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Opening Statements Set for Monday in Trump Trial; Full Jury and Six Alternates Seated in Trump Trial; Full Jury And Six Alternates Seated In Trump Trial; Man Set Self On Fire Outside Trump Trial Courthouse. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 19, 2024 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight, the Trump trial Day 4. For the next hour, we'll take you inside the courtroom from gavel to gavel as the historic hush money case unfold.

Opening statements now set to begin Monday as a full jury and a panel of six alternates are selected and sworn in.

Our reporters and experts are all standing by to break down all of today's most important developments and look ahead to what's next.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer with a special report in The Situation Room, the Trump Trial, today.

Our special coverage this hour begins with the breaking news. The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal trial says opening statements will begin on Monday, jury selection in the case now officially complete.

Let's check in with CNN's Kara Scannell outside the courthouse in Manhattan. Kara, you were there inside the courtroom for today's dramatic proceedings. Give us the latest.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Donald Trump's legal team tried to argue and tried to convince the judge that the prosecution should not be allowed to use any of his past legal run-ins if he were to take the stand and testify. Prosecutors want to do that to try and discredit Trump. But his lawyers were saying that some of the events they want bring up, such as the E. Jean Carroll allegations, are attenuated to what is at trial in this case.

Now, the judge has said that he would rule on this on Monday, but it also came as Trump's legal team made a last-ditch effort to try to stop this trial before it starts. They went to an appeals court today asking a judge to issue an emergency motion -- to grant their emergency to stop the trial, so they could challenge it over venue, because they have been arguing they've been unable to find a fair and impartial jury in New York.

Now, this coming that like within hours of the judge actually empaneling 12 jurors and 6 alternates after they selected the final five alternates in this case, which is expected to kick off on Monday.


SCANNELL (voice over): Opening statements now plan to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial after jury selection concluded, seating12 jurors and six alternates.

We have our full panel, that announcement from Judge Juan Merchan after jury selection concluded. 18 Manhattanites, 12 jurors and 6 alternates have now been seated.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sitting in a courthouse all day long. This is going on for the week, and this will go on for another four to five weeks. That is very unfair.

SCANNELL: Trump appeared bored much of the trial Day 4 as attorneys on both sides probed potential jurors until they filled the remaining five alternate seats.

In court, a handful of prospective jurors became emotional. One was excused after she told the judge she had anxiety and was worried as the trial goes on more people could know she's part of a jury, saying, I might not be able to be completely fair and not emotional, so that concerns me.

Another was dismissed after she began crying, saying, I'm sorry. I thought I could do this. I wouldn't want someone who feels this way to judge my case either. I don't want you to feel I've wasted anyone's time. This is so much more stressful than I though.

A third was sent home after noting she was feeling anxiety and self- doubt, as she listened to a line of questioning about the credibility of witnesses.

At the defense table, Trump set flipping through papers with charts, photos and graphics. He whispered and passed notes with his lawyers and at some points was hunched over with his elbows on the desk.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger started off questioning potential jurors telling them this is not about Mr. Trump being a former president. It's not about his being a candidate for the presidency. It's only about whether the evidence proves he's guilty.

During her presentation, Trump leaned back in his chair, at one point, his eyes closed.

Trump's attorney Susan Necheles focused on bias against the former president. She told those in the jury box, you all bring biases, and you particularly bring bias about someone who is as publicly and outspoken as President Trump. There's nobody that doesn't know him in this room.


SCANNELL (on camera): Now, Trump's lawyers tried once again to get the prosecutors to tell them who the first witness will be that they'll call in the case. But most prosecutors said they would do is tell him on Sunday. And the prosecutors said, if former president tweets or makes any comments about that witness, it will be the last time they give them a heads-up. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Kara Scannell in New York for us, thank you.

Other action in the Trump courtroom today, arguments over whether prosecutors can bring up Donald Trump's past legal issues if he chooses to testify.

I want to bring in our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig for a closer look. Elie, walk us through the so-called Sandoval hearing.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, think of a Sandoval motion as a warning shot. This is the way that prosecutors here in New York advise any criminal defendant in any case here in New York. If you take the stand, of course, we will cross-examine you about the actual charges, but we're also going to cross-examine you about these other bad acts that you engaged in.

