The New York Times reports President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation with Trump regarding payments made to a former Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with the president. Nathan Rousseau Smith has more.
President Donald Trump took a shot Saturday at his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, over a secretly recorded conversation with him in 2016, tweeting that a lawyer taping a client is “perhaps illegal,” before assuring Twitter followers that “your favorite President” did nothing wrong.
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, quickly fired back, hurling a tweet at the president, and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in a show of worsening relations between the president and his former attorney.
Trump’s tweet followed news Friday that Cohen, the president’s one-time fixer, secretly recorded a conversation in which he and Trump discussed payments to a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Trump.
The development was first reported Friday by The New York Times. The Wall Street Journal reported subsequently that the conversation took place in person.
A person familiar with the matter, who has reviewed the transcript of the contact but who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the recording was made about two months before the 2016 election and was among the materials seized during an April FBI raid on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room.
Trump’s tweets lashed out at both points.
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of,” he tweeted. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”
Davis responded, tweeting: “The strategy of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS @RudyGiuliani is flawed; just as is #Trump’s false #Twitter statement made against @MichaelCohen212 this morning.”
The recording was part of a large collection of documents and electronic records seized by federal authorities from the longtime Trump fixer earlier this year.
Cohen had made a practice of recording telephone conversations, unbeknownst to those with whom he was speaking. Most states, including New York, allow for recordings of phone conversations with only the consent of one party; other states require all parties to agree to a recording or have mixed laws on the matter. It was not immediately clear where Trump and Cohen were located at the time of the call.
Cohen’s recording adds to questions about whether Trump tried to quash damaging stories before the election. Trump’s campaign had said it knew nothing about any payment to the former Playboy centerfold, Karen McDougal.
McDougal, who alleged she had an affair with Trump that began in 2006, received a $150,000 payment in August 2016 from the parent company of the National Enquirer. But the tabloid did not publish the story, keeping it out of public view.
The head of the Enquirer’s parent company, David Pecker, is a Trump ally. In a lawsuit she has since settled, McDougal argued that Cohen secretly intervened in the deal she struck with the tabloid’s owner.
Trump has denied the affair.
In an interview with The Times, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani confirmed Trump discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape, but he asserted that Trump did not engage in any wrongdoing.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said.
Davis, in his Saturday tweet, took a specific poke at Giuliani: “Rudy claims the tape is “exculpatory”. Why so angry?”
The taped conversation, now in the FBI’s possession, could also further entangle the president in a criminal investigation that for months has targeted Cohen.
Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s lawyers, claimed in a written statement late Friday that the contents of the recording would not be damaging for his client.
“Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that,” Davis said. “But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt at spin cannot change what is on the tape.”
The revelation casts a fresh spotlight on efforts before the presidential campaign to put the lid on damaging disclosures about Trump, as well as the trove of information Cohen might possess as he weighs cooperating with prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating whether Cohen’s actions, including a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, violated campaign-finance laws as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe into the longtime Trump fixer.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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