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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Speaks After Being Convicted Of 34 Felonies. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2024 - 11:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And the expectation, Abby, of course, is that if he were sentenced to prison, which is realistic, especially given that he's not going to express remorse, says he's an innocent man, right? That that sentence wouldn't happen until after the election if he if he loses. So it would seem that the worse the sentence, the better for him in terms of his martyr rhetoric.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, when you hear Trump's conservative allies talking about the possibilities here, they view a prison sentence and non-prison sentence as virtually the same. And in fact, a prison sentence, maybe he gets a sentence, but they expect they hope that it would be stayed immediately, and that it would not go into effect.

And so this is all like a short term political strategy. I still think that we should just be aware that there is also a very good possibility that he does not get a prison sentence here.


PHILLIP: Just based on the facts of this particular case. But the fact that so many Trump allies are suggesting to me that they see prison in his future, they think that that is going to be just a shot of adrenaline into the Republican base. And that's all that is on their minds at this point. Look, the verdict has come down. They're going to take what they've got and run with it. And they think that this is going to be the motivating factor.

We heard one Republican Hugh Hewitt, a commentator say this is almost like the Dobbs decision for Democrats. I don't know if that is true.

BURNETT: Interesting.

PHILLIP: But this is the kind of rhetoric that we're hearing out there from Republicans.

BURNETT: And Paula, we expect Trump to begin speaking any moment.


BURNETT: It could go for an hour, as Kristen said, whether he takes questions or not, it is unknown. How focused is his legal team now and on moments like this, right? It's isn't just a minute or two outside the courtroom, this is going to be an hour to potentially do things like violate the gag order, which he does.

REID: Yes, yes. That is exactly what his legal team is going to be thinking about because the gag order is still in place. And there were questions about Well, why didn't Todd Blanche move to have it lifted right after the verdict? I spoke with the team this morning. And I'm told that they believe they still have an act of appeal. On Wednesday, they filed a request for expedited review of the gag order with the Court of Appeal. So they believe that is still in progress. As we know, they've been very aggressive about litigating this gag order.

All of his gag order violations can be used in the eventual sentencing calculus. So I am sure that they are concerned about that, the lawyers again. But really, it appears that the political concerns are taking are sort of taking center stage here.

BURNETT: All right, all staying with us here as we are awaiting this press conference. Let me send it back down to you, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thank you very much. My excellent panelists here with me. We're awaiting the former president of the United States. CNN legal analyst Karen Friedman Agnifilo is with us, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig is here, CNN anchor and chief legal analyst Laura Coates is with us, CNN anchor and chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt is with us, CNN political director, David Chalian, of course, is here, and CNN senior political analyst, Nia- Malika Henderson is with us as well, lots of excellent analysts who are going to assess what's going on.

So Kasie, we heard that Trump is not going to be speaking formally, with a teleprompter reading a formally crafted speech off the cuff. What does that say to you?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Pretty telling, right. And this is a candidate, a president at one point. And now again, a candidate who behaves very differently when he is not using a teleprompter than when he is. And his aides have gone out of their way to try to make sure that they control what does happen. And oftentimes, some of the moments that stand out to us the most from his rallies or from other events are times when he's not using the teleprompter.

So I think it says a lot about the tone and tenor of what we are likely to hear, I suppose we'll see. I have to say, I'm just -- I am struck by the venue. I mean, I was at the event when he came down the golden escalator and announced he was running for president back in 2015 at Trump Tower, which we are now looking at the outside of. And it is hard not to be struck by just how far we have come as a country over the course of that time that we are now here covering an ex- president current Republican nominee, who has been found guilty on 34 counts.

