Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Fiery Moment As Trump Attorney Questions Cohen About Key 2016 Text Messages, Phone Call; Final Transcript Released From Day 18 With Cohen Cross-Examination; Trump After Searing Cross-Examination Of Michael Cohen: "A Fascinating Day". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 16, 2024 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is just past 9 PM, here in New York.

Today, the defense, in the former President's hush money trial exploded the tightly-crafted narrative of the prosecution, and scored a hit against a key witness, whose credibility has been an issue from the start, Michael Cohen.

We were -- a lot of us were sitting in the courtroom, along with a room full of people who were watching the cross-examination very closely. It turned into a methodical dissection of Cohen, by defense attorney, Todd Blanche.

Blanche presented text messages, between Cohen, and Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, from October 24th, 2016.

Now, on Monday, Cohen had characterized these exchanges with Schiller, as a way to just to get to then-candidate Trump, to get Trump on the phone, and get final approval for the Stormy Daniels payment scheme. Instead, the texts do not speak of that. Rather, they show that Cohen wanted Schiller's help with a 14-year-old prank-caller, who had apparently been antagonizing Michael -- Cohen for days.

A short time ago, Cohen's texts with the 14-year-old were shown -- that were shown in court were released.

Cohen texts, this number has just been sent to Secret Service for your ongoing and continuous harassment to both my cell as well as to the organization's main line.

The person then responds, it wasn't me. My friend told me to call. I'm sorry for this. I won't do it again.

Cohen then replies, you will need to explain this to Secret Service as we have been receiving dozens of these harassing calls over the past three days. If you are a minor, I suggest you notify your parent or guardian.

The person responds in all caps. I DIDN'T DO IT. And then texts I'm 14. Why it is -- so bizarre. I mean. Sorry.

We're joined now by former federal -- former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

And Michael Cohen's former attorney and current legal adviser, Lanny Davis.

So Lanny, were you -- were you surprised the defense appeared effective in undermining Cohen's credibility, about that phone call to Keith Schiller?

I mean, when he testified, earlier in the week, that call was portrayed as it was a call to Keith Schiller, to get to Trump. There was no mention of this 14-year-old, and wanting to talk to Keith Schiller, to trace the number, and figure out some way to get back at this person.

LANNY J. DAVIS, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: So, no, I wasn't surprised. And I don't think the jury is going to be persuaded by those kinds of mistakes, who are making Michael Cohen the accused, and everybody having fun, calling him a liar on television.

This case is about, as I first was introduced to it, by the prosecutors, my first day, this case is about documents, testimony and corroboration. Michael Cohen is a confirming witness.

Donald Trump loves to change the subject, and his lawyers love to change the subject. They want Michael Cohen to be the one, who's indicted and accused.

So let me just remind you what we've seen in evidence so far. I'm not going to speculate or downgrade a jury's focus on facts. I don't disparage juries. But I'm also not a trial lawyer. So maybe trial lawyers, who do disparage jury -- juries are correct.

But I think that you have to remember, the first element of this crime was corroborated. You don't need Michael Cohen. You had David Pecker. You had Hope Hicks. Everybody knew that the money being paid to Stormy Daniels was for the campaign. It wasn't to protect him from being embarrassed, in front of his wife. That's what the testimony has been so far.


J. DAVIS: And the second most important part of the crime is did Donald Trump lie, when he said they were legal fees?

Well, there is a hot document, meaning a document that's very powerful, and the handwriting verified to be Allen Weisselberg, in which he has three categories of money that Michael spent, on behalf of Donald Trump. One was $130,000, written down in his handwriting, times two, and the three categories added up $420,000 divided by 12.

COOPER: Right.

J. DAVIS: And--

COOPER: But let me just interrupt, because we've gone -- this is all very clear. But Michael Cohen's--

J. DAVIS: And--


COOPER: Sorry. Michael Cohen is clearly important to the prosecution. I mean, he's a critical witness, for the prosecution, in order -- I mean, he's really the only one, who can speak to whether Donald Trump was aware of how this stuff was going to be billed, the full nature of this scheme.

He's the one, who gives that testimony, which is why they're devoting so much time, and taking the risk of putting him on the stand. I know it doesn't go well for Michael Cohen, if he's shown to be lying.

I mean, you're not -- doesn't it seem like today, at the very least, in the end of this morning session, he seemed to be caught, in the very least, a mistake in memory, about this phone call that he had just testified? Not some old lie, but this testimony from in front of this jury. Isn't that a big deal?

J. DAVIS: I can't predict. I don't think jurors will find it a big deal compared to the corroborating evidence of Allen Weisselberg's document that proves that if -- I was going to say to you is $420,000 divided by 12 equals $35,000. Those are the checks that a sitting president, each month, wrote to Michael Cohen.

It's the math, stupid. I was going to do a joke before, Anderson, about James Carville's, the economy, stupid.

It's the math that Allen Weisselberg, that document proves these could not have been legal fees. He divided for $420,000 by 12. He came up with $35,000. And the sitting President, in the Oval Office, wrote Michael Cohen $35,000 checks.

COOPER: Right.

J. DAVIS: On his personal bank account, and paid him $35,000. Those weren't legal fees. If they're not legal fees, they were reimbursements. That makes it a crime. So, those are the documents. That's the testimony of third-parties, including Hope Hicks, very favorable to Mr. Trump.

And so, whether Michael Cohen made mistakes, or is shouted-out by a lawyer, or whatever happens that is entertaining, or a gotcha moment, which I can definitely understand, Anderson, the documents speak for themselves.


J. DAVIS: The testimony speaks for themselves. And we know that the jury will ultimately hear the prosecution.


J. DAVIS: And sum the case up, focus on the Weisselberg document.

COOPER: Lanny--

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Lanny, do you think they never should have--


COOPER: Hold on.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Lanny, it's Kaitlan.


