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Now, Prosecution Delivering Closing Argument In Trump Trial; Defense Calls Michael Cohen's Testimony Lies, Pure And Simple; Soon: Prosecution's Closing Argument Resumes. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 18:00   ET



KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I think you might see a mixed.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You guys are great. Thank you so much for sticking by me, all two hours of this.

The prosecution's closing arguments of Donald Trump's hush money cover up trial continues now into their third hour. Judge Juan Merchan, a Republican appointee, I should note, says he wants them finished by the end of the day and has indicated the jury could stay until 7:00 or 8:00 tonight.

Complete trial coverage continues right now with my friend Wolf Blitzer. He's next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world to a special report here in The Situation Room, the Trump Trial Today. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're following breaking news.

Right now, the prosecution in Donald Trump's criminal trial is getting the last word before the judge sends the case to jurors who will decide the former president's fate. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass pressing on with his marathon closing arguments, trying to counter attacks on his star witness, Michael Cohen, made during the Trump team's summation earlier today.

CNN's Kara Scannell has been inside the courtroom all day. She's joining us now. She's outside. Kara, bring us up to speed on this climactic moment in this truly historic trial.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is now entering his third hour of these closing arguments and his focus right now is on the payments. This is the heart of the case, the repayment to Michael Cohen and how it was booked in Donald Trump's company's books and records. So, this goes to the actual allegations of falsifying business records that Trump is charged with.

So, Steinglass is going through methodically all the catch and kill deals leading up to this moment. And this is where he is now turning to these repayments, saying that Cohen was paid in 2017. Those payments ended that year. And so it did not get paid in 2018 saying that this was not a retainer that Cohen was working for Trump as his lawyer when Trump was in the White House. Steinglass even telling the jury that Michael Cohen spent more time in cross examination in this trial than he did actually working for Donald Trump in 2017, so really trying to knock down on the defense's contention today that this was a retainer agreement.

And that matters because Trump is charged with falsifying these business records because the invoices Cohen sent, the vouchers from the company's books, and the checks, all said the word retainer on them. That is why they're arguing over this point. And so Steinglass is pointing out various reasons to the jury why they should reject the defense's argument that this was a retainer agreement, and that it was pure and simple a reimbursement, pointing to the note that says that were taken by Allen Weisselberg, calculating the repayment to Michael Cohen, and also notes taken by Jeff McConney, who Weisselberg instructed to handle the checks and the monies going back to Michael Cohen. So, trying to focus on those two documents, calling them the smoking guns in this case that he is asking the jury to focus on.

Now he did spend a lot of time going into great detail about the catch and kill deals, the one involving the doorman at Trump Tower, Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, saying that Michael Cohen, you know, was involved in all these steps, but the jury doesn't have to rely on Cohen alone You know, also pointing to the phone the recording that Cohen made with his phone of him speaking with Donald Trump about the Karen McDougal repayment, trying to direct the jury in different directions of where they could look at some of this evidence that isn't Michael Cohen. And that's because Trump's team spent a good portion of their two and a half hours focusing on Michael Cohen, saying that he is the greatest liar of all time, pointing out different ways that they say that he has lied. The prosecutor is saying that the reason why Michael Cohen was of such use to Donald Trump is because he was willing to lie for him.

So, really a battle both over Michael Cohen in this case and what the jury should believe or not believe from him and also this issue of the retainer agreement that Trump's team says was in place. But the prosecution saying was false and that this was all about the reimbursement to Michael Cohen.

So, the judge saying that, you know, the jury they're alert. I've been watching them all day. They've given equal devoted attention to both Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney, and Joshua Steinglass for the prosecution, eyes mainly locked on him, looking down at the monitors before them to hone in on some of the evidence that's been pulled up, excerpts of transcripts, text messages that are in a tiny font really seem to be very focused and alert. And that's something that the judge commented on, which is why he said that he spoke with the jury, they're willing to go tonight to finish this so they can hear the full closing arguments today.

So, the courthouse behind me usually closes at 5:00 P.M., it is still going strong as the closing arguments, you know, are continuing with the prosecutors, Steinglass still addressing the jury now in this third hour. Wolf? [18:05:00]

BLITZER: The summation continues. Kara Scannell in New York for us, thank you very much.

