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Trump Hush Money Trial; Judge Delivering Instruction to Jury. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 29, 2024 - 10:30   ET




JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: And that is the overarching principle that typically juries use. You know, you can't sort of in -- you know, maybe in elegant terms, you can't BS a jury. They sort of get it. And they're going to go in there and try to figure out what they agree about, and then what areas need to be discussed and fleshed out that they don't agree on.

There's no handbook for how deliberations are conducted. And they're going to go through all these permutations. But a lot of what both the prosecution and the defense argued will not be relevant to their determinations. They'll strip a lot of that away, I suspect, in their deliberations.

I do find it unfortunate in the jurisdiction of New York, that the instructions don't go out with the jury. In federal court, where I toiled, you know, for almost 20 years, we always sent the instructions out in written form.

What it begs, and you may see these questions arise during extended deliberations by not having the instructions, is that you may get repeated questions, read back the definition of, for example, a reasonable doubt and explain that to us again. You know, you blunt that, and I think you furthered deliberations if they have the charge.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Well, and the judge just told the jurors, you know, I'm the judge here, but you're the judges of the facts here, of what you just heard. He said, they alone determined the truthfulness and accuracy of the witness testimony.

I do agree with you, it seems crazy that they have to hear these lengthy instructions that will take an hour for the judge to walk them through the instructions and the law, and they can't have a copy of it inside the jury room. What's the reasoning for that?

JONES III: I think the traditional reasoning was that it could cause jurors to focus unduly on certain portions of the charge and that they would do that in a way that would take from their deliberations on the facts of the case. I frankly think that's patent nonsense. I think juries love to have the charge in front of them so that they can reference specific sections. After all these are the guideposts that they use. They have to find the facts and apply the law to the facts. That's exactly what the judge is telling them right now.

And I defy anybody -- now, there's two lawyers on the jury, but I defy them to -- you know, to commit all these instructions to memory. That's just absurd.

COLLINS: Yes. Judge Jones, thank you for that because another important update is Judge Merchan just told the jurors that if they find any witness has intentionally testified falsely to any fact that they can disregard that witness's entire testimony or just the portions that they found to be false.

He's continuing to give them -- you know, this is an important moment here because this whole thing could hinge on witness credibility, Paula, but he's saying you can disregard the entire testimony or just the portions that you believe are false.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I can already see, you know, this kind of thing sparking a debate in the deliberation room. Because, of course, all eyes on Michael Cohen. The fact that he did say some things or admitted some things that make it hard to trust his full testimony. So, you could see there were some jurors would be like, OK, I think we can disregard parts of it, maybe parts where he was not honest, but others might be like, no, we should get rid of it entirely. And if you get rid of Michael Cohen's testimony entirely, it is very difficult to see how this was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Yesterday, prosecutors tried to argue this and look, our case does not hinge on him. They described him as the tour guide, who was merely walking the jury through hard evidence. But that just is not true. They wouldn't have called Michael Cohen unless they had to. The case in many ways hinges on the jury trusting him, so that instruction, that's going to be key. How each individual juror interprets that.

COLLINS: Well, and the two parties had these instructions when they went into their closing argument. So, as the prosecution was saying, it's not all about Michael Cohen's credibility and testimony here. I mean, they obviously knew the jurors were going to hear from the judge that they can consider whether a witness hopes or expects to receive a benefit related to the trial or has an interest in the case's outcome. That obviously also applies to the --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the prosecution said, of course, Michael Cohen does. They admitted that fact. And again, they had seen these instructions going in, which I think is such a great point to make. And I think largely tailored their arguments around these jury instructions.

One point as far as reasonable doubt in Michael Cohen and in the idea of him being dishonest goes, the defense, in their closing arguments, used the word lie, liar, or lying 78 times. A ton of times. And in terms of Michael Cohen, they mentioned Michael Cohen more than 250 times, more than they mentioned the defendant, Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Which Michael Cohen's attorney told us yesterday, Michael Cohen counted how many times they use the word lie or lying in relation to his name.

