mails McConney, asking him how much the money payment would be for, Blanche says.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, this sets the table for the whole financial transaction. And what we saw Todd Blanche doing just before this, with the handwritten notes, is anticipating what is going to be a key prosecution exhibit. I don't agree with Lanny Davis that it's a smoking gun, but I agree it's a good piece of evidence for the prosecution.

And what those documents show is that Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, the accountants within the Trump Org., with the consulting of Michael Cohen, sort of came up with how are we going to repay Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels. They arrive at this $420,000 figure.

The defense response to that is, one, Trump didn't know anything about this. That's not Trump's handwriting on there. There's no evidence Trump knew anything about this. And two, this whole way they got to 420 was just an artifice, it was just a way to transfer money to Michael Cohen, who by the way had his hand in the cookie jar and helped himself. So, that's what they're trying to take the edge off now.

TAPPER: So, he's saying that's what he wants you to believe, Blanche said, that -- you know, that the idea that Cohen had a conversation with Trump in the Oval Office about the checks and the money, six days later, Cohen e-mails McConney, asking him how much the money payment would be for, Blanche says.

So, Tim Parlatore, I suppose that what Todd Blanche is trying to do here is say, if he didn't even know how much the money is going to be for, how could this be some sort of grand conspiracy as to the payments that were already laid out in that memo because he didn't even know. Blanche facetiously says, the government wants the jury to believe there is a confirmatory agreement between Cohen and Trump about the scheme in the Oval Office.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, and I think that, you know, to Lenny Davis' point, is it a smoking gun? Well, it does prove that Michael Cohen stole from the Trump Organization. So, I don't know if he said that before or after his client -- former client admitted to that.

TAPPER: Before.

PARLATORE: So, yes, I guess it is a smoking gun, just not the one he expected. You know, the problem here is, you know, Donald Trump is being told by his lawyer, you know, assume that he's at the meeting which, you know, there's no evidence of other than Michael Cohen's work, but even if he's there, if his lawyer is telling him, sir, this is how we need to do this, And, you know, if a lawyer is specifically saying, hey, I've researched it, this is the way that we do it, it's legal, it's ethical, you know, we plus it up for purposes of taxes, and he says, OK, that's not a crime.

TAPPER: Yes, but the other thing that he's trying to argue though, Todd Blanche, is that the government wants the jury to believe that Michael Cohen went to the White House, talked to Donald Trump about this check and about this deal, and then, "Said just six days later, Cohen doesn't even know how much it's supposed to be," that's according to a different exchange.

Blanche goes back to the handwritten documents from Weisselberger -- Weisselberg rather, and McConney. Can we put up the document, it's Y- 15, of both -- there are two documents that have this payment and we'll bring them to you in a second. One is from Weisselberg, and one is from McConney, again, it's Y-15. There it is. Weisselberg on the left, McConney, his right-hand man, on the right.

And he's looking at these documents, and he's questioning, why is McConney -- why would he keep them with payroll documents if there was some evidence of a crime?


He didn't get rid of them. He didn't try to destroy them, Blanche says. Blanche is bringing up the legal standard that prosecutors need to prove that Trump caused records to be falsified with an intent to defraud, "How do you know there's no intent to defraud? You saw an evidence that the Trump organization reported this. There's a 1099 that's a tax form that reflects the payments from the trust and Trump personal account to Michael Cohen." Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this is another example of the defense trying very hard to say everything that the prosecution -- point by point now, everything that the prosecution is saying was a crime, was not a crime, and here are examples of why.

Again, these are very specific examples, very specific arguments that the prosecution made over many, many weeks. Blanche, as he is supposed to do, was trying to boil it down and say, you know, when you're looking back at your notes and you're deliberating, just remember this. And in this case, it's the document, which is one of the most important pieces of evidence and arguments that the prosecution made because of the allegations and the accounts against Donald Trump, it's not what you think it is. And --

TAPPER: And also, just -- I mean, and also, I think it's kind of an interesting argument. If this was criminal, why did they keep these documents?

BASH: Exactly.

TAPPER: These aren't, these aren't idiots.

BASH: Exactly.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, it all comes down to two words. They're trying to raise doubt over and over and over again. My question is, and really, you know, for the lawyers, there is a point where there's a little too much of a good thing. I think the gentleman doth protest too much.

If they're going to be going on, Tim's nodding over and over, you know, there is a psychology, as you've talked about, to a closing argument. Make your points. Raise the doubt. But don't take forever to do it or you start to lose your jury.

