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New Transcript Of Today's Trump Trial Testimony Just Released; Judge Threatens To Jail Trump If He Violates Gag Order Again; Stormy Daniels' Former Lawyer Expected To Return To Stand Thursday; Trump's Son Eric The First Family Member To Attend Trial; NYC Mayor: "External Actors" Causing Serious Public Safety Issues Around Columbia University. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 30, 2024 - 18:00   ET



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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight in the Trump trial, we just got a transcript of today's testimony, including new details from Stormy Daniels former lawyer about the adult film star's hush money deal. And a prediction that if her affair allegations went public, it could be the final nail, direct quote, the final nail in the coffin for Trump just weeks before the 2016 election.

The explosive testimony wrapping up shortly after Trump was forced to take down inflammatory posts, complying with the judge's ruling that he's violated his gag order. Trump now on noticed that he could be jailed, yes, jailed if he's found in contempt again.

For the next hour, we'll take you inside the courtroom from gavel-to- gavel. Our reporters and experts are standing by to break down 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.

Donald Trump's historic criminal trial is set to resume on Thursday with more compelling and potentially crucial testimony by the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. His turn on the witness stand capping a jam packed day inside the courtroom that included the judge finding Trump in contempt for nine violations of his gag order.

Let's get to all the breaking news right now. CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse for us. Kara, we just got a new partial transcript of today's testimony. Bring us up to speed on everything that happened.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Keith Davidson was on the stand for about three hours today, and he took the jury inside the catch and kill deals involving Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

The jury also saw a flurry of text messages between Davidson and the publisher, or the editor in chief of the National Enquirer, underscoring the urgency that they had in trying to execute these deals before the 2016 election. Davidson also testifying that he believed these deals were struck to help Donald Trump's campaign.


SCANNELL (voice over): On the stand, the ex-lawyer for two women, a Playboy model and adult film star at the center of former President Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial. Attorney Keith Davidson testified on Tuesday, revealing new details about the deal at the crux of the prosecution's case, a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels to kill a story on an alleged affair with Trump weeks before the 2016 election.

For Davidson represented Daniels in the arrangement, selling the story to Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump denies having an affair with Daniels. Prosecutors have alleged that Trump did not want to write the check, so Cohen put up the money on his behalf. After Cohen confirmed Trump would pay him back.

Davidson testified the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016 sparked tremendous interest in her story, the National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard text Davidson that her story would be the end for Trump's campaign. Davidson text Howard, Trump is effed. Wave the white flag, it's over people, Howard responded to Davidson's text. Howard said in a text. Yes, but her talking and taking is the final nail in the coffin, but he's effed already.

After Cohen missed the deadline to wire the money multiple times, Davidson testified he believed Cohen was stalling on the deal. Davidson said he told Cohen, I don't believe a word really that you say. Cohen responded, God damn it, what do you expect me to do? My guy is in five different states today. And Davidson told him of his clients and happiness, recalling Cohen told him, God damn it. I'll just do it myself. Davidson told the jury. I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election.

Earlier in the day, the jury heard from Michael Cohen's former banker, Gary Farro, who testified about Cohen's scramble to open and fund an account in late October of 2016. Farro revealed he did not know Cohen's payment was being made to an adult film star, or that it was related to political activity. If he had, he testified, it would have required a much longer review, and potentially would not have opened the account. Davidson also represented former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleged a nearly year-long romantic affair with Trump, which Trump also denies.


Prosecutors asked Davidson about the agreement to sell McDougal's story to the Enquirer, which was ultimately sold to the tabloid's parent company for $150,000 and buried before the election. Davidson texts Howard in June, 2016, I have a blockbuster Trump story. Howard texts back, talk first thing. I will get you more than anyone for it. You know why.

Days later, Howard responded again, asking, did he cheat on Melania? Davidson testified there was an unspoken understanding that The Enquirer bought her story to bury it because of a close affiliation between the tabloid's publisher and Trump, and that AMI would not run this story or any story related to Karen and Donald Trump because it would tend to hurt Donald Trump.

