Michael Cohen reportedly secretly recorded a conversation with Trump about payments made to a former Playboy model shortly before the 2016 election


 

  • Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former longtime lawyer, reportedly secretly recorded a conversation during which he and Trump discussed payments made to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump.
  • The conversation reportedly took place in September 2016, two months before the November election.
  • Cohen is currently under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations.
  • Trump's potential knowledge of the payments raises new questions about his role in quashing negative stories about him ahead of the election.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer, secretly recorded a conversation with Trump in September 2016 in which they discussed payments made to a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump, The New York Times reported Friday.

The report says recording was among several the FBI seized in April when it raided Cohen's properties in New York. Cohen's attorneys are said to have discovered it while going through the trove of seized documents and records as part of a privilege review. They shared the recording with Trump's lawyers as well, The Times reported, citing three people briefed on the matter.

Cohen is the focus of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York into whether he violated campaign-finance laws, committed bank fraud or wire fraud, engaged in illegal lobbying, or participated in other crimes. The FBI seized more than 4 million documents in those April raids.

The woman at the center of this payment is Karen McDougal, whom the National Enquirer paid $150,000 in August 2016 for the rights to her story.

More on Karen McDougal:

26 PHOTOS
Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
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Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmates Katie Lohmann (top) and Karen McDougal attend the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmate Karen McDougal attends the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
382949 09: Playboy playmate Karen McDougal strikes a pose as a pinup girl similiar to a watercolor painting by Alberto Vargas December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
Karen McDougal during Movieline's Hollywood Life 7th Annual Young Hollywood Awards - Arrivals at Music Box at The Fonda in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Hugh Hefner, George Maloof, Christine Santiago, Karen McDougal, Julie Cialini (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
382949 04: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, center, poses with playmates, left to right, Carrie Stevens, Kalin Olson, Karen McDougal and Deanna Brooks dressed as pinup girls December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 15: Actress Karen McDougal arrives at the launch party to celebrate Diane von Furstenberg's limited edition designer mobile phone at Astra West in the Pacific Design Center on October 15, 2004 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Cherie Steinberg/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Karen McDougal, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1998 attend Playboy's Super Saturday Night Party presented by Bacardi at Sagamore Hotel on February 6, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Bacardi)
5/28/98 Beverly Hills, Ca Hugh Hefner and Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal at the Playboy Mansion.
Newly named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with her new Shelby series Mustang which she received May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine.
Newly-named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with Playboy magazine founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine. SSM/RC
7-10-98 Los Angeles, Ca Playboy Launches Search For Playmates For The Mellennium. Lead Singer Of 'Janes Addiction' Perry Farrell With Stacy Sanches And Karen Mcdougal. (Photo By John Chapple/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during Miramax Films, Archie Comics and Kitson Launch New Apparel Line Featuring 'Betty & Veronica' at Kitson Retail Store in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Playboy Playmates Karen McDougal and Carrie Stevens *exclusive* ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic)
Karen McDougal (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
It’s been almost a year since I shot the #Muscle&FitnessHers #cover. It’s a painful memory for me tho..it was 2 weeks before my #life-saving #surgery ...I was terribly sick (I hadn’t worked out in months...and I was bed ridden at the time. Minus the couple of “good days” I had per month. Thank GOD I had a “good day” that day. Even then ...I felt dizzy and awful..but I was at least able to function!! I longed for those days!!) So...my throw back Tuesday is to #HEALTH ...without it, we truly have NOTHING! #breastimplantillness #BII #implants = #explant 🙌🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼 @muscleandfitnesshers Here’s to Shawn ...who passed away (he helped make the shoot as comfortable as possible for me)..R.I.P. photographer Dustin Snipes. HA/MA @kimberly_a_carlson. Spring 2017 issue
I just got cleared to start training again ....upper body up to 5 lbs (I know...so light, lol. But after a year off, I’ll take t)! 🙌🏼. The #DVT’s are gone but I still have superficial blood clots so I Ha e to go slow/take it easy. Finally off the #Bloodthinner ! #THANKSTOGOD! 🙏🏼. #healing completely! #TIMETOGETITBACK! Slow...but steady!!
Before my “checkup” yesterday!! 🙌🏼
#TBT ~ #fit #fitness #model #fitfam #healthy #inspiration #swimsuit #workingout (#crawlingonmachines) #heels #beach #health @kimberly_a_carlson Hair/makeup !!
#Christmas pasts.... #lingerie #photo #shoot #Holiday #fun!
#HALLOWEEN Pasts.... #Nurse #Indian #Mansion #party #Playboy #memories!!
#TBT ..#ironmanmagazine #shoot #workout #weights #fitness #fitnessmodel #model #fitfam #fitgirl #fit #health
" ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL " ?!?!! #NFL #football #footballseason #gameday #NY #Giants #Gmen 🏈🏈🏈
#TBT....my #SignaturePose ! #Splits #workout #fitness #model #health #fitfam #gym #girl #fitnessmotivation #fitspiration #fitgirl #fitnessmodel
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But the outlet never published the piece. That practice is known as "catch and kill," and it effectively silenced McDougal about her allegations of a 2006 affair with Trump. Federal investigators had sought documents related to that payment and similar payments to other women in the raids.

David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, is a longtime friend of both Trump's and Cohen's. Citing a person familiar with the recording, The Washington Post reported Friday that in it, Cohen and Trump discussed a plan to purchase the rights to McDougal's story from Pecker's company for about $150,000.

Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed to The Times that Trump discussed payments to McDougal with Cohen, but he said that ultimately no payment was made.

"Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," Giuliani told the newspaper of American Media Inc.'s payment. Giuliani added that Trump told Cohen that if he did pay McDougal, it should be in the form of a check instead of cash so that it could be properly recorded, The Times said.

"In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence," Giuliani said.

Experts in election law say that if Cohen engaged in such activity to protect Trump's candidacy, it would most likely violate campaign-finance law.


18 PHOTOS
Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen
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Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen drives after leaving his hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for National Security Advisor, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry talk with each other in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 12, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan to speak with reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser-designate, from left, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, speak in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had the 'highest confidence' in the intelligence community, in sharp contrast to President-elect Donald Trump's attack on the CIA after reports it found that the Russian government tried to help him win the presidency.

(Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, looks on as his attorney (not pictured) delivers a statement to reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured leaving a restaurant in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured arriving at his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Cohen is also under scrutiny for a $130,000 payment he made in October 2016 to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to stay silent about her allegation of a 2006 affair with the president. Trump has denied that an affair took place. Originally, Cohen said Trump did not reimburse him for the payment. In May, Trump acknowledged that he had.

In recent weeks, Cohen has dramatically split with Trump. During an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos revealed earlier this month, Cohen said his family "and this country" have his "first loyalty."

In June, Cohen hired Guy Petrillo, a veteran prosecutor who previously worked for the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. Legal experts told Business Insider that Petrillo is a person one would hire if they were considering cooperating with the government. More recently, Cohen brought on Lanny Davis, a Washington lawyer and public-relations consultant who worked for President Bill Clinton amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

On Thursday, Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the document review in the Cohen investigation, ruled that more than 1,400 documents that Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization labeled as privileged were not. Cohen opted against challenging that decision in court, Jones wrote in a court filing, meaning those documents will be turned over to prosecutors for use in a potential prosecution of Cohen.

Soon after The Times published its article on Friday, CNN reported that there were other recordings seized by the FBI of Cohen and "powerful" people, citing a source familiar with the tapes.

Citing another source familiar with the tapes, CNN also reported that Trump, when informed about the September 2016 tape, said, "I can't believe Michael would do this to me."

 

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