COLLINS: That answer that you just gave to Anderson there, was a little over a minute, close to 90 seconds. That is how long the phone call was with Keith Schiller, that night.

And what Michael Cohen argued today is that he simultaneously talked about the OK for the hush money deal, and these prank calls that he was getting from a 14-year-old.

I mean, is the jury really going to find that credible that in 96 seconds, they had both of those conversations?

J. DAVIS: I think it could be that the jury will hold that against Michael Cohen as not being truthful.

But it's not going to change what I said. This case is about documents that speak for themselves. The Weisselberg document, it's more powerful for the jury to look at, to prove that Donald Trump lied, who's by the way, the one who's indicted, not Michael Cohen.

COLLINS: Absolutely, Lanny. But Lanny?

J. DAVIS: Whether Michael Cohen--



COLLINS: Lanny, that's right. But you also mentioned here the other night that Michael Cohen spent over 100 hours, with prosecutors, not just this office, with this District Attorney, but in general in the New York -- in New York. Did these prank calls ever come up in those conversations, and this is what he was worried about that night?

J. DAVIS: So, you know I'm a lawyer behind closed doors with prosecutors. I wasn't with the federal prosecutors. I was with these prosecutors, right? I can't answer that question. Let me just say that the story that Keith Schiller is saying, now?

Let's see if he testifies. And then, we'll see who's believable. And that's up to the jury.

But I also am expecting Donald Trump to testify, because he said I would testify. He's never taken it back. So, maybe we'll get a chance to see what Donald Trump says, who's not exactly known for truthfulness.

But no, Michael has definitely suffered these things in arrows (ph). When he came to me, he was known to be a liar for Donald Trump.

I don't want to go on another 90 seconds, Kaitlan, sorry, but.

COLLINS: You're allowed to go on for 90 seconds.

J. DAVIS: I know.

COLLINS: I know Jeffrey Toobin has a question for you, as well.

J. DAVIS: I don't want to--

TOOBIN: But do you think they shouldn't have called him? I mean, it sounds like what you're saying, Lanny, is that all this evidence was already in. Do you really think they shouldn't have called Michael Cohen as a witness?

J. DAVIS: I think they had to, because he's the corroborating witness to testimony, documents, emails, text messages, the timeline. So, he is the narrator, confirming what is already in evidence.

Now, they attack the narrator, they change the topic, and they make it about the narrator confirming. And of course, the drama of the case is made by Michael Cohen. And when a lawyer shouts at him, you lie? I want to see if he puts up a witness, and we'll see who's telling the truth.

But of course, he had to testify, Jeffrey. But all he's doing is confirming the testimony of others. And documents don't lie.

COOPER: I know Elie has a question for you.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm sorry. I don't have a question. I have something to say.

COOPER: Oh, Elie.


HONIG: Michael Cohen got blown apart today. Let's be real clear about that. And what was different about this than all his other lies that he's told over the years, all of his things he pled guilty to, his lies to Congress, is this goes to the heart of his testimony.

Prosecutors, by the way, whatever happened to the burden of proof? Why are these defense lawyers saying who's got a better story? It's not, who's got a better story. The prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury decides Michael Cohen lied, they have every right to reject his testimony. This case is over.

There's only two possibilities for what happened today. Michael Cohen lied, about this meeting, which seems to be a conclusion that a lot of people who were in the courtroom are drawing. Or he made a massive mistake.

But you know what? When you're a prosecutor, and you're putting your star witness on, you don't get a whoopsie. You don't get oops, we messed up. They prepared Michael Cohen to an inch of his life. Lanny Davis had a 100-plus hours.

They went through everything with him. They saw that phone call, 8:02 PM. Michael Cohen said, yes, that's, that -- oh, yes, yes, corroboration.

RAY: And it's not just about the witness. It reflects--


HONIG: Hold on. Hold on. Corroboration, corroboration. They missed those texts.

RAY: Yes.

COOPER: Prosecutor screwed up, because if they had seen those texts?

RAY: Reflects poorly on the prosecution.

HONIG: Exactly.

RAY: This is not -- this is not just--

HONIG: Hold on.

RAY: --about how a jury feels about Michael Cohen.


RAY: This is a very sad thing for the prosecution.

HONIG: And--

RAY: And ultimately, what you're going to hear in summation is all this nonsense about witnesses and so forth.

If the jury doesn't believe that the prosecution was well-founded and starts to hate the government's case? And this is an area where the prosecution, overlooked something major, OK, and missed the boat, or sponsored something without taking him through this, and tried to turn this conversation into more than it really was, which is to say something other than it really was? That not just a problem for the witness. That's a problem for the prosecution.

HONIG: And let me just-- EISEN: It's true. But Elie, I was there.

HONIG: And--

EISEN: Michael Cohen did not get blown apart. They landed one punch--

HONIG: You are in a distinct minority.

EISEN: I will--

HONIG: I've talked to a lot of people in that courtroom.

EISEN: If I was there alone, I would feel the same way. They landed one punch on his chin.

HONIG: I'm sure you would.

EISEN: That is not enough. In a cross-examination like this, you've got to land multiple punches. This is a witness.

HONIG: They landed--

EISEN: Now, let me speak.

RAY: Unless you are Joe Lewis (ph).

EISEN: This is a witness, who had bonded with this jury. It is a witness, who has been corroborated by more than 18 days of trial testimony, by other witnesses, many hostile to Cohen, positive for Trump. There's a larger mosaic of evidence.

Now, I've gone on for 90 seconds. You see how much?

