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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Jury Continues Deliberations. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2024 - 11:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They're currently having testimony from former "National Enquirer" chief David Pecker and former witness Michael Cohen read back to them.

And those 12 Manhattanites will ultimately decide whether the former president of the United States is guilty of felony crimes. This would be the first time in the history of the United States of America that that happened. Mr. Trump is in court. He's been told he has to be there. He's awaiting the decision.

Earlier, Judge Juan Merchan read back specific sections of his instructions to the jury, also at their request. The jury also asked for headphones, a specific type of headphone to use with their laptop that contains the physical evidence or evidence of it this morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes, and that jury, who have asked for those headphones, is also right now rehearing the testimony that came from David Pecker.

He is, of course, the tabloid. Before they left yesterday, they asked to rehear four key pieces of that testimony. And that is what is happening inside that courtroom right now.

That includes Michael Cohen and David Pecker's accounts of a 2015 Trump Tower meeting, Pecker's 2016 phone call with Trump about the former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, and also Pecker's testimony about not finalizing the payment where Trump was going to pay Pecker's company back after they had purchased Karen McDougal's life rights about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Paula Reid and Kristen Holmes are here with me.

And, Paula, this is such an interesting part -- I should note, Trump is passing a note to attorney Todd Blanche, who passed him one in return. Trump is hunching over to read it before placing on table. That is typical, for anyone who is wondering what they could be talking about.

Trump is basically -- I would love to read all the sticky notes that he sends to Todd Blanche.


COLLINS: If you watch, multiple times, during someone's testimony, he would send all these sticky notes Todd Blanche's way. It's not clear what this is about. Maybe he's bored. He's been there for several hours already listening to the testimony they have already heard before.

But it is a key moment, where the jury has now sent back these three notes with multiple requests on each of them. It does appear that they are getting close to the end of rereading this testimony.


COLLINS: They're approaching the final section. And then that will be the end of what the jury has asked for.

And they will -- we expect them to go back into the jury room and continue these deliberations.

REID: Yes, for now until, the next buzzer, the next question. It's likely that they will have more.

But a nod to Trump interacting with Todd Blanche, Trump's behavior, his decorum during 95 percent of this trial has been much better than expected. And, of course, the expectations were set based on his, at times, completely inappropriate behavior during the civil litigation, where he had outbursts. He would mutter under his breath. He and his lawyers would get into it with the judge.

But working with Todd Blanche -- again, this is a criminal case, but it's a credit to Todd Blanche and, of course, a little to Trump as well. It's been completely different. I mean, there was one outburst during Stormy Daniels' testimony. The judge admonished him over that.

We haven't had an issue yet. So all those notes going back and forth, part of that is client management. I mean, you have a caged tiger in there. Nobody's happy to be a criminal defendant, nobody. It absolutely stinks.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He was in a bad mood yesterday, having to sit there.

REID: He's in a mood. And it's up to Todd Blanche in a lot of ways to keep him from having any kind of outburst that could jeopardize his freedom, because the possibility of jail is out there if he violates specifically the gag order.

COLLINS: Well, and we quoted -- or recounted them yesterday. I think he had posted 40 or so times on TRUTH Social, as he was -- because, as Jake noted there in the intro, he is required to stay inside the courthouse.

He doesn't have to be in the actual courtroom when the jury is not in there and they're deliberating, but he -- they have a separate room they go into, but he does have to be inside the courthouse in case a note comes down, in case a verdict comes down.

HOLMES: Yes, and they were wondering what was going to happen when that buzzer went off. I mean, I think they are in the same position that all of us are. What is going to happen now? What's -- waiting for any kind of shoe to drop.

I will say, Don Jr. was with him yesterday taping some TikToks, putting them online of him putting out those mean tweets, saying they were drafting them through.

So you can see how they're spending their time when he's back there waiting for this.

COLLINS: He took a video of Trump...

HOLMES: Him and Trump.

COLLINS: ... posting on TRUTH Social?

HOLMES: Yes, while they were sitting in court.

COLLINS: Interesting.

HOLMES: Yes. And Trump said he was proud of Don Jr. for all he does on social media.

COLLINS: And what he's been posting are sometimes misquotes, because I actually talked to some of the people that he's quoted. They're actually not quotes that they said. He take parts that he likes and puts that on TRUTH Social.

But it's all a defense of this case, as he's been complaining about it. We saw as he was entering the court this morning, which is interesting, because, yesterday, when the jury instructions were about to be read for the first time, Trump entered court and had nothing to say until he was leaving to go in that hold room, where he's been complaining about the case.

And one thing I note -- I should note that Trump has been getting wrong when he's talking about it is that he's been arguing the jury doesn't have to agree on the underlying...

REID: Yes.

