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Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation between them about paying off a former Playboy model, the New York Times reported Friday.
The conversation took place two months before the 2016 election and the recording was retrieved during a FBI raid earlier this year, according to the Times.
Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, claims that she had a year-long affair with Trump in 2006, shortly after the birth of his son with his third wife Melania Trump.
In the build up to the 2016 election, McDougal shared her story with The National Enquirer in exchange for $150,000, which the tabloid never ran. A 2017 New Yorker report suggests that's because David Pecker, the publisher and CEO of the Enquirer's parent company, is friends with Trump.
Cohen has been under a “criminal investigation” for months by the Department of Justice, it was revealed following an April FBI raid where officials seized bank records, exclusive communication with his clients, and documents related to Karen McDougal.
In May, Rudy Giuliani announced that Michael Cohen was no longer on Trump’s legal team.
The DOJ is investigating if Cohen was involved in paying off stars such as McDougal and Stormy Daniels to stop them from “embarrassing” Trump in the months prior to the election, the Times reported. Prosecutors aim to find out if that “violated federal campaign finance laws.”
Giuliani, who joined Trump's legal team in April, confirmed with the Times that the conversation took place and that Trump, who did not know he was being recorded, “had done nothing wrong.”
The recording is under two minutes long, he told the Times, and nothing in it “suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance.”
McDougal’s lawyer Peter Stris tweeted on Friday, “When @realDonaldTrump said we were lying, do you think he meant we WEREN’T?” This is likely a reference to the president’s presumed inconsistent comments about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week.
The Times report says the recording’s existence casts further doubt about whether the president knew about the payments, which he was denied. It may also heighten concerns among Trump's legal advisors about the prospect of Cohen cooperating with prosecutors.
[Photo: Karen McDougal. By Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images]