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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Tape of Trump discussing hush money for alleged affair released

Former Playboy model says she had a months-long fling with the US president in 2006

US President Donald Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal. AFP 
US President Donald Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal. AFP 

A lawyer for Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney, released an audio recording of a conversation between Mr Trump and Mr Cohen in which they discussed paying for the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair with the US president.

The recording was played on CNN Tuesday night. Mr Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis told the network he released the recording to dispute an assertion by Mr Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani that tape would show that Mr Trump made clear that if there were going to be a payment, it should be done by check, which would be easily traced. Mr Giuliani has said the payment was never made.

According to Mr Giuliani, in his transcript of the recording displayed by CNN on Tuesday, President Trump says on the tape: "Don't pay with cash. Check."

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In the recording, Mr Trump can be heard saying "pay with cash." Mr Cohen counters by repeatedly saying, "No."

Reuters was unable to verify the entire exchange between the two men because of the poor sound quality of the recording. Mr Davis and Mr Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The discussion of any payment could support claims by President Trump's critics, including groups like Common Cause, that a payment benefited his presidential campaign and the failure to document it was a potential violation of US election laws.

Karen McDougal, the model, alleges she began a 10-month affair with Mr Trump in 2006. Mr Giuliani denies this.

Mr Davis said the tape is among audio recordings that were seized by the FBI in a raid of Mr Cohen's home and office in April.

It was turned over to federal prosecutors on Friday, according to a filing in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.

In the conversation, recorded in September 2016 at Trump Tower in New York, Mr Cohen discusses setting up a company to make a payment apparently involving David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc (AMI) and a close friend of Mr Trump's.

Mr Cohen was proposing to pay AMI, which owns the National Enquirer, for the rights to Ms McDougal's story. AMI had bought them from Ms McDougal for $150,000 but AMI did not publish her story.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, so that I'm going to do that right away," Mr Cohen says in the recording.

AMI acknowledged holding those rights when it relinquished them in April after Ms McDougal had filed a lawsuit against AMI. The company could not be immediately contacted for comment on whether it held any discussion about the transfer of the rights to President Trump.

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Mr Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels and other matters related to the president's campaign, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters.