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Longtime Trump Aide Hope Hicks Wraps Blockbuster Testimony; Hicks Gets Emotional While Testifying Against Her Former Boss; Longtime Trump Aide Hope Hicks Testifies "Access Hollywood" Tape Was "Damaging" For 2016 Campaign. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 03, 2024 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in the Trump trial, the biggest name witness yet, longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks testifies about the Stormy Daniels hush money payment at the center of this criminal case, describing a crisis, her word, a crisis within the 2016 Trump campaign and shedding tears on the witness stand. Stand by for new firsthand accounts of the trial, as Donald Trump watched his former employee and trusted confidant get very emotional while testifying against him.


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

Hope Hicks' once very close relationship with Donald Trump taking a pivotal and emotional turn today as she appeared on the witness stand in this criminal trial.

Let's get all the breaking news on her testimony, very dramatic testimony today, and what it means for the case going forward.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse in New York. Take us through Hicks' testimony and what brought her to tears at one point.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Hope Hicks was on the stand for about three hours today. And the entire time, she avoided looking over in Donald Trump's direction. But she told the jury how Donald Trump reacted when the Access Hollywood tape became public, also how he reacted when the hush money deals that are at the center of this case also became public.

Her emotional breaking point came moments after she told the jury that Donald Trump said to her that it would have been bad if those stories had surfaced before the election.


SCANNELL (voice over): Hope Hicks, once one of Trump's closest aides, took the stand Friday, an emotional day of testimony, at one point even tearing up on Day 11 of Trump's criminal trial.

REPORTER: What was it like to see Hope Hicks again?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I'm not allowed to comment on any of that. As you know, I'm under a gag on it.

I was very interested in what took place today.

SCANNELL: Hicks, who was Trump's campaign spokesperson in 2016 and later served as White House communications director, looked visibly uncomfortable before testifying, saying she was really nervous.

Prosecutors quickly brought up the Access Hollywood tape, which was released just one month before the 2016 election.

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it.

SCANNELL: Hicks recalled Trump being upset. She said there was a consensus among campaign leadership that the tape was damaging to the campaign, and it was a crisis. She said media coverage of the tape was so intense, it literally knocked a Category 4 hurricane out of the news cycle. Hope said it was all Trump all the time for the next 36 hours.

Hicks testified that Trump was involved in the campaign's response. Prosecutors played his video apology for the jury.

TRUMP: Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.

SCANNELL: Prosecutors tried to show the catastrophic impact the Access Hollywood tape had on Trump's campaign, demonstrating the urgency to kill another bombshell story from being released just weeks before the election.

Hicks testified she was sitting on the plane when she learned that The Wall Street Journal planned to publish a piece about the National Enquirer's catch and kill deal involving Trump's alleged affair with an ex-Playboy model, Karen McDougal, an adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump denies the affairs.

Hicks said she spoke with Trump, who was concerned about the story, and he instructed her to deny it. She is quoted in the journal saying, Daniels' affair allegation is absolutely, unequivocally untrue. Hicks said Trump's was concerned with how the article would be viewed by his wife, saying he wanted me to make sure that the newspapers weren't delivered to his residence that morning.

Prosecutors asked Hicks about Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels to buy and kill her story of an alleged affair with Trump. Cohen told The New York Times in 2018 that he made the payment from his own pocket. Hicks said she was skeptical about Cohen's motives, saying, I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person. Hicks described Trump's assessment of the story, saying, it was Mr. Trump's opinion is that it was better to be dealing with it now and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election.

As Trump's attorney, Emil Bove, went to take over questioning, Hicks began to cry. After a break, Bove focused on Cohen trying to show he had no role in the campaign and would act on his own. Hicks testified Cohen was not supposed to be on the campaign in an official capacity, but would try to insert himself at certain moments. She said Cohen often did things that were unauthorized by the campaign and that he sometimes went rogue.


SCANNELL (on camera): Now, well, if a court source tells me that Donald Trump has paid the $9,000 fine that the judge ordered him to for violating the gag order in the case. He made that payment yesterday, according to the source.