I also think there's a certain, maybe, psychology of confidence. If you come in there and you say, you know, raise the doubts, that's it, no case, move on, that that may help.

COATES: Do you think he's already gone on too long?

PARLATORE: You know, I think -- on this subject, I think that you hit the points and you move on. You know, one of the things we were talking about during the break, in law school, you go through all these classes on evidence and procedure and all that stuff. And the most valuable class that I took, which was an elective, very few people took it, was acting.

We had a professor, you know, from the Lee Strasberg Institute come in, Lola Cohen, and she taught us acting for lawyers, how to present to a jury, how to keep their attention. I don't think Todd Blanche took that class. And certainly --

TAPPER: We don't know because there's no cameras in the corner.

PARLATORE: And I don't think Jeffrey Steinglass took it either. But, you know, you have to hit your points and move on. And you're absolutely right. sometimes it is too much of a good thing.

COATES: And by the way, the -- go ahead.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: No, I was just going to say, I have to say that if we're lost in the details, imagine how it feels in the jury room -- or in the actual courtroom, trying to track all this down. I mean, it strikes me, trying to punch holes in that document, that piece of paper, that seems relevant, interesting. OK, if I can raise a doubt about that particular thing, the rest of it, I mean, it does actually underscore how long this trial has gone on. And, you know, why? Maybe he's trying to drag the jury back into this, but it does.

The point about it being too long seems very relevant to me as one of our jury members, I guess. Is that what Jake stubbed us? The non- attorneys.

TAPPER: Well, Tom -- well then as, as a juror, Kasie, let me ask you this, Todd Blanche just showed the jury the tweet from Trump in 2018 when he refers to this as a retainer agreement. "If there was an intent to defraud, why would he do that?" Blanche briefly shows the jury the OGE forms from 2017 that show a note about the payments to Cohen from the Revocable Trust.

And the argument he's making here, the larger argument, and I'm sure the prosecution will have a rebuttal to this, but the argument is, if this was illegal, why did -- why are there so many records of it? Like, because they're not idiots. Now --

HUNT: Well, they know how to not lie to people.

TAPPER: No, I'm not saying that -- what?

HUNT: I mean, part of this is the IRS, right? I mean, presumably the Trump Organization knows how to not get in trouble with the IRS. So, they got to -- that's the whole point of falsifying this, right?

COATES: Well, that cuts both ways though, right? I mean, why would I -- if I was doing something up on the up, why would I go to such great lengths to document it in a way that does not fall in line with what it actually was? I think one of the things we have to always be cautious of, the way we're receiving the information is very different from the jurors who have a much more streamlined story. I mean, it's -- it is -- by default, it has to be choppy, it has to be in and out.

These jurors are hearing one continuous story, and what they have to hear if you're the defense, they have to hear, the prosecution did not prove their case because there was no case. The prosecution could not prove their case because those who were intimately involved did not appear in this courtroom.


If you're the prosecution, they have to say, we did prove our case and here's how we didn't have that one through line there. But every moment of the forums and everything else, you know, the jurors can oftentimes see things in two different ways.

On the one hand, it's, you know, you would like me to see Stormy Daniels as somebody who is out for money, who would do anything to get it, who cannot be trusted and is a loose cannon. That's the defense wants you to make believe. Well, the prosecution's like, actually, yes, indeed, I would like that to be the case. That's who you have to repay. That's who the person is that you have to try to silence. And so, all this cuts both ways for a jury.

Now, Blanche is saying, how could President Trump intend to defraud? We disclosed, as the IRS tweeted and noted on government ethics forms. Again, he's trying to have this lens be, they are not trying to just be deceitful. The prosecution has to go after this immediately and say, they're hiding in plain sight. This is how they want you to believe it, but they're hiding a crime in plain sight.

HONIG: Yes, the prosecution response to this will be, that was the cover story. That's why he's putting it out there. This is a little bit of an inside out closing. I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism, but ordinarily, you would start with the big thematics.

They have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They can't do that without Michael Cohen. You can't trust Michael Cohen. Spend the next half hour going off on Michael Cohen. He's starting instead with the weeds. And the weeds matter, I just wonder if there will be that thematic end.

