NY Times: Cohen secretly taped Trump discussing payment to ex-Playboy model
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, secretly recorded Trump two months before the 2016 presidential election discussing the possibility of a payment to a former Playboy model, who alleges she had an affair with Trump, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The conversation was in connection with a possible payment to Karen McDougal, who said she had a year-long affair with Trump more than a decade ago. The recording was seized in April when the FBI raided Cohen's office and hotel rooms, The Times reported, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording. The White House has denied the affair.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, told The Times that Cohen recorded a brief conversation with Trump discussing a possible payment but told the paper the payment was eventually never made. He also said the recording demonstrated no wrongdoing by Trump.
"Nothing in that conversation suggests that (Trump) had any knowledge of it in advance," Giuliani said, telling the paper that Trump also told Cohen that if he did make a payment to McDougal he should write a check and not send cash so the payment could be documented.
"In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence," Giuliani said.
Trump was "unaware" that Cohen was recording him, CNBC reported on Friday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The source also said other tapes exist, but the president's legal team is not aware of any other "substantive tapes."
The White House declined to comment.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, told NBC News he has no comment on the Times' story or the existence of this recording.
Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the review of evidence seized from Cohen, said on Friday she was provided with 4,085 items that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization marked as attorney-client privilege. But Jones pushed back on the designation of 1,452 of those items, so those will be handed over to government investigators.
McDougal said earlier this year that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, agreed to pay her $150,000 for her story before the election in 2016 but then did not publish it.
David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of AMI, is a Trump supporter who has reportedly described the president as a "personal friend." Six former AMI employees told The New Yorker that Pecker often purchases a story in order to bury it — a tabloid industry practice called "catch and kill."Cohen’s lawyers found the recording when reviewing the seized materials from the raid and shared it with Trump's lawyers, The Times said, citing three unnamed sources.
McDougal also filed a lawsuit seeking the right to speak publicly about a "sexual relationship" she says she had with Trump. Adult film star Stormy Daniels has also sued the president to nullify a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged affair.