Now, Hope Hicks' testimony caps two weeks of witnesses testifying in this case. The jury has heard a lot about these catch and kill deals. The next phase, the alleged cover-up.



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

CNN's Katelyn Poalntz is here with us, along with other legal and political experts, to break down all these dramatic developments that unfolded today.

Katelyn, first of all, take us through some of the key testimony today by Hope Hicks.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. What Hope Hicks said today, there was drama around it, but what she said did a lot of things for the prosecution as a witness, forming a piece of the bigger picture of the puzzle.

So, one of the things she did was she read some texts about what she and Michael Cohen were discussing in reacting to these stories coming out about women on the campaign, Donald Trump. She's establishing the link between her role as a campaign official, someone in that world of Donald Trump talking to Michael Cohen repeatedly and being aware of these things bubbling up as there was a public testimony about it.

And then near the end of her testimony, she gives the prosecutor something to work with about Michael Cohen, who's going to be the focus of much of the coming days of this trial. She says, I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person. He's the kind of person who seeks credit. Put that into the bigger narrative here, Michael Cohen wiring $130,000 of his own home equity line of credit to pay off Stormy Daniels, to pay off Karen McDougal and other context.

That is going to be something that matters. Who is Michael Cohen? Why would he wire money toward women to keep them quiet?

BLITZER: Let's see what happens unfold. Norm Eisen, how significant is this admission?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very significant, Wolf. And the testimony at the very end of the direct that Hope Hicks, Donald Trump's trusted aide, so close to him, that she didn't believe his story, that Michael Cohen was doing this on his own, and that she felt that the statement by Donald Trump that it was better that this come out after the election that before was so impactful that she broke down in tears, I believe, because she was throwing her former boss under the bus.

I was in court for the first part of the testimony today, and she absolutely riveted that jury. Even the ones who many of them have notepads, they're writing at times, they put down their writing materials, and they were intently focused on her, they were listening to her, and I think this was a powerful step forward for the prosecution's case.

BLITZER: So how difficult, Jim Trusty, does this make it, to argue that Trump was not even involved in all of this?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, it certainly hurts. I mean, look, there's a couple of tactical things I would just point out to start with. First is, when you're at the end of a week of a multi-week trial and you're a prosecutor, I did this for years, 27 years, you'd like to end strong. You'd like to end with something where the jury goes home thinking that was pretty important stuff. So, they certainly began to cross over from just kind of tawdry to President Trump's intent, which will drive whether they can make the felony charge.

The other thing I would say, on kind of a pure kind of advocacy level, sometimes really, really reluctant witnesses become the most powerful ones. And you can just read it. It's just human psychology. You see a person that is clearly uncomfortable with being there, doesn't want to hurt anybody, doesn't want to be a part of it, but they end up giving kind of devastating, very entertaining and interesting information.

So, you know, I think it's early to do a parade or to say it's over. I think the real battle that's shaping up, aside from everything about Cohen and the cross is redirecting the jury back to Cohen's lack of credibility, but the jury instructions, which is really a boring thing for non-lawyers, it's watching paint dry, but does this judge tell the jury that President Trump to be convicted has to have an exclusively personal motivation or can it fix mixed?

Hope gave mixed. She said at one point he's worried about politics, another point, I'm worried about the wife. It could be, if the judge wants to kind of put the finger on the scale here, the judge says any element of political preservation is enough to support the conviction.

So, the instructions the jury gets at the end of the case are absolutely a nuclear moment as to --

BLITZER: We have a while to go before we hear those.

TRUSTY: A couple of years probably.

BLITZER: Or several weeks. How much, Kristen Holmes, does this potentially bolster the prosecution case?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was clear that the prosecution did what they set out to do here with Hope Hicks. I mean, they made it very clear, they walked everybody through a lot of the missing pieces that we hadn't had so far, Michael Cohen acting on behalf of the campaign, talking to Donald Trump, his inner workings, the fact that there was so much communication around this, the fact that Donald Trump was micromanaging these crises situations, running -- the fact that Hope Hicks put her statements through Michael Cohen at one point, even though he was a rogue actor.


