Michael Cohen’s legal team has released a secretly recorded conversation between Cohen and his longtime former client, President Donald Trump, in which they appear to be discussing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
On Tuesday night, CNN aired the recording that seemed to prove Trump was aware of McDougal’s affair allegations, as well as a plan to pay for her story. Trump has denied having an affair. And before the 2016 presidential election, the Trump campaign denied any knowledge of a payment to McDougal.
In the tape, recorded in September 2016 during a meeting between Cohen and then-GOP nominee Trump, the two men appear to be discussing plans to create a company to fund a $150,000 payment made by American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, to McDougal for the rights to her story, CNN reports. The Enquirer never published McDougal’s story, and have been accused of burying the story using a strategy known as “catch and kill.”
In the recording, Cohen appears to say at one point, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” which CNN reported was likely a reference to AMI CEO David Pecker, a personal friend of the president.
At another point, Trump appears to say, “What financing?” followed by the phrase, “pay with cash.” The recording ends shortly after that.
The morning after the recording was played on national television, Trump took to Twitter to respond.
“What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before?” he tweeted.
“Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?” he added. “I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!”
The Hill reports that the recording is legal, as New York only requires one party to consent to being recorded.
The tape’s existance was first reported on Friday by The New York Times, which said the Justice Department was currently investigating the taped conversation. The F.B.I seized the recording during its raid of Cohen’s office and hotel room in April, the Times reported.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the Times that Trump did discuss the payments with Cohen but claimed the payment was never made.
Giuliani said on Fox News Tuesday night that there was “no indication of any crime being committed on this tape.”
McDougal has said her affair with the president began in 2006 around the time his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son, Barron, now 12, and lasted for almost a year. McDougal sold her rights to the story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 as the presidential campaign ramped up.
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The taped conversation adds a new layer to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of Cohen’s involvement in payments to women who threatened Trump’s public image in the months leading up to the election. Federal officials are looking to understand if the payments violated federal campaign finance laws.
“Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors,” the Times wrote.
The tape may also impact Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who is suing Trump and Cohen to void a contract that bars her from speaking about her alleged affair with the president. Trump denies any affair with Daniels. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC on Friday that he believes the Cohen tape is “the tip of the iceberg.”
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