COLLINS: Or they don't have to come to a unanimous decision on the charges here. They do have to come to a unanimous decision on these 34 charges.

What doesn't have to be unanimous is the underlying crime that was committed.

REID: Exactly. This is a bit of misinformation that's been out there and something his camp has been trying to amplify, the idea that they have to be -- they don't have to be unanimous.

Let's be fair. They have to be unanimous on the 34 counts of falsifying business records, unanimous either as to acquittal or to a conviction. If they can't reach some sort of unanimous decision, then it is a deadlock on that count.

[11:05:08] All of those counts of falsifying business records are charged as a felony because prosecutors argue that all of this was part of a conspiracy to interfere with the election. They have put for three possible laws that could have been broken there that would elevate this to a felony, but he's not charged with that law. They don't have to prove that law.

They don't have to be unanimous on which one of those laws he broke. So, again, they're taking something that is truly complicated and actually unprecedented and just spinning misinformation.

And, of course, this is all going on, as we will see how long these deliberations go for, ultimately, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, Kaitlan, thanks so much.

And my panel's back with me.

So, right now, question three from the panel in terms of the transcripts that they wanted read back to them had to do with David Pecker's testimony about that Trump Tower meeting. And then, number four, which they're doing right now, has to do with Michael Cohen's version of that Trump Tower meeting.

I don't think that they have read that yet, have they? So, we -- I don't think we have read it. I mean, the -- so let me do that, if I can.

This is the part that they're...



TAPPER: Yes, the part that -- about Michael Cohen testifying about this Trump Tower meeting, through which the prosecution says the jury needs to view this entire case from the view of that Trump Tower meeting.

So, here it is. This is the testimony of Michael Cohen from May 13, 2024.

Prosecutor Hoffinger: "Could you tell the jury, please, what was discussed and what was agreed to at that meeting?"

Cohen: "What was discussed was the power of 'The National'" -- oh, I read -- I did read this, didn't I? -- "the power of 'The National Enquirer' in terms of being located at the cash register of so many supermarkets and bodegas, that, if we can place positive stories about Mr. Trump, that would be beneficial. If we could place negative stories about some of the other candidates, that would also be beneficial."

I read this at the beginning of the thing.

So, in any case, Elie, of these four excerpts of the testimony that they are having read, is there one that you think is more important than the other?

I understand Karen's making sure that we don't interpret specifically that the jury is ready to convict because they're going through all these parts of the prosecution's case. Got it, lesson learned. But they are going through parts of the prosecution's case.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, the most important part to me is this August 2015 meeting, because, first of all, the jury asked to hear testimony from two different participants in that meeting, David Pecker and Michael Cohen.

And their accounts, by and large, are consistent, are similar, and mutually reinforce one another. Second of all, this is where Joshua Steinglass, the ADA, asked the jury to begin. When he gave them the story, he did what prosecutors often want to do, especially when it's a complex, interwoven story like this.

He told it in a chronological, narrative fashion. This is where I would have started. This is where Steinglass started. And the jury's interested in this.

And if I can look ahead, if the jury continues in this, and they seem to be asking for readbacks of evidence tracking that timeline, I think the next thing we might expect to see is very detailed requests for testimony when they start getting into the Storm -- the "Access Hollywood" tape and then the Stormy Daniels payoffs.

TAPPER: So they just read this in court, more from the redirect of Pecker. So this is more from the prosecution asking Pecker.

Question: "And you testified on Tuesday that it was your objective to keep the August 2015 meeting confidential?" This is the Trump Tower meeting.

"Yes," Pecker says.

"And I think you said highly, highly confidential, right?"

"Yes, that's correct," said Pecker.

"And you wanted to keep the meeting as quiet as possible. I think you used those words too."

Pecker: "I did."

Meanwhile, in the courtroom, Trump is continuing to pass notes to Todd Blanche, his defense attorney, the latest one he wrote something on handing it back. The three prosecutors are also in there, of course, Steinglass, Colangelo, Hoffinger, each reading the transcripts from the individual binders.


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, and, one, the wanting to keep the meeting secret is obviously important. Prosecutors would point to that as knowledge of guilt or knowledge of

criminality. It's not -- it's more circumstantial evidence, but something prosecutors point to.

Also, right in the full transcript of the trial, which was three weeks long, or four weeks long, right before that excerpt that you just read a moment ago from the Cohen meeting, the question was: "Now, some time after the announcement in June and about August 2015, did you and Mr. Trump meet with David Pecker at Trump Tower to discuss what AMI could do for the campaign?"

Michael Cohen says: "Yes, ma'am."

The prosecutors in this case want to say the word campaign as much as they can. And...


TAPPER: To show that's in the service of the campaign.

WILLIAMS: Shows in the service of the campaign, rather than...