While Davidson testified about McDougal and Daniels, Trump's son, Eric Trump, sat in the front row of the gallery listening. He is the first family member of Trump's to attend the trial. And court began with Judge Juan Merchan handing down a much anticipated ruling, saying Donald Trump violated the gag order that prevents him from discussing witnesses in the case nine times. Trump was fined $9,000 total, $1,000 per violation.


SCANNELL (on camera): Now, Wolf, Trump was pretty demure during the day. He sat most of the time with his family. He's back in his chair with his eyes closed as he listened to the testimony. He was joined though, in addition to Eric Trump, his son, he was also joined by the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, as well as his campaign adviser, Susie Wiles.

Now, when they were back in court on Thursday, Keith Davidson will take the stand, but, first, the judge will hear arguments over whether Donald Trump violated the gag order an additional four times. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens Thursday. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our legal and political experts, and Elliot Williams, you're getting a first look at this just released partial transcript. What stands out to you?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, a few things do, Wolf. So, a central part of what prosecutors have to establish is some nexus to the 2016 campaign that this conduct was taken to protect the former president. And so this is Joshua Steinglass interviewing Keith Davidson, or question Keith Davidson, attorney to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

He asks, is this another text exchange between you and Dylan Howard on October 8th and October 9th of 2016? This is right after the Access Hollywood tape. Keith Davidson says, yes. Who sent the first text in this chain? Keith Davidson, it's from me. And what did you say? Trump is effed. You wrote the whole word out, effed, in the text? He says, I did. What prompted you to say that Trump was effed? The Access Hollywood tape. How did Dylan Howard respond, Dylan Howard over at AMI the National Enquirer, he responded with, wave the white flag, it's over people, exclamation point. And how did you interpret that? I think he was seconding my opinion. He asks, based on the Access Hollywood tape? Answer, yes.

BLITZER: Interesting. Well, let me get Katelyn, who's been covering this very thoroughly. What did you make of this exchange?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Not only is this highlighting the nexus between the campaign and all of the folks dealing with the hush money stories, the catch and kill plans, but this Access Hollywood moment and the reactions to it, it is the central moment in the 2016 campaign for Trump where it becomes clear he has an issue potentially with female voters, and then it's the catalyst for the series of things that come after that are all central to this trial.

It sets up not just this need or want for Stormy Daniels to tell her story publicly, then getting The National Enquirer interested or involved in these conversations, but also it is the moment that then Keith Davidson, the attorney to Stormy Daniels gets connected to Michael Cohen, and everything flows from there for the rest of this case and the rest of this trial.

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. As, Katelyn pointed out, I mean, this is a sort of a key fact that the prosecutor is going to need to establish as part of its case. And, you know, it's a very helpful point for them to be introducing at this point, particularly because this, like the predicate crime here, which has been subject to some debate, is a campaign finance violation of some sort.

And so, you know, I think that we're seeing like sort of the prosecutors and sort of brick after brick after brick of evidence in isolation, maybe one of, you know, each of these things isn't going to make or break the case, but they're building a pretty strong case.

And so far, so far as I can tell, we haven't heard anyone say that they heard from Trump that any of this had to do with his family.

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. David Urban, does this all line up with what you remember during the Trump campaign?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I was there. I wasn't there for this part, but I actually had the president for the first public event after the Access Hollywood tape was released in that October.

And I remember it a little differently. Obviously, there was a great deal of chaos when the tape was released, and a great deal of concern. And at that first event, I was curious to see what the crowd, if there was going to be a crowd, were people going to show up, what was the reaction going to be.


And a huge crowd showed up, actually.

And the reaction was very positive for the president, just like it had been prior to the Access Hollywood tape. And, you know, it was one of those moments where people -- you know, I think it showed everyone that they thought they had Trump this time, they knocked him down, and he kept moving forward.

You know, it was one of those moments that kept happening on the campaign. He's going to be dead and he's not dead. He keeps moving.

And so, you know, whether, you know, some of this, he's effed language, whether that would have proven to be true, I'm not quite sure because he proved pretty resilient after the few things that did come out. He bounced right back up.