We're joined now by our legal and political experts. And, Elliott Williams, what stands out to you from what we're hearing from the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, big picture. Early this morning, Todd Blanche, the defense attorney, came out with a pretty strong attack on Michael Cohen's character, saying, you can't convict the defendant on the basis of Michael Cohen's testimony. And I think many people would say, I think that's absolutely true, you can't. Now, you can convict a defendant on the basis of Michael Cohen's testimony and documents with the signatures and handwriting of Jeff McConney and Allen Weisselberg and the testimony of Stormy Daniels and other witnesses that have come in.

The idea that Michael Cohen's testimony is critical and it's important, however, it's not the entire case. And just look at the fact that the judge, if he hasn't yet, will almost certainly deny a motion from the defense to end the case right here because of the fact that a jury could plausibly convict the defendant here.

Now, that's not to say he will, but there's plenty of evidence in the record, even in spite of some of the credibility issues that some of the witnesses have. And I think the defense, yes, they're taking their time at -- the prosecution is taking their time at doing it, but they are noting that even in spite of some of these credibility issues, there is a quite full record here that could, not necessarily will, but could lead to a defendant's conviction.

BLITZER: Ankush Khardori is with us, former federal prosecutor. Ankush, the prosecutor is going over all of these written documents that have surfaced to sort of back up what Michael Cohen's allegations have been. How effective has this been?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it was a necessary strategy. I think it's one that we all expected, right? From the start they tried to corroborate Cohen and present this as a case that has largely you can understand based on documents. I do not think that is entirely correct. No sane prosecutor would have called Michael Cohen unless they absolutely had to.

He's an essential witness, and he's the only witness to certain conversations that, at least the only witness that testified, to certain conversations that the prosecution has characterized as essential to their case, meetings with Trump at Trump Tower and the White House and so on. If the jurors don't believe him, they think he's a liar and he may have lied here, that could be a hung jury right there.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, we don't know what the jurors think of Michael Cohen. And I think we have to go back and remember six weeks ago that the prosecution brought on 19 other witnesses whose name was not Michael Cohen, several of whom were really friendly witnesses to Donald Trump.

David Pecker called Donald Trump his mentor, said he wanted to help him win the campaign, Hope Hicks, who cried on the stand. And those witnesses and there were others backed up a lot of what Michael Cohen's case said.

I spoke to what we have three legal experts here. I am not the legal expert, but a lot of the lawyers and some former judges I've been talking to have watched the case have made the point that this case has very strong circumstantial evidence and they look at Michael Cohen as sort of the narrator of it all.

BLITZER: And the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, is now saying the former president signed, quote, by hand using his distinctive sharpie. And so that's another little nugget in there because these handwritten notes, according to the prosecutor, are the smoking guns in all of their allegations.

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I completely agree. It's that bank statement that the defense really couldn't overcome. They brought out other reasons to doubt, but they couldn't really address that. We have a bank statement that has the handwritten notes and then the math. That matches everything that Michael Cohen said happened, the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, the $50,000 to RedFinch. We know he didn't pay all of it to RedFinch, but that's what he said, and then the grossing up. It's all memorialized right there. That's not a retainer.

And with respect to the checks, yes, Donald Trump signed these checks with his pen. And what do we know about the former president? We know that he pays attention to every penny. He knew what he was doing.

WILLIAMS: Just to add to that, about four updates ago, not pointing over here on the screen. Joshua Seinglass had noted quite specifically this point that it's sort of remarkable that the math keeps adding up here, no matter whether you look at the checks, look at the testimony, look at witnesses that testified independently of each other, you all seem to and they all seem to end at this $135,000 plus $50,000 payments and so on.

Now, again, that's not proof positive of a conviction here, but it's a note that, you know, testimony and math also seems to add up.

BLITZER: And Steinglass just pointed out that no one could sign the Donald Trump checks besides Donald Trump.


WILLIAMS: Yes. Now, an argument could be made that to the extent the jury can split charges here which, which would be a little odd, but you have, because you largely have 34 of the same thing, you could make an argument that the checks hand signed by Donald Trump could be treated differently by the jury than other ones that were not. It's an argument. You know, I have a hard time seeing that, but still, you know, it's a possibility. It's not -- to clarify a little bit. Sometimes you have in a homicide case, the guy's charged with killing somebody, but also possessing a firearm. And in the room, the jury will trade the charges and convict on the lower one and not the homicide. Here, you have 34 of the exact same thing. Maybe they're looking for a way to cut things up. And there are -- you know, Trump's signature appears differently on some than others. I don't know.

BLITZER: And, you know, it's clear that Trump was very concerned about all of his money. So, if $50,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 was going out, he would know what that was for.