TAPPER: Not his marriage.

WILLIAMS: Yes, not his marriage.


WILLIAMS: Which both can be true. Certainly, this was embarrassing conduct, at least as alleged, were it to have happened. Or even if it didn't, the mere rumor of having had these kinds of sexual dalliances could be embarrassing. But it's that campaign nexus that prosecutors, and certainly in, I guess, two or three of these excerpts did try to get to.

TAPPER: So, another snippet they just read, this comes from Emil Bove's cross-examination of David Pecker. Emil Bove is one of Trump's attorneys.

Question -- this is again David Pecker.


Question: "So, before the August 2015 meeting, the meeting at Trump Tower, you made a decision that it made sense for AMI to run articles about Bill and Hillary Clinton, right?" again, before the meeting.

"Yes," said Pecker.

"And those articles were negative, right?"

"Yes," said Pecker.

"So it was easy for you to say during the August 2015 meeting that you would continue to do that, right?"

"Yes," said Pecker.

"That was no issue for you."

"No," said Pecker.

"We talked yesterday about things that were mutually beneficial. That was entirely beneficial to AMI. That was entirely beneficial to AMI?"

Steinglass, the prosecutor, objects. The court sustains it.

"Running those stories were beneficial to AMI, correct?"

Pecker: "Running the stories were beneficial to AMI, correct."

"And doing what was good for AMI was standard operating procedure?"

Pecker says: "Yes."

And then there's another part of this -- this is the cross-examination by the defense of David Pecker.

"I want to stick with the August 2015 meeting, OK?" Again, this is the Trump Tower meeting between Trump, Michael Cohen, and tabloid king David Pecker. You see a charcoal rendering of him on your screen right there.

"At that meeting, the concept of catch-and-kill was not discussed, correct?"

Pecker: "That's correct."

"And there was no discussion of a financial dimension to any agreement at that meeting, correct?"

Pecker: "Yes, that's correct."

Karen, your thoughts?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so that's what -- on cross-examination, what the defense is trying to show there is that it wasn't necessarily about the campaign.

And that is part of their theory. What they're trying to do is show, look, this is -- yes, this happened, but this is what AMI did. This is their business model. This had nothing to do with Donald Trump. This had nothing to do with the campaign. This is what they do to make money and sell magazines.

And so that is their theory of the case. And that's obviously what happens on cross-examination.

TAPPER: And what do you think, Elie?

HONIG: Yes, it -- you know, that piece of cross-examination doesn't actually bother me much, from the prosecution's point of view, because this meeting is the starting point. And so the cross-examination was, well, you didn't discuss financial

re -- compensation or anything like that. And the answer from Pecker was no, we didn't, but that happens later. So it's a good piece of cross-examination, but it doesn't worry me as the prosecutor.

I think the point you want the jury to take away from that meeting is, they got together, they agreed, we're going to try to have Donald Trump's back for the campaign. It develops later.

TAPPER: All right, we're going to squeeze in a very quick break.

Stay with us. We continue to cover the Trump trial, the jury getting some information that they need to make their incredibly important decision.

Stay with us.



COLLINS: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of Donald Trump's hush money trial.

A notable update for you, as the jury has just left the courtroom and returned to the jury room. That is where they do all of their deliberations behind closed doors. They were inside the courtroom to hear back from court reporters who were reading aloud key portions of the testimony that they had questions about.

We don't know if it was one juror, several, or all of them that wanted to hear all of this. A note was passed to the judge, three notes, actually, asking for portions of the jury instructions to be read back, as well as key parts of David Pecker and Michael Cohen's testimony.

And we are doing a lot of tea leaf reading with what this means and what the jury is saying behind closed doors and where they are in these deliberations. I should note, Judge Merchan has just left the bench.

Here to help us sort through that is trial and jury consultant Carolyn Koch.

And, Carolyn, it's great to have you, because, obviously, we have so many questions about what this could mean, what the jury is asking about.

What does it say to you that they wanted to hear, one, some of these instructions and also key parts of David Pecker and Michael Cohen's testimony about that same meeting at the -- at Trump Tower in August of 2015?

CAROLYN KOCH, TRIAL AND JURY CONSULTANT: Well, I agree with what you're all saying about we're all just reading the tea leaves and the jurors are going in sequential order. If I am going to read the tea leaves, and I'm the defense, I would be

a little concerned, because they're -- out of the gate, they're not looking for reasonable doubt evidence. I would be paranoid about that.

Of course, it's just the second day or the first day that they ask the questions. And so, if those are the only questions that are asked, that would be concerning. I do think this jury is smart enough to know that all eyes are on them.

So, they -- I would think that they will ask questions consistently throughout. And I think reading the tea leaves might get a little easier, depending on the themes of those questions.