TAPPER: Well, it's just interesting because, I mean, he's basically saying, how could you -- they accused Donald Trump of trying to hide this when he disclosed it on his Office of Government Ethics form in 2017. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Blanche sits on the jury. You have to find that this effort was done by unlawful means. I want to bring in criminal defense attorney David Oscar Markus, who was approached to be part of the legal team in Trump's classified documents case, but declined.

Appreciate you being with us. Before we begin, I'm just going to have to be reading off, this is from the courts, I apologize in advance, Blanche is highlighting Pecker's testimony that it was standard operating procedure to work with politicians. David, I'm just wondering what do you make of Todd Blanche's closing statements so far?

DAVID OSCAR MARKUS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I agree with what a lot of folks are saying that he's very much in the weeds, and you need to take a step back and be thematic and talk, like Elie said, about Michael Cohen being a liar.

I will disagree with what Tim said about, you know, you need to be acting. I disagree. I think jurors sniff out actors. You need to be authentic in your closing. This is who Todd Blanche is. This is who Trump hired, somebody who's in the weeds with the documents and he's doing himself. I would like to see some more thematic stuff.

I will say this, Anderson, remember jurors come into closing, the science shows having made up their minds, most of them. It's like watching a debate. You know, people watching the Biden-Trump debate know who they're going to vote for. This jury has been sitting there for a long time. They're going to come into it with a certain set of views into a long day of closing.

ANDERSON: I just want to point out Todd Blanche has been saying to the jurors that essentially what David Pecker was doing with Donald Trump was standard operating procedure. He said, this is a campaign. This is an election. This is not a crime. He said it's something he'd been doing at Donald Trump since the '90s.

David, I talked to Renato Stabile, who echoes what a jury -- an attorney and also a well-known jury consultant. He echoed what you said about that jurors often by the time of closing arguments are made, they've made up their mind and maybe will just take from closing arguments things that already back -- that back up the decision that they have already made. Do you think that is the case?

MARKUS: Yes, I have tried cases with Row (ph) in New York. And so, what we try to do in closing, the key part is to arm the jurors with the parts that will help them in the jury room. So, you want to make focus on the jurors that are either undecided, probably very few of those, are on your side and give them things in the closing -- in the jury room that they can use to keep their position. You don't want them to capitulate. You don't want them to compromise. You want them to stand strong.

And remember, you know, Trump only needs one to hang the jury, and that would be a real win for him.

ANDERSON: In terms of the length of closing arguments. I mean, we were told -- Paula Reid's reporting was Todd Blanche, she might go to three hours. The -- that Steinglass and talked about the prosecution, talk about four and a half hours. I mean, is that does -- that seem too long to you? Is there an advantage for the prosecution to go along, maybe trying to get it into an extra day so that there's a little bit more distance between the closing argument that the defense has made?

MARKUS: I think the prosecution's going way too long. Four hours. I mean, "The Godfather" was shorter than that. I mean, forcing jurors to sit there all day, they're going to be dying by the end of the day. And I don't think they'll like it if the prosecution tries to keep them over for a second day. I think they need to finish today. I think four hours is way, way too long.

If I was Todd Blanche, I'd try to keep it under two hours. I think that's typically what you'd like to do. But, you know, he's going to methodically go through it, but four hours for the prosecution way too long, Anderson.


ANDERSON: There's -- Todd Blanche has also tried to focus on and probably will again, who was not -- not just who was called to testify, but who was not called, Allen Weisselberg, Keith Schiller others, Don -- you know, Don Jr., Eric Trump, who are sitting behind their father today, along with Tiffany Trump. Is that wise? I mean, to raise questions about, well, why isn't Allen Weisselberg? I mean, this is a guy who knows where all the bodies were buried in the Trump Organization, all the -- you know, maybe that's the wrong phrase. But knows all the secrets to the Trump Organization, and certainly was in on these meetings?

MARKUS: Absolutely. Really important for the defense to highlight it, because you can say that's reasonable doubt. The fact that the prosecution didn't call them should raise doubt. And if I was Todd Blanche, I'd blow up a huge poster board of Allen Weisselberg, put him in the witness box, put that poster board in it and pretend that I'm cross-examining the poster board.

You want to be a little theatrical in the closing and get the jurors interested. Right now, it looks, from what people are saying inside the courtroom, a little bored. You want to keep them into it. And so, I might do that, blow it up and pretend like I'm cross-examining the missing witness.