Elliot, there's another part of the transcript you're looking at, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes. And so two things prosecutors often have to do is number one, manage the credibility of their witnesses. You can't pick the people who are testifying and sometimes they've got some baggage, and then, two, establishing the human drama, the element of how the parties interact with each other.

And one segment from today came up, and this is again, Keith Davidson speaking with Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor. Keith Davidson says, in any event, Gina, and that's a communications person, called me up to tell me that some jerk called me and was very, very aggressive and threatened to sue me. And I would like you, Keith, to call this jerk back. Prosecutor, I hate to ask it this way, but who was that jerk? Answer, it was Michael Cohen.

So, what happened when you called? Did you call Michael Cohen? I did. Tell us about that. Gina provided me the number that he left either with her ex or on the voicemail. It was for the Trump organization. I called. I was transferred to Michael Cohen. I introduced myself. And before I could barely get my name out, I was just met with like a hustle barrage of insults and insinuations and allegations. That went on for quite a while.

Question, what was the gist of what he was accusing you of? Pause. I don't think he was accusing us of anything. He was just screaming, answer. Okay. What was he upset about? He was upset about that the story on the got published and he believed that Stormy Daniels was the source behind that story.

BLITZER: Interesting. Kaitlan, what do you make of this exchange?

POLANTZ: Yes. Well, we're going to hear very likely for Michael Cohen on the stand. So, getting a flavor of his personality before the jury now is something that the prosecutors might want to be doing. But the other thing is they're painting the portrait of the reaction within the Trump campaign. Michael Cohen already established by another witness was known to be working on behalf of Donald Trump, the candidate, not just as an attorney for him.

The jury hasn't seen the Access Hollywood tape, and they're not going to see it in this trial. It's too prejudicial, but they're going to be seeing all of the blowback after it, including the urgency, the intensity, the things that Michael Cohen was saying and doing to really communicate that they believed there was a problem in the Trump campaign, that they needed Keith Davidson to take care of with Stormy Daniels.

BLITZER: Why do you think prosecutors, Ankush, and you're a former federal prosecutor, why do you think prosecutors are in advance painting a pretty negative picture of Michael Cohen?

KHARDORI: So, prosecutors often do this to try to preempt the argument on behalf of the defendant. So, you kind of want to air out all the sort of dirty laundry so that you have an opportunity to frame the testimony yourself, put some context around it and potentially sort of take the sting out of it before Cohen himself has to take the stand.

But I would just say this is not good testimony from Michael Cohen in a variety of respects. There were several points at which the witness testified that he had effectively been misled by Cohen. I think the quote that we saw up there earlier, I'll just do it myself. I would not be surprised if we see that in the defense closing as indicative of Cohen sort of freelancing in this area.

So, it's good for the prosecutors to get it out in this way when they can control it, but these are not great facts for Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: David Urban, how do you think the Trump defense team is going to use all this information?

URBAN: Well, I mean, I think this morning, if I recall correctly, the banker said that when Michael Cohen called, 90 percent of the time when Michael Cohen called him, it was a crisis. Michael Cohen was losing his mind about something. And so I think the picture is going to be painted that Michael Cohen as unhinged, an unhinged actor that was acting, you know, in his own capacity here and, and is still doing it.

Every night, he's live streaming for eight hours, you know, making heart symbol. I mean, there's a lot of stuff that he's doing right now that I'm sure you're going to see in this trial. It is pretty unflattering for Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: There's another key part, Elliot, of Davidson's testimony you're looking at.

WILLIAMS: Right. And, again, back to this idea of the impact on the campaign, you're going to keep hearing this throughout the trial. Keith Davidson says at one point, I think I was at this point in time, Karen, this is McDougal, was teetering between two competing deals.

[18:15:00] And we'd requested a meeting where each entity could make a pitch as to why they were the correct avenue for Karen to bring her story forward.

