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Star Witness Michael Cohen Wraps First Day Of Blockbuster Testimony; Cohen Says, Trump Wasn't Thinking At All About Melania, Only His Campaign; New Transcript Of Michael Cohen's Crucial Testimony Released; Trump Touts New Polls Showing Him Leading Biden In Key Swing States After Dramatic Day In Court. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 13, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: New must-see video shows the moment a pair of skydivers in wingsuits flew through London's iconic Tower Bridge, making them the first people to ever do so. The two daredevils jumped from a helicopter 3,000 feet in the air and reached a top speed of 153 miles per hour. The duo completed the risky challenge on May 2nd.

You can follow the show on X @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcast, all two hours is sitting there. I'll see you tomorrow morning for coverage of the Trump trial.

Until then, the news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight in the Trump trial, star witness Michael Cohen wrapping up his first day of blockbuster testimony, detailing the Stormy Daniels hush money deal and how Donald Trump was allegedly involved in covering up his relationship with the adult film star and her $130,000 payoff. The longtime Trump fixer and lawyer telling jurors his former boss was only concerned about the impact on his 2016 presidential campaign and that Trump, and I'm quoting now, wasn't thinking at all about his wife, Melania.

For the next hour, we'll take you inside the courtroom from gavel to gavel with new transcripts, breaking down all of today's most important developments and looking 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.

Let's get right to the breaking news on today's high stakes testimony against Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, zeroing in on what Trump knew about the Stormy Daniels hush money deal and the alleged criminal cover up. Cohen insisting more than once that Trump had an urgent motive to protect his 2016 presidential campaign.

CNN's Kara Scanell is outside the courthouse in New York for us. Kara, the prosecution is cutting to the heart of its case with Cohen on the witness stand. KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, Michael Cohen on the witness stand for five hours today. He was measured, he was deliberate, he was controlled as he explained to the jury the hush money deals that he said he was involved with at the direction of Donald Trump, telling the jury that if the news had come out, it would have been catastrophic to the campaign and also saying that he was repaid.

And he recounted to the jury a moment when he was in Trump Tower in Donald Trump's office with the chief financial officer. They were discussing the repayment. It would be made over 12 months. And it was then that Michael Cohen said that in that room, Donald Trump approved his repayment of the hush money deals.


REPORTER: Michael, what do you have to say to Donald Trump?

SCANNELL (voice over): Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, and now star prosecution witness, finally taking a stand in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial. He's considered the only witness who can directly implicate Trump in the alleged crimes.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We paid a lawyer a legal expense. It's marked down in the book, quote, legal expense. It's perfectly marked down.

SCANNELL: Prosecutors say Cohen paid off adult film star Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf to kill her story of an alleged affair before the 2016 election. Trump denies the affair.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I did it at the direction of, in concert with, and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump.

SCANNELL: Cohen testified about notifying Trump after learning Daniels was planning to sell her story, saying that the impact on the campaign would be catastrophic. Cohen said Trump was angry at him for not having this under control and told him to stop this from getting out.

Cohen said Trump directed him to try and stall Daniels from releasing it until after the election, recalling Trump saying, because if I win, it will have no relevance because I'm president, and if I lose, I don't even care. He claimed Trump was not thinking about his wife, Melania, saying this was all about the campaign.

Cohen reached a $130,000 deal with Daniel's attorney to kill the story. And ultimately, a few weeks before the election, Cohen had to front the money himself. But before heading to the bank, Cohen said he had two phone calls with Trump to ensure that, once again, he approved what I was doing because I require approval from him on all of this. Prosecutors showed the jury call logs to back up Cohen's recollection. Cohen testified about this in front of Congress in 2019.

COHEN: Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. SCANNELL: Cohen served three years in prison and home confinement for crimes, including federal campaign finance violations related to the payoff.


COHEN: I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people.

SCANNELL: Cohen emphasized that Trump was a micromanager, and that during his time at the Trump Organization, he answered only to Trump. Cohen said he had an amazing experience working for the Trump Organization for a decade, adding that he felt on top of the world when Trump would appraise him for accomplishing a task.

