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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Trump Falsely Claims Judge Won't Let Him Attend Son's Graduation; GOP Gov. Sununu Defends Trump Endorsement Despite Past Criticism; Rep. Greene: Johnson Won't Be Speaker Next Year. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired April 15, 2024 - 21:00   ET



VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Around major airports, including Sea-Tac, in Seattle, and O'Hare International, in Chicago, where travelers were seen having to get out of cars, take their luggage, and try to walk in to make their flights. So, a lot of cities impacted today, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right. Veronica Miracle, thanks very much.

That's it for us, tonight, from Tel Aviv. We'll see you tomorrow. The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts right now.


Day one for criminal defendant, Donald J. Trump, the former President making history for all the wrong reasons, facing prospective jurors, who could make him a convicted felon. And dozens dismissed almost immediately. In fact, not a single juror was picked today.

We'll take you inside the hush money trial. Our source tonight, Maggie Haberman had a bird's eye view of Trump, the lawyers, the jurors and the judge.

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Imagine showing up for jury duty, and finding out that you might have a front-row seat, for the next several months, to be at the first criminal trial of the former President. And that you could be one of the people, who will decide if Donald Trump should be a convicted felon, and potentially shape his political fate.

And while you're being questioned, there is the guy, sitting right there, whose stock-in-trade has often been intimidation throughout his career. Well, that was what greeted 96 Manhattanites, on a beautiful spring day, here in New York today. It's a bit chillier though in the courtroom.

At one point, every available seat in that courtroom gallery, and the jury box was filled. But in about the time it takes to say hush money, at least 50 prospective jurors were told that they could leave. They had raised their hand, and said they could not be fair and impartial in this trial. Judging from today's proceedings, it can take a while to find the 12, who believe that they can and a few alternates.

As for Trump, our CNN team inside the courtroom tells us that he was actually biting his lip, during today's proceedings, not just literally and figuratively as well, only uttering three words out loud, inside that courtroom.

Outside court, however, it was a very different story.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My son has graduated from high school, and it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son, who has worked very, very hard.

Next Thursday, we're before the United States Supreme Court in a very big hearing on immunity. And this is something that we've been waiting for a long time. And the judge, of course, is not going to allow us.

He thinks he's superior, I guess, to the Supreme Court. We've got a real problem with this judge.


COLLINS: I should note, the judge that Trump is referring to there, Judge Juan Merchan has not actually ruled yet, on his request to be excused from the court, for his son's graduation, which is next month.

He did tell Trump though, that he will be required to be in court, next week, on Thursday, when those immunity arguments are going to be happening at the Supreme Court.

While acknowledging that the Supreme Court is a big deal, and it certainly is significant that those arguments will be taking place next week, the judge reminded Trump's team that the former President is a criminal defendant here in New York. And his presence in that courtroom, as it was today, is required.

My source, tonight, was inside that courtroom, and has reported on Trump for decades, and wrote the biography of him, "Confidence Man." Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times, and CNN's Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman is here.

And Maggie, I mean, just what a fascinating place to be reporting from today. What was it like inside the courtroom?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look, we were all, I think, very conscious that we were covering history. This was the first trial -- first criminal trial of a former U.S. President. This was the beginning of jury selection. It didn't get very far. And there were a bunch of motions in the morning.

But it was really striking, watching Trump, in this cavernous courtroom, a very, very dingy courtroom, I might add. Not at all, like the federal courthouses that he has become accustomed to, in some of his indictments in some of his civil cases. The courtroom in 100 Center Street is really dirty. And it's really evocative of the New York that he grew up in, frankly, and is pretty familiar with.

But he's sitting there surrounded by initially 96 prospective jurors. And it has a minimizing effect on a guy, who projects largeness and strength as often as he can. And so, that was striking.

He was actually on fairly good behavior, comparing to what we have seen in other cases and how he acted, certainly, in his civil cases. He has been warned by his lawyers, that he could get himself in a lot of trouble, not just with the judge, but with jurors. I don't think jurors in the Carroll case liked it when he stormed out during closing arguments. We will see if he sticks to that.

But it was a -- it was a remarkable day.

COLLINS: I mean, you've covered him for so long. And to see him in that setting. You've covered him when he's in the Oval Office. You've covered him on the campaign trail. To see him in a courthouse.

What was he doing when those 96 potential jurors came in the room? Was he looking around at them?

HABERMAN: It's a great question. I mean, he was -- he was craning his neck to see them. In some cases, he seemed to be trying to make eye contact, which is something that he did in the Carroll case. He kept sort of scanning jurors' faces and trying to connect.


COLLINS: Oh, he was trying to look at them directly?

HABERMAN: He was trying to connect, yes. And in this case, when they were first -- you know, the question was, do you think you can't be fair in this case? I'm paraphrasing. And it wasn't a giant show of hands. It was row by row. But it was more than 50 people, who ultimately ended up leaving of this pool of 96.

And Trump had the juror questionnaire in front of him, as the others were then being questioned. He did look around the room, as people were raising their hands and listing their jury number, they don't give their names, and then saying that they were leaving.

He seemed weary of it, by the end of it, frankly. I mean, he seemed bored and fidgety. As we have seen him any number of times, he often can't sit still.

