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New Transcript Of Trump Trial Testimony Just Released; Key Witness, Asked What Have We Done, When Trump Won In 2016; Defense Tries To Use Sensational Cases Against Daniels' Ex-Lawyer; Trump Suggests He's Ready To "Fight" If He Loses 2024 Election; Pro-Israel & Pro-Palestinian Protesters Hold Separate Rallies At GWU. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 02, 2024 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I will learn how to ride it and we will ride together one day, daddy.


He was the best man I will ever know and I hope to be just like him, Theo.

Theo, that obituary was beautiful. May your dad's memory be a blessing for you always.

Wolf Blitzer is up next in THE SITUATION ROOM with much more on today's testimony in the Trump hush money cover-up trial. Among his guests, former Trump impeachment lawyer Robert Ray. That's next here on CNN

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news in the Trump trial. We just got a new court transcript on the critical testimony by Stormy Daniels' former lawyer revealing new details about the hush money payment he negotiated for the adult film star, Keith Davidson drawing connections between the deal and the 2016 presidential election acknowledging he asked, what have we done, when Trump won, the defense seizing on Davidson's history of celebrity clients with sensational cases in hopes of undermining his credibility.

For the next hour, we'll take you inside the courtroom from gavel-to- gavel. We'll 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.

Day 6 of the testimony against Donald Trump wrapped up in New York City just a short while ago. Let's get right to the breaking news on what we learned.

The final witness of the day, a tech analyst opened the door for the prosecution to introduce a phone call involving Trump into evidence.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse in New York for us. Kara, tell us more about this recording and its significance.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the jury heard several recorded conversations that were taken by Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney. In this recording, Cohen is speaking with the former president and they're discussing the $150,000 payment made to Karen McDougal. She is the former Playboy model who alleged she had a months-long affair with Trump. This is what the jury heard.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

Yes. And it's all the stuff, all the stuff. Because you never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be. Correct. So, I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time for the financing, which will be --


COHEN: We'll have to pay you. So -- no, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.


SCANNELL: Now, Wolf, ultimately, the $150,000 was paid by American Media, the publisher of The National Enquirer, and was not coming out of Trump's pocket. That was one piece of evidence the prosecution introduced today.

Earlier, Trump's attorneys were cross-examining Keith Davidson, the attorney for those women, and they spent most of the morning trying to attack his credibility and suggest that he was trying to extort Trump.


SCANNELL (voice over): New details from a key witness, the ex- attorney of an adult film star and playboy model who brokered hush money deals at the center of former President Donald Trump's criminal case.

TRUMP: I'm getting ready to spend another day in the courthouse, which is bogus trial.

SCANNELL: Keith Davidson back on the stand on day 10 of Trump's trial, cross-examined by Trump's attorney who attempted to discredit Davidson by painting him as a shady lawyer.

Meanwhile, prosecutors tried to show how Davidson's arrangement with a tabloid and Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to kill two bombshell stories about Trump's alleged affairs directly impacted the 2016 election. Trump denies both affairs. In his testimony, Davidson recalled texting National Enquirer Editor Dylan Howard on election night in 2016 as results came in in favor of Trump. Davidson said he text Howard, what have we done? Oh, my God, Howard replied. Davidson testified, there was an understanding that our efforts may have, in some way -- strike that -- our activities may have, in some way, assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Prosecutors played an audio recording of Cohen saying Trump hates that they paid off adult film star Stormy Daniels. Cohen was heard saying, I can't even tell you how many times he said to me, I hate the fact that we did it. And my comment to him was, but every person that you've spoken to tells you it was the right move.


The payment and conspiracy of Trump's involvement in Daniel's hush money deal is the crux of the prosecution's case.

Prosecutors also questioned Davidson about Daniels sitting down with Jimmy Kimmel in January 2018. Before the interview, Daniels and her attorney released a statement denying an alleged affair with Trump. But hours later, she told Kimmel it didn't look like her signature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you sign this letter that was released today?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. That you can say, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that looks like my signature, doesn't it?

SCANNELL: After, Davidson said Cohen threatened to rain legal hell down upon her and threatened to sue Daniels multiple times in saying, don't eff with us, you don't know who you're effing with. Later that year, Daniels said she felt she had to sign the letter denying an affair, which she said was a lie.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If it was untruthful, why did you sign it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they made it sound like I had no choice.

