Two months before his election, President Donald Trump and his longtime “fixer” lawyer Michael Cohen allegedly engaged in a discussion about making hush-money payments to a Playboy model. Those conversations were apparently recorded, according to several sources with knowledge of them.
The New York Times reported on Friday about the existence of the recordings. The FBI came across them during a raid on Cohen’s offices and other properties earlier this year. If admissible, they may provide evidence that Trump and Cohen, in making these payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated federal elections law on how campaign funds can be spent.
McDougal alleged she had an affair with the current president years ago. She also said Trump was very careful about making sure no evidence of their affair would ever surface, paying for lodgings and transportation for the model in ways that would not leave a paper trail.
The recordings, secretly made by Cohen, could provide evidence of that affair, even after the many lengths Trump allegedly went to in order to prevent that from happening.
Trump may try to argue that attorney-client privilege prevents any discussions between his lawyer from being admissible in a court of law. But there are instances in which that privilege can be nullified, including if the client asks the attorney to do something criminal in nature.
The admission of evidence, then, if it ever does occur, would be monumental. It would mean that prosecuting attorneys believed that a criminal act did occur — and if the tapes themselves demonstrate as much, it could spell huge trouble for Trump, politically and presidentially, hurting his party’s chances of winning elections in the future (if politicians from the GOP continue to support him), and potentially being used as a means to impeach him as an instance of a “high crime or misdemeanor” under Article II of the Constitution.
It may be a moot point, however: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said the recordings are legitimate but that the payment never actually happened. It’s unclear whether that is true or not at this time — Giuliani has made misleading statements like these in the past regarding his client.
Ultimately, what matters most is what’s on those recordings, and how they connect to demonstrable financial transactions made by Trump or Cohen to McDougal. And it could mean that more audio evidence exists, which could spell more troubles for Trump down the road.