Transcribe your podcast

Historic, the first criminal trial of an ex-president. When you start, they let you do it.


You can do anything.


Donald Trump off the campaign trail and in the courtroom. I'm going to jail because of my decision to help Mr.


Trump. They made it sound like I had no choice. A tabloid case shaping the election.


We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct.


Msnbc's special Trump on Trial starts now.


Good evening. I'm Ari Melber here at MSNBC headquarters, where our all-star lineup is covering this first criminal trial of a former President, Rachel Maddow, Jen Saki, Nicole Wallace, Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, and later, Joy Reid, Stephanie Rule, and Lawrence O'Donnell, all with us. Today is the first time Donald Trump sat as a defendant for the actual start of any criminal trial. We are past, indictments, arraignments, all those pretrial motions, and the many, many failed attempts by Trump and his lawyers to delay this judgment day today in New York. He lost those efforts, and this defense table is not where he wanted to be today. But Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has now achieved results where other prosecutors were thwarted, Bragg taking a campaign year cover up and charging it as a felony plot. About 500 New Yorkers showed up today as potential jurors in this case. They may not recall the many details of this story that now dates from seven years ago. Most of the courtroom action will be about selecting 12 jurors and 6 alternates. This day ended with no jurors selected yet. This first day of the trial immediately dove into evidence about Donald Trump's potential criminal motive.


Lawyers clashing over how to reference that infamous Access Hollywood tape, which prosecutors say motivated then candidate Trump to pay off Stormy Daniels by election day. He wanted it done beforehand for a campaign purpose. That's one sign of the many fireworks to come which could captivate this jury and the nation watching. Here we are. April 15th, 2024, now sets a legal precedent and marks American history. Other people who have served as President have been investigated, impeached, and accused of all kinds of wrongdoing. But none, none of them ever ended up at that defendant's table for a criminal trial where Donald Trump sat today. This is not a forum where the defendant has control. The judge is in charge and the jury decides. That was clear immediately today as Defendant Trump sat largely subdued and motionless. His public outbursts muted, his political bluster on hiatus. Legally, Donald Trump is presumed innocent. The burden of proof is on prosecutors alone. But starting tonight and in these weeks ahead, Americans will be presented with this moment is trial, the evidence, the testimony, both sides of the case. No one really knows what comes next. We don't know what the legal outcome will be.


We don't know how a mistrial, which would not convict the defendant, we don't know how that would land with voters, or if a Trump conviction would bring a jail sentence, or if a conviction would impact voters. Overall, Donald Trump does face four total indictments. We've covered that. Remember, three of them turn on alleged election crimes, crimes about abusing and trying to get or hold on to power. Those three in DC, Georgia, and New York. Now, this New York case just happens to be the first prosecution to go to trial, and it could very well be the only one to go to trial before this year's elections. So the stakes really could not be higher. Our whole panel is here to get into this tonight. I want to bring in Rachel Madau, who joins us on remote first. Rachel, what does today and the start of this trial mean?


First of all, I think that was an excellent summary, Ari. I think that you've put those stakes exactly right. I mean, it took us a long time to get here. The origin of this case is ahead of the 2016 election. It's been a long time. That in itself is a bit of a scandal. I think that's part of what I'm going to be talking about on my show tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern. But we did finally get here. The wheels of justice grind slowly. I did not think they would grind so slowly that they would rock the defendant, apparently to sleep at the defense table today. I have to say, I was not there. I do not know if he was asleep. It is possible he was meditating or just resting his eyes or something. I don't know. But those headlines on the front page of the New York Times, front page of the Washington Post, front page of the Huffington Post, front page of multiple news outlets today coming out of this that Trump appeared to fall asleep on the first day of his trial, those are going to stick. I mean, I know it's not the most important legal thing, but we are in the middle of a campaign.


The age issue is the main thing the Trump campaign wants to use against his opponent, the whole Sleepy Joe thing. I mean, this is, as you said, Ari, this is the most historic thing that Donald Trump has ever done. No former president ever has been a criminal defendant. On day one, The headlines coming out of it were that he appeared to doze off. To me, it's insane. It's also a reminder of however scary and somber and important this is, we're also dealing with somebody who is just fundamentally buffoonish. This will be as much a reminder of that as it is of all the more serious things here that are at stake. This is a guy, we've already had mentions today of the one alleged mistress and the other alleged mistress and the doorman who's making the allegations about the alleged love child with the third alleged mistress. The crux of this is not who he slept with. The crux of this is his alleged criminal conspiracy with the national inquirer. I mean, this really is a fundamentally buffoonish person. This will center that in the mind of the American people in a way that him staying awake in court today might have diverted, but this is what we've got.


You go to the election with the candidate you have.


Yeah. Rachel, this goes, as you say, back to '16. I have one more question about that, and then I think Chris looked like he wanted to react to your point about the courtroom decorum. But, Rachel, on 2016, you've advised everyone from all the way back then, watch what they do, not what they say. Even when what they say is so outrageous, it sometimes merits a certain amount of understandable reaction. What he says is, I'll testify. What he says is, Bring it on. But what he does is try every which way, including in a final losing motion this morning, to prevent the very judgment day in this process that we're now going to cover.


Yes, that's exactly right. The motions to delay this, to recuse the judge, to move the venue, to move it to federal court, to get the charges thrown out. I mean, these are all things that a defendant is eligible to try. The defendants have a lot of rights, and they can exercise all of them without prejudice against their case. But he's desperate to make this go away. Going all the way back to the original investigation here, when he had control of the US Justice Department, in particular when he had his guy Bill Barr in the US Justice Department, Bill Barr took remarkable, I think, national scandal-level steps to try to make this investigation and this case go away on Trump's behalf. There's a reason this case has bothered him from the beginning. Again, watch how they behave when confronted with it, not what they say when they try to dismiss its importance.


Well, just to Rachel's point about the campaign dynamics, the optics of all this and the sustained eye-resting that apparently happened in the courtroom. I do feel like if you call your opponent Sleepy Joe, you have one job for the rest of the campaign, which is like, you got to clockwork orange those puppies open at all times. But it's also interesting, too, to imagine, again, This man, who I think is not a particularly emotionally regulated individual and does not have a tremendous degree of self-mastery and discipline in a situation in which, to your point, Ari, he doesn't control things, in which he doesn't control the pace, the conversations are happening outside of but he has to sit there and watch it. I really can't think of a thing that's more nightmarish in some ways for him just at a personal level of you don't have the stimulus, you're not getting little ego bumps from some social media replies, and you just got to sit there and watch this day after day. I mean, this was day one. This is weeks and weeks of it. Just at the most human level, I was just watching the reports today and thinking about just the sheer psychological torture.


I really mean that. That is this. Then also the point that he keeps making, which is true, although not for the reasons he says, which is he's not on the campaign trail talking to people. He's not doing events with the farmers in Michigan or whatever swing state rally he would be doing. He's sitting in a courtroom in New York where he's accused of serious crimes and felonies, where a serious case is going to be presented.


I was struck by the visual of him in the courtroom. Obviously, cameras are not in the courtroom. We didn't see, but we did see the photo of him in the courtroom. He looks small in that A little rough in that photo, I think it's fair to say. But he also was treated as every defendant would have been treated as that's how our justice system should work. He walked down those same dark, dingy hallways that others did. He had to face the judge and answer some simple questions. That's not him, to Chris's point, controlling his own narrative and spouting out to the public. That struck me. I was a little surprised by that. The other thing I thought was striking is this whole case has been shorthanded as this hush money case. We're all talking about so many legal cases all the time, the hush money case, the hush money case. And today, it really brought to the surface not just the details about this particular case, but Karen McDougal in that case, the paying off, as Rachel mentioned, the National Enquiry, paying off people to prevent stories from emerging. That's a character case there. So if you're looking at the fact that the backdrop of this is a political campaign, we don't know what the politics will be, but I wouldn't say this was a particularly good visual optics for Donald Trump.


Can we just go back to the sleeping? A Republican said to me at 2:30 after Maggie Haberman appeared on CNN, who was actually... Maggie's in the courtroom. A lot of our reporters and two creditors on my show is in the Overflow Room. But Maggie Haberman is in the courtroom reported that he slumped and fell asleep for a moment. Now, I have a newborn. I fall asleep everywhere except on live TV. I've got a mountain of sympathy for nodding off.


It's actually deeply relatable.


However, the entire The higher crux of the campaign against Joe Biden, not just on TV and dumb speeches, but all the smears, all the attacks, all the maligning of Joe Biden is about his feebleness. Donald Trump fell asleep on the first day of his criminal trial today. If the parties were flipped, that would be everywhere. Oh, my God. I mean, so it just for me, the asymmetry of the moment was in such stark contrast when only Republicans were calling me and saying, What are you going to do about Trump falling asleep? I was like, Wait, what? I can't run it down. What do you need? 11 sources? He fell asleep. Maggie's on CNN saying it. The The other thing about today is that Trump is running on the crimes he was charged with in the two Jacks. He's running on the insurrection. He starts his rallies with Ode to the Insurrectionists and Me, Together Forever, Me and Them. He is running on stealing classified documents saying, When you're president, you can do it because of the presidential records. He's not running on having sex with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDdougal and paying the National Enquiry to catch and kill those stories.


Not running on these facts because he doesn't want these facts in front of the country.


Rachel, you were nodding. Go I was just going to say on the National Enquiry part of it.


I mean, things that we learned about the fact that the National Enquiry has to be central to a presidential... To somebody who was a president and who wants to be president again itself is insane. But the details of it, he had, and this was discussed substantively in court today when they were going through the pending motions before they started interviewing the potential jurors, is can we talk, Mr. Justice, in the case, can we present evidence about the ongoing scheme that Trump had arranged with the parent company of the National Enquiry where they would pay money to people to bury negative stories about Donald Trump to keep them out of the press at large? That isn't just keeping them out of the National Enquiry. It's keeping those people from telling their story to anybody, but also Trump coordinating with them to produce stories that were against his opponents. We remember what those were, right? Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK? They are alongside the alien abductions and all this stuff. This is the level at which Trump was operating. This is the way that Trump tried to get himself into the White House. That coordination, if it was toward a campaign purpose and not just for a PR purpose, but specifically to try to get him into the White House to help him win the campaign, as you pointed out at the top of the show, Ari, that is arguably criminal.


Ami, the parent company in the National Enquire, was given limited immunity from being charged itself in that regard in exchange for testimony about what Trump did. Michael Cohen went to prison because of his role in helping along a scheme along those same lines. I mean, it's criminal, and that's why he's here as the defendant. But it's also just profoundly, profoundly embarrassing, indefensible, and something, as Nicole points out, that he can't run on, that he can't turn into a positive. It's tawdry and embarrassing and buffoonish and central to this story, which is going to rivet the country for the next eight weeks.




I was struck by a couple of things. The Resting of the Eyes, which I will just... I'll go with our standards department here and say that rather than sleeping. But for people who have sat on the sidelines and watched in horror, a gog at the impunity with which Trump seems to conduct himself, both in person and online, the true social tweets were read in a criminal courtroom today in the context of the gag order. Here's Donald Trump's true social tweets being read back to him in a criminal courtroom in a way that may affect the scope of the trial, that could theoretically land him in jail for some part of this if he continues on with this language. Here's a transcript, at least, of the Access Hollywood tape, where literally, prosecutors are saying, Again, in a criminal courtroom, grab them by the you know what. It is now evidence that is being introduced in a courtroom. I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact for so long, there's been this desire, there's been this indignation about his lack of accountability. Well, it is happening. These statements are being read to a jury, or presumably will be read to a jury.


They are being read in front of a judge. The other piece of it is for anyone who lives in New York, who's from New York, so much of Donald Trump's story is the story of a man who was made in New York. For this man, Donald Trump from Queens, to be held accountable by a prosecutor from Harlem, and Judge Marshawn, who was born in Columbia but grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. When we think about the history books being written, the cast of characters, is something out of a staged play. The poetry of that, I think, shouldn't be lost on those of us who care about the narrative here in history.


Well, you raise an interesting point we're going to also dig more into in our special tonight, which is, Can you get a fair trial in New York You can argue he can get a fairer trial here than in other states where people would be so agaced at the tabloid stories and the way it works. Here, the baseline is people know a little bit about tablo.


They're like, I read the New York Post, I read the Post, I read the journal, I read the Times. This is a New York story.


In fairness to him, I mentioned he's presumed innocent, and it is not supposed to be that this is so scandalous that only that convicts him. But if, and the burdens on the prosecutors, that scandal goes beyond just tabloid faudder to, Oh, you were getting secret benefits and money that would collapse the campaign finance system as we know it if everyone could get away with this. Nicole and Rachel also raised something I want to get into, which is that loss of control in the optics and the substance of that. We're going to get back into that and dig into a lot more on this case with all of our legal experts after a short break. Stay with us. We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle. Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg has defined this criminal trial of Trump in those stark terms. Our special coverage continues, and our panel is back with Rachel, Nicole, Jen, Alex, and Chris, our legal experts, and others joining us shortly. Rachel, I wanted to start there because so many smart and informed people have debated over the past year plus, which accusation against Donald Trump is the worst?


Which criminal trial should begin first? Most candidates, I should say, in both parties, don't stand currently accused of crimes. Most people who are candidates for Congress are not awaiting criminal trials before the election day, just to reset on that. We wanted to begin with you in that statement from DA Bragg. It's really the only time he's spoken about this in detail when he did announce the charges, because his job is not to compare and contrast the whole country. He says there's evidence of a crime in his jurisdiction, and that's what he says is the only thing he had to think about, and that's why we're here today.


When we think about the timeline here, I think it's important to remember that these charges, in some ways, have been in the queue. They've been lined up for five and a half years since Michael Cohen, five and a half years ago, pled guilty in federal court to federal campaign finance violations that prosecutor said and Michael Cohen admitted under oath, were committed at the behest of individual one who was Donald Trump. I mean, this crime was described in federal court with proof to support it, nearly six years ago. What happened between then and now that finally in a whole different court system, in New York State Court, Trump is finally being accountable for a crime that happened so blatantly and so obviously and so long ago. That saga itself is partly the story of Trump's political power and how he chose to use his political power to protect himself inside the criminal justice system. Part of it is being a serving president when they're not going to bring charges against you. But part of it is also being a serving president who uses his power over the US Justice Department to kibosh investigations and to have federal criminal court documents whitewashed so that they don't give away as much information about him as they otherwise were going to.


This has just been a very long time in coming. The fact that it's taken so long is testament to how Trump has been able to manipulate the Justice Department, the US Department of Justice, and the US Criminal Justice System broadly to his own benefit. I feel like it's almost a miracle that we got this case into trial at all. The fact that there are three more stacked up behind it just tells you about the litany of alleged criminality that this candidate drags with him into this election season.


Well, to Rachel's point, I mean, Rachel is the person who I feel like I've learned the most on the degree to which Barr and the Department of Justice acted in a scandalous fashion to hijack the normal processes so that the person named as Individual One would not amount to anything. But I also think when If you look at the chronology here, there is a clear trajectory and through line, which is the 2016 election was the subject of two different criminal conspiracies. This criminal conspiracy, which is pled by Michael Cohen in a federal court, and the Russian criminal conspiracy sabotaged the election, which has been charged with indictments of Russian foreign nationals who will likely never face justice. No one really in Trump's orbit was punished for that. Then he tried to rerun it with Ukraine in lead up to the 2020 election, which was found out and blown up, and he faced an impeachment trial for it for which he was acquitted, didn't really face any real accountability. All that leads up to January sixth, when even after losing the election, he attempts again to use essentially whatever means necessary. And whatever means necessary to this man, he's agnostic about the means.


It could be legal, it could be not legal. It could be ethical or dodgy or gray area or scandalous. But he's just trying to do whatever can to obtain power. It's true in 2016 at the fulcrum of the facts of this case. It's true in the lead up to 2020. It's true after the 2020 election. All of that is one story about someone who never faces accountability for his insatiable thirst for power and his willingness to do anything to win even after losing. This is the first of those tales.


