Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and a proud graduate of the Lionel Hutz School of Law, started out this week with a bang—an FBI raid on his office, home, and hotel room—and the fun hasn’t stopped, especially after Trump blew a gasket over the raid.
Now, the Washington Post reports that Trump’s allies are worried about something specific that may have been swept in those raids: recordings of Cohen’s personal conversations with Trump associates, which he was allegedly known to have made and played for other people.
“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” an anonymous 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?”
The Post says it’s “unknown whether Cohen taped conversations between himself and Trump,” but that Cohen recorded “both business and political conversations.” One anonymous associate the Post spoke to “knew of Cohen’s practice because the attorney would often play him recordings Cohen had made of his conversations with other top Trump advisers.” Not only that, but Cohen’s use of recordings was apparently common knowledge:
Cohen wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage, one person said. Cohen frequently noted that under New York law, only one party had to consent to the taping of a conversation, this person added.
During the 2016 race, Cohen — who did not have a formal role on the campaign — had a reputation among campaign staff as someone to avoid, in part because he was believed to be secretly taping conversations.
In one instance, Cohen played a recording of a conversation he had with someone else to a Trump campaign official to demonstrate that he was in a position to challenge that person’s veracity if necessary, an associate recalled.
Cohen indicated that he had something to use against the person he had taped, the associate said.
Apart from recording conversations without someone else’s knowledge being a very normal activity for people who are not doing white collar crimes to participate in, one source suggested to the Post that—in typical Trump sycophant fashion—Cohen taped conversations in order to “emulate” his client, who says he tapes people but probably doesn’t actually tape people:
“Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” [Trump biographer Tim] O’Brien wrote. “He also said the same thing when I was writing a biography of him, ‘Trump Nation.’ I never thought he was, but who could be sure?”
But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.
“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”
According to another Post story from earlier this afternoon, the FBI was seeking Cohen’s communications with a bank that lent him money for a taxi business, as well as information on Cohen’s role in paying off two women who alleged affairs with Trump. Just a solid day overall for Michael Cohen.