President Trump fired back at Michael Cohen on Wednesday, after an audio recording made by his former attorney of a discussion between the then-candidate and Mr. Cohen was released Tuesday night.
“What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before?” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
The president questioned why the tape was edited in the way that it was, suggesting it left vital information out, and claimed others might have been recorded as well.
“Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped — can this be so? Too bad!” his post continued.
Despite tweeting his frustrations earlier in the day, Mr. Trump didn’t respond to reporters’ questions about the tape and Mr. Cohen on Wednesday afternoon during an Oval Office meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The FBI obtained about a dozen recordings during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s home and offices in April. The audio was then aired Tuesday night on CNN’s “Chris Cuomo Prime Time,” after Mr. Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, gave them to the network.
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening that on another of the tapes, Mr. Cohen speaks for nearly two hours with Mr. Cuomo.
In that conversation, he says of the $130,000 paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair a decade ago with the future president, that “I did it on my own.”
Mr. Davis told the Journal it had been “Michael Cohen’s habit for many years to record conversations in lieu of taking notes. He had no intention of ever publicizing such tapes nor any intention to ever deceive anyone.”
But the Journal also reported that during their conversation, the lawyer assured Mr. Cuomo that he wasn’t taping it and that their talk was off the record.
Mr. Cohen secretly recorded Mr. Trump discussing payment in October 2016 for the rights to a story from Playboy Bunny Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. Ms. McDougal sold her story to the National Enquirer, but the story was never released.
The tapes imply that Mr. Trump knew about the attempted cover up, which the president has repeatedly denied.
“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David. So I’m going to do that right away,” Mr. Cohen is heard saying on the tape.
Mr. Cohen then explained he spoke to Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, about “how to set the whole thing up.”
When Mr. Cohen brings up financing, Mr. Trump can be heard cutting in, saying, “Listen, what financing?”
The president’s next words are disputed, whether he said “don’t pay with cash” or “pay with cash.” Mr. Cohen is then heard repeating “no, no, no, no.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s current attorney, argued that the tapes confirm that the president did nothing wrong. He claimed that after close inspection of the audio, the president can be heard instructing Mr. Cohen not to pay with cash.
During an interview with Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham on Tuesday night, Mr. Giuliani said, “There’s no way the president is going to be talking about setting up a corporation and then using cash unless you are complete idiot. Again, the president is not an idiot.”
Mr. Cohen’s lawyer said the president’s legal team got the transcript wrong.
“Truth is once again on [Michael Cohen’s] side,” Mr. Davis tweeted Tuesday night, Mr. “Trump used the word cash, despite [Mr. Giuliani] falsely accusing Mr. Cohen. Just as Richard Nixon learned, tapes don’t lie!”
Fox News Channel legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said Mr. Trump should be worried about the new tapes.
“If there’s no attorney-client privilege, then all his communications go straight to [Robert] Mueller,” Mr. Napolitano said.
The legal expert explained that because there was no profit made off deceiving Ms. McDougal, there was no basis for criminal fraud, but the audio recordings did suggest civil fraud was committed.
As media coverage surged on this topic, some members of Congress weren’t as caught up with the update to this story.
Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday that the revelations demonstrated a continuation of Mr. Trump’s lack of transparency. He then focused on how the president was also secretive in his international meetings.
“Six weeks after North Korea, we still don’t know anything. Two hours plus with Vladimir Putin alone, we don’t know what transpired,” Mr. Menendez said.
On the same CNN show, Republican Sen. Mike Rounds said lawmakers weren’t pleased with the news, but had other priorities. He said that the Senate is focused on policy and that the Cohen tapes were “simply for us not news.”
“I don’t think we’re okay with it. It just simply not an item that is a surprise to us,” said the South Dakota senator.
Mr. Cohen is being investigated over accusations he paid off two women who say they had affairs with Mr. Trump before the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump’s newest criticism of Mr. Cohen is the latest unraveling of their relationship.
In April, the president tweeted that Mr. Cohen was, “a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected.”
Mr. Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump, recently distanced himself from the president, telling ABC News that’ George Stephanopoulos that his loyalties are with his family first and foremost.
Mr. Davis told Axios that his client’s message is clear: “I am no longer the previous Michael Cohen that you knew — taking a bullet for Donald Trump, saying anything to defend him, being a good soldier … That is over.”
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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