And here, there're three main things that prosecutors say they want to cross-examine Donald Trump on if, big if, he takes the stand.

First of all is the recent verdict against him in civil court over the Trump civil fraud case, the allegation that Donald Trump was involved in inflating the value of his assets. The second thing prosecutors want to bring up is the E. Jean Carroll verdict for sexual assault and for defamation. And the third thing that prosecutors say they'd like to cross-examine Donald Trump on, outside the scope of these charges is a recent lawsuit that Donald filed against Hillary Clinton, which was thrown out of court by a judge for being frivolous.

And so the judge has not ruled yet on this, and he has said we'll have a ruling on Monday.


And this may well inform Donald Trump's ultimate decision whether he's going to take the stand and testify.

BLITZER: Elie, talk to us a little bit more about the appeals court hearing today involving Trump's request for a change of venue.

HONIG: Yes, Wolf. So, Donald Trump has tried yet again to pause this hearing and to try to get the case moved out of the borough of Manhattan. That was denied. The judge said, we're not pausing this trial.

Now, Donald Trump's key argument is he is very politically unpopular in the borough of Manhattan, in New York County. And he is correct, as a factual matter. If we look back at the 2020 election, Donald Trump got a little over 12 percent of the vote in Manhattan. And that's the only borough where we're drawing our jury from.

Just by comparison, in Staten Island, Donald Trump got 57 percent of the vote. We go to Queens, he got 27 percent of the vote. He got 22 in Brooklyn, and he got about 16 in the Bronx.

That said, this is not the test for moving a case out to another venue. It's not about whether a person's popular or unpopular. It's about whether the person can get a legally fair trial. And the prosecutor's team today pointed to jury selection. They said, look, we just weeded out hundreds of people who said, I'm too biased, I can't sit on this case. And they argued the jury we ended up with was the result of a fair process. Therefore, the case should stay in Manhattan and in Manhattan it shall stay.

BLITZER: All right. Who are the alternates who got seated today, Elie?

HONIG: So, now we have our final alternate jurors. These are people who will only serve if we lose one of the main jurors.

There's a lot we actually don't know about these folks. Alternate juror number two, not working, does not follow the news. That may make her more neutral. Number three, all we know is it's a native New Yorker who's interested in martial arts. Draw whatever conclusion you will from that. Number four reads the Times, Reuters, BBC, and is a contract specialist. We have another person who is a professional. And then our last two alternate jurors, one of them works for a clothing company, gets her news from Google. The last one is a project manager. Interestingly, her father was convicted of a federal crime. Not clear which way that would push.

But, Wolf, it's important to understand, if we do have to dip into the alternates here, alternate one will be the first one in, then number two. So, as we go farther and farther back in these alternates, it becomes less and less likely that any of these folks will ever actually make it onto the jury.

BLITZER: Six alternates. All right, Elie, we'll watch it together with you. Thank you very much.

HONIG: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Joining us now, let's get some more analysis from our legal and political experts, and Paula Reid, you're our chief legal affairs correspondent. I'm anxious for your thoughts. Give us your analysis of what the Trump team is trying to keep out of this trial and why.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. Trump has so many legal issues, everything from allegations of mishandling classified materials, allegations of fraud, to sex abuse. And here, the argument is really focused on his civil matters. And I think it's going to be difficult for the defense attorneys to keep out a lot of this conduct because there's so much overlap with the case itself.

Their strongest argument seems to be, look, there's a different standard, preponderance of the evidence. That is much lower than a criminal court. It could confuse the jury. But, for example, when it came to the Hillary Clinton lawsuit, the judge just said, look, if this isn't Sandoval, if this isn't relevant, I don't know what is, so not a great sign for the defense team. BLITZER: Let me bring in Ankush Khardori, a former Federal Prosecutor, into this conversation. How do you expect the judge to rule?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I expect he will let most, if not all of that come in. Because the differences between the standard, civil and criminal, that can be explained to the jury, and Donald Trump's lawyers can get into that, if that ever were to come up.

But the thing that all of those three categories of evidence that Elie described have in common is they all concern his honesty, his truthfulness, his reliability, right? The defamation is about him lying about E. Jean Carroll. The civil fraud case is about him lying about his financial assets. The frivolous Hillary Clinton lawsuit is about him being reckless with regard to the truth. All of those things, I do think, would bear on a defendant's credibility if they took the stand.