REID: And we've always said that the defense was the cross- examination of Michael Cohen, undermining his credibility. That was what the defense team had to do. Now, the judge is telling the jurors they are not required to reject the testimony of an interested witness. So, even if you see someone --

COLLINS: So, just because you have an interest in the case, it doesn't mean that they should reject that. Is what he's saying, right?


REID: Exactly. He's saying jurors are also not required to accept the testimony of a witness who has no interest in the outcome of the case. So, when you talk about someone who has an interest, perhaps Stormy Daniels said, right, she doesn't like the defendant. She wouldn't be happy to see him convicted. Michael Cohen, the same. But jurors don't necessarily need to dismiss their testimony just because they have that interest, but there are other ways. If they see something that they said was false, they can potentially disregard everything they said, which could be a game changer. I have a feeling that these instructions are really going to kick off some interesting conversations among the jury.

BERMAN: Well, I will say, and I wish I did go to law school, but what I don't understand here is why in the legal system, the judge says you can, but you don't have to. If I'm a juror, I'm like, OK, I can do whatever I want then. I either can disregard all of it or I don't have to disregard all of it or I can disregard none of it. I mean, basically he's opening a door for them to make the decisions here.

REID: Which can be hard to find consensus on something like this. Most of the trials I've covered over the past 15 years, you have some idea of the outcome. I don't think anyone knows here.

COLLINS: When he says jurors are also not required to accept the testimony of a witness who has no interest in the outcome of a case. Basically saying, you know, they've heard from people like Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen. They've also heard from C-SPAN executives and people who were White House aides who were still loyal to Donald Trump as all of this was going on.

REID: Yes, he's just talking about, you know, how do you weigh different witnesses, their motivations. He's going through all of this. I think this is going to be fascinating to the jury. But to drive consensus across 12 people when you're dealing with this kind of case, unprecedented, so complex, and the witnesses, I mean, again, Michael Cohen, as the prosecutor said, they would not have selected him at the witness door. But he is what they got and they did the best they could. This is a historic task.

And again, the judge walking the jury through step by step exactly how they're going to approach this. I have absolutely no idea how this is going to end.

COLLINS: Yes, and of course we've heard from a lot of these attorney's witnesses, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, they're watching all of this very closely this week to see what it is this jury decides once they are inside the jury room. Jake, they're still very much in the middle of these instructions from the judge.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And we're joined right now by former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore. And, Tim, I want to come to you in a second. But before I do, Nia-Malika and Jamie, you can always -- you can already hear the partisans out there preparing their talking points for whatever the jury does. The jury is evil and stupid and biased. Either way, by the way. Either way.

And it does remind us of the incredible responsibility these jurors have. Judge Merchan right now, under our law, Michael Cohen is an accomplice. That's a point that they're making there. But it is -- whatever the juries decide -- the jurors decide we just -- we need to respect it one way or the other.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND BLOOMBERG POLITICAL AND POLICY COLUMNIST: And you hope that those jurors can put the noise out of their minds, right? They've been there for seven weeks they're going to be here for any more minutes listening to this judge. You know, there is a lot of hoopla, obviously, outside of the courtroom. We're covering this wall to wall. But I imagine that inside that courtroom, it probably feels like another day at the court. (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: And we should note, Judge Merchan in calling and describing Michael Cohen as an accomplice, Judge Merchan is saying, jurors cannot convict Trump on Cohen's testimony alone because he is an accomplice, but they can use his testimony if they corroborate it with other evidence, important jury instruction, Jamie Gangel.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you know, this goes to me, at the end of the day, juries come to decisions all the time. Is there any question that this jury is taking this very seriously? I -- how could they not? But what you see in these instructions, common sense, reasonable doubt, he leaves some things open to them. These are the kinds of discussions the jurors have every day.

