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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Jury Deliberating. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 29, 2024 - 12:30   ET



RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: -- it's not about the affair with this woman, Karen McDougal; it's about the trail of money. And as you point out, that was hatched with AMI, the scheme prosecutors have been talking about. The initial two transactions were through AMI and then we reached a point, ahead of the Stormy Daniels situation, where AMI and David Pecker didn't want to pay anymore. And they punted it to Michael Cohen.

So that's why you have this sort of byzantine structure to the case the prosecutors laid out. Where first they were explaining, here's the AMI (ph) scheme. That's not what we are (inaudible) for and then they were say that's how we led up to the transactions from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels. And they are telling jurors, this was all part of the same conspiracy.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": Something Todd Blanche, the defense attorney, said in his closing arguments yesterday that seemed really inaccurate to me had to do with the fact that he was basically suggesting -- I don't even know why he brought up catch-and-kill, to be honest -- in his closing arguments, because he didn't need to -- he didn't need to. But he did and one of the things he said about it was, only 350,000 people subscribe to "The National Enquirer" at that time, you can't think that this actually was going to affect a presidential election. And that just struck me as so inaccurate because, A, "The National Enquirer", give the devil his due, "The National Enquirer" broke the story of John Edward's extramarital affair completely. I mean, and the child that he had with Rielle Hunter. So give them the credit for that, even if you don't like checkbook journalism, they did do that.

And two, it wasn't just about what appeared in "The National Enquirer", it was about what then the -- especially conservative media ecosystem and Donald Trump and Trump campaign would do with those stories on social media and elsewhere.

FARROW: I think the best rebuttal to what Todd Blanche was saying there in the closing statements is just the fact that the scheme existed. That there was this meeting in 2015 at Trump Tower with David Pecker and Donald Trump, and that Trump and the people around him felt that it would be a powerful platform to have all of that exposure on supermarket checkout lines.

"The Enquirer" and its significance in the culture has waned significantly, even in the years since then. But at that time, it was still a platform with some meaning. And they went after me very, very hard in the course of this, before they signed their non-prosecution agreement and it was painful. They were people with muscle and they could be very, very vindictive when they went after people.

So the promise to do that to Trump's enemies and the promise to scoop up and get rid of potentially damaging stories, that wasn't nothing. That might have had a material impact on the election. And prosecutors are saying regardless, it's also a matter of principle that the way "The Enquirer" became an apparatus for powerful people to suppress stories is something that the electorate should care about. And that's why you hear Steinglass in his closing arguments, not just talking about the particulars of this case, Jake, but also saying, this was about the hoodwinking of voters. We'll have to see whether jurors and eventually, whether the public agree with that.

TAPPER: Ronan Farrow, always good to see you. Thanks so much. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHORS OF "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS": Thanks, Jake. And I also want to turn to our senior political commentators, David Axelrod and Scott Jennings, who are joining us because obviously there's a political lens to everything that happens to a presumptive Republican nominee, certainly in this case. And David Axelrod, let start with you, because something that's different here that we've seen transpire in the last 24 hours is the Biden campaign wading into this, something that they had stayed away from previously, either not really commenting on it or having only campaign aides make remarks about it and press releases.

They physically showed up outside the courthouse here yesterday with Robert De Niro and Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone, two officers from -- who were there on January 6th and were beaten by rioters on that day. I just wonder, David, what do you make of the strategy of them getting involved now?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, it was quite a lurch, wasn't it? I mean, the president has been very, very assiduous about not engaging. He's told a few jokes from time to time, made some sidelong comments, but from the White House, even from the campaign, it's been pretty muted. And then they turn up on the last day of the trial and kind of wade into this kind weird reality show that has become life outside "100 Centre Street" there in New York, the criminal court building.

I'm not sure it redounded to their benefit. Why they did it? Maybe they wanted to put their stamp on what they expected to happen in this trial. They thought that -- they said the media was there, but the expected -- what they should have expected did happen, which was a bunch of Trump hecklers engaged Robert De Niro in a shouting match and De Niro offered his legal opinion, which is that Trump was guilty. And I don't know that he's even played a lawyer on film.


So, I'm not sure that it redounded to their benefit. And I'm not sure whether this is a permanent turn and this is going to be become a big part of their messaging or whether they were just reacting to the moment.

