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CNN's Zucker discussed weekly Trump show, offered debate advice in 2016 call: audio

CNN President Jeff Zucker said in 2016 that he wanted President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE "to do a weekly show" and offered advice ahead of a GOP presidential primary debate on the network, according to audio of a phone conversation obtained by Fox News Channel's "Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonTucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon Former Trump officials eye bids for political office Jill Biden picks up where she left off MORE Tonight."

"I have all these proposals for him," Zucker told Trump's former personal attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenThe Memo: Trump faces deepening legal troubles Trump lashes out after Supreme Court decision on his financial records Supreme Court declines to shield Trump's tax returns from Manhattan DA MORE according to audio of the call on March 10, 2016. "I want to do a weekly show with him and all this stuff." 

In the phone call with Cohen, Zucker also praised Trump's debate performances and offered advice to the then-front-runner ahead of one that aired on CNN the night of the call.

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"I think the other guys are going to gang up on him tremendously," Zucker said. "And I think he's going to hold his own, as he does every time. He's never lost a debate. And you know what? He's good at this. ... He's going to do great."

"I'm very conscious of not putting too much in email, as you're a lawyer, as you understand," Zucker later told Cohen while referring to Trump as "the boss."

"And, you know, as fond as I am of the boss, he also has a tendency ... if I call him or I email him, he then is capable of going out at his next rally and saying that we just talked and I can't have that, if you know what I'm saying."

"It's not that I don't want to talk to him every day. I've just got to be careful, because, I've just got to be careful," he added. "I just don't want him talking about it on the campaign trail. ... But you know what? I'm going to give him a call right now and I'm going wish him luck in the debate tonight."

"You know what you should do?" Zucker advised Cohen. "Whoever's around him today should just be calling him a con man all day so he's used to it, so that when he hears it from [Sen. Marco] Rubio, it doesn't matter. 'Hey con man, hey con man, hey con man.' He thinks that's his name, you know?"

Zucker and Trump have known each other since long before the former real estate mogul launched his presidential run in 2015. As president of NBC before going to CNN, Zucker greenlighted "The Apprentice," the popular reality show starring Trump.

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Trump, however, has railed against CNN more than any other broadcast news network and has not appeared on the network since Aug. 2016.

The president has also criticized Zucker directly on social media.

Zucker, meanwhile, has called the president's attacks "a badge of honor" that has only boosted morale.

“They wear those insults as a badge of honor, because it means they are doing their jobs,” Zucker told reporters in 2017.

“I would say that morale is incredibly high," he added. "They are not being intimidated, they are not backing down, they know they have my full support and it is a very exciting time, frankly, to be a journalist at CNN."

The Hill has reached out to CNN for comment.