BLITZER: So, if he takes the stand, do you think the judge will allow all that to come up?

KHARDORI: I think most, if not all.

BLITZER: Really, very interesting.

Kristen, why do you think Trump is so insistent on testifying, taking the stand, even though his lawyers probably are telling him, don't do it?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure that he's necessarily so insistent on taking the stand. I think he's so insistent on saying that he might take the stand. Donald Trump wants to control the media narrative. And if he continues to say that he might take the stand, there will be a whole will, he won't, he back and forth.

I will remind you, Wolf, this is not the first time that he said he's going to take the stand. Only two later changes mind, say, that his lawyers talked him out of it. There's actually only one time that he said he was going to take the stand. He wasn't forced to. It was in the E. Jean Carroll case. He stepped up there. It was very quick, very brief. He just wanted to answer one question and then got off the stand.

Let's remember what this case is about at its heart, a very salacious topic. Donald Trump, an alleged affair with a porn star, then hush money payments for to cover up that alleged affair. That is not something Donald Trump wants to talk about or answer questions on.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. You make an excellent point.

Shan Wu is with us as well. We're looking ahead to the opening arguments, the opening statements on Monday, assuming that happens on Monday. How do you think the Manhattan district attorney's team will approach these opening statements?


SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think they'll try and keep it to a very simple story, which is we're going to tell you about payments, we're going to tell you about how they lied about the payments, we're going to tell you why they lied about them. And by focusing on that very simple narrative, then you have the documents to prove those things and then you also have the witnesses who will kind of give it life and refer to the documents.

BLITZER: What about the defense, Trump's lawyers, what do you think they're going to do?

REID: Well, I think we're going to hear a lot about Michael Cohen from the defense. They are going to undercut his credibility. He certainly has credibility issues based on his conviction, on his continued attacks on the defendant here. But he can be rehabilitated. He's still a witness that they can use.

And I think in addition to trying to undercut his credibility in the eyes of the jury, we're also going to talk about his role at this time in the Trump orbit and perhaps sort of argue that, look, he was actually doing legal work at the time in question. This isn't fraud. These aren't falsifying documents. He was, as it says in these documents, doing work for the Trump family, for the Trump Organization. He was doing what he had always done.

So, I think we're going to start to hear a lot about Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: Yes. He was Trump's lawyer. He was the so-called fixer. We all know all about that.

Ankush, what do you think?

KHARDORI: I think Michael Cohen is going to be a major part of the opening. He is, as we currently understand the case, a key part of the D.A.'s case.

Now, that could change as they introduce evidence that maybe corroborates Cohen. Obviously, there have been some folks on the witness list who are all sort of wondering what are they going to be testifying about. But at least out of the gate, I would expect Donald Trump's lawyers to really be hammering on Cohen and basically saying, this man is completely unreliable. He's lied to every branch of the federal government in the last few years. You shouldn't believe him now. If you don't believe him now, you need to acquit Donald Trump.

HOLMES: And one thing I do want to add here about Michael Cohen is obviously Donald Trump has this gag order in place where he's not allowed to talk about the witnesses, but that does not apply to his small army of right wing social media influencers.

They are given the same access to information that all of us journalists are given. They're seeing pool reports, and they are not going to have the same restrictions that say, we do our limitations. That's going to apply to both jurors, but also attacking Michael Cohen. They are going to work to paint him as a liar. They are going to work to say that this case is based off of the testimony of a liar, and you are going to see pretty harsh vitriol when it comes to these witnesses, particularly from these right wing social media influencers and from Donald Trump's allies.

BLITZER: What do you think, Shan?

WU: Well, I think that's a really great point and I think it raises for Judge Merchan ultimately the question of does he have to reconsider a sequestration of the jury. He may have to do that at the time of deliberations.

But especially with the kind of pressure that has been put on the jurors, he may have been a little bit overconfident in thinking he can manage that. He did a great job of getting through the selection but you're beginning to see some of the stress appearing in the jurors. He may end up having to go kind of deep into that alternate pool too. So, that's something he's got to consider.

BLITZER: Ankush, earlier in the week, you expressed concern about the safety of the jurors. They're under enormous pressure, as we all know. What do you think?