BLITZER: Five years ago, that other event was going on. Elie, as we know, and we've reported, he's still under a gag order, even though the convictions have come in. So what does that mean? What can he say, what can't he say in his off the cuff comments that are coming up?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So the gag order is far more narrow than I think Donald Trump would have you believe based on his public commentary. As it stands at this moment, the gag order allows Donald Trump to criticize angrily, aggressively as he has done the judge, the district attorney Alvin Bragg, the case against him, and even the gag order, actually. What he cannot do is make public comments about the witnesses, question whether that'll stay in place now that the trial is over.

The jurors, I think that needs to stay in place and then the staff and the family members of the prosecutors and the judge. And as Paula mentioned, there will be an appeal hearing on this next week. I don't think Trump has much if any chance of getting this gag order overturned. It's quite narrow. And I think it's respectful appropriately of his first amendment rights at the same time.


BLITZER: So if he violates in his upcoming remarks which are about to begin, we're told, violates the gag order. What's the punishment?

HONIG: Two things. Number one, he can be found in contempt. Again, he's already been found to have violated it 10 times. And the other thing is everything Donald Trump says from here on out is fair game at sentencing. So the prosecutors can say to the judge, look, this shows he has no remorse, he has not accepted responsibility. And on down the line, it all is fair game.

BLITZER: Sentencing July 11th, just went a few days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, which we'll all be watching as well. Karen is with us as well. Karen, I just want to point out, as we have to a quick disclosure note, Karen is also counsel for a firm that represents Michael Cohen, but has no contact with him, doesn't work on this case, as all, and there are no restrictions on what she can say about this case.

So Trump's sentence is clearly now in the hands of Judge Merchan, whom he's repeatedly attacked. What do you think that could mean, when it comes to sentencing?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think, look, the judge is going to consider many things at sentencing. He's going to consider the fact that this is a very serious case. This is a case where the jury -- I pulled up the jury instructions, the jury had to find unanimously that the defendant conspired to promote or prevent the election of any person.

BLITZER: Karen, let me just point out, he's now off the escalators. He's down there. He's getting ready. He's more than closer towards the microphones. I want to hear what he has to say. So let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): This is a case where if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone. These are bad people. These are in many cases, I believe, sick people. When you look at our country, what's happening where millions and millions of people are flowing in from all parts of the world, not just South America, from Africa, from Asia, from the Middle East. And they're coming in from jails and prisons. And they're coming in from mental institutions and insane asylums. They're coming in from all over the world into our country.

And we have a President and a group of fascists that don't want to do anything about it. Because they could right now, today, he could stop it. But he's not. They're destroying our country. Our country is in very bad shape. And they're very much against me saying these things. They want to raise your taxes by four times. They want to stop you from having cars with their ridiculous mandates that make it impossible for you to get a car or afford a car. But it makes it very possible for China to build all of our cars.

It's a very serious problem that we have. We just went through one of many experiences, where we had a conflicted judge, highly conflicted. There's never been a more conflicted judge. Now I'm under a gag order, which nobody's ever been under, no presidential candidates ever been under a gag order before. I'm under a gag order, nasty gag order, where I've had to pay thousands of dollars in penalties and fines, and was threatened with jail.

Think of it, I'm the leading candidate. I'm leading Biden by a lot. And I'm leading the Republicans to the point where that's over. So I'm the leading person for president and I'm under a gag order, by a man that can't put two sentences together, given by a court and they are in total conjunction with the White House and the DOJ just so you understand. This is all done by Biden and his people, maybe his people more importantly, I don't know if Biden knows too much about it because I don't know if he knows about anything.

But he's nevertheless the president. So we have to use his name. And this is done by Washington. And nobody's ever seen anything like it. So we have a judge who's highly conflicted. You know what the confliction is, nobody, nobody wants to write about it. And I'm not allowed to talk about it. If I do, he said, I get put in jail. So we'll play that game a little bit longer. We won't talk about it, but you're allowed to talk about it. I hope you do because there's never been anybody so conflicted as this.

As far as the trial itself, it was very unfair. We weren't allowed to use our election expert under any circumstances. You saw what happened to some of the witnesses that were on our side. They were literally crucified by this man who looks like an angel, but he's really a devil. It looks so nice and soft. Peoples always seems like such a nice man, no, unless you saw him in action. And you saw that with a certain witness that went through hell.

