President Donald Trump unleashed his indignation again on former attorney Michael Cohen after the publication of a secret tape Cohen made of a conversation between the two men. In the recording, which the FBI obtained and CNN aired, the pair are apparently discussing a potential payoff to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump between 2006 and 2007.
Trump has slammed Cohen’s taping of their discussion as “inconceivable,” framing the attorney as a villain and seeking to cast doubt on any negative ramifications this conversation might have for him. “Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?” he wrote in his Wednesday tweet. The tape is part of an ongoing federal criminal investigation examining Cohen’s business dealings.
What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? Too bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2018
As Vox’s Jen Kirby reports, the muffled audio includes a discussion between Cohen and Trump about what seems like a transaction involving American Media Inc. chief David Pecker. “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen says to Trump.
American Media Inc. owns the National Enquirer, a publication with which McDougal, the former model, inked a $150,000 deal in exchange for her story on Trump. (The Wall Street Journal reported on the deal between McDougal and American Media Inc. in November 2016.) In April, McDougal reached a settlement with American Media that released her from an agreement that barred her from speaking publicly about the alleged affair.
Per CNN, the tape features the following exchange:
Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay.”
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged the existence of the tape but denied that Trump did anything wrong. “Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani told the New York Times. He added that Trump had even pressed for the use of a check to ensure proper documentation if any payment were to transpire.
Here’s the full audio, which also includes Cohen praising Trump on his poll numbers.
Full audio: Presidential candidate Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording "https://t.co/YmC0QuDqTx pic.twitter.com/fBbq7r1Lq9— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) July 25, 2018
There are more tapes, but this is reportedly the only one featuring Trump
A dozen tapes were seized from Cohen’s office during a raid by federal authorities earlier this year, although the other 11 are said to feature conversations with the media.
Officials are looking into payments Cohen made to women to keep them from speaking out about Trump, including a $130,000 payout to porn actress Stormy Daniels — who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006 — as well as a payment to McDougal. The payments might have violated federal campaign finance law.
As the focus on both the tape and these payments intensifies, Trump’s tweet seems to suggest that his main priority is shifting the scrutiny toward Cohen and absolving himself of any implications of wrongdoing. “The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!” he tweeted this weekend.