Well, and that goes, Nicole, to why the story that the jury and by proxy, the country hears is so important. I'm curious what you think, but I would argue that if it becomes only a tawdry tabloid story, you can probably find one or more jurors who aren't there. But if it's a democracy story, which is what DA Bragg said, and you just spoke to the evidence on that, it becomes something larger.


It's about cheating, right? I mean, sports just went through one of the biggest stories in a decade, the interpreter for Shoheya O'Tani, being taken off the field, literally, for stealing. I mean, it's a crime that everyone can understand, stealing, cheating, lying. These are easy to understand crimes. I think the reason Donald Trump has worked so hard to make this one not go to trial is because it's an easy to understand crime. The jury is going to be asked to figure out if Trump did some things that are pretty easy to understand. Back to Rachel's point, the first people that found Trump to be liable as a conspirator was the Bill Barr Justice Department. Jeff Berman writes about this in his book, how involved DOJ leadership down in Washington was in editing that sentencing memo, which describes Donald Trump as individual one over and over and over again. Michael Cohen paid the money to benefit individual one. Again, not a lawyer, but I, for some reason, always get picked to be on juries. I mean, the jury is going to be asked to look at Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen didn't have the sex with Starby Daniel.


Michael Cohen didn't become President. Donald Trump did. Michael Cohen went to jail. I mean, one of these things is not like the other. I think the story is a pretty simple story about pretty simple crimes.


Rachel, you've been invoked. Go ahead.


I I was just going to say, Nicole, I've heard you say that starkly before about Michael Cohen, and it always wears me out a little bit, but it's very true in a very fundamental way. It's super gross, but we're talking about Trump. It's always got a super gross There's a voice element to it. My ears are turning red. I'm getting that little… Sorry, raised in the suburbs, very Catholic, can't handle it. But the basic idea here is very true. Think about the fact that Michael Cohen went to prison for this. Michael Cohen did not have sex with Stormy Daniels. Michael Cohen was not running for President. Michael Cohen received no benefit from this whatsoever. Why is he the one who is the only one who's gone to prison for it, particularly when it wasn't like he invented this as his own idea to please the boss? It's essentially admitted to that the boss advised him to do this, that this was part of Trump's effort to get elected, to keep this information away from the public during the election. It just can't be as a fundamental matter of fairness. I think Nicole and Ara, you're both right.


As a fundamental matter of fairness, no jury is going to look at this and say, Yeah, the one guy who should go to prison for this is the guy who had to zero out his home equity line of credit in order to do this for his boss. Because the last time the boss had to pay hush money to another alleged mistress, he stiffed the tabloid publisher who put the money up for him that time. So this time I got to do it. Okay, yeah, you're the who must be punished. It just doesn't make sense. You can't tell yourself any story about that where there's a crime that has been described and admitted to and litigated in court. The one who ends up in the... The only one who ends up in jail because of it is Michael Cohen.


Right. I think that's why we've heard from people around the DA's office that they're confident Cohen is not a perfect witness. I don't even know if he could claim he is, but they're confident about that fact pattern holding up in the corroboration. Rachel, anything we should know about what you're doing at 9:00 tonight?


Oh, talking too much and busting through the commercials like I always do. I am going to be talking about the one, I think the original sin of this story, which has Nothing to do with sex whatsoever. The original sin of this story, the very significant, I think, national-level scandal that is the origin story of this case right now and why it is the thing that I most worry about, that is most front of mind for me when I think about a potential Trump second term. That's going to be my lead tonight at 9:00.


Really interesting. It is Monday, so we'll all be watching Rachel at 9:00 PM Eastern. Good to see you. Our panel stays our special coverage. Thank you. Our special coverage continues Continues. We've been talking about the Mueller and Bar Justice Department history, that Cohen prosecution. We actually have Andrew Weissman, who's involved in all of that history on the Mueller side with us. We have Joy Reid joining the panel, and a lot more legal experts live at the courthouse when we come back.


On the MSNBC podcast, How to Win 2024, political experts, former Senator Claire McCasgill and Democratic strategist Jennifer Paul-Merry, examine the campaign strategies unfolding in this all-important election.


The focus is on the voters that are not necessarily in your corner now. If Democrats are going to win in 2024, we have to be able to explain what is happening at the border and what the solutions are. Search for How to Win 2024 wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes every Thursday. Hi, everyone. It's Katie Fang. Did you know my weekly show on MSNBC is now available as a podcast? With my decades of experience as a trial lawyer, you'll get an insider's perspective on all things legal. At a time when politics and the law are inextricably intertwined, my guests and I break down what's next, Why It Matters, both inside and outside the courtroom. Search for the Katie Fang Show wherever you're listening and to follow.


Welcome back to our special coverage on this first day of defendant Donald Trump's criminal trial. Now, we know Trump wanted to avoid this day because he made many different efforts to delay it. Three just last week, each failed. Another today, as Trump's lawyers took a request that they had already lost, asking this judge to step aside and just reran that play to lose again in court today. Joy Reid has covering all of this and joins us now, and she has an expert standing by. Hello, Joy.


Hey, Ari. Thank you very much. Let me bring in Lisa Rubin, our wonderful MSNBC legal analyst. Lisa, let me just go through these in order. I want to start by talking about this process of picking a jury and the questionnaire. What questions stood out to you as being evocative without just asking, what's your political affiliation? Are you MAGA or not? That would evoke that for both the prosecutors and the defense.


Well, I think, obviously, Joy, there are some questions that really get at jurors' political affiliations, including, for example, ones about their media diet. There are others that are a lot more overt, like, Have you ever attended a rally for former President Trump or for an anti-Trump group, or have you made donations in that direction? Things of that nature. Nobody answered those questions, however, in the affirmative so far. I thought the most interesting question asked so far was, do you have strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about former President Trump. The reason I think that's a really interesting question was because Judge Mishon's procedure allows jurors to self-identify at the beginning and say, I am unable to serve here because I believe I am incapable of being fair and impartial. We lost over 50 people due to that question alone, and they didn't have to answer any more follow-up questions. Notwithstanding that question, there were people who believed that they could be fair impartial. But when they got to the jury questionnaire, there were two prospective jurors who both paused on the, Do you have strong opinions or firmly held beliefs? I think that focuses us on one of the conundrums of this trial, which is there are people out there who believe they can be fair and impartial, but nonetheless might have such strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about former President Trump that one side or the other believes that they are inappropriate to be on this jury.


Of the two jurors who answered that question in the affirmative, one of them went to a sidebar with Judge Mershon, and both of the parties, they were excused. The other answered the question before a sidebar and said, Very clearly, I don't believe anyone is above the law, not a former president, not a janitor. That person is still within the prospective jury pool, whether he will stay remains to be seen tomorrow, Joy.


Let me go to really quickly, because I know that there's a certain number of peremptory challenges, I guess you would call them, where one side or the other can just say, I don't want that juror, I don't want that juror, and they don't have to give a reason why. Did either the prosecution or the defense use any of those challenges?


It doesn't appear that they have yet. The one juror who was struck for reasons that looked like political affiliation or beliefs. That person was actually struck initially at the suggestion of When she said that she had strong beliefs or firmly held opinions about former President Trump, Judge Mershon said, I believe we should excuse this juror. Do either of the parties have any objections? The DA's office said they did not. It was at that point that former President Trump's lawyers wanted to follow up with the jury. You might want to ask yourself, why would they care at that point? Don't they want that person gone, too? Well, they might care because they're trying to show in appellate proceedings that former President Trump cannot get a fair try here in Manhattan. To the extent that they can suss out from this person what their firmly held opinions are, they want to know. If they're for, Donald Trump doesn't harm them. But if they are anti-Trump, add that to the pile of things that they have to complain about at the conclusion of this trial, Joy.


Lisa Rubin, MSNBC legal correspondent. Thank you very much. Always so valuable, our MVP right there at the courthouse. Back to you, Ari.


