The Slatest

Trump-Cohen Tape Shows Trump Discussing Whether to Pay Cash or Check to Suppress McDougal Affair Weeks Before Election

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trumps personal lawyer walks down Park Avenue in New York June 15, 2018.
Michael Cohen makes a move. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

CNN’s Chris Cuomo was first to the Michael Cohen tapes and aired one of the 12 recordings Tuesday. On the tape, the former Trump consigliere and lawyer can be heard discussing with Trump paying the National Enquirer’s parent company for a story on his Trump’s alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The recording, taken by Cohen in September 2016, just weeks before Election Day, was handed over to CNN by Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis.

During the first portion of the tape, Trump appears to be on the phone with someone else and Cohen, presumably, can be heard adjusting the microphone. “I think this goes away quickly,” Trump says before hanging up. Cohen then addresses Trump, telling him: “great poll by the way, CNN.” The two touched on a number of unrelated topics, including a New York Times suit to unseal divorce records from Trump’s first marriage to Ivana, before getting to how to make what amounts to a hush payment to McDougal, who says she had a 10-month affair with Trump.

More specifically, the discussion relates to whether Trump should buy the rights to the story from American Media, which owns and operates the National Enquirer and paid McDougal $150,000 in August 2016 for the story of the affair. The head of American Media, David Pecker, is known to be a close personal friend and confidante to Trump. From CNN:

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker. Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay.” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.

It’s unclear what this will mean for Cohen, or Trump for that matter, and if this amounts to criminality in any way. We’ll have to wait for more of the recordings to have a better idea how damaging—or not at all—this could be for the Trump presidency. One person with a dog in this and every fight has an idea what Cohen is angling for in releasing the first tape: