Multiple reports claimed that President Donald Trump was secretly taped two months before the 2016 election discussing a hush money payment over an alleged affair with a Playboy model and the FBI has the recording.
The tape was reportedly made by his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, who is under federal investigation in New York for his business dealings. Investigators are probing whether the hush payments violated campaign finance laws.
The Republican commander-in-chief on Friday did not answer questions shouted out by reporters about the Cohen tape as he prepared to fly out of the White House en route to his New Jersey golf club.
The New York Times broke the story, saying the FBI seized the recording during a raid on Cohen’s office earlier this year, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording. Cohen has not yet been arrested or charged.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal claims she had a months-long affair with Trump after they met in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. She told CNN previously that he tried to pay her for sex.
The Wall Street Journal said the September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen was about buying the rights to McDougal’s story, which she sold a month earlier to The National Enquirer for $150,000.
The tabloid ultimately sat on it, preventing it from becoming public. The chairman of its parent company, American Media, is a Trump friend.
Friday’s reports raise questions about why Trump’s campaign denied knowledge of the deal between McDougal and American Media when it became public, as well as fan speculation about how much damage Cohen can inflict on the president.
Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed to the Times that the Cohen tape existed, but claimed the president had done nothing wrong.
The recording was less than two minutes and gave no indication that Trump had prior knowledge about the media payment to McDougal, Giuliani told the Times.
“It helps us, rather than hurts us,” he was quoted as saying by the Journal.
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, declined to comment Friday.
The FBI raided Cohen’s home and office in April on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, secretly taped the president talking about a payment to a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with the real estate mogul-turned US leader
The Justice Department says Cohen has been under investigation for months for criminal conduct largely centred on his personal business dealings.
Prosecutors are apparently interested in payments he made on Trump’s behalf to porn actress Stormy Daniels, and other business dealings related to Trump