ANDERSON: David Oscar Markus, it is great to have you on your expertise on today. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Criminal defense attorney, Todd Blanche saying, for politicians, it's standard operating procedure to do it. It's how you try to win elections. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: This is remarkable right now, what Todd Blanche is arguing. He is basically trying to say that this idea that they were covering up these allegations by Stormy Daniels was standard operating procedure by any political candidate. He said, this is what you do. This is how you win elections. He is basically trying to paint this as normal and common and standard to the jury, Anderson.

One of his quotes that he just used to them that stood out to me because it's certainly something we're going to hear from the prosecution when they get up later on is Todd Blanche said, "This is a campaign. This is an election. This is not a crime." Basically, trying to paint this as commonplace because we know what the prosecution said in its opening statement that they'll likely reiterate when they have their chance to make their closing argument, is that this was done to influence the election.

ANDERSON: Blanche is saying there's no criminal -- zero criminal intent in that 2015 meeting. That's the 2015 meeting with David Pecker. Where David Pecker testified, he was being asked, you know, what can you do for the campaign? Indeed, Mr. Pecker told you it was really good business to work with Trump, Blanche says.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, AMI executives were certainly not as confident because at one point they did have to consult with their attorneys about whether they were running afoul of campaign finance laws by helping to suppress stories that could have an impact on the election.

So, he's saying it's good business to work with someone like this. This is done all the time. But of course, when it comes to the rules and regulations of campaigns, he's citing something that they did back in 1998, a story that they helped suppress for Trump. A lot of things have changed. And when you're running for the White House, it's completely different.

ANDERSON: He's bringing -- he also brought up Arnold Schwarzenegger as another candidate that they had allegedly helped. Indeed, Mr. Pecker told you it was really good for business working with Trump.

COLLINS: Well, the Arnold Schwarzenegger part is interesting, and he's a -- I mean, this is just -- this is a remarkable take on American politics. He says, again, not a conspiracy, no criminal intent, it's AMI doing what they do and what they've been doing for decades. Sure. And David Pecker testified to that. We heard that from him, from Keith Davidson, that there is this slimy world where they pay for stories that are unfavorable to their friends that they don't want published.

The difference here is this happened weeks before a U.S. presidential election and the story was about a major nominee for one of the major political parties who later on became the president of the United States. And as Hope Hicks testified, iterated to her, that he was much -- it was much better for the story to come out after the election than right before the election because he was worried that about the damage it would do to him. That is really a notable closing argument from Todd Blanche to say, this is just how American politics work. I mean, it's not clear that that's going to -- we don't know how to govern with a jury, but it's quite --

ANDERSON: But it's also interesting because it's not an argument about this is to protect Melania Trump, it's an argument about this is about the election and this is a politician doing what politicians do to get to get elected.

REID: And this is why this was charged as a felony, right? The prosecutors are arguing that these documents were falsified as part of a conspiracy to help Trump win the 2016 election. Now, this is not one of Blanche's stronger arguments. It just isn't based on the evidence that we've heard. We've heard again and again that this story and others were suppressed to help him win the White House, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape. There were enormous concerns. We've heard from multiple witnesses.

And now, Blanche is saying the idea sophisticated people, like Trump and Pecker, thought positive National Enquirer stories could influence the 2016 election is preposterous. But we're talking specifically here about suppressing a negative story after the bombshell of the Access Hollywood tape.

COLLINS: But isn't that exactly what they thought? That the National Enquirer stories could influence the election? I mean, that's exactly what David Pecker testified to.

REID: Exactly.

COLLINS: That's why he trashed Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.

ANDERSON: That's why they had David Pecker in the office to begin with.


COLLINS: That is exactly what David Pecker said that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. David Pecker who is not, you know, some sworn enemy of Trump's, he was a friend of his for a very long time, said that they asked him how he could help them.

I mean -- and maybe it's up for debate, if we think whether or not it actually influences the election, but Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and David Pecker certainly thought it did. He talks about the circulation of that. But the circulation is much bigger than just people who subscribe to it. And it's also people who see it when they're checking out public.

ANDERSON: He's pointing out 350,000 because he's saying millions and millions of people actually voted in the election. So, 350,000 is small.

COLLINS: But can I say, I had Senator Ted Cruz on last week and we talked about this, because for the first time, David Pecker confirmed what Ted Cruz had long speculated in 2016, is that it was Donald Trump and David Pecker behind those vicious lies about Ted Cruz and his family. And David Pecker testified that Ted Cruz was gaining popularity. I asked Ted Cruz if he thought those ugly stories published actually hurt his campaign. Ted Cruz said yes.