COLLINS: I'm not timing it--

EISEN: And I want to make that point too. You see how much you can pack into 90 seconds? There is room to talk about a 14-year-old prank- caller--

COLLINS: No, you're on cable news.

EISEN: And a hush money payment.

COLLINS: You're on cable news--


EISEN: I don't think this was enough.

RAY: Norman, plan -- and plan is possible--

EISEN: And prosecution was ahead on points.

RAY: That's certainly possible.

EISEN: It was not enough. RAY: But Elie's point is whatever happened to beyond a reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence? The government's got to prove this.

EISEN: One -- one--

HONIG: This is not a civil case. This is not like the--


EISEN: One sequence is not enough to create reasonable doubt across the entire case.

It was one time that Blanche tagged him. Did he tag him? Yes. Was it a punch on the chin? Yes. Did he knock Michael Cohen out? No. Cohen stood his ground. He said in there.

Will you say you lied?

I did not lie.

And Cohen was much stronger in the afternoon.

The prosecution was ahead on points. It's a closer case now. They needed a knockout punch. They didn't--

HONIG: And what would a knockout--

EISEN: --get it.

HONIG: What would a knockout punch be if not that? Tell me what a knockout punch is--

EISEN: It would be a series--

HONIG: --on your book.

EISEN: --of lies. And it would be shaking--

HONIG: How many do you need?

EISEN: It would be shaking Michael Cohen.


HONIG: Well let me--

EISEN: It would be getting him to retrench.


EISEN: He didn't back off his point.

HONIG: Me and you, Norm. No one's listening.

Would you, Norm Eisen, send a man to prison, take away his liberty, based on the testimony of Michael Cohen?

EISEN: This is not about--

HONIG: Yes or no. Yes or no.

EISEN: Unlike -- unlike the witnesses on the stand, I don't have to accept your yes or no insistence.

HONIG: Maybe.

EISEN: And I'm not going to.

HONIG: Maybe.

EISEN: This is not about the testimony of Michael Cohen alone.

RAY: This is why we got juries though. They get to decide. It's the beauty of this.

EISEN: It's about a vast amount of corroboration--

RAY: Doesn't matter what we say.

EISEN: --for Michael Cohen. One bad answer is not going to sink this case.

HONIG: And let me -- let me agree with Norm.

COLLINS: You got 90 seconds.

HONIG: I'm going to agree with Norm for a second.

TOOBIN: It's way past 90 seconds.

HONIG: There is substantial corroboration for parts of this transaction.

But ultimately, let me ask you this. I actually don't know the -- I'm interested in your answer. If the jury decides, gets back in that deliberation room and says, we're not going to credit Michael Cohen, eliminate him, pull him out of the case? Is there enough left to convict?



COOPER: Right.

HONIG: So there is the problem.

COOPER: Well I want to--

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And it's Michael Cohen's word.

COOPER: I want to go back to Lanny. Lanny, you're at a disadvantage, because you're on remote. So, it's hard with it. So, I know you're probably chomping at the bit. I want to give you 90 seconds, and we got to go.

J. DAVIS: Well, first of all, totally shocked that Elie Honig makes declarative statements of guilt. It's just shocking. But no surprise there. Thank you, Elie.

And Norm, thank you.

HONIG: What kind of ad hominem attack is this?

J. DAVIS: Thank you. I mean, thank you, Norman, for reminding everybody that Michael has stood up very well. And if you're a juror, you can see an imperfect witness, and still look at facts, as some lawyers said they don't look at facts.


So, let me just end by this note. The corroborating testimony, on the money being about the campaign, is nearly a 100 percent. And that's what Michael Cohen has testified to. So, the jury doesn't have to believe him on that. We have David Pecker. We have Hope Hicks. We have others.

On the issue of whether they were legal fees or reimbursements, which is what the key second element of the crime is, whether they were falsely lodged as legal fees? We do know, from Allen Weisselberg's handwriting, that he took a number, doubled it, and divided it by 12. As James Carville would say, it's the math, stupid. There's nothing about legal fees in that math.

So, those two elements of the crime have been proven. Michael Cohen can be attacked all that -- you all rightfully might say that he wasn't perfect. But there's no doubt that Weisselberg wrote in his own handwriting, $420,000 divided by 12.

COOPER: Right.

J. DAVIS: And that $420,000 from three buckets of money doubled up because of income tax. That's the case. And whatever you say about Michael Cohen, he has stood up to corroborate -- corroborate. He's a corroborating witness. That's my view.

COOPER: Lanny Davis, I appreciate your time.

And Norm Eisen, as well. Thank you, Norm. It was great being in court with you.

Coming up, we'll examine how the former President's defense team tried to target -- tried to punch holes, in Michael Cohen's testimony, continually throughout the day.

We've finally just got the full transcript from today's testimony. We'll have that next.



COOPER: Moments ago, we got the full transcripts, from today's testimony, including that moment about the text exchange between Michael Cohen and Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller that defined the trial today.

John Berman joins us now.

So what else have you found?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so we have the transcript now of that moment. It begins with the text messages that you showed before.

Michael Cohen texts Keith Schiller, who can I speak to regarding phone calls to my cell and office? The dope forgot to block one of them. So, that was at 7:48. This is Todd Blanche saying this.

COOPER: And by the way, the importance of that is he has testified that he was calling Keith Schiller, to get to Trump quickly, because Trump -- he had to get approval to move forward on the Stormy Daniels payment.

BERMAN: So, Blanche is walking through here. At 8:02, he said, call me. I can put it up back again. He's putting the texts up.

At 8:01 is when he leaves that voicemail.

Michael Cohen says, yes.

Blanche says, you call in back at 8:02, for one minute and 36 seconds.

Kaitlan Collins with the clock there.

At 8:04, you text in the number of the 14-year-old, who was prank- calling you, correct?

