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Contentious Stormy Daniels Testimony During Trump Trial; Defense Attacks Stormy Daniels' Credibility In Cross-Examination; Judge Indefinitely Postpones Trump Classified Documents Trial; Stormy Daniels Testifies About Alleged Affairs With Trump; Biden Condemns Antisemitism At Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 07, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're standing by to get the first transcripts after a dramatic day in court with adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels on the stand. The testimony described as combative at times.

Wolf Blitzer will pick up our coverage next in the situation room. I will see you back tomorrow at 4:00 P.M. right here on The Lead. Until then, you can follow me on social media @jaketapper. You can download the show wherever you get your podcasts, all two hours just sitting there. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, a very dramatic and contentious day in court as Stormy Daniels begins testifying in the Trump hush money trial. The adult film star detailing her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump and the hush money agreement to buy her silence.

Defense attorneys wasted no time hitting back during a very combative cross-examination, attacking Daniel's credibility and prompting her to testify under oath that she hates Trump and wants to see him held accountable.

For the next hour, we'll take you inside the courtroom from gavel to gavel. We'll break down all of today's most important developments and look ahead to what's next.

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

Our coverage begins tonight in New York, where the Trump hush money trial just wrapped for the day, after the prosecution put one of its star witnesses on the stand, Stormy Daniels. The alleged affair, the hush money payment, and Daniels' credibility, all very much under the microscope for the jury.

First, let's go to CNN's Kara Scannell. She's outside the courthouse in Manhattan for us. Kara, you were there inside the courtroom today. Give us the very latest. KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's right. For about the last hour of the court day, Stormy Daniels was under cross- examination, and Trump's attorney was peppering her with questions, trying to undermine her credibility and challenge her motivations, asking Daniels repeatedly if she tried to extort Trump, if she was trying to sell her story about Trump for years.

Now, earlier, the jury had seen a different side of Daniels, where she had a more relaxed demeanor, less on the defensive, when prosecutors were asking her questions, and that's when Daniels told the story to the jury of how she became a dancer at age 17, ultimately ended up with that sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, and then sold that story to Donald Trump, and that hush money payment she received in 2016, just before the presidential election.


SCANNELL (voice over): On the stand, Stormy Daniels, the former adult film star and director at the center of the first criminal trial of Donald J. Trump. The $130,000 deal in exchange for her silence is at the heart of the prosecution's case.

REPORTER: Is this true?

REPORTER: Did you sleep with Stormy?

SCANNELL: On Tuesday, prosecutors tried to paint Daniels as a credible witness, having her reveal specific details on her alleged sexual encounter with Trump and the events surrounding it. Trump denies the affair.

Meanwhile, during cross-examination, Trump's attorneys tried to undercut Daniel's testimony by attacking her motivations, credibility and demonstrating how much she hates Trump. Daniels testified she met Trump while working at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006. That's when Trump invited her to dinner.

Later, in Trump's penthouse suite, she said they talked for two hours, and Trump asked thoughtful business questions. She explained she went to the bathroom and when I exited, he was just up on the bed like this in boxers and a t shirt, she said, while demonstrating his pose for the jury. She noted it was not in a threatening manner. Daniels said, the next thing I know, I was on the bed.

She described their relationship in a 2018 interview with Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So he definitely wanted to continue to see you.

STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: Oh, for sure, yes. And this was not a secret. He never asked me not to tell anyone. He called several times when I was in front of many people and I'd be like, oh my God, he's calling. Shut up. The Donald? SCANNELL: During her testimony, Trump nudged his attorney repeatedly, who objected to questions and answers when Daniels suggested she didn't want to be alone with Trump again. The judge agreed and struck several of her answers from the record.

When the Access Hollywood tape came out before the 2016 election, Daniel said she spoke with her publicist about selling her story.

DANIELS: Suddenly people are reaching out to me again, offering me money, large amounts of money.

SCANNELL: She soon learned Trump and his ex-attorney, Michael Cohen, were interested in paying for her story in a $130,000 deal that came with a non disclosure agreement. Daniels testified how she wanted the deal done before the election because she was worried, I wouldn't be safe or that he wouldn't pay and there would be a trail to keep me safe.