KHARDORI: Yes. I mean, I completely echo what these two just said. I am also concerned about not the established media organizations but the peripheral folks who are getting the same pool reports. We all are, and, frankly, those pool reports have way more information that the credible news outlets are making --

BLITZER: About the jurors.

HOLMES: We were trying to protect the identity, particularly after we saw what happened with juror number two, who asked to be dismissed, because there were calls that she said she got saying that they were identifying factors, asking her if she was the juror. So, we have become more careful there.

Remember, the judge's only rule here was use common sense. What we use for common sense is not going to be the same as what these right wing media influencers, people who are pro-Donald Trump, are going to use.

KHARDORI: I think, you know, one thing we saw today, evidently, you know, all these folks getting up and talking about how stressful this is, I have to say, some of those comments were a little, you know, upsetting to me to have to hear, you know, our fellow Americans were really just trying to do their civic duty, going through all of this stress, sitting on the first ever criminal prosecution, potentially, of a former president.

There would not be a country where a president is on trial and Americans are afraid to be on the jury.


REID: Especially because we may have to do it three more times. BLITZER: If there are more trials down the road.

REID: If, big if, yes.

BLITZER: I'm really worried myself, I'm sure you are as well, about the safety of these jurors.

REID: Yes, no doubt. I think when we all heard that oncology nurse yesterday say, look, I can't do this, after she had been selected, no one questioned that. Everyone understands that. Some of us have drawn the ire of Trump and know what that feels like and what that brings for you and your family. It's an enormous ask of any citizen to be on this jury. It's hugely important, but it absolutely comes with risks.

BLITZER: Yes. That's an important point. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we'll take a closer look at just when an alternate juror would be needed, including what happens if the case runs out of alternates who can step in.


But, first, we're looking at the big decisions the judge is weighing as both sides prepare for the opening statements. A former New York judge is standing by to discuss with us live.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: We're back with our special coverage of the Trump trial, day four. Tonight, Donald Trump on Truth Social is posting about Judge Juan Merchan, writing in part, and I'm quoting, Judge Merchan is railroading me at breakneck speed in order to completely satisfy his, quote, friends.

Let's discuss with Shira Scheindlin, a retired U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of New York. Judge, thank you so much for joining us.

How do you think Judge Merchan could address this latest attack against him and the other cases, prosecutors flag, that they say violated the gag order in the upcoming hearing on that issue?


SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: Well, I think the best thing he could do is not respond at all. That's the wisest way to deal with attacks like that. Say nothing. It's a mistake for a judge to get drawn into it.

BLITZER: Also today, in this so-called Sandoval hearing, Judge Merchan said he'll decide by Monday whether prosecutors can bring up Trump's past legal cases. How do you expect him to rule? SCHEINDLIN: Well, you know, the Sandoval rule is that it has -- the questioning has to go to credibility, honesty, and veracity. And so many of the items that the people want to put in go directly to veracity, credibility, and honesty.

But the judge's job is to weigh the probative value of that testimony against the prejudice. So it's always prejudicial to a defendant to have prior bad acts mentioned. On the other hand, the probative value is high on some of these things. So, the prior finding that his testimony was not honest before Judge Engoron, that goes directly to credibility and honesty.

The same is true of the -- yes, the same is true of the defamation case, because, by definition, you can't commit defamation unless it's false. If it's truthful, it's not defamatory. So, by definition, it's false, so that also goes to honesty, credibility, veracity. So, I expect he will certainly let those two in.

Now, this recent lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, it's frivolous. I'm not sure at best it goes to credibility. That one to me is closer, but he'll probably let that into. But what he won't let in or shouldn't let in, for example, is sexual assault or rape, because while those are heinous crimes, they don't go to veracity, credibility, or honesty. And that's the rule.

BLITZER: Interesting. Trump also complained, as you know, about Judge Merchan pacing of this trial outside the courtroom. Only moments ago, he said this. Watch and listen.


TRUMP: The trial starts on Monday, which is long before a lot of people thought the judge wants this started, to go as fast as possible. That's for his reasons, not for my reasons.


BLITZER: What do you make of that? Is this trial moving at the pace you expected?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, honestly, I thought it would take longer to pick a jury in state court, but I admire the way he's handled it. He's moved it along quickly, which is probably the right thing to do in this particular case. The longer it takes, the longer people are going to have second thoughts. It's good to get the jury seated and sworn.

