Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, secretly recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the presidential election, in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.
The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Cohen’s office, the New York Times reported Friday. The Justice Department is investigating Cohen’s involvement in paying women to dilute embarrassing news stories about Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws.
Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a phone call to the Times on Friday that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape; however, he said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Giuliani said.
The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006, shortly after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. McDougal sold her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public.