CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening aired a secret audio recording of Donald Trump discussing with his longtime attorney Michael Cohen plans to acquire the rights to the story of an alleged affair between Playboy model Karen McDougal and the real estate tycoon.
Cohen can be heard on the 2016 recording relaying to Trump the need to register a company “for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” — believed to be American Media Inc. president and Trump ally David Pecker. According to the Associated Press: “The conversation between Trump and Cohen came weeks after the National Enquirer’s parent company reached a $150,000 deal to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair, which it never published. This is a tabloid practice known as catch and kill. Trump denies the affair ever happened.”
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
The audiotape, which sounds as though it could have been recorded in Cohen’s clothing pocket, was given to CNN by former Clinton official Lanny Davis, who has recently begun providing legal services to the former Trump organization executive. Cohen is heard making references to financing the money transfer, to which Trump asks his longtime lawyer, “What financing?”
“We’ll have to pay,” responds Cohen. Trump can be heard over the poorly recorded audio replying, “Pay with cash,” — yet it is unclear if this was a command or a question. Cohen then shoots back with a series of noes, leaving the question as to whether Trump was asking if the payment could be made by check still lingering.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani dismissed the notion the tapes prove his client knew of the transaction purportedly organized by Cohen “It doesn’t,” Giuliani told the Jeff Bezos-owned paper. “That’s open to interpretation, and we can have a fight about that.”
“To me it sounds like Cohen is explaining something to [Trump] that he doesn’t understand,” he added. “He doesn’t seem that familiar with anything. There is nothing to indicate he knew anything in advance.”
Giuliani stated in an earlier interview that the audio tapes would prove President Trump wanted to transfer to be done “correctly,” by “check.” In fact, CNN was provided a transcript of the recording from Giuliana showing Trump ordered Cohen, “Don’t pay with cash.”
“The transcript that we provided CNN accurately reflects the taped conversation,” Giuliani told The Associated Press.
Trump attorney Alan Futerfas on Tuesday told the Post that the term “cash” discussed by Trump and Cohen refers to money with a verifiable record — such as a check — not a loan or “bag of cash” to pay for the transaction. “The notion that they were discussing using a bag of cash or green currency is ridiculous,” said the Trump attorney.
Futerfas also challenged Cohen’s account of discussing the matter with Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Futerfas said:
The notion that Mr. Cohen would have spoken to Mr. Weisselberg about a proposition he had yet to even make to the president does not ring true. Mr. Weisselberg is a bookkeeper who simply carries out directions from others about monetary payments and transfers. There would be no reason for Mr. Cohen to have any conversation with Mr. Weisselberg prior to him recommending and obtaining approval for the purchase he was suggesting.
Davis suggested to Cuomo the audio tape revealed Donald Trump advised Cohen to pay for the rights to the story in cash, rather than Cohen. “Richard Nixon couldn’t spin the tape that did him in, and there’s no way that Mr. Giuliani, who knows from being U.S. Attorney, the only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters,” Davis, who has likely cemented himself as the new Michael Avenatti, told host Christopher Cuomo.
“Cash is not what you do, and it was Michael Cohen who said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ And Donald Trump, despite what Rudy Giuliani said publicly, the tape contradicts Mr. Giuliani and the word ‘cash’ is heard by everyone,” said Davis.
When asked why he agreed to take on Cohen as a client, Davis replied, “They fear that he has the truth about Donald Trump. He will someday speak the truth about Donald Trump.”
The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman on July 5 reported Cohen hired Davis following the longtime Trump lawyer’s controversial interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in which he hinted he could turn on his former boss. “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” Cohen told Stephanopoulos.
The FBI in April raided Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room, seizing documents related to several matters, including payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. The former Trump attorney is reportedly under federal investigation for possible bank and wire fraud.
President Trump has previously criticized the raids, referred by special counsel Robert Mueller, branding them a “disgrace.”
“They continue to just go forward, and here we are talking about Syria … and I have this witch hunt constantly going on, for over 12 months now, and actually much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination, it started. And it’s a disgrace. It’s frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” Trump told reporters following a meeting with cabinet members.