Thursday 16 August 2018

Trump was secretly recorded talking about paying ex-Playboy model - report says

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images

President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer secretly recorded Mr Trump discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with him, it has been reported.

The president's current personal lawyer confirmed the conversation and said it showed Mr Trump did nothing wrong, according to the New York Times.

Karen McDougal said she wanted to apologise to Melania Trump
Karen McDougal said she wanted to apologise to Melania Trump

The Times said attorney Michael Cohen made the recording two months before Mr Trump's 2016 election.

The newspaper said the FBI seized the recording during an April raid on Mr Cohen's office amid an investigation into his business dealings.

People familiar with the investigation have told AP that the raid sought any information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006. He denies it.

The Wall Street Journal revealed, days before the election, that the National Enquirer - run by Trump supporter David Pecker - had paid $150,000 to silence Ms McDougal. At the time, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said: "We have no knowledge of any of this."

Karen McDougal with Donald Trump in pictures she posted in September 2015 on Twitter, the post has now been removed
Karen McDougal with Donald Trump in pictures she posted in September 2015 on Twitter, the post has now been removed

The Washington Post said on Friday the recording captured Mr Trump and Mr Cohen discussing an effort the attorney planned to make to buy the rights to McDougal's story for roughly $150,000 from the Enquirer's parent company, American Media.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times the Republican president did discuss the payments to Ms McDougal with Mr Cohen on the less than two-minute-long recording, but that the payment was never made.

Mr Giuliani said Mr Trump told Mr Cohen that if he did make a payment, to do it by cheque so it could be documented.

"Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," Mr Giuliani told the newspaper. "In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence."

Mr Cohen, a self-described fixer for Mr Trump for more than a decade, said last year that he "would take a bullet" for Mr Trump. But Mr Cohen told an interviewer earlier this month that he now puts "family and country first" and will not let anyone paint him as "a villain of this story".

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