By Eric Beech
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A lawyer for Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, released an audio recording of a conversation between Trump and Cohen in which they discussed paying for the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair with Trump.
The recording was played on CNN Tuesday night. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis told the network he released the recording to dispute an assertion by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that tape would show that Trump made clear that if there were going to be a payment, it should be done by check, which would be easily traced. Giuliani has said the payment was never made.
According to Giuliani, in his transcript of the recording displayed by CNN on Tuesday, Trump says on the tape: “Don’t pay with cash. Check.”
In the recording, Trump can be heard saying “pay with cash.” Cohen counters by repeatedly saying, “No.”
Reuters was unable to verify the entire exchange between the two men because of the poor sound quality of the recording. Davis and Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The discussion of any payment could support claims by Trump’s critics, including groups like Common Cause, that a payment benefited his presidential campaign and the failure to document it was a potential violation of U.S. election laws.
Karen McDougal, the model, alleges she began a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006. Giuliani denies that Trump had an affair with McDougal.
Davis said the tape is among audio recordings that were seized by the FBI in a raid of Cohen’s home and office in April.
It was turned over to federal prosecutors on Friday, according to a filing in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.
In the conversation, recorded in September 2016 at Trump Tower in New York, Cohen discusses setting up a company to make a payment apparently involving David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc (AMI) and a close friend of Trump’s.
Cohen was proposing to pay AMI, which owns the National Enquirer, for the rights to McDougal’s story. AMI had bought them from McDougal for $150,000 but AMI did not publish her story.
“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, so that I’m going to do that right away,” Cohen says in the recording.
AMI acknowledged holding those rights when it relinquished them in April after McDougal had filed a lawsuit against AMI. The company could not be immediately contacted for comment on whether it held any discussion about the transfer of the rights to Trump.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels and other matters related to Trump’s campaign, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; additional reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Michael Perry and)