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Tape reveals Trump and lawyer discussing payoff over alleged affair

By BBC | Published Wed, July 25th 2018 at 13:22, Updated July 25th 2018 at 13:34 GMT +3
President Donald Trump

A recording of a conversation in which President Donald Trump and his lawyer discuss a payoff over an alleged affair with a model has been broadcast by CNN.

Mr Trump and Michael Cohen discuss buying the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story.

The audiotape was recorded in September 2016, two months before the election. The affair allegedly dates to 2006.

Mr Trump's current lawyer Rudy Giuliani says no money was paid, and the tape does not show evidence of any crime.

The tape obtained by CNN was one of a number reportedly discovered during an FBI raid on Mr Cohen's property earlier this year in New York.

What's on the tape?

The conversation jumps around, there are other voices and some of the audio is muffled.

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Mr Trump and Mr Cohen, who no longer works for the president, appear to be discussing buying the rights to Ms McDougal's story from the parent company of the National Enquirer. The former Playboy model had sold her story to the Enquirer in the run-up to the election.

Mr Cohen says: "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David."

This could be a reference to Mr Trump's friend, David Pecker, president of American Media Inc, the National Enquirer's parent company.

Mr Trump says later: "So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?"

Ms McDougal reportedly received $150,000 (£115,000) from the Enquirer for her story.

Mr Cohen starts to mention financing and Mr Trump asks: "What financing?"

Mr Cohen says: "We'll have to pay".

The next section is pivotal. Mr Trump is heard saying "pay with cash" but it is not clear if he is suggesting to do so or not do so. Mr Cohen's response is clear: "No, no, no".

Mr Trump is then heard saying "cheque".

What does it all mean?

The Department of Justice is looking into alleged hush money paid to women who claim they had a relationship with Mr Trump.

It is a potential problem for Mr Trump because undisclosed payments to bury embarrassing stories about a political candidate can be treated as a violation of US campaign finance laws.

At the very least, the tape shows Mr Trump was aware that discussions were taking place to buy the rights to Ms McDougal's story.

When previously questioned about Ms McDougal, President Trump had denied the affair and said he had no knowledge of any payment.

Mr Giuliani told Associated Press news agency that he had had the tape enhanced and it clearly shows the president saying "don't pay with cash".

He told AP: "The president wanted to do it the right way. If you wanted to hide something, you would not do it by corporation or cheque," he said.

Mr Giuliani said no payment was made in the end although he did not know why that was the case.

Who is Karen McDougal?

A former Playboy model who says she had a 10-month relationship with Mr Trump starting in 2006. He was already then married to Melania and was the host of TV show The Apprentice.

She sold her story to the National Enquirer, signing a $150,000 agreement that gave the tabloid exclusive story rights and banned her from talking publicly about the alleged affair.

The Enquirer did not publish her kiss-and-tell, and she says she was tricked.

Mr Trump has denied any affair took place. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said this week "the president maintains he's done nothing wrong".

What about Michael Cohen?

A former Trump stalwart, Mr Cohen once famously vowed he would take a bullet for the president.

But things changed after the FBI raided his office and home in April.

About a dozen audio recordings were seized and passed to federal prosecutors. Mr Giuliani said Mr Cohen had recorded the McDougal conversation at Trump Tower in New York using a hidden device.

Mr Cohen told ABC News this month that his loyalty to his family and country came before his old boss.

His comments stoked speculation that he might co-operate with investigators against Mr Trump, although there has been no confirmation so far that he has done so.

Mr Cohen is reportedly under investigation for possible bank and tax fraud, as well as potential violation of election law.

This relates to another woman who claims an affair with Mr Trump, Stormy Daniels, also in 2006.

In May, President Trump admitted he had reimbursed Mr Cohen for a payment he made to hush up her claims.

Mr Trump had previously denied all knowledge of the $130,000 payment as part of a non-disclosure agreement.

Mr Cohen has not yet been charged with anything.

 


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