Cohen tapes: Trump heard saying 'pay with cash' in leaked recording of Playboy model discussion

President discusses allegations by Karen McDougal's that they had a 10-month affair in 2006 

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 25 July 2018 12:15 BST
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CNN obtains secret Trump Cohen recording

A secret recording of Donald Trump and his former lawyer discussing a potential payment for a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair with the then presidential candidate, has been aired by a US news network.

Made by Michael Cohen two months before the 2016 election, Mr Trump can be heard asking whether to "pay with cash" for the rights to Karen McDougal's tale about her alleged 10-month affair with the billionaire businessman in 2006, three months after the birth of his son Barron.

The tape was provided to CNN by Mr Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis and aired by the network.

The conversation came weeks after the National Enquirer's parent company reached a $150,000 (£114,000) deal to pay Ms McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair, which it never published.

This is a tabloid practice referred to as catch and kill.

Mr Trump has denied the affair ever happened and his campaign had said he knew nothing about the payment. His current lawyer Rudy Giuliani has insisted that no money was paid, and the tape does not show evidence of any crime.

But on the recording, the US president appears to talk about buying the rights to Ms McDougal's story from the Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc.

Mr Cohen can be heard saying that he needed to start a company “for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David”.

It is believed that he is referring to David Pecker, Mr Trump's friend and president of American Media Inc.

When Mr Cohen begins to discuss financing, Mr Trump interruptted him and asked: “What financing?”

Mr Cohen replied: “We'll have to pay”.

At this point the audio becomes muffled, but Mr Trump can be heard saying “pay with cash."

It is unclear whether he was suggesting that a cash payment be made or the opposite was the case.

Mr Cohen immediately replied: “No, no, no”.

Mr Trump can then be heard saying, “check.”

Mr Giuliani said that he had an expert enhance the recording and Mr Trump can be heard saying: "Don't pay with cash.”

He said: “It clearly indicates that the president did not want to pay with cash. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous and is inconsistent with the rest of the conversation, during which it was discussed doing it through a corporation."

He added that Mr Cohen, as Mr Trump's lawyer, thought it would be best if he could buy the rights to Ms McDougal's story and the recording captures the two of them discussing how to do that.

“Cohen says I have to pay him. The president brings up cash and says don't pay with cash and says 'check,' He wants it memorialised,” Mr Giuliani said. “Cohen then says 'No, no, no, no' and he cuts off the tape. He obviously cuts it off in mid-sentence and that in itself is suspicious.

He added: “The president wanted to do it the right way. If you wanted to hide something, you would not do it by corporation or check."

The payment was never made and Mr Giuliani said he did not know why that was the case and had not discussed it with Mr Trump.

But Mr Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis insisted Mr Trump knew about the payment.

“Listen to the tape," he told CNN. "Donald Trump is not shocked money is being paid about someone named Karen McDougal."

Mr Davis said his client - who is under investigation by federal officials in New York - “has been disparaged and insulted and called all kinds of things.”

“He's got truth on his side and he'll continue to tell the truth,” Mr Davis said.

American Media Inc's payment effectively silenced Ms McDougal through the election, although days beforehand news of the deal emerged in The Wall Street Journal. At the time, a Trump spokeswoman said his campaign had “no knowledge of any of this.”

The FBI raided Cohen's office, home and hotel room in April, searching in part for information about payments to Ms McDougal and adult actor Stormy Daniels. The latter said she had a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006 - which the president denies - and was paid $130,000 (£99,000) as part of a non-disclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election.

A dozen audio recordings seized during those raids were forwarded to federal prosecutors last week after lawyers dropped challenges on attorney-client privilege grounds.

Mr Giuliani said those recordings captured Mr Cohen talking about the president with third parties, who he would not identify. They are also being enhanced by experts, he said.

Mr Trump and Mr Cohen can also be heard on the recording which was released on Tuesday discussing other legal issues, including fighting a request by The New York Times to unseal court records concerning Mr Trump's divorce from his first wife, who is the mother of his oldest three children, Ivana Trump.

The FBI's raids on Mr Cohen profoundly unsettled the president - prompting him to increase his attacks on the Justice Department, the office of the special counsel, Robert S Mueller III, and Mr Cohen - who has told associates he is prepared to cooperate with the authorities.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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