But I think this is going to be one of the most interesting jury selection processes we've seen in a long time.

COLLINS: Was he reading along the questionnaire?

HABERMAN: He was because the way it would work is the jurors, who were asked questions, are asked to answer the questionnaire, were seated in the jury box. And then, they would just go down with the answers without saying what the question was, in the interest of time, because this is such an expansive juror questionnaire. So, unless you had it in front of you, you didn't really know what they were responding to, until many of them said what their news- reading habits were. And he was reading along, to see what they were talking about.

COLLINS: And yes, there's a pool in there. So there's someone sending basically dispatches to us, as we're sitting outside, other reporters.

HABERMAN: And that's what -- that's what I was part of, was the pool.

COLLINS: And you were -- so you were actually in the room for that.

At one point, the pool said that he was glaring at you, for several seconds. You had reported shortly before that, during a break that he appeared to be falling asleep, at one point, as the proceedings were getting kind of tedious. Did you notice that?

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, yes, I noticed it. He made a pretty specific stare at me and, and walked out of the room.

COLLINS: I've been on the receiving end of--

HABERMAN: I know you--

COLLINS: --of said glares.

HABERMAN: I know you have. I have too.

I reported earlier that he had appeared to fall asleep.

Now, we had seen him -- and I want to be clear that lots of -- I've seen lots of people fall asleep in courtrooms. I've seen jurors fall asleep. I've seen judges fall asleep. If anyone falls asleep, who is a criminal defendant, in a case, we're going to report on it. But he doesn't like when such things are reported. And I'm guessing. I don't know that that's what this was about.

I think that having to sit there, and be captive, while we all report on him is going to be deeply uncomfortable for him, because he is somebody who likes to control things.

COLLINS: And I was thinking about that today. He's always also in control of his own time. Before the White House, but certainly when you're the President of the United States--


COLLINS: --you control basically what -- where you want to go, what you want to do.

I wonder what you think it's going to be like for him to be under such time constraints, of having to be in the courtroom, during those Supreme Court immunity arguments, next week, during other opportunities and things that he wants to be doing.

HABERMAN: It's going to be frustrating for him, I think, on two fronts. Three fronts.

Number one, as you said, he's not going to be able to go campaign, the way he wants to campaign. He's not going to be able to.

Now, he has found some political benefit in these court cases. But we might be seeing the max-out effect of what that looks like, depending on what happens in the trial. If he gets a hung jury, in this trial, then that could look very different, in terms of how it plays politically. But for argument's sake, his folks are preparing for a possible conviction.

Number two, he, as I said before, gets bored easily. He fidgets a lot. He has to sit there. He can't be on his phone. He can't look at Truth Social. He can't do the normal things that he does. So, that I think is going to be taxing for him.

And then, there's this thing, where his words are essentially weapons against him. So, the thing I was really struck by, in the morning, was he had to sit there. And there were all these motions in the morning that were dealt with before we got to the beginning of jury selection. And in several of them, prosecutors were reading his old tweets from when he was president.

And there were a series of tweets about Michael Cohen, from April of 2018. And it was Michael Cohen will never flip. And then they used it to compare tweets later, after Michael Cohen was cooperating with prosecutors. And he said something -- the tweet was essentially, if you're looking for a skilled lawyer, don't hire Michael Cohen. That was the only time I saw Trump really laugh, by the way, was it his own words.

But he also had to sit there, as they read the transcript of the Access Hollywood tape, not all of it, but much of it.

That's what a lot of this trial was going to be.

COLLINS: You know what I noticed, speaking of that is, Melania Trump's not there.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

COLLINS: This case, for all we talk, we'll talk about the legal theories with Trump's attorney, who's coming on in a moment.

But personally, for him, it also has an impact, because it certainly did when this story was coming out. And we were learning all the details of this.

HABERMAN: There's no question. And he has been saying to people privately, referencing his wife in connection with this trial about it, this is, I'm paraphrasing, but that it's not pleasant.

She was very unhappy, when they were in the White House. She made that very clear, through a number of people. I don't expect that you will see her at this trial. I, you know, we haven't seen her at any of these cases. [21:10:00]

But I do think that the personal effect of this that you're talking about is really the biggest one for him. It's a question mark, as to whether even if he's convicted he would get jail time as a first-time non-violent offender. But he hates this case, and just wants it to go away.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, stick around.

We also have a pair of excellent legal sources, who are joining us at the table, tonight.

Renato Stabile is a jury consultant, who has been through this process with some high-profile defendants, from gangsters to politicians, even Harvey Weinstein.

We also have Karen Friedman Agnifilo, who is a CNN Legal Analyst and former Chief Assistant D.A. under then-Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance.

I should note, Karen is of counsel for a firm that represents Michael Cohen. But she has no contact with him, does not work on his case. And there are no restrictions on what she can say about this case, no gag order, in effect, I should say. We'll talk about what that looks like.

But on the jury selection, and Maggie talking about how all those jurors, raising their hand, saying I can't be impartial or fair in this.

What we do know about who is still in the mix is their jobs. A salesman, an attorney, a bookseller, a prosecutor from the Bronx, a woman who works in social media, a nurse.

What does that say to you about where we are at, and how they're going to be going through this process?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think as Maggie pointed out, a criminal trial is the great equalizer, right?

I spent my entire career in that very building. I've tried many cases there. I have appeared before Judge Merchan. And this jury selection is just as ordinary as any other jury selection. It takes a lot of time.

People self-select to get off the jury for all host of reasons. I used to do sex crimes cases. You'd get more than 50 percent of the people saying for one reason or another they couldn't sit on a sex crimes case.

And it's just that's why the clerk, Milton Tingling, has been the clerk forever, knew to bring in 500 people, to get 18 jurors, because they just -- it's to be expected that there are people, who can't sit for two months. They can't -- they have childcare issues or job issues. So, there's lots of reasons why somebody won't serve. And so now, you call down to a few. We've now got a box of people, who

will be questioned, starting tomorrow. And things start out slowly, like they did today, where you have to do a lot of housekeeping and ministerial type things, like -- although they did a lot of motion practice ahead of time, to try to not have too much of a delay.


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: There were some things they had to take care of today. And again, that always happens in the beginning of a trial.


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: But you'll see things start to pick up.

COLLINS: Well, and one question that they're have -- that they do have to try, to kind of suss out where all these jurors stand is where do they get their news? What do they -- and it's what Maggie was just talking about, what they were asked.

And what we were hearing from some of them, one, New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News. Another, The New York Times, CNN. We saw some saying, Instagram, The Wall Street Journal.

I mean, how is an attorney, the defense team and the prosecution, looking at those answers?

RENATO STABILE, JURY CONSULTANT, ATTORNEY: Well, you're trying to figure out their political ideology, right? That's the name of the game in this jury selection. So, conventional wisdom is if you're a fan of MSNBC, you're leaning more liberal. If you're a fan of Fox, you're leaning more conservative. So, that's the purpose of those questions.

But look, the reality is people watch a lot of different news sources. And they might not watch just one news source. So, it tells you something, but it doesn't tell you everything.

COLLINS: Well, and what we saw Trump saying there, at the end, about the schedule here, of what this is going to look like. He was complaining that he may not be able to attend his son's graduation, next month. The judge said, we'll have to see what the schedule looks like.

I mean, one thing was clear today is the judge does want to keep this on track.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think the judge will allow things like that. That's very routine, and very normal. I think the judge -- I got the impression the judge just didn't want to rule on that today. Let's just see how that goes.

And -- but he's letting people not sit for pass-over. He's already making accommodations. And those are the normal type of accommodations that this particular judge. He's a very fair, down-the-middle-kind of judge. He's not known in the courtroom, or the courthouse, of being either pro-prosecution or pro-defense. He's very much a judge, who just who tries to be fair, and just call balls and strikes.

COLLINS: What did you make of the arguments, over what the schedule is going to look like, how this is going? I mean, it's going to take a while, first, to just get the jury in and of itself.

STABILE: Yes, sure. We saw it's going very slowly, right now. I mean, they didn't even get one juror.

But in terms of making requests for the defendant, not to be there for certain days, that's not going to happen. They might adjourn the trial for a day, to accommodate various schedules. But a criminal defendant has to be there. And he's not going to just let Donald Trump not show up one day.

Now, it'll be interesting to see if that actually happens. Maybe he's going to be on the campaign trail, and he doesn't make it back in time. It'll be interesting to see what happens then.

COLLINS: Well and--

HABERMAN: Well, there's another piece of that too, Kaitlan, excuse me one second. But I think there has been some frustration with the judge, and you saw it today, where the defense strategy has been to leverage one case against the other.

And so, granted what Todd Blanche was saying that Trump wanted to attend was a Supreme Court argument. It was not. But it was related to another one of the cases. And so, the argument in Florida has been he's so busy with the Manhattan case that the Florida case can't go ahead. And the argument here was he should be allowed to have this day, even though we're so busy.


And you could see Merchan's frustration with that. So, I do think that he is likely, or it's much more reasonable, to assume that he will allow Trump to go to his son's graduation. But the thing, next week, is just a different caliber.

COLLINS: OK. But Maggie makes a really good point here, which is that they have been arguing with the classified documents case, needs to be pushed back because we're spending so much time and effort with this case.

But today, they're arguing, OK, well he didn't show up to this on Thursday, because he wants to attend the immunity arguments, next Thursday.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Right. The judge also showed frustration today that they haven't provided a witness list, that Trump's team hasn't provided a witness list yet. And the judge--

COLLINS: Which is unusual?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Which is very unusual. They're required to do it. And one of the issues, one of the reasons, the lawyer said was because

they're so busy, the Southern District just gave a big discovery, amount of discovery over at the last minute, and they're busy going through that, and they need more time. And they're just -- they've got a lot going on.

And the judge, you could tell, is starting to get frustrated with this. And in some of his orders, he's starting to show that delay is the goal. And he's not putting up with that.

COLLINS: What did you make of what they're going to be talking about tomorrow, which is Trump himself testifying? They were supposed to talk about it today. They didn't actually get to it. But it's basically, are we going to hear from him? And if not, you can't explain that later on to the jury, why he's not testifying. Is that the argument?

