President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, the New York Times reported on Friday, secretly recorded a conversation with the president just weeks before the 2016 election about a payoff to Playboy model Karen McDougal regarding her allegations that she and Trump had an extramarital affair years prior.
The Times reports:
The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.
According to Matt Apuzzo, one the Times journalists who broke the story who spoke to MSNBC after it was published, their reporting found "no indication" that Trump knew this conversation was being recording. That, of course, only leads to further speculation about how many other times—and on what subjects—Cohen may have been making such recordings.
JUST IN: President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen taped Trump talking about payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, the @nytimes reports.
Watch @mattapuzzo discuss his reporting and new questions it raises about violating campaign finance law. pic.twitter.com/VSBM49STSf
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 20, 2018
"The recording's existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret," the Times reports. "And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors."
Michael Avenatti, the outspoken lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, also embroiled with Trump over payoffs related to a sexual relationship, said in the wake of the new revelations that he knows "for a fact" that there are more recordings made by Cohen and seized by the FBI.
And there is a reason why I used the term that I did and demanded the release of the #TrumpTapes as opposed to the #TrumpTape. If Michael Cohen is a patriot, then ALL of the tapes should be released to the American people. Now. Too much is at stake. #Basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) July 20, 2018
As Common Cause immediately pointed out, Trump's direct knowledge and involvement in a possible payoff during the 2016 could be evidence of serious campaign finance violations by the president:
This further proves true the allegations we made in our FEC & DOJ complaints that @realDonaldTrump, the Trump campaign, and American Media broke federal campaign finance laws https://t.co/RGOAUoPSFmhttps://t.co/RjZupOH6uU
— Common Cause (@CommonCause) July 20, 2018
Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, had this one word response: "Yikes."