And when we wanted to do things, he wouldn't let him -- he wouldn't let us do those things. But when the government wanted something they got everything. They got everything they wanted. It's a rigged -- it was a rigged trial. We wanted a venue change, where we could have a fair trial. We didn't get it. We wanted a judge change. We wanted a judge that wasn't conflicted. And obviously he didn't do that.


There's -- nobody's ever seen anything like it. We had a D.A., who is a failed D.A. Crime is rampant in New York, violent crime. That's what he's really supposed to be looking at. Crime is rampant in New York. Yesterday, in McDonald's, you had a man hitting him up with machetes, machete. Whoever he can imagine even a machete being wielded in a store in a place where they're eating and he's going rampant.

And Bragg is down watching a trial on what they call crimes, crimes. They're falsifying business records. That sounds so bad to me. It sounds very bad. You know, it's only a misdemeanor. But to me, it sounds so bad. When they say falsifying business, that's a bad thing for me. I've never had that before. I'm falsifying, you know what falsifying business records is in the first degree, they say falsifying business records. Sounds so good, right? It means that legal expense, I paid a lawyer, totally legal.

I paid a lawyer, a legal expense. And a bookkeeper without any knowledge from me, correctly marked it down in the books, a very professional woman, highly respected, she testified, marked it down to the books as illegal expense. So illegal expense, paid a lawyer, is illegal expense in the books. It's not sheetrock construction, or any other thing. It's a legal expense. Think of that.

This is what the falsification of business records were. And I said, what else are you going to call it? What else you're going to call it? Now I would have testified I wanted to testify. The theory is you never testify, because as soon as you test for anybody, if it were George Washington, don't testify, because they'll get you on something that you said slightly wrong, and then they sue you for perjury. But I didn't care about that, I wanted to.

But the judge allowed them to go into everything that I was ever involved in, not this case, everything that I was ever involved in, which is a first. In other words, you could go into every single thing that I ever did, was he a bad boy here? Was he a bad boy there? And my lawyer said, what do you need to go through? And all you wanted to do is testify simply on this case because I would have loved to have testified. To this day, I would have liked to have testified. But you would have been -- you would have said something out of whack. Like it was a beautiful sunny day, and it was actually raining out.

And I very much appreciate the big crowd of people outside. That's incredible what's happening. The level of support has been incredible. So the whole thing is, legal expense was marked down as legal expense. Think of it, this is my -- this is the crime that I committed that I'm supposed to go to jail for 187 years for -- when you have violent crime all over this city at levels that nobody's ever seen before, where you have businesses leaving, and businesses are leaving because of this, because heads of businesses say, man, we don't want to get involved with that.

I could go through the books of any business person in this city. And I could find things that in theory, I guess, let's indict him, let's destroy his life. But I'm out there. And I don't mind being out there because I'm doing something for this country, and I'm doing something for our Constitution. It's very important far beyond me. And this can't be allowed to happen to other presidents. It should never be allowed to happen in the future. But this is far beyond me. This is bigger than Trump. This is bigger than me. This is bigger than my presidency.

And the people understand it, because I just see a poll just came out "The Daily Mail." That was the first one came out, was done last night, right after the verdict where I'm up six points. Six points from what we already where. We were leading fairly substantially. We're up six points in "The Daily Mail" poll. Now maybe other posts come out. It says something differently. But a lot of people have predicted it because the public understands and they understand what's going on. This is a scam. There's a rigged trial. It shouldn't have been in that venue. We shouldn't have had that judge. He should have allowed us to have an election expert. We had the best expert most respected expert head of the Federal Elections Commission.