I also just want to say, because of Cohen's testimony alone, there were 19 other witnesses, we should remember, whose name were not Michael Cohen, many of whom were not hostile to Donald Trump, and also a lot of circumstantial evidence. My question just always comes back to, there are two lawyers on this jury, and will they play an outsized role?

TAPPER: Right now, Trump is leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped as Judge Merchan reads this section more specifically about the case. Tim Parlatore, I want to have you assess a claim that Mr. Trump wrote on his platform, Truth Social, where he said, the greatest case I've ever seen for reliance on counsel, and Judge Merchan will not, for whatever reason, let me use that as a defense in this rigged trial, another term, advice of counsel defense.

[10:40:00] Can you translate that from legalese? I have no idea what he's saying. I'm not saying he's right or wrong. What does that mean, reliance on counsel, advice of counsel defense?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: So, this is a complicated point for the defense. Because, you know, it all goes back to that meeting between Michael Cohen, Weisselberg, and allegedly Trump. If Trump is at the meeting and Michael Cohen says to him, hey, this is how we need to do the payments, sir. This is legal. This is ethical. Then he can rely upon the advice of his lawyer saying, OK, I'm not doing a false business record because my lawyer told me this was legal.

But if the defense is he wasn't at the meeting and Michael Cohen did it on his own, then there's no advice of counsel to rely upon. And so, I don't know that Judge Merchan so much prevented him from doing it, you know, in general, so --

TAPPER: Well, just to just to interject for one second. My understanding, according to our fact checker, Daniel Dale, is that when -- Trump was asked before trial whether he would be using an advice of counsel defense and his lawyers told Judge Merchan that he would not. So, I guess he waived it, I guess.

PARLATORE: It sounds to me like the lawyers made a tactical decision that they would rather present a case that he wasn't at the meeting, and therefore didn't rely upon Michael Cohen as his lawyer saying, this is OK. And so, you know, that's a decision that they made, you know.

TAPPER: And you have to choose, is that right?

PARLATORE: You do have to choose. And I think that if they had presented, you know, more corroboration, you know, something, you know, showing in the notes that Trump was actually in the meeting and actively participate in the discussion, something more than just Michael Cohen's word alone, then I think maybe a different tactical decision would be made on that.

But that's not something that Judge Merchan is preventing them from doing. That's something that the lawyers, you know, Donald Trump's lawyers, Todd Blanche decided to do in this case. And then, you know, during the trial, there would be no reason for Judge Merchan to give them an instruction on advice to counsel because it wasn't something raised factually.

TAPPER: And in Todd Blanche's defense, at some point they needed to decide. Are we claiming that you did this because Michael Cohen told you it was OK or are you saying that Michael Cohen never -- you were not at that meeting, we just have to pick one? They probably picked one. It makes sense to me why -- it makes sense why they picked that one. But that means you can't do advice of counsel's defense.

PARLATORE: You have to pick one. You can't say, I wasn't at the meeting. But, if you think I was at the meeting, then would you believe that Michael Cohen said it. You have to pick one. If you start doing alternative theories like that, then the jury recognizes that you're wrong.

TAPPER: Well, then it's a choose your own adventuring.


TAPPER: You can't -- yes.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And one thing that Josh Steinglass said yesterday in the closing arguments, he said he was speechless at the idea when they raised the notion that these were legal services being paid. They have gone to some great lengths in the prosecution.

So, one, establish Michael Cohen was not acting as an attorney, that he was not a member or answering to the general counsel, and that these were not legal services that were rendered. And so, you've got this dynamic at play again. If you were, as the defense, trying to suggest this was that relationship and the evidence coming in quite differently.

TAPPER: If you're just joining us right now, Judge Merchan is, I don't know, about half or so away through his instructions to the jury about their -- the decision that they have to make. Jurors are looking down some of them, taking notes, and Judge Merchan is giving them instructions on what they have to do.

