Don’t know if it’s privileged or not.
The New York Times reported today that President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with him about payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal about an alleged affair.
The Times received this information from “lawyers and others familiar with the recording.”
The Times continued:
The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.
The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.
The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump in 2006, shortly after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Ms. McDougal sold her story for $150,000 to The National Enquirer, which was supportive of Mr. Trump, during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public. The practice, known as “catch and kill,” effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign.
Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt @MichaelCohen212. Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.
— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) July 20, 2018
The recording happened two months before the 2016 election. It landed in the FBI’s hands when agents raided Cohen’s office earlier this year, which means there is a possibility it’s part of the over 2,000 documents that the special master ruled as privileged and the feds would not have the ability to listen to it (pdf.).
It all ties into an investigation in “Cohen’s involvement in paying women to bury embarrassing news stories about Trump ahead of the election.” Another part of the investigation is possible involvement in sending Stormy Daniels “hush money.”
On Friday, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke about this recording. From The Times:
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed payments to Ms. McDougal with Mr. Cohen on the tape. He said the recording was less than two minutes long, said Mr. Trump did not know he was being recorded and claimed that the president had done nothing wrong.
Mr. Giuliani said there was no indication on the tape that Mr. Trump knew before the conversation about the payment from the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., to Ms. McDougal.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said.
The men discussed a payment from Mr. Trump to Ms. McDougal — separate from the Enquirer payment — to buy her story and ensure her silence, Mr. Giuliani said. That payment was never made, Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had told Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, to write a check rather than send cash, so it could be properly documented.
I see some people in freakout mode and think this is the end of Trump. However, unless we hear the recording, we won’t know for sure. The recording has to show Trump authorizing payment to McDougal with federal donations. If it doesn’t then it’s a nothingburger.
— Allie Malloy (@AlliemalCNN) July 20, 2018
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