But I do want to say, part of what we saw there with the defense as well, and even some of the prosecution, they also -- she also painted Michael Cohen as a pretty unsavory character. And we've seen that time and time again.

Now, how this plays out when he's on the stand has yet to be seen. But one thing that almost everyone who has had a firsthand experience with Donald Trump with the situation has in common is that they all dislike Michael Cohen or have nothing positive to say about him.

BLITZER: Interesting. Katelyn, as I understand there's another key part of Hope Hicks' testimony that you're looking at.

POLANTZ: Yes, Wolf. I actually want to read two different quotes from her back-to-back, because they're the quotes that I think we may see when the prosecution closes and then when the defense closes. We might be hearing them again because Hope Hicks was serving as such a valuable narrator and someone that the jury was so clearly invested in listening to.

The first thing she says, direct quote, this is on the direct examination of the prosecutors asking her about the crisis after the Access Hollywood tape comes out and as stories are emerging, she says, everything we talked about in the context of this time period and this timeframe was about whether or not there was an impact on the campaign. So that clearly is playing exactly into what the prosecution narrative is.

But then, as Mr. Trusty was saying, on the other side, there are things she said, even in direct examination that could be used by the Trump defense, this quote, he was concerned about the story, Donald Trump. He was concerned about how it would be viewed by his wife and he wanted me to make sure that the newspapers weren't delivered to his residence that morning. That's regarding the story The Wall Street Journal was going to print about Karen McDougal that Hope Hicks was asked for a comment on. BLITZER: So, Norm Eisen, what do you think? Does this all get to the heart of the prosecution's basic case?

EISEN: I think it does, Wolf. And to pick up on a theme of this entire trial, it is corroboration of the key witness, Michael Cohen. He was the first person I talked to when we did the first Trump impeachment. I spent days with him.

And I believe he will present well to a jury. He's a colorful New Yorker, and people are going to be surprised when they actually meet him because he has not varied in the story that he told me in January 2019, one jot. And everything he said, including today by Hope Hicks, is being corroborated. So it's setting things up for the star turn of the prosecution star witness.

BLITZER: I want to play -- Hope Hicks was a witness during the January 6th congressional committee special investigation. I want to play a key moment of her deposition. Listen to this.


HOPE HICKS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Evidence of fraud on a scale that would have impacted the outcome of the election, and I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging his legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president say in response to what you just described?

HICKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.


BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kristen, the theme of Trump thinking certain things could damage how people would view him was a major part of her testimony.

HOLMES: Yes. I mean, it was back then, and obviously it was today as well, talking about how whether or not it's the campaign or whether or not it's his wife, his family, it's also what we heard from David Pecker as well. Trump brought it up a lot.

First, it was the fact that he was worried about what Ivanka or Melania would think of him if these stories had gotten out in the National Enquirer, then it moved to what would happen with the campaign, and that still holds true today. Donald Trump cares what other people think about him. That's why he has to react when somebody says he's sleeping in court, because he has to show that he was not sleeping in court.

He believes that everything impacts his image. He wants to control the media narrative. If something negative comes out, he wants to take control of that.

So, it's not surprising that someone who was literally part of almost every conversation at the time would have such a deep knowledge of the fact that Donald Trump is really obsessed with how people view him.

BLITZER: Good point. Jim Trusty, how do you see it?

TRUSTY: Differently. I mean, look, anyone that's running for a national office is certainly going to be a little introspective to use maybe the kindest word about what's happening in their lives and what the focus is.

I think when we throw around phrases of obsession and that he's obsessed with getting different media treatment, he has demonstratively gotten bad media treatment.


I mean, you know, we can think of him what we want, but I'd say there's a leap to judgment in both directions. But in the mainstream media, that's typically against President Trump that you see in every article. I mean, it's like you know he gets he gets blamed for bad weather in New York.