KHARDORI: Yes. I think that that's a very plausible read of the situation. Look, I think at the end of the day, I think it's going to be interesting to see how tightly the prosecution focuses on this question of the intent to commit another crime. We have yet to see the jury instructions on that on that crucial issue. That could be a very pivotal point in this prosecution.

I would just say, I agree that the bank statement, with all of the math, is strong circumstantial evidence. But there too, who provides the evidence that Trump was apprised of that math and that it was presented to him in any kind of capacity? Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: So, it was his fixer and at one time his lawyer.

KHARDORI: Also convicted liar who may have lied on the stand, on direct examination several times. I mean, that's, I think, where like this is really going to come to how the jurors assess Cohen's credibility. I completely agree with Jamie, and we don't know what they think.

BLITZER: We're now in the third hour of the prosecution's closing arguments, the summations.

GANGEL: You noticed. Yes, it's been a long day. Yes. Look, the defense went on for almost three hours. We knew that the prosecutor was going to take a long time. It looks as if the jury has agreed to stick around until 7:00 or 8:00 tonight. They want to finish this part of it tonight.

I do think, as we've read the commentary from our reporters who are in the courtroom, that there has been a distinct difference between Blanche's, the defense, is closing this morning and Steinglass. As an example yes, Blanche went after Michael Cohen, but there was the middle of his testimony that sort of seemed to wander into the weeds. He's talking about Stormy Daniels and David Pecker. It wasn't exactly clear what the point was.

By all accounts, Steinglass, who is apparently a very well respected prosecutor, seems to be following an arc, a timeline, and has very clear documents to back it up. Whether that works with the jury tomorrow, we don't know yet, but there really does seem to be a distinct difference.

One other thing just to add to the point of tomorrow morning, the judge will instruct the jury and that will bring a lot of this into focus.

WILLIAMS: You know, three updates that have just come through. Well, they all fit together and I can see where they're going now with their argument. This one right here, that testimony from Trump aides that Trump would hold on to individual checks, and then two updates ago, the debunking this idea that the former president was too busy to be in the weeds of this, and finally that Donald Trump was involved in it all. We had evidence suggesting that he was involved in everything.

What the prosecution appears to be trying to do here is make the argument that, certainly even if Donald Trump was distanced from some of the actions that gave rise to the actions here, he would necessarily have been aware of what was going on.

Now, again, that's all circumstantial evidence because you don't have a direct statement of Donald Trump saying, I know you're paying a porn star to help my campaign, but there's plenty of evidence in the record that seems to suggest that well, you know, a reasonable juror could find that he was aware based on habit and practices of the Trump Organization.

BLITZER: If they go, the prosecution, Alyse, goes another hour or two with their closing arguments, is that going to help them or hurt them with the jury, because I'm sure these members of the jury would like to go home?

ADAMSON: Yes, I think so too. And, you know, earlier today when I heard that the prosecution would be putting on about 4.5 hours of closing, my immediate reaction was that's a terrible idea, right? Like any one of us, how can we focus for 4.5 hours. These days, you can barely focus for 30 seconds.

However, as we see the updates come in and the way Steinglass is presenting this evidence to the jury, it's meticulous. To your point, it makes sense, there's a timeline. It seems engaging enough that he's probably getting their attention and it's important.


And he's breaking it down in a way that the jurors can understand.

So, I still stand by my original statement that 4.5 hours is a little too long. Maybe he could get it down to three, but I think a longer summation is necessary given the facts in this case.

WILLIAMS: This is Jamie's point from a second ago that we're not in there and able to see how much jurors are buying any of this? Now, certainly you know, it's bulleted well, it's presented well, it seems to read well in these one sentence updates. But, you know, this is another argument for cameras in the court.

GANGEL: So, just hear from inside the courtroom, we're hearing about Trump being a control freak. And the answer is --

BLITZER: And being cheap.

GANGEL: Right, because Mr. Trump wanted to retain control over his $80 cable bill because that's who he is. Steinglass says he's frugal.

We have heard testimony like this over and over again from people who were not -- from witnesses who were not hostile to Donald Trump. From, you know, people who worked with him not named Michael Cohen. Steinglass has pulled up excerpts from one of Trump's books, reading again testimony on Trump's views on his finances. I think this is about where he talks about how you have to watch every penny.

This goes to something that, you know, the three lawyers can talk about, which is common sense with the jury. It seems to me common sense is that Trump would not be paying Michael Cohen more than he needed to be paying him if he could have just reimbursed him.

BLITZER: Yes, that's true. All right, everybody stand by. There's a lot more. We're watching. We'll get more of the prosecution's closing arguments straight ahead.