STABILE: Well, I guess the argument is that, first of all, he has an absolute right to decide whether or not he's going to testify.

But if he decides not to testify, you can't make excuses to the jury about why that is. He either does or he doesn't. If he doesn't, that's fine. The jury can't draw an inference against him. But you can't tell them why it is that he wouldn't testify.

HABERMAN: There's a huge amount of speculation out there, Trump will never testify, he'll never testify.

You and I both know that he thinks he's his own best spokesman and comms director and lawyer, frankly. And so, I think that even though he has no law degree, I think that, if it's up to him, he will testify.

I do think that they will make a decision when they see what the judge will allow prosecutors to ask or not ask.

Remember, his testimony, in the Carroll trial, obviously a very different situation. It was a civil trial. And it was settled already. This is not a settled case. That was about damages. But the verdict was there already. It was three minutes. And it was very narrow. And he still went over what he was supposed to do.

So, I'm not sure that he will actually go ahead and do it.

COLLINS: Yes, that's a great point of what this could look like, and the scope of what they could cross-examine him on.


COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, Renato Stabile, Karen, great to have you all here, talking about all the developments today.

Up next, we're going to speak with one member of Trump's legal team, to talk about his defense, and what they saw that stood out today.

Right now, we are also waiting for Israel's response, after that brazen attack, by Iran, over the weekend. The question is when and how. Anderson Cooper is on the ground for us, live in Tel Aviv. He'll join us shortly.



COLLINS: Outside of that courthouse today, on the other side of the police barricades, were Trump supporters, who had gathered outside of the courtroom, the flags with his face on them, flying in the face of his claims on that Manhattan is an island populated exclusively by Biden supporters.

Obviously his folks were there as well. The crowd's smaller than what we have seen at some of his past court appearances. As we note, as the Trump team has been claiming that the media attention has left New Yorkers with no way to avoid pretrial publicity.

The next source tonight, here on THE SOURCE, is Will Scharf. He is part of the legal team, who is working on the former President's immunity case, and is also a Republican, running in the primary to be Missouri's Attorney General.

So, you are very busy. Thanks for joining us.

We were just talking about the jury selection. 32 said that they could not be, they felt like they could not be impartial. What are your -- 32 jurors are still in the mix after this.

I wonder what you just made of day one and how it went with your expectations.

WILL SCHARF, (R) CANDIDATE FOR MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it played out, with respect to jury selection, almost exactly as we expected.

When you've had wall-to-wall media coverage in, frankly, the media capital of the world, on a case like this, for as long as you've had it, it's going to be very tough to find people, who can come into the courtroom without preconceived biases, about the evidence, about the law, who will accept the judge's instructions, and who will view the facts dispassionately.

I think we saw that with the number of jurors, who basically pulled themselves out of consideration at the start. And I think it's going to be very difficult to seek an unbiased jury here, for all of those reasons. And we're going to see that play out over the next couple weeks.

COLLINS: But there were over 30 that still believed that they could be fair and impartial. I mean, you all will get the chance to question them, going forward. So, I mean, there is a group that says, yes, I can do this. I can put aside, whatever my beliefs are.

SCHARF: And the point of the voir dire process is to really assess whether jurors are going to be able to do their duty as jurors, whether they're going to be able to set aside preconceived notions.

And with a defendant like President Trump, who's probably one of the most famous people in the world, if not the most famous person in the world, it's very difficult to find jurors, who come into the -- come into the courtroom without preconceived notions, about what the evidence may or may not be.

COLLINS: Yes, but you may have some, who are pro-Trump, and don't agree with the evidence.

So, what are you going to be looking for? What will these jurors be being asked by the Trump defense team?

SCHARF: Well, look, we want jurors, who will dispassionately view the evidence, and rule according to what is presented in the courtroom, and not what they may have heard on a TV show, or what they may have read online. We're looking for fair and unbiased jurors, because we believe the facts and the law are on our side here.


I would say with respect to the jury pool itself, I mean, we've consistently moved for a change of venue of this case, because New York, one, it's the media capital of the world. It's also a place, where President Trump does not have any political supporters.

Politically, this is a very, very bad jurisdiction for him. And for this trial to be occurring at the height of the presidential election season, it's almost impossible for it to occur without some sort of bleeding over of political animus. And that's really our biggest fear.

COLLINS: It sounds like you're making an argument to kind of set yourself up for an appeal. Is that the case?

SCHARF: I think we're going to win at trial. Obviously, if we have appealable issues, we have every right to appeal those issues.

COLLINS: You think you're going to win this case, ultimately?

SCHARF: I think if the jury decides, based on the facts and the law, there's no way that President Trump can be convicted.

COLLINS: Do you -- does the legal team agree that former President Trump should take the stand?

SCHARF: I think that's going to be a question for President Trump, and the trial team, based on how the trial goes. A defendant obviously has every right to take the stand, in his own defense. He also has every right not to. And the prosecution is not allowed to try to get the jury to form any inference, based on a decision one way or the other.

COLLINS: Yes. What do you personally think? Do you think he should get up there?

SCHARF: Well, as one of his attorneys, my personal view really isn't in question. COLLINS: What's your legal advice to me--

SCHARF: I would say that you know--

COLLINS: --when we hear them.

SCHARF: --I think President Trump would be a very compelling witness, in this case. I think his testimony would be able to explain, as other witnesses' testimony would, that he did nothing wrong here.

COLLINS: You were saying earlier, to my colleague, Jake Tapper, that you believe that the judge can't be a fair judge here.

But when we were listening to those back-and-forth maneuvers this morning, over what evidence can be allowed, to the extent of it, I mean, he ruled in your favor at some points. So which is -- do not believe that he's fair when he makes decisions like that?

SCHARF: We've moved to recuse Judge Merchan off of this case. We believe that he has irretrievable biases that under New York law require recusal.

It's also important to note that in the seminal case on judicial recusal, the Supreme Court's Caperton v. Massey, they held that even the appearance of impropriety, given sufficiently extreme fact, can justify recusal.

COLLINS: Right, but he disagreed with that.

SCHARF: He disagreed with that. And we disagree with him. And that's an issue that we'll have to see play out, as this case proceeds.

COLLINS: But the point is, I think, you all were making arguments today, the Trump team, the prosecutors were making argument. At some points, he agreed with prosecutors. And at some points, he agreed with the -- with the Trump defense team on what can be allowed in there.

SCHARF: Well, but, I mean, the fact that he sided with us, on a given evidentiary ruling or not, doesn't address the underlying bias, which we believe is severe, and which we believe requires recusal here.

COLLINS: You were saying that if the jury pays attention to the facts of this case, that you believe ultimately you will win. Which facts are those that you believe will ultimately win you this case?

SCHARF: Look, you know, the--

COLLINS: Because the question is what Trump knew about those payments--

SCHARF: This--

COLLINS: --and how they were labeled.

SCHARF: Well, this is a case that's consistently been labeled the Trump hush money trial. And that's a total misnomer and a total mischaracterization of what this case is about.

COLLINS: How so?

SCHARF: This case is about business records charges. The question is whether business records, relating to payments made to Michael Cohen, were misrecorded. Whether recording payments to one of President Trump's lawyers as legal retainer payments was improper?

There's also a serious factual question about the level of involvement President Trump himself had, with the recording of those business records. And then, on top of that, for this to be a felony as it's been charged, they would need to show that the reason those business records were incorrectly recorded was to cover up another crime.

Now, that aspect of this case, this election fraud aspect of it, I think that the idea that these payments could have plausibly been election expenses, just doesn't mesh with federal law, on what's allowable in that context. And that's why the Biden Department of Justice, the FEC, and Cy Vance himself, the previous New York D.A., have all declined to take action, on either this case, or very similar legal theories.

COLLINS: Well, can I stop you there, and ask you, because you just mentioned a legal retainer fee here.

I mean, how do you dispute that when Rudy Giuliani is on television, from that time period saying, Michael Cohen wasn't doing any legal work for Donald Trump at this time. And Rudy Giuliani said Trump was aware, generally, of the arrangement that he had with Michael Cohen, to make payments like this, to cover up these stories.

SCHARF: Well, and I think your question points to exactly the problem we have with jury bias here that there's been so much press coverage, and so many people have said so many different things about the underlying facts here.

COLLINS: But Rudy Giuliani was his attorney.

SCHARF: Well but--

COLLINS: It's not like just a commentator, who doesn't know anything. Rudy Giuliani, you know, I was at the White House that time. I was at the White House. Rudy Giuliani would be on the White House grounds, like he knew what was going on.

SCHARF: The jury is going to have to make a decision, based on the evidence they hear in the courtroom. And that's a linchpin of our system of law and order. It's a linchpin of our courts. It's a linchpin of the Constitution.

I think what Rudy Giuliani may or may not have said, years ago, really doesn't bear on this case. The facts are the facts. And I think the truth is on our side.

COLLINS: But how do you dispute what his own attorney at the time was saying, I guess, is my question. SCHARF: I'm not--

COLLINS: How do you -- how do you push back on that?

SCHARF: Kaitlan, I'm not familiar with the statements in question. But I do know what the facts are, in this case. And Michael Cohen was one of President Trump's lawyers.

COLLINS: Can I just--


SCHARF: Payments to Michael Cohen were booked as legal retainer payments. Whether that's inaccurate or not is ultimately going to be a question for the jury.

I don't believe those were inaccurate recordings. And I also don't believe that Trump personally made those recordings. And that's another fact that's going to have to be developed as the trial goes on.

COLLINS: Is Trump's -- Trump's involvement, which, you know, Michael Cohen will testify they did.

But can I just -- I do. I genuinely am curious.

SCHARF: And I'm somewhat limited in what I can say, about Michael Cohen, because of the gag order, the unconstitutional gag order that's been placed against us.

COLLINS: Well the gag order just says Trump can't attack a witness, Michael Cohen.

SCHARF: Well that's correct. It says that we--

COLLINS: He can still talk.

SCHARF: --I can't speak about what his testimony might be, or really get into a lot of details I would otherwise like to.

I will say, though, and we've said this in legal pleadings that numerous previous courts have found Michael Cohen to be a perjurer. And that's going to be a credibility question that's going to be placed squarely in front of the jury.

COLLINS: But can I play this Rudy Giuliani just a moment for you?