So, look, it doesn't mean that he's a saint or that he's somebody that's not above criticism, but it's not surprising that anybody would get sick of hearing that he's asleep in court or that he's glaring at witnesses when there's no real evidence of that.

And so I'm kind of sympathetic to any defendant going through a unique, creative trial that is getting the scrutiny that he gets you know every second of the day.

BLITZER: What about those reporters who were inside the courtroom and testified and say he was sleeping?

TRUSTY: I heard people say his eyes were closed. I didn't hear people say that he was conked out. So --

EISEN: Jim, I'll say it. I was there today for the better part of the trial. He was asleep, including in a critical portion of Hope Hicks' testimony when she was saying how she first learned of the Stormy Daniels situation. I watched him closely. He was immobile. And then the judge broke for lunch and his eyes popped open and he woke up. It's pretty clear that he was sleeping.

TRUSTY: Well, look, you've also gone out on a limb to vouch for the star witness, Michael Cohen. I'll take that battlefield any day as a litigator that Cohen is going to be the superstar of the prosecution's case, is going to be a fun, I would say, moment, but it will be a fun number of days of cross-examination of your former friend.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens then. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

We'll have much more on the impact of Hope Hicks' testimony on the jurors and on Trump himself. Vocal Trump critic George Conway standing by to join us live. That's next.


BLITZER: Longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks, a very high profile witness for the prosecution in the Trump trial today, potentially helping the defense as well during her sometimes very emotional testimony.

Joining us now, Conservative Lawyer George Conway, a vocal Trump critic who's now also a major donor to the Biden campaign. George, thanks very much for joining us.

What stood out to you from her testimony?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, that dramatic moment where she testified that Donald Trump knew about the payments. And he lied to her about -- obviously she didn't believe him but that Michael Cohen had done that out of the goodness of his heart, but she -- or she put in Donald Trump's mouth the fact that he understood that those payments were made on his behalf before the election by Michael Cohen.

And that's devastating testimony. It absolutely corroborates Michael Cohen's story, which has been corroborated in numerous respect, and it shows that he knew that when he was signing those checks with the backup that said, and he was doing this at the at the resolute desk, for goodness sake, that when he saw the backup, the backup said legal retainers he knew that wasn't true. And that goes to his intent to falsify business records.

And even if you accepted the lie, I mean, the obvious lie that Trump told to Hope that she didn't believe that you know Michael just did this on his own, it was still a campaign finance violation because what he was essentially, Michael Cohen, at least temporarily was giving $130,000 for the benefit of Donald Trump's campaign. And that would be a campaign contribution that's over the limit and would have to be disclosed.

And so the fact that he then signs these documents to cover up the fact that this was done on his behalf to silence women or even whatever that -- I mean, that was clearly Michael Cohen's intent, he's covering up campaign finance violation. And that means that he committed falsifying record up business records in the first degree under New York law and to Cohen.

BLITZER: This is the major charge that he's facing right now. I want to get your reaction to this part of Hope Hicks' testimony today about the discussions on that Wall Street Journal story. She said this, and I'm quoting now, everything we talked about in the in the context of this time period and this timeframe was about whether or not there was an impact on the campaign. How damaging was that?

CONWAY: Yes. I mean, look it was obviously -- I mean, her testimony was that this was just a major, major event. And if we all remember that weekend of when the Access Hollywood tape dropped, I mean, as Hope Hicks testified, it there was a hurricane that weekend and nobody covered the hurricane. And there was absolutely every reason to believe that any further stories about Trump's behavior with respect to women would be harmful to Trump. And that's the reason why, and, frankly, it's the reason why they cooked this stuff, this whole conspiracy, back to 2015 with Pecker, that's why they paid off McDougal and they paid off Stormy Daniels.

BLITZER: Interesting. Hope Hicks, as we all know by now, started to cry shortly after the start of the defense's cross-examination. What did you make of that, and how do you think the jury will interpret that?

