According to CNN, President Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to denounce Michael Cohen’s claims that his former lawyer recorded a conversation between the two discussing the payment of ex-Playboy model, Karen McDougal. The conversation reportedly took place in September 2016 at Trump’s office in Trump Tower and was first discovered during the FBI’s raid, although reports of the secret audio file were just released this Friday.
Referring to the FBI raid of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel back in April, Trump falsely claimed that the government actually broke into his former lawyer’s office, adding that it is “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”
While the President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claims that his client was not aware that he was being recorded at the time, the recording is not illegal. In 2003 the New York Bar Association ruled that it is perfectly legal for a lawyer to record “a conversation without disclosing so ‘if the lawyer has a reasonable basis for believing that disclosure of the taping would impair pursuit of a generally accepted societal good.'”
The recording was initially considered privileged information by a former federal judge, but Trump’s lawyers have since requested that the judge withdraw and wave that privilege, giving “the government access to the recording as part of the US attorney for the Southern District of New York investigation into Cohen.”
Prior to the 2016 election, McDougal signed a contract or nondisclosure agreement with the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc. to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. On the newly discovered recording, Cohen and Trump are heard talking about buying the rights to the said nondisclosure agreement. Giuliani, however, claims that the payment discussed on the recording was never actually made.
Michael Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, claims that the recording will not harm Cohen in court, later tweeting that Trump’s “strategy” is flawed. Davis said, “Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation and we are sensitive to that. But, suffice it to say, that when the recording that has been widely reported is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. And any attempt to spin cannot change what is on the tape.”
Cohen, who has reportedly been willing to cooperate with investigators in recent months, might very well “seek a cooperation agreement with the US attorney’s office that would require him to provide information federal prosecutors could use against other individuals they are examining,” although this still remains uncertain.