Okay. How did you respond to that? Davidson, good, throw in an ambassadorship for me. I'm thinking the Isle of Man question. What did you mean by that? Mr. Davidson? It was sort of in jest, but it was just a joke. So, the question, I'm trying to think about how to phrase this question. Why was that a joke? Why was that funny? What was going on in your mind when you made that joke? Answer from Davidson, well, I don't even think the Isle of Man is a country, Steinglass laughs, and I know they don't have an ambassador, but I think it was a reference to Mr. Trump's candidacy.

Question, can you just explain that a little bit more? Answer from Davidson, that somehow if Karen did this deal with AMI, that it would help Donald Trump's candidacy. Question, and at the time that you sent that text in just, did you understand that AMI was working with then candidate Trump regarding your client? Answer, I don't know about that. I don't know that I had specific information that they were or not working with him. I knew they'd announced their support for Mr. Trump, but I don't know that they were working with him.

Okay. Is it safe to assume from your joke that you had an understanding that if you were to close your deal, that would somehow benefit the candidate, Donald Trump? Answer from Keith Davidson, yes.

BLITZER: Ankush, how much does this speak to the suggestion that the campaign, the Trump campaign was the driver of all this cash transfer?

KHARDORI: Well, it's clearly relevant to sort of establishing a motive for why they were engaged in this. The one thing I will just say that sort of diminishes the sort of the power of that testimony is his own view, right? He's not saying I heard this from Trump or I heard this from the Trump campaign. It's relevant but it's not really sort of a nail in the coffin.

BLITZER: What do you think, David?

URBAN: And I was going to say, interestingly, well, this is all about a campaign violation, federal campaign violation, but yet we're in state court, right? So, somehow, the state prosecutor is going to have to try to bootstrap this into the charge that they're actually here for, right, because the federal government passed on this. They took a pass on this case. So, it will be interesting to see how the state prosecutor lands this plane.

WILLIAMS: And there will be a really narrow jury instruction that the judge will give saying prosecutors do not have to prove and convict the defendant of the federal offense. You just have to establish that a crime that they were doing it to cover up a crime, and it's a little bit of mental gymnastics to make the jury go through.

BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot more coming up to be sure. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

I should note, Katelyn will be back with us later this hour.

Just ahead, inside Judge Juan Merchan's gag order ruling against Trump and his threat to jail him for any future violations. I'll talk to a former New York Supreme Court Justice who knows Judge Merchan well.

And we'll tell you what we're learning about Trump's lead defense attorney amid new reporting that he's angered the former president.



BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is railing against his gag order in the hush money trial after the judge fined him for violations and ordered him to take down, to delete, the nine online posts in question, which Trump did shortly before the deadline this afternoon.

Now, Judge Juan Merchan is warning Trump that he risks jail time if he defies the gag order again, quoting now from the judge's order, quote, defendant is hereby warned that the court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment.

Joining us now is someone who has worked with Judge Merchan and knows him well, retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus. Justice Obus, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, as all of us know, jailing Trump would be an extraordinary step. You know Judge Merchan. Is that something you think he would actually go through with?

MICHAEL OBUS, FORMER NEW YORK STATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I'm certain that he does not want to have to go through with it. But I'm also confident that if really pushed to the wall, he will do what has to be done. But I think that's highly unlikely partly because it would interfere with the trial itself, which is the main show here. This is the sideshow. The jury doesn't even know about this, hopefully.

And if the judge were to incarcerate the defendant, that runs the risk of spilling out into the jury and even risking a mistrial. I don't think he'll be pushed that far.

And in the meantime, I think the potential penalty, which Judge Merchan has now specifically referred to, which I thought was interesting, has had some bearing on what Defendant Trump has had to say.

I did catch his speech after the court proceedings today, where he carried on about. The gag order itself, and about all the judges, Judge Kaplan, Judge Engoron, Judge Merchan, about the district attorney. He did not say a word about the witnesses. He's removed the offending posts and reposts, and I expect he will pay the fines.

So, it will be interesting to see what happens Thursday morning, but I don't think, um. Judge Merchan will be pushed to the wall on this. BLITZER: Interesting. On Trump's remarks after the trial today, I want to play a brief excerpt of what he said. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP ( R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This gag order is not only unique, it's totally unconstitutional.


