Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, secretly taped a discussion with him about payments to a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with the US president, and the tape is now in FBI hands, The New York Times reported Friday.
The FBI seized the recording earlier this year during a raid on Mr Cohen’s office, the newspaper said in a bombshell revelation, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording.
FBI agents seized computers, phones and documents in an April raid on the lawyer’s home and office as part of an ongoing investigation into his business dealings, including any information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Ms McDougal says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006, just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron, a claim the president has denied.
Prosecutors want to know whether the payments constituted undeclared election spending, which would violate US federal campaign finance laws.
Any recordings of conversations between Mr Trump and his lawyer about the payments will be crucial to their investigation.
Mr Cohen first faced public scrutiny after admitting he paid porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump, $130,000 (£95,000) just weeks before the US presidential election.
US media has previously reported that Mr Cohen had a proclivity to record his clients, but the news that federal investigators are in possession of recordings between the president and the White House will no doubt provoke fury in the White House.
Mr Trump has previously described the raids on Mr Cohen’s office as a “witch hunt” and “an attack on our country”.
Mr Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the veracity of the recording on Friday, but added that the payment was never made, and said the Republican president had not been party to any wrongdoing.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr Giuliani said.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence”.
Mr Cohen, a self-described fixer for mr Trump for more than a decade, said last year that he “would take a bullet” for the president. But earlier this month the lawyer told an interviewer that he now puts “family and country first” and will not let anyone paint him as “a villain of this story.”
Hours before the Times published its story, Mr Cohen met in New York Friday morning with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a frequent critic of Trump.
Mr Cohen and Rev Sharpton said in tweets they have known each other for 20 years. Mr Cohen contacted the civil rights activist in recent weeks, longtime Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said.
She said the two revisited conversations they’d had over the years when Mr Cohen was Rev Sharpton’s conduit to Mr Trump during clashes over race issues and over his years of questioning the authenticity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
Mr Cohen tweeted there’s “no one better to talk to!” than Rev Sharpton, who used his own Twitter account to advise readers: “Stay tuned.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/20/fbi-seize-recordings-donald-trump-lawyer-discussing-payment/