Prosecutors then turned to Daniels' 2018 statement denying a sexual affair with Trump ahead of a Wall Street Journal article that was going to outline their deal.


Daniels said she did not want to sign it because it was false.

The day it was released, she was interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel and denied it was her signature.

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

DANIELS: I don't know. Did I?

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

DANIELS: But that does not look like my signature, does it?


SCANNELL: Daniels testified she purposely signed her name in a different way to tip off Kimmel. After a court break, Trump's team moved for a mistrial, pointing to aspects of Daniel's testimony. Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued, this is the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from.

Judge Juan Mirchan ruled against the call for a mistrial. Then Trump's team took their turn to question Daniels. Trump's attorney Susan Necheles asked Daniels, am I correct that you hate President Trump? Yes, Daniels responded


SCANNELL (on camera): Now, during Daniels testimony. Donald Trump was very engaged. He was often whispering to his attorneys, nudging them and prompting them at times to object to some of the questionings, which the judge ruled in his favor for a number of them. The jurors, they were actively also taking notes. They showed no facial expression to some of the moments when Daniels said some things that she herself laughed at. They kept straight faces, but they actively took notes. A number of them very seemed to be writing a lot in their notebooks.

Now, the cross-examination will continue on Thursday when court is back in session, and prosecutors say they will also have additional questions for Daniels. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very interesting. Kara Scannell reporting from outside the courthouse in New York. Thank you, Kara, very much. Let's get some analysis from our political and legal experts right now.

Katelyn Polantz, the defense cross examination of Stormy Daniels, it got very, very combative. What's the strategy here?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Very combative. And the strategy is because the defense wants to put Stormy Daniels in the hot seat and undermine what she's saying, showing that she has the motivation financially to come out and talk about this alleged sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump back in 2006, and then to not just highlight her motivations, but to try and find inconsistencies, about how she wanted to tell that story and the story she ultimately has settled on telling in the witness box under oath.

So, some of these very testy questions that the defense team has been asking are basically statements that she has to say yes or no to over and over again, highlighting that you're making money by claiming that you had sex with Donald Trump, you are making more money the more you talk about that in your story, and you make less money, the less salacious that this has been since 2016.

Stormy Daniels essentially agreed to all of that, but some of the things that the defense asked went too far, and the judge would sustain an objection where the prosecutors would pop up and say, we don't think it's fair that you and Michael Cohen both believed that you would be making money off of this depending on what your story was that you would be telling. That was objected to and sustained. So, the jury can't hear all of that, even though they're getting the suggestion of it.

BLITZER: Let me get Elliot Williams into this conversation. Now, she admitted under questioning from the Trump defense team that she -- and she said this under oath, that she hates Trump. How is the jury likely to interpret that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not well, Wolf. And it's the kind of thing that will speak to a witness' credibility. Now, big picture, why was this witness called? And if you think of what the prosecution has to establish, that number one, there were falsified business records, two, to benefit a campaign, or for the good of the Trump campaign, three, about a romantic or sexual affair.

Now, she was there largely to establish the existence of this sexual encounter, which she did, and as Katelyn had said, in spectacular fashion, with a lot of details there.

Now, she these questions about hating the former president, that speaks to her credibility and whether the jury ought to believe her.

Now, again, there was plenty of believable and credible testimony in there, but there are a number of credibility issues, starting with the bias against the former president, starting with, as Katelyn had touched on financial incentives, maybe that she might have had, why she came forward in the first place after the Access Hollywood tape had come out. So, there are many things to sort of call into question her credibility.

BLITZER: Bill Brennan is here. Bill, you represented Trump during the 2022 Trump Organization trial, so you know Trump quite well. Let me get your thoughts because he keeps denying that there was any sexual encounter, any affair at all. How is that likely to impact to affect his credibility with the jury?

