Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Former Trump Aide Hope Hicks Testifies In Hush Money Trial; Hope Hicks Gets Emotional, Cries On The Stand In Hush Money Trial; New Details Released From Today's Court Proceedings. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 03, 2024 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: It is just past 9 PM, here in New York, dramatic day 11 of the Trump hush money trial.

Now in the books, former Trump adviser, communications director, and one-time close confidante, Hope Hicks, reunited with the former President by a prosecution subpoena.

Her testimony, establishing his awareness, after he became president, of how much he politically benefited by paying for Stormy Daniels' silence, before the 2016 election. Whether her tears which followed were related to her answer on that, or just came from the accumulated tension, of being on the stand, the emotion of the moment is impossible say.

Whether the day was a significant dramatic end to week three of this historic trial? That is hard to deny.

Joining the panel for this hour, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig.

Elie, we haven't heard from you.


COOPER: What stood out to you today?

HONIG: Well, here we are at roughly what I assess to be about the midpoint of this trial. We're about halfway through, I think.

If I'm the prosecutor, and I like to think about things this way, I'm very satisfied with certain elements in my case, but I'm also very worried about other elements.

Here's what I think they have strong. Clearly, Donald Trump knew about these hush money payments. I don't think there's any real question. Clearly, he wanted the money to be paid. And it's quite clear to me, and Hope Hicks, I think solidified this today that it was for a political reason. Yes, there was a family concern too. But there also was a substantial political reason. That's the good news. The problem is there's nothing so far, in this record, as it stands

now, tying Donald Trump to the accounting, behind the financing of those payments. And that's the crime.

And it's starting to look increasingly like the only actual link they're going to have, showing that, yes, Donald Trump knew the way we structured these reimbursements, with all the checks, to try to make it look like legal fees, it looks like the only link is going to be Michael Cohen.

And boy, I've never seen a witness take on more damage, before he stepped in the stand than Michael Cohen has taken on.


HONIG: Every single witness has said he's a horrible person, and he's a liar.

PHILLIP: You don't think the other piece of evidence is the actual checks that Trump signed himself?

HONIG: Yes, the checks help. But they don't answer all the questions. I mean, there's so many responses to that. Does he know exactly what he's paying for? Why is Michael Cohen extracting triple the amount that he paid? He paid $130,000. He gets paid back over $400,000. Why did Michael Cohen tell him? Who's going to be able to testify to that?

I think the checks are helpful to the prosecution. But they don't get them to the finish line.

ARTHUR AIDALA, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, let me just explain how a confidentiality agreement works, in the real world, not when someone's running for president. But let's talk about a very real scenario.

My phone rings. It's some dude, who cheated on his wife. And now, the woman says, I want money, or I'm telling your wife. We -- I say, you go get a lawyer. She gets a law -- so there's lawyer to lawyer, we're talking to each other.

There's a written, I have them, they're like forms, that it's a confidentiality -- yes, it's a gag order, basically. And we're going to give you this amount of money, over this amount of time, and you can't say anything. And if you do, there's treble damages. So, if we give you a million, and you squeal? Now you give us $3 million.

The husband doesn't write the check to her. The husband writes the check to my law firm. My law firm puts it in the escrow account. And sometimes, my legal fee is built in there.

So hypothetically, if it's 100 grand, and my legal fee is $10,000, he writes a check to $110,000, to the law offices of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins. It goes in my escrow account. $10,000 goes into my operating account. And then, I write out the check from the Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins IOR (ph) account, to her lawyer. He puts it in his escrow account. And then, he pays her. That's all ethical, legal, and there's nothing wrong with that.

HONIG: I think what the prosecution is going to say, though, is the difference is that Donald Trump was running for president, and they falsified these documents in order to hide the fact that it was hush money.

But again, I don't think the proof is there yet that he knew about this--


HONIG: --level of granular detail.

AIDALA: And Abby, the fact that he signed the check. That's not the crime. The bookkeeping is the crime.

PHILLIP: No, no, no, I wasn't suggesting that signing the check was the crime. But rather that it indicates that he understood that this was a repayment for the scheme that -- he was going to get $35,000 over the course of a period of time.

I mean, I also think that just the idea that Trump simply could have done what you suggested, I think we wouldn't really even be dealing with the situation.


But Michael Cohen, took out a loan on his house, paid in advance, waited until after the election to be repaid. I mean, there was an attempt to conceal this arrangement from the public. I think that is pretty clear based on the--


PHILLIP: --just the timeline of things that happened.

COOPER: We've gotten the full testimony out from the transcript. I know, Kara, you've been looking at it. What -- anything stand out?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think, at the moment, if we look at 2018, this is after Michael Cohen gives The New York Times a statement, and says that he paid the $130,000 without Donald Trump knowing.

And then, Hope Hicks is testifying about the next day she talks to Donald Trump, and that he's telling her about his conversation with Michael Cohen.

So, what she testifies to is, this is when being questioned by the prosecutor. She said, I didn't know Michael to be an especially charitable person, or selfless person. He's the kind of person who seeks credit.

The prosecutor said, did Mr. Trump say anything else about this issue when he told you that Michael made the payment?

Just that he thought it was a generous thing to do, and he was appreciative of the loyalty. That's all I remember.

The prosecutor says, did he say anything about the timing of the news reporting regarding?

Hicks, oh, he -- yes. He wanted to know how it was playing, and just my thoughts and opinion about this story versus having the story -- a different kind of story before the campaign had Michael not made that payment. And I think Mr. Trump's opinion was that it was better to be dealing with it now, and that would have been bad to have had that story come out before the election.

So, this was the last thing that Hope Hicks testified, when questioned by the prosecutor.

COOPER: That was what she said before the -- right before the crime?

SCANNELL: Right. This was the final thing that the prosecutors left the jury hearing her say, which was, she's saying she doesn't believe the story that Michael Cohen had advanced this money on his own. But also, saying that Trump was glad that he had to deal with this in 2018, because it would have been much worse to deal with it before the election.

COOPER: Kaitlan asked the former President about the Access Hollywood tape, in the CNN Town Hall, last year. I want to play a clip of that.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE: There was a tape deposition of you from October in it. You defended the comments that you made on that Access Hollywood tape about being able to grab women how you want. Do you stand by those comments?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said if you're famous and rich, or whatever I said, but I said if you're a star -- you are -- and I said, women let you. I didn't say you grab -- I said women let. You know you didn't use the word. But if you look, women let you.

COLLINS: You were asked in the deposition if you consider yourself to be a star and you said yes.

TRUMP: People that are rich, people that are powerful -- they tend to do pretty well in a lot of different ways, OK. And you would like me to take that back. I can't take it back because it happens to be true.


COLLINS: I mean, one, he said grab them, in the audio.

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: Anyone can listen to it. It's not really up--

COOPER: Grab them by the private part.

COLLINS: It's not up for dispute.

Two, what I'm so struck by listening back to that now is the video that they played in court today for the jury to hear was Trump, his video that he put out on Twitter, after that video came out.

I mean, there was that crisis moment, as Hope Hicks testified today, a hurricane was expected to make landfall that night. No one in the news, she said we don't even know where it -- where it made landfall or anything, because people were only talking about the video.

COOPER: This was the bigger hurricane, I think.

COLLINS: Right, much in a political sense, obviously.

But Donald Trump put out that video, apologizing. And then, in your debate question, he said he was embarrassed. That is language he does not use anymore. No matter what he does, or what happens, he never says apologize. He never says that he's embarrassed.

And so, it also speaks to how he has changed since 2016, and how he views himself through this political lens--


COLLINS: --as someone who really, in his view, is untouchable. But in a deposition that wasn't taken not that long ago, he defended the comments that he made in that video.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and just to underscore that moment, when this came out, I at the time was working for the Freedom Caucus.

Jim Jordan was about to go to an event in Ohio with Mike Pence. And there was genuine discussion that he may not go to the event, that Pence might not show up for the event. There was basically a pause, on all fronts, even within the RNC, a debate, is this campaign even going to move forward.

So, it is important to remember that context, because another bombshell like this, having come out at the time would have been incredibly significant.

COOPER: Well, Hope Hicks was asked about that on the stand today. And she talked about Paul Ryan had an event in Wisconsin, that Trump was supposed to go to.

And then, she said it was sort of -- the prosecution said that he turned Trump down. She said, actually, it's more nuanced. And she went on to explain that Paul Ryan kind of reorganized it, so that kind of to de-emphasize Trump, and maybe Paul Ryan wouldn't be there. And then, she says Trump decided not to go, because he was insulted, I guess.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And I believe Reince Priebus got in, to try to facilitate that, so it wouldn't look like a clean break at the time. But that's accurate. COOPER: Yes.

COLLINS: I mean, this was a moment where Steve Bannon loves to tell this story.

But they all kind of sat around a conference table, the people that she was describing, who were there, as they were in the middle of the debate prep, when Dave Fahrenthold, from The Post, emailed them to say, hey, we've got this really embarrassing audio tape of Trump.

And they kind of went around the room, and Trump asked if they thought he should drop out. And a lot of them, including Reince Priebus, said that they believed he should. Steve Bannon, I believe, as he characterizes it, was one of the only people who did not believe.

But it was such a moment in the campaign, where people did genuinely think Trump may drop out of the race.


COOPER: Well, it was also a central moment, I will say, in the debate prep, where they were doing debate prep, at that same moment, we were doing debate prep--


COOPER: --as one of the moderators of that debate. And it suddenly, as soon as it hit, all our plans, for what the first question was going to be, and--

COLLINS: Like energy policy?

COOPER: I mean, right, it all -- it all went out the window.


COOPER: And then there was this whole day-long drama behind-the-scenes of how do we ask it, exactly what's the wording going to be, and what's the follow-up going to be and sort of planning that all out.

PHILLIP: I mean, I think that the -- what Kaitlan was saying about Trump changing the way he talks about the Access Hollywood tape, that was such a seminal moment for him politically, because he won.

And had he not won, I think, obviously, everything would have changed. But the lesson that Trump learned from that, similarly from Charlottesville, when he kind of made the statements about the Charlottesville, and then he tried to walk it back. And ever since then, he's been kind of denying that he ever said, there were very fine people on both sides. Trump has learned the lesson, never to walk a thing back.


PHILLIP: Never ever to walk a thing back. And that has become his caller card. COOPER: I also just want to point out the first 30 minutes of that debate were, I mean, I was on the stage with Martha Raddatz, and nobody knew how this was going to play out. Nobody knew.

Donald Trump had held this press conference with Bill Clinton accusers. He had brought them to the debate hall. They both walked out there. They didn't shake hands. They didn't shake hands with the moderators. The tension, the molecules of the air on that set, were charged in that room.

And I mean, I've done other debates before. Never a Committee of the Presidential Debate, but primary debates. I've never experienced a 20 minutes, outside of a combat zone that was so charged and just almost, I mean, anything could have, you know, and he started following her around on stage. I mean, the whole thing was, it was just stunning to be a part of.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I remember. I mean, I was covering Hillary Clinton at the time. The fact that he brought Bill Clinton's accusers, to that debate, created this incredible circus atmosphere. But it also made people believe that he was just going to kind of bulldoze through this moment.

I think it was kind of a mixed bag on the debate stage. But it was -- it really was because ultimately, the end result of all of this, probably because there was not another woman or accuser who came forward, the end result of all of this was that the Access Hollywood tape didn't sink him.

And so, he is totally emboldened by that experience, and every other experience that he's had subsequently, that has left him empowered after these moments that would have killed anybody else's--


COLLINS: But it's a--

PHILLIP: --political career.

COLLINS: It's a revisionist history, where he, you know, see how he talked about that then, and then look at how he was talking about it--


COLLINS: --one year ago. He's saying, that's actually not what I said. Well, you can hear him.

The audio tape, they played yesterday, that Michael Cohen surreptitiously taped, of him and Donald Trump discussing it. Trump posted today that they cut off part of it that was actually very positive for him. There's no evidence of that. His attorneys did not argue that in court, Elie, as you know.

HONIG: Right.

COLLINS: And it was just a moment, where he kind of tries to seek to reframe things, even when there is there -- document evidence, if there is an audio tape. He tries to basically reframe things. And the question is how that plays in an actual courtroom.

COOPER: They argued this in front of the judge today, about the evidence of the chain of custody, of that tape, and also that the prosecution is saying that a call came in, which is what sort of cut off that call, and the defense is trying to raise questions about, well, what's the evidence that a call came in, and how do you determine that.

HONIG: Every defendant in history, who's been caught on tape, always maintains that as soon as that tape ended, something great for them happened right after it. Every time.

PHILLIP: Well it's worth noting they still got--


AIDALA: Isn't that true? That's -- hey hold on. That's not true?


AIDALA: I thought that was true.

COOPER: Much more ahead. David Fahrenthold, Kaitlan just mentioned, on the Access Hollywood story that he himself broke, he's joining us next.

The question of whether the former President has, again violated his gag order. We'll show you what he posted on social media last night, and we'll get a former federal judge's take on that as well.

And later, given all the Trump-world turmoil that Hope Hicks recounted today, and that we just talked about, some perspective on how despite all that he's still managed to become president, and could be again. Former Republican congressman and January 6 committee member, Adam Kinzinger, joins us as well.



COOPER: We were talking earlier about Judge Merchan, and his demeanor in court, which he's maintained despite significant challenges, you could say, surrounding this trial, including a defendant with his own social network.

He's already held him in criminal contempt for violating his gag order, and is still weighing a second batch of alleged violations. And now, there's more.

Last night, defendant Trump posted this clip, from Steve Bannon's podcast, during which Andrew Giuliani attacked the judge's daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW GIULIANI, REAL AMERICA'S VOICE NEWS: The gag order that he is violating, that according to the judge that Donald Trump is violating, is just pointing out the fact that the judge's daughter has profited to the tune of $90 million, that's right, over $90 million from Adam Schiff, Kamala Harris and other leftists.


COOPER: Joining the panel is former federal judge Shira Scheindlin.

Do you think Judge Merchan would or should react to Trump posting that video?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: Well, it is another attack on the judge's daughter, and the judge has said clearly that's off limits.


So, I think, as usual, Trump is going right up to the line, and maybe just over that line. Some days, you sort of think he's baiting the judge and daring him to put him in jail. Sometimes, you wonder if he wants that to help him with his victimhood argument. I really wonder about that.


PHILLIP: It almost seems like he wants to show that the gag order doesn't have an impact on him at all. I mean, Trump just keeps -- it's like he's like a toddler. It's like you -- he keeps pushing back on the restraint.

AIDALA: You know what, I'm going to call little foul on Donald Trump.

He was -- he was in front of Judge Lewis Kaplan. You could take the Fifth, Your Honor. Who was so harsh, so harsh on him and his attorneys, so harsh.

He was in front of Judge Engoron, who was so harsh on him and his attorneys.

Merchan is not even in the league of those other two guys. He knows that this judge is letting his lawyers try their case, letting them do aggressive cross-examinations, letting them do their things. So, he knows what he's saying because he now has a basis of comparison, between two other judges, who kicked his butt--


AIDALA: --and kicked his lawyers' butts.

COOPER: Well it's also interesting to hear, Judge Merchan, this morning, before the jury came in, talking to Donald Trump, and through Todd Blanche, saying, I think your client has a misunderstanding, he absolutely has every right to testify, addressing the comments that Trump had made about, oh, I am not allowed to testify, because of this gag order, which is just patently false and just ridiculous.

And I mean, nobody listening to Judge Merchan calmly and politely sort of informing Donald Trump, reminding of his rights. I mean, just no one sitting there, listening to that would, would really believe that this guy is this rabid animal, going after him.

SCHEINDLIN: No. And I think -- I think they were both acting to some extent. Trump knew darn well that he was permitted to testify. That was an act. And the judge carefully explaining it to him knew that he already knew it. So both of them were making good record, so to speak, for their positions. But it was all known.

COLLINS: The problem with that is also, no one in that room thinks that. But that's a very limited amount of people.


COLLINS: Most of them reporters, 12 of them witnesses.

There's a whole atmosphere out there that does believe this judge is biased against Donald Trump, because he tells him that, and conservative media and his allies tell them that. And they point to I think, like 30 bucks that the judge donated to Democrats, at some point.

And so, that is something that they feel like they've been effective, in using that, and putting that out there. And as always, with Donald Trump, he doesn't care what's actually real. It's the perception of it.


SCHEINDLIN: Well, and what I think is that those people will never change their mind anyway. Doesn't matter what the truth is, they've made up their mind, so.

HONIG: If I could use Judge Scheindlin, picking up on Kaitlan's point, Judge Merchan did donate a few -- $35--


HONIG: --to anti-Trump.

If you had a defendant in front of you, Chris Jones, and you had donated $35 to defeat Chris Jones for office a few years ago, would you recuse yourself?

SCHEINDLIN: The real answer to, is I would never have donated $35.

HONIG: OK. Right, no, that's a good point. You're not supposed to do that.

SCHEINDLIN: You're not supposed to, so.

HONIG: But if you had broken that rule, and donated $35 to defeat Chris Jones. And now Chris Jones' liberty is at stake in front of you. Would you have recused yourself?

SCHEINDLIN: I have said on record that I thought there was enough there that might have warranted a recusal. And that was one of the facts. That plus other reasons, I thought he should do it. And I--

COLLINS: The Trump's team loved that -- Trump's team loved that you said that. And you said that on my show. And that was something they circulated and pushed out there. Because they believed it was -- I mean, they rarely see a retired judge, helping make their case. And they seized on that, really.

SCHEINDLIN: I know. But I wasn't helping anybody. I call it--


COLLINS: It's just calling (ph).

SCHEINDLIN: --I call it as I see it.

HONIG: And can I just follow up on that? There is an important distinction between a judge having a conflict and a judge being a good or lousy judge. I mean, I happen to think Judge Merchan is doing an extraordinary job of managing this case--


HONIG: --of running it, of giving a fair trial. I also think he should have recused.


HONIG: I agree with Judge Scheindlin on that. But those are two separate issues. It's one is not an answer to the other.

AIDALA: And I agree. I agree with you. And I agree that he should have recused himself.

But Anderson, he did do the right thing. He went to the Committee on the Judiciary, the State of New York, and he said, I made this donation. And my daughter works here. Can I -- I was assigned this case. Can I still handle the case? And that committee gave him the green light.

COOPER: Judge Scheindlin, I mean, based on what you know about Hope Hicks' testimony, and the emotion she showed, I mean, how impactful do you think she is?

SCHEINDLIN: I think a show of emotion by a witness is very impactful on a jury. But what the jury decides is, was it an act? Or was it genuine?


SCHEINDLIN: And that's a big question, so.

COOPER: And also, what does the emotion mean? Because it's not necessarily -- I mean, it's open to interpretation, isn't it?

SCHEINDLIN: True. But I think the first question is, is it real? Is it genuine? Because some witnesses put on a show, when they're just sort of acting at the end of the testimony, they kind of break down and hunch over. But if the jury thinks it's real, I think they have a lot of sympathy for that, and they try to figure out what it means.


And I felt what it meant here is that she had once liked this guy. She had once been close to Trump. And it was hard for her to realize that she was being a witness against him. I think it really hurt her. And so, that makes her a very genuine witness.

COOPER: Well, and the jurors get to think about that all weekend. I mean, this is that they're left with.

HONIG: Yes. I think that's right.


HONIG: I mean that's my sense too. I mean, courtrooms are strange places, emotionally, like they evoke odd emotions. You talked earlier, Anderson--

COOPER: It's totally true, yes.

HONIG: --about your experience, as a witness.

COOPER: And it totally changes the way you see the trial actually being able to sit in this room.


COOPER: And again, which is why I wish there were cameras.

HONIG: Yes. It's almost hard to explain. I mean, the first time I gave a closing, I don't think it was in front of you, Your Honor. It was a different judge. But I gave a closing, in a major case. I almost felt myself crying in front of the jury. I don't know why, to this day.

AIDALA: Oh take it easy. As a prosecutor.

HONIG: You guys--

AIDALA: As a prosecutor's crying?

HONIG: Oh, you guys, these--

AIDALA: Oh, I saw him in the truck (ph).

HONIG: These guys--

AIDALA: Sorry, sorry, judge.

HONIG: These guys -- these guys cry on command. They can just bring it up like method actors. For me?

AIDALA: That's right. You got the--


HONIG: For me, it didn't have anything to do with the facts of the case. It was just it's this dramatic crescendo of something you've been working on, and invested in for months. It had nothing to do with the case. I held it back, by the way.

AIDALA: Thank you. Appreciate it.

HONIG: But it does evoke unexpected emotions. We're both grizzled veterans, it doesn't impact us anymore.

SCHEINDLIN: Well let me add one thing.

HONIG: But someone for the first time, yes.

SCHEINDLIN: On most of my juries, I would talk to the juries -- jurors, after the end of the trial. And I say, what was really important to you what struck you? And sometimes, they would say, witness so and so really got to me because of what she said and how she said it.


SCHEINDLIN: And it was always fascinating to talk to the jurors after the trial.

AIDALA: I always talk to the jurors--


AIDALA: --after the trial, because I learn.


AIDALA: I learn so much what went well.

SCHEINDLIN: Absolutely.

AIDALA: And what didn't went well. Oh, I didn't believe that or -- but I'm thinking, well that was our best witness? No, it wasn't. It was actually that one.

COOPER: In your experience. I mean, for all of you -- lawyers here, and judge, do jurors pay attention? I mean, is it -- is it sure -- I mean, 90 percent the facts of the case that they learn? Or is it their judgment about the honesty and character of the person testifying?

SCHEINDLIN: I think to a great degree, it's their judgment, as to the credibility of witnesses. I think it does boil down to that, because many cases, some witnesses say one thing, some say exactly the opposite. Who do you believe? And it boils down, I think, to a great degree, to credibility. COOPER: And so, it boils down to a gut feeling--


COOPER: --based on what happens in that courtroom?

HONIG: It's a very human process.


HONIG: I mean, we think of the jury as this monolith, the jury.


HONIG: But it's 12 human beings.


HONIG: I mean, we learned about them a couple weeks ago that a woman, who's an IT professional, a man who -- the two lawyers. But it's just the human.

And I'm also constantly but surprised by who juries believe, and who they don't. I've seen juries take the word of people way worse than Michael Cohen, and return convictions.

SCHEINDLIN: Absolutely.

HONIG: And I've seen the opposite too. I've seen juries reject testimony from people, who I thought were great witnesses.

AIDALA: It's also, we're sitting here for two hours, like analyzing everything, that Hope Hicks did, and how she handled the microphone, and her hair. And I don't know if jurors are doing that. I think tomorrow, they're going to communions. They're going to do some gardening. They're going to foster a dog, and kind of go on with their life. And Monday, they'll get back into the groove.

HONIG: But you know?

SCHEINDLIN: Sometimes, sometimes, they just like some witnesses, and take a dislike to other witness. And it's visceral. And we don't entirely know why.

PHILLIP: I have to say--

FARAH GRIFFIN: How does that work though, when it's kind of a mixed witness, like Hope Hicks, who made, you know, did well for the prosecution, but also for the defense? Where do you think that falls with the jury?

SCHEINDLIN: I think that makes her appear very credible, because she didn't try to get him.

COOPER: Yes. SCHEINDLIN: She was trying to be fair and balanced. So, that made her a credible witness. And each side can argue that because she's credible, you should believe this part.

COOPER: Judge Scheindlin, thank you. It's great to have you.

The rest, stay with us.

On the stand, today, Hope Hicks revealed how Trump-world first learned about the Access Hollywood tape, who broke it to her, and the rest of the world. We're about to be joined by the reporter, who broke that story to her directly, in an email.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: October 7th, 2016, the deadly Hurricane Matthew is battering America, and then a different kind of storm hit, so big it would knock the hurricane out of the news cycle, as was mentioned in court today, by Hope Hicks.

That recollection, from the former Trump campaign Secretary, Hicks, on the stand, referring to the infamous Access Hollywood tape, walking the jury, through how, she first learned about it, and the crisis that would spark inside Trump-world.

This portion is the reason why, listen.


TRUMP: You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (bleep). You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, those legs, all I could see is the legs.

TRUMP: No, it looks good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, shorty.

TRUMP: Nice legs, huh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the way, honey. That's good legs.


COOPER: It went on.

Hope Hicks learned about it through an email, from a then-Washington Post reporter, named David Fahrenthold, seeking comment. It was shown in court today. The subject line, from him, of the email was Urgent Washington Post query. The email contained a transcript of what was said, on that Access Hollywood tape.

Asked what her first reaction was, Hicks replied, quote, I was very concerned -- "I was concerned, very concerned."

With us now is the reporter, who broke that bombshell, to tell her and the rest of the world. David Fahrenthold is now an investigative reporter with The New York Times.

David, it's good to see you again.

I'm wondering what you made of Hope Hicks' testimony, particularly how your scoop on that, on the Access Hollywood tape, was dealt with behind-the-scenes of the campaign, because I'm assuming this is probably the first time you've heard what it was like inside Trump- world, at that time.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it's a rare opportunity, as a reporter, to get this sort of see the other side of a day like this.

So yes, we sent them this transcript, these questions, around 1:30 in the afternoon. And all I knew at that point was the responses I got back from them, which was first, ah, this doesn't sound like Mr. Trump, and send us the video to be sure.

And then, after we sent them the video, they then confirmed it was him.

Today, it was real -- so interesting, and sort of surreal to see all the steps that happened in between.


COOPER: We learned in court, according to Hope Hicks, she went to Trump, showed him the email from you. And he said, well that doesn't -- or told him about it. And he said, well, that doesn't sound like me.

Is that where she got the response to send to you, saying it doesn't sound like Mr. Trump?

FAHRENTHOLD: It must have been.

And at the time, when she said that, oh that doesn't sound like him? I was like, I mean, after all we had -- remember where this was, was the end of the 2016 campaign.

COOPER: Yes, I know. It sounded exactly like him--


COOPER: Even in the written word. FAHRENTHOLD: Yes, right. So, this, I thought, really? She was saying that like in her own voice, like, oh, this doesn't sound like the man I know. And now, we know it was just Trump saying, it doesn't sound like me. And she just passed that on verbatim.

COOPER: She was talking about the length of time that they had to respond. You said you reached out to her at 1:30. I think she testified today that the story was published at 3:30. Correct me if I'm wrong. What -- how much time was there? And at what point did you send her the tape?