COLLINS: Scott, what do you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me just put a finer point on it. The Robert De Niro stunt blew up in Joe Biden's face. It was a complete disaster. It was a complete fiasco, but I think it is born out of something that is true about the Biden campaign. They are stuck in the mud, or stuck in quicksand, or whatever you -- however you want it and they are scrambling for something to get them out of it. In the month of June, or here at the end of May into June, really may be their last best chance.

They've got a verdict coming in this case and they've got to debate at the end of the month. If these two things happen, let's just say Donald Trump is convicted and the debate goes however it goes. If on July 1st, Joe Biden is still a 38 percent or 39 percent and he is still losing in the swing states and he is still losing are roughly tied with Trump nationally, if you think there is a panic going on in the Democratic Party today, give it a month, and then the real panic will set in. But I think the stunt and engaging in the trial is just part of this attempt to try to shake the ball and try to shake this campaign, lose it (ph), its stable and its stagnant for the Democrats right now.

COLLINS: Well, David, it is remarkable because, typically it would be a gift to any candidate if their political opponent was on trial, especially for paying hush money to an adult film star in the days leading up to the 2016 election. But for the Biden campaign, it has been something that they are very cautiously thinking through how they approach it because, as a Donald Trump, how the electorate receives it and how it works for those independent moderate voters is a major question that we don't know the answer to yet.

AXELROD: Yeah, I think that they were sensitive to the -- Trump has made, throughout this trial, he has accused Biden of being the hidden hand behind all of these prosecutions, including the one in New York which was done by a local prosecutor. I always find it amusing that on -- in the same breath, he can accuse Biden of being senile and incompetent and then the mastermind of a national conspiracy against him. But I think that there is a sensitivity among -- there was a sensitivity in the White House about not lending credence to the idea that this was part of something political. And so, they've stayed away from it.

I agree with Scott that there is a lot of uneasiness among Democrats right now and they may see this as an opportunity to shake things up. The verdict will depend on this. One of the things that interested me about the strategy though, and they are really leaning into Robert De Niro. He did an ad, he narrated and ad that they just released. He sent -- they sent out a letter -- an email from him today. He is -- their problem is with younger voters and I'm not sure that trotting out -- I have a -- I love Robert De Niro, but I'm not sure trotting out another octogenarian is necessarily going to solve their problem. I didn't really get it at all.

COLLINS: Well Scott, on the other hand, we'll see all the Biden campaign continues to handle this. I mean, the Trump campaign though is facing the very real possibility that he is a convicted felon. We don't know what the jury will decide. They've been deliberating for just over an hour now, still no notes I should note from this jury to the judge that we are watching closely. But I mean, if he is a convicted felon, obviously, they don't expect it to be a problem with Trump's base but they're not just going after his base in this election.

They are going after independent moderate voters and some of them have said in polls that yes, it would change the nature of how they consider this race if it is a convicted felon on the ballot.

JENNINGS: Yeah, the group of voters that I am most interested in, if he is convicted, their reaction is older voters. Trump struggled a little bit compared to other Republicans in 2020 with senior citizens. They -- some of them I did with Biden because they got the idea Trump didn't care about their health as much as he should have and this time around, if he is convicted here, this is the kind of a case, while though I think most of his base won't care, most Republicans will yawn. Senior citizens still remember the before times when these kinds of details about presidential candidates weren't known and people weren't convicted felons. So, that is the group I'm looking at, senior citizens, how do they react and do they continue to migrate back towards Biden?

COLLINS: Scott Jennings, David Axelrod, great to have you both as we do look at the political impact of this. Still ahead here though on CNN's special live coverage is more on the historic nature of this trial and the verdict that we are now counting up to, see how long the jury is going to deliberate. We'll continue breaking it all down. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we are back with our live special coverage. Donald Trump's legal fate is now in the hands of 12 Manhattanites in a jury, the final outcome of his hush money cover-up trial. A huge question mark right now as we wait to find out what the jury decides and when, my panel is back with me. And Nia-Malika, right now, it is all up to these 12 people.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, BLOOMBERG POLITICAL & POLICY COLUMNIST: Yeah. And listen, it isn't hard to imagine that of those 12 people, there is one that really, really, really likes Trump and will be there to take on the other jurors in there.


