Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen recorded a tape of Trump in 2016 in which he discussed payments that were to be made to a former Playboy model who claimed to have been involved in a long-term sexual relationship with Trump, the New York Times reported on Friday.
According to the paper, the recording was made two months before the 2016 election, and was part of the evidence collected by FBI agents during their dramatic raids on Cohen’s properties earlier this year. The person under discussion was former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Trump’s attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the existence of the recording with the Times, but attempted to spin it as, incredibly, a good thing for the president.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani told the Times. He also said that the payment had never been made, and that the conversation discussed paying McDougal by check, rather than cash—an indication, Giuliani insisted, that Trump wanted his hush money to be above board.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Giuliani said.
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McDougal has claimed that she and Trump began their affair shortly after the president’s youngest son, Barron, was born in 2006. What’s more, the payments apparently discussed by Cohen on the newly revealed tape were not, in fact, the first time that Trump had allegedly attempted to financially placate her.
“He offered me money,” McDougal told the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow in February. She reportedly responded by telling Trump “I’m not ‘that girl.’ I slept with you because I like you - NOT for money.”
McDougal then sold the rights to her story to the National Enquirer—which, at the alleged behest of Cohen, quietly sat on them.
The White House has previously denied Trump’s alleged affair with McDougal, calling it “an old story that is just more fake news.”
Cohen, who spent his career under Trump in a state of persistent humiliation, has increasingly indicated that he’s willing to work with prosecutors investigating the nebulous relationship between the president’s businesses, political efforts, and his personal life.