During questioning, prosecutors aimed to show a pattern that Cohen helped bury negative stories about Trump all upon Trump's direct instructions. Prosecutors asked Cohen about his work with tabloid executive David Pecker to kill stories, including one of another alleged affair with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, which Trump also denies.

Cohen discussed how he recorded a 2016 phone call with Trump, where they spoke about the $150,000 repayment to Pecker for buying McDougal's story.

COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David.

TRUMP: So, what are we going to do?

COHEN: Funding. Yes.

SCANNELL: Cohen also testified about the bombshell moment when the Access Hollywood tape dropped.

TRUMP: When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

SCANNELL: He said Trump called and asked him to reach out to all his media contacts, and said the spin to put on it was that this is locker room talk, something that Melania had recommended.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He described it as locker room talk.

MELANIA TRUMP, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: Yes. It's kind of two teenage boys. Actually, they should behave better, right?


SCANNELL (on camera): So, Trump was sitting back in his chair during most of this testimony with his eyes closed for much of the day, not reacting to what Michael Cohen was saying. For the most part of the jurors, they were taking notes again actively in their notebook. Michael Cohen will be back on the stand tomorrow where prosecutors say they will continue to ask him some more questions and then Trump's lawyers will begin their cross-examination. Wolf? BLITZER: Another big day tomorrow. Kara Scannell reporting for us, thank you, Kara, very much.

Let's break all of this down with our legal and political experts. And, Elliot Williams, there's a key portion of the, uh Cohen testimony today that you're looking at. You just got the official transcript.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And, Wolf, it fits right into the final images we saw in Kara's piece there, where she shows Melania Trump, a central job of the prosecution here is to establish that the actions alleged were not just for Donald Trump, to hide them from Melania Trump, but his campaign. And they got into that a little bit with Michael Cohen today.

So, this is Susan Hoffinger, the prosecutor, questioning Michael Cohen, when Dylan Howard, and that's the editor-in-chief of National Enquirer, told you on the evening of October 8th, 2016, that Stormy Daniels was out looking, well, her manager was out looking to sell her story. Did you know who Stormy Daniels was at that time? Michael Cohen says, I did.

Hoffinger, how did you know who she was? Cohen, because it was referenced back to the 2011 scenario that I dealt with previously with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, on -- I'm sorry, with Keith Davidson, Stormy Daniels attorney, in order to have a story removed from That's a blog.

And so, hearing now, after the Access Hollywood tape release, that her story might come out again, what? But if anything, did you think about the potential impact that might have on the campaign? Michael Cohen says, catastrophic. That is horrible for this campaign.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Ankush Khardori, what's the significance of this exchange?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, it furthers the prosecution's case for this hush money payment having been all about the election rather than any other reason. And that would further establish one of their theories, which is that the payment may itself have been a campaign finance violation or a crime under New York law. So, it gets them further evidence on that front.

What we have yet to hear, like a lot about, at least so far, and obviously Cohen is still testifying, is what exactly Trump was told during the process of sort of falsifying these records. You know, in an ideal world, we'd want to hear Cohen say, oh, I told them we were going to do it this way because the DOJ might find out, or the FEC might be asking questions. I don't think we're going to hear that testimony, that, you know, the real world is not the ideal world. But something in that ballpark would be helpful to the government.

BLITZER: Very significant indeed. Gloria Borger, I want to get your reaction to something Cohen says Trump told him about the payment to Stormy Daniels, and this is a quote. I want you to just push it out as long as you can, just get past the election, because if I win it, it will have no relevance because I'm president. And if I lose, I don't even care. This gets to the heart of the prosecution's case.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, very much so. I mean, Michael Cohen's whole point, and the prosecution's whole point, is that this was not about Melania finding out. This was not about a personal issue. This was about hiding something so he could win the election.


And what Michael Cohen said, not just in this moment, but in many moments today, was this was about the campaign.