CONWAY: Well, I mean, you can't really get into the mind of her without explaining -- having her tell us what she was feeling, but she clearly was, as I think Jim Trusty well said in the last segment, a reluctant witness. She did not want to be there. She did not want to deliver this devastating hammer blow. And that adds to her credibility.

I mean, if you were writing a Law and Order episode or a or a movie script about a trial of a politician and you have this witness who was so close and so loyal and so beloved in that family, the Trump family, crying on the stand when she's delivering evidence that could put her former boss in prison, in state prison in New York, I mean, it's a incredibly dramatic moment.


The jury is never going to forget it and the jury is going to believe every word that she said.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. George Conway, as usual, we always appreciate your expertise. Thanks very, very much.

And coming up, a deeper look at Hope Hicks and how she found herself in the inner circle of the most powerful man in the world, at least at one point.


BLITZER: We're back with our Situation Room special report on the Trump trial. Jurors now have a full weekend to digest today's blockbuster testimony by longtime Trump aide and confidant, Hope Hicks, and the tears she appeared to shed on the witness stand.


Brian Todd is joining us now with more on the breaking story. Brian, this was clearly a very emotional moment for Hope Hicks.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, you know. Today, Hope Hicks was once again reluctantly dragged into one of Donald Trump's legal storms, an uncomfortable position for someone who is said to be not overtly political and who's known for being outright shy.


TODD (voice over): Hope Hicks was visibly nervous during her testimony, CNN's reporters inside the courtroom said, teared up at one point and rarely looked at her former boss. Observers say taking the stand for the prosecution had to have been difficult for the 35-year- old, who's said to be fiercely loyal to Donald Trump.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, she's not a political operative by nature. This is more of a personal situation for her. So, it's got to be really hard for her to go out there and make her case.

TODD: Hope Charlotte Hicks, a former teenage model, first worked in the world of media and communications after graduating from Southern Methodist University.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She did not come up in politics. She came up in P.R. in New York working with Ivanka Trump, and then was brought onto the campaign. And, in many ways, she was seen as like an extension of the Trump family.

TODD: In testimony, Hicks said of working with Ivanka Trump, I was enjoying it so much that I was offered a position at the Trump Organization and jumped at the opportunity to join the company full time. Hicks says that when Donald Trump told her she'd be the 2016 campaign press secretary, she thought it was a joke because she had no experience.

TRUMP: I said, what do you know about politics? She said, absolutely nothing. I say, congratulations, you're into the world of politics, right?

TODD: At that event, Trump teased Hicks about her shyness.

TRUMP: Hope, say a couple of words.

HICKS: Hi. Merry Christmas, everyone, and thank you Donald Trump.

TODD: Hicks rose to become White House communications director and was a consummate insider, known as a staunch defender and gatekeeper for the president.

GRIFFIN: Hope was someone that, in the West Wing, if you needed to get through to Trump and you were struggling to, you would go to.

TODD: But it came at a cost. During the Russia investigation, Hicks told a House committee she occasionally had to tell white lies on Trump's behalf, according to a source with direct knowledge of her 2018 testimony.

After the 2020 election, according to multiple books about that period, Hicks was criticized by Trump loyalists for not believing the election had been stolen. She said this to the House committee investigating January 6th about a conversation she had with Trump about his baseless claims of election fraud.

HICKS: I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging his legacy.

TODD: Hicks' relationship with Trump is said to have cooled after reports of texts Hicks sent to another White House aide about Trump's actions on January 6th, quote, all of us that didn't have jobs lined up will be perpetually unemployed. I'm so mad and upset. We all look like domestic terrorists now.


TODD (on camera): Prosecutors have not accused Hope Hicks of taking part in Trump's alleged scheme to influence the election and to cover up the hush money payments. Politico has reported that since leaving politics, Hicks has been running a small communication consulting firm with a variety of clients, including the fashion retailing company, Sheehan. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd, thanks very much for that update.

I want to bring back CNN's Kara Scannell right now. She was in the courtroom earlier today. She's outside right now. CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins, who attended the Trump trial earlier this week, is also joining us.