He was all set to testify. He was waiting for two days. And when it was his turn, Bragg's people protested and the judge knocked him out, said you can't testify. He actually said you can't testify for anything having to do with the trial. You can say what the federal elections is, well, that doesn't help. Everybody knows that. But you can't testify. So essentially, he wasn't able to testify. Other people weren't able to testify.

But with these people, they were able to use people salacious, by the way, and nothing ever happened. There was no anything, nothing ever happened, and they know it. But they were salacious as they could be. And it had nothing to do with the case. But it had to do with politics. And do you notice the timing, the timing was perfect. This case was dead. It was dropped by every agency, every governmental board. It was dropped by the highly respected Southern District. They said, no, there's no case here. It was dropped by federal election. And that's what it's about. It's about a federal election, not a state election. You're not even allowed to look at it.

They took the state in the city and they went into a federal election, they're not allowed. The people from federal election Southern District and Washington dropped the case, everybody dropped the case, there was no case. Cy Vance dropped the case. And when Bragg came in, he said, this is the most ridiculous case I've ever seen. And who would have a certain person, again, gag order, who would have a certain person like this ever testify. He said, this is essentially one of the worst people I've ever seen ever to testify.

Is that the craziest case I've ever seen, this is Bragg. They want to announce announced I was running for president. Long time later, they decided to revive this case. And they got a judge, Judge Merchan, who was responsible for another case that was also brought. It destroyed the life of a very good man, by the way. Destroyed the life of a very good man who went to prison once and then he just put them in prison again, because they said he lied. He didn't lie. I looked at the statements he made. In fact, he didn't remember something and they put him in jail. Again, they've destroyed him. With me for many years, he was an honorable person. He was an honest man. And if you look at what he did, supposedly, it never happened. There's never been anything like this over the education of his grandchildren. Over -- he didn't report that he had a car or two cars on his income. I don't know. I wonder how many people here have cars. I wonder how many people said oh, gee, I have a car that's worth X does? How do you even figure it? And I guess you do have to report it.

But I would say probably almost nobody does. Nobody even thinks about it. They put this man, they destroyed this man. But they put him in jail again, because they didn't want him to testify. They didn't want him to testify. That's why he went to jail. Put them in jail twice. He's 77 years old. Normally, I'd say that's an old guy. But I don't feel 77. Nobody ever says that about me. I'd like him to say, gee, we have to have a little sorrow for this man because they don't -- they just don't say that about me. But maybe I'm better off that way. I think I'm probably better off that way. But they put him in jail twice.

And you have to see what they put him in jail. And he was threatened by the judge. This man was told you're going to get 15 years in jail if you don't give up Trump. And he was told that. You're going to get 15 years in jail. And he made a plea deal because he didn't want to spend the rest of his life and he was told that viciously. We're living in a fascist state. He was told that viciously. So you can go to jail for four months, five months, or you can get 15 years in jail. So do a plea. Almost who wouldn't do that plea?

Everyone does those pleas. It's a horrible thing. There's a whole group of lawyers that fight that. It's so unfair, it's so unfair. But they destroyed his life. So many other things, you look at Southern District didn't want to bring the case. Nobody wanted to bring the case. And then, you know, who didn't want to bring the case, most of all, is Bragg. Bragg, didn't want to bring it. But then he brought it and they tried to make it a different case. They didn't say legal expense, equal legal expense.


Again, if I wrote down and paid a lawyer. And by the way this was a highly qualified lawyer. Now I'm not allowed to use his name because of the gag order. But, you know, he's just leaseback, everybody knows that. It took me a while to find out. But he was effective. He did work. But he wasn't a fixer. He was a lawyer. You know, they like to use the word fixer. He wasn't a fixer. He was a lawyer. At the time, he was a fully accredited lawyer.

