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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Prosecutors Play Audio Recording Of Crucial 2016 Phone Call Between Michael Cohen & Trump; New Details Released From Today's Court Proceedings; Trump To Wisconsin Newspaper: "If Everything's Honest, I'd Gladly Accept The Results. If It's Not, You Have To Fight For The Right Of The Country". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 02, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 9 PM here, in New York. Day 10 of the Trump hush money trial, ending with a false claim, from the defendant that he's not being allowed to testify.

The day began with prosecutors seeking additional contempt judgments against him. But things really heated up, during the testimony of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal's former attorney, Keith Davidson.

The prosecution played the phone conversation that Michael Cohen secretly recorded, and CNN exclusively obtained, featuring Donald Trump, taking an active role, in the Karen McDougal deal.

We're going to be talking about that, and the impression that it may have had on the jury, throughout the program.

If you're just joining us, here's that clip.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know?


COHEN: So that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up, I've spoken--

TRUMP: Give it to me and--

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with--

TRUMP: So, what are we going to pay for this? 150?

COHEN: --funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that

COHEN: All the stuff. Because -- here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck

COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing which will be--

TRUMP: Listen. What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay.

TRUMP: So I'll pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.


COOPER: Back with the panel.

Joining us, CNN's Laura Coates, host of "LAURA COATES LIVE" at 11.

Also CNN's Kara Scannell, who was in court again today.

What did -- what stood out to you, Kara, from the court today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think the audio is a big thing. We're hearing Donald Trump's voice. The jury is hearing that for the first time. And hearing a lot of Michael Cohen's conversations, because that was just one of the audio recordings that was played today.

The other one that was played was Cohen on the phone with Davidson, recounting a conversation with Donald Trump, in which he was saying that -- he was quoting Trump as saying, I hate the fact that we did it, referring to the Stormy Daniels deal.

So, just interesting for the jury to hear this. These are real-time recordings. Of course, Trump's lawyers will push back on what it means, and what he was referring to.

But it's just really the jury hearing both Cohen referencing Trump, and Donald Trump who's sitting in the room, but hearing him on this secretly-recorded phone conversation, talking about this specific deal, in the case as Trump's lawyers have tried to push away from it.

COOPER: Yes, Laura, how do you think these recordings played?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, LAURA COATES LIVE, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, they are part of the overall jigsaw puzzle, right? You want to give a little bit for each witness. Now, one witness is not going to give you everything you ever need to prove your case. But you want to get the juror closer and closer to the clear picture.

But you also want them thinking to themselves, OK, as shady as it might be, for an attorney to record a conversation with his client, why did you think you had to? What took place before that? And what took place after that? To put in context, exactly why you were doing that?

That'll give some additional food for thought for the jurors to understand. Is he doing it to save his skin? Or is he doing it because he believes that this person is somehow trying to be secretive about even his involvement in it, and he's trying to give some evidence down the road? That's part of the overall picture that is becoming increasingly clear.

But Michael Cohen is not going to be the most sympathetic figure for these jurors. Nor does he have to be. Nor does David Pecker have to be. Nor does the idea of the catch-and-kill and salacious details.

They have to return the jury to the overarching crime, that they are alleging, the falsified business records. A lot of this is about contextualizing it. And the audios, well they don't help necessarily, in terms of showing Cohen as somebody, who should be completely trusted. It doesn't absolve Trump of being -- of him being skeptical about why someone did not trust him.

COOPER: When do you think Michael Cohen will be brought to the stand?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE: Even Michael Cohen doesn't know. I mean, it's essentially basically they tell them to be in the area at a certain time. And then -- but you've seen how the prosecution has been laying out the witnesses. They have someone really interesting, like David Pecker come on the first day.

And then, they'll bring in the people, who are going to do basically custodial records, because, as you noted, an 8 o'clock -- in the 8 o'clock hour, Trump's team won't stipulate to anything. They won't say yes, our client did say that, at a Trump rally, in 2018, in Michigan.

COOPER: So they have to bring in people, to say this, the chain of evidence is.

COLLINS: They have to bring in someone today to say yes, this audio is real, it is verified, we've been able to authenticate it.

And so, I think that's one thing, when we talk about whether a witness is believable or not, are credible or not. And Michael Cohen obviously is going to get a very tough cross-examination. We know that. The audio tape brings Trump closer to this. And it's irrefutable. It is Trump's voice on there.


COLLINS: It is Trump talking about it.

TOOBIN: Can we just talk a little bit about the tape? Because I am sure the jury's going to hear that.

COOPER: We got an hour. We can talk a lot.

TOOBIN: All right. Well let's start at the beginning, you know.

The tape, they are going to hear it multiple, multiple times, and I'm sure parsing every word. But what did Donald Trump say there, when he talks about the money? He says, is the money going to be in cash? Is that something the jury is going to think, wow, what a responsible businessman?


TOOBIN: No, I mean, this, I mean -- I think the jury is going to think, why didn't you say, get out of my office? I mean, Trump is involved in this up to his eyeballs.

COOPER: The whole conversation is like a mob tape.


TOOBIN: Exactly.

COOPER: I mean, and Michael Cohen certainly has adopt -- or I guess used to adopt that persona. Or it seems like a lot of people in the Trump Organization adopted that persona. But saying like our friend David, you know, I mean, all--


COOPER: --you would hear this in--

PHILLIP: Almost speaking in code.


I mean, Jeffrey, you and I were having it probably, the exact same thoughts, at the exact same moment. Because it actually brings me back to the Fani Willis proceedings in Georgia, where Trump's lawyers tried to make a whole thing about how she paid for things in cash. And here is Trump saying $130,000. He was suggesting that they pay--

TOOBIN: Pay her in cash.

PHILLIP: They get over a 100 grand in cash.


PHILLIP: Who -- I mean, who does that?

AIDALA: --one is a sitting elected District Attorney.

PHILLIP: Yes. But--

AIDALA: And one is a businessman--

PHILLIP: But Arthur?