WILLIAM BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, I, I think that the defense team will do a good job in reminding the jury that this isn't about whether or not there was an encounter between Stormy Daniels and the former president. It's about whether or not in, in this particular case, there was a second crime, election fraud or election finance fraud. And, really, they have to get there. And they didn't do that today.


You know, I lost the bet on this one. I thought that the prosecution would put her on, make their points and get her off. And Judge Merchan, before the jury was put in the box today, made it crystal clear that she was only allowed to say, we had sex. And the prosecutor, Ms. Hoffinger, who I tried a case against in that very courtroom 18 months ago, just gilded the lily and asked any question she felt like and I think forced Sue Necheles, who's a tremendous lawyer, to go at her hard and the cross, I think, has been effective.

And Elliot hit the nail right on the head. That jury is going to get an instruction that if a witness has bias or motive or skin in the game, so to speak, you know, you take that testimony with caution. She said, I hate him. I mean, that's some strong stuff, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very strong, indeed. Kristen Holmes. This was probably the most dramatic day so far in this hush money. I guess the Trump team is watching this closely, looking at the politics of all of this, and you're in touch with them. What are you hearing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, watching us closely. I mean, they're learning a lot of this in real-time. Remember, there are no cameras in the courtroom, and most of the advisers that are actually in the courtroom don't have access to their cell phones. So, they are watching us and breaking this down, as we are as well.

Now, is it worse than what they thought it was going to be? No, they expected today to be bad. They knew it was going to be salacious testimony. They had been bracing for that. They knew it was going to be embarrassing to Donald Trump. When these reports first came up years ago, Donald Trump was embarrassed. It put tension on his relationship with Melania while he was in the White House. They expected that to happen.

Now, one thing I think they didn't expect to happen was their calls for a mistrial, seeing Stormy Daniels be pushed further, give more details than she was allowed to, and they stand by that decision. They now say that there's an argument to be made, and, again, this is according to Trump's own team, that this is not just political, which is their main argument, but that this was also just done to embarrass Donald Trump, that there were moments where the judge could have stopped this kind of testimony, that it was, I think, arguably embarrassing to the former president. That's one of the things that they're going to be doubling down on.

BLITZER: Bill, what are you hearing from the Trump team?

BRENNAN: Not too much. I mean, I represented, it was one of a team of lawyers that represented the former president in his second impeachment and for about eight weeks in this very courtroom with this very judge and most of that prosecution team. But everything I hear is second hand.

But Sue Necheles is a tremendous lawyer. Mr. Blanche and Mr. Bove are A-plus lawyers. He's in good hands. But Kristen hit the nail on the head, too. It's playing into the narrative the defense will sell if this happened. And if Cohen paid this money, it was to avoid embarrassment and shame to a man who was relatively newly married and had a brand new baby son and didn't want his marriage to go down the drain. If there was a political benefit, it was collateral. It wasn't the primary motive. And, Wolf, you only need one juror to buy that.

WILLIAMS: Yes, and it's interesting, you know, how the jury assesses that very question. We can all agree this was embarrassing to one's children, spouse, family, extended family, whatever else, but also may be problematic for a presidential campaign. Now, both can be true, and the question is how the prosecutors make sense of that, but also to a point that the jury doesn't regard it simply as trying to paper over personally embarrassing conduct, but also relevant to the campaign. And it's just -- yes.

POLANTZ: There really has not been any testimony that this transaction, 130,000, and the NDA, non-disclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels, that that didn't exist. She got paid to keep quiet. Who it came from and why, if Donald Trump authorized that and what his motivation and his intent was there, that's the question the jury has to decide. There's been no dispute.

And as far as I can tell so far in what she's testified to, her story so hasn't had major changes or red flags. There haven't been any falsehoods that, that the defense team may have wanted to try to draw out.

BRENNAN: Well, other than when she goes on national television and tells Jimmy Kimmel it wasn't me, and tells Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, I didn't, didn't happen. I mean, these are lies that she has to live with. And the jury will also get an instruction. In Latin it sounds so much more, more poetic, but falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. If you lie once, you can presume that you're lying all the time.

And she came across, I thought, as somebody with an axe to grind. She's an opportunist and, you know, goes back to, I'll paraphrase, if there's an old Frank Sinatra quote, hell hath no fury like an opportunist with a press agent.

You mentioned those payments. They didn't go directly, you know, point A to point B. It went through Gloria Rodriguez, the press agent, to Davidson, the lawyer, to Cohen.


I mean, it's a circuitous road to get to Trump.

POLANTZ: And all those people have testified, too, that they were all aware that this story would have monetary value after the Access Hollywood.

HOLMES: And some of this, just keep in mind, is a lot of the preview of what we're going to see in terms of the cross-examination of Michael Cohen. I mean, what we saw today -- and I don't expect it to be much longer. I was told by the Trump team that they are going to keep all of the cross-examination short, except for when it comes to Michael Cohen. They expect that to be pretty lengthy.

But you can see how they're going to get at it, using these old Twitter posts, using these old videos. I mean, they pointed out the fact that Stormy Daniels has written a book, had a podcast, has written a number of tweets saying that she wasn't going to pay the former president. She'd have to go to jail before she paid him back his fees. That is just the tip of the iceberg if you're looking at Michael Cohen, someone who really has an axe to grind with Donald Trump. And this is appears to be the setup for that as well.

BLITZER: No trial tomorrow. It's Wednesday. There's no trials sessions on Wednesday but there will be Thursday morning. Stormy Daniels will be back for more questioning, right?

HOLMES: Yes. And, again, again, we don't expect it to last all day. As I've been told by his legal advisers, none of the cross-examinations that they were planning were expected to be very lengthy, except, again, Michael Cohen.

But I do want to make one point that you said. You were talking a lot about Donald Trump's legal team. And as we know, we've reported that Donald Trump has been voicing some concerns about members of his legal team, like Todd Blanche. He was pretty happy today, I'm told, by some of his advisers at the beginning of that defense questioning from Susan Necheles. He thought she was doing --

BLITZER: Questioning Stormy Daniels?

HOLMES: Yes, he thought she was doing a really good job.

Now, obviously, we'll have to wait and see, but he was pretty she was doing her vicious attack dog, which is obviously what Donald Trump thinks is always best when it comes to his defense.

BLITZER: If you know Donald Trump, you know that. All right guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, much more on the blockbuster day in the Trump hush money criminal trial. But, first, there's breaking news in another criminal case against Donald Trump right now, the judge in the classified documents case issuing a major order on the trial date.

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



BLITZER: We'll get back to our coverage of the Trump hush money criminal trial in just a few moments, but, first, there's breaking news in another major Trump case. The judge overseeing the former president's classified documents case has just indefinitely postponed the trial.

Let's bring in our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers. Evan, first to you. Tell us what this means.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, the judge has wiped away the May 20th date that had been kind of written, you know, obviously in chalk, right, to be removed for this trial. She said that there are at least eight days left motions that remain to be handled. She also laid out a calendar that takes us well into July for her to handle motions that are pending.

Now, at least a couple of these she's already now scheduled hearings in June for her to consider. One of them has to do with Donald Trump's team's claim that Jack Smith, the special counsel, was unlawfully appointed. Another one is his effort to get access to records inside the Biden administration that he says that the Trump team says will show that this was a malicious prosecution.

I'll read you just a part of what the judge's order says. She says finalization of a trial date at this juncture before resolution of the myriad and interconnected pre-trial and classified documents issues remaining and forthcoming would be imprudent. So, she's now not setting a new trial date.

But, Wolf, what this means is it's unlikely and highly unlikely for us to see this case go before a jury before the election.

BLITZER: Interesting. Jennifer, is there any merit at all to this idea that Jack Smith, the special counsel, was unlawfully appointed?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, none, not at all. I mean, of all the motions that she's talking about, Judge Cannon, this is one of the ones that should have been most easily taken care of. There is no merit to it at all. The notion that she's putting the trial date off because we have eight outstanding motions, she's the one who is supposed to decide these motions. This is her job.

I mean, we're in this situation because Cannon is not doing her job, because she, I think, wants to give the former president what he wants, which is a delay until after the election.

