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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Stormy Daniels Wraps Testimony After Combative Cross- Examination; Ex-Trump Attorney, Michael Cohen: I'm Kind Of "Looking Forward" To Testifying; GOP Sen. Scott At Courthouse To Support Trump. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 09, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Just about 9 PM, here in New York, a fascinating day 14 of the Trump hush money criminal trial, now in the books.

Stormy Daniels wrapped up two days on the stand, managing to turn a portion of defense cross-examination, aimed at undermining her credibility, into some embarrassing moments for the former President. At one point, saying that if she were making up her story, about sex with Donald Trump, quote, "I would have written it to be a lot better."

Today also saw testimony, from a Trump Organization bookkeeper, about how closely he monitors the checks he writes, detailing the attention he paid to amounts considerably smaller than the $35,000 checks he wrote to Michael Cohen.

The day ended with Judge Juan Merchan rejecting another Trump motion for a mistrial, and denying his request, to modify the gag order he's under, so he can talk about Stormy Daniels.

And capping it all off, Stormy Daniels tweeted this evening, saying this about the former President, quote, "Real men respond to testimony by being sworn in and taking the stand in court. Oh...wait. Nevermind."

Back with the panel.

Joining us, conservative lawyer, George Conway, who was in court today.

What were your takeaways?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE ATLANTIC": My takeaway was that the continued cross-examination of Stormy Daniels was a complete disaster, and a fiasco for the defense. I mean, as Elie --

COOPER: Because it was a rabbit hole, they didn't need to go down?

CONWAY: It just was just -- it just went on and on and didn't -- they didn't have anything on her. And you got to confine crosses to basically serve -- a few short lines of stuff that's good. They didn't do that.

I think what happened was they had a day off. And Necheles is a very good lawyer by reputation. I can -- you can even tell just by the way, she conducted herself, she knows how to cross-examine a witness, and knows how to ask questions.

But she was -- she's -- her client is a narcissistic, sociopath, and who is obsessed with proving the lie, that he didn't have anything to do with Stormy Daniels.

And so, they went off on this whole tangent, on basically, it doesn't -- it does -- in a lot -- the defense's position should be it doesn't really matter whether that happened or not. Because even though it was extortion money, you know, even though it was extortion money, it still could be a crime.

But when trying to prove something that happened, didn't happen, is just, it's just counterproductive. And it was -- it just got to the point of ridiculousness, where she's asking Stormy about basically a map of South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, to figure out whether or not she was walking in her heels, one block or two, and where she took a cab. It was just garbage.

And it was embarrassing, and to the point where, if you control the wit -- that by keeping your cross simple and short, you can control the witness. But the longer you go, the more the witness can pop off at you.

And this woman is way smarter than Necheles' client. And she got some really good -- I mean, I thought I saw jurors, at some point, trying to do what I was trying to do, which was suppress laughter, at some of the -- at some of the shots that Stormy got into -- got in into the record. It was just -- it was just a complete waste of time.

The good news for the defense is that's not what this case is going to be about, in the -- at the end of the day. The pros -- I mean, the defense made the mistake also of putting this all into -- they could have just stipulated to that we're not going to contest what happened in South Lake Tahoe, and we're just going to focus the jury in on the fact of whether or not there is proof that Donald Trump knew about the records, that we claim or that the defense -- that the prosecution claims were falsified.

Now, let's leave apart the fact that he signed some of this stuff with a backup next to it, and with -- and he carefully read it, it was $35,000 to his lawyer, who hadn't really done that much for him, let's leave that aside. That's what this issue that if he gets off, that's how he's going to get off.


CONWAY: By leaving this issue open about what happened in that hotel room, they invited the prosecution to dump all the stuff in the record.

Then they failed to object to a lot -- some of the stuff that should have -- they should have objected to, like the bit about whether or not he wore a condom. I mean, the judge said today, he didn't think that should have gone in, but there was no objection.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Well to the -- think about the amount of money and what -- how closely he pays attention to that, it didn't get anywhere near as much attention as the Stormy Daniels cross- examination.

But Madeleine Westerhout, who got on the stand, and was the last witness today, and she'll be back on the stand tomorrow morning. She was Trump's gatekeeper, inside the White House, and basically was the liaison, who was -- his executive assistants, at Trump Organization, Trump Tower, they trained her of how to basically do that out of the White House.

And there was one moment that the prosecution clearly brought up, where there was an email between her and Rhona Graff, Trump's assistant, here in Trump Tower, about buying a frame -- a frame from Tiffany's, next door, because they didn't have any empty ones for a picture of Trump's mother that they wanted to put.

And Rhona Graff responded in the email, and said OK, but the frames are about $650 with a 10 percent discount. Can you check with him if that's how much he wants to spend?


This is while Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, and he was -- and Rhona, who knows him better than anyone, essentially, was still checking to see if that was too much money, for him to spend on a frame, and for her to expense it.

And I think that is where we're going to see this go tomorrow that they're trying to get to the fact that he was a penny-pincher, and he paid attention to where every cent went.

COOPER: I mean --

CONWAY: And paid this guy $35,000 a month, and he has a reputation, around this town, of stiffing law firms. Like you could -- you could -- you can make a long list on Elie's notepad there, all the law firms.

COOPER: Even in the record -- I mean, the recording that Michael Cohen secretly taped of his client, Trump does sort of seem interested in the details of payments. I mean, he's talking about, you know?


COOPER: And in cash?

TOOBIN: Yes. Can we do it in --

COOPER: Can we do it in cash?

TOOBIN: Can we do it in cash? George, let me ask you this question. It seems to me that there is a lot of evidence that Trump in general was very scrupulous about how he was spending his money, and in general looked at documents, very carefully before he signed them.