He said, I will now instruct you on the law applicable to the charged offense. That offense is falsifying business records in the first degree. That's 34 counts. He says to the jury, you must find beyond a reasonable doubt. He said, first, that he solicited, requested, commanded, importuned, or intentionally aided that person to engage in that conduct.

And, second, that he did so with the state of mind required with the commission of the offense. And, Elie Honig, the state of mind is, I know that this is wrong?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Let me try to translate all that into plain English. If you find that he did it and he knew what he was doing. That's the question for you. And what's the -- and I just went through this. But again, it's a really unusual sort of three-step charge. It's one falsifying business records. Two --

TAPPER: Or ordering them to be a falsified?

HONIG: Yes, he doesn't have to -- that's an important point that the D.A. made yesterday. He doesn't have to go into the computers and log in and falsify. Falsifying business records to violate New York State election law --

TAPPER: Judge Merchan said, the extent or degree of defendant's participation in the crime does not matter as long as he solicited, requested, commanded, importuned, or intentionally aided that person.

HONIG: You can't be a little pregnant, I guess, is what -- TAPPER: Yes, it's just like, if Donald Trump -- I guess what they're saying here, and you tell me if I'm wrong, is if Donald Trump had any knowledge that this was being done on his behalf at all, even if he was just a bit player in it, then the court he is guilty of the crime. In order to find the defendant guilty, Merchan says, the jury must be unanimous. We knew that.

HONIG: The analogy we used to make as prosecutors is it's like a movie cast. Everyone who's in it, is in the cast. Even if you're an extra, you're in the cast. If you're the star, you're in the cast. It doesn't matter how big the role.


TAPPER: Merchan says jurors do not need to be unanimous on whether the defendant committed the crime personally or actually committed or acted in concert with another or both. So, in your metaphor, all they have to agree is that Donald Trump was in the cast --

HONIG: Exactly.

TAPPER: -- of this production, they don't have to agree on whether he was an extra bit player or a leading man.

HONIG: Exactly.

COATES: This is so important. Because remember, these are falsified business record charges, which means that even if he himself did not falsify the business record, as long as, as they mentioned in the closing argument, if he made or caused the false entry. They're making this very expansive as part of the cast analogy. He doesn't have to be the person to have actually recorded it. That's very important because they don't have the direct evidence that Donald Trump actually recorded that information. You have invoices, you've got ledgers, you've got checks.

And so, as long as he was a part of it to make or cause it, they could find, if they choose to, beyond a reasonable doubt.

TAPPER: Yes. And, Tim, do you find these instructions too expansive, do you think, or are they just in accordance with law?

PARLATORE: No, I think these are definitely in accordance with the law. Most of these instructions are pre-written. You know, you can go on the internet, onto the Unified Court System website and print them out. You know, they might make modifications for the specific case.

But, you know, this part here, yes, this is absolutely true. Whether you're a small participant, you have to know what's going on and be a willing participant.

TAPPER: So, Judge Merchan is saying, right, a person is guilty of falsifying business records in the first degree, when, with intent to defraud, and we'll get the second part in a second. Go ahead, Tim, I'm sorry.

PARLATORE: So, he has to be part of, you know --

TAPPER: Well, I'm sorry, which concludes the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof he makes or causes a false entry in the records.

PARLATORE: Right. And so, the false entry is not -- it's not the payment. It's not the check. It's the annotation of, you know, legal fees.


PARLATORE: And so, if he agrees, OK, we're going to pay Michael Cohen back, we're going to, you know, plus it up, we're going to do all this stuff, and he -- and they can't actually tie him to the accountant's annotation of legal fees, then that actually does pull them outside of it.

TAPPER: It says -- Judge Merchan saying, although the people must prove an intent, an intent, Merchan is explaining that an intent to defraud means a conscious objective or purpose. So, he -- in other words, you have to prove or you have to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump knew that this was being done and he was in -- the intent was to deceive. Judge Merchan says a question naturally arises.