Yeah, Joyce, stay with me. I want to read a couple more of these questions because, again, we're learning things for the first time. The jury questions are relatively new, and today is the first time we saw them put to anyone. Jurors are being asked, for example, we've been talking about Michael Cohen a bit. They're asking these jurors whether they've consumed Cohen's books or him on a podcast, and if they have opinions about the legal issue of whether an ex-president can be charged by New York State. Then the big one, can you promise to set aside anything you've heard to render a verdict based solely on the evidence? And so, Joy, part of this is really human rather than lawyerly. These are human beings, not lawyers for the most part. Answers those questions. They have to think back, not just in theory, do you say the right answer? I'm fair. But in practice, have you seen Michael Cohen on, I don't know, Joy Reids show or a different show, or have you heard his podcast? What do you think about all that, Joy? Because New Yorkers, they I think, Well, wait, maybe I have. Does that affect me?


No, it's very interesting because Michael Cohen is a prolific interviewee. We both interviewed him. I think everyone on this panel has talked to him, and he's very open about talking about this case. So, yeah, there's a good chance that a lot of people have seen I don't know that that necessarily means somebody couldn't be impartial. I'll tell you, I recently did sit through this process as a prospective juror. Surprise, surprise, I didn't make it. I didn't make it out of the jury. But I always find it interesting when you sit in those rooms. People take it very seriously. There are people who will surprise you that seem when they tell their story, when they answer the questions that in a way would seem to indicate maybe there's bias, they still make it onto the jury. I was surprised when I sat through this process at some of the people who still got on. We don't really understand the reasons why a prosecutor or defense witness, they might say the person watches a lot of Fox News, for instance, but they also seem to be somebody who digs deep when it comes to information, or they're particularly patriotic, and they feel they take very seriously the duty of being on a jury, and so they'll still put them on.


I'm not a lawyer, but I interview them on TV, Laura. You are a lawyer. But I think it is very true when people say you win or lose these cases in the voir dire. Who you pick is what you get. I think this part of the process, while it may not be the most exciting part of the process for everyone, in many ways is the ball game.


Can I ask a dumb question?


There are no dumb questions.


We call it a questionnaire, right? I think the way that you think of that as a physical thing that you fill out, but it's being done live, dynamically as a form of interviews. I'm just curious Why? What does that do from an efficiency standpoint? Again, efficiency is not really-As opposed to writing answers on a piece of paper?


Correct, yes.


From an efficiency standpoint, an efficiency is not the name of the game. But Judge Marshawn has made a few choices to speed up this process. The first most notable today, which was he declared at the outset that he was going to let people leave if they just said they didn't think they could do it. He let, I think, 50 people go today for that reason. He's already made some amendations to the normal process for that But in terms of the questionnaire, I guess the idea is that in the questioning of the jury, you're seeing stuff physically, reactions, pauses that wouldn't be there if they were just actually filling out a physical questionnaire.


Yeah, I think there are two big parts of it, and we have Andrew Weisman coming up in the next block. We can get into even more detail. But one is that the court, by which we mean the larger process, has a deep interest in getting this right. You're not taking anyone's word for it. You want to get them on record, which, by the way, means that they're telling this to the government and the court, so they have that liability. The court has the expertise. Nicole, you'll see people all the time who think they're clever and they say, Oh, I'm going to try this. I'm going to try that. Sometimes they get off the jury, sometimes because they want to be on.


I always try to get off and I always get on.


Well, because they probably see you as… Trying to get off. Trying to get off the otherwise capable of being honest. So number one, it's doing a real vetting. Then number two, we have to always remember, we're going to cover both sides of this case for weeks. It's an adversarial process. So both sides get to kick the tires on those answers, as you know. Yeah.


I didn't answer them right, though. I've been picked. I've been called to dirty New York twice. I got picked both times. It is stunning, at least seeing the reporting from inside the courtroom, that Donald Trump was following along with the questionnaire as it was being asked. If you haven't followed this process before, I've never been picked for a jury, and now I'm totally going to be. It's fascinating. You have the chief, the defendant here, who is the former President of the United States. You have just normal people who are answering these questions, and there's the former President of the United States following along.


You know when they say, I love that for you? I love that for America.


And for Donald Trump.


No, but I love it for America.


Because they see it What's happening? I just mean that it's stunning to be a person who might be sitting on the jury and have the former President sitting there watching it. For him to be hearing from normal people about their ability to be impartial or to be-When he wasn't resting his eyes.


Well, When this system works, that citizen's answer and what they're going to decide of his fate matters as much as, yes, a former president. We're going to fin in a break. Let's get a quick look at Andrew Weissman, the former Mueller prosecutor, our legal analyst. Can we... Yeah, he is chomping at the bit to get in. Bumptshot tease. He will after this break. We are back as our special coverage continues, and Chris Hayes has a special guest, Chris.


I do, in fact, joining us now, the Affirmentioned and affreviewed former FBI General Counsel and MSNBC legal analyst, Andrew Weissman. Andrew, first, this is the first crack we get at you today. Your top line thoughts of what we saw today.


Top line thought is that this country that likes to think that it is a country that involves the rule of law and is unique in the world has finally joined other Western democracies in being able to show that they can hold even former leaders who have held the most exaltet position in the government, that they can hold them to account and subject them to a fair trial where there are good lawyers on both sides and a fair judge The standard of proof is the highest that we have in the criminal justice system.


We are joining now many other so-called Western democracies in showing that we can actually apply the rule of law in this country.


We of ourselves as American exceptionalists, but we actually are not. It is nice to see that this day has finally arrived.


How much of... If you had to rank today, and again, this is happening in the... Most of your life has been in federal courts in various roles. This is a New York court. If you had to rank it on a one being very standard and normal, just in terms of what was happening, and 10 being unlike anything you've seen, where in those parameters was this first day for you?


For a high-profile matter, this was normal.


A normal high-profile case? Right.


High-profile case is where you have such as Enrod or you have the Maniford case, some case where it's received national attention, having many jurors brought in, having a jury questionnaire, whether it's filled out in writing, whether it's read to them, that is standard procedure.


Now, there aren't that many national cases.


So of course, this is unusual.


But the process is one that I was sitting there going, Oh, I'm used to this.


I have seen this happen.


I've been on the prosecution side, and so it seemed very normal to me.


Let me ask you also about one of the legal dust-ups that happened today around the Access Hollywood tape and its general admissibility. I think we talk about a little bit, they went back and forth on which part of it could be shown to the jury. What's interesting to me is the context here is about motive. One of the things people forget is he was hanging on by his fingernails afterwards. I mean, we had like, who was it? Was it Jason Chafitz on our air? He went on five of our shows, be like, I can never look my daughter again in the eyes. I'm not supporting him, and then supported him and presumably looked his daughter again. But But what was the dispute there and what got resolved?


The first thing that the government needs to show is that proof that it wants to offer is relevant.


Then the second thing is even if it's relevant, it can't be unduly prejudicial. The court's going to be looking to see, is there a more benign way for the evidence to come in that doesn't have spillover prejudice? Here, as you said, the Access Hollywood tape, the The substance of it was clearly going to come in because it is the state's main argument for the motive for why this happened and why it is that they were so concerned about more bad news coming out at this time. That would further peel back the truth of who Donald Trump is.


That's going to be the theory. The back and forth was how much of that could come in in what form.


I'd say Judge Monchon somewhat split the baby.


He gave the state what it needed to make that argument, but said that the actual tape, at least as of now, unless the defense opens the door to it, the actual hearing of Donald Trump saying those words will not be played, but they will be able to actually have the transcript of what he said.


Yeah, you said, as I was watching this unfold, it struck me as iconically Solomonic, that they gave a little bit to each side in that ruling. Andrew Weissman, it's It's a pleasure. Thank you, sir.


You're welcome. All right, back to you. Shout out to King Solomon. With the minute we have left, your thoughts on that point. Again, in fairness to the defendant, they won't play the worst possible thing, the awful video, but just the evidence of it.


Yeah, look, I think Alvin Bragg and Ron Marshawn are difficult villains for Donald Trump. I think that if he planned to make this the centerpiece of his campaign, it's not going to be very exciting for the people who are paying attention to events. Now, that doesn't include his base. They're not paying attention to events. Vawn has some great reporting today. He was at a rally with 5,000 Trump supporters. Trump said there were 42,000 of them there. Vawn interviewed one after and said it was great to be here with 42,000 other Trump supporters. That's not who's going to be infected by anything that happens. But for the magical, mushy middle of American politics, they're not going to see particularly villainous figures in Judge Mirchaun or Alvin Bragg. These are not political actors. These are people who do the more tedious and boring things that make the rule of law grind. I have to say, I was walking around New York, I didn't run into a single New Yorker going about their lives that had any idea this was happening. I think one of the most remarkable things at 7 o'clock in the East is that I don't think that anything really happened.


Donald Trump, day one, lots more news cycles, lots more twists and turns. But on the first day of Donald Trump's first criminal trial, the Earth still stands.


Yeah, Earth One, as it is. Earth One.


Earth One. Earth One. That's right.


Coffee mug coming, potentially. Really interesting points from Nicole and Chris and everyone there. Our special coverage continues, plus Jen Saki, plus Rachel at 9, plus Laurence, who joins us right after this break, along with Mya Wiley.


We'll be right back.


Good evening. I'm Ari Melburn. Our special coverage on this first day of the first ever criminal trial of an ex-president continues. Our all-star panel is here. Lawrence O'Donnell joins. Jen Saki, Alex Wagon, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Mya Wiley, standing by. We got a lot to get into. The Manhattan DA charging Donald Trump's 2016 cover-up as a felony plot. This hour, we're actually going to dig into something we didn't even get to yet in our last hour of special coverage, the two key reasons that the DA says he can convict Trump along those lines, those two pieces. There's also the clash inside the courtroom today. As prosecutors say, Trump broke the gag order. We'll get to that later. But we begin with how defendant Trump is struggling to run his campaign while stuck inside this courtroom today, a challenge partly of the defendant's own making, because he is the one who over and over delayed this in other cases. Now, he's in one at this unfortunate time period for him. Today, we learn Trump must be present for basically the whole trial. That could run six weeks or more. The judge ruled, for example, against defendant Trump's request to skip certain days.


The campaign does plan for traditional events on weekends and using the court's off day Wednesdays for fundraising. The tension with the campaign schedule goes way beyond the calendar. Evidence shows voters are repelled by this damning evidence and the whole ordeal of a criminal trial, and that may be why Trump delayed and delayed and delayed today from happening earlier. It's also, of course, why he's accused rivals in both parties of supposed crimes, and it's why most people view this trial and the claims here as pretty serious. Many Republicans say they would oppose Trump if he were ultimately convicted. Those views are a reminder that many people oppose electing a convicted felon to the White House and defer to the courts, not public debate or hyperbole, to actually find out if any given defendant running for office is guilty. I want to bring in our panel, starting with the affirmation Lawrence O'Donnell who joins us. Lawrence. Great to be here, Eric. Your thoughts and the point that we talk a lot in the words of law, legality, and crime. People talk about the insurrection like a crime. But the polling suggests a lot of people are waiting for the court system to decide if he's going.


Yeah, well, I don't think it has any impact on his campaign schedule at all. He's already the laziest presidential campaigner in history. This is a presidential campaign that can go days on end doing nothing or putting out a video that takes eight minutes of his time at home. We saw how he's going to campaign. He's going to go out to those microphones, which they should not have in the courthouse, and he's going to campaign in the courthouse every day before the trial after the trial. You've never seen a criminal defendant get that option before of, whenever you're walking in or out of the courtroom, we're going to make sure there's a whole camera bank over here and microphones for you as a criminal defendant to say whatever you want to about the case. The giant problem with that in this particular case is Donald Trump is not going to testify. He's not going to testify in any of his cases, especially not this one. But he is going to, in effect, testify in the courthouse every single day by going out to the only thing we can see since we're not allowed in the courtroom with cameras.


He's going to be the only televised participant in this trial, and everything he says out there would be, as you know, inadmissible in the courtroom. It will all be relevant to the courtroom. It'll be relevant to the way people perceive what's going on in the courtroom. The DA is not going to follow him to that microphone. There is no plan at all in the DA's office to how do you counter a criminal defendant going to a national microphone every single day, minimum of twice. Their answer to that is, We don't know. We work in the courtroom. The minimal thing that should have been established is that that microphone setup just isn't there in the courthouse. That the judge could have controlled. They didn't. The guy who will will never testify under oath will be out there at the microphone campaigning, in effect, every day of the trial.


And Joy is still with us as we look at that campaign contrast. Your thoughts on both what Lawrence says and the pitfall for Trump, that If he actually did what he claims he would do and testified, he'd be out of control, he'd be subject to the rules of evidence, and it might not go as well.


It might not go as well. I think Lawrence makes a really good point. There is the Donald Trump laziness aspect of it, Absolutely. But he's not lazy when it comes to talking and running his mouth. This is terrible for the campaign because the facts in this case, as slimy as they are, take us back to the first time he ran and the problem that began the very month that he began running for President. I went back over what Michael Cohen was charged with by the Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Justice Department, by the way. This was not by some liberal justice department. Michael Cohen was charged by Donald Trump's Justice Department. In June of the year, Donald Trump begins running for President. June of 2015, he starts running. Michael Cohen doesn't join the campaign, but they give him a campaign email. Within the very first month of Donald Trump's first campaign, he and David Pecker start talking about squashing any stories that might be negative regarding women. They start doing that. Fast forward to the following summer, you have Karen McDdougal come out in June and start saying she was going to talk. They buy her limited life rights, or at least they offer to for $125,000.


We're not talking about the June before the election. They can't even close that deal before Stormy Daniels comes out and says she's going to talk, too. Let me just read this one little, very quick thing that I'm going to read. This is from the Michael Cohen indictment. Cohen caused and made the payments described herein, that's through David Pecker to Karen McDougal and to Stormy Daniels, or he made that one directly to Stormy Daniels, in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. In doing so, he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. As a result of the payments solicited and made by Cohen, neither woman one nor woman two spoke to the press prior to the election. They charged him with campaign finance violations, Ari. They charged him with that crime and named Donald Trump without using his name as individual one. The problem for Donald Trump is that all of the facts in this case, as gross as they are for us to think about, all go to the fact that the entirety of his initial campaign for President was plagued by this one issue of his relationships outside of his marriage with women.


Then you get to October when the Access Hollywood tape drops. It's very clear when you just read the Cohen indictment that this was a crisis for Donald Trump's campaign. It's very hard to get outside of these facts. You can say whatever you want about Michael Cohen. The reason that he is a convicted felon is this, is the stuff. He was not before he did this for Donald Trump. Everything he did that is a crime that they're going to try to use to impeach him, he did for individual one. Every fact in this case is going to be both unnerving, I think, to independent voters who will be reminded and jogged back into their original vision of Donald Trump as this undisciplined cheater who cheats on his marriage and who cheated in the election.


It's a problem. I hate to ever disagree with Lawrence O'Donnell, but I'm going to in this moment because I do think, and we've all talked about this a little bit, the more sometimes you see Donald Trump, the more people see Donald Trump, the more we saw sleepy Donald Trump today a little bit. He didn't say anything particularly memorable at the cameras. He may in the days to come. There's many days to come, but he also may say things that are very crazy. That, I think, may also influence independent voters. We don't know yet. I will say to Joy's point, one of the most interesting things about this, and Rachel mentioned this, too, the National Enquiry of this all, which is a big part of this story we have Lachland Cartwright on tonight on the show, who was the number two guy at the National Enquiry. He said in his New York Times piece, he wrote, It was the 13-page statement of facts that brought me to tears. This is the guy who's the number two at the National Enquiry, because of the role they played in Catch and Kill, and not just one story, multiple stories.


