President claims tape containing discussion of payment to Playboy model perhaps illegal but New York state law allows recording of conversations
The good news, Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday morning, is that your favorite president did nothing wrong!
He was referring to reports his former lawyer Michael Cohen taped a conversation in which he and the then presidential candidate discussed a potential payment to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who claims to have had an affair with Trump.
Trump also questioned the legality of both the raids and the tape, writing: Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyers office (early in the morning) almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.
According to multiple reports, first by the New York Times, the tape was made shortly before the 2016 election and is now in the hands of federal authorities.
In New York state, it is legal to make such a tape recording. On Saturday, Trumps lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the conversation had taken place at Trump Tower in New York City. Such a recording could be regarded as privileged communication between attorney and client.
Sources told CNN that earlier this week a court official in New York had ruled the so-called McDougal recording privileged, but that Trumps legal team had waived that privilege.
The ruling was part of a broader determination about the privileged status of materials seized from Cohens office, home and hotel room during an FBI raid in April. Of 4,085 documents and electronic records seized and designated as privileged by Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization, 1,452 were not privileged according to the ruling and would be released to the government.
The FBI raided Cohens home, hotel room and offices in April, on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump denounced the raid as an attack on our country, in a true sense. Cohen has said agents were respectful, courteous and professional.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime. In April, Trump tweeted that he did not think Cohen would flip and cooperate with various authorities investigating issues including payments to women and possible links between Trump aides and Russian election interference.
Through his own lawyer and an interview with ABC earlier this month, however, Cohen has hinted that he may do so.
My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will, he told ABC, adding: I put my family and country first.
This week, Cohen spoke to Rev Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host. Sharpton said on Friday they talked for more than an hour and he sensed Cohen was very troubled and felt he had been abandoned by Mr Trump.
It was a very, very serious Michael Cohen I met with, Sharpton said, adding: I got the impression that whatever he knows, he is going to be forthcoming.
On Friday, Giuliani confirmed that the Cohen-Trump tape included Trump discussing possible payments to McDougal, who claims she and Trump had an affair in 2006. Trump denies the affair. Giuliani argued that the conversation revealed no wrongdoing, that Trump had been trying to document any payment properly, and that no payments were made.
Cohens lawyer, Lanny Davis, told reporters any attempt at spin cannot change what is on the recording. On Twitter on Saturday, Davis responded to Trumps tweet, which he said was false, and called his legal teams strategy flawed. Of Trump, he wrote: Why so angry?
McDougal sold her story to the National Enquirer tabloid, run by a Trump ally, for $150,000. It did not publish it, in a practice known as catch and kill.
Cohen is under investigation regarding work for Trump including the facilitation of a $130,000 payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who also claims an affair.
Trump denies that affair too. Giuliani has admitted that Cohen was reimbursed for a figure larger than the payment.