COLLINS: Because I am curious, as an attorney for the team, for Trump, what you -- what you make of what he said on Fox News, a few years ago.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: When I heard Cohen's retainer of $35,000, when he was doing no work for the President. I said, but that's how he's repaying -- that's how he's repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes, for Michael.

He did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this.


COLLINS: I mean, if they play a moment like that in court, what does the defense argue?

SCHARF: Well, again, one, that's not evidence. And two, I don't think those are the facts.

I think that these were payments being made to one of President Trump's lawyers that were recorded as legal retainer payments. And I don't believe that was an inaccurate recording.

I think the core of this case is whether that recording constituted business records fraud. And under New York law, I just don't think it did.

COLLINS: Yes. Just interesting since Rudy Giuliani is saying he wasn't doing legal work for him.

Will Scharf, we'll see how it all plays out in court, once there actually is a jury that has been gathered and paneled. Thank you so much for joining us.

SCHARF: Yes. Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Up next, speaking of the Republican presidential nominee, the presumptive one, he is campaigning from a court today, hoping voters will sympathize with him. The question is what does it actually mean for the campaign trail.

Also, President Biden's response when he was asked today, if he's watching the coverage.



COLLINS: While Donald Trump was sitting in a New York courtroom today, President Biden was in the Oval Office. And at one point, he was asked whether or not he is going to be weighing in on his likely opponent's legal troubles.


REPORTER: President Biden, you watching any of the Trump trial?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people are asked to (ph) move out now. So, we're going to move out.


COLLINS: If you look closely there, you can see the president shook his head, no.

The Biden campaign has kind of taken a virtual vow of silence, on Trump's court dates.

Here tonight, former Deputy Assistant to President Biden, Jamal Simmons.

Also, Trump's former White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

And Jamal, President Biden kind of gave this, I'm not going to talk about it.

His campaign did put out a statement tonight, alluding to what happened today, saying wake up Donald, after stormy abortion ban coverage, Trump poll memo attempts to hush panic. I think they're choosing their words carefully there.

What do you make of how, if you were still the White House, how you'd advise them to handle this though?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think they're handling it the right way, which is to stay away from it.

The old rule of politics is, when your opponent is sticking himself in the eye with a fork, don't try to stop him, don't get in the way. And that's sort of what's happening right now.

You've got a former President of the United States who was on -- is in a criminal trial, at the end of which he could be branded a convicted felon. The last thing you want to do is give him any more rhetorical ammunition to say that Biden is somehow behind this, and benefiting from it.

COLLINS: Yes. Because, I mean, you just saw they have been connecting all of this to the Biden Justice Department. Trump was doing it earlier.

Trump is fundraising off of this as well. I should note, they were saying he stormed out of the court earlier, which he had not. But they were sending out a lot of fundraising emails today as this was going on, Alyssa.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, remarkably, I still receive them.

Listen, he is missing a lot of time on the campaign trail. So, he's going to have to make up for how he can. He's going to fundraise off of it. He's on air in key battleground states.

What I think is remarkable is this is, just stepping back, this is who Republican voters decided they wanted to be the nominee.

But primetime on a Monday night, six-plus months out from an election, we're talking about his trials. We're not talking about his campaign platform, his second term agenda. And this is what the next stretch is going to look like.

If it's not this, it's going to move on to the question over immunity on the Supreme Court, and then potentially on to the January 6 trial. And there is going to be fatigue with voters.

Now, I've said many times, I don't think many Republicans care a whole lot about this case. I think they made their peace with whatever wrongdoing may have been there, back in 2016. But they are just going to get weary of the fact he's not talking about their issues. He's out there, at a courtroom, not on the campaign trail, not showing up to vote -- for voters.

COLLINS: Given that, I was so surprised to hear what Governor Chris Sununu said over the weekend. I mean, our viewers will be very familiar with all of his criticisms of Donald Trump, and his strength as the Republican nominee, when he was out campaigning for Nikki Haley.

He was asked about all of that this weekend. And this is what he had to say to George Stephanopoulos.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: You would support him for president even if he was convicted in classified documents case. You support him for president even though you believe he contributed to an insurrection. You support him for president even though you believe he's lying about the last election. You'd support him for president, even if he's convicted in the Manhattan case.

I just want to say the answer to that is yes, correct?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Yes, me and 51 percent of America.

COLLINS: I mean, even if he's a convicted felon, if he is the Republican nominee, does that mean you're still going to vote for him?

SUNUNU: Look, I think, right now, most of America looks like they would -- they would vote for him, because he's winning.

OK, so most of America is right there.

COLLINS: But what about you, Governor?

SUNUNU: Yes, look, I'm going to support the Republican nominee, absolutely.


COLLINS: OK. So that was him in January.

And then, George kind of just was listing all of the factors that are now part of it. I mean.


FARAH GRIFFIN: Listen, Governor Sununu is a friend. On this, we just fundamentally disagree. He -- Donald Trump remains unfit to be president.

But also, the second point that Sununu kind of makes there, which is like I care about a Republican administration?

He's not running on a conservative platform, by any means. That's why his own former Vice President, a consummate conservative, Mike Pence is saying, I'm not going to be supporting him this time around. He's running away from commitments that he made in the first term and is, frankly, just not running as a Republican.