SCANNELL: Throughout the sometimes testy cross-examination, Trump's attorney, Emil Bove, sought to paint Davidson as untrustworthy. He zeroed in on a 2012 FBI investigation into possible extortion involving the selling of former wrestler Hulk Hogan's sex tape. Davidson said he was not charged in connection to the case.

Bove attempted to tie Davidson's involvement with Hogan's alleged extortion plot to his hush money deals for Daniels and former Playboy model, Karen McDougal. Bove asked Davidson if he goes right up to the line without committing extortion. Davidson responded, I don't understand the question. After court, Trump said he's pleased with how his team is doing.

TRUMP: We have a long day in the court, as always, but I'm very happy about the way things are going.


SCANNELL (on camera): Now, Trump was mainly sitting still for a lot of the testimony, but when his lawyers were cross-examining Keith Davidson, he leaned forward, he looked toward in the direction of Davidson and seemed to be paying close attention.

Jurors throughout the day, even when it was the more salacious testimony or some of the drier parts, they all seemed pretty engaged watching the monitor in front of them and their heads bobbing between the witness and the lawyers asking the questions.

The D.A.'s witness right now is a computer forensic analyst. He is expected to be back on the stand tomorrow, where they will introduce some more records obtained from Michael Cohen's cell phones. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kara Scannell outside the courthouse in New York for us, thank you.

I want to break down right now the just released trial transcript with our legal and political experts. Elliot Williams is here. Elliot, Keith Davidson testified at length about his contacts with Michael Cohen.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right, he did. And, look, Wolf, we all know that Michael Cohen looms large over these proceedings. He certainly came up a lot today. And there was an interesting exchange about an interaction that the two of them had. So, let's get right into it.

So, Steinglass, Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, asks, after the election, did you continue to speak with Michael Cohen? And Davidson says, I did. Well, did there come any times during the month or two that followed the election when the topic of Stormy Daniels came up? Answer, yes. Can you tell the jury a little bit about that? Davidson, after the election, Michael Cohen called me fairly frequently.

And there was one particular day. It was on a weekend in mid-December. And this is the period of time after the election. But before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president and it was -- I think it was on a Saturday morning and I was shopping for a holiday. And I got a call from a very despondent and sat in Michael Cohen.

And I was at an apartment store, which is a whole kind of other story because it was sort of strangely decorated. And so the whole situation was very odd that he was calling me and I was in a strangely decorated department store. And it was a long phone call and he told me he was depressed and despondent. And he said that he used very colorful language about that stage of his life.

Question, you are quoting so you can repeat the language. Answer, he said something to the effect of Jesus Christ, can you effing believe I'm not going to Washington after everything I've done, important there, for that effing guy? I can't believe I'm not going to Washington. I've saved that guy's ass so many times and you don't even know.

Question, and did? Answer, and then -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, answer from Davidson. And then he made a reference to. He said, you know, I never even got paid. He said, that effing guy is not even paying me the $130,000.

BLITZER: Very interesting from the transcript. We'll have more of that coming up.

Ankush Khardori, what do you see the significance of that conversation between Keith Davidson, the lawyer, and Michael Cohen?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there are a few things I see there. One is Cohen clearly was on the out with Trump at this time, right? And that's a rift that, of course, grew over time. And so I think we're going to see the defense say, look, Cohen has always had a motive to kind of smear Trump and try to extract some revenge against him.

Second, you know, I think when you hear that, that exchange, it becomes clear that Cohen was really the driving force behind, at least the mechanics behind the deal, and that Trump may have had little to no involvement in those particulars of it.


And we get that with the audio recording, too, that I'm sure we'll get into.

And I think the third theme that I think was teased out today by the defense that is also addressed in that exchange is we're dealing with a bunch of sleaze merchants, to be honest. These are not sympathetic people in this story at all. And I think the defense is going to want to emphasize that because the jury likes to see victims and sympathetic people in these cases, someone's interest that they can vindicate. And there is no one's interest to vindicate here yet.

BLITZER: Sarah Matthews is with us as well. What do you see as the significance of this?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I am not sure if this trial is going to have much significance, I'll be honest, I think when you're looking at this case, a lot of this has already been known in the court of public opinion. A lot of people are aware that Donald Trump had this affair with Stormy Daniels.

And I don't know how many people are paying attention. Look, voters often don't start paying attention until just a couple of months before the election, usually at the end of the summer.