As you said in your quote, this would be catastrophic for the campaign. They felt that they had to do something about it. And you could see that Michael Cohen got more and more panicked about it as time went on. And then Trump was trying to stall because he didn't really want to pay the money. But Cohen knew how dangerous this could be and finally had to shell out.

BLITZER: $130,000. Sarah Matthews is with us as well. Sarah, in another exchange, and this was significant, Cohen says, Trump was unconcerned about how Melania's reaction would be to the Stormy Daniels story. Cohen saying Trump told him not to worry. He wouldn't be by himself for long. What do you make of that?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. I think they've laid out that -- the prosecution has laid out that Melania was not the concern, that Trump's concern was with the campaign. Obviously, Trump's defense is saying that's not true, that this affair never even happened, and that he was concerned with what his wife thinks.

And I think what's difficult about this is that, and what kind of goes against Trump's defense is that Melania has not shown face at all during this trial. I wouldn't expect her to, just given the nature of the details of this case. And that doesn't maybe play well with the jury. When you're seeing other family members of his show up, we had some U.S. senators today show up and be by his side. But the most important person who could show up and be by his side is his wife. And so I think that the jury is definitely taking notice of that.

BLITZER: And, Elliot, let me get back to you because there was another important exchange today dealing with Cohen talking about the scramble after the Access Hollywood videotape was released and how the media was dealing with that. I had a chance that night, it was October 18th, 2016, to interview Michael Cohen right here in The Situation Room. And let me play the exchange, a little clip from that interview.


BLITZER: Have you ever had locker room talk, boy talk, as Melania Trump called it yesterday, with him along those lines?

COHEN: Wolf, I have never heard Mr. Trump say anything even remotely close to the statements that I heard. When I first heard that there was a tape that was going to be coming out, I said it's got to be fake because -- and I spend thousands of hours with Mr. Trump a year, and I can tell you I have never heard him say anything, anything even close to that. And, truthfully, Mr. Trump actually respects women very, very much.


BLITZER: That clip, though, speaks to Cohen's credibility, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes, two things can be true at the same time. Number one, Michael Cohen's other testimony in this trial can be corroborated by text messages and phone logs and financial records and so on, and other witnesses, other witnesses, including the banker that he transacted with, are bolstering some of the testimony he gave.

That can be true, along with the fact that that is terrible and it basically sounds like he's lying through his teeth. Because at the same time if we were to believe what he's saying today, he was helping the former president cover up some of these affairs.

So, yes, he's providing valuable testimony to the prosecution, but also has significant credibility issues that the prosecution has to deal with, and the defense is going to eviscerate him on when they get a chance to ask him questions.

BORGER: Well, he admitted it, didn't he, today, that he, that he lied to protect the president.

WILLIAMS: Oh, sure.

BORGER: You know, they had to get that out there, that, yes, I lied to protect the president.

WILLIAMS: And it softens the below a bit that it came out from the prosecution, but it'll come back.


BLITZER: It'll be a fascinating, a powerful week, indeed.

Everybody stand by, much more coming up. How Michael Cohen and Donald Trump reacted while Cohen was on the witness stand. Two CNN correspondents who were in the courtroom will share what they saw and what they heard.

And later, Cohen's former lawyer, Lanny Davis, gives us his take on today's testimony and whether his ex-client was effective.



BLITZER: Longtime Trump lawyer and so-called fixer Michael Cohen is expected back on the stand tomorrow after his first full day of testifying in the Trump hush money trial. Right now, we want to take you inside the room where Cohen and Donald Trump were just feet apart. I want to bring back CNN's Kara Scannell who's been in the court every day of this trial for us and CNN Anchor Abby Phillip was there for us inside the courtroom as well for the first time today.

Abby, you were in the room with Cohen as he testified this morning. What stood out to you?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Well, Michael Cohen's discipline, I think, is probably the most important factor in his testimony so far. You know, he is the linchpin witness for the prosecution, and they needed him to really tick through a series of things that will solidify their case before the jury.