And we'll also talk to Michael Cohen's former lawyer about the numerous mentions of Cohen during both sides' summations today.

Plus, a man who defended Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial is here with us. We'll get his thoughts as the jury prepares to start these deliberations.

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



BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on closing arguments in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial as the prosecution is continuing to make its final appeal to the jurors right now. And this comes after the defense made an all out assault on Michael Cohen's credibility during its summation. Trump's lawyer calling the prosecution's star witness, quote, the greatest liar of all time, or GLOAT as he called him, the greatest liar of all time.

Joining us now, Michael Cohen's former attorney, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thanks for joining us. The prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, is emphasizing the evidence, calling these handwritten notes a smoking gun, and trying to prove he doesn't need, even need, Cohen's testimony to convict Trump. Do you think he's been effective?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: Well, yes, because the document doesn't lie. People maybe do, but documents don't. So, here's what the jury can look at. Let me simplify this case down to one question. Did Donald Trump lie when he called his $35,000 a month checks personally signed to Michael Cohen legal fees? Was he lying or were they reimbursements for a previous payoff to Stormy Daniels and for other purposes?

So, I asked and expected to hear the answer from the defense attorney. What was the $130,000 in Allen Weisselberg's handwriting doing on that sheet of paper? What did it mean? Will 12 jurors say, well, of course, that 130,000 is the same number that was paid to Stormy Daniels? Those aren't legal fees. That's a reimbursement for what Michael Cohen paid. If Donald Trump lied about that issue, then I think the jury can convict him beyond a just on that issue alone.

BLITZER: Your former client, Michael Cohen, is still, of course, a very central witness in this entire case after Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney, slammed Cohen as the MVP of liars and the GLOAT, G-L-O-A-T, that is the greatest liar of all time. Do you think the prosecution is now doing enough to try to rehabilitate Michael Cohen's credibility?

DAVIS: Well, let's just remember what a New York State Supreme Court judge wrote in a written opinion after Trump attorneys cross examined Michael Cohen in a brutal fashion, just as brutal as these defense attorneys have. The judge wrote, after hearing that cross-examination, liar, liar, pants on fire, over and over again, the judge wrote, Michael Cohen told the truth.

So, I would say that Michael Cohen's credibility was established after this cross-examination in another venue where Donald Trump was found to have committed financial fraud.

But let me come back to the jurors. They're looking at a piece of paper, Allen Weisselberg's handwriting. The number has $130,000 on that piece of paper. What has the defense said about that $130,000? They have said nothing, because there's nothing they can say. The jury will use its common sense and say, wait a minute, $130,000 is the amount paid to Stormy Daniels, nobody denies that $130,000, multiplied by two so that Michael Cohen was made whole on income taxes, and divided by 12 is, guess what number, $35,000 because the total was 420,000, divided by 12.

As James Carville would say about the economy, we would say about this case, it's about the math, stupid. There's nothing about legal fees by Weisselberg. That's the document that a jury could reasonably conclude creates guilt and intent by Donald Trump. Why would he lie and call them legal fees when he perfectly well knew he was reimbursing Michael Cohen 12 times as a sitting president, writing checks for $35,000 personally to Michael Cohen?


BLITZER: We're continuing, Lanny, to watch the prosecution's closing arguments right now. They're now referencing Hope Hicks' testimony, calling it devastating and saying she burst into tears because she realized how bad the testimony was for Trump. What are your thoughts on that, Hope Hicks, a former top aide to Trump?

DAVIS: So, let me put myself again in the jury room, and, by the way, if they acquit Mr. Trump, I will respect that verdict. Whatever the verdict is, I will respect, doesn't matter if it's in Wyoming, a red state, or New York City, a blue state.

So, what will they say about Hope Hicks? The two questions in this case, one is, were they legal fees? Of course they weren't. The payment that Weisselberg wrote, $130,000, was about reimbursing Cohen for the hush money. The first question, though, is, was the money paid to Stormy Daniels for campaign related reasons? Who had said yes to that question? Because if the answer is yes, then Donald Trump committed the same crime that Michael Cohen was sent to jail for. Hope Hicks, a close ally, said it was all about the campaign. David Pecker, a close friend of Donald Trump, said it's all about the campaign. What has the defense attorney said about those two pro-Trump, close friends of Trump witnesses? It was all about the campaign.