We talk about how the system is kind of designed to reach consensus. If you think about the identity of Trump, the identity of people like Trump and who like Trump, their identity is all about beating the system and standing up against the system, and sort of throwing a gear in the sands of the system. So listen, I'm sure Donald Trump is very conflicted. I'm sure he is a little nervous here. But I imagine there is part of him that believes there is one of these 12 people who is essentially a MAGA supporter who identifies with him and who has spent the last many years defending him against all these charges, in many ways, can parrot his defense of this and parrot his talking points. So, I think it is not hard to imagine that this could go to a hung jury, and that is certainly what Donald Trump is --

TAPPER: Not at all. And I want to dive back into that jury. But you said something interesting that maybe wonder how our defense attorney on the panel, Tim Parlatore, who has had Donald Trump as a client. What is it like right now for a defendant with this in the hands of these 12 rondos in a courtroom?


TIM PARLATORE, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: This is -- right now, this is the single-most mentally torturous part of a criminal trial, because you've done everything you can, you can't do anything anymore. And you are just sitting there waiting and in a way, it is kind of a little bit more torturous sitting here in the studio because they have this clock here.


I'm glad they don't have that.

TAPPER: One hour, 18 minutes.

PARLATORE: Yeah, exactly I'm glad we don't have that, you know, where were sitting in the courthouse, but the defendant is kind of sitting there staring at you the whole time saying, what should we have done different? Did we mess this up? Should we have added this? Was this too much? Should we have called Costello? Should we have done this?

And so much so that you just have to sit there and say like, it is too late, we can't do anything now.


PARLATORE: And then when each note comes out, what does this mean? The defendant will look at his watch. Oh, it just went over an hour and 18 minutes. What does that mean?

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: And what I used to try to do and still do is try and find some way to distract them. The idea that he has to stay in the courthouse, which I presume is a combination of security and other concerns. When I was trying a case in this court as (ph) we go across the street to four-laney's (ph) Restaurant, which unfortunately is now closed, and try to get our minds off it because it will drive the defendant nuts.

TAPPER: I don't -- is it a good idea to go into a building that has liquor?

(LAUGH) PARLATORE: Well, you know, you try and stay away from it. No, we are just doing club soda for now. But, you have to try and keep their mind off of it as much as possible because this is just torture.

HENDERSON: I imagine he is watching CNN right now, or the cable, because he loves to watch CNN and FOX NEWS and MSNBC. And I imagine if you're Trump, that might be what he is doing.

PARLATORE: That's unique to this trial, obviously, because normally there is not that live coverage.

TAPPER: Right.

PARLATORE: Maybe the defendant will be Googling all the articles about him and stuff like that, but that's definitely a unique aspect here. And he will probably call me later tonight to say I disagree with what you said today.


But --

TAPPER: You talked about the second guessing that inevitably goes on with any defendant, not just Donald Trump. And I wonder, there was this Truth Social posts that he made about the advice of counsel defense and how it wasn't used, and we were talking about that earlier and that was a decision by the defense attorneys.


TAPPER: And it had to do with whether or not you could say, I was just following the advice of Michael Cohen who was my lawyer at the time. Therefore, that was my defense. A lawyer was telling me that this was legal, but they decided the defense and maybe because it was true, I'm not making a judgment one way or the other -- that they didn't do that because Donald Trump wasn't at that meeting and did not get that information. But, now I wonder, now that you've said this and the second guessing is going on, now I wonder if maybe his Truth Social complaint that he wasn't allowed to introduce this defense, that his defense attorney decided they wouldn't do --


TAPPER: -- maybe that was part of the second guessing.

PARLATORE: And I wouldn't put it past him to start second guessing the things that Todd Blanche did at this point because there are many ways to attack a conviction. And one of those ways is a collateral attack called ineffective assistance of counsel. And so, I --

TAPPER: Very rarely agreed upon and used by an (ph) appellate court.

PARLATORE: Correct. It is very rare. It has happened, yeah --


TAPPER: Yeah, but you can be. I know a little bit about this and you can actually be drunk, a criminal, asleep.


TAPPER: You know, mentally deficient and the appellate court will say, no, that's fine. That's fine. He got adequate counsel.

PARLATORE: As long as he wasn't sleeping during the part --


TAPPER: No, no -- he --

PARLATORE: It would have changed the outcome.


TAPPER: OK. Yeah. But you can sleep during the trial --


TAPPER: Just not -- maybe not yet.

PARLATORE: (Inaudible), you have to show the counsel was so ineffective that it likely changed the outcome.



PARLATORE: And so, yeah, that's one thing that I could potentially see him kind of thinking about, maybe we should have done this, maybe we should have done that. That's why I say, this is the worst part.

