The conversation confirms earlier reports that the men discussed buying the rights to the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with Trump. McDougal sold her story to American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer. The discussion took place in September 2016, in the lead-up to the presidential election. Cohen, who secretly recorded the conversation, can be heard telling Trump that he needs “to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” likely referring to American Media Inc. head David Pecker.
“What financing?” Trump asks, interrupting Cohen. The lawyer tells the then-candidate, “we’ll have to pay,” and Trump is heard telling him, “pay with cash,” though it’s not clear from the muddled sound whether Trump is suggesting paying or not paying.
Other audio in the recording surrounding the payment is inaudible.
CNN obtained the audio from Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis. The tape is one of 12 seized in raids on Cohen’s office and home earlier this year. Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had previously confirmed the tape’s existence, but said that it would prove to be “powerful exculpatory evidence.”
“The only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters,” Davis said on CNN Tuesday, referring to Trump mentioning cash in the audio. Davis is a columnist for The Hill. The New York Times first revealed the existence of the audio on Friday, reporting that the men discussed a payment to McDougal. The former Playboy model claims that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. She sold the rights to the story about her alleged affair with Trump to AMI, but the story never ran.
McDougal sued the company over the deal and the parties settled earlier this year, freeing her from the agreement and allowing her to speak publicly about the alleged affair. The Washington Post reported later Friday that Trump and Cohen had discussed a payment to AMI to buy the rights to McDougal’s story.
Trump’s legal team waived privilege on the tapes, meaning they could be used as evidence in potential legal proceedings. Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer; however, he has sought to distance himself from the president in recent weeks, fueling speculation that Cohen could flip on Trump. The lawyer told ABC News in an interview last month that his first loyalty is to his family and country, not the president. Cohen is currently under federal investigation.