How do you determine intent? "You must decide whether the required intent can be inferred beyond a reasonable doubt from the proven facts." In other words, they don't have Donald Trump on tape saying, hey, falsify these business records for me to cover up the Stormy Daniels hush money payments, which I only care about because of the 2016 election. They don't have that. So, they have to infer it beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence.

COATES: But really important as well, one of the things that the judge also talked about in terms of trying to make sure that this was really driving the point home, he said, although the people must prove an intent, they need not prove that the other crime was in fact committed, aided, or concealed.

That's very important here because remember in order to elevate from the misdemeanor of just falsifying the business record to then becoming a felony you have to have done so in order to try to conceal another crime. The big question is and why they have this issue whether they could a campaign finance expert otherwise would suggest, do I have to prove that I actually did that other crime?

And he's saying intent doesn't even require premeditation. This is really important, right, to think about what they don't have to prove. Just to falsify a business record, the intent to defraud, to cover up another crime. But that other crime, whether it's tax fraud, campaign finance violation, that does not need to be proved.

TAPPER: Yes. He says intent to defraud is when his or her conscious objective or purpose is to do so, and it doesn't matter as -- like whether they planned, it just -- it's just whether or not at that moment the intent was to defraud. HONIG: That's exactly right. And the real question here is, for the jury, do you find that Donald Trump -- there was some moment in time when Donald Trump agreed with others, we're going to falsify business records and we're going to do it because we want to break campaign finance laws. They do not have to find that campaign finance laws actually were broken as long as the plan, the agreement was, let's falsify these records because we're trying to skirt those laws.

Now, in this case, if you are on board with the prosecution, they did violate the campaign finance laws.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question.


TAPPER: What if there's a juror who thinks, I think Donald Trump found out about this after the fact.

HONIG: Right.

TAPPER: Like Michael Cohen did it, but he found out about it after the fact. So, there can be no intent because the business records were already -- I guess they weren't all already defrauded or falsified, allegedly. But the plan was in motion, and Michael Cohen, let me in on it afterwards.

HONIG: A person can absolutely join a conspiracy that's already in progress. You can join mid-stream.

TAPPER: Even if it's 99 percent done?

HONIG: Yes, even if it's 99 percent done.

TAPPER: There's 1 percent -- if 1 percent you know about what --



PARLATORE: In that case, they would only get convicted of the last checks. You know, they would have to kind of set it in time. So, he's definitely not going to be guilty of the earlier checks before he knew. But if they think that he found out somewhere in the middle, then they can convict him at the later.

TAPPER: So, Judge Merchan explained that the jury must determine whether the defendant conspired to promote or prevent a person to public office by unlawful means. The judge says jurors must be unanimous on that fact, but not on what the unlawful means are. So, this is the second part of the crime allegedly, that this is the part that makes it a felony.

Merchan explains the prosecution has three theories of those unlawful means. So, this is interesting because it's almost giving the prosecution a huge benefit of the doubt here. You don't have to prove that it's any one of these, but you just have to agree that it's one of these three.

One is violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, otherwise known as FECA. That's the one we read and discussed from Andy McCarthy of the National Review. Two, falsification of other business records. And we can talk about those in a second. And then, the third one is violations of tax laws.

So, let's dive into what this means. They're saying these -- if you believe that these business records were falsified, that, you know, they covered up that Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels and he was repaid, he was -- the money was reimbursed, if you agree on that, which is a misdemeanor, 34 counts of a misdemeanor, in service of another crime, then you have to convict.

And this -- the other crime could be any one of these three, these other crimes could be falsification of other business records or the election laws or the tax laws. Explain this to me because I'm -- I don't understand.

COATES: Well, jury instructions tend to build off one another. And one of the reasons they're saying -- so, they've earlier said, listen, you don't have to prove that an underlying crime of that second elevating to felony occurred. You don't have to prove -- you can prove that there's a falsified business record, but the way it goes to a felony is to suggest that there was another crime they were trying to ultimately cover up or hide. Because --

TAPPER: Right, this is the metaphor that was used before about trespassing with intent to commit burglary. You don't actually have to successfully commit the burglary.