And he delivered this testimony, I think, in a measured way, point by point, not meandering too far off course, delivering, it sounds like, what the prosecution asked him to. And the key moments had to do with what happened when the Stormy Daniels payment came into play, what he knew that Donald Trump knew about how that payment was going to be done.

And Michael Cohen made it clear that he was in the room when Allen Weisselberg was writing down that, you know, rudimentary equation on the piece of paper outlining what he was owed, and that he was also there when Allen Weisselberg went into Trump's office to brief him on the arrangement. And so that is at really the heart of the falsification of documents part of this case, which is about what Trump knew and what he might have authorized in terms of that payment that would have made it essentially a crime.


BLITZER: And, Abby, what did you see when it comes to the rapport, or shall I say lack thereof, between Cohen and the jurors?

PHILLIP: Really, well, you know, I think Michael Cohen, for the most of his testimony, addressed the prosecutor who was asking the questions, but at certain times he would address the jurors when the prosecutor sort of asked him, explain this to the jurors.

So, it wasn't gratuitous, but I do think that it was it was used sparingly and intentionally. For the most part, he was very, very focused on answering those questions carefully. Meanwhile, Donald Trump literally did not react the vast majority of the time. He just stood there from time to time. He would whisper to his attorneys. I observed that just a couple of times in the first morning session of the trial.

But for the most part, it almost seemed like Trump was trying almost to ignore what was happening on that witness stand with a man that he is clearly, to a degree, irritated by when Michael Cohen's name was called. The very first thing that happened in the room, he leaned over to his attorney and whispered something to him as Michael Cohen walked into the room.

BLITZER: Interesting. We know -- Kara, let me bring you into this conversation. We know Cohen gets under Trump's skin. What more can you tell us about how Trump absorbed his testimony?

SCANNELL: Well, Wolf, as Abby said, Trump did not react through most of Michael Cohen's testimony. For the majority of the day, he was leaning back, often with his eyes closed. When some text messages were put up on the screen, he would lean into the monitor where they're displayed. That's right in front of him, so he could see it. But overall, he really didn't show any emotion.

There were a few moments in the interview, where we did see some reaction to Trump, and it stood out because of just how still he was for most of the day. One of those moments when Trump had mentioned -- excuse me, when Cohen had mentioned Melania Trump, we saw Trump make a face about that. When Cohen was testifying and said that he was disappointed that he wasn't considered for the chief of staff job at Trump's administration, Trump shook his head.

And then another time when Cohen was describing that he was angry, unusually angry, even for himself, when he learned that his bonus had been cut by two thirds. It was at that point that Trump let out a smile, revealed a smile when Trump, when Cohen was even just commenting and kind of smiling about it himself, about just how he knows that he could be angry and that he was even unusually angry in that moment, we did see Trump react then. But for the most part, he is really was himself very controlled today in that courtroom.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Abby, what else struck you from Trump's demeanor today inside that courtroom and indeed from the courtroom overall?

PHILLIP: Yes, you know what, Wolf, when Trump walked into the room with this massive entourage of people it, it really made a stir. It was a large number of people, multiple members of Congress, one congresswoman, Nicole Malliotakis, Tom -- I'm sorry Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, and J.D. Vance, but along with a bunch of other people, his son, Eric Trump. It was a statement. I think he was trying to make a show of force in that moment.

And was it for the benefit of Michael Cohen? It's not clear, but they took up, you know, two or three rows. And I think that that just goes to show that even Trump knows this is a big moment for him and a big moment in this trial.

BLITZER: Huge moment, indeed. Abby Phillip, Kara Scannell, thanks to both of you. Abby, of course, we'll be back later tonight, 10:00 P.M. Eastern with her program, CNN NewsNight.

And coming up here in The Situation Room, insights into Michael Cohen's testimony and whether jurors are buying it. Cohen's former lawyer, Lanny Davis, will join us live. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: We're back with our special report on the Trump hush money trial, Michael Cohen beginning his testimony today that could potentially make or break the prosecution's case against the former president. As CNN's Brian Todd reports, Cohen covered some of the highs and the lows of his years working as Trump's loyal fixer.