Now he got into trouble not because of me got into trouble because he made outside deals. And he had something to do with taxi cabs, and medallions that he borrowed money. But that's why he went and then he pled to three election violations. And as soon as I saw that, I said, I wonder why he did that. He pled. He took a deal. Now I took a deal because he wanted to get off. In other words, I'll take a plea deal, and I want to get off. And he wanted to make a deal with the Southern District. And they wrote the worst report I think I've ever seen on any human being other than the report that was written on James Comey, by the Inspector General, a very great inspector general actually, wrote a report that was so bad. This one was possibly worse. The Southern District, the judge didn't let us use it. He said it's hearsay. I said it's not hearsay. He wouldn't let us use it. This is about the man. But he got in trouble for a very simple reason because he was involved with borrowing a lot of money and he did something with the banks. I don't know if it's defrauded the banks but something happened. You guys know what it is.

And then in addition to that, he gave up and three things where he wasn't guilty. In fact, they were going to testify in that the head of the FEC, the Brad Smith, the election expert, number one rated in the country was going to testify. He took the plea and three things. He just added them in because that gave him more bargaining power with respect to me. But the three things that he pled on having to do with the election and having to do essentially a little bit with me. They weren't crimes. They weren't crimes, nor is paying money under an NDA.

So we have an NDA, non-disclosure agreement. It's a big deal, a non- disclosure agreement. Totally honorable, totally good, totally accepted, everybody has him. Every company has non-disclosure agreements. But the press called it slush fund and all sorts of other things. Hush money, hush money. It's not hush money. It's called that non-disclosure agreement. And most of the people in this room have a non-disclosure agreement with their company. It's a disgrace. So it's not hush money. It's a nondisclosure agreement, totally legal, totally common. Everyone has it.

And what happened is he signed a non-disclosure agreement with this person, I guess other people, but it's totally honest, you're allowed to make the payment but you don't have to make it -- you can make it any way you want. It's a nondisclosure agreement. And he signed that. And there was nothing wrong was signing it. And this should have been a non-case. And everybody said it was an odd case, including Bragg. Bragg said until I ran for office.

And then they saw the polls, I was leading the Republicans. I was leading the Democrats. I was leading everybody. And all of a sudden, they brought it back. It's a very sad thing that's happening in our country. And it's a thing that I'm honored in a way I'm honored. It's not that it's pleasant. It's very bad for family. It's very bad for friends and businesses. But I'm honored to be involved in it because somebody has to do it. And I might as well keep going and be the one. But I'm very honored to be involved because we're fighting for --

BLITZER: We're going to continue to monitor Donald Trump in his remarks. He's making very, very strong statements, and we're going to have a fact check on those statements coming up shortly. Daniel Dale is standing by. Erin, we're listening to the former president of the United States say, and I'm quoting him now, we are living in a fascist state. He refers to the trial as a scam, a rig trial. He says he would have loved to have testified. He could have testified. It was his decision not to testify. He said, quote, I would have loved to have testified. And then he went over, he went after some of the witnesses, including Michael Cohen, for example, potentially a violation to the gag order that has been imposed by the judge against him.

Erin, we're going to continue to listen to what the former president has to say. But clearly, without a teleprompter, he's going off the cuff. He's railing against almost everything.

BURNETT: Yes. And Wolf, you know, the fascist state of course the line that stands out. But as you point out the other key off the teleprompter, so it is very much off the cuff. So you're getting a rant and a reliving of the case and how he sees it. But then the sort of cul de sacs, right, talking about polls or talking about his role or taking on a witness or talking about electric vehicles. I mean, it is very disjointed in the presentation.


Wolf, I'll also say that this is the fascist state, it is very clear from what he said at the beginning, then, sort of, he doesn't want to go to jail. And that was clear, which also raises the question of whether what he just said about Michael Cohen, who did not name by name, but made it clear who he was and called him a sleazebag is a violation of that gag order. Wolf, as you know, the judges said one more violation is jail time. So that'll raise that question as well as he's speaking without a teleprompter.

BLITZER: Yes, he's just derailing against almost everything involved in this case in which he was found guilty 34 felony charges, criminal charges, very significant development, unanimous decision by the 12 members of the jury. Daniel Dale, our fact checker, Erin is with us as well. And I want to go to Daniel right now. Daniel, you do this all the time following a Trump statement, Trump's speech, you review some of the lies that have been going on.

