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Trump heard on leaked tape with Michael Cohen discussing payments
[WASHINGTON] CNN on Tuesday night played a 2016 recording of a conversation between Donald Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen that appears to show that Mr Trump was informed of an attempt to prevent news of an alleged affair with a Playboy model from coming to light.
Mr Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis contends the audio recording, which was made in September of 2016 by Mr Cohen, captures the future president and Mr Cohen talking about buying the rights to Karen McDougal's story about what she said was an affair with Mr Trump. Ms McDougal sold her story to the National Enquirer, which never published it.
In the conversation, just months before the presidential election, Mr Trump and Mr Cohen jump from subject to subject with other voices being heard.
"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that - I'm going to do that right away," Mr Cohen says.
A little later, Mr Trump responds, "So, what do you we got to pay for this? One-fifty?"
When Mr Cohen mentions "financing," Mr Trump stops him and says, "Wait a sec, what financing?"
"Well, I'll have to pay him something," Mr Cohen replies.
Mr Trump then says something inaudible followed by "pay with cash." Mr Cohen responds, "No, no, no, no, no. I got it," after which Mr Trump is heard saying "Check."
Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr Trump, said in an interview the tape suggests Mr Trump didn't previously know about these payments because there are elements of surprise, like regarding the financing. "It shows no wrongful intent," Mr Giuliani said, adding "When you pay by check you are not trying to hide anything."
Some of the details in the call align with the details of the episode.
Ms McDougal said that American Media Inc, the National Enquirer's owner, had paid her US$150,000 for her story before the 2016 presidential election, intending not to publish it - what's known as a "catch and kill" agreement - because the company's owner, David Pecker, is a friend of Mr Trump's.
Ms McDougal claims she had a 10-month relationship with Mr Trump starting in 2006, when he was already married to his third wife, Melania, who had given birth to their son Barron earlier that year. Mr Trump was the host of "The Apprentice" on NBC at the time.
The White House has previously denied the affair. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, asked July 23 if Mr Trump still denied he ever had a relationship with Ms McDougal, responded that "the president maintains he's done nothing wrong," and referred questions to Mr Giuliani.
Mr Davis, a top aide in the Clinton White House, said Mr Cohen, who has had a falling out with the president, was dedicated to "telling the truth." Mr Cohen is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors.
The recording was one of 12 seized by federal agents in raids on his office, residence and a hotel room.
Disclosure of the recordings came in a Monday court filing by the retired judge who is deciding whether prosecutors may review the thousands of items seized in the raid. The judge said "the parties" - presumably Mr Trump and perhaps Mr Cohen - no longer object to the government listening to "12 audio items." The parties had previously claimed the 12 recordings were "privileged" and couldn't be seen by the government.