And I think he did it fairly in every way, and I don't think it was overly fast. I think it was thorough, carefully planned, a good questionnaire. The lawyers had time to ask their questions. So, while it was faster than I expected, I don't think he was railroaded, and I don't think it's too fast.

BLITZER: As you know, Judge, there's been a lot of scrutiny over juror number 11 who said she doesn't like Trump's persona, that she thinks he seems, quote, very selfish and self-serving, direct quotes. Were you surprised that Judge Merchan didn't dismiss her? Would you have done so in his shoes?

SCHEINDLIN: I probably would have dismissed her. I think there was a fair challenge for cause there. And there were so many more jurors available to be questioned that I wouldn't have kept this particular one.

What's the point? If she really has these preconceived views of the defendant, not necessarily his conduct, but of him, then she's predisposed against him. And I don't think that's fair. So, I think he would have been wiser to grant the challenge for cause and voir dire some other jurors. There were hundreds in waiting.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Going into the opening statements next week, we think they're going to take place on Monday, how does Judge Merchan balance treating Trump like a normal criminal defendant with the extraordinary circumstances of this case?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, I don't know quite what you mean by normal. He's a defendant in a criminal trial. He's not going to be making an opening statement. His lawyers are going to be making opening statements. And I'm sure the judge has asked them how long they expect to take. And I'm sure the judge will give them the time they need.

But if they cross a line that the judge thinks is inappropriate and there's an objection, then he will interrupt and sustain the objection. But I think he'll hopefully let the lawyers do their job.

These are good lawyers. I think the judge respects them. I think they'll do what they have to do.

BLITZER: Judge Shira Scheindlin, thanks so much for joining us. I want to continue our conversation down the road. I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, we'll take a closer look at what's on the docket Monday in the case of the people of New York versus Donald J. Trump.

Plus, a lawyer who defended Donald Trump in one of his previous trials is standing by to join us live.



BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now on the opening statements of the Trump trial now set for Monday morning. Our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig is back with us looking ahead to Day 5 in court.

Elie, what should we expect when the trial resumes on Monday?

HONIG: Well, Wolf, we have our full jury. And so the next step is that the trial will start in earnest. We are here on our flow chart. We are going to hear opening statements from both sides.

Now, let me explain to you how this is going to play out. First of all, the D.A.'s office, the prosecutors, they're going to go first. This is Alvin Bragg. He's the D.A. He's not going to be giving the opening argument.


He's not going to be trying this case. He will probably be in the courtroom to support his team. But a member of the D.A.'s team will open, followed by the opening for the defense.

In all likelihood, the defense actually does not have to open but they probably will. Todd Blanche will be giving that opening for Donald Trump.

A couple major themes that I think people should watch for in the opening statements. First of all, the indictment, what does it mean? The D.A. is going to argue, this is about Donald Trump's attempt to interfere in the 2016 election. Donald Trump's team will probably argue this is a paperwork offense from a long time ago that he never should have been charged with and that is not guilty of.

The second theme, of course, will revolve around some of the witnesses. Michael Cohen, in particular, is very high stakes, very controversial witness as you just discussed with your panel.

And the final theme that we will hear, we're going to hear a lot about the burden of proof. The defense lawyers, in any case, they always remind the jury over and over again that the prosecution, they bear the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So, listen for those three themes when the parties open on Monday.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. Elie Honig, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more insight right now from Robert Ray. He served as counsel to former President Trump during his first impeachment. Robert, thanks so much for joining us.

How do you think Trump's team is working to craft opening statements for Monday morning? Take us inside the process.

ROBERT RAY, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP DURING FIRST IMPEACHMENT: Well, the good thing for them, and it doesn't always happen in every case, is that they have a weekend to prepare for this, and so they will be working over the course of this evening and throughout the weekend.

And my guess is they'll probably do, if Todd Blanche is giving the opening statement, a mock opening statement, a run-through, perhaps before jury consultants, and a reaction to how that goes over with mock jurors. And my guess also is that it will be a presentation in front of the client, in front of Donald Trump himself, who will in a position to critique and amend and make suggestions as to what he thinks the opening should be.

