Cohen recorded President discussing payment to ex-Playboy model
WASHINGTON — The FBI is in possession of a recording between President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in which the two men discuss a payment to a former Playboy model who has alleged an affair with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and a source familiar with the matter told CNN Friday.
Cohen has other recordings of the President in his records that were seized by the FBI, said a source with knowledge of Cohen’s tapes and Giuliani, who described the other recordings as mundane discussions.
The recording about the former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, was among the troves of documents and materials seized in the FBI raid of Cohen’s hotel, residence and office earlier this year. A transcript of the recording was reviewed by the Trump legal team, which does not believe it is a legal problem for the President.
The disclosure of the McDougal recording, which was first reported by The New York Times, raises fresh questions about the lengths to which Trump and his confidante would go to suppress allegations of extramarital affairs from going public before the election. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels has sued Trump over a $130,000 agreement Cohen made to her on Trump’s behalf to keep her quiet about an alleged affair, which Trump has denied, along with McDougal’s allegations.
McDougal eventually signed a contract with the company that owns the National Enquirer, which barred her from publicly speaking about the alleged affair before the 2016 election.
Giuliani said Trump had no idea he was being recorded during the McDougal discussion, which took place in the then-candidate’s office at Trump Tower in September 2016. When informed about the recording, Trump said, “I can’t believe Michael would do this to me,” a source familiar with the tapes told CNN.
A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment, and a lawyer for Cohen declined to comment to the Times. McDougal’s attorney Peter Stris on Friday tweeted: “.@karenmcdougal98→ When @realDonaldTrump said we were lying, do you think he meant we WEREN’T?” an apparent reference to Trump’s claim of having misspoke at the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week.
Other recordings exist
There are other tapes of Cohen and other “powerful” individuals that the FBI seized beyond the President that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with the tapes. The source said the people are of “significance and consequence.”
The source familiar with the Cohen tapes said there was nothing illegal about the discussion, but acknowledged there could be ethical issues about Cohen recording his own client. The source noted that this is not the same as the Daniels matter, where there are questions about Cohen making payments on behalf of the President, possibly in violation of campaign finance laws.
Giuilani has known about the tapes for several days, and has reviewed the transcripts, he told CNN.
Cohen is currently under criminal investigation in New York. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
In recent weeks, documents and other evidence obtained during April’s searches have begun to be turned over to the government as a former federal judge, Cohen’s lawyers and lawyers representing Trump and the Trump Organization have moved through the process of determining which of the millions of items are subject to attorney-client privilege.
‘I thought I was the only one’
In August 2016, McDougal signed an agreement with American Media Inc., which owns The National Enquirer, Us Weekly, Men’s Journal and several other publications. She believed at the time the contract was a work agreement that would allow her to be photographed for and write pieces that would run in the companies’ publications.
Her attorney for that negotiation was Keith Davidson. She told CNN she later found out Davidson was in contact with Cohen. In a lawsuit, she accused Davidson of “working closely with representatives for Mr. Trump while pretending to advocate on her behalf.” Davidson denied the allegations and told CNN that he reached out to Cohen during the final stretch of the 2016 campaign as a “professional courtesy” to let him know that he negotiated the deal with AMI.
McDougal later realized she could face a financial penalty for speaking to the media about her story. In April, she reached a settlement with AMI that allows her to discuss the alleged affair.
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in March, McDougal alleged that she and Trump were together “many dozens of times” and answered in the affirmative when asked if they were intimate.
McDougal described the alleged affair from 2006 to 2007 as a consensual, loving relationship, and said she did not know Trump might have seen other women at the time besides his wife — and that throughout their relationship, he did not use protection.
“I didn’t know he was intimate with other ladies,” she said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” at the time. “I thought I was the only one.”