And so, I will say though that for those that are paying attention, maybe those voters who are on the fence about Donald Trump and maybe aren't sure they really want to support him because they don't really like his character, but maybe they kind of like the policies, a case like this at the forefront of their minds certainly doesn't help them with their kind of image of Donald Trump. Look, he had an affair with a porn star and then tried to cover it up. And mind you, this affair happened just days after his wife gave birth to their son.

So, it could go both ways. I think that with his base, they're going to be hardened in their support for him. It's not going to make any difference. They have shown they're going to stand by him no matter what, even if there's a conviction. But for some voters, this could potentially persuade them.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This affair is also around the same timeframe as the affair with Karen McDougal, the sweep of Donald Trump's timeline here, Wolf.

But to Sarah's point, I'm not sure that we're going to know the impact of this trial until there is a verdict. I don't think the course of events throughout the trial that we're covering day in and day out here is likely to shape much public opinion. I do think once there is a verdict one way or the other, I think then we will have a stronger sense what the actual political impact here.

I just want to note in listening to your very dramatic (INAUDIBLE) of this, the fact that Michael Cohen ever thought he was going to Washington in some big capacity as attorney general or White House chief of staff or secretary of state, I think he floated all of those things, is beyond the realm of reality, even in a Donald Trump plan for an administration.

BLITZER: White House counsel.

CHALIAN: Yes, White House counsel.

BLITZER: That's one of his other thoughts.

There's another part of the transcript that you're looking at is of interest.

WILLIAMS: Right. So, one of the things that Kara Scannell had mentioned in her report at the top of this was that these relationships that are alleged are at the crux of the case. Prosecutors have to establish at least they happen, not just that they happen, but that conduct was done to suppress them from American voters. And there was an exchange regarding a statement made by Stormy Daniels that came up that she made. And so let's get into it right here.

So, Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor asks, okay, can you read for us the statement? This is Stormy Daniels -- a statement drafted for Stormy Daniels. Davidson says, to whom it may concern, over the past few weeks, I've been asked countless times to comment on reports of an alleged sexual relationship that I had with Donald Trump many, many, many years ago.

The fact of the matter is that each party to this alleged affair denied its existence in 2006, 2011, 2016, 2017, and now again in 2018. I am not denying this affair because I was paid, quote, hush money, as has been reported in overseas-owned tabloids. I'm denying this affair because it never happened, period, next paragraph. I have no further comment on this matter, period. Please feel free to check me out on Instagram at the Stormy Daniels, and he says, excuse me, at the Stormy Daniels.

Joshua Steinglass then asks, Mr. Davidson, how would you characterize the truthfulness of this statement? Davidson, I think it's technically true. Question from Steinglass. How do you explain that, or can you explain that? Can you explain how it's true that it says an alleged sexual relationship, which basically denies them having a sexual relationship? Is that right? Answer, yes. Question, how is that technically true? Answer from Davidson, because I don't think that anyone had ever alleged that there was a relationship between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. I believe their relationship is an ongoing interaction.

BLITZER: Let me get Ankush to react to that. What do you think?

KHARDORI: I don't find that to be a terribly compelling defense of the statement. That said, she's repudiated that statement, right, and the jury is going to get to hear from her and they're going to be able to assess for themselves, you know, how seriously they should take that inconsistent statement.

So, it's not great for her, but, you know, I think it's something that the prosecutors can manage and potentially rehabilitate.


BLITZER: You know, David Chalian, these are clearly imperfect witnesses that the prosecution is calling to testify.

CHALIAN: Yes, because there is no perfect person in this entire scenario. I mean, nothing about it is a normal course of business for a presidential candidate seeking the highest office in the land. So, while it might be normal course of business in other realms, it is not in that realm.

I do have one question for the lawyers. What does -- so is Davidson saying that this statement is true, the one that she's repudiated? Because I don't -- what is the point of him standing by the statement?

WILLIAMS: And they went on a little bit further in the trial today and they're saying that it wasn't a relationship, it was an encounter.

KHARDORI: What is that?

WILLIAMS: The word relationship. It's Bill Clinton. It literally depends on what the relationship of is or what sexual relations with that woman mean because when you parse the legal definitions of the term.