BLITZER: Totally unconstitutional, he says. How do you respond to that?

OBUS: Well, first of all, even a gag order that is unlawful is not to be contested by violating it. You can appeal it. You can do all kinds of things, which the defense attorneys already have and the gag order has been upheld.


Not only that, I'm confident that it would be upheld in the future.

It's really quite limited. As you can see, Mr. Trump is able to carry on about all kinds of things about the case, about the gag order, about the judge and all of that, and that's well within his rights. So, his complaint about it, that's what he's allowed to say, but he's not violating the gag order by saying it.

BLITZER: As I noted, you're a former New York State Supreme Court justice who knows Judge Merchan. Take us inside a bit, Justice, how he balances some of the very, very difficult decisions he's facing in this case.

OBUS: Well, I have to say, first of all, as to the contempt proceeding, that's very unusual and most of us have not even had to deal with that. And I don't think Judge Merchan has ever had anything like that up until now. He is a very careful judge. He's smart, he's knowledgeable, he's calm, he's fair. So, I think he's handled this very well.

And all of the other matters that have been raised, people don't quite appreciate, as I do, how difficult it can be when you're presiding over a highly contested matter. Of course, you have the assistance of your law clerk and the court staff and all of that, but basically are out there on your own.

You have to make decisions in real-time, some of the time or reserve decision and spend your evenings getting ready to make a decision the next morning. He has done amazingly well with that.

And I think what has shown is not only that it seems to me that defendant Trump is now lining himself with the with the gag order, and I'm sure his lawyers are advising him to do so, but also that the trial is actually proceeding, quite efficiently and fairly, and I think his lawyers know it. BLITZER: And let's not forget, this is the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has faced a criminal trial.

Justice Michael Obus, thank you so much for joining us.

OBUS: Thank you very much, sir.

BLITZER: And coming up a closer look at Donald Trump's lead attorney and why the former president is reportedly fuming about his performance.



BLITZER: We're back with our special breaking news coverage of Donald Trump's historic hush money trial, the former president apparently turning his anger right now on his lead lawyer, Todd Blanche.

Brian Todd has more on this. Brian, what do we know about Todd Blanche and a new report that Trump isn't happy with his performance?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the pressure on him is enormous. Todd Blanche is the first attorney in American history to represent a former president in a criminal trial. It was considered a risky move for him to leave his previous practice to take on Donald Trump as a client, and it does look now like Blanche is starting to feel some of that pressure.


TRUMP: Todd, wherever you may be, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, President Trump.

TODD (voice over): Donald Trump has reportedly held Todd Blanche in very high esteem. But according to The New York Times, the former president has recently turned some of his anger over this trial toward his 49-year-old lead defense attorney. The Times, citing four people familiar with the situation, reporting that behind closed doors, Trump has complained that Blanche hasn't been aggressive enough in the courtroom and hasn't followed his instructions closely.

BERNARDA VILLANOVA, FORMER ASSISTANT D.A, KINGS COUNTY, NEW YORK: It has to be extremely stressful for Todd Blanche. This is the case of his career. This is the case of a lifetime for him to handle in the public view where everyone knows his name, where all eyes are on him.

TODD: Despite Trump's reported criticism, Blanche's tone has been aggressive in court filings. And so far in court, he's been limited to his opening statement and cross-examining witnesses whom he didn't pick.

As for Blanche's courtroom style -- JOSHUA NAFTALIS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, WORKED WITH TODD BLANCHE: He knows how to talk to witnesses. He knows how to talk to people who he doesn't necessarily relate with, and he knows how to talk to a jury, and he knows how to try tough cases. So, I think it's off base to say Todd is not tough enough. He's the type of lawyer you would hire if you're in a jam.

TODD: Todd Blanche is known by friends for being humble and non- confrontational, but also competitive with a dogged work ethic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to fight it. We're going to fight it hard.