Kara, let me start with you. You were inside the courtroom as Hope Hicks took the stand today. What was her overall demeanor like as she gave testimony against, potentially, her former boss, Donald Trump?

SCANNELL: Well, Wolf, she was visibly uncomfortable. When she walked to the witness stand, she had one of her hands balled into a fist. She sat down almost immediately. She turned to the jury and told them, I'm very nervous today.

And then, as she was giving testimony, answering a question, she interrupted herself surprised by the sound of her own voice in the microphone, so clearly uncomfortable with this testimony, even when she provided favorable testimony compliments to Donald Trump, she never appeared to look over in his direction, keeping her eyes locked on the prosecutor or Trump's attorney asking the questions or turning to face the jury to explain things and testify to them.

So, she did seem very uncomfortable. And then there was the moment after the prosecution had finished asking her questions. And as Trump's legal team was beginning their cross-examination, that she just appeared to become overwhelmed with emotion, broke down in tears on the stand. The judge excused the jury and everyone took a break. She came back in and finished the testimony, but, clearly, a tough date for her. She looked pretty eager to leave the courtroom.

BLITZER: Very tough day for her, indeed. Kaitlan, Hope Hicks was intimately involved in the Trump campaign during this alleged illegal activity in this case. What stood out to you from her testimony today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, she was really able to provide a window into that campaign. I mean, she kind of took everyone in the courtroom back to 2016 and what those final days and weeks inside the Trump campaign were like, but also the first year inside the White House, as The Wall Street Journal was learning more about what Trump had done and other outlets were reporting on it.

And so I think she was able to do something that no other witness really has done so far, firsthand knowledge of Donald Trump, but also of what it was like inside the Trump campaign and inside the Trump White House.

And I think there are parts of her testimony that could be seen as helpful to both the prosecution and the defense. Clearly, the prosecution is coming out of this feeling a lot stronger today because there were those two moments, one, where she was skeptical that Michael Cohen would ever do anything out of the goodness of his own heart to pay the six-figure sum to a porn star.

But, secondly, Wolf, and importantly, she said that Trump said to her that it was much better that the story came out once he was already inside the White House instead of during the campaign. And it was kind of a mic drop moment for the prosecution. You notice they ended their questioning there because they felt that she had delivered what they needed.

The one thing the defense thought that she did say that was helpful, Wolf, is she said that Trump did care what Melania Trump thought about this story and that he did respond in part out of consideration of how she was going to react, including asking Hope Hicks to remove the newspapers from outside of their apartment the day after this story broke, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Kaitlan, as you well know, you covered the White House, Hope Hicks and Trump are not as close now as they once were, but she teared up testifying against him today. How important has that relationship been over the years?

COLLINS: Well, one, on her reaction. I mean, this is a really high- profile hearing. There have been other witnesses who have no relationship to Donald Trump that have come forward and said they were very nervous.

I mean, this is someone who was one of his most trusted aides. So, I don't think it's a surprise that she was kind of overcome with emotion on the stand. But it is notable that there has been a real break in their relationship, and Trump was angry with her about those texts that Brian Todd just read, the ones that she sent on January 6th, and her concerns about what Trump had done to his legacy that day. He doesn't like anyone who doesn't view that day as favorably as he does. And so there certainly has been a chill on the relationship.

And also, I think, when Trump left the White House, a lot of people were kind of done with him and just did not want to speak to him, especially those who had been inside the White House and were really frustrated by that period after the election.

BLITZER: Good point. Kara, Hope Hicks was questioned about how she and the campaign learned about that Access Hollywood videotape. What was the atmosphere like in the courtroom today, and you were there inside for that, and how did Trump react? Could you see him?

SCANNELL: Yes, Wolf. So, as she's describing this, that she gets the email from The Washington Post reporter, then travels up a few floors at Trump Tower to go where Donald Trump is in debate prep session in a glass-enclosed conference room, and how she initially summoned all the senior campaign leadership outside of the conference room to talk to her so they could discuss this, and that's when she said it was agreed that they all viewed this as a crisis, and then Trump summoned her inside, and she continued to describe how they were going to handle it.