Cohen says, I did, yes.

Immediately he texts you back. Within a few seconds, he said OK.

And then Cohen says yes, sir.

Blanche says the very next morning, at 7:58, you say, did you reach the family?

Cohen says yes sir.

Blanche says take it down.

Now, here's the question here.

When you testified on Tuesday that you had a specific recollection that that one minute and 36 second phone call, on October 24th was not with Keith Schiller, that you called Keith Schiller and he passed the phone to President Trump, you finalized the deal with Stormy Daniels. And you said we're going to move forward. And he said yes, because you kept him informed all the time. That was your testimony, right?

Michael Cohen says that's correct.

Blanche says that was a lie. You were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about the fact you were getting harassing phone calls from a 14-year- old, correct?

Cohen says part of it was the 14-year-old. But I know that Keith was with Mr. Trump at the time, and there was more than potentially just this. That's what I recall, based upon the documents I reviewed.

It goes on.

I mean, Blanche says, five minutes ago, I asked you if you remembered harassing phone calls, and you said no. And then I refreshed your recollection. It's totally fair, if you don't remember. But now your testimony is that you are testifying truthfully on Tuesday, to a one minute and 36 second phone call, and you had enough time in that one minute and 36 seconds, to update Mr. Schiller, about all the problems you're having with those harassing phone calls, and also update President Trump, on the status of the Stormy Daniels situation.

I'll stop here. But it goes on.

COOPER: He went on to say that it might have been just a few words to President Trump, like moving forward with Stormy Daniels, is that OK. Trump said, agreed. It might have been just that

BERMAN: But Cohen says based upon the records that I was able to review, in light of everything that was going on, I believe I also -- I believe I also spoke to Mr. President Trump, and told him everything regarding the Stormy Daniels matter was being worked on, and it's going to be resolved.

Blanche says we're not asking for your belief. This jury doesn't want to hear what you think happened.

Then there's an objection which is sustained.

HONIG: You see Michael Cohen getting caught there.

Can you go back to this -- this -- when Michael Cohen realizes that he's in trouble here, the first -- the first page you read, this one here.


HONIG: When he says -- Michael Cohen realizes he's caught now. And he says part of it was the 14-year-old, first time he's ever said that on cross-examination.

COOPER: He's never mentioned the 14-year-old.

HONIG: No. COOPER: This has never been in testimony.


COOPER: And it didn't even seem like him, what Todd Blanche later revealed is he wasn't briefed on the 14-year-old.

HONIG: Right.

COOPER: The prosecutors, to your point, they didn't catch it.


HONIG: Here's part two of the retreat by Michael Cohen.

And there was more than potentially just this.

COOPER: Potentially.


HONIG: I mean, he's--

RAY: This is why it's so dangerous--


RAY: --for a prosecutor to try to rely on testimony from somebody that certainly from the federal government's perspective is not somebody they would ever have put on trial.


RAY: This is dangerous stuff, because stuff like this happens, mistakes are made.


RAY: And if they're made, your point, that's devastating.


TOOBIN: Can I just ask? I mean, and--

RAY: Norm -- Norm Eisen, to the contrary, notwithstanding.

TOOBIN: Well and--

RAY: Just telling you, that's devastating.

TOOBIN: But what I am curious about, and I'm genuinely curious, I don't -- I mean, isn't it also true that he had other conversations with Trump, about completing this transaction, including some the next day? So even if you believe that he's completely wrong, about this conversation, is that devastating to the case?

COOPER: Well, I mean, by the way-- you're saying he had other conversations, according to him?

TOOBIN: Well, the other phone calls--

COOPER: So if you--

TOOBIN: --including phone calls that were not with Keith Schiller that were -- that were to Donald Trump's phone number.

COOPER: Right. But--

TOOBIN: Or he--

COOPER: --he's testifying about the content of those phone calls. So if you don't--


COOPER: If you believe that he's lying about this phone call--

RAY: If you conclude that he's lying about this one, they're entitled--


RAY: --to believe that he's lying about all the other ones, right?


TOOBIN: Well, of course. They're entitled to disbelieve his entire testimony.

RAY: Well that -- and that's--

TOOBIN: The whole thing.

RAY: And that's the instruction they'll be given.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

RAY: Right.

TOOBIN: But my question is if he's mistaken about this, isn't it possible that he is genuinely mistaken about this, and there are other phone calls? I mean, he was obviously involved in these negotiations. Is it -- is it believable that he had all these negotiations, and didn't discuss them with Trump? I mean, that seems preposterous.

COOPER: Clearly, he -- yes.

PHILLIP: He clearly--


PHILLIP: But again, I'm feeling like a broken record. But it's, we know the payments were made. We know that they were hush money. Trump is not on trial for paying Stormy Daniels. He's -- he's just not. And that the end of the day, they have to get to this point, where the

jury is like, OK, we believe that Donald Trump understood that these were going to be falsely recorded, on his business records. That's the only thing really, at this point, that matters.

If you also believe, as I think most rational people do that Trump cared about the election. That was a factor.

But I just I think it's a credibility thing, a 100 percent about Michael Cohen. Do you believe Michael Cohen, when he says he was in a room with Allen Weisselberg, and they talked about X, Y and Z? Do you believe him when he said he was on the phone? Those things might all be true. But it hinges on that one guy.


PHILLIP: Because all the other people involved are not on the witness list.

RAY: And especially, in a situation here, where the prosecution made a mistake, because what it looks like is that they were trying to sponsor a narrative with this witness. And boy, once the jury gets ahold of that, that's trouble.

COLLINS: You know what was--

RAY: That's trouble for the prosecution.