Whether you like it or not, Federal law says if you give money for political motivations beyond campaign finance limits, that's a crime. In this case, Michael Cohen went to jail for that crime. And what the New York State prosecutors are saying is, if Michael Cohen went to jail for that crime, then so should the man that federal prosecutors, working for Donald Trump's administration, called he directed Michael Cohen to make those payments for which he did the time. Now, it's up to the jury to decide whether if Michael Cohen did the time, then at least they should find a verdict of guilty for Donald Trump directing him to do that very same thing.

BLITZER: We'll see what the jury decides. Lanny Davis, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you.

Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking news that's unfolding right now, the prosecution giving its closing arguments in this criminal case against Donald Trump.

Up next, we'll talk to a one time defense attorney for the former president. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: Key players in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial are working overtime right now as the prosecutor keeps plugging away, aiming to finish his closing arguments tonight. Our legal and political experts are back with us right now to assess.

Let me get your reaction, first of all, Ankush, to what we heard from Lanny Davis, because you were listening very closely, had some thoughts.

KHARDORI: Yes, I mean, look, he talked a little bit about the math and how simple the math is. You just take the $130,000 and double it and then break it up into pieces. There's a major part of the math missing from that account, which is the $50,000 that was allocated to reimburse a tech services company, $30,000 of which Michael Cohen stole. So, that is not a helpful fact for Michael Cohen's credibility.

And, you know, one of the things we were kicking around here is this notion that we've heard from time to time that sort of documents speak for themselves, or a document can be a smoking gun. As someone who prosecuted fraud cases, it is often not true. First of all, you do need people to talk about documents and smoking guns are very rare. That's why the metaphor exists. We usually don't have.

WILLIAMS: It's interesting just what we're seeing right here. The attorneys are now at the bench, and not to make too much of too little that we don't know, but this is generally not a great sign in the middle of a closing argument or closing statement. It will be interesting to see why and what exactly they're talking about here, whether it is -- it does not appear that there was an objection before. At least we didn't report it so that whether they're working out a scheduling point or something else as a general matter, no attorney, prosecutor, or several jurors nod yes when asked if they are okay to keep going. Look at that. That's a scheduling issue. It's like clairvoyance. People used to say we're going to be here a little bit longer.

Now, you know, I want to differ with a little bit with the argument that the mere fact that it's four or five hours long is itself a problem. It could well be a very compelling five hours if you watch Zack Snyder's Justice League, the superhero movie. It's four hours, a decent movie, you know, maybe not the best, but you can sit and watch something for a long time. It's really on where the jurors are at any given point and how compelling and organized and frankly entertaining the attorney's arguments.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Alyse, because I'm sure the jurors who have been sitting there for day after day after day, hour after hour, they're anxious for this to end.

ADAMSON: Oh yes, I think they're bursting at the seams to get into that deliberation room and start talking about it. All of the evidence has been in for over a week. Recall, they were sent home on Tuesday of last week, went over a holiday weekend, and are now sitting through hours and hours of summations. So, I think they want to just receive the case and start talking.

But to Elliot's point, and I think I said this earlier, I do think the way the summation is being presented makes sense. By the prosecution, it makes sense. It's organized. They're, they're listening, right? I still think it's a little long, but necessary. They'll listen. They'll turn their attention to that, and then get into the room shortly.

WILLIAMS: This is interesting here we're talking now about the FBI execution of a search warrant that that gave rise to any number of the questions here, and the point is, Cohen knew where the bodies were buried. It was essential to keep him loyal, this is what Steinglass is saying, knowing that, or making the argument, or the case that, Michael Cohen was so central to the Trump Organization for such a long period of years that he would have known the good, the bad and the ugly of the Trump Organization, including some of the factors that would have given rise to this case.


BLITZER: He was so close to Trump and very loyal to Trump over all those years.

GANGEL: Right. And to the point of good, bad, and ugly, Michael Cohen did some good, bad and ugly. I mean, he was more a fixer. He was a self-admitted bully. So, you know, to the point of that he stole money, there are certain things, and Steinglass is addressing, yes, Michael Cohen is a liar. Yes, he stole some money. Yes, he was also the kind of person that Donald Trump wanted around to take care of problems. But I think a big question is going to be the notion of reasonable doubt and how the judge instructs the jury tomorrow.

Also, is that bar higher when you're dealing with a former president and the Republican nominee? I'm not saying consciously, but does a jury -- they're human beings. Do they look at that a little more carefully?

WILLIAMS: In front of the five of us here, and however many millions of people are watching, I'm going to tell you a secret. Nobody knows what reasonable doubt actually means. It's a nebulous concept that judges, the prosecutors, defense attorneys all have a sense of, but it's just -- it's sort of -- it's some doubt, but I don't know how much, and it's like more than 50-50, or maybe less, you know, whatever. But no one can really define it in, in plain language terms.

