July 20–Lordy, there are tapes.
President Trump’s longtime personal fixer Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation they had two months before the 2016 election about paying off ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was at the time threatening to go public with claims she had an extramarital affair with the soon-to-be President, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The recording was seized by FBI agents who raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, hotel room and home in April, the source told the Daily News.
Cohen is under federal investigation for possible campaign finance violations as it relates to hush payments he issued shortly before the election to women who alleged they had a sexual relationship with Trump.
The revelation that there’s a recording of Trump and Cohen discussing a potential payment could implicate the President, as his having any knowledge of such a payoff would open him up to campaign finance violations as well.
McDougal, 47, a two-time Playboy Playmate, says she begun a year-long affair with Trump in 2006, just months after First Lady Melania had given birth to their youngest son, Barron. The ex-model sold her story to the National Enquirer for $150,000 during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, but the Trump-friendly tabloid never published an article, effectively barring McDougal from going public with her claims — a practice known in media circles as “catch and kill.”
McDougal alleges Cohen played a major role in cutting the backroom deal to silence her. David Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer’s parent company, is a close friend of Trump and his media empire routinely publishes stories fawning Trump.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the existence of the audio recording, but claimed a payment was never issued to McDougal. The ex-New York mayor said the conversation lasted less than two minutes and claimed it clears the President of any wrongdoing.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani told The New York Times, which first reported the covert recording.
Giuliani added Trump had instructed Cohen to write a check to McDougal if he were to issue the payment, so it could be properly accounted for.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Giuliani said.
Trump apparently wasn’t as confident as Giuliani Friday afternoon.
“I can’t believe Michael would do this to me,” the President said when informed of the recording, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
McDougal’s attorney, Peter Stris, tweeted at his client, “when @realDonaldTrump said we were lying, do you think he meant we WEREN’T?,” poking fun at the President’s claim he misspoke during a controversial press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland earlier this week.
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.
Right around the time McDougal sold her story to The Enquirer, Cohen was in talks to pay off another woman who also alleges she had sex with Trump in 2006: porn star Stormy Daniels.
Daniels’ telegenic attorney, Michael Avenatti, played coy when asked what he knew about Cohen’s covert recording on Friday afternoon.
“There’s a reason I stood outside the federal court house in Manhattan and demanded the release of what I described at time as the Trump tapes,” Avenatti told The News, referencing comments he made in May. “I think people know me well enough that when I say something I stand behind it. My accuracy record is pretty good to say the least.”
Avenatti declined to comment when asked whether there are any recordings of Cohen and Trump discussing his client. But he made one thing clear: “There’s more than one audio recording.”
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 days before the election in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement barring her from going public with claims she slept with Trump at a Lake Tahoe golf course in July 2006.
Daniels is suing to get out of that hush contract, arguing it should be voided because Trump never signed it. She’s separately suing Trump for defamation.
Trump and his officials have maintained he never slept with either Daniels or McDougal. In the case of Daniels, Trump has admitted he reimbursed Cohen for her hush payment, but claims he only approved its issuance because he wanted to put her claims behind him.
The tape revelations come at a perilous time for the President.
Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer and all-around fixer for years, has distanced himself from his ex-boss in recent weeks and has repeatedly hinted he’s willing to cooperate with federal investigators.
On Monday, Cohen — who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump — directly contradicted the President in a tweet about Russian election interference.
“I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies who determined that Russia, had in fact, interfered or meddled in our democratic process,” Cohen tweeted shortly after Trump had sided with Putin over his own intelligence community. “I repudiate Russia’s effort and call on all Americans to do the same.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.