COLLINS: In the room today, and clearly, after the morning session, in that moment, and then they took a break. Todd Blanche says now a good time for a break. And so they had that lunch break, about an hour or so before they came back in. Trump's demeanor in the courtroom was so different than it's been at any other point in this trial.

COOPER: That's right.

COLLINS: Typically, even when they're cross-examining Stormy Daniels or other people, he sits back in his chair. He has his eyes closed for sustained periods of time.


COLLINS: He's passing notes to his attorneys, kind of furiously.

Today, he had his body language shifted towards the direction of the witness stand. He was looking at Michael Cohen. Sometimes, he looked back at Todd Blanche, as he was asking him a question. His body language was completely different today.


COLLINS: He seemed much--

COOPER: Essentially.

COLLINS: --happier. PHILLIP: You've got some more transcripts, John?

BERMAN: I do, although I'm not fully sure which one's here. Now I have like--

HONIG: Real-time confirming the due process.


PHILLIP: Maybe he's got a giant binder.

COOPER: Well, and he was asked about his desire to work. And there was a lot of testimony.

BERMAN: Yes. OK. That one I do have. That--

COOPER: Which frankly, I didn't think really was--

BERMAN: That one I do have.

COOPER: --all that well (ph).

BERMAN: He says, do you remember telling Congress that it was a lie, that you did not want to go to the White House? Do you remember saying that to Congress?

This was -- Blanche spent a long time--

COOPER: Right.

BERMAN: --trying to get Cohen to admit that he wanted to work in the White House. And this has been something that was taken up in Congress, a few years ago.

Cohen says, I remember telling Congress, I did not want to work in the White House.

Blanche says, well, do you remember saying, what you testified to on Tuesday is that you didn't want to go to the White House?

Cohen says yes.

And then a little bit later, Blanche says, do you recall on or around November 13th, President Trump picked Mr. Priebus to be the Chief of Staff, right?

Cohen says, yes, sir.

Blanche says you told your daughter you were disappointed?

Cohen says, that I wasn't considered, yes, sir.

In the middle of all of that Blanche also brought up, all these people that Cohen had apparently said he wanted to work in the White House to, including Spencer Zwick--

COOPER: It seemed--

BERMAN: --who worked for Mitt Romney, and--

COOPER: It seemed to me in the room--


COOPER: --at the time, to be kind of awash on this, because Michael Cohen just stuck to it saying essentially, sort of they were quibbling about semantics.

And Michael Cohen was saying, I wanted to be personal attorney -- I -- all along, I wanted to be a personal attorney to Donald J. Trump.

And they were quibbling of do you -- you know, your daughter said, you wanted to be special assistant?

And he said, no, that's semantics.


COOPER: Anyway.

HONIG: Ordinarily, this would be a decent, nice little piece of -- piece of cross because A, it goes to his motivation. You want to get this guy back, you're bitter. And B, it's probably a lie.

I know for a fact it's a lie, because I was in a room with two other people, who we all know, and believe 100 percent and respect, who said, he said to me, he was ticked that he didn't go to the White House. I mean, he said it to, I think every journalist he was talking to at the time.

COLLINS: But he did--

HONIG: So, he absolutely lied about that.

COLLINS: He -- he talked about it in a more nuanced view, when he was up, initially, with the prosecution.


COLLINS: He said he didn't necessarily think he was qualified to be the Chief of Staff in the West Wing. He wanted his name to be considered. He wanted--

HONIG: Right.

COLLINS: And he acknowledged.

COOPER: He said for ego.

COLLINS: He said for ego.


HONIG: Nuanced is a nice way to put it. I call it like a mealy- mouthed-weasel explanation--

COOPER: John Berman, thanks for the transcript.

HONIG: --by Cohen.

COOPER: The former President seemed a little more uplifted as, to Kaitlan's point, after his lawyer cornered Cohen, today, much uplifted, Kaitlan says. You'll hear that.

And one of Trump's former attorneys on whether this might be a turning point for the defense.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Donald Trump, walking out of the courtroom, today, after his defense lawyer cornered his former fixer, Michael Cohen, on a phone call, at the heart of this case, and may have scored some major points for the jury.

Here's the feedback from the former President.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it was a very interesting day. It was a fascinating day. And it shows what a scam this whole thing is.


COOPER: Joining us now is one of Trump's former attorneys, William Brennan. He represented Trump, during his second impeachment trial.

And Mr. Brennan, appreciate you being with us.

I'm wondering what you -- the fact that the -- they went to -- it's going to be a three-day weekend now, how beneficial is that for the defense that jurors have the next three days, to think about what they just heard, Todd Blanche and Michael Cohen discuss.


It's not only beneficial to leave them marinate and ruminate on what they just heard. It also gives Mr. Blanche and his team three long days, to scour that transcript, and really fine-tune whatever is left of cross-examination.

COOPER: It gives prosecutors the ability to do the same thing for redirect as well.

J. BRENNAN: It does. But in that particular comparison, it's like tie- goes-to-the-runner kind of thing. It really is advantageous to the defense.



J. BRENNAN: Because he's a defense witness, at this point.

COOPER: Kaitlan, I know, has a lot more.

COLLINS: When it comes to something that happened at the end of court, today, Todd Blanche would not say whether or not still if Donald is going to testify, when they were talking about other witnesses, that they may bring.

In this conversation that we were just talking about with Michael Cohen, where he insisted that he spoke to Donald Trump, about that Stormy Daniels payment, on that night, when they're saying it might have actually just been about a prank-caller, why shouldn't Donald Trump testify and say that call never happened?

J. BRENNAN: Kaitlan, there's a very good and simple reason for that. Because this isn't, who should you believe. This isn't, I want to hear two sides of a story and pick the winner.

This is a criminal prosecution, where the burden is solely on the prosecution. It never ever shifts.

Judge Merchan, who I have immense respect for, and I've spent eight weeks with him, in a Trump-related case, and just a total gentleman to deal with. But respectfully, he got it wrong, in a sidebar.

I read a transcript that said he told Mr. Blanche, well, you know, you opened the door, on Stormy Daniels, by -- in your opening, saying that your client denied that there was a relationship. And he said something akin to the jury will have to decide who to believe.

Really, they don't. The prosecution has the burden of proof. It never ever shifts. The defendant, in any case, can just sit there, and do the crossword puzzle, if he or she chooses. And in this particular case, they may call no witnesses. I doubt very much if this defendant will testify.

There's talk that they may call an elections expert.


J. BRENNAN: There's talk that they may call Mr. Costello.

But I would be very, very surprised, Kaitlan, if this defendant testifies.

COLLINS: So you don't think -- do you think that they should call any other witnesses, or just be done after Michael Cohen?

J. BRENNAN: Well, I don't want to fall into the rabbit hole of armchair quarterback, because I hear a lot of people critiquing, especially before he really hit his stride, Mr. Blanche.

And when you're in that position, it's like being a quarterback in the Super Bowl, that people should really just, as Greyhound used to say, sit down and leave the driving to us.

I don't know who they should call. The case seems to really hinge a lot on Cohen. With all due respect to Lanny Davis, who I have affection and respect for, I heard his filibuster earlier, about ah, it's no big deal. Come on, you know it's.

This is what it comes down to. Hush money payments are not illegal. NDAs are not illegal. I think Abby hit it right, when she said it all depends on tying it to that extra crime.


J. BRENNAN: And he's yet to do that.

Lanny is big on this document.


J. BRENNAN: But where's Weisselberg?

COLLINS: Well Bill -- Bill, one second?

J. BRENNAN: So, if it was Trump and Weisselberg, and Cohen, you only hear from Cohen, who has an allergy to veracity?

COLLINS: OK. Bill, you--

J. BRENNAN: I think the defense is in good shape.

COLLINS: --you laid out a lot there.

J. BRENNAN: Sorry, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And I'm not going to get to all of it, because it would take me over 90 seconds.

But on the point about what you're -- no one is saying that NDAs are illegal here. And I know Todd Blanche tried to frame them today as just commonplace, among the wealthy and the famous that it is just pretty normal. No one is saying that Donald Trump is going to go to jail, because of a non-disclosure agreement. Falsifying business records is at the heart of this.

And one point that Todd Blanche had Michael Cohen make today was that he has never had a legal retainer, while working for Donald Trump. So, the question in turn is, then why did Donald Trump cut Michael Cohen a 11 checks, and sign them, pursuant to an invoice that said it was because of a legal retainer?

J. BRENNAN: I think Norm Eisen addressed this briefly.

But in my home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have rules of professional conduct as they do in New York. In fact, I sit on a hearing panel for the disability board.

And our rules say the following. When you have a new client, you must express in a, either you call it an engagement letter or a fee agreement or a retainer agreement, the terms and scope of your representation. However, when it's a recurring client, you need not do so. So, I think it's kind of a term of art that we lawyers use.

COLLINS: But he paid him pursuant to a retainer. That's the -- that's the whole point, is if there's not a retainer--


COLLINS: --then why did he pay him pursuant to a retainer?

J. BRENNAN: Kaitlan, I mean, again, it's tomato-tomahto. To me, when somebody says, what's your retainer? I hear what's your fee?

I mean, there's no doubt that Cohen worked for him, for a long time, whether he was a fixer, or a lawyer, or a combination of both. And he was paid for those services.

TOOBIN: But -- but--

COLLINS: Bill, you're an attorney. Have you -- you worked for Donald Trump. Have you ever gotten -- have you ever had a retainer of $100,000 and gotten it grossed up by hundreds of thousands of dollars?

J. BRENNAN: I feel like I should take the Fifth on that. But--

COLLINS: Have you?

J. BRENNAN: I've certainly gotten big retainers, but.

COLLINS: Yes. But did you have a retainer that was $100,000, and then you got $360,000 from your client?


J. BRENNAN: It really is not as black and white as Lanny or even the way you're phrasing it, would have you believe.

There is lots of ways you can structure an agreement with a client. You can have cost outside or cost inside. My law firm can outlay the cost. And then, I can bill you for those costs, in addition to whatever legal services that we provide. So, that document, all due respect to Lanny, that's no smoking gun.

And not only do I predict we certainly won't hear from Weisselberg. The prosecution said Cohen's their last witness.

I'd ask Judge Merchan for a missing witness charge, because if three people were involved in this alleged deal, Trump, Weisselberg, and Cohen, and Cohen's the only one they're hearing from? And Cohen's credibility was shred badly today. I think that there's a long way to go, to get beyond a reasonable doubt.

COLLINS: Jeffrey Toobin has a question for you.

TOOBIN: Well you--

COLLINS: But quickly, after today, though, is there any chance that there's an acquittal, maybe after today, in your view? Has that -- has it changed how you see this now?

J. BRENNAN: Is there any chance that there's an acquittal? You mean a not-guilty?

COLLINS: Well not a hung jury?


COLLINS: I mean, Trump's team seemed to think going into this, there's no way they're getting an acquittal.

J. BRENNAN: It's a great question.

COLLINS: But a hung jury would be victory.

J. BRENNAN: But I can tell you, from doing decades and decades of predicting what juries will do, you just never know.

I think there's a very strong likelihood of a hung jury, which would result in a mistrial. And then, the prosecutors would have to decide, if they want to bring this thing back, a second time.

There's always the possibility of a conviction or an acquittal. But all 12 would have to agree. It can't be like seven-five, eight-four, six-six. If one juror has a problem, and can't get beyond a reasonable doubt, it will be declared a mistrial, because of that hung jury.

