U.S. President Donald Trump today denied any wrongdoing a day after reports that his former attorney Michael Cohen had recorded them both discussing buying the rights to a story by a woman who said she had an affair with Trump.
The president said in a tweet it might be illegal for a lawyer to record a client. An attorney for Cohen called Trump’s statement “false.”
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) - almost unheard of,” Trump tweeted, in an apparent reference to an FBI raid on Cohen in April.
“Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!” Trump added.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump in September, two months before the 2016 election, in which they discussed buying the rights to a story by a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump.
Today Giuliani said the conversation was held at Trump’s office in Trump Tower and that Cohen used a hidden device to record the conversation. In New York state, it is legal to record a conversation if one party consents.
Giuliani said no campaign funding was involved in the discussion.
Before the election, the Trump campaign denied any knowledge of payment to McDougal, but the taped conversation could undermine those denials.
Giuliani said the conversation involved reimbursing the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid for McDougal’s story rights. The payment was never made, he said.
“It’s pretty clear from the tape, it’s the first time Trump is finding out ... AMI had bought the rights from McDougal,” Giuliani said.
American Media Inc. (AMI) is the parent company of the National Enquirer. Giuliani added that Cohen recommended Trump buy the rights from AMI.
Giuliani had earlier denied Trump had an affair with McDougal and said the tape would show that Trump makes clear that any payment should be made by cheque, which would be easily traced.
Giuliani said the FBI seized the recording this year during a raid on Cohen’s office.
The FBI investigation stemmed in part from a referral by the U.S. special counsel’s office, which is looking into possible coordination during the election campaign between Trump’s aides and Russian officials. Moscow denies U.S. allegations that it interfered in the election and Trump denies any campaign ties to Russian officials.
McDougal has said she began a nearly year-long affair with Trump in 2006 shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth.
She sold her story for $150,000 in August 2016 but it was never published by the National Enquirer. David Pecker, the chairman of parent company AMI is a friend of Trump.
The White House has said Trump denies having sex with Daniels.