But there's not any evidence specifically that he looked at these documents. Do you think that's enough, for a conviction?

CONWAY: No. Well and I mean, there is evidence. He signed those checks with the backup.

ARTHUR AIDALA, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: But that's not evidence. That's not -- that's not evidence.

CONWAY: That is evidence. It's documentary --

AIDALA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's -- George? George?

CONWAY: It's documentary evidence.

AIDALA: George, look.

CONWAY: That is evidence.

AIDALA: It's clear how you feel about President Trump, OK? I don't have a feeling one way or the other.


AIDALA: I'm looking at this as a trial attorney.


AIDALA: And I'm looking it as objectively as I can, as a former prosecutor --


AIDALA: -- and as a current criminal defense attorney. What -- there's a big difference. Yes, there's evidence that Donald Trump signed the checks. I've said that.


AIDALA: That's not the crime.

And there's -- Kaitlan, your point about --

CONWAY: Two of the counts --

COLLINS: Don't bring me into this.

AIDALA: Hold on. No, no, your point --

CONWAY: Two of the counts.

AIDALA: Your point about the frame, it's clear that he watches his money. But that's not the crime.

It's that second leap of how does it then get written down, back in New York City. Where is it listed? How is it listed? Is it listed as reimbursements to Michael Cohen? Or is it legal fee to Michael Cohen? There's been no proof whatsoever that Donald Trump had anything to do with how it's listed on the ledger in Trump Tower.


AIDALA: Am I correct?

HONIG: Can I try to frame this for a second? And I'll pose a question to you, George.

If the prosecution stands up tomorrow, and says, Your Honor, at this point, we rest. Can they possibly win?

CONWAY: Yes, they could.

HONIG: They would have to dismiss the case, right?

CONWAY: Not necessarily. I mean, I think there's enough circumstantial evidence that they could infer it. But they need to put some more on it.

HONIG: Right. And so --

AIDALA: Well the judge would order a trial order dismissal.

HONIG: So, so, hey --

AIDALA: You know that.

HONIG: So, so that's --

CONWAY: No, he won't.

HONIG: It would be. I agree with Arthur. I think if the prosecution rested tomorrow, it doesn't go to the jury. So, they need something from Michael Cohen, right?

CONWAY: Yes, they're going to need him.

HONIG: What do you think they need from Michael Cohen?

CONWAY: Basically, he's going to explain --

HONIG: What's the missing link that he needs to get?

CONWAY: The meeting in the Oval Office, in 2018, where they basically discussed --

HONIG: I agree.

CONWAY: -- how to do this. And I think, you know, and I think they're going to do a cross on Michael, that is going to attempt to be brutal, the way they attempted to brutalize Stormy Daniels today. And a lot of people have low expectations for that.

But the fact of the matter is, given everything that they have pointed to so far, from the commencement of the hush, of the catch-and-kill scheme, to the end, everything --

COOPER: Hey, your mic just fell off, so.

CONWAY: My mic just fell.

HONIG: OK. Here.


CONWAY: I'll hold it up.

Basically what Michael has been -- is going to say, has basically been pre-corroborated. So, it's going to be that. But it is going to be the key moment.

HONIG: I think that's exactly right. And that bridges the gap that I think we're seeing here, which is there has to be that last link. And Michael Cohen is going to say it's that meeting in the Oval Office, in 2017, we're going to hear about.

They actually set the foundation for that today, because the woman who testified had an email showing that this meeting was happening, doesn't tell us what's -- what was said. But the jury knows that meeting happened. And Michael Cohen's testimony about that meeting is pivotal.

TOOBIN: But --

COLLINS: Did he actually have --


TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Can I ask a -- this is going to be a dumb question. But the fact that these payments were split up, over the course of a year, to me seems like one of the most fishy elements of this whole scheme.

CONWAY: Oh, yes.

PHILLIP: If he were just going to reimburse Michael Cohen, he could have just written a check --

CONWAY: Right, yes.

PHILLIP: -- that money was there. But the fact that they split it up, it seems to strongly suggest they were trying to make it seem like something that it was not. A retainer that was being paid over the course of a long period of time, right?

CONWAY: And to gross-up, like to gross-up. PHILLIP: Well yes, I mean, regardless of the --

CONWAY: I mean --

PHILLIP: -- regardless of the amount, the means --


PHILLIP: -- to me, I think, the prosecution hasn't explained this or touched on this. But that seems strongly suggestive of a scheme to make it seem like something that it was not.

HONIG: And that's exactly the point. It's not enough, for the prosecution to show Donald Trump signed these checks. He knew they were intended to reimburse Michael Cohen, for the hush money payments.

They have to show that this was part of an effort, to falsify, to falsely structure these, labels these, in the pull-down menu, as lawyer fees, attorney fees, in order to cover up the fact that they were really hush money payments.

TOOBIN: But how does -- but how does Michael Cohen help on that question?


CONWAY: Well, look, at the end of the day, what's a reasonable doubt? A reasonable doubt has to be that there has to be some plausible alternative explanation for all these things that happened. And at the end of the day, it going to be -- I think it's going to be hard for the jury, to believe that Donald Trump didn't know, that these payments were for the --

AIDALA: George, at the end of the day?


AIDALA: An experienced lawyer, of your magnitude, you know what you would say? If you were trying this case, you know what you would say to the jury?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you're one of the luckiest juries around, because you got to meet Mr. Reasonable Doubt. You saw him walk in here. You saw him take the stand. If there's any human being on the planet Earth, that should be -- his picture should be next to the definition, reasonable doubt, it's Michael Cohen.


CONWAY: Ah, no, no. See --

AIDALA: And if you have reasonable Cohen --

CONWAY: You could cross-examine Michael Cohen.

