What to Know About the Trump-Cohen Hush Money Tape - NBC Chicago
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

What to Know About the Trump-Cohen Hush Money Tape

The recording turned up after federal agents raided Michael Cohen's office, home and hotel room this spring as part of an investigation into possible fraud and violation of election laws

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    2016 Recording of Trump and Cohen Released

    A recording appears to show that President Donald Trump knew about a proposal to silence a Playboy model before she could speak out about her alleged affair with him.

    (Published Tuesday, July 24, 2018)

    The audio recording of President Donald Trump and his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, captures the two men discussing hush money payments to a former Playboy model alleging an affair.

    A look at the recording, including what it reveals and what it doesn't:

    IT'S QUICK AND CASUAL — AND RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN
    Trump's lawyers say the three-minute recording was made surreptitiously by Cohen during what seems to be a casual, campaign-related conversation with Trump in September 2016, just two months away from the national election.

    At the start of the audio, the president appears to be talking to someone other than Cohen whom he calls "hon" and references a "Charleston thing," concluding, "I'm proud of you."

    Trump 'Feels Terribly' For Kavanaugh

    [NATL] Trump 'Feels Terribly' For Kavanaugh

    President Donald Trump said Tuesday he "feels terribly" for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his family. The Senate is trying to schedule a hearing to hear from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party about 35 years ago.

    (Published 4 hours ago)

    Trump then turns his attention to Cohen, his longtime friend and attorney. The two discuss polling numbers and the impact of a supportive African-American pastor. Cohen tells Trump that The New York Times wants to unseal documents on his divorce from Ivana Trump ahead of the election (an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful, as Cohen predicts).

    At one point during the Ivana discussion, Trump yells out, "Get me a Coke, please!"

    This chatter is noteworthy because it shows Cohen advising Trump on campaign matters. And that could be of interest to investigators looking into whether Cohen violated election laws by orchestrating hush money payouts.

    IT REFERS TO 'OUR FRIEND, DAVID'
    Cohen then shifts the conversation. "Um," he says, "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David."

    This is widely believed to refer to David Pecker, president of American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer. The company had just paid $150,000 to model Karen McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

    McDougal later sued, claiming that AMI paid for the story with the intention of burying it to protect Trump.

    'Late Night’: A Closer Look at Kavanaugh Accusation, Manafort Flip

    [NATL] 'Late Night’: A Closer Look at Kavanaugh Accusation, Manafort Flip

    Seth Meyers takes a closer look at President Donald Trump's ex-campaign chairman flipping on him and the sexual assault allegations leveled against his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018)

    Cohen says he's already spoken with the Trump Organization's finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, on "how to set the whole thing up." (Trump's lawyers say the payments were never made.)

    Weisselberg's involvement raises questions about whether Trump's private business tried to protect his campaign.

    Such a secret payment could be regarded as an illegal campaign expenditure if the money is clearly meant to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. But it would be a harder case to make if the payment was seen as merely designed to protect Trump, who is married, from embarrassment in his personal or private life.

    IT SHOWS TRUMP KNEW
    The tape doesn't prove McDougal's allegations of an affair, and at no point in the recording does Trump acknowledge whether he had a sexual relationship with her.

    But Trump does respond to Cohen's suggestion of opening the shell company with a question: "What do we got to pay for this?"

    That comment makes clear he is not learning for the first time of McDougal's allegations or the arrangement of payments. And it directly contradicts a statement made later by the campaign.

    'Little Delay' Possible on Kavanaugh: Trump

    [NATL] 'Little Delay' Possible on Kavanaugh: Trump

    President Donald Trump said Monday that the vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court may take longer than expected following a woman's claim that the judge sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2018)

    Just days ahead of the presidential election, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Wall Street Journal on its reporting of the $150,000 payment to McDougal: "We have no knowledge of any of this."

    CASH OR CHECK?
    At one point, Cohen says of David, "I'll have to pay him something."

    The audio is muffled but Trump can be heard saying something about "cash," and then something about paying by "check."

    Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, insists Trump said, "Don't pay with cash."

    This is only important in that it raises questions about whether Trump was trying to hide the potential payment with cash, which can be harder to track. But his intention isn't clear.

    Also unclear is why the audio ends so abruptly. Trump on Wednesday suggested the tape was cut just as he was "presumably saying positive things," although there was no evidence of that.

    Kavanaugh Accuser Goes Public

    [NATL] Kavanaugh Accuser Goes Public, Fracturing Already Divided Senate

    The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and putting his hand over her mouth came out of anonymity for the first time in an interview with The Washington Post. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor with Palo Alto University, said she decided to come forward after parts of her story leaked.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2018)

    IT RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT COHEN'S END GAME
    The recording turned up after federal agents raided Cohen's office, home and hotel room this spring as part of an investigation into possible fraud and violation of election laws. Court filings say 12 audio recordings in all were passed on to federal prosecutors after lawyers dropped any claims of attorney-client privilege.

    One question is why Cohen chose to make it public. Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, released the recording to CNN Tuesday night in what is seen as an open hostility between Trump and Cohen.

    Asked if Cohen was still seeking a presidential pardon while under federal investigation, Davis responded simply, "No."

    "This is about truth versus lying and ultimately Trump is going to be done in by the truth," Davis told ABC News.

    Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.