FAHRENTHOLD: We sent her, as you saw it, about 1:30, we sent her that transcript. She comes back to us, I don't remember when, but at some point later, and says it doesn't sound like him. Send us the tape.

There was some debate internally in our end, about whether we would send them the tape, and we decided we would.

So we sent the tape at like 3:50, and said, look, we are convinced this is him. We don't need you to confirm this is him on the tape. We're going to publish our story at 4 PM. You can comment or you cannot comment, but the story is going up then.

And they called back, right at 4, and said, OK, wait, it's him.

COOPER: Right.

FAHRENTHOLD: And here's his excuse for why he's not like that.

COOPER: On the tape, he gets out of the bus. So I mean, it's there's -- there's little question, it's actually him.


COOPER: It's -- yes. What else stood out to you about her testimony today?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well I laughed at the -- so, in her initial sort of email to -- the blast email to the people in the Trump campaign, asking, what should I do about this? She's like, well, here's some options.

And one of her options was deny, deny, deny, which I laughed at, because that was obviously the way the Trump campaign worked, in 2016, was just no matter what was happening, and I've been dealing with them for months, you know, no matter what proof you had, they didn't care if it was right. They didn't want to figure out if you were right. They just wanted to deny it.

So, it was funny for me to see that inaction. Their first reaction was, let's not even find out if it's true. Maybe we should just say well it isn't, and just deny it without learning more.

COOPER: The, you know, and now, Trump-world is sort of trying to downplay the impact of this tape of this moment. For everybody, who lived through it, they remember it. How do you remember the impact this story had, once you published it? FAHRENTHOLD: I've never been a part of anything like it. So, we published it about 4 in the afternoon, on Friday.

The Washington Post had sort of a little internal system to measure (ph). That was like a -- looked like a speedometer to show how much traffic, how many people had read your story. And it was like a Bugs Bunny moment. It literally spun around like the dial in a Bugs Bunny movie.


FAHRENTHOLD: It had been read all over the world. I've never been part of a story that had that kind of impact.

Now, obviously, I didn't write the story, thinking well, OK, we're going to sink Trump's campaign. And when it was out, I didn't think OK, I have sunk Trump's campaign. There was another month left to go.

But it may -- obviously had a profound effect to the point that even Paul Ryan, very prominent Republicans, were walking away from Trump, refusing to be seen with Trump, by the end of that day.


Alyssa, I mean, you joined the Trump White House, later. Was there a ghost or a shadow from that Access Hollywood tape still sort of around the West Wing?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes, very much so.

So, I joined in the end of 2017, as the Vice President's press secretary. And shortly after is when the Karen McDougal story became public in early 2018.

So, it was sort of -- there was just -- it felt like something you can't get away from, the problems that he had with women, accusers coming forward. E. Jean Carroll was even part of the discussion at that time. So, it was always sort of underlying.

But the thing I want to underscore is we're talking about this in 2024. Republicans kind of made peace with this in 2016. I can't explain why. I can't defend it. But most of them kind of said, you know it's obviously him on that tape. You can see it with your own eyes, hear it with your own ears.

And so, I kind of wonder with this case. There's the jury, and then there's the public opinion. I don't think many Republicans are going to care about these additional facts that we're learning. It's stunning to say, realizing that in 2016, this nearly sunk him, and people were ready to walk away. That's not where we are now.

COOPER: All right not just Republican -- evangelicals--


COOPER: --Republicans, you know. FARAH GRIFFIN: They're more firmly with him now, even as more facts have come out, even as he's now been found liable in a civil suit around sexual assault.

COLLINS: And you know what the thinking in Trump-world is, is basically?

Because there are people -- Jason Miller is one of the campaign aides, who was in that room, in the courtroom with Donald Trump, and has been there a lot. He was one of the ones that Hope Hicks emailed that day, and copied him on, just to speak to the people who have been around him for a long time.

And there was this thinking in Trump-world that if they could survive Access Hollywood, they could survive anything. And nothing fazes them, even when there's a big story that's damaging as much as it did that day. And I just think it speaks to how they handle things.

And the, deny, deny, deny statement that Hope Hicks, that was her reflex action? They still do that. I mean, we'll report something, completely factual that maybe isn't even that damaging to them. It's just a fact. And they'll say denial, fake news, denial, fake news, and then like we prove that it's correct.


But that's just their instinct always--


COLLINS: --is to deny factual things.

FARAH GRIFFIN: That is a great point. Sorry, just quickly.


FARAH GRIFFIN: Because I remember being on Air Force One with Hope Hicks, in mid-2020, and a story that I thought was shocking was about Trump's taxes, probably 30 questions from The New York Times.

I went in and said, we've got to get this to the President. This is a huge story.

And she's like, this is nothing. You don't -- you've not seen anything. You weren't there in 2016. We survived Access Hollywood. That is the mindset. That was their barometer. And if you survived it, everything else would kind of be fine.

PHILLIP: Yes. And it's changed all of Republican politics since then. I mean, every sort of Trumpian candidate has to have that same mindset that every piece of adversity they come across, they have to just barrel right through it.

I do think though, there is a little bit of revisionist history in Trump-world.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Just a little?

PHILLIP: I mean, being generous here.

But especially after those -- that last six weeks of that campaign, it wasn't just Access Hollywood. I mean, a lot of things happened. There was the Anthony Weiner stuff. There was the laptop with Hillary Clinton. There were other factors that were at play there. And not to mention that, but there, the election was extremely close. It wasn't like Trump won in a landslide.