PHILLIP: But why -- but why is that? AIDALA: Why? His history of being a liar --

CONWAY: You're not going to be --

AIDALA: -- being a fraud. He just got in trouble --

CONWAY: As opposed to the defendant's?

AIDALA: He just -- the defendant -- the defendant's credibility, if unless he takes the stand is not on trial.

CONWAY: It is because -- because --

AIDALA: It is not.

CONWAY: Because he's been saying --

AIDALA: You know.

CONWAY: -- all sorts of stuff.

AIDALA: No, no, no. The defendant --

CONWAY: They've been showing him lying, and lying, and lying --

AIDALA: The defendant may not even --

CONWAY: -- and lying, and lying.

AIDALA: No, no he's not --

CONWAY: It is. But listen --

AIDALA: No, no, no, no.

CONWAY: But -- but --

AIDALA: It is all about Michael Cohen just -- Abby, you asked me a question, why? Within two months ago, he got in trouble, Michael Cohen, for submitting fake cases --

COLLINS: Arthur --

AIDALA: -- to a judge when he has his probation.

CONWAY: And --

COLLINS: Hold on.

AIDALA: He lied to a federal judge --

CONWAY: Show us --

AIDALA: -- two months ago.

COLLINS: Can I ask you -- CONWAY: Show us something that he lied about, that has something to do with what he's saying on the stand.

AIDALA: It all goes to credibility.


AIDALA: They're going to destroy his credibility.

CONWAY: They're not going to destroy his credibility.

COOPER: Kaitlan --

CONWAY: Everybody's --

AIDALA: He's in Otisville.

CONWAY: -- in disguise (ph).

AIDALA: The guy spent Christmas in Otisville. Everyone should know that's a prison.

COLLINS: I really hate to --

CONWAY: They let him -- fine.

COLLINS: -- interrupt this really intellectual debate that we're having.

But can I ask you a question about the Michael Cohen thing, because we have heard everything about his credibility. We will when he takes the stand, which we expect next week.

Madeleine Westerhout is there to testify today and tomorrow, about a meeting, where there's an email. She's asking for Michael Cohen to send his Social Security numbers, date of birth, everything you need to get into the White House. There's the date of when that meeting is.

We actually have this sound bite of Michael Cohen, when he's testifying, before the House Oversight Committee, in 2018, about that meeting, at the White House, and essentially what happened.



In February of 2017, one month into his presidency, I'm visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. And it's truly awe-inspiring. He's showing me all around, and pointing to different paintings.

And he says to me something to the effect of, don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were FedExed from New York. And it takes a while for that to get through the White House system.

As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000, not long thereafter.


COLLINS: OK. So, we know that the meeting's set up. We have someone who's testifying about the FedEx and how that worked. And you have Michael Cohen testifying that. So it's not like it's just his word alone.

AIDALA: But it's --

COLLINS: There is other extenuating --

AIDALA: But Kaitlan, all he just proved is that he got checks from Michael --

CONWAY: OK. I mean --


AIDALA: He got checks from the --

COLLINS: He said the words, the first time.


CONWAY: Doing it a nice defense thing.

AIDALA: And I said, doing it, all said he's allowed to re --

PHILLIP: But he also --

AIDALA: -- reimbursed.

PHILLIP: But he also proved that Donald Trump -- Donald Trump confirmed that he was fully aware that he was being --

COOPER: Right.

PHILLIP: -- reimbursed --

COOPER: He's tracking the FedEx number.

AIDALA: But that's not the crime.


AIDALA: Abby, but that's not a crime.

PHILLIP: I mean, by being reimbursed --

CONWAY: My friend on the other side of table --

PHILLIP: Again, this is why I think --

CONWAY: -- is doing the perfect defense lawyer thing --

AIDALA: It's not a crime.

TOOBIN: No, but -- but --

CONWAY: -- which is basically chop up all the evidence --

AIDALA: It's not a crime.

CONWAY: -- bit by bit.

TOOBIN: But George, no.

CONWAY: And to make it a said-about (ph).

TOOBIN: I don't think that's entirely fair, because I mean, yes, I think, it is quite -- it's going to be very clear to the jury that these -- this money was a reimbursement, it wasn't a legal fee. But the corporate records being falsified. How do you tie Trump to the corporate records being falsified?

CONWAY: Because --

TOOBIN: That I think is still problematic.


CONWAY: Because he knew that's what -- that's what was going on, that it was being done on his behalf, and to be signing these things that say that they're legal reimbursements, he knew and he's getting -- and it's grossed up, but he could, you know, he you think he didn't figure out that, wait a minute. She -- this was $130,000, and I'm writing checks for $35,000 a month? I mean, he's a dumb guy. But he's not that dumb.

COOPER: Has Michael Cohen publicly said that Trump knew that these -- that it was being filed as legal expenses?

TOOBIN: Not that I'm aware of.

HONIG: Michael Cohen has publicly said a million times that Trump is as guilty as can be. And I think this is important. When we're talking about this meeting --

COOPER: Right. Right. But he hasn't -- but he hasn't --

TOOBIN: But that's -- yes, that's a different issue.

HONIG: He hasn't gotten to that level of legal specificity.

COOPER: He -- I mean, but he's --


COOPER: He's had a podcast. He's written a book called "Revenge." You would think if that was --

HONIG: Right. COOPER: -- something he was going to testify to --


COOPER: -- he would have mentioned it all.

HONIG: And this is exactly the point. We're going to get into a meeting here. We know the meeting happened. There's documentation of that. But what happened and what was said is going to entirely come down to Michael Cohen's word.

And it's really not a question for the jury of who's a bigger liar, Michael Cohen or Donald Trump. Prosecutors have the burden.