TODD: He worked days as a paralegal and had to take night classes to graduate from Brooklyn Law School, then, as a federal prosecutor, worked on violent crimes, like robberies and homicides.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Blanche is a longtime federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, very well respected, left his white shoe law firm, Cadwallader, Wickersham and Taft in order to serve as the president's lawyer.

TODD: Inside Trump World, Blanche represented Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on state fraud charges that were later dismissed. He's also defended Rudy Giuliani's former associate, Igor Fruman, and Trump's legal and political adviser, Boris Epshteyn.

In this current case, it was Blanche's aggression that actually got him in trouble with Judge Juan Merchan. When he persisted in defending Trump against a gag order violation charge, Judge Merchan told Blanche, quote, you're losing all credibility with the court.

Analysts say these are the pitfalls of representing Donald Trump.

EISEN: You have a client who is very strong headed, who expects things from his lawyers that they cannot deliver, who, after his many decades of entanglement with the legal system, often appears to believe he knows better than his lawyers what should happen.


TODD (on camera): A source close to the former president's legal team downplayed the idea of possible tension with Trump and the team, telling CNN a criminal trial is an inherently stressful situation, that the team is just fine and focused on the witnesses that matter.



BLITZER: Very interesting. Brian Todd reporting, Brian, good report, thank you very much.

And joining us now, the former federal prosecutor Sarah Krissoff, who worked with Todd Blanche at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office. Sarah, thanks so much for joining us. You know Todd Blanche well. How do you read his and Trump's relationship, and how much of this tension that apparently is going on is natural in such a high stress criminal trial?

SARAH KRISSOFF, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So, I mean, Todd is a really excellent lawyer. He was my supervisor at the U.S. attorney's office and was frankly a fantastic supervisor and attorney. I hold him in very high regard.

This is most certainly a high stakes trial for him, but I'm confident, frankly, if anyone can handle the pressure, and both from the press, the court, and Trump himself, it's Todd. I think he's going to run this trial the way he wants to do it, the way he thinks is best for his client. He'll take into account input from Trump, listen to him and, you know, make decisions himself on how to proceed strategically.

BLITZER: How does Todd Blanche appease Trump's reported anger that he's not being, let's say, aggressive enough without potentially jeopardizing this entire case?

KRISSOFF: Yes. I mean, aggression is really not the thing he wants to show in front of the jury here, right? This is a panel of jurors are looking at everything that that Todd does. They're looking at the former president. They are examining each one of these witnesses and the legal team for, you know, every nuance, every motion, every word. And aggression is really not the tack that Todd wants to take here.

So, you know, that is a lot of client -- there's a lot of client relations here that are going to be very difficult, particularly with Trump and his personality, but, hopefully, Todd is, is managing all of that.

BLITZER: Sarah, why do you think a Todd Blanche took this job on knowing the stakes, enormous stakes and Trump's reputation as someone who is a difficult client who even dodges paying his lawyers?

KRISSOFF: You know, I'm sure he spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to proceed with this representation, both sort of for financial reasons, reputational reasons. You know, ultimately, he decided to forego his partnership, but it really prestigious firm take this job, which I'm sure is extremely stressful every day.

Todd has, you know, avoided the cameras, I think, as much as possible. He likes to sort of be in the back. He lets Trump speak. He lets other members of the team speak and he's doing sort of the substantive work, you know, writing the motions and appearing in court on Trump's behalf. But, you know, he decided that the benefits outweigh the costs here.

BLITZER: Good point. Sarah Krissoff, thanks for your insight. We appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, the Trump criminal trial zeroes in on the money trail. We're breaking down more significant testimony. That's next.


BLITZER: We're digging deeper into today's testimony in the Trump criminal trial and what it revealed about the trail of money paid to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.

Katelyn Polantz is back with us right now. Katelyn, take us through some of the key witnesses and the key points made today.

POLANTZ: Yes, Wolf. These are all four people who were on the stand today testifying. Keith Davidson, we've talked a lot about him, the attorney for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. These two people, Robert Browning and Philip Thompson, they both were bringing things into evidence that Donald Trump has said in a deposition and then in C-SPAN.