COHEN: The next president of the United States --

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was those times Michael Cohen seemed to get nostalgic over in his testimony today, the better times when he was working his dream job for a man he respected and admired. It started, Cohen says, when he was at Donald Trump's office to ask about a $100,000 bill for work he had done for the company. Trump offered him a job on the spot. I was honored. I was taken by surprise, he said, smiling at the memory.

COHEN: He talked to me. He liked my personality, which is, you know, I mean, you know, my nickname is like Pitbull. Once I get my hands around your neck, you're finished, you know, I never let go.

TODD: He said his new job was quote, amazing, fantastic.

COHEN: You could be sitting in his office and next thing, boom, it's a superstar celebrity or it's another multi billionaire or it's a reporter on the telephone.

TODD: When Trump praised him for handling a problem well, Cohen said he felt like he was on top of the world.

The 57-year-old grew up on Long Island, his father a Holocaust survivor. Quote, actually, I didn't want to be a lawyer. My grandmother wanted me to be a lawyer. He became a personal injury attorney with a side hustle dealing in taxi medallions. He lived in a Trump apartment building, bought and sold additional properties, and even organized a condo board takeover. He liked the way that that occurred, Cohen said.

What did he do for Trump?

COHEN: Well, my job is I protect Mr. Trump.


TODD: Often in a vicious manner, Cohen testified.

MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, TRUMP REVEALED: He was famous for his rants, his tirades. He'd get extremely angry. He'd make threats. He'd call people names.

TODD: And Cohen testified he would sometimes lie for Donald Trump. But after Trump was elected, Cohen was not given a job in Washington.

COHEN: Donald Trump always kept Michael Cohen at a certain distance. And Cohen became more and more resentful of the fact that he was being kept at an arm's length distance by Donald Trump.

TODD: The relationship ruptured after Cohen's role facilitating the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels became public. Cohen went to jail, was disbarred, and bitterly testified against Trump in Congress.

COHEN: He is a racist, he is a conman, and he is a cheat.

TODD: Is Cohen really a different man now from those days as Trump's bullying fixer?

FISHER: This new Michael Cohen seems quieter more subdued, chastened. He does seem to be defeated. He's stature. He's lost his connection to Trump.


TODD (on camera): As for the future dynamic between the two men, Trump biographer Mark Fisher says it's possible that Trump might try to retaliate somehow for Cohen's testimony, but Fisher says that Trump is also known for bringing people who go astray back into his orbit. He says that's a possibility with Michael Cohen, albeit a slim one. Wolf?

BLITZER: I suspect it's a very slim one indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much.

Joining us now here in The Situation Room, Michael Cohen's former lawyer, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: You think your former client, Michael Cohen, did enough today to establish that the alleged illegal activity that the prosecution is claiming against Trump, that all of the alleged illegal activity was done specifically with the direction of Donald Trump?

DAVIS: Well, that's what the federal prosecutors found in their sentencing report and Michael Cohen did his time, and they found that he was directed by Mr. Trump. So, if Michael Cohen did the time for the crime, so should Mr. Trump.

But I have an invitation for all of Mr. Trump's supporters tonight and to Mr. Trump respectfully, you said to your supporters, to the American people that you would testify, not might, but would testify. Now, Michael Cohen has been carpeted with the tax at being a liar when he was lying almost always for you. So now you're going to keep your word, Mr. Trump, and testify, stand up and tell the truth the way that Michael Cohen has and then we'll see what the jury decides.

BLITZER: Do you think Trump will testify?

DAVIS: Well, I think that he may have a problem with the truth because I know what the facts are and the truth here is that Mr. Trump was directly involved in the same crime that Michael Cohen was forced to go to prison for.

But I'm inviting him and all of his supporters tonight. He said the words, I would testify. Look it up. Mr. Trump, it's time. Now that you've heard Michael Cohn being attacked over and over again by your supporters, it's time for you to stand up.

BLITZER: But you're a lawyer. You know his lawyers are recommending he'd not go and testify.

