The New York Times is reporting that President Trump’s long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, may have secretly recorded a conversation between the two that took place just months before the 2016 presidential election. The New York Times does not name their sources, the informants remaining anonymous, but offers them credibility stating that they are familiar with the recording.
The subject being discussed on the tape? Allegedly, the potential for payments to be made by Trump to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with the President in years past.
For her part, McDougal has long claimed that she had an affair with Trump. Claiming to have begun the relationship over a decade ago in 2006 – shortly following the birth of the President’s youngest son, Barron Trump, to his wife and now First Lady Melania – McDougal says that the affair lasted for nearly a year before it was over. She had sold her story previously to The National Enquirer for the princely sum of $150,000 during the closing months of the hotly contested presidential campaign, though the story was never published and a lawsuit was launched by her legal counsel alleging that the story was purchased with exclusivity and non-disclosure clauses attached in order to “catch and kill” the story before it could damage Trump, according to NPR.
The tape was apparently seized by FBI investigators during an unannounced raid of Mr. Cohen’s legal office, coinciding with a Justice Department investigation looking into Cohen and Trump’s relationship. Prosecutors are seeking any evidence they can find that Trump and Cohen colluded in order to bury unflattering stories surrounding the successful presidential campaign as well as Trump himself, in addition to seeking evidence of campaign finance violations.
Cohen is regarded as a cornerstone political target for prosecutors, given that as Trump’s lawyer, he would naturally be privy to a great deal of personal information on the President. In recent days, many news outlets such as CNN have taken to describing Cohen as increasingly cooperative on this score, giving strong wind to flagging sails surrounding the ongoing Russia collusion or meddling file and suggesting that Cohen may flip on his former friend and partner.
For his part, Trump’s camp does not appear to be overly concerned with the revelation that such a tape exists, nor worried about the contents of the recording coming to light. Trump’s current legal counsel, former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, went on the record to state that while the possibility of a payment was mentioned on the tape, the payment was ultimately never made. Further, Guiliani asserts that the nature of the conversation reveals that Trump had no idea of the situation prior to the conversation in question and that the tape actually serves their interests as a legally binding piece of exculpatory evidence.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, pointing out that even during the recording, Trump says that if a payment is to be issued, it should be done in the form of a cheque so that there was a clear paper trail.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani said.
Cohen’s lawyer had no comment on the matter. President Trump and his spokespeople have denied that the affair ever took place, dismissing the story as a concocted falsehood. Hope Hicks, speaking days before the election – after the Wall Street Journal had revealed that the National Enquirer had bought and buried the story – made the current administration’s position crystal clear.
“We have no knowledge of any of this.” Hicks said at the time, referring to McDougal’s claim of sexual impropriety to be “completely untrue.”