One of them is the archivist, Browning is the archivist for C-SPAN's video archives. We saw some of Trump's statements about that time. Gary Farro, though, is who I want to focus on. He really did a lot today to bring more evidence into this case. It's going to be very important for the prosecutors to prove what they want to prove, to sell it to the jury, to make sure that paperwork is all shown to them.

And what he did is he gave a snapshot of a two-day period where the money moved. This is all important in proving this transaction going to Stormy Daniels ultimately from Michael Cohen. October 26th, Michael Cohen opens an account with the bank. And this is Gary Farro, the banker from First Republic Bank, testifying to the opening of this account under the name Essential Consultants, a shell company, ultimately.

He then very quickly moves his $131,000 from his home equity line of credit into that bank account to make money available there, and then the very next day transfers $130,000 to Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Keith Davidson, ultimately for her to get that money to keep her quiet.

All of this is very important, and additionally, Gary Farro had things to say about what the bank would have wanted to know about this transaction that moved so quickly, very unusually quickly. He said in this transcript, he was being asked by Prosecutor Becky Mangold, so now we've looked at the account opening documents for Essential Consultants in some detail, right? Gary Farro responded, yes. Mangold said, well, probably more detail than anybody wanted. So, he laughed.

And then she continued. Did any of the account opening paperwork indicate that the account would be used to make a payment on behalf of a political candidate? Gary Farro, no. Mangold, would the bank's process for opening the account be different if Mr. Cohen had indicated the account would be used to make a payment on behalf of a political candidate? He said, there would be additional scrutiny.

The transcript then continued, Mangold, the prosecutor, asked him, would that have delayed the opening of the account? Quite possibly, the banker said. Is it possible that the account wouldn't have been opened at all? It's possible. The transcript continued later, did any of the account opening paperwork indicate that the account would be used to pay an adult film star?


The banker said no. Would the banks process for opening the account be different if Mr. Cohen had indicated that the account would be used to pay an adult film star? Gary Farro said, absolutely. Mangold said, how would it be different? He said, well, we would certainly ask additional questions.

It's not our money to determine where it goes. However, it is an industry that we do not work with. So there would be a determination made by the second and third line of defense if it was something that we would move forward on.

The prosecutor asked him and that would have delayed the opening of the account. Farro, that would certainly have deleted. Mangold, is it possible that the account wouldn't have been opened at all? Gary Farro said, yes, it is. So that crucial testimony very likely going to be something were talking about again and again.

BLITZER: All that money transfer happening just a few days before the presidential election in 2016.

POLANTZ: Indeed.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Katelyn Polantz reporting.

Coming up, Donald Trumps see some friendly faces in the courtroom, including his son, Eric. What it means for him and his campaign. We'll have details when we come back.



BLITZER: For the first time in over two weeks, Donald Trump had the support of a family member inside the courtroom. His son Eric was there today, seated in the first row along with a Trump political ally, the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Let's bring in former Trump administration deputy press secretary, Sarah Matthews, is with me in THE SITUATION ROOM, as is CNN national correspondent, Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, what's behind this notable change in support in the courtroom?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So I don't necessarily know if it was a noticeable change in support rather than just cycling people through for a couple of reasons.

One, Donald Trump and his team want to show that they have a unity behind them of the Republican Party. So you're starting to see people, it wasn't just Eric. You're all starting to see David Macintosh, who runs Club for Growth, somebody who had been feuding with for roughly over a year and now has come back into the fold. You saw Ken Paxton there.

They are trying to show that he has the Republican Party behind them. Now, of course, he wants to have one of his kids in there as well. But the other part of this is just the fact that it is a logistical challenge. They cannot have just Trump's advisers in there every single day because they can't have access to their phones and they can't do any work when there in that courtroom.

So part of this is the fact that they need to cycle people through because the same people can't sit there time and time again.