And if the jury hears Michael Cohen's account of what happened, including what he just said there and decides, we don't trust this guy beyond a reasonable doubt? There's no number on it, but a very high standard? Then they have the right to say, not guilty.

PHILLIP: I think that --

HONIG: It's not a Trump versus Cohen. It's do we trust Cohen, to that level of reasonable doubt.


PHILLIP: I think Arthur is making a good point about the dropdown menu. But I still have questions about whether that's really the standard.

I mean, if any -- if there are kingpins, who are convicted of crimes that involve things that they don't physically have to do themselves, I mean do they have to do the dropdown menu themselves to be guilty of that crime?

TOOBIN: No, certainly not.

PHILLIP: So, I guess, where do we go? What is between doing the dropdown menu yourself, and what the prosecutors need to --

COOPER: I mean, would he --


COOPER: Would he have known that there's a limited, you know, whether you notice it's a dropdown menu, but that there's a limited number of ways to code and expense. I mean, if he's been a penny-pincher and monitored expenses and FedEx packages, would he have known, oh, yes, there's six things you can code it as legal issues -- legal --

AIDALA: Prosecutor.

PHILLIP: Well -- well --

AIDALA: Number one, the prosecutor got to prove that. But one more thing, Anderson. There is another piece of this. It's not just the bookkeeping. They then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt it was done to commit another crime. And we haven't -- what evidence is there have been so far, articulating what crime that is?

Allegedly, when I was in court today, I heard they're going to call a federal election law expert, or maybe a state election law expert. So there's the bookkeeping part.

COOPER: Well it's a -- it's a campaign contribution.

AIDALA: And then there's what's the next crime?

COOPER: Isn't that what it is?

AIDALA: But it's -- but no, because it came out of his own money.

CONWAY: No. No. But it's illegal --

AIDALA: It came out of -- it's his money.

CONWAY: No. Under Federal Election Campaign Act, it would be illegal. If I were running -- if I were running for something or other, and I wanted to contribute money to my campaign, and Kaitlan fronted the money, and then I reimbursed her, and then I didn't disclose it? I'd go to jail.

TOOBIN: That's a violation, yes.

CONWAY: That's a violation. It's not hard.

COOPER: George Conway, it's good to have you. Thank you.

Coming up next, more from the full trial transcript, just out.

Also, in light of all we've just been saying, in so many ways about Michael Cohen, hear what he is saying for himself tonight, about the prospect of taking the stand.

And later, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Harry Litman, joins us. His thoughts from his time in court today.



COOPER: After a day that saw Stormy Daniels finish testifying, the prosecution saying they won't be calling Karen McDougal. That leaves Michael Cohen as perhaps the last and biggest name prosecution witness still to come.

Speaking today on the MeidasTouch Law podcast, Cohen said he's expected to be called to the stand next week, and sounded happy to testify.


COHEN: I'm kind of looking forward to it because again, can't be finished with something unless you start it, right? It's kind of like an entrepreneurial mindset. You can't be in it, unless you're willing to get in it. And so, there we go. You know, sooner this thing starts, the sooner this thing finishes. And that way I can, yes, this too shall pass.


COOPER: We'll be looking ahead to that until the moment comes, and no doubt looking back on it for a long time as well.

Right now, John Berman is back with more from the proceedings today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: You guys were talking about how there has been a lot of evidence, and a lot of testimony, about how closely Donald Trump looks at finances, looks at things about money.

And Madeleine Westerhout, who was his White House assistant, gatekeeper, was asked about an exchange that she had, over an invoice that came in front of her.

And this is the testimony from the prosecutor, Rebecca Mangold, asking the questions. What's the total amount of the invoice?

Westerhout says $6,974.

Mangold says, looking at how the handwriting towards the top, do you know whose handwriting that is?

Westerhout says, I believe that's Rhona Graff's.

That's Trump's Organization assistant.

Mangold says, can you read what's written in Ms. Graff's writing?

And then Westerhout says "Dear Mr. President, if Winged Foot," which is the golf club in Westchester, New York, "will allow me to suspend your membership for four or eight years, do you want me to look into it, or do you want me to continue paying annual dues and the food minimum?" I believe that's just "RG." The initials.

Do you see the handwriting below that?

Westerhout says yes.

Whose is that?

Westerhout says, that's the President.

Mangold says, do you know what type of pen was used for the President's handwriting?

Westerhout says it looks to be a Sharpie.

We've heard Sharpie all over the testimony so far.

Then Mangold says what's written below the note in Mr. Trump's handwriting?

Westerhout says, "Hey."

Mangold says, is there -- handwriting -- something else written in the President's?

And then Westerhout says yes. "ASAP." OK.

In other words, yes, pay the $6,000 dues to Wing Foot, ASAP, OK.

So again, this is Donald Trump being -- paying very close attention to his golf dues with the food privileges.

COLLINS: And they showed the document in the courtroom. It actually said yes, pay, OK.


COLLINS: I mean, making clear, one, she's checking, do you still want to pay this membership, while you're President of the United States? And he says yes. But then also, it's when Madeleine Westerhout testifies about the other financial conversation about the frame that she had.

And so, I don't know where they're going with this tomorrow. It's going to be much more about Michael Cohen, and his appearances at the White House, I assume. But they are clearly trying to get at what they could even see from Rhona Graff's emails and her concern about his spending.

COOPER: Arthur, you were in the court for the beginning of her testimony, Madeleine Westerhout.


COOPER: What did you think of her?

AIDALA: Well the first question was, are you here, because you want to be here? Are you here under subpoena? And she made it clear that she was there under subpoena.

And it was -- she does appear to be particularly nervous. It were very simple questions. It was about FedExes, and how the checks went back and forth, and if there was one missing. And she made it clear there were checks he refused to sign, or like, but not told her, they just would go, come back to her unsigned.