TOOBIN: I was just -- you were talking -- we were having this discussion about retainers, and what are the rules in Pennsylvania or New York?

Isn't the issue here -- yes, it is true, if this were a continuing legal representation, it wouldn't matter exactly how they phrased it. But what's different here is that this is a reimbursement for $130,000. That's what this payment was. It wasn't any sort of retainer. So, isn't that really much different than how you characterize a continuing legal relationship?

J. BRENNAN: Jeffrey, it really is not, because it's not -- there's no one definition for a retainer. We won't know what Weisselberg's intent and thoughts were, when he allegedly wrote that document, because the prosecution didn't call him. So, we have to look at this document, like, it's like Sanskrit and the Rosetta Stone. We have to try to glean what it is.

And then, there's other things. There's ink in the milk, Jeffrey. There's $50,000 for some polling place. There is some bonus he was whining about.

I mean, I know Lanny thinks that this thing is really going to bring it home. But I don't think so, after what happened to Cohen today.


TOOBIN: We shall see. We shall see.

COOPER: William Brennan, thanks so much, always good to have you on. Appreciate it.

J. BRENNAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, how soon could the jury actually get the case? We'll ask a judge, who's known this judge for years.



COOPER: Deliberations in the Trump hush money trial could begin as soon as next week.

Judge Merchan told the attorneys, today, to be prepared to make closing arguments, on Tuesday, with jury instructions quickly to follow. He also indicated court could possibly start early or run late, some days, to make up for lost time, with many dark days upcoming on the court's calendar.

For his part, the former President is attacking the speed, at which the trial is moving, after spending months attempting to delay the proceedings.


TRUMP: It's very sad. Then we have story after story about how this trial is one that should've, as they say, never been charged. It should have never been brought. And again, if it was going to be brought, it should have been brought years ago.

You know, they're trying to rush to get it done before the election, so that they can harm me, so they can hurt their political opponent. They're rushing. All this rush. There's no rush, these trials take forever. But this one, they're rushing in. We're here at early in the morning, and we leave in the evening.

Now, the judge wants to extend the time periods, so that we can get this thing done fast before the election.


COOPER: Joining us now is former New York Judge, Jill Konviser, who we should also mention has known Judge Merchan, for more than 15 years.

But Bill Brennan was talking about a missing witness charge. Can you explain what that is?

JILL KONVISER, FORMER NY STATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Sure. A missing witness charge is where there is a witness that a party, in this case, presumably the People should have called, because they had relevant and material information that was non-cumulative, that the witness would give favorable information and the witness is available.

Importantly, the defense has to ask for that charge, before the people rest. If they don't, it is untimely, and they will not get the charge, because you have to give the People a chance to say, OK, I'm going to call that witness.

So, they might be entitled to a Weisselberg charge, based on that. But the truth is, you have -- he's available. They know where he is. He's in Rikers Island. They know that he has non-cumulative information. He can talk about that meeting.

But in terms of favorability, which is we use the term control and favorability interchangeably, in New York law.


KONVISER: I don't know that he would give favorable -- favorable testimony. And I think that's what the People, they want to argue.

COOPER: Well, when you say favorable testimony. I mean, it would be -- it would potentially be favorable to Donald Trump, wouldn't it?

KONVISER: Right, it has to be favorable to the party calling that witness.

COOPER: I see, OK.

KONVISER: So, if it's not favorable to the People, they're not going to call him, and the defendant wouldn't be entitled to that missing witness--

COOPER: Got it.

KONVISER: --choice.

COOPER: Because with Allen Weisselberg, I mean, he could plead the Fifth, or he could not tell the truth.

TOOBIN: Well that's my exact question is that if the prosecution knows that Allen Weisselberg would take the Fifth, is he actually a missing witness because they know he wouldn't testify?


KONVISER: Well, that's -- I think that's a very good question.

And from my perspective, if I were the one there, I would be telling the People, if you want to avoid that missing witness charge? And of course, this may happen just before the People rest. Bring him in here. Bring him in here. Let's put him on the stand outside the presence of the jury.

And I ask him, what are you going to say? We're going to ask you this question, this question, and this question.

I'm taking the Fifth Amendment on the advice of counsel.

And that becomes an unavailable witness, or I'm going to say, defense counsel -- I wasn't in that meeting, and Donald Trump is correct, then your witnesses are wrong. Then he is not a favorable witness, and then--

COOPER: And would he have to stick to that testimony?

KONVISER: --they're not going to get him--

COOPER: Or could he change his mind when he's actually called in front of a jury?

KONVISER: He could, I suppose. I don't think that would happen. But he could.


KONVISER: He sure could.

COOPER: I mean, because Allen Weisselberg has gone to prison, and which is certainly, I mean, it's -- can be viewed as a favor to the--

PHILLIP: But the reason--

COOPER: --to Donald Trump.

KONVISER: Right. But if he changes his testimony, then the defendant isn't going to get them as -- the defendant isn't going to get the benefit of the missing witness charge, at that point.

COOPER: Right.

PHILLIP: And the prosecution had wanted to put into evidence, the sort of separation agreement that he had, that basically said he couldn't say anything negative about the Trump Organization, about Trump, so. And they didn't get that.

So, I think they were trying to make the case that, Allen Weisselberg wouldn't -- can't be trusted to testify truthfully, about Donald Trump, because he still has financial ties to the Trump Organization that's paying him.


COOPER: And he would be the only untrusty witness in the case, yes?

PHILLIP: I mean, I mean.

COLLINS: But also--

TOOBIN: Judge?