REID: This is not a strong argument for them. They have to make it because this is why this is charged as a felony, but this is not a strong argument when put up against the evidence that we've heard. And also, people keep talking about common sense. It just -- it strains credulity completely. I mean, this is not a good argument. Blanche should probably move on from this pretty quickly.

ANDERSON: Where did -- where does he go? I mean, he's -- let's talk about where he's already been. I mean, he's focused on the retainer, you know, the office system that generated this as a legal expense, as a retainer, essentially saying that's something that was programmed by somebody else.

REID: He's going to go back to Michael Cohen. This is going to be the reoccurring theme, but he's not done with Michael Cohen. And I would expect that he will end on Michael Cohen. And again, trying to personalize for the jury whether you would trust someone you care about, right? Their freedom. A potential conviction of them.

Try to personalize this because they've heard again and again that Michael Cohen's a liar. They've heard about his past convictions, his admitted lies, the lies that he told on the stand here. Instead, they have to figure out a new way to frame that. So, eventually, Blanche will find his way back to Michael Cohen.

COLLINS: Is it typical for them to use a PowerPoint during a closing argument?

REID: Yes, you can. Multimedia. I actually expected this trial to be more multimedia than it has been. I thought we were going to see more and hear more.

ANDERSON: And Blanche said millions voted in the 2016 election. So, the idea that they really thought the Trump Tower meeting would influence the election makes no sense. It may not make sense to -- or he may want people to believe it, but certainly to Donald Trump, they would not have had that meeting if they didn't think it was important.

COLLINS: The idea that the only people who subscribe to the National Enquirer or buy it at the store, the only people who see those stories is also ridiculous.


COLLINS: I mean, the story getting out there. They bought the story. She signed an NDA agreement. She could not speak about it publicly. It's not just that the National Enquirer wouldn't publish it. Stormy Daniels also could not talk about this story after the agreement that she signed with Michael Cohen, which was separate from the National Enquirer, because David Pecker was also worried he would run afoul of campaign finance laws. And Blanche is telling the jury to remember that the National Enquirer usually repurposed stories from other outlets.

The point is that it's not just the National Enquirer, that was the Karen McDougal story. This is Michael Cohen who had this agreement that they forged with Keith Davidson and Stormy Daniels to limit her from speaking publicly about the story or else she would face penalties.

ANDERSON: Blanche is saying that there wasn't discussion of catch and kill at the August 2015 meeting when this supposed criminal conspiracy happened was formed. The phrase catch and kill was not used apparently at that meeting, but the concept, it seems --

REID: Yes, absolutely.

ANDERSON: -- was introduced. No financial discussion. No discussion about catch and kill. Think about that, Blanche says. Jake, let's go back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson. I have to say, I find -- I'm finding this line of argument from Todd Blanche and, you know, I was rather bullish on his arguments a few minutes ago. I find all of this to be rather nonsensical because it's just prima facie, is that the term? Like, on its face, it's false.

Obviously, these National Enquirer stories were relevant beyond the 350,000 people that subscribe to the National Enquirer. We talked about them on the show because they would appear in the National Enquirer and then other conservative pro-Trump outlets would jump on them, or Donald Trump would go on Fox and Friends and talk about how come nobody's talking about how Ted Cruz's dad was involved in the Kennedy assassination or Donald Trump's digital media operation would put together a little video in which they slimed Ted Cruz and slimed women who worked for Ted Cruz unfairly and disgusted -- disgustingly.

So, I don't understand. Why would he be doing this? Why would Todd be -- I mean, if you're a juror -- well, I don't know the jurors. So, I don't know how much they know that what he's arguing is just not true or not sincere.

COATES: Well, the evidence that has come in during the trial, including from Hope Hicks, who was certainly sympathetically sweet to Donald Trump, who memorably was crying on the stand as well and others talked about the fallout from things like Access Hollywood, the fallout from things in the media. They are a knowledgeable enough to know that even if the stories are not true, they have an impact on campaign impact on.

TAPPER: Right.


COATES: Impact on -- and one of the things that Blanche said was, intimidating, that somebody as sophisticated as David Pecker or Donald Trump would think that they could influence an election through their statements is preposterous. That was the phrase that he used. Now, first of all, there's been a whole -- it was more than one day on the stand, David Pecker was not cast as the sophisticated person among them. The nature of his work, not looked at as sophisticated. These stories that he was catching and killing and also the stories that he was promoting, also in the same vein.