My understanding was in the afternoon, she was very gracious, talked a lot about him and Melania, or at least touched upon on how he would call her, and he was -- I mean, she paints a picture of him being a doting husband, which I don't really know if that's an accurate statement.

But that's when she said how before he was going on Marine One, he would call her and look out the window and wave.

And then, she just broke out crying, I think, because, you know, it looked that witness -- we've spoken about this.


AIDALA: That witness stand is -- I got to testify at one time against a client, who took a phone number, and put it on my name.

So, I had been representing him. While I'm representing him, this is all public record, while I'm representing him, he takes out a phone number and puts it under Arthur Aidala. And he's making like criminal calls that was in my name.

And then, I had to go and testify against my own client in federal court, which was --

BERMAN: And you cried?

AIDALA: And I cried. No, no, but I -- you know, I was really nervous. I have no problem admitting to you.

COOPER: Yes. It's --

AIDALA: I was really nervous.

COOPER: It's hard testifying on the stand.


COOPER: I mean, it's not --

AIDALA: And then, when you're testifying at someone who clearly she's fond of, and you look around that room and it's packed with people. Yes, it's emotional.

PHILLIP: I mean, this is not actually relevant to this particular case. But it is interesting to me that bringing up Melania and the family. I mean, Madeleine was fired from the White House, because she was trashing other members of the Trump family to the media, when at a dinner.

So the baggage, and one of the reasons she feels so bad is because as she's said, publicly, she feels bad that she had a moment of poor judgment, and in the process said a lot of bad things about the Trump family.

Now, with Trump sitting in front of her, she had an opportunity, it looks like she took it, to say some nice things about Trump, to say some nice things about his relationship with his wife, and so on and so forth.

COOPER: She --

TOOBIN: No, but I'm interested -- what I'm so interested in about these financial things, is, they have done a great job, of showing how meticulous Trump is, about even small expenditures, from someone who claims to be a billionaire.

But the thing that I keep coming back to is, did Trump know how these expenditures were characterized on the corporate records? Because that's the crime in this case. And that's not covered by that testimony.

BERMAN: No. And there's nothing in any -- and I've got a stack of transcripts now in my office like as tall as I am, which is 6-4. And none of it --

AIDALA: You -- what?

BERMAN: None of it gets to that. But what you do see is what they're leading up to, which is Michael Cohen, who is going to have to answer to all this. And even in the Madeleine Westerhout testimony, it was setting the table for Michael Cohen.

There's the exchange, you showed his testimony before Congress. But they talk about an email exchange that Westerhout had with Cohen, prior to this February 2017 meeting.

The prosecutor says, what's the subject line of this email?

And this is an email exchange with Michael Cohen.

Westerhout says, Wednesday meeting.

Mangold, can you please read the content of the email to the jury?

Westerhout says, yes. "Michael, we're confirmed for 4:30 on Wednesday. What I need from you is the following: Full name as it appears on your ID. Date of birth. Social Security number. U.S. citizen, yes or no. Born in U.S., yes or no. Current city and state of residence. Thanks, Madeleine."

Prosecutor says, do you recall why you were sending this email?

And then Westerhout says, Mr. Cohen was coming in to meet with the President.

Mangold says, do you recall seeing him when he came to visit?

Westerhout says, not specifically.

Mangold says, did this visit, ultimately, occur?

Westerhout says yes.

HONIG: So much of what the prosecution has been doing, over the last three weeks, is pre-corroborating Michael Cohen. When he gets on that stand, they want the jury to think oh, I remember this. I recognize this. We saw a document about this. We heard another piece of testimony about this. Even if it's a small thing like this. Now they know yes, that meeting absolutely happened.

So when Michael Cohen gets up and says what happened in that meeting, they'll go OK, at least he's not completely fabricating that. There was an Oval Office meeting.

We used to call it oak-tree corroboration as prosecutors, meaning if there's a murder scene, and someone mentions, oh, yes, it was next to an oak tree. I don't -- go take a photo of the oak tree. It doesn't prove that the murder happened. But it can help support your witnesses, just on a small detail. It can help prop them up. That's what they're bracing for.

AIDALA: I think it's going to come down to, with Michael Cohen, because I agree with everything he's saying, Elie's saying. It's going to come down to like, honestly, three sentences in that meeting.


AIDALA: So because just to be clear, it's got to be -- I think it's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, he's tight with money. He signed those checks. He knew where they were going and what they were for.

It's going to come down to Michael Cohen saying, and I said to him, I'm just going to register them as legal expenses and not for real, OK?

And Trump will -- he'll say Trump nodded or Trump said OK.

And then he'll say, and by the way, you know, we're doing this, don't forget we did this, so that you would win the election, or -- it's going to come down to like sentences.

COOPER: But -- but --

AIDALA: Not whether the checks were signed --

TOOBIN: That's -- that's --

AIDALA: Or the meeting took place.

TOOBIN: That's unfair. There's a whole universe of witness -- there's more to it than just like what exchanged.

AIDALA: OK. You made the point a minute ago, saying --

COOPER: But it wasn't Michael Cohen, putting in the writing down --

TOOBIN: Right, no.


AIDALA: No. But what Abby said was, how high or how low, right, does the hierarchy have to be? I think if Trump just says, file it as legal expenses, even though it's not, I think that's enough that someone else --


AIDALA: -- he directs someone else to do it. PHILLIP: It seems to me that the prosecution has to establish why didn't they do it the other way, right, like, what is the other way? And why didn't they choose that path?

To me, the most obvious other way is just to give Michael Cohen the money, say that it was a reimbursement, anything, it literally could be for anything.

They didn't do it that way. And the question is why. That question has not been answered by the prosecution. In addition to them not answering the question of not only why did they do it that way, but did Trump recognize that there was a choice made about how to do it, and that they chose the illegal way, essentially.