COLLINS: --Keith Schiller, though is -- I mean, that severance agreement, he got paid $2 million. He could only cooperate with law enforcement, if he was subpoenaed, for Allen Weisselberg.

Keith Schiller, Trump's body-man, who was the person on that call that night that caught Michael Cohen up, he is not in prison. He lives in Florida, I believe. When he left the White House, that's where he went at least.

And so, that's the other question. If you're -- if I'm on the jury, I'm wondering, where is Allen Weisselberg? Because I haven't heard that he's in prison. Where is Keith Schiller? Because I haven't heard why he hasn't been on the witness list.

KONVISER: But it's the same analysis. I don't think Keith Schiller is going to be in a position to offer favorable evidence to the People, and therefore they should have called that witness. But of course, the People have to make those noises in order to prevent the missing witness charge. And they -- I don't think they've done that.

COOPER: Well this is a dumb question. Why can the defense -- the defense can call witnesses. Why can't they call Weisselberg?

KONVISER: Well, they can. But they have no burden, right? So, they don't have to. They don't have to.

HONIG: If it turns out that you would decide against giving the missing witness charge, because the testimony wouldn't be favorable, would you allow the defense to then stand up and say to the jury, argue to the jury, in closing, folks, where's Allen Weisselberg? Where's Keith Schiller?


HONIG: You would allow that?


RAY: Yes.

TOOBIN: Can I -- can I ask you a question?

RAY: That's why the instruction, I don't think really makes--

HONIG: Right.

RAY: --at the end of the day that much difference.

KONVISER: And the instruction is permissive. It's not--

RAY: Right. It doesn't -- it's such a weak instruction, in my experience.


RAY: I'm not sure the jury pays as much attention to that, as they do the closing argument, where the defense stands up and says, hey, government has the burden of proof here. And you heard what's in that meeting. You never heard from this witness. KONVISER: Right.

RAY: What does that tell you?

KONVISER: That's right.

RAY: About the People's case?

TOOBIN: We've had a lot of talk about hung juries. You've been in the Center Street courthouse for -- you were in a very long time. Can you estimate what percentage of criminal cases end in hung juries?

KONVISER: Very few.

TOOBIN: Like 5 -- 1 percent?

KONVISER: I don't know. I mean, I've handled--

TOOBIN: I mean, just an estimate?

KONVISER: --dozens and dozens of cases, maybe hundreds. I don't think I had a hung jury.

COOPER: Really?


TOOBIN: OK. Well, that's a data point, right there.

COOPER: And do you -- I mean, do you know, in the case of a hung jury, some people would say it usually takes two jurors to actually hang a jury? Because if it's just one?

KONVISER: Then you can--

COOPER: Usually they get worn down.

KONVISER: --twist them.

COOPER: Is that?

KONVISER: I don't know if that's true.


KONVISER: I've told you before though, I do talk to jurors, all of my jurors after, I always have a conversation with them. And I get a little bit of insight. And sometimes, I hear, well, we weren't so sure, and then, Juror Two said this, and I accepted it. So sometimes -- I don't get involved in their deliberations. But sometimes, they just tell me something.

COOPER: Right.

RAY: Could I just add one thing to that?


RAY: I think there's one exception to the general rule, and the judge is quite right. People have a super-belief in the fact that hung juries are actually a possible result, and that they happen with some regularity. They don't.

I will say in high-profile cases, particularly ones with a lot of publicity? This obviously falls into those. Those are the places where you see them.


RAY: And that the rare situation happens in high-profile cases.

HONIG: And--

RAY: That's -- at least that's been my experience.


HONIG: I may be no good. But I tried two cases that ended up in hung juries. And they were both high-profile, one was very high-profile.

COLLINS: Very interesting justice (ph).


TOOBIN: I had a low-profile case that ended in a hung jury.

HONIG: There you go.


HONIG: There is -- as the judge knows, there is a lot of institutional pressure, in a good way, on the jury, to reach unanimity.

I mean, if they give an indication, during their deliberation, if they send a note saying, Judge, we're having a problem? The judge will then eventually deliver what we call an Allen charge, meaning it is your job, if humanly possible, to reach unanimity. You need to all keep open minds. You need to get back in there, and get back to work.


RAY: Well I think juries take that seriously.


KONVISER: They -- they do.

RAY: They follow them.

HONIG: It works.

RAY: I think they follow the--

KONVISER: They do.

RAY: --judge's instructions about that. And I think they really do try to, to make a concerted effort, if at all possible, even if certain jurors are intending to go one way, to listen to their fellow jurors.


RAY: And to try to resolve it.


RAY: And arrive at a unanimous verdict, whatever that verdict is.


COOPER: I've been really struck by--

TOOBIN: --point.

COOPER: --by Judge Merchan, and how sort of kind he is with the jury, and thoughtful he is about them, not only saying good morning, and things like that. But today, he was hoping to have court, next Wednesday.

KONVISER: Wednesday.

COOPER: But he said to the jury, I'd like to do court next Wednesday, but if even one of you, on this panel, has any conflict with that, and it would be a hardship, just let our bailiffs know when it -- during the next break, and we won't do it at all.

And they came back and said the jury couldn't do it.

KONVISER: A happy jury is a verdict-rendering jury.

RAY: Yes.

COLLINS: Can I also just say how the court staff has been so professional, and so great with handling--



COLLINS: --such a high-profile case? They had to handle the Trump civil fraud case. But they really have been amazing--

COOPER: Yes, they have been.

COLLINS: --in handling this.

COOPER: It's--

KONVISER: The court officers are fabulous people.


COOPER: It's incredible to have the privilege of going into that courtroom, and watching it all. It's -- it really changes one's perspective.

Thank you everyone. Great panels.

The news continues. More of CNN's special coverage of the Trump hush money trial, right after this break.