KHARDORI: Can I just -- yes, I completely agree with all of that, but I just want to add, because remember there are two lawyers on this jury, right? That testimony is not particularly compelling or credible, and, again, it makes him unsympathetic. We also have, of course, Michael Cohen having recorded a conversation with his own client, also very unseemly, surreptitiously doing that. Some of this conduct, I think, is not going to sit well, at least with the lawyers, who will know that this is not how you're supposed to conduct yourself.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, Sarah, something that Trump posted on his social media site earlier today. You worked for him in the White House and on the campaign. This is what he posted. I don't fall asleep during the crooked D.A.'s witch hunt, especially not today. I simply close my beautiful blue eyes sometimes, listen intensely, and take it all in. What does that tell you?

MATTHEWS: I think it tells me that he's worried about all the media reporting that he is falling asleep in court. I mean, look, when you're attacking your opponent and calling them Sleepy Joe, but then you're the one falling asleep every day in the courthouse, I think he needed to push back on it even if it's a lie. We've seen reporters who have been inside the courthouse have reported he is falling asleep.

But I will say, to his credit, these trials are probably really long and boring and having to show up every day, probably quite exhausting. But I would imagine -- I'm no legal expert, but I would imagine that's not a great look to the jury. It probably looks as if you don't care about this case.

BLITZER: That's a good point, very important point, especially the jury's reaction to what they're seeing. Thanks to all of you very, very much.

Just ahead, Michael Cohen's name invoked numerous times during the testimony today. His former lawyer, Lanny Davis, is here live. We'll discuss.



BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news in Donald Trump's criminal trial today. Prosecutors introducing a new piece of evidence, a recording of a crucial 2016 phone call between Trump and his longtime fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Joining us now, Michael Cohen's former attorney, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thanks very much for coming in.

I want to play that recording that you first gave the CNN back in 2018. I want you and our viewers to listen. Listen to this.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff, all the stuff. Because you never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be. Correct. So, I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Listen, what financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay. So -- no, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.


BLITZER: Is this the most important piece of evidence introduced in this trial so far?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: No, it's just evidence that Mr. Trump was involved with Michael Cohen in the two incidents for which Michael Cohen pled guilty, guilty charged by federal prosecutors. One involved the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and the other was the Karen McDougal contract. And this particular tape is about the second crime to which Michael Cohen pled guilty even though he just did the paperwork involving the payment to Ms. McDougal.

But you notice the word cash spoken by Donald Trump. It's not easy to hear it but it was the reason I went on Chris Cuomo and released it to CNN. Because that morning Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's lawyer, said it was that Michael Cohen had used the word, cash. And it was at that point with his criminal defense lawyer that we decided we need to correct the record the tape speaks for itself.

BLITZER: That's when you gave the tape to CNN at that time. The jury also today heard Michael Cohen's voice for the first time. I thought it was significant. It's a stunning recording that linked Trump directly to Stormy Daniels' payment.

Let me quote from what he said. This is a direct quote. I can't even tell you how many times he, Trump, said to me, I hate the fact that we did it. How significant is that?

DAVIS: So, I don't really know, I'm going to really defer to the jury and to let the evidence speak for itself. And I remind everybody watching every time I'm on that Mr. Trump is an innocent man until 12 people under the rule of law, beyond a shadow -- beyond a reasonable doubt. So, the presumption of innocence is important to remember.

What you, I think, will see, and I've seen this movie because I've been in the room during the days that Michael was being questioned and facts were being assembled, that the documentation, the text messages, the context of the whole story of the motivation, which is the jury's decision whether he was politically motivated or not, if he was, that's a crime, that is going to be contextual.


It will depend a lot more than on Michael Cohen's testimony, surrounded by witnesses' documents, text messages.

BLITZER: As you well know better than all of us, Michael Cone is a convicted felon and a convicted liar. He's been portrayed as angry, difficult, desperate by witnesses in the course of this current trial. How does he overcome that when eventually he's called to take the stand?

DAVIS: So, I think he's been tested at least twice in my experience and why I found him credible, why I took him on as a client. Number one, in front of the House Oversight Committee on February 27, 2019, he was brutally cross-examined, attacked as a liar, a perjurer, all the words by the Republican members of that committee. And what did he say? He said, I agree, I'm ashamed, I'm trying to do something for my family and my country. And the American people saw his performance, and I think many judged him to be credible.

But more important, a judge in New York's Supreme Court heard him brutally cross-examined by Trump's lawyers. Can't be any worse, I think, than that cross-examination in the attorney general's case of financial fraud. And the judge found in writing that the judge found Michael Cohen credible, notwithstanding the past which he's owned up to and the fact that he was brutally cross-examined.