That tells you a lot about who Donald Trump is. We don't know how the public will consume it. New Yorkers aren't talking about on the streets today, but it does tell you about his character. It does tell you about who he is. It does tell you about his willingness to do anything, as Chris said earlier, to hold on to power. The other piece of it, I think I agree you, Jen, is we're going to get some new information here. I mean, Bragg is not just going to have Michael Cohen there on the witness stand for weeks on end. He's bringing in, we already have a list of potential witnesses. Kerrick McDougal is going to be up there. Keith Davidson, the lawyer for both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels is going to be going to be up there. The entire editorial infrastructure of AMI and the National Choir are going to be up there. Dave Pecker, Dylan Howard, Jeffrey McConnie, the comptroller for the Trump organization. These people have new perspective on a very tawdry story. If there's one thing this country likes is a great story. Can I add two more to that? Madelyne Westerhout, am I saying that?


Yes. Hope Hicks. These were people... I mean, Madely Westerhout sat, literally, outside of the oval office. You cannot get closer to the oval office than the desk she sat at. She saw everybody who went in, she saw everybody who went out. She could look through the little people in the oval office and see who was in there. She knows a lot. Hope Hicks was on every phone call he was on. What will we learn? We don't know, but we will certainly learn more about how they discuss this strategically on the campaign as a means of helping his campaign. That seems to be part of the story here.


To the point of how important this was for the Trump campaign, this issue was something that Trump was trying to use against Hillary Clinton's candidacy because of her husband. We'll recall that at the debates, it was Donald Trump who decided, I'm going to invite women who've made accusations against Bill Clinton. That was his debate strategy. Invite women as guests of the Trump side of the debate who've made accusations against Bill Clinton. That's how important Donald Trump and the Trump campaign believed this issue was. He did that before they purchased Stormy Daniels Silence. He's the guy who's brought these women to the debate. Now, Stormy Daniels might be coming out in the last couple of weeks of the campaign and telling her story. Well, we have to stop that because that will destroy that debate strategy of bringing those women.


I also think to circle back to where you started at the polling about how people are evaluating this, I think, Laurence, you're right. You're going to get this unfettered trouble with the cameras. Then What will be happening inside the courtroom will be under the rules of evidence, but off camera. Still a tawdry and gross story. My instinct is that ultimately the outcome and the verdict matters more than It just seems to me, if I had to bet, what will be the political effect of this is a guilty verdict will hurt him considerably, and something short of that won't, or it might help him. Going into this, That's my level setting, is that the people that are persuadable or the mushy middle, whoever's in the middle, are looking from guidance from the system to say what it determines is the verdict.


That's embedded in the question. Lawrence, that's such a part of our legal history. When you think of all the courtroom traumas and all the movies, maybe it's nostalgic, maybe it's overblown, but people do have an idea and a story they've been sold about this process working and the verdict mattering. I'm curious what you think about that and the echoes of history here that sometimes it's okay to be cliched because it's true. The cover-up did foul them up. It was the cover-up. Following the money through Cohen into the White House and back is what DA Bragg did.


Yeah, exactly. One of the many reasons why Donald Trump cannot testify is that his defense is simply going to be cross-examination points, attempted to be scored by his lawyers to asked that this money was for something else. The Trump money, those Trump checks to Michael Cohen, were not for Stormy Daniels. You can't put Trump on the witness stand because he could not survive cross-examination on that particular point, never mind all the other stuff in the evidence. But that's the whole defense, is can we get out of this with reasonable doubt about why Donald Trump signed his name to all of those checks for Michael Cohen. That's the entire defense. There is no other defense. It's a very thin read to hang a defense on, but that's when it comes back to the issue of the defense only needs one juror to get a hung jury.


Well, you're brilliantly previewing what we're going to discuss with Mya Wiley next block.


No, that's called getting in the way of it. You should have told me you were doing that, and I would have talked about what a beautiful day it was at the courthouse. It was just amazing. I got to say, Trump, April fourth, 2023, was the most beautiful day of 2023 as of that point in the calendar. That was the day Trump showed up at this courthouse for the first time as a criminal defendant. I was down there walking his fans. It was very, very pleasant. There were like a dozen of them today, maybe two dozen, if you give a generous account of who was there. I walked down. It's the only exercise I get is walking on the courthouse and walking back. It was as empty and quiet and peaceful as you could possibly announce, which you could have expected, which is the perfect Monday to follow the opening weekend of a movie in America called Civil War that that this country would be willing to go to war over that freak who couldn't get... Remember, 85,000 Trump voters in Manhattan alone. None of them went down there. There's 2 million of them, if you include a little bit of New Jersey within an hour of here, including Long Island.


You got, I don't know, to be generous, two dozen down there. Very quiet, very peaceable, no hint of a bloodbath. I don't think they have bloodbath on their I said it when he said it, that he's lying about the bloodbath just like everything else. The energy that Trump wants out there, literally on the street, about what an outrage this is, does not exist anywhere in the country because it's legal to protest this in Boise, Idaho, if you want to. You could all have gathered there in the center of Idaho and had your big first day protest. Nowhere in America, not one, two dozen people near the corner.


It's a great point, and it also undercuts some of the threats and the generalized anxiety we heard from certain people, some legal establishment people in the past years. What would happen, as Lawrence reminds us right now, this. People would go about their day and we'll have a fair trial, and Thank you for the weather reporting. I didn't know that side of you.


Look, what was today? Today, best day of the year, weatherwise, best day of 2024.


April. Multiple talent.


He does have a touch with the weather. It's the first day of criminal process in Trump's life.


All fair points. I want to remind folks what is coming up as mentioned. We have the breakdown of the two key parts of the prosecution's case. Mia Wiley makes her debut tonight. Joy has some questions for her, so stay with us.


When news breaks, go beyond the headlines with the new MSNBC app.


New developments in the legal drama surrounding former President Donald Trump.


Get real-time analysis from live blogs to in-depth essays, video highlights from your favorite shows and hosts. Lots of news of all kinds going on right now. And the latest updates on the 2024 election. The rematch is on.


It's Trump Biden Part 2.


Go to be on the what to understand the why. Download the app now at msnbc. Com/app. Get the latest updates on this year's high-stakes election with msnbc's How to Win 2024 newsletter. When you subscribe, you'll get expert analysis on key races sent straight to your inbox, including articles written by the host of the How to Win podcast, Jennifer Paul-Merry. Subscribe today at msnbc. Com/win.


Welcome back to our special coverage on this first day of Defendant Trump's criminal trial. In the DA's case, Trump is indicted for lies. Those are the lies about the payments to Stormy Daniels. The indictment says quite clearly, those lies became crimes when Trump and his company blatantly falsified records to hide the truth. The stack of things you see on your screen boils down to the meeting and the money turned into a bunch of documented written lies, falsified invoices, et cetera. That became a felony, the DA argues, by trying to advance a second crime. Some of this evidence is just proven already. For example, prosecutors have Trump on tape planning these payments, the very thing he then denied in that now infamously This is a misbrief response on Air Force One.


Did you know about the $130,000 payment of $20,000?


That was false. But today's trial builds on that history and argues, as prosecutors wrote in the original indictment that becomes the trial today, that this was a larger scheme to purchase negative information about Trump to deceive voters and then mischaracterize the receipts. Well, tonight, we can tell you those receipts are coming back to haunt the defendant. We're going to dig into these two planks of the DA's case, and Joy, as an expert, on hand to help explain it all. Joy?


All right. Thank you very much, Ari. Let's bring in the great Maya Wiley former assistant US attorney. Maya, let's get right to this question of these lies, as Ari so deftly set up. In order for Donald Trump to be acquitted in this case, Would he not have to somehow convince a jury that Michael Cohen, by himself, perhaps working with David Pecker of the National Enquiry, came up with this catch-and-kill scheme for his own benefit? Because There is no other explanation, as Lawrence O'Donnell has said.


Well, Lawrence O'Donnell is right.


You are right, Joy.


The way we would say it, though, to put it in the legal framework, is different, because Because it's the people of the state of New York, I want us to keep remembering, it's the people of the state of New York that have brought this indictment.


It was a jury of Donald Trump's peers and a grand jury that essentially have ensured that we are here.


But the burden is on the New York district Attorney's office to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.


Now, I do think there is much evidence here to prove that, and this is what we should hone on. You actually said it earlier, Joan, I want to reinforce it. How does the prosecution do that?


It does that because it's not only what Michael Cohen is going to say, and to Ari's point, it's because there's so much corroborating evidence, including that Access Hollywood, not just the tape itself, but the evidence that I think is going to corroborate some of what is crucial here to make sure that there is a jury that says, Right, That's exactly what you're saying.


Why would Michael Cohen be doing this?


What is the interest? Because the first thing that the judge, in this case, Judge Marsh, is saying to the jurors is the allegation here is that Donald Trump falsified business records. That's proven. That's clear.


That's not a problem for the jury.


But why? It is the agreement that was that meeting in That meeting, that two of the people in that meeting are going to be witnesses in this case.


That is David Pecker and Michael Cohen. That establishes the agreement as long as the jury believes the witnesses, right? But then once you have the agreement, what's the agreement for?


It's to conceal the fact, and these are the words that are going to come from the judge, that come from the judge, to conceal the agreement to unlawfully influence the 2016 election.


So that goes back to your point as, Well, why would Michael Cohen do that? How does Michael Cohen benefit from that? Michael Cohen does not benefit from this agreement. Donald Trump is the one who benefited. The witnesses that we believe will be lined up are the witnesses like Hope Hicks, who was on the campaign. We know from the search warrant from the Southern district of New York, that the precise times of calls, calls that we know that the district attorney is looking at to establish Hope Hicks as a campaign operative, actively and consistently in communication with Michael Cohen, including a call that Donald Trump was on.


All of this evidence, to your point, unless there is some that the defense can suggest that this is for by Michael Cohen and only in his own interest, which is hard to do, unless Donald Trump tries to say it was all about Melania, I was just worried about Melania. But how do you get that evidence in? He'd have to take the stand.


As we know, the minute he would do that, which is very hard to imagine happening, that opens the door for the prosecution to eat his lunch. Yeah. Okay, so there is that. There are the facts of the case, and then there is the background, the atmospherics. This is the atmospherics. I had my wonderful producer printed out that Donald Trump wants to be a part of this case. The Trump Make America Great Again, I guess, pack, sent out this morning. An attack on DA Alvin Bragg, attacking him, attacking him as George Soros' favorite prosecutor, and then going at length into what they're alleging are his soft on crime positions of not prosecuting this case and not prosecuting that case, trying to tie him to escalating crime, which is actually not even happening. New York crime is down in New York. I would love for you to comment just for a moment on that because that has been a thematic for Donald Trump and for other MAGA Conservatives of attacking prosecutors they consider to be too liberal. Alvin Bragg is a quiet prosecutor. He's not been out there talking. He's not an ostentatious prosecutor, and yet he's still under this attack.


Well, you can run a campaign any way you want, including with misinformation. As we know, this is also deeply tinged in what you've said, Joy, is tinged with racism and anti-Semitism. Those are tropes, and we should be very concerned about that. At the end of the day, elections have consequences in the election of Alvin Bragg as the first black district attorney in Manhattan who pledged and was elected by voters in Manhattan to do exactly what he's done, which is to say, I'm going to go after rich people the same way everyone has been going after poor people, including black people and Latinos, when they commit crimes.


This is the same district attorney who, remember, was pillaried because he wouldn't bring a criminal indictment on the issues that Trump, or ultimately was convicted on. We've seen the civil case that Tish James brought. But all I have to say is that that in and of itself proves that Alvin Bragg is actually being a district attorney who's looking at evidence and bringing the cases that he thinks are most likely to be just prosecutions that he can prove this is the one he brought after turning down another one because he's doing what people were electing him to do. Former former Assistant US attorney and our friend, Maya Wiley. Thank you, my friend, very much. Back to you, Ari.


Thank you, Joy, and our thanks to Maya here on the panel. Jen Saki, before we do lose you as you prepare for your hour, your thoughts on the fact that part one of this case is showing that Trump not only lied, but he lied to the government on paper in these business records.


Well, I think that's what they're proving, but it is reminding people of that fact or that detail. One of the things Maya said, which we were all nodding along to, we learned We're learning a lot about Bragg over the course of the last several months. As she noted, early on, he was under enormous pressure, of course. There was a memo from Mark Pomerantz. He went out and spoke about it. We're all familiar with it. To file a criminal case, he didn't, was criticized. That would have been the easier political thing to him to do. He didn't do it. Now we're seeing he's maybe this super meticulous guy. I mean, he clearly has done a lot of work and thought in terms of determining whether he was going to move forward on this. We'll see how this goes. But I It's interesting to me because he was projected as this person who was slow, who wasn't going to act. He has acted. This is the only criminal case that we're seeing right now in a trial in Trump in the courtroom. But overall, Ari, I would say, and Andrew made this point earlier, is that at the end of the day, Donald Trump was in a courthouse today.


This has been the wheels of justice have moved very, very slowly, years slowly, but he was in a courthouse today. This guy has been trying to obfuscate, delay. He's been brilliant at He sat there just like every other person in defendant today. It's pretty remarkable.


To your point, this day was not certain. Georgia is a big case. Jack Smith has a strong case. The fact that the defense table actually had defendant Trump sitting there and now being told by the judge, You will keep sitting there. You don't get other days off. This is the first time that's happened in any of these jurisdictions. We'll let you run to prepare your show. Lawrence stays. Joy is here. Chris and Alex is here. Maia Wiley is here. Stephanie Rule joins us as we continue our coverage right after this.


Less than two weeks before the presidential election, Michael Cohen wired $130,000 to Stormy Daniels' lawyer. That payment was to hide damaging information from the voting public.


The scheme violated New York election law. Da Bragg there, speaking in his only remarks since this historic indictment, he was discussing the election law part of this case that we've been covering. Stephanie Rule joins the panel. We should know prosecutors say Trump has already broken the new gag order that's been updated. Lawyers clash over that today. Trump has, of course, publicly attacked witnesses and the judge's daughter. Today, the judge scheduled a separate argument on that gag order for next week, but it's not slowing down the process because they went forward on discussing the evidence that will come into this case and those jurors. I want to bring in our full panel now, starting with you. Stephanie, welcome. Nice to see you. Great to be here. Your thoughts on everything you saw since you're joining us and this idea that they do have to deal with Trump allegedly breaking the gag order while also moving forward on the actual trial.


They do. For the time being, he's not worried. Trump is the grand chief chaos agent. He distracts, he causes chaos, he makes all this noise. He has proven to himself that all press is good press, because until now, he hasn't faced consequences. He didn't face consequences with the impeachment. He didn't face consequences with Robert Mueller. So he's making all of this noise and saying a lot of things that that are violating the gag order, that has a lot of people justifiably upset. However, he's faced no pain. But once this trial is underway, once this laundry list of witnesses are sworn under oath, giving testimony, that's when the rubber is going to hit the road. All of this special treatment that he has been getting is going to fall away because we're going to watch the truth come out.


Lawrence, I'm curious what you think about that, because in the AG case, I would remind everyone, he initially said, I'm not testifying, and he ducked the deposition, and they ratched it up slowly. They didn't jump on it and try to make it look unfair, but they increased the fines. Then eventually, he did comply, and he sat for that deposition. He has folded before and sat for a day or two. Now, it looks like he'll be sitting there, Lawrence, for weeks on end.


The only reason some of the incorrigibles in my Catholic schools were controllable at all was because you could expel us. You could kick us out.


So you were one of them?


I got kicked out once, only once. Ended up going to more than one high school. Donald Trump knows no one can put a former president of the United States in jail. Cannot be done. Secret Service does not know how to do it. They can't go out to Rikers, make that work. He knows nothing, nothing he does will make this judge put him in jail. Now, the ultimate penalty is what informs all the lesser penalties. When you know you can get kicked out of a school, there's a bunch of things you're going to do to try to not get up to that line. He knows he can't be sent to Rikers. It won't happen. So he can do anything else he wants because the fine is going to be $1,000 a hit on violating these things. He can pay whatever fine that they want to impose. I think his lawyers have wisely told him, Yeah, you're right, Donald. They cannot put you... None of these judges, none of them. They won't enforce any actual gag orders against him. Asking for them to be enforced is not to recognize what's going on here when you have presidents who get lifetime secret service protection.


Now, when they were writing the law, it didn't cross anyone's mind to say, Unless you are convicted of a crime, or they could have. If they were writing it now, someone would suggest that. But no one thought that at the time. It was pre-Nixon when this was written. So You can't send two dozen secret service agents to jail with them. It's just not doable. That's the part that he knows. So nothing's enforceable between... You're talking about... Penalty doesn't exist.


Right now in the pretrial detention. Yeah.


I'm talking about sentencing in the end, too, if we're going to get there.


In the end, Chris, if he's sentenced and it goes up to the Supreme Court and it is affirmed, then you have an orderly process like you do with other complex cases where you might figure out the system. I think it It's certainly true that you're not going to just send them off to Rikers tomorrow like you would any other defendant.


That's not practical. No. I think that what Lawrence is saying is true. I also think there's just a bluff calling nature to the whole thing. I do think that he thinks the spectacle of it. I do think he has convinced himself, I think, wrongly that all attention is good attention, even negative attention. I think a huge part of the Republican Party has bought into that, even though it hasn't worked for anyone else but him. It turns out if you go around acting like a sociopath when you're trying to convince people to vote for you, you alienate This very obvious intro to politics has been completely zapped out of the minds of a huge amount of the professional class of Republican politicians and Republican political professionals. That said, I keep asking everyone who I encounter along the way on my show, I'm like, Just checking in here, you were a judge for 20 years. Does this happen? Someone's saying, talking about your daughter? Everyone to a person is like, No, nowhere, never. This is like, utterly, completely off the spectrum.


People gave you that exact answer for four years while he was President of the United States as well.


Yes, but there are... I mean, totally. But I think that there are, to Lawrence's point, the reason that that doesn't happen in courts is because there are sanctions. Again, an important point to make here when you talk about Rikers, and I've said this before, and, Ari, I know this is something you've thought a lot about. Most people getting run through the Manhattan DA are in Rikers or the possibility of going to Rikers. That shapes all of the behavior of everyone. It shapes who wants delay and who wants speed. It shapes whether you're willing to talk smack about the judge's daughter. All of that is the normal system, which is people with not much power facing Rikers is not an issue.


Let me just bring Joy into that as well, because we've discussed this many times. A lot of the largest prison systems in America for incarceration are housing people who are awaiting trial, as Chris alluded to. Joy?


Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that Alvin Bragg has actually done that a lot of progressives have been happy about is a lot of those prisons are also housing. They're the new housing for the mentally ill. Rather than actually dealing with issues of mental illness in our cities, we're using prison and jail for that. But to the point that you all were just making, I mean, one of my favorite facts about one of Donald Trump's lawyers, Susan Michelas, is that one of her former clients was the notorious New York mobster, Benny eggs. I will just assume and presume that old Benny eggs was not attacking the judge. Donald Trump is at this point outdoing actual mobsters in his attacks on the judge's family, the daughter, and he's doing it to the point that Lawrence made. He knows he will never spend a day, a second, a moment in prison. But for me, there is something wonderfully poetic about the fact that despite the fact that even if convicted, he's not going to go to prison, the first person to actually criminally prosecute Donald Trump is a black Harvard grad, the very person that his former staff, the people who worked for him, Steven Miller, et cetera, want to never be at Harvard law school.


But he was. He came out and graduated, and he's prosecuting you, Donald. A black woman is doing that same exact thing in Georgia, and a black woman forced you to pay a $175 million fine. That's now also in question because the people who put it up, that might not be legit. Donald Trump is being held to account by the very multicultural, multiracial democracy that he's trying to dismantle. For me, there's something poetic and actually wonderful about that. It says something good about our country that we're still capable of having that happen. Go DEI. If my DEIs are bringing it home on today.


No, it's striking in a system that also is affording him rights that he, when he was in power, tried to deny others. So Joyce stays with us. We have to fit in a break. We have a lot coming up, including Jen Saki, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, all doing their shows tonight, coming up. And when we come back, our full panel on what we are learning in this first week of the first ever criminal trial of a former president.


My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened. I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.


Stormy Daniels speaking out so many years ago, and here we are. This is now the first criminal trial of former President. Our panel is here, Alex Wagner. It is remarkable for people who lived through that period and everything since then that stormy, and this is the topic of the first criminal trial.


She's going to be testifying, we hear, as a witness, possibly. I have to say, we haven't talked about this in the context of this trial. The jury selection is going to be prolonged. I mean, half of the 96 jurors that were in the first tranche of interviewees today left. They said they couldn't be impartial. They were dismissed. I mean, this is a contentious process. It's going to be complicated. New York City is a complicated landscape. It's not unforgiving in terms of getting an impartial trial, but I think this is going to be prolonged and it's going to be challenging. The other piece of it is the gag order factors into it insofar as the more Donald Trump is allowed to mouth off, the more that he is allowed to speak ill of potential witnesses and say what he's going to say, the more that intimidates people from A, coming forward, but B, wanting to participate in this. The other thing we know is he's part of the sidebar conversations that the judge can have with potential jurors. If there's a question, Donald Trump, that means Donald Trump may be up there with the judge as a potential juror is interviewed in-depth.


If you are a juror, that's either something you really don't want or maybe it's something you do want.


But either way- He's a known lurker.


It's daunting. He lerks, yeah. I think it all combines to create a very, again, uphill climb to get this done in an expeditious fashion. Not that it has to, but there are a lot of challenges here that we're going to bear. He's a lerker and he's a celebrity. We just cannot forget. We sit here for all these months saying, Oh, my God, if he finally sits for a trial, when this thing happens, justice will be served. That does not mean that Donald Trump will automatically be found guilty here. People should be prepared for what that is going to look like, what that's going to look like for his hard core supporters who will say this was always a witch hunt, forget all the other trials. But it will also be the Uber gift for the Chris Sununus of the world and that donor class who are on the fence about, should I, shouldn't I? I'm just saying that's a distinct possibility Well, in Lawrence, you only need one.


The burden's on the prosecution, they need all 12. The defense only needs one.


Yeah, one gets you the hung jury, which gets Trump through the year. That's all he cares about. Of course, after hung jury, his prosecutions have to really think, do We want to bring this again. There's a certain number of cases that just drop off with the hung jury. They give up on them. But this jury will get impaneled. It'll get impaneled as carefully as a jury has ever been impaneled down there. It has a real effect, as we've seen. I think the most reasonable bet is that it'll be likely a fair jury. He's already had juries impaneled here in New York City, and they came to an agreement, a unanimous agreement, about how to deal with the Eugene Carroll case. It's not like we haven't been through this once already in this very jurisdiction with the same jury pool.


Chris, I have 30 seconds. Make it make sense.


Well, Well, I just want to say what... Emphasize what Alex said. I had a former judge on my show this week who was like, I think it could take a month on the jury selection, which seemed super long to me. She was like, This is going to take a while. It's difficult and it's going to take a while. All of this... I mean, the timing here, which has always been the metronomic background to this entire thing starting last year when we were doing these specials above the indictments of like, Is it going to happen? We're here now. This trial is happening before this election, barring some crazy unforeseen circumstance. But the amount of time it's going to take is a real open question.


Yeah. We are on day one of what could be weeks of jury selection and then weeks of arguments, witnesses, and then however long they deliberate. We will meet back up here at this table many more times. I want to thank our Intrepid Panel and remind everyone it is a special night on MSNBC. We've got a lot of coverage coming up. We'll be right back.


Hey, everyone. It's Chris Hayes. This week on my podcast, Why Is This Happening? We're back with another installment of our special series with pod 2024, The Stakes. I'm talking to experts about both Joe Biden and Donald Trump's records on specific policy areas during their time as President. This week, Economist Kim Clausing on taxes.


Underfunding the IRS really serves the interest of dishonest people at the top rather than your typical worker who would benefit from being able to get their questions answered and getting their returns processed in a quick way.


That's this week on Why is this happening? For Why is this happening? Wherever you're listening right now and follow.