Now, the judge will give an instruction, likely tomorrow explaining what reasonable doubt is, but it's a very complicated concept in the law.

BLITZER: You know, Ankush, knowing what we know right now with these twelve members of the jury, what's most likely? Unanimous conviction, guilty, unanimous acquittal, or as a lot of experts are suggesting, hung jury? You get one or two, there are two lawyers on that jury already, you get one or two who disagree with everyone else, and then there's a hung jury. In order to convict or acquit, you need unanimous.

KHARDORI: Yes. So, I took a position on this last Friday in a column. So, I do think the odds of a prosecution, the prosecutors getting conviction is, good, probably more likely than not. I think an acquittal is practically inconceivable to me just because it would require all 12 jurors to vote not guilty on all of the counts.

And, you know, I don't want to try to put a -- attach a percentage to this. I'll just say, I do think it is well within the realm of possibility that the jury could hang, particularly given how they handle this Cohen stuff. I completely agree with Jamie about this sort of intuition that may actually carry the day, which is that Donald Trump hired this man and he then proceeded to do all the things that he was hired to do, including throughout the investigation and the proceeding. But I think that's going to be the key thing.

WILLIAMS: You know, they were just talking about a tweet from Donald Trump about Michael Cohen, and I believe we have it here, I don't see Michael flipping, in effect, and putting in front of the jury two things here, number one, Cohen's long history with Donald Trump in relationship with the Trump organization.

But I think this is a wink nod to potential threats. Not saying it, not suggesting that the former president is threatening a former employee of his, but just the idea of putting out a tweet when legal proceedings are pending saying, you know what, I don't think Michael would tweet. It's sort of it's a character statement. You know, based on how they got it in, I don't think the defense would have had a reason to object to it, but I think it was a powerful way of showing their relationship and also --

BLITZER: Right now, Steinglass, the prosecutor, is saying Cohen never really trusted Costello. Can you really blame him? You saw Costello testify.

GANGEL: It was not the finest hour, I think, what do we call it, a forced error to call him. I mean, some of the lawyers that day were even suggesting it would have been better just to rest, declare victory, say they didn't make their case and move on.

I do think Steinglass has a way of playing to common sense. So, he reminded the jurors at one point that Donald Trump had lied. And that was on the record about the reimbursements. And also, here's something, again, just common sense, if this is about election interference, let's remember the alleged sex with Stormy Daniel, whether or not it happened, was in 2006. The payoff doesn't happen until 2016. When? Two weeks before the election. He wasn't so concerned about his family. All of a sudden, he's concerned about the election.

BLITZER: That's the argument that they're making.

All right, everybody stand by, stay with us for more updates from inside the courtroom on the prosecution's final pitch to jurors. We're going to hear from a former lawyer for Donald Trump. That's coming up next.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news of the Trump trial, the prosecutor turning in his closing arguments to a very controversial defense witness, Michael Cohen's former legal adviser, Robert Costello.

Let's bring in David Schoen right now. He was the lead defense counsel in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. David, thanks for joining us.

What do you make of the prosecutor focusing in on Robert Costello now? How much does that help the state's case?

DAVID SCHOEN, LEAD DEFENSE COUNSEL, TRUMP'S SECOND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: That's very interesting move. I think Robert Costello could have been a home run for the defense if they made -- when they made the decision to call him, not sure they should have called him. But what they should have done was prepared him, and that they didn't do at all. He was not prepared by the lawyers. That's a major failing.

But probably the biggest thing that happened before his testimony was there was a conference with the judge. In fact, there were two conferences. In fact, the judge said, I wish you, the prosecution would have given me your objections to his testimony beforehand so I could have considered them.


But the end of the day, the judge entered a very limiting order about what Robert Costello could testify about. Nobody told Robert Costello that. I have never had a case in which the judge didn't ensure that the defense lawyers had made sure that their witness knew that he was constrained. And so, that's why Costello reacted as he did some of the objections. He shouldn't have reacted, but that's -- that explains why he didn't. It's really incomprehensible to me that the lawyers didn't prepare them for that or for his testimony.

So he ended up not being a home run. He scored ford some points. I think if you're going to get into that as the defense would have gotten into that, then they had to show the relationship, the motivation that Michael Cohen had at the time, the urging that Robert Costello gave him, to give up Trump if he could.

But I think that the prosecution is appropriately making some hay out of the thing.