We heard during the course of the trial today how furious Michael Cohen was when Trump didn't invite him to join him after Trump was elected president in the White House. Maybe he is White House counsel or attorney general, may even suggest the secretary of state. What does that say to the jury when he was so furious?

DAVIS: Well, I'm sure that the good defense attorneys would say that disbelieve him because he was angry with Donald Trump. And they can try to do that with the jury, and it's up to the jury to decide whether that undermines the credibility of what he's now testifying to, despite whatever he did in the past.

And I think that we'll let the jury decide that, but that at least so far, the American people have listened and followed Michael's podcast, his testimony under oath before Congress and in a courtroom. And so far, the truth today is what the jury needs to judge, and I'm going to let them decide and not try to prejudge for them.

BLITZER: We'll see what he says when he shows up in court. Thank you very much, Lanny Davis, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up, we'll have much more from inside the Hush Money trial today. Also tonight, we'll have live reports from across the country on those protests that continue on college campuses.



BLITZER: We're back with our Situation Room special report of the Trump-Hush money criminal trial. Stand by for more on the testimony today and what's next. But right now, let's get an update on the unrest on U.S. college campuses after more than 200 people were arrested in a police crackdown on the protests over at UCLA.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is following it all for us.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Uncertainty at UCLA after police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment in the wake of a standoff with hundreds of demonstrators Wednesday night, police breaking down barricades, shooting rubber bullets, launching smoke bombs and flash bangs and arresting more than 200 protesters.

The protest site dismantled after a clash erupted Tuesday night when counter-protesters, some of whom were pro-Israel, threw objects at tents, hurled fireworks and pulled down barriers set up by the pro- Palestinian encampment. UCLA's chancellor calling the attack a, quote, dark chapter in the university's history.

In the morning light, only trash, graffiti and discarded tents remained of the encampment. The camp is now swiftly being cleaned up.

Nationwide, more than 2,000 people have been arrested on college and university campuses in the last two weeks, including at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Portland State University in Oregon.

Police officers in riot gear cleared barricades, pushing out more than two dozen protesters holed up in the college library.

But many of the protests in recent weeks have been peaceful, including this one at George Washington University with dueling demonstrators.

Some universities like Columbia initially sought to negotiate with protesters, while others called in law enforcement from the start to manage emotional protests focused on a highly charged international crisis.

ALEC PEREYDA, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: But I know objects were being thrown at officers during the night.

ELAM: The unrest closing campuses, and even canceling some graduation ceremonies. UCLA students forced into remote classes for the remainder of this week. Rutgers University postponing or relocating some final exams.

The challenge now for college administrators where protests were held and where arrests were made at more than 40 campuses nationwide to move away from confrontation and focus back again on free speech, safety, and education.


ELAM (on camera): And out here you can see that quick work has been made of the campus here, of the quad here. Look at this. They've cleaned up pretty much the entire school. [18:35:01]

The chancellor were saying in a statement that while many of the protesters at the encampment remained peaceful, ultimately, the site became a focal point for serious violence and as well as a huge disruption to the campus.

Also worth noting that the chancellor also said in a statement that there were 300 people who chose on their own to leave this encampment before the law enforcement officers went in. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Stephanie, I'm on the campus of UCLA, thank you very much.

President Biden, meanwhile, is warning students across the United States that violent protest, his word, violent protest is not protected in his first public remarks about the latest campus unrest across the country.

CNN's Kayla Tausche is over at the White House first. Kayla, what more is the president saying and why is he saying it now?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president is saying, in essence, what he's been saying for weeks on paper and through spokespeople that he supports free speech and peaceful protests, but that anti-Semitism, violence and hate speech are not protected.

Aides last night were instructed by the president to begin drafting remarks, and they traded edits back and forth, according to my sources. And the president decided to go through with his public remarks this morning after seeing the imagery that came in overnight from UCLA and hearing about the repeated need for intervention from law enforcement and campuses, like Columbia University.

Here's the president in his own words.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest.

Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder.

REPORTER: Have the protests forced you to reconsider any of the policies with regard to the region?



TAUSCHE: Notable that the president is not going to be pursuing a change in policy despite the low approval marks that he gets from voters across the board and across ages on his handling of the war. He also said he would not be calling for the National Guard to intervene, something that many Republicans have called for. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Kayla Tausche at the White House for us, thank you. Just ahead, we'll get back to our special coverage of Donald Trump's criminal trial today, a closer look at one of today's witnesses and how he fits into the case.