AIDALA: --who handles cash all the time.

PHILLIP: But the jury is sitting there, and they're just going to be like, who does that?

AIDALA: Well I don't know. You know what? Let me tell you.

PHILLIP: Who says that except someone who doesn't want a paper trail?

AIDALA: We have at least we have two lawyers on the panel, we have a financial person on jury -- and we have a finance person. It may not be in the world of business, so, and then not--

TOOBIN: What it's -- it's -- what business is it that you know about--


TOOBIN: --where a $100,000 -- $130,000 in cash--

PHILLIP: In cash?

TOOBIN: --is routine?

PHILLIP: Unless you're doing business in like--


PHILLIP: --some part of the world where you may take bribes.

COATES: Plead the Fifth, my friend. Plead the Fifth.

TOOBIN: Yes, oh, yes.

COATES: Don't answer. They're setting you up.


TOOBIN: I mean, seriously.

COATES: Don't answer that question.

AIDALA: There are house closings where that happens. There are different kinds -- there are different kinds of entities. It is not so it's -- it is not organized crime, where we're talking about getting somebody killed.

Yes. Michael Cohen has embraced this on the fixer, and the way he talks, and the way he handles himself.

COOPER: Right.

AIDALA: But if you listen to that tape, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you know who it proves is guilty? Michael Cohen.

What is Trump saying? OK, $130,000, right?

But Michael Cohen, whose voice from people who I spoke to, in the courtroom, they said, what came out of the tape today wasn't Trump's voice, who you barely hear. It was Michael Cohen's booming voice in that courtroom.

And I think Elie said it earlier, they're dirtying up Michael Cohen, with their own witnesses, to trying to like lay the groundwork. Get ready, ladies and gentlemen, because you're going to hear from a sleazy guy.

But Anderson, I've been involved with a lot of trials. I've never had prosecutors, calling their own witnesses, to dirty up their main witness. That is just not normal.

COATES: Well they're taking out -- they're trying to take out the sting.

First of all, it's not as if this is a figure, who has had his voice altered, throughout the course of the last several years. We don't know his identity.

Michael Cohen is a very known figure so much, though, it was a part of the conversation, in terms of even jury selection, anticipating who they may have known, how familiar were they with the case. And so, they are aware of who it is.

But you got to be honest. It's not as if most crimes are witnessed by a bus full of nuns. They're witnessed by people, who sometimes are complicit with the actions.

AIDALA: Yes. I agree.


AIDALA: And so, everyone's got to agree with what you are saying.

COATES: Yes. Well, I mean, well -- well everyone now have to. But I appreciate that you do.

But let me also tell you this. We are thinking about what I think that they are trying to do. I think they're trying to make this jury say, and look, this is how things are done. This is how the sausage is made. This is a shakedown. Of course, a very, very wealthy man, who says he's very, very wealthy, they get hit up all the time about people alleging that they've got a story. And boy, do I have a story to tell you?

They're not so much, I think, pinning this on the hopes that people suddenly have an epiphany, about their opinion, about a well-known figure, maybe like a Michael Cohen. As much as thinking, well, hold on this is -- this is kind of how things are done, I guess. If you're rich, someone's got a target on your back, financially. That's one of the ways they're going to try to do so.

Combine that with the idea of why you're hearing Michael Cohen's voice. They want to suggest that he is a sycophant, who only wanted to please. There was no intimation. There was no suggestion. He took it upon himself.

But that's why the prosecution has got to make their case. It was never going to be a cakewalk. But they've got to prove this is not innuendo. They're going to try to present the attaboy that comes after, not the -- is it cash? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And then what happened later? Remember we heard -- just later.


COATES: David Pecker, thank you, from Trump, thank you--

TOOBIN: Right.

COATES: --for your help with the situations. He got an invitation to the White House. He even sits in a room with microphone--


AIDALA: Yes. Because -- because basically, the defense are going to say, he was -- I was getting extorted.

Stormy Daniels says we're going to lose leverage if he loses -- if he loses the presidency. We need to get my money. I want my money now.

SCANNELL: That was actually corrected on cross-examination.

COATES: That's it.

SCANNELL: --on redirect, by the prosecutors. Davidson mis-testified to that, based on the way that the cross-examination went. On redirect, he said that he wasn't quoting Stormy Daniels. He was quoting her publicist's boyfriend, who was just about to give an interview, saying that he's the one.

So, that was something that probably had some impact on the jury. They were initially -- they initially heard this for the first time, as though it was Stormy Daniels saying that. And then on redirect, the prosecution--

COOPER: So, it wasn't Stormy Daniels who said that--


COOPER: --that she would lose leverage. It was her--

PHILLIP: And the publicist's boyfriend.

COOPER: --publicist's boyfriend.

SCANNELL: Boyfriend.

COLLINS: Although--

PHILLIP: Also, he published a blog or something of some kind that--

SCANNELL: Right. He--


SCANNELL: He had written -- well they were trying to -- Trump's team was trying to suggest that he wrote the blog post in 2011, on the blog that initially surfaced this Daniels Trump liaison, and then they never quite got it confirmed that he actually did author it.

COOPER: Well just for the record.

SCANNELL: But he worked there at the time.

COOPER: If you have a publicist, whose boyfriend is writing, for something called the Probably not a good idea.

COLLINS: I get it, also--

TOOBIN: Not the best boyfriend.

COOPER: Just not a lot of experience?


COLLINS: And just following the extortion theory here, tonight, the one thing that was clear, as all this was being negotiated, is that Stormy Daniels had other options.


Other people were interested in this story. And they were trying to keep her from telling it publicly. And I believe she told you this, in her interview, that she just -- she didn't want it to be out there. She knew what people would say, the attacks on her, the names, what would happen.

And so, other people could have bought this story. She could have sold it to someone else.


COLLINS: She made that much clear.

TOOBIN: And if we could just talk about Michael Cohen. I know you want to make Michael Cohen out to be the worst person ever, and a liar.