Can I -- can I just comment on the process for a bit and just what I would not have done that the defense lawyers did?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

SCHOEN: First of all, it's very interesting. I think the listeners all should know about the process. You know, it's different here. They usually in federal court, the defense goes in the process -- I mean, prosecution goes in, the defense goes, then the prosecution goes again. And here the defense goes first, and then the prosecution. If you believe in primacy and recency coming out of the block strong and finishing strong, it's an important thing to have in mind. I don't think I would have started with thanking the jury and mumbling a bit.

If your theory of the case is Michael Cohen is the centerpiece, I think it would have played a compendium of prior consistent statements that came in, let the jury here, Cohen convincingly saying something else. But I think they make a mistake. Look taglines like GLOAT and MVP can be effective, I've had them effective, had the Latin King's case in which I had to defend their witness, turn to the jury and tell them he was a master liar, and that was stuck with the jury.

But here, greatest liar of all time, you don't need that. Goebbels was a pretty bad liar or this is Trump's liar would be the response to that. I think that those things are dangerous.

Here, I would personally I think played the two lawyers to some degree. I'm looking for a hung jury in this case. I agree with the earlier commentator that I think chance of acquittal with this jury is impossible, virtually impossible, but I think he play for a hung jury.

And there are many sexy facts in the case -- less sexy facts in the case, sorry, that you can go with.

BLITZER: A lot of people are bracing for a hung jury right now. Let me get your reaction, David, to something that literally it just happened in the courtroom. The prosecution suggesting that Hope Hicks, a former top aide to Trump, burst into tears, right after testifying about a key conversation she had with Trump because she realized how bad the testimony was for her former boss.

What do you make of that?

SCHOEN: Well, I think that that was an emotional part of the trial. I think that, look, the defense doesn't get to go again, but if they did, I think an answer to that is, you know, Hope Hicks doesn't really know from a legal standpoint what's going to hurt and what isn't going to hurt. I think the whole idea of going against this person who she credits her entire career too, was an emotional thing for her, and that's perfectly natural.

But, you know, look, I do think little things made a difference. One of the guests earlier spoke about this tweet. I don't think Michael Cohen is going to flip.

That's an important thing to put just the use of those terms, you know, those little things can make a difference. I think they have to focus on some of the less sexy things, like what makes this a crime? And legal expenses, do we really prosecute someone criminally if the money is partly what we think of as legal expenses? Could someone think from a drop-down menu that a settlement payment as legal expenses?

I don't think we criminally convict someone if that's what it comes down to, and that's why I think I disagree with what Lanny Davis said earlier with the one question you would ask --

BLITZER: All right. David --

SCHOEN: -- and I think there's some good answers to that.

BLITZER: David, stay with us. I wanted to come back to you.

But, Elliot, give us a sense of what you see happening right now inside this courtroom.

WILLIAMS: So they're going through a number of writings and social media postings from the former president, and they use the words a moment ago, Trump's wrath speaking about like so for instance, when we have here, like it says in the bible, an eye for an eye, one Trump book excerpt reads.

I think what they're getting at here is how the former president manage the Trump Organization. Number one, demanding loyalty out of his folks. And number two, taking -- I think they're trying also to take some of the pressure off of Michael Cohen and his, some of his excuse here by saying he was merely carrying out the orders of a boss that everybody was afraid of, and expected a certain kind of conduct and behavior.

BLITZER: Let me go back to David Schoen. David, give us your reaction to that?

SCHOEN: I think again, I have to agree anything that they can do to take the attention off of Michael Cohen is probably a brilliant move I also agree though that's not true. Documents speak to themselves and they always tell the truth. We cross-examined documents all the time.


But I think that it sounds like the prosecutors playing it smart. I still think they have to keep make sure the jury keeps a tie. Their eyes on the ball, and I don't like the idea by the way, of speaking, 4.5 hours. It's true, in the fourth hour, you might come up with a point that registers with one juror, but I wouldn't want to hear me talking for four hours or two hours.

BLITZER: We had you for about 10, 15 minutes. That was fine.

David Schoen, thank you very, very much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road and there's a much more ahead on our special report as we get more reaction to the prosecutions closing arguments and real time. We'll be back in a moment.


BLITZER: We're back with our legal and political experts as the Trump trial has just taken another quick break. The jury has left the courtroom for this break. The prosecutors' lengthy closing arguments to the jurors will resume soon. They're not done yet.


This could go on for quite awhile.

WILLIAMS: This could go on for quite awhile.