So, there will be plenty of time over the course of a weekend for the defense team to perfect that opening statement. And it's a very important moment in the case, as Elie just mentioned, the most important thing to drive home and remind the jurors is that, at the end of case, the defense will be asking for a verdict of not guilty.

The government has the burden of proof to prove beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously to the satisfaction of all jurors that the defendant is guilty before they can reach a verdict of guilty.

And the presumption of innocence is an important legal concept in our judicial system in a criminal case given the fact that potentially imprisonment is on the line, and the seriousness of the case will be something that will be a theme from Todd Blanche.

I mean, obviously he'll have a critique of the evidence about what the defense expects to show during the course of trial, but he will remind the jurors that the defendant doesn't have to do anything. He has no burden of proof. He doesn't have present evidence. He doesn't have testify in his own defense, and it remains the obligation of the government to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

BLITZER: Robert, if you were Trump's counsel in this case, would you be trying to convince him against taking the stand? And you know him well. Can he even be convinced?

RAY: Ultimately, Wolf, that's a call for the client to make. Obviously, it is done with the advice of your lawyers. But it's one that only the defendant can make. In most cases, defendants don't testify and they don't, because of the reasons that I just suggested, that is that the government has the burden of proof, and the defendant doesn't have to do anything.

Depending on how the evidence goes in at trial, if the lawyers and client think that it went well and they rely on the presumption of innocence and that fact that government have the burden of proofs, usually it behooves the defendant not to take the stand. That's advice that is often provided by defense counsel to the client, and sometimes they take that advice and sometimes don't.

I will say that if Donald Trump decides over the objection of his lawyers to take the stand, my guess is that the lawyers will make a record before the judge out of the presence of the jury that that was the advice that they gave and that the client decided to reject it in favor of testifying in his own defense.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be --

RAY: And the reason they do that is because they're trying to protect themselves from any subsequent claim later on that the lawyers provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point.

Let me get your thoughts while I have you, Robert, on the now fully impaneled jury and the six alternates. Is this a jury you would have agreed to seat if you were representing Trump?

RAY: I think there were appropriate objections made you went over them with Judge Scheindlin about, you know, some, I think, questionable calls about whether or not certain jurors should have been excused for cause.


The defense has made a record of that in the event of a conviction. I'm sure those issues will be ones that will return on appeal and that may or may not warrant a new trial if an appellate court decides that even in the event of a conviction, Donald Trump didn't receive a fair trial, because he didn't get a very jury.

I think there can be reasonable disagreement of them and obviously unless the error is serious, it's not likely to be one that would survive harmless error analysis, but they are still legitimate issues on appeal which is why trials are such you know difficult things.

And so those issues, there's a record that has been made. They've objected in a timely fashion. The court has ruled and it will be up ultimately to an appellate court to decide whether or not that judge made the right call or not.

BLITZER: Robert Ray, thanks for your excellent analysis. We'll have you back, for sure. Thank you very much.

And just ahead, glaring at the judge, flipping through papers, sometimes appearing bored with the trial, we'll get a firsthand account of Donald Trump's demeanor in court today from a CNN correspondent who was in the room the entire time.



BLITZER: A tense moment in Donald Trump's trial today as Judge Juan Merchan told Trump attorneys, quote, you need to accept my motions. This in response to the defense's attempts to file motions that were re-litigating decisions the judge had already made.

Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, how did Trump respond to that moment and how did he carry himself today? You were in that courtroom all day.

SCANNELL: So, Wolf, during that moment, Trump kind of glared at the judge. He had a fixed stare at him as the judge was making a lot of comments that weren't necessarily going in Trump's favor. At the end of the hearing, or what Trump thought was the end, he stood up to leave, and the judge, who was not finished, told him, please sit down, sir.

But otherwise, during jury selection, which took up the entire morning, there was the routine moments, where the 22 jurors were answering those 42 questions. And at that time, Trump appeared to be leaning back at times. He's closed his eyes. Other times, he was flipping through pieces of paper that didn't have looked like they were the questionnaire. They seemed to have charts or graphs on them.

But then when his attorneys began questioning the jurors and asking them specifically what their opinion was of Donald Trump, again, he turned his chair in their direction. He was craning his neck, so he would be able to see them, engaged again at that moment when they were being asked specifically their opinion of him. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a good friend of The Situation Room, Preet Bharara. Preet, thanks very much for joining us.

