Republished with permission by Knowhere News
Two months before the 2016 US presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump and his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen discussed making a payment to suppress Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump from 2006 to 2007. On Friday, the New York Times reported that Cohen secretly recorded that conversation on a tape taken by the FBI when they raided Cohen’s office earlier this year.
McDougal’s claim that Trump and she had a year-long affair beginning in 2006 was reported before the election. She then sold her account of the alleged affair to The National Enquirer for $150,000 before the 2016 election, but the tabloid did not publish it before Election Day. Chairman David J. Pecker of The Enquirer’s parent company is said to be a friend of Trump’s.
Trump’s current lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, told the Times Friday that although Trump discussed paying McDougal on that recording, no payment was ever made. However, even if so, the evidence that Cohen and Trump talked about paying McDougal two months before the election raises questions about how much Trump’s team knew and when. Because, when The Wall Street Journal reported the payment days before the election, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, said, “We have no knowledge of any of this” and said McDougal’s claim about an affair was “totally untrue.”
Referring to Cohen’s tape, Giuliani said, “Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” and pointed to the fact that Trump told Cohen on the tape that if he did pay McDougal, he should write a check, rather than use cash, so it could be properly documented. Giuliani told the Times he thought the recording would play to Trump’s benefit. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” said Giuliani.
In the other well known case of a woman claiming an affair with Trump, actress Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels, Cohen indeed wrote her a check, using a company he set up immediately beforehand.
Cohen gave Clifford the check for $130,000 just before the election and later denied paying her at all. Trump has denied knowing about the payment, which critics have said served as a contribution to the president’s campaign, thus violating campaign finance laws.
Friday’s revelation raises the questions of what Cohen may know of relevance to the ongoing federal investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and whether Cohen will share any such information that might damage the president. Before Cohen came under investigation, and before Trump moved to the White House, Cohen served as the billionaire’s self-described “fixer” and has often been quoted for expressing extreme loyalty to Trump. But earlier this month, Cohen said to ABC News he would not be anyone’s “punching bag” for their “defense strategy.”
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