DAVIS: His lawyers are recommending that he'd not testify because I think they're afraid that he doesn't often know the truth from the non-truth, so he'll make a difficult witness. Michael Cohen had the courage to stand up and testify under oath and to take the cross- examination in the next several days, which won't be easy. He took cross-examination in the case involving Attorney General Tish James, and the judge found him credible.

Now, Mr. Trump, it's your turn. Keep your word. You promised your supporters. I welcome your testimony.

BLITZER: Let's see if he does. Cohen testified today, as you know, that he received a text, this is Cohen's testimony, from Melania Trump on October 18th, 2016, a few days before the 2016 presidential election. That was a day after Stormy Daniels' attorney said the agreement was canceled.

I interviewed Michael Cohen that day right here in The Situation Room. Let me play another clip from that interview. Listen to this.


COHEN: Wolf, I have never heard Mr. Trump say anything even remotely close to the statements that I heard.

And honestly -- truthfully, Mr. Trump actually respects women very, very much. And it's indicative of the company. It's indicative of women that are executives, and the way that he promotes women is identical to that of men.


BLITZER: So, what's your reaction to that?

DAVIS: This is Michael Cohen during the days when he said to the American people in Congress, I'm ashamed of myself for what I did for Mr. Trump, and what he did there was what he was referring to. He was defending the indefensible out of loyalty to Mr. Trump, and he regrets it and has shown remorse. And the one thing I can say, knowing him from the very beginning when he came to me, he wanted to do this truth and take all the punishment for his family and for his country.


And that, what you saw there, is the old Michael Cohen. We now see a different one.

BLITZER: As you know, the critics are accusing your former client, Michael Cohen, of displaying a clear bias and indeed a hatred of Donald Trump. Just last week, he wore this T-shirt, let me put it up on the screen, this T-shirt depicting Trump behind bars during a TikTok video. Given this, why should the jury believe he is being fair in his testimony?

DAVIS: Well, I certainly think he regrets the understandable anger that he still feels in what he did on social media. I think he regrets. But I also know that he stood up today and he told the truth. And I also know that he'll stand up to the cross-examination the way he did in the attorney general of New York's case, where the judge found him credible.

But more importantly, I've been in the room with Michael during all this preparation with the prosecutors. And every single word of his testimony was corroborated and will be corroborated by testimony of other people, by documents, by emails, by text messages.

So, the truth surrounds him by documents and that's why he's not afraid to take the stand. And I believe that Mr. Trump should live up to his promise to take the stand as well. And his lawyers shouldn't be afraid because he'll tell the truth.

BLITZER: All right. Lanny Davis --

DAVIS: I hope.

BLITZER: -- come back. We'll continue this conversation.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Lanny Davis helping us appreciate what's going on.

Just ahead, the attorney who led Donald Trump's defense during his second impeachment joins me here in The Situation Room. I'll get his reaction to Michael Cohen's blockbuster testimony today.



BLITZER: We're back with more breaking coverage of Michael Cohen's long awaited testimony against his former boss, Donald Trump. And we just got more of the transcript from Cohen's testimony today, including when the prosecution asked Cohen if Trump seemed concerned about his wife, Melania, in regards to Stormy Daniels.

Let me read part of the exchange, the official transcript exchange. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, did you bring up at the time the topic of his wife, Melania, in one of those conversations with Mr. Trump? Cohen, I did. Hoffinger, what did you say in substance to him? Cohen, I said to him, and how's things going to go with upstairs? Hoffinger, were you concerned about that? Cohen, I was. Hoffinger, and what if anything did he say to you about that? Cohen, don't worry. He goes, he goes, how long do you think I will be on the market for? Not long. Hoffinger, what did you understand that to mean? Cohen, he wasn't thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign.

Let's get some reaction right now from Trump's lead defense counsel during his second impeachment trial, David Schoen. David, thanks for joining us.