Now, right before the break, there was a little bit of what I think it's fair to say fireworks, even though that's some creative license here, because there was -- Joshua Steinglass had shown a --

BLITZER: The prosecutor.

WILLIAMS: Pardon me. The prosecutor has shown a tweet from Donald Trump that said, if you go after me, I'm coming after you, all caps. Not a pardon me. A truth. Not a tweet, and it's an immediate objection, which was sustained.

Now, we were chatting about this in the break as Ankush was saying, you don't ever want an objection sustained during your closing argument, I think it probably threw him off, and we were sort of musing here and welcome the other attorneys thoughts as to -- one, what was that already in evidence, two, what was he trying to accomplish by reading it?

ADAMSON: Yeah. I was just confused. I don't know what the basis of that objection was. I can't imagine the prosecutor would be showing something that was not already admitted into evidence during the closing, but there is something that got the defense to their feet and the court ultimately sustained. So I was a little confused.

WILLIAMS: Or maybe --

JAIME GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Just politically for context --


GANGEL: -- my understanding is that I believe this did come up earlier in the trial, but that the point was that that was not about Cohen, right? It was about the campaign. So the implication that it was about Cohen is what they were objecting to.

WILLIAMS: And he would have been allowed -- they would have been allowed to talk about things in Michael Cohen's in Donald Trump's relationships, open-ended. What was the pressure campaign or trying to instill loyalty in Michael Cohen, broad statements of threat, political threats probably would have crossed the line and --

BLITZER: How unusual, Ankush, is it for the defense to cry out something is inappropriate and for the judge to sustain that objection?

KHARDORI: It's not --

BLITZER: During closing arguments?

KHARDORI: Quite unusual. Not that unusual for --

BLITZER: Not during testimony.

KHARDORI: Correct.

BLITZER: Closing -- or closing argument, it's pretty extraordinary.

KHARDORI: Yeah. Even during closing, those defendants will sometimes object precisely to throw the prosecutors often to signal to the jury that there's some sort of problem. It's rare for it to be sustained and it's not a great look, as we say, for the prosecutor.

GANGEL: There was something earlier today where the prosecutors did not object until the jury left the room, and that was when the defense Blanche said to made a reference to that you wouldn't send someone to prison for something.

And then there was a curative. You can explain what a cura -- but there are things that the jury can't un-hear these things.

And so, they get thrown out. There's an objection. There's a curative, but it's out.

WILLIAMS: Part of what seems to have started this all, we're getting a little more color here that the prosecutor, the defense opened up like a hole that a truck could drive through about Stormy Daniels therefore, we felt it was appropriate to sort of clap back with this statement about if you come after me, I'm coming after you. Now, the judge has said, no, I think you've gone as far as you need to go here and --

BLITZER: And don't go any further, yeah.

WILLIAMS: And don't go any further, right.

BLITZER: Trump has left the courtroom for a break right now. They're taking another break.

This the last break of the day. They'll come back. Prosecution will resume the summation, the closing arguments.

ADAMSON: Yeah. I mean, we don't know how long that will be when they get back, but I think hopefully, there'll be wrapping it up in the next hour and then they'll -- the jury will be released for the day and then they'll come back for the jury instructions tomorrow, and then the jury will finally get the case sometime tomorrow.

BLITZER: So, after the prosecution completes its closing arguments, the next step is --

ADAMSON: The jury instructions.

BLITZER: -- from the judge.

ADAMSON: From the judge, I think they're going to be doing that tomorrow, actually, I'm certain there's no way they're going to be instructing this poor jury at midnight. So we're going to see that tomorrow when they're refreshed and that is really key because it's those jury instructions that's going to tell the jury what the law is, and what they need to find to show whether the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

And that's why we all kept harping on that for so many days. What did his final jury instructions look like? We don't even know. Judge Merchan did not make them public.

WILLIAMS: And it's not they're being secretive about it. It's that -- and many viewers may not know that the law is incredibly ambiguous in all areas of our life. And judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys go back and forth in virtually every trial.

I'm trying to fine tune how they are explaining the law and how it applies to the circumstances of the instant case.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Jamie, that Trump is facing 34 state felony criminal charges for falsifying business records and those potentially carry jail times.

GANGEL: They do. Although I don't -- look, Elliot -- I can't imagine in this case that that would happen. I do want to just end with how many of these lawyers would be happy having two lawyers on this jury.

BLITZER: Yeah. Let's see what happen to those two lawyers. We're watching. We're watching all of this.

A lot going on right now. To all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.