You know, during this testimony, Trump was often watching her, or he was watching her on a monitor, and he was passing notes to his attorneys, but there was no other kind of visible -- he didn't otherwise react in any kind of way to what she was saying. He's been fairly composed in the courtroom, using his energy to at least pass notes to his attorneys and watching the testimony at times for certain witnesses very carefully.

BLITZER: I'm glad you were inside. Kara Scannell and Kaitlan Collins, to both of you, thank you very much.

And Kaitlan, of course, will be back later tonight, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, along with Anderson Cooper for more special coverage of the Trump trial.

And just ahead, we're one-on-one with Hope Hicks' counterpart on the 2016 campaign, Marc Lotter, who served as press secretary for Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence. He's here with us live.



BLITZER: More now in the very dramatic testimony today from former Trump aide Hope Hicks, a major witness for the prosecution in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial, her central role of the 2016 presidential campaign a key focus in court today.

Joining us now to discuss, Hicks -- joining us now to discuss what's going on, Hicks' counterpart on the 2016 campaign, Marc Lotter, former press secretary for vice president, then-Vice President Mike Pence. Marc, thanks very much for joining us.

Hicks told the jury, as you well know today, that Cohen made the $130,000 payment, the controversial direct payment, on his own, and she said that would be, quote, out of character for him. Do you think that damages the defense's case?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I don't know if it damages the case. I mean, what we still haven't figured out is what crime they're actually accusing that he actually violated, because NDAs are not against the law and this is not a campaign finance violation, according to the federal government. So, we've been three weeks through this, and I still haven't figured out what or had any evidence of a crime that's actually occurred.

BLITZER: Well, lying about official documents is a crime.

LOTTER: Lying about official -- you mean the bookkeeping error of whether he listed legal services and a payment to a lawyer? BLITZER: Saying that these were legal services as opposed to a campaign contribution.

LOTTER: Well, it's a misdemeanor in New York. It's actually way past the statute of limitations. And so, I mean, everything -- look, as a former campaign press person, I've done this for 20 years, everything worries campaign press people. We worry about the weather as we get close to Election Day. So, you know, whether or not --

BLITZER: These are all felonies that he's charged with right now in this particular case, not misdemeanors.

LOTTER: Well, the bookkeeping issue would be a misdemeanor because they raised it because they're trying to figure out --

BLITZER: The prosecution has accused them of all these felonies, a lot of felonies in this particular case with the misleading of all the campaign contribution funds.

LOTTER: but that's not actually a federal violation of the federal government.

BLITZER: This is the New York state case.


LOTTER: Right. We still have to figure out how they have raised this to a felony because, again, campaign finance violations are a federal issue.

BLITZER: Yes. But, you know, in this particular case, there's a New York case, too, because if he was making up false stories about where this money was going, why was going and if it had something to do with the campaign, $130,000 to keep her quiet, that's a campaign violation.

LOTTER: Well, it's actually not campaign violation because he can give as much money to his campaign as he wants to, and the federal government investigated this and actually found it to not be a campaign finance violation.

BLITZER: But the state of New York decided this was a felony and a campaign violation, and that's why they're going after him and they seem to have a pretty strong case and she seemed to backup a lot of their arguments.

LOTTER: Well, I think she made very, very strong cases for the defense today, too, when she talked about how concerned Donald Trump was about how this would look to Mrs. Trump. You actually even had some of the other lawyers earlier this week that were on the stand and they were basically saying that there was -- this thing was nothing more than an extortion scheme.

BLITZER: But she did make the case during her sworn testimony today that if all of this came out before the election, that would hurt Trump and his chances of winning the election. LOTTER: Well, every story. You know, you look at, every story that

comes up to an election on whether its going to help, whether its going to hurt. These were -- these were comments that were made apparently in 2017 -- well, after the election when they were in the White House, I can go back and probably if every campaign I've ever worked on and said if this story came out then versus then it change. It may change things. It may not. It may help -- may hurt. I mean, we all do that in hindsight.