So, there is this tendency in Trump-world to over-interpret their ability to survive Access Hollywood, not taking into consideration all of the other elements that went into what happened in 2016.

But Trump still lives with that sort of God Complex, where he's like, I'm the guy, who did what no one else could ever do before. And I did it just sheer force of will, because the American people didn't care. I think, yes, some Americans did not care. But I also think there were a lot of other factors that went into it as well.

COOPER: David, I mean, your reporting. It's easy to kind of forget this because, things, so much has happened over the last couple of years.

But there was also all those fables about Donald Trump's charity, and his support of veterans, and giving millions and millions of dollars to veterans. Your reporting showed that just was not the case.

FAHRENTHOLD: That's right. Well, one of the really interesting things about 2016 was learning that so much of what Trump had said about his charitable giving, this sort of Bruce Wayne persona he had was included a lot of brags about his charitable-giving was wrong.

I mean, even in the course of the campaign, his campaign said he'd given out a million dollars out of his own pockets to veterans, to veterans' charities, and it turned out to be completely a lie. He hadn't given $1. And then he would use things like he would use his charities' money to buy giant portraits of himself.

I liked that sort of the stories, because you learn so much about Trump by viewing how, in private, just the same way the Access Hollywood showed, how he talked in private, the non-profit stories showed how he acted in private, and how charitable he was, or wasn't, when no one was looking.


Arthur, I mean, the defense was able to keep the jury from seeing the Access Hollywood tape. Does that really matter, given how much they'd heard about it? I'm sure they even remember.

AIDALA: Well, first of all, Judge Merchan gets the credit for the jury not hearing that. I mean, the defense asked. But he granted that.

And it does. I mean, Anderson, as a defense attorney, you want to crawl under the table, when you hear your client's voice, saying something nasty. And there's nothing you can do. You can't cross- examine it. You can't, you know?

So yes, I think it does matter. Even though they've heard the words, it's different when they hear them coming out of your client's mouth.


HONIG: I think this aspect of the prosecution's case has come in clear and strong and straightforward, which is when that tape hit, it was a bombshell, in the campaign.

They were panicked, and they couldn't afford to have the Stormy Daniels allegations come out. And that's why they made the payment. And that's an important but -- it's not the whole case. But it's an important part of the case. That part's strong to me.

COOPER: David Fahrenthold, your reporting always is just extraordinary. So, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thanks for being with us. Have a good weekend.


COOPER: Coming up, we're going to discuss the first time that Hope Hicks testified, about her former boss, with a former member of the January 6 committee.



COOPER: So, before Hope Hicks took the stand today, her intimate knowledge of the former President's thinking was on display, during her 2022 testimony to the January 6 committee.

The committee used her recorded testimony, in its final hearing, to demonstrate that in the words of the Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren, quote, "Trump was told repeatedly by his campaign advisers, government officials and others," that "there was no evidence to support his claims of election fraud."

Take a look.


HOPE HICKS, FORMER COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging -- we were damaging his legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the President say in response to what you just described?

HICKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So that won't matter. The only thing that matters is, is winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: We're joined now by a member of the January 6 committee, former Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger. He's the Author of "Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in Our Divided Country."

Congressman, how would you describe Hope Hicks' credibility and her willingness to be candid to the January 6 committee? Because it's interesting to compare her testimony to your committee versus her testimony today.

ADAM KINZINGER, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE - ILLINOIS, (R) FORMER MEMBER, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE, AUTHOR, "RENEGADE," CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I mean, my impression of her was, as far as I know, honest, not necessarily eager to come in front of the committee, not -- probably not eager to go in front of this courtroom. But does her duty, and does so honestly.

And that was the impression I got was, she wasn't really hiding anything. You had to ask the questions, obviously. She's not going to volunteer it.

But that she had a real concern for Donald Trump. As you mentioned that clip she was concerned about his legacy. At one point after January 6th, there were text messages, I forget who she sent them to, where she said, we all look like domestic terrorists now. So, she's a pretty sane person in a pretty insane world.


And unfortunately, she's been caught up in a lot of this. I mean, Donald Trump, you know, she was in the room basically anywhere he was. And unfortunately, she's had to testify not before just our committee, now in front of this court. But I think she's had to come in and talk to the Intel Committee in the past too. So, she's just kind of gotten caught up in all this.

COOPER: You were a sitting Republican member of Congress, during the fall of 2016, when the Access Hollywood tape was revealed. It obviously sent shockwaves through your party.

How surreal is it, after all, the political legal drama, in the past eight years that Hope Hicks was on the witness stand, in this particular trial today, amid all the drama that's still pending?

KINZINGER: I mean, look, it's all surreal. I still, I mean, I still can't even believe Donald Trump was president, to be honest with you.

And when that hit, I remember I had said even before that, that I couldn't support Donald Trump for president, because of what he had made about the fallen soldier, and he had gone after the fallen soldier, at the -- I think, it was at the convention.

But yes, I mean, sitting there, when this tape came out, I mean, I had a number of colleagues then officially in public said they can't support Donald Trump.

And I can tell you, there was a lot of discussion, there was a lot of hope that Trump would then back out of the campaign, that somehow there would be, the party would be able to put somebody else in there, probably Mike Pence.