AIDALA: Hey, you talk to the federal judge that convicted him.

TOOBIN: Well--


AIDALA: Talk to the judge that sentenced him.

TOOBIN: Well he pleaded guilty.

AIDALA: Talk to his buddies up in--

TOOBIN: Exactly. Exactly.

AIDALA: Talk to his budding at Otisville--

TOOBIN: Exactly. Terrible.

AIDALA: --prison.

TOOBIN: Terrible. Terrible.

And who was it who hired Michael Cohen, year after year, to work for him?

AIDALA: Listen. I have represented guys, who worked with -- assistant to the President of American Express, the assistant to the President of American Express. American Express seems to be a pretty prestigious thing. Does the President know what the -- his direct underlings are doing? In that particular case? Absolutely not.

TOOBIN: Well Michael Cohen has -- Donald Trump has no idea what Michael Cohen was doing?

AIDALA: There's -- I think Elie knows there's a tape that's going to come out, where Trump says, you handle it. You just deal with this. Because that's what you do, when you're running for president, when you're a billionaire, when you are the president. You delegate.

TOOBIN: And so--

AIDALA: And that's the defense here.

TOOBIN: And your hypothesis--

AIDALA: Michael Cohen did this.

TOOBIN: Your hypothesis is that Michael Cohen was excellent most of the time. But suddenly--

AIDALA: Who said he was? Who? I never said he's excellent.

TOOBIN: I know. But you're saying Trump didn't know.

AIDALA: You're never going to hear me say that.

TOOBIN: You're saying Trump didn't know that he was corrupt and bombed.

COOPER: We just played the tape, where I mean, where Trump is--

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, he's--

AIDALA: No, I've--

COOPER: --intimately involved.

AIDALA: He did--

COOPER: And also, David Pecker has already testified. And a photo was shown in court of him walking past the Rose Garden.

AIDALA: But Anderson--

COOPER: And we know the conversation was Trump saying how's our girl, Karen, or how's Karen doing?

AIDALA: That's fine. That's not illegal. What's illegal is what went in the book. That's the crime.

COOPER: No. But you're saying--

AIDALA: It's falsification.

COOPER: You're saying Trump is, seemingly unaware?

AIDALA: I don't think -- I don't--

COOPER: That's the photo.

AIDALA: I don't think--

COOPER: Literally at this moment this photo was taken, according to David Pecker--

AIDALA: I don't think--

COOPER: --Trump is asking him--


COOPER: --with all the world's problems that he must be, on his shoulders, in the White House.

COLLINS: One of the most sacred places.

AIDALA: But that's not illegal.

COOPER: He's talking to David Pecker.

AIDALA: There's nothing illegal about it.

COOPER: No, I'm not saying it's illegal. I'm just saying he's--

PHILLIP: That's right.

COOPER: --he's in the White House, and he's concerned about Karen McDougal, and is she going to remain quiet.

AIDALA: My point is this. I don't think Trump -- I don't--

COOPER: Well that's what they're talking about right there.

AIDALA: I think, Anderson Cooper, I think they're going to have a very hard time proving that Donald Trump said in the -- in the logbook, in our office, which we're not presenting to anyone, put it down this way, so it goes that way. He just says, Michael Cohen says--

COOPER: I don't know it's--

AIDALA: --I spoke to Weisselberg, who's also in jail, right now.

COOPER: If Donald Trump, the principal was saying, oh, let's pay in cash, or let's pay in cash.

AIDALA: Yes, he didn't want the world to know.

COOPER: Right. So he probably -- you know what? He very well might like if he's--


COOPER: --so concerned about it being paid in cash, maybe he would want to know where it's--

PHILLIP: One of--

COOPER: --written down in the ledger.

PHILLIP: One of the other things that Kara just mentioned that, that came into evidence today was Donald Trump's sort of indicating, oh, he didn't really want to pay this money, he was sort of upset about it.

I read that to be kind of one of those pieces of evidence that could go either way, either to this idea that he just doesn't like to hand out his money to anyone in general, or that he was upset about paying money, when he felt under pressure to do so. I mean, to me, that seems to also be something that could -- that could actually work in his favor.

COATES: What's fascinating too -- was listening to everyone. We are unpacking and parsing each word. And Monday morning, we're quarterbacking. These jurors hear it in real-time. When you clarify it, a point of cross-examination, you have to wonder, are the jurors actually picking up on those nuances?

AIDALA: That's a great point.

COATES: What are they remembering in these moments?


COATES: Are they thinking to themselves, does the Rose Garden picture resonate in the same way? Did Stormy Daniels boyfriend or whoever was saying it. And remember, they're not just using what they know here, as much as we tell jurors to do so.

We'd heard that video, I mean, that audio tape years ago, with Michael Cohen. People may remember having heard that audio tape, and they remember some of the details of this case.

And so, I have to wonder what is going to happen in the deliberation rooms? Are they as focused and in looking at the nuance? Or is it to the advantage of the defense to keep them from stipulating, so they have every mundane detail? You remember the C-SPAN executive.


COATES: You remember the time they get this document in and that document in, because the more they have to add to that kitchen sink? That's a form of delay.

PHILLIP: And this could -- this could also be why the prosecution's tactic of sort of painting a very broad picture of what kind of world was Donald Trump in, what kind of person was Donald Trump? Because if you're a juror, you're probably sitting there thinking, who does that, right?


PHILLIP: Like every time something like that comes up?

TOOBIN: Exactly.

PHILLIP: They're just thinking, wait a second, who does that? And that is probably at the end of the day, what is going to drive their big picture understanding of what kind of person is Donald Trump?


PHILLIP: What kind of business was he engaged in? What -- would he really have parted ways with this kind of money without knowing what it was for?

TOOBIN: Arthur -- Arthur has a $130,000 right now. Right now in this--

COLLINS: He gets escorted out of the building.


TOOBIN: It is true.

COATES: Write it out to Laura Coates.