COOPER: John Berman, thanks very much.

Coming up, another moment from the transcript, this time from Judge Merchan. His final words to the former President's attorneys, about how they opened the door to Stormy Daniels' detailed account of her time with Donald Trump.



COOPER: Want to read the judge's final word from that exchange with the defense, which ended today's hearing. It's about why he said prosecutors had a right to have Stormy Daniels testify, about an alleged sexual encounter with the former President back in 2006. Quoting from Judge Merchan. "And the fact that you went after her

right on opening statements, attacking whether -- attacking, your claim that they never had sex, you didn't attack that there was a falsification of business records, you didn't attack any of the other elements of the offense, you said my client denies that there was ever a sexual encounter.

Again, as I said before, right off the bat, that puts your client's word against Ms. Daniels' word. And that, in my mind, allows the People to do what they can to rehabilitate her and to corroborate her story. Your motion for a mistrial is denied."

Joining us now is former U.S. Attorney, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Harry Litman, who has been in the courtroom during the trial.

What was the dynamic like, between the judge and the defense team, in those 10 or 15 minutes in the court?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. It was not like a standard legal argument. It wasn't low-key and academic. It bristled. And there was a sort of dynamism to it that you don't normally have.

COOPER: Which, by the way, he has not, in previous messages, to the defense table.

I mean, when I was there last week, he said to, to Todd Blanche -- that was the day after Trump had claimed that he wasn't allowed to testify -- in a very calm way, he said, let me just, you know, maybe your client is misinformed. Let me remind him, it's his total legal right.

LITMAN: Right.

COOPER: He was bending over backwards to be calm.

This is a different tenor.

LITMAN: I think that's right. It's not as if he was haranguing him. But it was definitely very sort of pitched. He attacked the professionalism of Necheles. He said, I can't trust Blanche. But it was if he let them both speak their piece.

And then, it was almost as if he had already crafted an opinion that he could -- he'd said, I'd gone back and read the transcripts. You're wrong about this. But he really was -- it was fairly blistering. And he, it wasn't simply denying on the merits, but actually assailing the lawyers for trying to --

COOPER: Do you think not objecting more, by the defense, was a -- was a misstep by the Trump team?

LITMAN: For sure. And it was one of the things he actually cited. And again, I mean, this was the point that seemed to have no answer. They've made this probably because Trump insists on it. The big dispute, was there any sex at all? And when they do that, in opening, Merchan's point was that means all these messy details, as they call them, the other -- one's messy details are credibility for --

AIDALA: Right.

LITMAN: -- for someone in Stormy Daniels' position. In other words, you have to let her explain, so the jury can evaluate overall the truth of the story that's been so put, at hearing.

COOPER: What was your perception of the cross-examination by Necheles?

LITMAN: Yes, all in all, I thought it was not so effective. You really look for control. And Christmas on cross. And not only did she take a lot of -- you know, she landed a couple jabs. But again, because of this dynamic that they've said, it never happened, she needed a knockout punch, and came nowhere near that, I thought.

And then, I think was a little over-aggressive, and the jury perceived it, in particular, when she basically implied, since you're a porn star, that how could you possibly be cowed by a 60-year-old billionaire looming over you? It seemed almost insulting in that way. So, I thought that she took a lot of chant -- lead with her chin a lot and got hit with it.

And her very last question, isn't it a fact that you are making? No. And that's the end. So that, as opposed to sort of leading the jury to think that result on its own, and she went for broke a lot, and it was a mistake on her. TOOBIN: Harry, you've been in the courtroom a lot.


TOOBIN: Who's winning?

LITMAN: Well, look, the D.A. is winning, because of the basic dynamic. They have really, from Pecker, a very good choice for starters, drawn the whole narrative. We had today, it was one of five -- a pretty big day to day. You -- normally one, two things happen in a court. There were like five or six pretty big things.

And one of them, a lot of people didn't even notice, but came in through Stormy. His admission in the Stormy suit that he did in fact reimburse Cohen, right? So, I mean, that's a -- that's a pretty big one. Where do they go from here? The Weisselberg writing. So Weisselberg and Cohen do it together. They -- were they freelancing?


The basic story, I think, is strong. There may be technical details, and as you know, a couple lawyers on the jury, about stitching up the precise intent with some of the precise 34 pieces of paper. They always had that problem. But the battle of the narrative, in part because of the stakes they've drawn, it never happened with Stormy, and emphasizing that, I think the D.A.'s winning.

COOPER: Can somebody remind me? I mean I should know this.


COOPER: But why isn't Allen Weisselberg testifying?

HONIG: Well couple of reasons.

LITMAN: It's --

HONIG: One, he's in prison.

COOPER: Well I know he's in prison.

HONIG: But that's not actually the full --

TOOBIN: He could bring in someone.

HONIG: That's not the full answer.

COOPER: There are buses. You can put somebody in --

HONIG: Right. Right.

COOPER: -- and bring them.

HONIG: The answer is he would clearly take the Fifth, I think. And often if that's the case, then judges will say, don't bother. I mean, you don't bring someone in. I know what happens in movies. But you don't bring a guy in, and he gets up in front of the jury and says, I take the Fifth.

AIDALA: And they don't know what he's going to say.

HONIG: Right. If it's clear he'd say --


AIDALA: He could say, I did it all by myself, like so he's not going to talk to the prosecutor --

COOPER: He's untrustworthy in his first case?


TOOBIN: Yes, yes, yes.

AIDALA: Yes, he may say, Donald Trump knew nothing about this. I was the bookkeeper for 35, whatever, in 40 years. I was the one who classified it that way. That's why he wouldn't be able to do it.