BLITZER: Key testimony today in Donald Trump's hush money trial wrapping up just a short while ago. The former lawyer for both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal detailing deals aimed at keeping his clients silent about their alleged affairs with Trump.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on Attorney Keith Davidson and his roster of celebrity clients with sensational cases.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): To all the steamy testimony about Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, you can now add sordid tales about a fistful of other celebrities, because they've all come up in the courtroom questioning of lawyer Keith Davidson.

KEITH DAVIDSON, STORMY DANIELS' FORMER ATTORNEY: I get involved when the situation where a relationship has gone bad.

FOREMAN: He's a Los Angeles-based attorney who admitted to CNN several years ago he's made a good living out of bad times.

DAVIDSON: I have a very active practice. And when there are few attorneys that would go against large corporations, powerful celebrities, and that's one thing that I'm known for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a non-disclosure agreement?


FOREMAN: Both women central to the Hush Money case collected payments with Davidson's help, but he's been drilled in court over allegations of trying to help other clients with celebrity secrets score big paydays, tabloid fodder like the release of a sex tape in 2012 involving celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan and the wife of a friend, leaked information about actress Lindsay Lohan's time in rehab in 2010, payments from actor Charlie Sheen to several women and another sex tape linked to T.V. and internet star Tila Tequila.

In each case, lawyers for Team Trump suggested Davidson was prying or, to use their word, extorting money from celebrities facing allegations of scandal.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Donald Trump's lawyers are trying to establish a couple key things. One, this guy, Keith Davidson, is a sleaze, for lack of a better word. He's in a sleazy business that preys on people who are vulnerable. FOREMAN: Davidson, while cagey about his clients, readily said his firm has been heavily involved in media cases, but he flatly rejected the idea of anything unseemly in any case, including this one. Indeed, all along he said, Stormy Daniels is just telling the truth.

DAVIDSON: I believe my client.




FOREMAN (on camera): Of course, from the beginning, this whole trial has been about some pretty unsavory topics. But with the arrival of this witness, it is even more so. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting. Tom Foreman, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some insight right now from former Federal Prosecutor Robert Ray. He served as counsel to then-President Trump during his first impeachment. Thanks very much, Robert, for joining us.

Jurors today heard that 2018 recording where Michael Cohen and Trump actually discussed the Karen McDougal hush money payment and another recording where Cohen said Trump hated that they had to pay Stormy Daniels. How significant is that?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP DURING FIRST IMPEACHMENT: I think the significance of the testimony today from Keith Davidson, an effort was made through cross-examination by Emil Bove, one of the president's lawyers, to poke holes in the government's narrative. And I think that was done, you know, the unsavory, unseemly part of this aside.

It's not exactly an uneven playing field here. And, again, putting aside the word, extortion, the fact is, is that his clients have leverage to extract payments for the client's benefit, having very little to do, one way or another, with whether or not that might have some impact on an election.

And I think that's the whole purpose of this cross-examination, is to suggest that there are at least mixed motivations or other motivations involved here.


He gets paid this lawyer 40 percent fee based upon an economic recovery to the client. That's his incentive. And he was using the election in some sense essentially to extract that payment, knowing that it wouldn't be made and there wasn't any interest in such a payment once the election was over.

I think the jury will have to evaluate all of that in context to decide whether or not there's any intent and by President Trump, which is what the charge requires, that he did so for purposes of influencing the outcome of an election, it seems much more to do with, you know, Donald Trump's interest, which is in keeping this client quiet and Keith Davidson's clients interests in extracting a payment and return for silence, it may be a sorted and unseemly business, but it seems to have very little to do with which candidate wins, in which candidate loses an election.

BLITZER: When it comes to Davidson, Keith Davidson's testimony, do you think the defense was actually affected in undermining his credibility, and even implying he's a shakedown artist?

RAY: Well, I don't know about that so much.

I think the shakedown part of it, again, just gets into what was his motivation, forget to put the unseemly sorted stuff aside, Wolf. I think it's more about the client and the lawyers motivations were to extract a payment in exchange for silence.

And again, the question is without knowing what former President Trump's intent is, what really does that speak to as far as his intent is concerned? Now, obviously, the prosecution is going to move on eventually to Michael Cohen where they'll attempt to supply intent but the jury is going to have to make a judgment about whether or not you have to believe Michael Cohen in order to believe that that in fact was Donald Trump's intent and whether or not Michael Cohen's testimony, at least in that regard, has been corroborated sufficient that a jury could return a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That -- that obviously is the big question that remains to be unanswered here.

