The Slatest

Michael Cohen Routinely Taped Political and Business Conversations. That Could Be a Serious Problem for Trump.

President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has a bit of a thing for tapes.
President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has a bit of a thing for tapes.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Because the entire Trump organization operated as if they were characters in the Sopranos, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to hear that Trump lawyer, confidante, and henchman Michael Cohen recorded conversations, reportedly as standard practice, in order to squeeze and blackmail people operating in the Trump universe, first in business but later within the campaign. According to the Washington Post, Cohen “wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage” and “was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues.” One of the people Cohen would play his tapes for just so happened to be Donald Trump.

While secretly recording your associates, and presumably colleagues, most certainly makes you a slime ball, the bigger problem here, for team Trump, is that federal authorities just raided Cohen’s work and various places of residence this week, seizing computers and phones, in their search for communications about hush payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, among potential others. Whoops.

The possibility that Cohen’s digital tapes could soon be in the hands of Robert Mueller, along with other federal prosecutors, has understandably caused a wee bit of worry in Trump’s universe of allies and associates. “We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” a Trump adviser told the Post. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

“Federal investigators would not automatically get access to any tapes that might have been seized in the raids,” the Post notes. “First, the recordings would be reviewed by a separate Justice Department team and possibly by a federal judge. The review is designed to protect lawyer-client privilege and to be sure that the conversations turned over are within the terms of the search warrant, legal experts said.” It makes sense then that Cohen appears to be doing whatever necessary to try to put an end to the relevant (known) investigation involving his payment to Stormy Daniels, including pleading the 5th Amendment.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in New York City.