So, I have no problem myself saying I will never support him. But it's remarkable seeing people go back.

COLLINS: As someone, who is hoping to get those independent central- minded Republican -- centrist-minded Republicans, over on your side of the aisle, what did you hear on that?

SIMMONS: Oh, this is just clearly political expediency, right? But I don't understand why people feel they have to be politically expedient, when it comes to Donald Trump.

I'm hearing a lot of reports from friends, who are working on campaigns in states. They're not seeing a lot of evidence of Republican coordinated campaigns that are taking place.

Republican state candidates are leery of doing joint fundraising agreements, with the Republican National Committee. There's still some back-and-forth between who worked for who in the primary, and whether or not you can get a job.

The infighting that's taking place around this candidacy, it's just mind boggling about how you're going to run not only a presidential campaign, but if you want to run for the Senate, want to run for Congress, want to run for county commissioner, how do you do that in an environment, where you're -- the top of the ticket is a felon, and you can't count on them to do anything to support the rest of the people, who are running as Republicans?

COLLINS: TBD. He may not be a felon. We will see what happens.


COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you both for being here tonight.

Up next, we'll go live to the ground, in Israel, where leaders are, right now, vowing to make Iran pay a price, for that massive assault over the weekend. The U.S. and other allies are urging restraint from Israel. Is a response coming soon?

Anderson Cooper is there with the very latest.



COLLINS: Tonight, there are major concerns that Israel's response, to Iran's brazen attack, could explode into a full-fledged war.

Israel's army chief told soldiers today that there will be a response. And that statement came after Israeli officials got into a heated debate over what that response should look like. A source tells CNN they are united in their belief to act and to do so quickly.

For the first time ever, Iran, instead of one of its proxies that they fund, launched a direct attack on Israeli soil, with more than 300 drones and missiles, targeting Israel, on Saturday. It caused massive alarm, at the White House, and sent President Biden home early, from his trip to Delaware, to go to monitor everything from the Situation Room.

Iran's leader said it was punishment for the IDF's attacks, on the Iranian consulate, in Syria, earlier this month that killed Iranian commanders.

Most of those projectiles, from Iran, were intercepted by Israel and its partners, including the United States.

And I want to bring in Anderson Cooper, who is on the ground, in Tel Aviv, tonight.

And Anderson, obviously, this attack from Iran, this attempted attack was targeting an Israeli airbase, where Iran says Israel's strike on the consulate was launched from. I mean, given what they were targeting, and what they were going after, how is Israel's war cabinet weighing that when deciding how they're going to respond here?

COOPER: I think there's certainly a lot of factors going into, to what's being weighed. First of all, the timing of a response. Is it something that should occur, right away? Is it something that will be done down the road, at a time and a target of their choosing?

There are some thoughts certainly that the longer they wait, whatever sympathy and goodwill there is, right now, toward Israel, because they have come under attack, that that might dissipate by the time there is a later attack. So, that would be -- that would be sort of pushing for an attack sooner rather than later.

Then there's question is whether it -- should there be -- would there be an attack directly to Iran? Would it be to Hezbollah, or Iranian- backed Hezbollah forces, in Lebanon or elsewhere?

So, I think there's a lot of different considerations, and also would a target be something that would they would want to try to maximize, and make sure that there were no civilians, or very limited actual fatalities involved. It would be against more of a facility, given the limited number of fatalities that occurred, or injuries that occurred here in Israel.

So, I think there's a lot in consideration. But the Chief of Staff, of the IDF, today, made clear that there will be a response. We don't know if the war cabinet has made a decision, about the exact nature of that response, though.

COLLINS: Well, and I mean, that response could either escalate what is happening in the region, or de-escalate it, potentially. I mean, and Israel is still fighting another war in Gaza.

How much of this is having an impact on how they're conducting their operations, in Gaza? I know you've been speaking with IDF officials about this.

COOPER: Yes. I talked to IDF spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel, Peter Lerner, earlier today.

Our Jeremy Diamond had been reporting that Israel had planned to begin to drop leaflets, in Rafah, in southern Gaza, starting today, telling people that they had to leave that area in advance of a ground operation in Rafah, which would have likely occurred, later on in this week.

That did not occur today, which seems to indicate perhaps, that whatever plan there may have been, for a Rafah operation, that may be on hold or delayed for now because of what happened.

I asked Colonel Lerner about that. He wouldn't say whether or not that operation is on hold. But he did stress that the road to getting hostages released, the road to the destruction of Hamas, which is still the stated purpose of the Israeli operation in Gaza, that is -- that road goes through Rafah.

Here's what he said.



LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESPERSON: If we want to fulfill our mission of dismantling Hamas, as a governing entity, and bringing home the hostages? They still hold 133 hostages in Gaza. The roads to fulfilling those objectives goes through Rafah.


COOPER: The other thing to consider, of course, Kaitlan is, right now, there is this sympathy for Israel, on the international stage. You have the United States, European allies, other countries expressing support for Israel. The focus is not on Gaza, for right now.

If Israel was to go forward with that Rafah operation, obviously, some of that international support would start to lessen and weaken. That's another consideration here on the ground.

COLLINS: Yes, a lot hanging in the balance. Anderson Cooper, in Tel Aviv, thank you.

And in Washington, there's the prospect of a coming vote on aid to Israel and to Ukraine, as well. It's now setting off Republican firebrand, Marjorie Taylor Greene, with a new threat to oust the House Speaker, Mike Johnson, over his latest proposal.

The question is whether the showdown in the House has arrived. We'll give you a live report, right after this.



COLLINS: Tonight, a new warning, coming from Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Republican congresswoman from Georgia says that the House Speaker, Mike Johnson, could be near the end of his speakership, in her view, if he moves forward to pass a series of bills, including aid for Ukraine.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He's definitely not going to be Speaker, next Congress, if we're lucky enough to have the majority. And I think that is, is widely-held belief throughout the Conference.

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is he going to be Speaker for the rest of this Congress, do you think?

TAYLOR GREENE: That is to be determined.


COLLINS: Speaker Johnson, meanwhile, dismissed those threats.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I don't spend my time worrying about motions to vacate. We're having to govern here. And we're going to do our job.


COLLINS: I want to bring in Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy Columnist, for The Washington Post.

And Josh, I mean, to hear this fight that has been kind of simmering, on Capitol Hill, and Speaker Johnson saying he's not worried about these threats. But bringing these aid bills to the floor, depending on what happens could potentially remove him from that job.

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's right, Kaitlan. I hate to contradict the Speaker. But according to my sources, he is worried about those threats. He's very worried about them. And he spends a lot of time thinking about how to keep his job.

And this latest gambit, by Speaker Johnson, which was just released, tonight, is his scheme to try to get Israel aid, Ukraine aid, Taiwan aid, plus a bunch of other stuff passed, without losing his job. And that's to avoid the motion to vacate that's being threatened by Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And, frankly, I don't think it's going to work. Marjorie Taylor Greene said it's not going to work. She's going to go forward with it, if he goes forward with his plan.

Plus, the whole idea that he put forth, which is that you pass all of these bills separately, and then join them together at the end and then send them over to the Senate, is kind of harebrained. It's really complicated. It makes sense on paper. But in real life, it may not actually even work.

So, I think that what we're seeing is that until she actually does it, Marjorie Taylor Greene has all of this leverage. Once she actually does it, she loses the leverage. So, while she has this threat--


ROGIN: --hanging over Johnson's head, like a sword of Damocles, he's dancing. And once she actually pulls the trigger, I think, yes, it's very possible that others could join her, and it could be done.

COLLINS: Well can I get your perspective on the other side of the political aisle, which is, obviously, this is -- these are separate bills for Israel, for Ukraine, for Taiwan, a fourth one that's kind of a GOP-everything-priorities.

This is top of mind for President Biden as well, who's been weighing in on this, and waiting to see. He as Speaker Johnson spoke about this plan, I should note.

But we saw today, these pro-Palestinian protests, playing out across the United States today, in major cities, in New York, Chicago and Oakland. They shut down the Golden Gate Bridge for several hours, I should note, before we saw any arrests happen.

I mean, this is also determining, what this is going to look like, for the White House, and how they handle this.

ROGIN: Well, that's right. Joe -- President Biden is torn between his desire to get the Ukraine aid passed, which means he's got to deal with the Republicans. And in fact, the White House is dealing with the Speaker's office pretty well in negotiating this stuff.

And now, on the other hand, a lot of Democrats don't want to support the Israel aid, for all the reasons that you just laid out.

And that's the sort of the theory by which this Johnson scheme makes sense, which is you let everybody vote for the different parts. And then, the Democrats can -- some Democrats can vote against Israel aid, and some Republicans can vote against Ukraine aid.

But it's really complicated. And it doesn't solve the binds that President Biden is in. Either he's going to support Israel, or he's going to move towards the progressive side. He can't do both. And he's, eventually, he's going to have to choose.

COLLINS: We'll see what that looks like, of course, as we creep closer to the election as well.

Josh Rogin, great to have you. Thank you.

ROGIN: Anytime.

COLLINS: And this just in to CNN, another historic tonight, for the all -- another first tonight, I should note, for the already historic resume, of basketball's Caitlin Clark.


CATHY ENGELBERT, COMMISSIONER, WNBA: With the first pick in the 2024 WNBA draft, the Indiana Fever select Caitlin Clark, University of Iowa.



COLLINS: Caitlin Clark is the all-time leading scorer, of course, in the NCAA Division I basketball history.

Ticket prices to watch the Fever in Indy, this season, more than doubled, after Clark announced that she would enter the draft. It was obvious she was going to likely be the first number one pick.

And she spoke to Coy Wire, just beforehand.



CAITLIN CLARK, SELECTED #1 IN WNBA DRAFT: I'm super excited. I know this will be super special. And I have a lot of family coming. My coaches are coming. Some of my teammates are coming. So, just getting to enjoy it, and soak it in, I think is the biggest thing, because like this is once in a lifetime. This only happens once.


COLLINS: Also worth noting, tonight, LSU's Angel Reese went six picks later, as the Chicago's Sky second pick.

Thank you all so much for joining us.

Congrats to both of them, and everyone in the WNBA draft tonight.