BLITZER: Evan, could the special counsel, Jack Smith, now go to the appeals court to try and have Judge Cannon removed?

PEREZ: Look, I think it's something that the prosecution could always consider, Wolf, but at this point it just appears unlikely. The judge has really just not issued a lot of rulings. There are a lot of things that she just hasn't taken action on and so there's not really a record for the prosecutors, for the government to go and ask for her to be disqualified, for her to be removed from this case.

And so what we have instead is a very slow walk of this case, of this process, including, as Jennifer points out, this motion that I'll tell you every single defendant that we have that's been facing a special counsel has brought this, Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, has brought a similar filing. We've seen it in John Durham's prosecutions. So, everyone makes these cases and they get dismissed by the judges. It's weird that we're going to have an entire hearing dedicated to this issue in June.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts, Jennifer. Do you think the time has come for the special counsel to attempt to have the judge removed?

RODGERS: I don't think they will, Wolf, because, as Evan was alluding to, they need a final order, really, to go to the circuit and say, she has messed this up so badly, this is so unlawful, that not only should this order be overturned, but we need a new judge. The problem is she's been very clever in not doing her job and not giving them the final orders that they're seeking, so they have trouble appealing.


They could just go to the circuit and say, without any final order, we want a new judge, but that's very unlikely to succeed because the circuit really needs something to hang their hat on some obviously demonstrated unlawful order, some bias, something that's really black and white. Judges really don't like to do that to each other to take a judge off the case. So, I think they need more than they have now, which has been the real frustration here.

Jennifer Rogers, Evan Perez, guys, thank you very much. Just ahead more details from inside Donald Trump's New York trial today, including what prompted the defense to ask for a mistrial.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news, dramatic, sometimes explicit testimony from Stormy Daniels in the Trump trial. That set off a mistrial motion from Donald Trump's legal defense team, a request Judge Merchan denied.

[18:30:03] I want to bring back CNN Legal Analyst Elliott Williams for a closer look. Elliot, walk us through what needs to happen for a judge to declare a mistrial.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, Wolf. And it's a very important aspect of trials that happens here. What is a mistrial?

So, a court -- and this is right out of New York state law, a court must declare a mistrial if, number one, there's a legal defect in the proceedings, this big word, if it's prejudicial to the defendant and deprives him of a fair trial. It's not just something that's a mistake. It's something that is a mistake that's so bad that the defendant's trial was impaired.

Now, what was it today that got us here in the first place? And I'll warn everybody, some of these words are adult words, but here we go. There was one, talking about sort of what sexual position might have happened in this alleged affair when Stormy Daniels was testifying today. There was a few references to having, her having blacked out was the language used.

Also she testified about the size of his body and his behavior, that saying that he was several inches taller and much larger than she was, that there was an imbalance of power between the two of them. That he was bigger and blocking the way, all of these things suggested, to some extent, perhaps a consent question that, quite frankly, even if serious is not an issue in this trial and might have, at least as the argument was, impaired, the defendant's ability to get a fair trial.

So, the defense then moved for a mistrial, saying, and this is Todd Blanche, the attorney for the former president, saying this has nothing to do with the trial, and this was very carefully chosen language, extraordinarily prejudicial. He had to say that. He put that on the record, so that if they lose this trial and he ends up getting convicted, they reserve the right to appeal. And he has to say that at this stage of the proceedings. He has to make an argument like that.

In addition, he also has made the point that this is a kind of testimony that it's impossible to come back from, very strong language about the fact that the defendant was prejudiced in the eyes of the law.

Now, the judge in ruling did say he agreed with Mr. Blanche, but that some things were, and this is -- you don't want a judge to ever say this to you, there are some things that probably would have been better left unsaid. Now, this is what he said in denying the mistrial, saying that, we're at a point I don't think that a mistrial is warranted.

He also said, and sort of went after the defense a little bit here, saying, when the bell has been rung, when that language is out there, the defense has to take some responsibility. He was saying that the defense didn't, you know, file enough objections in real-time.