COATES: Correct.

TAPPER: The intent to commit the burglary is what makes the trespassing more than a misdemeanor.

COATES: Yes. And so --


TAPPER: See, I was paying attention, Professor.

COATES: There you go.

PARLATORE: That's the last case I tried in front of Merchan, actually.

TAPPER: Is that right?

PARLATORE: Yes, it was a burglary case.

TAPPER: And was it bumped up to a felony because of intent to commit burglary?

PARLATORE: In the charge, but my clients are not guilty.


PARLATORE: You know, one of the nuances here is they don't have to prove that they actually committed campaign finance violations or that they actually committed any of these substantive counts.

TAPPER: Just to interrupt for one second, I'm sorry, Merchan -- Judge Merchan explained to the jury it's unlawful for an individual to willfully make a contribution to any candidate running for office exceeding certain limits. And the judge notes that in the relevant years that limit was $2,700 per election cycle.

But that's not -- does that count for yourself? Merchan says if a payment would have been made even in the absence of a candidacy, then the payment should not be treated as a contribution. So, if Donald Trump would have paid this $130,000, reimbursed it allegedly and he wasn't running for president, then that's not a campaign contribution. The judge is outlining how things such as editorials and other media activity are not considered political contributions.

PARLATORE: Here he's trying to --

TAPPER: So long as such activity is normal, legitimate press function, Merchan says.


TAPPER: And we know in this country that is an expansive definition.

PARLATORE: Exactly. This is deriving from the Supreme Court's case in Citizens United.

TAPPER: The example given for legitimate press function is seeking new subscribers to a publication, that's all you have to do is be seeking new subscribers. So, every lie that you see on Twitter, click the link, link bait, click bait, all of that, that is legitimate press function.

PARLATORE: The nuance here is while they don't have to prove the target offense was committed, they have to prove that what they intended to do was in fact a crime. And I think that's really the hidden landmine here.

TAPPER: But what -- tell me about the $2,700 thing because that's -- if that's Donald Trump contributing to Donald Trump, there's no -- you can't break campaign limits for your own campaign.

PARLATORE: Here's what -- or is it Michael Cohen contributing that.

TAPPER: I see.

PARLATORE: And this is where that Citizens United case really comes in, is that he's not paying it directly to Donald Trump. He's paying it to somebody else on behalf of the campaign.

TAPPER: Got it.

PARLATORE: So, is it a contribution in kind?

TAPPER: I see. So, it's -- so the theory would be breaking campaign laws by being complicit in Michael Cohen breaking the campaign laws and then reimbursing him.

PARLATORE: Right. This is a major minefield here because criminal prosecutors get FEC law wrong all the time. You know, I had a client once, a former congressman who is -- who pleaded guilty, before I represented him, to 200,000 in illegal campaign expenditures. Thereafter, the FEC looked at it and they said, no, there's only 5,000.


You know, and so, what he had pleaded guilty to, the FEC looked at and said, that's not actually a crime.

TAPPER: Yes. And speaking of which, a reminder that the FEC did look at this case in terms of federal campaign law, and they did conclude, Kaitlan Collins, that they were not going to prosecute for it.

COLLINS: Yes. And the judge mentioned that in that investigation and Michael Cohen's guilty pleas, subsequently as a result of that, and said that they should not take that as any result or evidence of Trump's guilt. In this case, of course, referring to him is the defendant here, Jake.

And Paula Reid and John Berman are back here with me. And right now, Paula, is the judges walking through this. He's getting close to wrapping up. He's at least probably three-fourths of the way through. And then, the jury is going to have this case. And he's very clearly walking them slowly through each of this, how they can assess the witnesses and now, how they can assess the laws that they are being asked to judge whether or not Trump violated them and is guilty of this.