TAPPER: Yeah. Todd Blanche, whatever people think about him, he did not provide ineffective counsel. People might just second guess some of the decisions. Can we put it up for a second the jury for one second, just because I want to point to juror number two, because juror number two, he is an investment banker and he follows Trump on Truth Social. He also follows Michael Cohen on X, formerly known as Twitter. But he follows Trump on Truth Social and that has been raised -- I think Ronan Farrow brought it up, but that's -- you were talking about that, Jamie, because --


TAPPER: How many do you know who have Truth Social, who are not Trump's supporters, other than journalists?

GANGEL: I don't know any.

TAPPER: Or potentially prosecutors?

GANGEL: I don't know anybody. Just looking at the ,list he also said this is all public, that he has followed Trump since he became president, "generally, because it was a news item when he would put a tweet out, so good to be aware of that." So he also said -- that juror said he had read Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal."

TAPPER: Yeah. I'm just saying like, by the way, there is 11 people that don't have Truth Social. So put that into the recipe as well. It is hard to overstate the historic magnitude of the moment we are in right now. So let's bring in some historians. Sean Wilentz is a Professor of American History at Princeton University. Sean, thanks for joining us.

So, no matter which way the verdict goes, walk us through the significance of this historic moment and how our country will process whatever verdict comes down?

SEAN WILENTZ, PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, great to be here, Jake. The only historical parallel to this, and it is pretty close actually, is the greatest political scandal in American history, which is Watergate, and the keyword is conceal, I mean what is -- what happened in Watergate was an attempt to conceal an elaborate effort to contain a scandal, with the idea of trying to protect Nixon's re-election campaign. That's pretty similar. At one point, even Nixon referred to it as God damn hush money. It was about hush money too. That was more involved (ph) and that is involved here. So, it is very much like that historically but it is the only case like it.

Now, that's what a historian can say. How the public is going to deal with it, I don't know. But maybe -- someone was talking my older voters before. Anybody old enough to remember Watergate ought to be seeing its echoes in this current trial.

TAPPER: Just to play devil's advocate here, I mean, Watergate was about the cover up of a burglary at the Democratic National Committee, and this is about the cover up of a rendezvous between a then TV star and the host of "The Apprentice" and an adult film actress and something that may or may not have happened in a Nevada hotel. It is a little less malicious, I would say.

WILENTZ: Yes, but -- no, no, no, because, look, it is not about the scandal, it is about the cover up.

TAPPER: Right.

WILENTZ: The scandal doesn't matter to the fans, the character of the scandal doesn't matter. The point is, they thought of it as a threat to Nixon's campaign. They thought it was a threat to Trump's campaign. And they found a way to pay hush money, basically a bribe, in order to get rid of it. They were talking about that. That's the similarity. It is not -- as they always say, it is not the crime, it is the cover up.

TAPPER: Right.

WILENTZ: That's what brings them together.

TAPPER: I think that's from Watergate, right? It is not the crime, it is the cover up, and we say at every --

WILENTZ: Exactly. We should have learned that lesson, Jake. TAPPER: I know. It should be (ph) tattooed on politician's arms. What is your take on historical political context of this case compared to the other cases, the two from the special counsel, the one in Georgia, which likely are not going to go to trial before November, if ever?

WILENTZ: Well, that's actually the important point. I mean, this case is very different obviously. It is a very important case I think. I think it's been minimized as sort of the runt of the litter, if you will, because it involves a porn star, et cetera, et cetera. But it is very important on its own right.

On the others, as for the others, holding aside the Georgia case which I think is complicated, the keyword here is immunity, I think. Because what we've seen at the level of the supreme court, let alone what is going on in Florida, attempts to basically give Trump immunity for what he might -- may or may not have done. With the delays, for example, with the supreme court level, the delays in getting the immunity case done, it has basically killed Jack Smith's case I think. It is going to -- or at least it looks that way.

As far Aileen Cannon, I mean, I don't have to tell your viewers exactly what she has been up to.


So, this -- now, this to me isn't even greater scam because this is more systematic. This is a kind of corruption, if you will, of the judicial system at the very highest levels, that I think might be the greatest result of this entire affair if it goes that way.

TAPPER: Sean Wilentz, thank you so much. Good to see you. Really appreciate it.

WILENTZ: Absolutely.

TAPPER: CNN's coverage of jury deliberations and the Trump trial continues after we squeeze in this quick break, stay with us.