So, where do we go from here? A couple next steps for everybody, the Trump team will almost certainly, I can assure you, move for another mistrial before the end of this trial, after the close of evidence, they're going to put this on the record again, so that if they appeal, they have the right to go there again.

Number two, the judge will give what are called limiting instructions to the jury when he instructs the jury at the end of the trial, saying, disregard all the other nonsense, you can consider whether these two individuals had sex, but leave it at that sort of silly because the jury's already heard it.

And then finally, if the former president loses, they're going to appeal. They'll take it up to the New York Appellate Court or the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. And that's it, how mistrials work. So, there you go, Wolf.

BLITZER: Elliot, excellent explanation. Thank you very, very much, Elliot Williams, helping us.

I want to get some more now from former U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlein. Judge Scheindlein, thank you so much, as usual, for joining us.

Judge Merchan denied this motion for a mistrial, as you know, while acknowledging that some testimony today went too far. First of all, do you agree with his decision?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: I agree that some of the testimony went too far, and I fully understand why he was not going to grant a mistrial at this stage. There's a lot that has been invested in this trial, and he feels that the prejudice can be cured. I'm not so sure that's totally right, as your previous guest said, it's hard to unring the bell or the genie is out of the bottle. The jury heard it all, and I'm sure it affects them. And, of course, the details that she spoke about have nothing to do with the charges in this case.

So, it was extraneous. It shouldn't have been said. The witness went off on her own. And I'm sure that was more than the prosecution had expected her to say. But there it is, it's on the record.

BLITZER: Yes, it is. Judge Merchan scolded Stormy Daniels for going off topic, at one point telling her, and I'm quoting him now, just answer the questions. He raised objections himself on the defense's behalf. Did he do enough, do you think, Judge, to rein in today's testimony?

SCHEINDLIN: I think he did everything he could, meaning he sustained a number of the defense objections, and when they didn't object and he thought they should, he did it himself, which judges are known to do. I have done that. Sometimes the judge says, objection sustained, when there was none. So, the record looks like somebody might have stood up or raised their hand, but the judge says, objection sustained. So, he tried to protect the record by shutting her down and closing off some of the material.

[18:35:04] But she sure got a lot of dirt out. And the purpose is seems to be to have painted the defendant as a very unpleasant person, not for political reasons, but for his way he treats women. And this may have a real impact on at least women jurors and I'm sure some of the men too. So, it seemed pretty calculated on her part to besmirch him, shall we say, to paint him as a very bad man.

BLITZER: While I have you, Judge, I want to quickly discuss Trump's classified documents case down in Florida while I have you. The judge there is indefinitely postponing the trial and letting Trump air unfounded theories about the prosecution in a hearing next month. Was this the right call?

SCHEINDLIN: Was this the right call? Well, never the right call. She's been slow walking this, as somebody again said tonight, for a long, long time. She has eight undecided motions. She could have ruled on half of them by now. But she doesn't rule. She puts it all off.

Then she says there are many complex issues regarding classified documents. And that's true. But if she had done her job, she there wouldn't be eight left. There might be three and she could set a trial date. Instead, she says, well, May is out. Everybody agrees to that at this point, maybe July or August, but that's getting very close to September, which is really too close to the election.

So, I think, I think that it's, it's obvious to everybody. We are not going to have a trial on this case, the documents case, before the election.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're right. Judge Shira Scheindlin, thank you very much, as usual.

Coming up, we'll take a closer look at today's star witness for the prosecution, how Stormy Daniels landed in the middle of the storm around a criminal trial against the former president of the United States.



BLITZER: Back to the breaking news right now, Stormy Daniels is taking the stand for the prosecution and testifying about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Our Brian Todd has more on the adult film star's background and how she found herself at the center of this case. Brian, update our viewers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we learned some things about Stormy Daniels today that we had not heard before. She is certainly an unlikely person to be catapulted into the center of American politics, a place she's occupied for more than six years since we first learned about this scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is facing new scrutiny tonight over accusations of hush money paid over a sexual encounter with a porn star.