How much does what we just heard strengthen the prosecution's actual case against him? DAVID SCHOEN, LEAD DEFENSE COUNSEL, TRUMP'S SECOND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Well, you know, I think, you know, part of the issue here is they're using Michael Cohen to sort of touch every base. And so they'd heard some testimony that maybe President Trump's concern was about his wife and not the campaign, which would undercut one of their theories for the target crime 17152 to promote or prevent an election. And so they want to lay everything on the campaign.

I think, you know, you reached too far. I don't think it's going to be believable to the same jury that heard from an earlier witness how important the relationship is between Trump and his wife. But, you know, Michael Cohen is Michael Cohen. I think that they, they feel he's a make or break it witness. And I think in real terms, he probably is.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. Michael Cohen testified that he called Trump right before paying the hush money. and that Trump then approved the plan to repay him. How does the defense overcome that testimony directly tying Trump to this allegedly illegal scheme?

SCHOEN: I think, first of all, the defense has to keep their eye on the ball and specifically focus on what the charge is here. I think that it's possible to make out a case that Michael Cohen could be believed in full and that they haven't even, the state hasn't even made out the misdemeanor in the case.

Remember, for the misdemeanor, they have to prove that the business records were falsified with the intent to defraud and then to make it a felony that that was done with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Part of the problem with this case is, and I think why the indictment is defective, they've never identified what that target crime is. But the talk of the day is the 17152, trying to interfere with an election, cover up bad news about the candidate.

First of all, based on Mr. Davidson and other witnesses that we've heard about this being a settlement, not hush money, and even from Cohen himself, the part of the money paid was a bonus, I'm not sure that they can make out the case that this was improperly booked, and certainly not criminally booked, reflected in the records criminally.

Beyond that, candidates are entitled to prevent bad facts about themselves from coming out. So, again, best case scenario for the government, or for the state, if Cohen is believed, a lawyer who keeps his eye on the ball and gets the right jury instructions still wins the case. But, of course, this case is going to turn in large part on the cross-examination of Mr. Cohen, and that ought to be a dream for a halfway competent lawyer

BLITZER: that's coming up very soon. When the defense team starts cross-examining Michael Cohn, how much do they have to try to appease Trump? How will that impact potentially their own strategy?

SCHOEN: Well, I think there will be a consistent agenda between appeasing Trump and the lawyer's own agenda. I think, look, you've got to be careful with a lawyer witness. Michael Cohen is savvy, if nothing else. So, he knows what to expect.

But I think that the beauty of a witness like Michael Cohen is it's not just a cross-examination to show bias or prejudice by a witness for impeachment purposes.


In his case, it's classic prior inconsistent statements and he's got a lot of whom and a lot of forms, written, spoken, et cetera. In fact, you played a clip from a tape. I think those tapes should be played for the jury so that they hear how convincing his voice was in your interview and when he spoke to Congress and otherwise, so there may be he was even more convincing than he is on the witness stand today when he told completely other story.

One other thing I just want to raise is it's not just a matter of cross examination. Remember, Michael Cohen had a wit -- had a lawyer who he waived privilege with, who then met with the feds -- the feds decided not to indict Donald Trump, and he testified before the grand jury in the New York case. That lawyer would say that Michael Cohen told him the exact opposite at a time when the lawyer told Michael Cohen, you could never be more incentivized to give them Donald Trump, if you don't want to go to jail a day in your life, give them Donald Trump, and Michael Cohen told him, I can't because it's not true.

So, that would be compelling testimony if that lawyer testifies also.

BLITZER: David Schoen, thank you very much for joining us.

And coming up, new polls show former President Trump leading President Biden in several key swing states.

The former Biden White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, joins us live right after a quick break.



BLITZER: As Donald Trump enters the fifth week of his hush money trial in New York, he's touting new polling showing him edging out President Biden in four key swing states. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, they're doing great. You know why they're doing great, they kept me here for three-and-a-half, four weeks instead of campaigning. Yet we still have the best whole numbers came out in "The New York Times".


BLITZER: Those poles from "The New York Times" and Sienna find Trump with leads in Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona. The two candidates locked in a very close race with no clear leader, at least right now in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I want to bring in former Biden White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She has a brand new book just come -- that just came out entitled "Say More: Lessons From Work, the White House and the World".