It is not preposterous to suggest that these would have an influence. Why? Because at least they have knowledge of that there was a reimbursement about a story included in one of them. And so, this line, it may very well be that some of the things that the defendant would like to have put forth is also being included in this overall conversation. Also, Blanche is highlighting Pecker's involvement story involving the doorman as well.

TAPPER: Well, that's -- I mean, that's a stronger argument because that's them paying for -- to keep quiet a story that was just false. But, I mean, again, to get back to the quote you just said, Todd Blanche says the idea -- even if there was something wrong with it, the idea that sophisticated people like President Trump and David Pecker believe the positive stories in the National Enquirer could influence the 2016 election is preposterous.

It's not preposterous. It's true. They obviously felt that way. Donald Trump, to this day, extols the National Enquirer. The National Enquirer -- I'm not here to extol them, but they did break the story of John Edwards in 2008 -- 2007, 2008. And obviously, Donald Trump feels -- I mean, the jury might not ever learn this, Blanche notes that Pecker said the story would have been the biggest story AMI ever had, estimated it would have sold 10 million magazines, that doesn't sound --

COATES: But they're also being very limited here, Jake. And this is -- to Kaitlan's point earlier, the whole purpose of David Pecker was to catch and kill the story, not so that it was limited to their own audience. It was so that you could not speak in any capacity. It's frankly a benefit of the bargain to suggest, I pay you this amount of money and it doesn't go anywhere. That's the prosecution's burden to suggest, hold on.

And again, it doesn't actually matter if it was true they had a sexual encounter (INAUDIBLE) at all, it doesn't matter if they did or not. It matters that he believed it would be public and someone would have information about it or the allegation would be public and that was the incentive to actually pay this. So, that's the crux of trying to limit the jury, but the jury knows it's not about the National Enquirer or the grocery store line, it's about where else it could have gone.

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's also inconsistent with what Todd Blanche said in his opening, right? In his opening he said, it's a -- we're -- we live in a democracy, this is what it's about, you influence elections, right? So. Now, he's saying, oh, but now -- to -- for them to say, oh, to think they could influence an election, that makes no sense. It's sort of an inconsistent argument.

TAPPER: Elie Honig, how do you explain this? Because it just seems like, again, we're not there. So, we don't know how much any of this is landing with the jury, but again, it's -- he seemed to be making some very, very strong arguments before about how could you say he would -- they were hiding this when all this stuff is declared here and questions about whether or not this was a retainer versus a reimbursement, et cetera, et cetera.

Todd Blanche saying of David Pecker, no, this is going to be the biggest story ever and I'm going to figure out if it's true, and I'm going to publish it. The story was not true. That's why it was never published, Blanche says. But that's not what the testimony said. I don't even understand why he's going into any of this.

HONIG: To me, this line of argument is a dud. Maybe worse than that. It may be backfiring. Tomorrow, the judge is going to instruct the jury and give the elements of the crime, and there's going to be all this legalese. But it really boils down to two things. Falsifying business records to influence the campaign.

I think maybe Blanche thinks, well, I have to address them both, but he really doesn't. I don't think. The better argument would be, not a crime to pay hush money. Not a crime to pay hush money in order to influence the election. The crime is the falsifying documents. And that's what he opened his closing with that I think is a much stronger case.

This whole argument that it wasn't about the campaign never stood up, doesn't stand up to common sense, it does not even stand up to the evidence here. And as a lawyer, at a certain point, if you make one really good argument and one shaky argument, you undermine your own credibility.

HUNT: Yes. I mean, the idea that we are in this period of time, this -- it is a crucible the weeks before an election. And this was one of the most remarkable, honestly, periods of time, considering the two people in question, Donald Trump is running against Hillary Clinton, and they are basically doing everything that they can to do nothing but win the election, right? It is just impossible to overstate how people operating in that kind of environment cannot see beyond anything else.

BASH: And it seems to me, perhaps, I'm just positing this -- let me just before I do, Blanche pulls up excerpts of Cohen's testimony. So, as we wait to see what those excerpts are it seems to me that much like they kept Stormy Daniels on the stand for longer than, you attorneys, would have if you were defending Donald Trump, this could be one of those examples where the defendant really wants his attorney to get in there on this issue and prove it wrong.

Again, I'm just theorizing here. I don't have any proof it. But it's just -- knowing Donald Trump and the way that he wants people to be out there.