BLITZER: During the testimony today, Davidson pushed back on the idea that the payment to Stormy Daniels was, quote, hush money. He said and I'm quoting him now, I would never use that word. He said it was consideration -- in consideration, instead. Those are his words.

What did you make of that?

RAY: Well, it's a bargain. It's a contract.

I mean, I understand that, you know, that's tried to take the sting out of the unseemly and unsavory aspect of all of this. But it is a contract. And unlike what most of the public might suspect, these are people who are not without leverage. They were fully capable of exercising leverage against Donald Trump in order to extract what they wanted.

You can call that extortion. You can call it whatever you want. But they were not without recourse.

And again, I think what the cross-examination was trying to explore is whether that really bespeaks an intent to influence an election. I mean, in other words, what Donald Trumps intent was are really more about what Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, were up to vis-a-vis through council in terms of what they wanted this to look like. Once the once the deal had been arrived at.

BLITZER: Robert Ray, thank you very much for your expertise. RAY: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: And coming up, Donald Trump, renewing controversial comments in U.S. elections. What he's now saying about the potential for political violence if he loses again.



BLITZER: As Donald Trump stands trial, his new remarks about the upcoming 2024 presidential election are raising red flags.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has our report.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democrats, rig the presidential election in 2020.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump doubling down on 2020 election claims at the heart of his candidacy and laying the groundwork to challenge the results this November.

TRUMP: We're not going to allow them to rig that presidential election, the most important day of our lives in 2024.

HOLMES: Once again, refusing to commit to accept the results of the November election. In-between campaign events in battleground Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump telling "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel", quote: If everything's honest, I'd gladly accept the results. If it's not, you have to fight for the right of the country. The remarks coming on the heels of another interview earlier this week with "Time Magazine", where Trump did not rule out the possibility of political violence if you were to lose the 2024 election.

President Joe Biden's campaign condemning the remarks in a statement, quote, Trump is a danger to the Constitution and a threat to our democracy. The American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and its thirst for revenge.

It's not the first time Trump has hedged on questions about accepting the election results since leaving office.

TRUMP: If I think it's an honest election, I would be honored to.

HOLMES: It's rhetoric he amplified in 2016.

TRUMP: Folks, this system is rigged. It's rigged, okay?

HOLMES: And again, in 2021, before a mob attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

TRUMP: If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

HOLMES: The issue comes as Trumps plans for a second term come more into focus. Trump speaking with "Time Magazine" about pardoning January 6, defendant, mass deportations and firing civil servants to replace with loyalists.

TRUMP: We will demolish the deep state.

HOLMES: Trump's current campaign appearances few and far between. He's currently mandated to appear in a courtroom for his New York hush money case four days a week.

TRUMP: You know, I got to do two of these things today. You know why? Because I'm in New York all the time.


HOLMES (on camera): And, Wolf, as you know, Donald Trump was back in the courtroom today. He'll be back in the courtroom tomorrow for that trial.

And over the weekend, his day off, he's actually not going to be on the campaign trail. Instead, he'll be attending the RNC's spring retreat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting for us. Thank you.

And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the campus protests playing out across the country.

Our Brian Todd is over at George Washington University here in D.C.

Brian, what's happening there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the protests here at G.W. are now entering their second week, still very robust and spirited here. Dozens of tents here up on the Quad at G.W. They remain here. There have been speeches, chants, and songs going on all day.

And as I take you down to H Street here at G.W., I can tell you that for the first time, we saw an organized counter-protest of pro-Israeli protesters today, they were several blocks away. They did not confront these protesters. They had no plan to do that.

So that was the first kind of change of dynamic that we saw today with a counter-protest. But again, all of it's been very peaceful.

Also, what I can tell you is that on the street behind me, H Street, which has been blocked off? For the first time today, we actually saw a row of faculty members blocking H Street and they said that they were here to protect the pro-Palestinian protesters.

I asked the organizer of the faculty why protect one side and not necessarily the other. He said, if the pro-Israeli side wanted to come over and start trouble, that's what they were here to do. But he said if they -- if they had asked for protection, we would talk about that.

But clearly, the faculty members here were siding with the pro- Palestinian protesters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Bryan Todd reporting from G.W. University.

And thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.