What's your reaction to Trump's demeanor today and him saying again, he would take the stand in his own defense?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, taking the second question first, I don't believe it for a minute. He has been talking for years with respect to various investigations of him, including by Special Counsel Bob Mueller, and impeachment inquiries that he would sit and give testimony. He's not going to do it. I think he likes to pretend that he has the fortitude and the courage to do that. I don't think he will.

With respect to his demeanor, I will tell you that it may be the case that at rallies and at other political functions, when he acts and overacts and makes faces and does his thing, people enjoy it. But this is not a MAGA rally. It's 12 jurors who are sworn to uphold their oath as jurors, a sacrosanct duty, civic duty, and in my experience, they will be watching the defendant, in this case, Donald Trump, very carefully.

And if they detect that the defendant, Donald Trump, is not taking the proceedings seriously or is contemptuous of them or is not comporting himself with respect towards the judge and the others in the room, that adheres to his detriment.

And I guarantee you, Todd Blanche, who I know very well, I used to work with him at the Southern District of New York, is mortified that his client is making faces and doing things like that. And, obviously, the jury's going to take into account the evidence as it comes in, but they're human beings. And they will form an opinion of the sitting defendant if he acts out and it's probably not to his benefit.

BLITZER: Good point. Looking ahead to Monday, can you put yourself in the prosecutor's shoes and tell us how you would craft opening statements?

BHARARA: Yes. So, I think an opening statement is a very powerful and important moment of the trial. In some ways, it's the most important moment of the trial. They've obviously had some exposure to the jury pool because there was a voir dire process. But it's the opening statement where the prosecution gets to set forth the basics of the case and the evidence that they're going to show.

And I think they want to resist being overly dramatic. They want to resist being histrionic. They want to be plain and simple, here are the facts, here's what the evidence will show. But they also need to be careful not to overpromise. They have some interesting witnesses that have been mentioned on your show in the last hour, including Michael Cohen. It's unclear, and I probably believe in the minds of the prosecutors, it's unclear how smoothly that will go, both on direct examination, cross-examination, and redirect examination.

So, they will want to tell the jury, we have these witnesses coming forward, including Michael Cohen. He's going to tell you this, that, and the other. But they want to understate it a little bit and see how the evidence comes in.

They don't want to gild the lily. They don't want to call names. They don't want to be overly aggressive about it. This is a plain and simple case. Here's what we're going to prove. Here's how we're going to prove it. And listen to the instructions of the judge, and use your common sense, and you'll come to the only verdict that is appropriate in this case, and that's guilty. It should be a good, workmanlike opening statement, in my view.

BLITZER: Preet, what do you make of the prosecution's wariness against sharing their witness list with Trump's legal team?

BHARARA: Well, you know, they have good reason to do that. You know, obviously the defense knows the overall witness list.


I think the question was whether or not they should be told the immediate witnesses coming forward so that as a matter of convenience, they know who to prepare for this weekend. And that's of some benefit as a professional, and usually that professional courtesy is extended.

But as I think the judge said in the courtroom today, there's good reason prosecutors are wary of that because there's a track record here of Donald Trump repeatedly calling out those witnesses, his allies saying things about those witnesses. And he wants to prevent that as much as possible. So, you know, a little bit of a bold move because it's traditional for that courtesy to be extended but they have I think the favor of the judge here on deciding not to do so.

BLITZER: Good point.

Preet Bharara, welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, sir.

BLITZER: Coming up, alternate jurors can go from the sidelines to the spotlight at a moment's notice. We're taking a closer look at the reasons of when they could step in.



BLITZER: All right. Back to the breaking news, the full jury for Donald Trump's hush money trial is now seated, and that includes six alternate jurors who will step in if one of the 12 permanent jurors is excused or dismiss.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this for us.

Brian, any one of these six alternates could be called upon at any time.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have to be ready, Wolf. You know, the term alternate juror may not sound very glamorous, and it really isn't. But experts say in a trial this intense, don't discount the importance of the alternate.


TODD (voice-over): Already, two empaneled jurors have been excused from former President Trump's hush money trial, underscoring just how crucial the six alternate jurors are, who've just been seated.

RENATO STABILE, JURY CONSULTANT AND ATTORNEY: In a case of this length and in a high-profile case, the alternates are as significant as the regular jury panel because there's a very high likelihood and probability in this case that one or more of those alternates are going to end up on the jury.