TODD (voice over): Her name burst onto the political scene in January 2018 after the Wall Street Journal's explosive report on a hush money payment that Donald Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, had given to an adult film star who called herself Stormy Daniels.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Bombshell revelation halfway through a presidential term. So, it certainly reverberated across the political landscape.

TODD: But what fueled it all had occurred almost 12 years before The Journal report came out, when Daniels says she had a one night stand with Donald Trump at a resort in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Daniels later told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Trump chatted her up for hours in his room.

DANIELS: He's like, wow. You, you are special. You remind me of my daughter. You know, he's like, you're smart, beautiful and a woman to be reckoned with.

TODD: She told Jimmy Kimmel it was not against her will, just against her better judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you made love.

DANIELS: Gross. What is wrong with you?


DANIELS: I laid there and prayed for death.

TODD: The former president has always denied having sex with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Originally from Louisiana, Daniels testified today that she was raised by an absentee mother, that she was the editor of her high school newspaper, whose love of horses led her to join the 4H Club, but that she unintentionally got into the adult film business after a friend got her into dancing, and she misunderstood what kind of dancing it was.

By age 21, Daniel says, she was a nude model and started appearing in adult films when she was 23.

DANIELS: I just wanted to give you a commendation.

SARAH GIBSON, DIRECTOR, STORMY DOCUMENTARY: I think Stormy is a person who fought her way out of poverty in the south growing up and worked so hard to find a life for herself, a family.

TODD: Sarah Gibson directed the recently released documentary, Stormy, on Peacock, in which Daniels details a series of threats she's received since the hush money scandal blew up. DANIELS: It is direct threats. It is, I'm going to come to your house and slit your throat.

GIBSON: The death threats have increased tenfold since the indictment and even more so since 2018 when the news first broke.

TODD: Through all the turmoil, the 45-year-old has somehow become ingrained in America's political landscape.

TALEV: The story and all of its lurid detail has made an imprint on American culture. And Stormy Daniel has become a household name.


TODD (on camera): Stormy Daniels continues to face financial fallout from her involvement with Donald Trump. A judge threw out a defamation lawsuit that Daniels had filed against Trump and ordered her to pay legal fees. According to her documentary, Daniels owes Trump hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and she's afraid she's going to lose her home. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for that report, I appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, we'll go back inside the courtroom with some just released transcripts from today's testimony.



BLITZER: Right now, we're digging into some of the key moments from Stormy Daniels' testimony today, and we've just got a newly released transcript.

This is prosecutor Susan Hoffinger directly questioning Stormy Daniels. Hoffinger: Before the Access Hollywood tape came out, was Gina trying to sell your story to news outlets? Daniels: Yes.

Hoffinger: Was she successful in doing so before that Access Hollywood tape came out? Daniels: No.

The exchange continued. Hoffinger: Did there come a time that you learned in approximately October of 2016 that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen were interested in buying the rights to your account? Daniels: Yes.

And then Hoffinger: And it was after release of the Access Hollywood tape? Question mark. Daniels: Yes.

Hoffinger: Now, who did you understand when Gina told you that -- who did you understand that Michael Cohen was representing at the time? Daniels: Donald Trump,

Hoffinger: And did you understand at the time that they would pay for your story, for you not to release it publicly? Daniels: Yes. Let's get some analysis from former federal prosecutor Annemarie

McAvoy, and CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen.

Norm, you heard today's testimony, firsthand. You were there in the courtroom. How significant is that exchange for the prosecution's case, and will have actually break through given all the salacious and dramatic testimony today?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think it will break through and it is significant. Prosecutors are attempting to build a case where they corroborate the key details of this alleged campaign finance conspiracy consisting of the payment to Stormy and its later cover up with 34 allegedly falsified documents.

And Stormy gave new information about her brief liaison with Donald Trump and additional information about many of the key elements in the case.


It was one of the biggest days yet in this variable eventful trial.

BLITZER: Annemarie, it was a major departure from this weeks much more procedural bookkeeping to hear Stormy Daniels and an unfiltered in a times uneven witness sharing explicit details of an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump, where did she help at potentially where did she possibly hurt the prosecution's case?