Excellent read. Thanks very much for coming in.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you. It's great to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you think of these poll numbers showing Trump, despite the fact that he's going through a criminal trial right now, he's either beating or tied effectively tied, with Biden I didn't several of these key swing states?

PSAKI: Well, they do bend the mind to some degree. And if you're in the Biden campaign, it's obviously not what you want to see. There are some other numbers deeper in the polls that I think they're looking at as potential signs of opportunity as much as these numbers aren't great for them. One of them is 20 percent of people in this poll said they blamed Biden more for Roe being overturned than Trump.

That's obviously not factual. So for them, maybe that means you need to do more and abortion access, do more, putting more money into that elevate that as an issue. It also shows that there are people who should be Biden voters are, have been Biden voters in the past, meaning they agree with him on issues who just haven't decided that they're going to turn out and vote. That is a challenge, but it's also a place where they can make up some ground.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting because Biden compared to four years ago, Biden has, is losing support among Black Hispanic young voters, especially when it comes to the economy, even though the economy is doing better, why is that?

PSAKI: I think there's a couple of reasons. One is you can't tell people how they feel about the economy. And if people feel like the cost of housing is too high, or they have student loans they can't repay, they don't want to hear about GDP or data that is looking better. And they also don't want to hear about a long laundry list of accomplishments. Biden has a lot of them.

This is more -- if they can frame this about more about the choice and the contrast and who you're fighting for. That's going to be more of a winning message for them.

It's actually similar. You covered the 2012 campaign I was on the 2012 campaign. It's kind of similar to what Barack Obama did at that time, right?

The economy was still recovering his message was basically, I'm going to fight for you. Mitt Romney is not going to fight for you. Give me four more years. That's what their message needs to be.

BLITZER: Let's see her because then your new book, say more and its really, really interesting, important, excellent read. PSAKI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's say, you say that you share tips on how to be a better communicator, whether it's the White House from work the world, or whatever.


BLITZER: Right now. What is -- what does Biden need to do right now to be a better communicator with voters out there?

PSAKI: Well, I think the event they did in Wisconsin last week was actually quite a good example. As you know, because there's so much to cover, right, right now, the former president has opponent is sitting in a courthouse that is a big story. It's never happened before. It's hard for them to break through.

When they went to Wisconsin, what they did is they did an event that I would consider one with edge, right? They went to a place, Trump made a promise, he didn't deliver on it. It was about the economy they should people care about.

BLITZER: So what is President Biden doing wrong right now to talk to the American people and convince them to vote for him?

PSAKI: I don't know if its anything wrong as much as its something you've got to do more of. The Howard Stern interview was a good example. It reached a broader group of people who aren't clicking on More contrast events where you can really remind people what the choice is. Those I think are good -- two good areas for them to continue to focus on.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House and the World" -- Jen Psaki, congratulations.

PSAKI: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Please come back and visit.

PSAKI: I would love to.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for joining us.

And we'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: Breaking news, crews in Baltimore have just set off demolition charges as they work to free the cargo ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge from the wreckage. Video from the scene shows a portion of the debris still remaining on top of the ship after the explosives were detonated. The March 26 collision and bridge collapse killed six construction workers, and has choked off the key thoroughfare for nearly two months, dealing a major blow to the port of Baltimore and the city's economy.

If crews can free the ship, but from the wreckage, it could be refloated and moved as soon as this week. Also breaking now, as we keep an eye on Donald Trump's criminal trial, there's another major case we're following in Manhattan, the federal bribery trial of the New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Jury selection in the case now underway, Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are charged with accepting bribes, including gold bars cash, and a luxury car in return for steering U.S. aid to a foreign government and stopping a case against one of the co-defendants. Menendez has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and has rejected calls to resign.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'll see you tomorrow, 1:00 p.m. Eastern for our special live coverage continuing of the Trump hush money, criminal trial.

Once again, thanks very much for watching. You can always follow me on X formerly known as Twitter, and on Instagram @WolfBlitzer. THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.