REID: Yes. Again, it's remarkable that they don't get a copy of this. So, our colleagues are reporting that some of the jurors are taking notes. But then you go into a room with 12 people dealing with 34 different counts in this historic case, and I think it's going to take a while for them.

Because not only do you need to drive to some sort of consensus, hopefully, unless they're deadlocked, on each of the individual counts, it's also just even getting to the count, getting through the law, and getting through the evidence. How do you assess this, going back to the judge's instruction?

And right now, he's getting into tax law. He's saying that the tax law violations, that it's unlawful for a person to willfully produce a tax statement or other documents that are materially false. And the judge says that such conduct is unlawful, even if it does not result in the underpayment of taxes.

COLLINS: Well, and that seems interesting with what he said earlier, which is that premeditation does not have to exist for there to be intent here.

REID: Yes, that's exactly right. Now, it's interesting that he's getting into taxes here because, historically, this is the kind of crime that the Trump Organization has had issues with because their tax practices were pretty shifty.

Now, I know he's going to actually turn in a second to go through the individual counts, but this is an important point he's making about the underpayment of taxes.

COATES: So, when he's running through each of the counts here, obviously there are 34 in total. It's mainly for the different checks that were signed to Michael Cohen, which we've seen numerous times, John, inside that courtroom, Donald Trump's signature on them, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., on two of them.

And then, also, of course, the ledgers that they had inside the Trump Organization, which was, you heard this point of disagreement between how the defense sums it up in their closing arguments and what the prosecution said, because the prosecutor kind of had this incredulous tone, as he was saying, well, they want you to believe that because these records exist, that no crimes were committed. He was saying if that was the case, you know, there'd never be a false business charge here in the State of New York.

BERMAN: And the prosecution kept on making the case, look, Donald Trump wrote in a tweet that it was a reimbursement for Michael Cohen these payments in count one. Merchan says that people must prove each of the two things. He's going to lay out what they must prove in each of the 34 counts. The 34 documents, as you say, and people remember that the prosecution with Michael Cohen walked through each of these documents to everyone.

The prosecutor asked Cohen, was this real? Was this legit? And Michael Cohen said, no, it was false. You have his testimony there. And then you also have the documents themselves, many of which include Donald Trump's signatures, which are pieces of evidence here.

On the campaign finance violation, what is interesting is how much time the prosecution did spend on that in its closing arguments, and it was allowed to or, you know, it opened the door from the defense where the defense also focused on that said, oh, no, no, no violation here. Well, I think one of the things the prosecution did lay out pretty clearly is Stormy Daniels was paid a lot of money from Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen was reimbursed or given that money back by Donald Trump, which by most definitions does flood or go around campaign finance laws.

REID: And that they were under enormous pressure to suppress stories ahead of the election in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape. I think the argument that this money was paid to help Trump win the White House, that is something that prosecutors arguably have proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The issue is that's not the crime that's charged. The crime that is charged is falsifying business records and that's unclear if they've proved that beyond a reasonable doubt. COLLINS: Well, and is there a chance where they're reading through all 34 of these? And the juries' going to go into that room and have all of this weighing on them, that they could convict him potentially only on the checks here and maybe not the ledgers as we heard from the accountant, the other Trump Organization officials who were physically the ones who did it. Though we know, of course, what's at the center of this is whether or not Trump caused it, not just falsified it himself.

REID: Well, you just hit it exactly, it's the cause. Does the jury buy into the idea that Trump caused Michael Cohen to submit these false invoices and these other documents, things that he did not personally sign? And that's part of why the Trump team believes that the best-case likely scenario for them here is that the jury deadlocks either on all the counts or on the counts that are not related to checks that Trump personally signed.

COLLINS: And the judge is talking about count one that John was just referencing on or about February 14, 2017. The defendant personally or by acting in concert with others made or caused the false entries in the books of a business.