ANNEMARIE MCAVOY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, one of the major issues is whether this was really necessary if -- and there wasn't a motion for a mistrial after her testimony, they certainly could be an issue on appeal that this could taint the jurors view of Donald Trump without adding anything to the evidence. You have to have -- supposed to have evidence that is relevant to the case.

And this certainly -- her testimony didn't really deal with the business records issue. At least much of it did not. So there could be issues on appeal that were raised today through her testimony.

BLITZER: Interesting.

And, Norm, Stormy Daniels spoke very quickly, we're told. She at times tried to crack jokes. From what you saw and you were inside the courtroom. How was the jury responding to her testimony?

EISEN: Wolf, from the moment she entered the courtroom, the jury scrutinize her closely. They paid attention throughout the testimony.

I think it took her a while to feel comfortable on the stand. Interestingly, in some ways, I felt that the true Stormy Daniels, her genuine personality came out more under the pressure of cross- examination, but I was studying the jury throughout. I think she was credible.

We will find out as this case proceeds, if the jury did indeed feel that way. BLITZER: Annemarie, was today's be more aggressive cross-examination effective or did it possibly go too far?

MCAVOY: Well, that's always a problem, especially when you have the reality and when you have a woman on the stand, somebody who clearly was portraying herself as a victim, that she felt that there was an imbalance and the power with Donald Trump, when she had the encounter and that she had been threatened on the street in Las Vegas sometime after that to keep her mouth shut. So it's always a problem when you try it and cross-examine somebody like that.

I think they were trying to show her as -- the fact that she had a motive to come forward with a story, whether it was true or not, because she was looking for money. They raised the fact that she had brought a couple of cases and she owed Trump money because she wasn't successful in those cases. So, they were certainly trying to paint a picture of her someone who might, in fact not the believable.

BLITZER: Interesting. Annemarie McAvoy, Norm Eisen, to both of you, thank you very much.

And just ahead, an update on the day's other top story, President Biden, addressing what he calls a ferocious surge of antisemitism in the United States.



BLITZER: In Washington today, President Biden delivered the keynote speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museums' Annual Day of Remembrance ceremony. President Biden, paying tribute to the victims and calling on Americans to fight surging antisemitism here in the United States.

CNN's Kayla Tausche has our report.


KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A speech of remembrance and rebuke. President Biden, honoring the 6 million lives lost in the Holocaust, nearly 80 years ago, and condemning the ferocious surge of antisemitism sweeping the country.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to remember our basic principles of the nation. We have an obligation. We have an obligation to learn the lessons of history. So you don't surrender our future to the horrors of the past.

TAUSCHE: The president marked seven months of war since the day Hamas besieged Israel. An overnight onslaught killing more than 1,200 and taking more than 200 hostage. The attack on Israel's Nova Music Festival, Biden suggesting is today's Auschwitz.

BIDEN: Too many people denying, downplaying, rationalizing, and ignoring the horrors of the Holocaust and October 7, including Hamas's appalling use of sexual violence to torture and terrorized Jews. It's absolutely despicable and, it must stop.

TAUSCHE: Biden urging Americans to remember why the Jewish state must defend itself as anger simmers and at times erupts on college campuses over how Israel is doing so. For Biden, today's antisemitism evokes the outrage over hate in a different college town.

BIDEN: Charlottesville, Virginia.

TAUSCHE: Biden driven to run for president after a white nationalist and anti-Jewish rally in 2017, pledging to unify a divided nation with deep divisions on display once again.


TAUSCHE (on camera): The administration has said what would calm tensions nationwide now is a ceasefire deal that would see dozens of hostages released. NSC spokesman John Kirby said that he's optimistic that one could be reached soon, that the parties are down to negotiating the language of such a deal and as for those talks in Cairo this week, he says the Egyptians, the Qataris, the Israelis and the Americans will be present. He said, everyone's coming to the table. That's not insignificant -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope there's a deal worked out. Kayla Tausche, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter. You can follow me on Instagram @WolfBlitzer. THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

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