TODD: The alternate juror is there to take over a spot on the 12- member regular jury if one of the regulars has to drop out of the trial.

STABILE: One of the reasons could be illness. They could have a family emergency or something else could happen like they can't follow the courts instruction not to post things on social media.

TODD: Court veterans say the life in limbo of an alternate juror can be strange, unsatisfying, and tougher than it may seem.

LESLIE ELLIS, TRIAL CONSULTANT, THE CAISSA GROUP: It's difficult to be very present and to really focus as much as jurors might need to, with the idea in the back of their mind that they might not really need to deliberate at the end of it all. But as one alternate juror in Police Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial said, being an alternate doesn't mean the case weighs on you any less heavily.

LISA CHRISTENSEN, ALTERNATE JUROR IN DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: Every night when I would come home, I felt exhausted. It was pretty draining, pretty emotional.

TODD: And that juror didn't even know she was an alternate until the end of the trial. In some cases, the judges purposely don't inform the jury of them are alternates and which are regulars until they start deliberating.

ELLIS: So they don't have that issue of knowing, I might not have to deliberate. Do I really to listen to this?

TODD: There are six alternate jurors for Trumps trial. While that may seem like a lot for a complex and highly charged case, it may not be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. He appears to have pulled the gloves off, yes.

TODD: During a O.J. Simpson's lengthy murder trial, ten regular jurors were dismissed for failing to disclose something, allegedly passing a note or considering a book deal, or simply telling the judge "I can't take it anymore". Ten alternate took their place.

What happens if the Trump trial runs out of alternates?

STABILE: It would be up to the defendant whether or not he would want to consent to a verdict with 11 jurors, but I don't believe that he would do that in this case. And you would have a mistrial.

TODD: The alternates are always in court during the actual trial, but don't join the final deliberations unless they're needed. What happens if a regular juror has to leave the case during deliberations?

ELLIS: What happens then is the real jury has to basically start over their deliberations. They have to deliberate as though they hadn't done the deliberations they'd done with the first with the original juror and start over with the alternate juror.


TODD: What's the best advice for an alternate juror?

Trial consultant Leslie Ellis says try to forget you're an alternate, participate in everything you can with the other jurors. Pay attention to every bit of the evidence, pretend that you're one of the first 12 because you may very well be at the very end, Wolf, and this trial like this with its length, and intensity, you can count on it.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Thanks, very much, Brian Todd, for that report.

Coming up, we're going to break down the serious security concerns outside court after a man set himself on fire today. More on how New York police are reviewing their protocols. That's next.



BLITZER: We're tracking new concerns around the Trump trial after a man lit himself on fire today just outside the courthouse. Shortly after the incident, New York City police said security protocols might need to be reassessed.


JEFFREY MADDREY, NYPD CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT: We are very concerned. Of course, we're going to review our security protocols. The park was open to the public. But of course, were going to look at everything and what the magnitude of what's going on around right here. We'll reassess our security with our federal partners.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller.

John, give us the latest. What's going on?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, they're looking into the background of this gentleman while they're looking into the larger security picture.

Do they need to expand the perimeter? Do they make -- do they need to make more of the area around that courthouse a frozen zone? Do they need to close the park, which is a place where people would go and demonstrators gather? And even if they do that, could somebody do something similar somewhere else?

All that's on the table and they have the weekend to sort it out. But what we know about this man is he's a 36 year-old man from St. Augustine, Florida. Police down there have a record of encounters with him, things that may have to do with being emotionally unhinged. He had an in-depth conspiracy theory and called the Ponzi papers that he posted online. It has to do with banks, cryptocurrency, universities, movie stars, murder plots.

It's very detailed and not much of it has anything to do with Donald Trump or the campaign. He did have a sign with him that said Trump is with Biden and they're about to fascist coup us -- which is a sign of how disjointed his conspiracy theories are. His driver's license was taped to the sign because he wanted -- he wanted people to know who he was.

Police theorize the reason he did this in front of the courthouse in the park, just adjacent to where the cameras were, was so that he could get national or global attention to what he was doing, and the weird theories that he's posted online behind it.

BLITZER: John Miller, thank you very much for that update. John Miller helping us.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.