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2018-07-23 14:27:151 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer, Image: Karen McDougal (Image source: Sam Posten III via Wikimedia Commons)
We had heard about this months ago, that Michael Cohen had a habit of recording his phone conversations. Now that a conversation with Donald Trump has been released, Trump appears to be shocked and is promising everyone "your favorite president did nothing wrong."
After the FBI raid on Trump's former personal attorney's home, office, and other locations, there were documents, devices, and recordings seized. This has been well known for months. Trump and Cohen even went to court to try to stop some of it from being released, claiming attorney-client privilege, but lost that pursuit with much of the evidence.
Multiple people familiar with the investigation of Cohen on potential bank and fraud charges as well as campaign finance violations are reporting on a recording that was made by Cohen in Trump Tower in September 2016.
In this recorded conversation, the two are discussing whether they should buy the rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal's story about her alleged affair with Trump. AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, bought the rights to McDougal's story for $150,000 but never published it.
The people familiar with the recorded conversation claim it's a 90-second recording, and Cohen can be heard trying to convince his client to buy the rights to McDougal's story to have better "control" of it.
"I think we need to bring this in-house," he says in the recording.
Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the recording existed but said no payment was ever made for the story and that the existence of the recorded call does not put his client in legal jeopardy.
"Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of [the AMI payment] in advance," said the former New York mayor. "In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence."
However, what it does show is that Trump indeed knew about the AMI story and McDougal at least in September 2016, while his spokesperson denied he had any knowledge of it when it first became public just days before the election.
In addition to McDougal, Stormy Daniels received hush money reportedly to keep her quiet, just before the election. It was another time Cohen is known to intervene. He has admitted he paid her the $130,000 from his own home equity line of credit, though the story from him, Trump, and Giuliani has varied between him not knowing about the payoff, to him learning later on, to him paying the money back.
For Cohen to be charged with breaking federal election law, it will need to be proven that the payments were made to these two women to influence the outcome of the election, rather than just protecting Trump's reputation.
Commenting on this story, Trump tweeted, "Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite president did nothing wrong!"
But this recording took place in New York, a "one-party consent" state, meaning only one person needs to be aware of the recording, and Cohen was aware, meaning it was legal.
Additionally, the government didn't break in, as the FBI had a search warrant, and Cohen himself said in a recent interview that the agents were "respectful, courteous, and professional" during the raid.
Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney, then commented himself on Twitter. "The strategy of @realdonaldtrump @potus @RudyGiuliani is flawed; just as is #Trump's false #Twitter statement made against @michaelcohen212 this morning. Rudy claims the tape is 'exculpatory.' Why so angry?"
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