AIDALA: Not going to write. It's cash.

COATES: OK. The cash. Give me the cash.

COOPER: We're going to take--

COATES: Venmo.


COOPER: We're going to take a break. We'll see who's left after the cash has been handed out.

Much more ahead, including some key moments from the trial transcript that we've just gotten, including the defense's efforts to take attention away from Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump's apparent desire to buy her silence, and put the scrutiny instead on Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson, who made the deal happen. We'll be right back.


COOPER: More new details we've just gotten from the trial transcript.

In cross-examination today, the defense tried to suggest that Keith Davidson was an extortionist for selling the silence of his client, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and they tried to paint Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, as driven by his own ambition, as we've been talking about, not his boss' orders.

More now, on what the trial transcript reveals about both. John Berman's back with that.

So, Michael Cohen had many alleged complaints in his conversations with Keith Davidson, including about getting compensated.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWS CENTRAL: Yes. So Keith Davidson recounts on the stand a conversation that he says he had with Michael Cohen. This was during the transition.


Davidson's in a department store, in December, I guess, of 2020. And he says, quote, "He said something to the effect of "Jesus Christ. Can you" effing "believe I'm not going to Washington. After everything I've done for that" effing "guy. I can't believe I'm not going to Washington. I've saved that guy's ass so many times you don't even know."

Prosecutor says and did.

And then Davidson says, and then.

And then question is I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

Davidson says, "And then he made reference to, he said, you know, I never even got paid... That effing "guy is not even paying me back the $130,000."

And they made clear the $130,000 that they're talking about.

What did you mean by that last part?

I never got paid -- repaid the $130,000, from the -- from the deal with Stormy Daniels.

So, again, what you have there is complaining about the money, but also complaining about not going to Washington, not getting appointed to a job somewhere in the Trump administration.

COLLINS: I remember that though, because Michael Cohen was devastated. And what Keith Davidson testified to is correct, that he thought he would be Attorney General, or Chief of Staff, or some prominent role in the administration.

COOPER: Michael Cohen thought he would be Attorney General?

AIDALA: Yes. Wow.


COLLINS: I mean, OK.


COLLINS: But lest we forget that that December period after--

COOPER: I mean, you know what? Entirely possible.

COLLINS: After Trump--

COOPER: I mean, I don't know why.

COLLINS: After Trump won the election, I mean, the figures that were going in and out of Trump Tower.

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: That people that he wanted to see.

Remember, Michael Cohen is someone, who wanted to always elevate himself in Trump's eyes. He had a lunch with Mark Cuban, and he had them sent paparazzi there, so Trump would see him having lunch with Mark Cuban. And so, he was always someone, who thought that Trump would be loyal back to him.

And I think that's really also the tail of what we're seeing here, which is we only know this, because Michael Cohen said a lot of this publicly, even though people discredit him, I understand that. But Michael Cohen came forward and flipped on Trump, even though Trump was once confident.

And it's something it's a known quantity now, the breakdown in their relationship. But for people who knew them, I mean, Michael Cohen is someone, who is completely loyal to Donald Trump, and did not get that loyalty back in return.

PHILLIP: But of course, he must have known that that was a possibility, because he taped that call.



PHILLIP: I mean, he taped the call for a reason, probably to substantiate that the agreement had been made, but also to ensure that it was on the record that he had put this money down for Donald Trump.

So, the idea that Michael Cohen, from the beginning, kind of questioned whether Trump would be good for his side of the deal, the money and all of it, I think, was always there. He always kind of suspected that Trump would kind of--

COLLINS: And Michael Cohen didn't even tell him wife--

PHILLIP: --want to back out of it. COLLINS: --about this.


COLLINS: So, I mean, he's calling Keith Davidson. I'm not sure many other people knew that Michael Cohen actually had done this, at that time.


COLLINS: Rudy Giuliani obviously later knew, because he said it on Fox News. But Michael Cohen's wife didn't even know that this had occurred.


COATES: And that works two ways. Remember we heard this testimony from the banker, to suggest that he had a certain amount of money in the bank. And then, he wanted to match that because his wife, Michael Cohen's wife, looked at all the finances, and he was trying to be very secretive about all these different aspects of it.

Now, if you're the defense, how are you going to use that? You're going to say, this man has lied to every branch of government, and his wife. But you wanted to believe him right now?

But if you are the prosecution, think about you're working backwards. You're thinking about your closing argument, how to sum up all the things that have happened here. And one thing you want to sum up is the use of the word that Berman just read, repaid. Not, I thought, if I did this, he might do this. He hasn't even repaid me.

And you combine the word repaid, with the audio tape that's been recorded, to suggest that there has been some meeting of the minds, between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, about an event that would take place, and then he did not make good on his promise.

And remember, when is he saying this? Can you believe I'm not going to go to the White House with him? He's won an election. The damage has been at least not done, but it has been contained. And so you add it all.

AIDALA: But that's not the crime.

COATES: No. The crime is the falsified business record.

AIDALA: The payment is not the crime. In other words--

COATES: I hear you.

AIDALA: --they could prove all day long that he paid $130,000 in cash, in check, in credit card. That's not the crime.

And Anderson, OK, we had some fun with the cash part. But think about it. If you're paying for a confidentiality agreement, you know? That's the legal term. That hush money is, it's media. But the legal term is a confidentiality agreement. Typically, you don't want a big -- you don't want a big track record of what -- here's a check for $130,000, to Stormy Daniels, floating around the universe, like really why?



COATES: Well it's like that's why--

AIDALA: Why is there a 100--

COATES: But that's why--

AIDALA: Why is there a $130,000 check, why?

COATES: But listen, that's why you don't want Michael Cohen--


TOOBIN: It sounds right.

COATES: That's why you -- that's why his attorney should not have had him talking in front of the courthouse at one point in time.

Remember this last week, Donald Trump comes out, and tries to -- tries to create and frame the conversation to suggest, all I've done, right, all I've done, is I wrote on a memo line for legal services. I paid an attorney for legal services.