BLITZER: What does that say to you, Sarah, about the toll? This is apparently taking on Trump?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, I think that this trial is taking a toll on him. He doesn't like not being in control. And so having to appear every day in this courtroom, we've heard them complain numerous times about how cold he is, complaining about having to sit up straight. And I think he wants to have some sense of control and have his people there.

And it's a show of force as well. And so to have a family member there today, definitely, I think was good for him, but then I think, too, that, you know, he is having a hard time with not being control and sitting there every day because he's used to being at Mar-a-Lago where when he enters the room, they stand up and clap for him. And in this courtroom, he's being treated like every other American is because as we know in this country, no one is above the law, but its definitely probably frustrating for him.

And it's taking a physical toll on him as well I think, too. It is tiring having to sit there for hours on end just for any normal defendant, let alone an elderly defendant. And so, I think that it's certainly taking a toll on him in that aspect, though.

BLITZER: Good point, a very good point.

Kristen, it's interesting that the Trump strategy for tomorrow -- I'm very interested in that because there's no court session tomorrow.

HOLMES: Yeah. They're actually going on the campaign trail. I mean, as we've reported, they told us time and time again, both for President Trump and his campaign that every off day, whether it be a Wednesday or a Saturday, he'd be on the campaign trail.

Well, that hasn't really played out. We know that he did try to have one event, but it was canceled because of weather. But other than that, he's been hosting dinners at his at Trump Tower. He played golf at Bedminster, not on the campaign trail despite saying that this trial was keeping him off the campaign trail.

So, tomorrow is going to be in both Wisconsin and Michigan. These are obviously two states that they believe are absolutely really critical to his pathway back to the White House. They are states that he won in 2016, almost shockingly, but then lost in 2020. And they believe that the only way they're calling the must-win state for them to go back to the White House as to when these two states.

BLITZER: Does any of this Sarah resonate with Trump's base?

MATTHEWS: I think it does nothing except for harden his support with his base. Look, they're going to be with him no matter what. We've seen that in the polling, they've said that if he's convicted, they're still going to support him no matter what. And I think the thing that he's going to have to worry about him and his team is not his base in this trial, and the court of public opinion, it's going to be particularly independence and women, because I think when you look at this trial, the optics of it aren't great.

I mean, this was an affair he had with a porn star shortly after his wife gave birth to their child. And so, for women who might be on the fence about Donald Trump because they're unsure about his character. This is just another reminder of the kind of man that he is.

And so this is something that they might have to deal with, with this trial, but also who knows, its certainly could not have an impact at all when you look at 2016. The Access Hollywood tape came out and he still went on to be successful.

BLITZER: Good point. Sarah Matthews, Kristen Holmes, ladies, thank you very much.

Coming up, there's breaking news in the anti-Gaza -- on the anti-Gaza war demonstrations over at Columbia University of New York mayor speaking out moments ago as students are occupying a campus building.



BLITZER: And stay with CNN for much more of the Trump trial. But right now, we're also following breaking news on the campus -- campus unrest over at Columbia University in New York.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is just outside the Columbia campus.

Shimon, we just heard from the New York Mayor Eric Adams. Give us the latest.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly in an escalation here from the NYPD. The presence here is quite extensive. We have not seen this kind of police presence outside of Columbia University. The mayor warning the protesters that are inside the campus and around the campus that it's time to leave, and he is warning the families and the parents of these protesters to call their kids and tell them to leave.

The problem here, according to the NYPD and the mayor, is that the protests has been taken over by outside elements, and that there is now a security concern, a safety concern on the campus and around the area. The mayor was talking about the several individuals who stormed the

building here, the Hamilton building here at Columbia, that has changed everything. And it appears that the NYPD now has information which is concerning to them.

And so look at what they have done here, Wolf. We have not seen anything like this. Broadway, you are familiar, Wolf, with here -- this area in Morningside Heights. There's no traffic here.

They have shut down this entire area. They have moved in more police officers. They are using these metal barriers to sort of keep the street clothes.

But certainly, Wolf, there was a lot of concern here. We also know that there are other officers standing by at the ready to move in.

BLITZER: Shimon Prokupecz, thanks for that update.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.