BLITZER: What do you think? She spoke highly of Trump at some points during the course of her testimony, do you think that actually both holstered his case?

LOTTER: I think there were a lot of things that she said that probably bolstered his case, especially the stuff about how this would impact Mrs. Trump, because that's obviously one of the key pillars of the defenses that this was not about the campaign. This was about him not having to have to Mrs. Trump finding out about this, and so I think that bolsters that.

And when you only need one on the jury to believe that that's the narrative and then that's a win for him.

BLITZER: But the point she was making, he was mostly concerned about how this would impact the presidential campaign.

LOTTER: Well, I don't know. I mean, again, its when she -- when you're asking that the newspapers be taken away and not brought up to the residence, that seems to me to be a very strong case.

BLITZER: He was concerned about that two, but he was also concerned about the presidential campaign.

LOTTER: Well, I mean, at that point, you're coming out of -- you're coming out of Access Hollywood, you're making a rebound, you're weeks away. Again, every story -- I worried about everything, every whiff of a story in those final days of 2016, in terms of what it would have -- of how it would have affected the election.

BLITZER: Marc Lotter, thanks for coming in.

LOTTER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Just ahead, today's testimony by Hope Hicks is her latest involvement in the legal case against Donald Trump. We'll speak with a member of Congress who talked with her as part of the January 6 select committee investigation.



BLITZER: Hope Hicks, a key witness for the prosecution now and in the past, when she was deposed by the January 6 House Select Committee. Joining us now former member of that committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

As you know, Hope Hicks testified against her former boss today. What stood out to you from what she told the jury?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, how -- how commonsensical her testimony was. There was a mad scramble within the Trump campaign to try to bury this story, especially in the wake of the Access Hollywood revelations, and they were going to do everything in their power to make it go away for obviously political purposes.

Now, you know, that's got to be corroborated by the timing of the payments, the things that were being said about the payments and also what Donald Trump was thinking and doing at the time. I mean, was he someone who had visually tried to pay off mistresses in order to prevent his wives from finding out about affairs, or did it happen primarily within the campaign season? So you've got to look at it in terms of the complete factual record.

BLITZER: And if it happened during the campaign season, that potentially could be a violation of the law, right?

RASKIN: Well, yeah, the whole case is built around the idea that -- well, it's not illegal to pay hush money, but it's illegal to pay hush money for campaign purposes, then to put it on a corporate account, and then to falsely describe it as legal services when you're using your lawyer essentially as a go-between to pass the money to pay off someone you don't want going public with an affair in the middle of a campaign.

And so, a commonsense approach to this is what well get the jury through the thicket of evidence.

BLITZER: Your January 6 Select Committee spoke to Hope Hicks during your investigation as you will remember. I want to play a clip from her deposition.

Listen to this.


HOPE HICKS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging -- we were damaging his legacy.

QUESTIONER: What did the president say in response to what you just described?

HCKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I will lose, so that won't matter. The only thing that matters is -- is winning.


BLITZER: How did you find her credibility, Congressman, in that probe and how do you expect a jury will view her now?

RASKIN: Well, everything that she said there rang true with the commonsense public understanding of who Donald Trump is. I mean, he would be much happier with a legacy of victory accomplished by fraud and violence and political coup then a legacy of actually standing for a program and principles and not winning.

So for him, it was all about power and seizing power.


And that's all it is today. And, you know, his affairs with various porn stars and other women were just considered an obstacle to him getting power and they needed to be shut up as quickly as possible.

So I think that a jury will again, use commonsense to understand what took place here.

BLITZER: Congressman Jamie Raskin thanks so much for joining us.

RASKIN: You bet.

BLITZER: And we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is honoring 19 Americans with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Those on the list includes civil rights leaders celebrities, and key Biden, political allies, such as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jim Clyburn.

Other high-profile figures include U.S. superstar swimmer Katie Ledecky, Academy Award-winner Michelle Yeoh, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, talk show host Phil Donahue, and Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.