By the way, that could possibly come back to haunt him. Why? Because of what I've just said. If the agreement was made, and now the mission accomplished is that I have won the election, and the purpose of having to repay you is now about what I've written in the business records? I no longer have the same level of exposure. So, they have to crack that all together.


You're right. In isolation, in a vacuum, you cannot just sort of pick and choose and say, aha, this one sentence. But the cumulative aspect for this prosecution, point by point, is what they're going towards for that falsified business record. And again, they're trying to hide an underlying crime.

TOOBIN: And remember, this is, what the prosecution is going to hope to do is say this is mostly a documents case.

COATES: Right.

TOOBIN: Is that the checks exist, the checks to Stormy Daniels exist, and the checks to pay Michael Cohen back exist. The business records exist, where the payments are characterized as legal fees.

The only issue in the case, ultimately, as you keep pointing out, is Donald -- did Donald Trump know that these false indications are on the business record. COOPER: But--

AIDALA: And the second part.


AIDALA: And they're being used to commit another crime.


AIDALA: In other words, they can't just -- it can't just be that it's on the books. That's statute of limitations down. That's a misdemeanor. That's gone. It's got to be yes, Donald Trump knew it was on the books, and then knew it was in furtherance of another crime.

TOOBIN: Correct.

AIDALA: It's a two pieces of the puzzle.

TOOBIN: And that -- and -- but that's the easy part because that other crime is campaign. Everybody had known.

AIDALA: Which one? Hold on. Which one? State or federal.

TOOBIN: We haven't -- it could be both. It doesn't matter.


TOOBIN: It doesn't matter. The point is--

COOPER: Does it matter that the record, the business records, I mean, isn't the defense arguing these are personal records that these are not business records submitted to the IRS? These are internal Trump company--

TOOBIN: It's still a crime. It's still a crime. It still -- it doesn't have to be--

AIDALA: But to your point, he's not--

TOOBIN: It doesn't have to be submitted to be like an IRS tax return.

AIDALA: No. But to Anderson's point, he's not charged with filing a false insurance. That is another crime.


AIDALA: He is not charged with that. It's falsifying business records, which as you correctly pointing out--


AIDALA: --it's an internal document. Not that he gave it to the Federal Election Committee or the IRS or anyone else.

TOOBIN: There are hundreds of crimes that he's not charged with. But he actually is charged with the one that is a crime.

AIDALA: No. But Anderson's making a valid point. In other words, it's not that he -- someone fill this out and submitted and said, this is the truth. It was in a desk, in someone's desk, in a ledger, in an office.

TOOBIN: But the State of New York has decided that it is a crime--

AIDALA: And just to be clear--

TOOBIN: --to have a falsification.

AIDALA: --it's a misdemeanor, that at this point is barred by the statute of limitations, and it only comes to life, if they could prove--


AIDALA: --that it was in furtherance of another crime.

COATES: And look--

AIDALA: And the only thing I what to say about the tape, about Michael Cohen, one of the first questions I'm -- well, one of the first areas of cross-examination is how many other times have you recorded Donald Trump? Because I'll bet the $130,000 I got in my pocket, that that's not the only time--


AIDALA: --he recorded Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: You know, that's actually a really good question about how many other times he's done this to a degree.

Because to me, if you're the prosecution, what you want -- what you want to indicate is that Michael Cohen knew that what he was doing, first of all, was shady. He wanted it on tape, that he was doing it for Trump, with Trump's knowledge. And the election looms large over that. And if they can substantiate that the reason--


PHILLIP: --he was worried about getting this on tape, maybe this will come out when Michael Cohen takes the stand, is because the stakes here, are--

AIDALA: But what if he says I recorded all my conversations?

PHILLIP: --Donald Trump is a presidential candidate--

AIDALA: What if he says I recorded all my conversations with Donald Trump?

PHILLIP: Maybe. I'm just -- I'm saying it's a valid question.

COLLINS: But is that wrong? I mean, is it effectively--

AIDALA: Well it's wrong, from an attorney-client point of view.

COLLINS: It's effectively -- but and maybe it's not great.

PHILLIP: But I think it's a valid question that I think Michael Cohen will have to -- he'll have to explain why in that particular moment, it was important to tape it.

COOPER: He was recording it.

PHILLIP: And it seems to me, the presidential election is not irrelevant, in that conversation.

BERMAN: Can I say one--


BERMAN: --one other thing is that -- is that you talk about this being a documents case. And it may be, and it may be very dry.

But there are a lot of moments, when the prosecution is getting stuff in there that's not dry at all. And this, in the Control Room, just this is what graphic number three is, for the 9 o'clock hour here.

It has to do with the relationship that Stormy Daniels had with Donald Trump, or allegedly, right? And they get this into evidence here, today.

Steinglass, the prosecutor asks, so let me direct you to two parts in particular. This is of a statement that Stormy Daniels and Keith Davidson crafted. The first two sentences, when it states that she, Ms. Daniels was contacted by certain news outlets alleging she had a sexual and/or romantic affair with Donald Trump, many, many years ago and then it states that that's absolutely false. How is that technically correct? The prosecutor asks.

Davidson responds, well, I think you have to hone in on the definition of romantic, sexual and affair.

The prosecutor says, OK. Can you explain that?

Davidson says, well, I don't think that anyone had ever alleged that any interaction between she and Mr. Trump was romantic.

And then Steinglass says OK. How about sexual?

And then Davidson responds, well, that would be a sexual and/or romantic.

So yes, this may be a documents case. But there has to be a reason the prosecution is doing everything they can, to show there is some pretty seedy behavior.

[21:30:00] COOPER: There was also something in the transcripts, I understand, about Keith Davidson, and his surprise on Election Night that Donald Trump had won. What did he say that night in his assessment?

BERMAN: There's a text message exchange between Keith Davidson and Dylan Howard, who of course worked for David Pecker. And just to read quickly through this.