COLLINS: When you say that, if you were on the defense, you might be a little paranoid, what do you mean?

KOCH: Well, there's two ways to go about this case.

And if you have -- and, in a way, what makes this case very unique is that the jury could acquit or convict, and both routes are really simple, because, on the prosecution side, the theory is quite simple. They had a plan. They executed the plan. There were bumps in the plan, but, ultimately, Trump reimburses.

The jury -- so, if the jury comes out of the gate asking questions, not looking for the reasonable doubt aspects of the claim, but looking for the corroboration aspects of the claim, that would worry me. If my -- if I was sitting in the hot seat, that would worry me.



And just a note, we just saw Donald Trump leave the courtroom with his legal team and his entourage that has been joining him inside the courthouse the last several days. He's not actually leaving the courthouse, though, because he is required to stay here in case the jury sends down another note or potentially a verdict.

And, Carolyn, though, you know, what I was thinking about as they were reading back David Pecker's testimony, there were some key moments in that, but it also shows you the importance of objections here, because, when you're listening to that testimony inside the courtroom and Trump's attorney objects to where the prosecution is taking this case, or vice versa, it doesn't seem to make a difference in the moment, because the jury still heard it, they were still there and present for it.

But when they're asking to have it reread to them six weeks later, obviously, those questions and those answers aren't included in the readback. So moments that may have actually happened in real time, they're not having their memory refreshed on that, because it was -- it's not in the record.

KOCH: And that's a good point. And the other thing that's -- everybody's talking about these jurors are able to take notes. And one thing I have noticed in my professional career is that, sometimes, the most copious notetaker then becomes the most persuasive juror in the jury room.

And the jurors almost defer to that person as having their own transcript of what happened in real time. And so, for the sake of time, the jury, the -- behind closed doors, those jurors are going to remind each other of the facts and corroborate those facts with their own notes.

And so that's going to be a big piece of what's going on, that nobody is going to be able to speculate or read those particular tea leaves. But there's some truisms about juries. And they -- they're usually true, even though this is no ordinary case, but jurors almost always simplify.

They want to come up with the simplest solution to a complex scenario, and it usually makes sense. And they really want to follow the rules. So the rules that the judge sets forth for them to follow, for the most part, they're going to follow those.

And then everybody talks about there could very easily be a holdout. It's very hard in real life for jurors to be that holdout. So, again, I think this jury is going to be conscious of the need to be -- have some consensus.

And I think they're going to work hard towards that goal on their own without having to be beaten over the head with instructions.

COLLINS: Carolyn, though, what you just said was so interesting, that the juror who's taking notes, if there's one who takes copious amounts of notes, that the others will kind of rely on that person when they are back inside that room, because, as soon as the judge started rereading the instructions, we did see at least one juror, based on our reporters inside the courtroom, begin taking notes.

And so are you saying that you often see them kind of turn to them and kind of trust them, since they're the ones who actually wrote down what the judge was repeating?

KOCH: Well, jury dynamics are really interesting. And that's another truism.

Out of 12 people, you're not going to have equal participation amongst all 12. And so I have just -- the notetaker is the person who usually has a lot of interest in find -- in keeping track as accurately as possible.

But the other reality of the jury system, and all humans make decisions this way, people pick and choose what's important to them. And, in this case, there are ample examples of reasonable doubt and there are other examples that would help support conviction.

And so I think that's what makes this case so scary for both sides here is, Michael Cohen is kind of like -- if you compare to the O.J. case where you had that DNA, you would think DNA was really strong enough to sway the jury, and it wasn't. Michael Cohen's lies, these are no ordinary lies. And jurors don't see liars like this in their daily affairs.

But his lies might not be the embodiment of reasonable doubt. And, again, we will see. We will see.

COLLINS: Yes, we shall see.

The copious notes, it sounds like my chemistry class from freshman year of college. We were always relying on the one person who was paying close attention.

Carolyn Koch, thank you for sharing some insight on what it's like inside that jury room.

KOCH: Welcome.

COLLINS: And stay with us, because we are now continuing to monitor this, as seven men and five women are back inside that jury room.

We are now about six-and-a-half-hours, roughly, of these deliberations since the jury got the case from Judge Merchan. We are following every moment, waiting to see if that buzzer goes off inside that courtroom.

Again, this is CNN's special live coverage.



TAPPER: And, right now, Donald Trump's fate is in the hands of 12 New York City jurors, as they continue their deliberations in a Manhattan courthouse.

Earlier this morning, Judge Juan Merchan read back a portion of his instructions, at the jury's request. And moments ago, the jurors heard back read to them testimony from David Pecker and from Michael Cohen about a meeting they had with Donald Trump in 2015 at Trump Tower in which Trump allegedly said they would all work together.