LITMAN: It's a special problem. They sort of have it with Rhona Graff, who they went through quickly. Keith Schiller, are we going to see him? He comes in a lot today.

AIDALA: Right.

LITMAN: There are some people, who are super-loyal to Trump, and they're shying away from.

COOPER: But could the defense call Weisselberg?


TOOBIN: Well and they -- they could. But he might take the Fifth.

LITMAN: But he may -- and talk about a cross-examination.

TOOBIN: But he would also probably take the Fifth again.


TOOBIN: I mean, regardless of who calls him.

LITMAN: If he doesn't, he's dead-meat.

COOPER: Unless he wanted to do Trump a solid?



AIDALA: And then get indicted again. It's simply --

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, I --

(CROSSTALK) AIDALA: -- possibly.

TOOBIN: I -- yes, that's possible. But I -- it seems like if you are going to take the Fifth, in this subject, you are going to take the Fifth, in this subject. But maybe not. Maybe he wanted to do -- to do.

LITMAN: He's not on the witness list.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: He's not on the defense witness list.

LITMAN: Right.

AIDALA: And it's -- look, the defense hasn't called anyone yet. And they don't have to have someone on their witness.

LITMAN: That's true.

AIDALA: The only thing I want to say about Stormy's cross-examination. First of all, Jeffrey mentioned this a long time ago. I do think they're trying to please Trump, the lawyers are. And that's a balancing act. That's a -- you know, you got a guy paying you a lot of money, to be his lawyer, and he wants it out there that that did not happen.

Susan Necheles, though, leading with her chin, did put up a piece of paper, saying you signed a document, saying you never had sex with Donald Trump, right?

LITMAN: Yes, right.

AIDALA: Yes, I did.

So that was a lie, right?


You know? And so there was --

LITMAN: Right. But the lie they need is -- is the whole story is concocted. That's the thing, because I agree with you. But I think normally even with a very big-shot lawyer, you say, here's how it's going to be, you know? You shut up now, and listen to me. That's what his -- that's what --

AIDALA: That's not easy to do with Trump.

LITMAN: -- own defense (ph).

HONIG: Arthur, what you'd would?


HONIG: I mean, you've represented some big egos, big personalities. I'm sure there's been times when -- AIDALA: Beg.

HONIG: You beg them?

AIDALA: You beg. I mean, I -- you know, you beg them, like listen, bro --

HONIG: A lot.

AIDALA: -- I've been doing this a long time.


AIDALA: You got to trust me on this. And we could talk to -- I mean, I've done it. We'll talk to three other lawyers. If they disagree with me, we'll do it your way.

COLLINS: OK. But so several times, on Tuesday, Trump was nudging Susan Necheles to get up and object.


COLLINS: And we saw her do it at least twice after he nudged her. And today, the whole criticism from the judge was why didn't you object more? I mean, it was -- Trump was the one --

AIDALA: Listen, obviously that was --

COLLINS: -- nudging her to object more.

AIDALA: -- and clearly was a mistake. Look, we all make mistakes.

COLLINS: But we always talk about Trump influencing his attorneys. And trust me, he does. And it's incredibly difficult to be a Trump attorney. We've talked to many of the former ones.


COLLINS: But he was the one urging her to object more. She was not objecting more. And maybe she would have been --


AIDALA: Well it goes to Elie -- what Elie said before. It also, like you don't want to make it look like you're hiding anything from the jury, like, oh my god, she's got something we don't want anyone to hear. So, it's a balancing act.

COOPER: Harry Litman, thank you. Appreciate to have your perspective.

LITMAN: Thank you very much. Always.

COOPER: Ahead, the pushback from a key ally of the former President, who came to the courthouse today. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And joining the former President in court today, one of his key allies on the Hill, from his home state of Florida, Senator Rick Scott, a potential vice presidential contender.

Here he is, defending Trump at the courthouse, by talking about several whom Trump cannot mention himself under his gag order.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): What he is going through is just despicable.

Let's look at who involved -- who's involved in doing this. The lead prosecutor was the number three person at that Biden -- the Biden Justice Department. The judge's daughter is a political operative.

The lead prosecutor's wife is a significant donor to Democrats.


COOPER: And joining our panel now, former Trump White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Interesting to see Scott there, kind of singing the song that Trump wants him to sing.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it was so thirsty. Listen, yes, he's somebody who loves --

COOPER: He was so thirsty.

FARAH GRIFFIN: He'd love to be considered as a vice presidential contender. He also has aspirations to replace Mitch McConnell as the leader in the Senate, both things that obviously require him being in Donald Trump's good gracious -- graces.

We've seen this before. We saw Vivek Ramaswamy show up at another courthouse, Marjorie Taylor Greene. It's a way to endear themselves to Trump.

He remembers people who are with him at his low points. Mark Meadows, for example. 2016, after Access Hollywood, when people were thinking about walking away from Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, his wife and other congressional spouses went on the campaign trail, to say, be with this guy, despite this tape. He never forgot it. He kept Jim Jordan close to him. He kept Mark Meadows close, because he remembered that.

So, Donald Trump will take note of this. He's going to --

COLLINS: Also --

FARAH GRIFFIN: He's going to appreciate it.

COLLINS: The Senate was voting today. That -- I mean, there were -- they were casting votes on important bills today. COOPER: You know, there's, you know.

AIDALA: Priorities.

HONIG: There's a hundred of them.

AIDALA: Priorities.

COOPER: Potato. Potato.

How much do you think the aggressive cross-examination actually pleased Donald Trump today?

FARAH GRIFFIN: I think it probably pleased Trump. But I think it really hurt the defense.