This is the first exchange in a text.

Davidson says, yes.

What did you say?

Davidson says, what have we done?

Steinglass, the prosecutor, says, what did you mean by that, Mr. Davidson?

Davidson says, well, that was sort of a gallows humor. And it was on Election Night as the results were coming in, and there was a sort of surprise amongst the broadcaster and others that Donald Trump was leading in the polls and there was a growing sense that folks were about to be ready to call the election.

The prosecutor says, and you referred to it as "Gallows humor." Can you explain that a little more? What did you mean? Why did you say, "What have we done?"

Davidson says, I think there was an understanding that this is a text between Dylan Howard and I, and there was an understanding that our efforts may have in some way -- I should strike that. That our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

TOOBIN: Well that--

COOPER: Jeffrey, is that important?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, part of the charges in this case, is that all of these transactions, all of this money was ultimately to benefit Donald Trump's campaign. And what they are saying is, my God, it worked.


TOOBIN: And that's part of the case.

COOPER: John Berman, thanks very much for the transcripts.

Coming up, the former President used his free weekday this week to campaign in Wisconsin, and revive an old threat. How that could tie in to this trial. His former White House Communications Director joins us next.



COOPER: Well at the end of every court day, the former President makes no secret of his feelings about the judge, the prosecution, and the system of criminal justice he finds himself at odds with. And on a recent day-off he expressed a similarly dark view of the electoral process, if things don't go his way, by his lights.

The former President was campaigning Wednesday, his off-day in Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. He also gave an interview, to the local newspaper, the Journal Sentinel. And for the third presidential campaign in a row, he began laying groundwork, for not accepting the results of this November's election.

He said this of the upcoming Wisconsin vote. Quote, "If everything's honest, I'd gladly accept the results. If it's not, you have to fight for the right of the country," which raises the question, of course, what happens if this trial doesn't turn out in his favor?

Joining our panel, former Communications Director in the Trump White House, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

I don't think it surprises you that he would say this a third time about this upcoming election, but remarkable to see him just boldly saying that.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and what's also remarkable is this trial, which is incredibly important is happening, but in some ways it kind of superseded this incredible time interview that Donald Trump gave, in his own words, which is laying out verbatim, what aides like myself have warned for the last four years.

That, a second term would be mass deportations, detention camps for undocumented migrants in the country, weaponizing the Department of Justice, going after political adversaries, and just really paint this picture of a fundamentally un-American second term. He's also openly talking about contesting election results before even having them.

I worry that in this moment that we're in, these very scary things aren't getting quite the attention that they can. We're living in such a fast-paced media environment. I don't necessarily see the Biden campaign doing enough, to really raise the stakes here, and say this is how dangerous this moment is.

It's, yes, he will absolutely contest the results of the election. Did it once before.

COOPER: Also, he's raised the bar so high for, based on everything he's always said that at a certain point, it just becomes like noise like oh, yes, of course, he would say this, and people don't even pay attention.


FARAH GRIFFIN: People do tune it out. Yes. COLLINS: And I'll never forget, when Trump was asked it in the briefing room that day, and he equivocated, and wouldn't say whether or not he would accept the results of the election. It was in the middle of COVID. That's what everyone was primarily asking questions about. And that was the first time he had said it, in such a public forum. I know he had said it in 2016. And he had referenced it before.

But this is Donald Trump. This is what he does. He did this in the Town Hall, a year ago. He said I'll accept the results of the next election, if it's an honest election. The person who decides that in Trump's mind is Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Well and--

TOOBIN: Can I just point out that what he said in that interview is almost word-for-word, what he said on The Ellipse, on January 6th.


TOOBIN: You have to fight, and about an election result you don't like. And they fought at the Capitol on January 6th. He's saying the same thing.


TOOBIN: And expecting presumably the same result.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean--

COATES: It's similar to also the court -- what he's saying in court, right? He will -- his -- his acceptance is always contingent on a result being favorable, right? It's only going to be a fair system, or a fair trial, or a fair jury, if it results in what he believes to be, and should be an acquittal.

COOPER: Let's play what he said after court today.


TRUMP: Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag order. I guess, right? I can't even testify at all. No, we're going to be appealing the gag order.

But I'm not allowed to testify, because this judge, who's totally conflicted, has me under an unconstitutional gag order. Nobody's ever had that before.


COOPER: Obviously, that is false. I mean, Todd Blanche's reaction is kind of amazing.

PHILLIP: It was somewhere between a nod and a no?

COOPER: And it was sort of like a nod and then like a no, and then a yes, and-- PHILLIP: Yes.

AIDALA: My heart breaks for him, for Todd, because I've been in those positions, where you have a client larger than life. But not in this league. Not -- I was going to say--

TOOBIN: Former President of the United States?

AIDALA: All right. I just said--

TOOBIN: OK. All right.

AIDALA: --not in that league. Yes, but OK. Mr. Weinstein had a lot to say. Mr. Herschel (ph) has a lot to say. Rudy Giuliani has a lot to say. Alan Dershowitz has a lot to say. Anthony Weiner has a lot to say. Roger Ailes had a lot to say. So, yes, I've had some clients--

COOPER: By the way of all the--

AIDALA: --who had a lot to say.

PHILLIP: You've had some clients (ph).

COOPER: Of all those suffering in the world, I think your heart could break for some other attorney?

AIDALA: Yes, for Todd. Well no but all I'm saying was--

COOPER: I mean.

AIDALA: --with Todd in that position.

COOPER: He seems to have made his choices and.

AIDALA: Yes. I agree with you. But when you have a guy like that, saying something, that's ridiculous on two levels.


AIDALA: There's never been a gag order like that before? That's ridiculous. That's not true.



AIDALA: And I can't testify because of the gag order? That's elementary knowledge. I mean, my high school son knows that you are allowed to testify. That's not true. So, you sit there like a schmuck kind of, as you're like oh, OK, Mr. President.

But I mean, for those words to come out of his mouth are ridiculous.

PHILLIP: I think the other thing just to merge the two storylines, here, Trump fundamentally, is always trying to sort of break down the institutions. Any system, any procedure, any process that is unfavorable to him is fundamentally unfair, in his view. That goes for elections. That goes for this court in Manhattan. That goes for the court in Georgia. It goes for the court in Florida, where he's being tried in the documents case.

So knowing that, when it comes to the elections, which is -- which is really the whole ballgame, what does the country do, when he's basically saying what he's -- what his game plan is going forward?

And when you ask Republicans, as I'm sure all of us will, over the next six months, what are you going to do different this time around, compared to the last time around, when he laid the predicate for January 6th?

If the answer is we're going to do the same thing we did last time, which is basically say that this is Donald Trump's rhetoric, and it doesn't matter? That I think tells us everything we need to know about what's going to happen, going forward.

It has not seemed to me like Establishment Republicans or whoever else in the Republican Party, who are the ones, who ultimately will kind of have to make their choices here, their behavior is not really changing.


PHILLIP: And so, it suggests that Donald Trump is just going to kind of play the same playbook. And it might have the same result, except that this time around, people are more ready for it.

COOPER: Well, I mean, Kaitlan spoke to Senator J.D. Vance, last night. And Alyssa, I want to play this for you, because she asked him if Trump's treatment of Mike Pence on January 6th, gave him any pause. This is what he said.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Kaitlan, I'm extremely skeptical that Mike Pence's life was ever in danger. I think politics -- in politics, people like to really exaggerate things, from time to time. I know a lot of folks, in the Democratic Party--

COLLINS: I think Mike Pence would disagree with that, Senator.

VANCE: A lot of folks, in the Democratic Party, Kaitlan, act as if January the 6th was the scariest moment of their lives.

I think, look, January 6th was a bad day. It was a riot. But the idea that Donald Trump endangered anyone's lives, when he told them to protest peacefully, it's just absurd.


COOPER: I mean, obviously--

FARAH GRIFFIN: It's stunning.

COOPER: --rioters were chanting hang Mike Pence.

FARAH GRIFFIN: It's just stunning. I mean, yes, rioters chanting hang Mike Pence, gallows being erected on the South Lawn.

I know Mike Pence's security detail. I've traveled the world with them. They do not mess around. I've spoken to them after January 6th. They feared for his life. And Mike Pence chose not to stay, even though he was at risk. They relocated him.

It is just a rewriting of history. J.D. Vance knows that it's not true.

And by the way, as somebody who's been on the receiving end of death threats from MAGA-world, it should not be stunning to anyone that people would threaten somebody, for going against Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Well also there's videos of other Republican senators, who were there that day, running from the rioters, as they were breaking in.

And I thought what's so interesting, and this is important for people who don't know, is J.D. Vance is on Donald Trump's VP shortlist. He is someone who could be in the role that Mike Pence was, on that day. He's made clear he would not do what Mike Pence did, and stand in the way of sending the fake slates of electors to Congress. He believes Congress should fight that out, essentially defying the Constitution. And I just think it speaks to the moment of what he's in.

And the question was, does it give you any pause how Trump has treated Mike Pence, a lifelong conservative, and didn't even call Mike Pence that day, when he was up there? And Mike Pence has said that Donald Trump put his life in danger, also his family who was with him. So he's made that clear.

But it does speak to Abby's point about who is going to be around Donald Trump, if he is -- if he is going to be potentially put back in the White House. And it could be people, who say they won't stand in the way (ph).

FARAH GRIFFIN: But by the way--

COATES: For perspective there's--

PHILLIP: Blocks the networks (ph) seems at this point.

COATES: Put some perspective, by the way, as for you're talking about it, there's the Supreme Court right now, that is deliberating as to whether he would have immunity, absolute immunity.

So, we talk about who would surround a future president, or somebody who might return to the Oval Office? If a president has absolute immunity, it doesn't matter who's to his left, or who's to his right, or anyone, because no one above him. That's the whole point. Here. The law would even be below him. And that's part of what the consideration is going forward.

Remember, they're not asking for conditional, the way he talks about conditional. They're asking for absolute immunity, and all that's being contemplated, the nine justices have to consider it.

COOPER: Yes. Stay with us.

Coming up, who will testify next? Still a lot of big names to hear from, including someone once considered to be one of the former President's most trusted aides in the White House. That's ahead.



COOPER: Anticipation is building for who we may hear from, in tomorrow's hearing, and whether it'll be any of the high profile witnesses to come, including possibly former White House counselor, Hope Hicks, someone once considered one of the former President's closest confidantes, and most trusted aides.

Back here with the team in New York.

When -- who's on the stand tomorrow? Who starts off tomorrow? Do we know?

COLLINS: They haven't said for sure. They don't announce this, obviously publicly.

But what they've been doing is folding in the super, interesting juicy witnesses with those who bring the records. I think it could be more of the records people, potentially. But I do think after that there is an open question of who fits next in this narrative.

Hope Hicks has been a widely speculated-about choice. We don't know that it is going to be her. But in that audio tape that they played in the courtroom today, it does, I believe you can hear her voice in the background. She was obviously around, for those key conversations with Michael Cohen. So, she could be a natural fit potentially.

COOPER: Alyssa, how are Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway seen in sort of the Trump-world today?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So two very different figures.

Hope, I started with her both stints I did in the White House. She had one focus. She's not ideological. She's not particularly partisan. Her role in the White House was to protect Donald Trump, at all costs. She sees herself as a Trump loyalist, first and foremost.


I'm a little surprised that there's been some kind of media scuttlebutt that perhaps she's really going to turn on him, and this is going to be a big moment, where she reveals what he did wrong. I think she's going to tell the truth, as instructed by her attorneys.

But I think she will stay very well within the lines of anything she will -- she won't want to say anything that's incriminating to the former President.

And Kellyanne Conway, I mean, she still clings to the inner circle. She's, from a certain perspective, advising the campaign, right now.