DANIEL DALE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: A whole bunch of lies here, Wolf, so he repeated the one I think he's repeated most frequently throughout the course of the trial. And now after seeing this was all done by Biden and his people, the case was in conjunction with the White House and DOJ not a shred of evidence of that. This case was brought by a locally elected, yes, Democratic prosecutor, no evidence whatsoever of any communication with Joe Biden or his aides about it. He also repeated his claim from earlier this week that he said the judge wouldn't let them use an election expert under any circumstances. The judge knocked him out.

Now he did sort of clarify this after but here's the real clarification. The judge did not bar the testimony of this expert Brad Smith. Trump's defense was permitted to call him but didn't. The judge did limit the scope of the testimony saying he couldn't opine on whether Trump broke the law or not, couldn't analyze federal election law but did not say the expert could not be used. And Trump also repeated his claim, Wolf, that crime in New York is at levels nobody's ever seen before.

As anyone who lived through the early 1990s in New York knows that is not remotely true. For example, murders in New York, there are 391 last year, well, there were 2,262 in 1990. So not even close, and it's further come down this year. And lastly, Wolf, former President Trump said that Michael Cohen got in trouble with the law for stuff that had nothing to do with him, Trump, he said, oh, it's Cohen's taxi medallion business and so on. Well, that is misleading at best because, yes, Cohen did get in trouble for lying about his taxes, lying about things related to the taxi medallion business, but also got in trouble for campaign finance offenses related to the very same hush money scheme that Trump got in trouble for, so directly related to Trump.

And his prison sentence, Wolf, was also related to Cohen lying to Congress related to a negotiations or discussions with Russia about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. So this was not, you know, Cohen's own thing. Oh, nothing to do with Trump. Some of it at least was directly related to the former president.

BLITZER: Daniel Dale, our fact checker. Daniel, thank you very much. We'll get back to you. Elie Honig, did Trump just now violate the gag order?

HONIG: He may have. He certainly came close to the line. And at one point, he said, well, I'm not going to say the person's name, that doesn't get you out of a potential gag order violation. It's obvious who he's talking about. But I will say Judge Merchan has been very careful in the way he's applied this gag order. And there were a few occasions where the D.A. said, this is a violation. And the judge said no, because Trump's allowed to respond to things that Michael Cohen and others say about him publicly.

Michael Cohen certainly did the media rounds last night, had some things to say about Trump. So it may be that the judge finds that this is a response. What he said about Michael Cohen was largely inaccurate in the ways that Daniel just laid out though.

BLITZER: What do you think Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the most important line of this press conference for me was the very first one. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. That's the narrative he'd like to put forth to have people challenge and think less of the justice system in this country. He's under the impression that a statute of falsifying business records that's on the books has only ever been applied to him. He's only been the only person to ever become a vendor (ph). That's simply not true.

Also, he spoke about some of the teeing up of what he will likely argue on appeal, namely two big points. Number one, the inability to bring his campaign finance expert, which he erroneously says he was not allowed to do. That's not true. The second was about Stormy Daniels and having salacious details. Let me go to the first point, though it's important. He continues to repeat this claim about not being allowed to have the campaign finance expert.

In reality, that expert could have testified. The defense chose not to have them testify, why, because the judge limited and talking about the general background on the FEC, what the laws are, what they could actually do. They said that you could talk about the purpose of the law and also talk about in general details what had happened. He could not opine as to the guilt or innocence of Donald Trump as I would experts do. He also cannot interpret the law as well. And that is in line with what judges do with any experts.


Otherwise, the prosecution can call their own expert. It'd be a battle of experts. That's fine to have. But at the end of the day, you cannot have an expert. Generally testifying about their knowledge only to actually say guilt or innocence, that's the job of the jury.