Cohen tape: Trump heard discussing buying rights to Playboy model's story | US news
The tape, which aired late Tuesday, was released to the network and public for the first time by Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, who argued that its contents proved his client tried to handle the payment legally whereas Trump instead sought to pay in cash.
The conversation took place in September of 2016, two months before the presidential election.
The rights to McDougal’s story were bought for $150,000 by the National Enquirer, which proceeded not to publish her account in a practice known as “catch and kill”. American Media Inc, the tabloid’s parent company, is headed by David Pecker, a close ally and friend of Trump’s.
The existence of the tape first came to light last week as part of the continuing investigation into Cohen’s financial dealings. Cohen, who long worked as Trump’s personal fixer, has increasingly signaled he would cooperate with federal authorities. That could be severely problematic for Trump, given their close association.
In the tape, Cohen can be heard explaining to the then presidential candidate his plans to open a company through which he would finance the purchase of the rights to McDougal’s story. McDougal has alleged she had an affair with Trump about a decade ago – an allegation the White House has vehemently denied.
Trump interrupts Cohen in the record to ask: “What financing?” Cohen proceeds to tell Trump: “We’ll have to pay,” after which Trump is heard saying: “Pay with cash.” But the recording is muddled, making it difficult to confirm the full context of Trump’s comments.
Last week, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani insisted his client had done nothing wrong and in fact sought to make the payment through check as a matter of record.
“They’re talking about a corporation doing it, one of their corporations doing it,” Giuliani said.
“The president says: ‘Make sure it’s done correctly, and make sure it’s done by check.’”
Davis said the tape was being released so that the public could hear that Trump mentioned the word “cash”, arguing that method was the preference of “drug dealers and mobsters” and inherently designed to remain secret.
“We have truth on our side and they are afraid,” Davis told the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday.
According to court filings, the government obtained as many as 12 audio recordings after FBI raids on Cohen conducted this year. Cohen is also under scrutiny for paying $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actor who has also alleged an affair with Trump.
The White House similarly denied both the affair and Trump’s knowledge of any related payment, only to be contradicted by Giuliani, who suggested the president had personally reimbursed Cohen. Although Giuliani later walked back his claim, Trump’s potential involvement in the payments has been a subject of intense focus.