And I remember then specifically, when he said, I'm not getting out, I'm going to stay in this race, the discussion among other members of Congress that are Republicans were like, well, he's definitely going to lose now.

But as you all mentioned, in the prior segment, there was so much that happened even after that that it kind of washed under the bus. And the Comey and Hillary Clinton thing was the last thing people were thinking of.

COOPER: Yes. I want to bring in the panel here, as well.

This trial is moving quite fast. Isn't it?

HONIG: It really is. I'm going to -- I'm going to say, you can make Memorial Day plans. I think we're going to have a verdict by Memorial Day. Going to go out on a limb here.

COOPER: Really?

HONIG: Yes, it's moving quickly. I mean, let's think about what's left. Michael Cohen's definitely going to take the stand. And I think that's a week. I think that's four days. David Pecker was two and a half days. But other than--

COOPER: You think Cohen will be on the stand for four days?

HONIG: Yes, including direct and cross-examination.

But other than Michael Cohen, OK, Stormy Daniels is a maybe, Karen McDougal's a maybe. Kellyanne Conway is a maybe, trending towards no, let's just see. And Kaitlan just saying unlikely.

COLLINS: It doesn't make any sense.

HONIG: How long are they going to be? I mean, Hope Hicks was three hours today. Maybe a little more. You'll probably have a few more of these document custodian type witnesses, the interns and the D.A.'s investigators.

But this is moving. Neither side is dragging their feet. The direct exams are as they should be, direct and focused. Defense lawyers sometimes like to drag out these endless cross-examinations. But both Todd Blanche and Emil Bove are former prosecutors. They just have gotten right to the point. This is moving quickly and efficiently.

AIDALA: Well I--

COLLINS: Well and they did something today that they've -- that Trump team has never done, which is stipulate, which basically--

HONIG: Yes. COLLINS: --agree that the sky is blue, and the prosecutors and the defense both agree. And so, that is the sense within the teams that I also spoke with, and maybe two to three more weeks of this.


COLLINS: And what it's going to look like. I think a lot of it relies on, if they do have to continue bringing in witnesses, who are verifying that recordings are real, and texts are real, and Truth Social posts are real here.

AIDALA: So, whatever it's worth, I was in court, Wednesday, on a pretty high-profile case. And the judge adjourned it to Friday, May 31st, I believe. And we were walking out. And I saw the clerk, that, everyone scurried up to the bench, and said dadada -- and then they called us back in, and they said, well, we think there's going to be another big case still going on here.

Now, this is just court offices and clerks guessing. They're not lawyers guessing. But so, they -- we -- they had -- they made us move the date from Friday until Wednesday, when it's a Trump day-off, which is right after Memorial Day. So, my friend here may not be totally off.

HONIG: Yes. I mean, you have to plan for that.

COOPER: You obviously do not have Trump on that witness list that you mentioned, I assume.

HONIG: He's not taking the stand. I mean, no, he's already bailing out, right?

He's -- and he's doing it exactly the way we predicted on this show. He's going to say, as he's already started to do, look, they bear the burden of proof. My lawyers have demolished their witnesses, so thoroughly, that there's no need for me to take the stand.

And tactically, I mean, that, to me is the exact right call. I'm sure you would be begging him not to take the stand.

AIDALA: Begging? I would handcuff him to -- I would handcuff him to the table.

FARAH GRIFFIN: By the way, this is, in many ways, I think for the general public, one of the least important Trump cases.

And I think seeing this and even learning some new information, from Hope Hicks under oath, underscores why January 6, a case with so much public scrutiny and things that people actually want to see resolution on, it's so important that it be tried before the election. There's so much new information that could come out. Having folks, who've been reticent to testify, have to under oath.


FARAH GRIFFIN: And I don't think that's likely. COOPER: Yes, Congressman, I mean, do you think the outcome of this trial is going to matter politically, one way or another?

KINZINGER: I think it'll have an impact. I don't think it's going to necessarily be a decisive impact.

But if he's guilty, and he's guilty of a felony, it will always say, convicted felon Donald Trump. And it's going to make a difference around the margins. And in an election, frankly, where I mean, it could be decided by a few thousand votes, in a few states? It's certainly not going to help him. And it may hurt him just a little bit.


COLLINS: I mean, we said the same thing, when he was impeached, when he was indicted. I mean, he is now the presumptive Republican nominee. People were -- didn't believe he could get here.

I think there is a lot of skepticism. I don't think we know the political impact, because I don't think the trial has been good for them. They went into it thinking, it's a no-known. We already had all of this out there. And he's still won the election.

But to Abby's point, he also lost in 2020. And it's not guaranteed. They don't -- I mean, the numbers, when you've been looking at the polls, which are just a snapshot, have been pretty close, between Trump and Biden, and they've become more even, as we've gotten closer to the summer. And so, we don't know.


PHILLIP: Yes. We don't. And we may not know, in general, because between now and when this trial ends, and when the election is, is approximately 50,000 lifetimes, like, so many things can happen between now and then.

However, anytime the voters are reminded of all of the things that Donald Trump comes with? That is generally not a good thing for Donald Trump. He has really benefited from being able to have some space, between his last presidency and now.


PHILLIP: And that's actually what's been the hardest thing for the Biden campaign to deal with.


I want to thank everybody in the panel. Thank you for spending Friday night with us.

Congressman as well, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, appreciate it.

The news continues. So does CNN's special primetime trial coverage. Have a great weekend, everybody. We'll be right back after a short break.