I think this juxtaposition, where you have Maddie Westerhout up, and they're talking about oh, you were 28, you made some mistakes? But then attacking Stormy Daniels, who was 27 at the time that this encounter with Donald Trump took place? The jury can piece that together, and see that there is such different treatment for these two women.


There is the -- the hard part of being, serving Donald Trump, the client is that often catering to his instincts, and what he wants to see is actually totally unhelpful to the case, you're trying to win for him. And I think that they went way too far today.

AIDALA: It's funny. Anderson, I can just say a guest that's been now on CNN, retired Judge George Grasso, who comes on my radio show with me every night. He's been in court every day. And just to show you how people react differently.

He said on my radio show, tonight, today was the best day for the defense, the combination of attacking Stormy, and then the Secretary bragging about the Trump family, and how he said, they've never had a day so consistently, but with positive stuff for Trump.

I'm not saying he's right. But it just shows you like how you don't know what jurors are thinking.


COLLINS: Well there was one --

FARAH GRIFFIN: -- and to be clear, I do think it was a good -- Maddie Westerhout was incredibly helpful to Donald Trump today.


FARAH GRIFFIN: That was --

PHILLIP: There was a piece of her testimony in particular, about the fallout from the Access Hollywood tape that really seemed -- she was trying to suggest that Trump himself was not all that worried about it. All the worry was over at the RNC.

Whether that -- I mean, maybe, Alyssa, you can speak to that. But whether that is true or not, that undercut the prosecution's argument that Trump was the one, who was -- was part of the panic about how this was going to play in public.

COOPER: I mean, he apologized on video that night.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, I think we forget that --


FARAH GRIFFIN: -- he did apologize, because now that --

COOPER: Which was --

FARAH GRIFFIN: -- seems like something he would never do. He certainly was concerned. And I think Hope Hicks alluded to it, or at least those closest to him were. They were trying to craft this statement. Maddie was at the RNC. So, she wasn't part of these conversations. But there was an acknowledgement that this was a very, very real problem. The vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence, was very concerned at the time.

COOPER: I mean, Hope Hicks testified.



COOPER: She seemed real concerned.

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, and you have to, you know, attorneys, they prepare their clients.

And Maddie very likely watched Hope Hicks' testimony and can take -- get some takeaway from that. And I think, in some ways, came more prepared to be a little bit more effusive of Donald Trump, in ways that Hope maybe didn't quite as much. Leaning into his relationship with Melania, and she was the real boss, what a great boss, he was, giving her these opportunities. And then this key point that she actually was unbothered by the Access Hollywood tape.

HONIG: It's interesting to hear Alyssa talk about Donald Trump's political and PR instincts, which are good. I mean, a lot of times, he defies conventional wisdom. But he's gotten pretty far by following his instincts.

But legal and courtroom instincts are a little bit of a different creation, right? It's -- has to be much more strategic, much more tactical. I wonder if he's his own worst enemy, when it comes to this, when he's pushing his lawyers to do things that could be taken both ways. But I mean, my read certainly was, were disruptive to his defense. He may be about to find out. I guess we'll see.

AIDALA: What -- not tell -- telling stories out of school. But I think --

HONIG: Please do.

AIDALA: -- my educational -- educated guess is the one of the reasons why Joe Tacopina is not his lawyer in that courtroom is because Joe and I were in the D.A.'s office together. I know him very well. He's a brilliant lawyer. He's a great strategist, in that courtroom. Say anything you want. Those jurors love him. But Joe, not -- Joe's not going to take anything his --


AIDALA: His client is never going to tell him what to do. Never. And I -- that may be why Joe's not in that courtroom now.

COLLINS: Well, and they really used a lot of Trump's tactics against him today, with Stormy Daniels. I mean, she was kind of the embodiment of that in several ways.

One, when it came to just his attacks on her, and her attacks on him. They were trying to use her posts about him that were derogatory, as a way to discredit her. And she said, OK, well, I was just responding to him. I mean, he called her a horseface. He called her out at rallies of his.

They also were saying, well, you were just trying to make money off of this, you've got this candle, you've got this T-shirt.

Donald Trump himself has raised so much money off of his indictments as well.

And so, that was an interesting part of this is to see how Trump's own tactics that he has used for years, were being used against him in the cross-examination.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well and I think that the key figures, for proving kind of the second half of this case, are going to be Stormy Daniels and then Michael Cohen, who have been just bloodied up this entire trial. I think she was much better defending herself today. But their honesty called into question.

And then contrasting that with Hope Hicks and Maddie Westerhout, you know, the public didn't see them, but two women, who present so buttoned-up, they speak well, they're authoritative, but then they're also emotional. They're also crying over their caring and like love for Donald Trump and loyalty to him.

It's a very interesting juxtaposition that I could see resonating with a jury. I could see them saying, look at these professional women, who look up to him, admire him. Despite all the horrible things we've heard about him, they still want to be with him.

PHILLIP: And then but the -- the juxtaposition to that is that if the jury believes that that same guy is the guy, who was in Lake Tahoe with Stormy Daniels, that really undercuts a lot of it. I mean, Stormy herself undercuts Trump's credibility as a sympathetic figure. The fact that she exists in this context, the fact that there is even a debate over whether they had sex at that hotel room, when he was 60, and she was 27? If anybody on the jury believes that, it's going to be really hard for them to buy the sob stories, about how great of a boss he was to these other two women.


COOPER: Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it. A lot to digest.

Court is in session tomorrow

The news continues, including our special primetime coverage of the Trump trial, after a short break. We'll be right back.



PHILLIP: Welcome to a special edition of NEWSNIGHT. I'm Abby Phillip in New York, alongside Kaitlan Collins.

Tonight, combat in court, day 14 of Donald Trump's hush money trial, provided a lesson in how not to make friends, how to alienate the judge, and how to maybe alienate the jury as well.