I don't know that either are a slam-dunk for the prosecution in any sense.

COATES: Yes. I mean, in many ways, think about why you'd want her. Remember, they cannot play the Access Hollywood tape. They are not allowed to. It's too prejudicial, according to the judge. They can't reference the fallout from the Access Hollywood tape.

For framing purposes, as the prosecution, you want to make the connection that the reason why he was motivated, to try to falsify a business record, or even pay this person differently than he had, say, Karen McDougal, was because they were concerned about the impact to the campaign, from the fallout of the Access Hollywood tape.

So, if you've got emails, if you've got discussions, if you've got communications with Hope Hicks, as the connecting dot, between the campaign and the fallout of Access Hollywood, to where we are now, that's when they're most useful.

And she need not frankly, even be somebody to turn on Trump, or to me -- or to turn against him. She has to be somebody to say, well, look, it was contemplated. The fallout was major. We thought that there was a chance that if there was one more straw that fell on perhaps the evangelical voter back, or the women voters back, or just the electoral voters, in general, and that could have been the end of the campaign. That's the concern you have to convey.

TOOBIN: I think one of the most interesting questions about the prosecution is this point, is do they call Karen McDougal? And even do they call Stormy Daniels? Because--

AIDALA: That's a great -- that's a great point.

TOOBIN: No but--

COOPER: Do they -- do you think they need to?

TOOBIN: You know--

AIDALA: Right. That's a great point

TOOBIN: --as a technical legal matter? I don't--


TOOBIN: --I don't think so.

AIDALA: Right. TOOBIN: I mean, the checks have been introduced.


TOOBIN: The purpose behind the checks have been introduced. And so, they don't have to prove that the sex took place. That's not part of the case. And they may think that -- the prosecutors may think this is too much of a spectacle--

AIDALA: Well particularly--

TOOBIN: --too much of a sideshow. And so, I don't know.

AIDALA: Well--

TOOBIN: I mean, I think Stormy Daniels is likely because it is her transaction that is really in the heart of this case. But Karen McDougal, it's essentially background information. The prosecution has -- has already put forward all about the transaction. I don't know if they need her.

AIDALA: So, before I get to that point, when you talk about tomorrow, it's all about strategy, right? And when you're a defense attorney, you're exhausted. You're literally exhausted.

And if you put on a -- the prosecution puts on a key witness tomorrow, on Friday, the defense has Saturday and Sunday to see, OK, this is the direct, they're going to have daily copy. And they could really prepare very well for the cross-examination on Monday.

So, when I was a prosecutor, I tried to put on like, nonsensical, no- big-deal witnesses. But I think--

TOOBIN: You mean on a Friday.

AIDALA: On a Friday, so that I don't give the advantage to the defense attorney to have that weekend to prep.

What Jeffrey is saying, though, is, and I've been thinking about that, do they really need Stormy Daniels?

But if you give the defense, the opportunity to go up there and say, I am, as the defense attorney, I am telling you, my client has always said he didn't have sex with Stormy Daniels, and this was a shakedown. These were absolutely false allegations. And this was, he just paid this money, just to -- yes, even if it was for the presidential election that it changes. Now he really is a victim of extortion.


AIDALA: So, I think they're going to have to bring her in. And she's going to say, yes, we had sex. Where, when, how, how many times.

COOPER: As a defense attorney, you wouldn't -- and you were representing Trump, you would not want Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to testify? AIDALA: Correct.

COATES: But you know what? You don't have to.


COATES: I mean, remember there like one of the objections that came during the opening, which we all know, opening statement objections are pretty rare. You want to kind of have everyone have their flow.

One comment that instantly got sustained by the judge was alluding that Stormy was an extortionist, right? So, that's something that the judge is going to have on a very tight leash, number one.

Number two, it really doesn't matter if they actually were engaged in a sexual affair, or anything.


COATES: Any more than it matters whether at that time, and he's got (ph) with Billy Bush, he really did grab them by the P. All that matters is the fallout--


COATES: --and the idea of whether it would impact how he was perceived enough to motivate him to make a payment and falsify the records.

COOPER: Well let me ask you, just in terms of the impressions to the jury, if they hear that Donald Trump has denied even knowing Karen McDougal, or denied, and you already have testimony from David Pecker saying he would ask about Karen McDougal, repeatedly calling her, our girl, and Karen saying, she's a nice girl.


Does it help to actually have them on the stand, to tell their side of the story, and the jury then if they believe those two, then they are less likely to believe Donald Trump? Because--

COATES: Well yes.

COOPER: --if he's lying about that.

COATES: I mean, yes, but it also, as a strategic reason, even though I know conceptually I don't need to have this to check off the boxes to maybe move -- make my elements. I've got a jury, who's leaning in to the most -- I want them in the palm of my hand, to be leaning in to know, on these moments, what you're hearing is so important, number one.

Number two, it's going to look bad for the prosecution. You mean there's all this talk about Michael Cohen, and Stormy Daniels, and I don't call them? A juror's going to think to themselves well, hold on, why are we not hearing from them?


COATES: And you have to kind of play to that same level.

TOOBIN: That's it that's--

PHILLIP: And also--

TOOBIN: That's a risk for the prosecution if they don't call them.


AIDALA: Going crazy as a defense attorney, in my summation. Where are they? Where's the beef?

COATES: I -- right.

AIDALA: Where are they? Is getting me--

PHILLIP: I also want to just underscore just the differences between Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, I think, come into play here. Karen McDougal's relationship with Trump is much more of a relationship, right?


PHILLIP: Stormy Daniels, there's a debate about whether--

COOPER: Karen McDougal said she was in love with him.

PHILLIP: Yes, exactly.


PHILLIP: So, I think that that -- that also is going to come into play too, in terms of Trump's credibility--


PHILLIP: --in denying these affairs.

COOPER: Want to thank everybody.

The news continues, so does our special primetime CNN trial coverage, right after a short break.