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Former federal prosecutors zero in on 1 thing Trump said on Michael Cohen tape

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Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
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Wong/Getty Images


  • Former federal prosecutors zeroed in on one
    thing
     President Donald Trump said during the
    secretly-recorded September 2016 conversation with his former
    longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • It was Trump’s reference to how much it would cost to
    purchase the rights to the story of a former Playboy
    model, Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump
    years ago.
  • It matches the exact amount American Media Inc. paid to
    purchase those rights one month prior.
  • Ex-prosecutors say that comment shows Trump likely knew
    details of the payment ahead of time.

Former federal prosecutors zeroed in on one thing President
Donald Trump said during the secretly recorded conversation with
his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen in which they discuss a plan
to buy the rights to the story of a former Playboy
model who says she had an affair with the president years
ago.

“So what do we got to pay for this?” Trump says to Cohen at one
point when discussing the potential payment, which his personal
attorney Rudy Giuliani said was not ultimately made. “One-fifty?”

It’s that final comment that former prosecutors say provides
“strong evidence” that Trump was well aware of The National
Enquirer’s arrangement with the Playboy model, Karen McDougal,
ahead of his conversation with Cohen. Trump’s legal team has
insisted that the conversation was the first time Trump had been
made aware of the McDougal ordeal.

$150,000 happens to be the exact amount that The National
Enquirer spent on buying the rights to McDougal’s story in August
2016. The publication never published the account. That
practice is known as “catch and kill,” and it effectively
silenced McDougal’s allegations.

On the September 2016 tape, which was provided to CNN by Cohen’s
lawyer Lanny Davis, Cohen and Trump can be heard discussing a
plan to purchase the rights to that story from the outlet’s
publisher, American Media Inc., whose head, David Pecker, is a
longtime friend of Trump.


mcdougal
Karen
McDougal.


Dimitrios
Kambouris/Getty Images



Mitchell Epner, an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich
who was previously an assistant US attorney for the District of
New Jersey, told Business Insider that the fact $150,000 was the
exact amount AMI paid for McDougal’s story “supports an inference
that” Trump had prior knowledge of the arrangement.

“The fact that Donald Trump volunteered that the amount to be
paid was $150,000 is strong evidence that he was previously aware
of the arrangement between Pecker/AMI and Karen
McDougal,” Epner said in an email. “At a
minimum, he and Michael Cohen had previously discussed that
$150,000 was the amount that would have to be paid to
Pecker/AMI.”

Meanwhile, a person close to Davis told Business Insider
that Cohen’s team was “forced” to release the tape to counter two
comments Giuliani made — one of which was that Trump did not know
about the McDougal payments prior to Cohen bringing them up in
the conversation. The tape, this person said, made it seem clear
that Trump was not being introduced to this subject for the first
time.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who’s now
a partner at Thompson Coburn, told Business Insider that Trump’s
reference to $150,000 makes it appear not only that he had prior
knowledge of the transaction, but that he had familiarity with
similar types of expenditures in the past.

“He can’t say he didn’t know about the transaction,” Mariotti
said. “He has to own the fact that he had his fingers in these
transactions, that he was actively involved.”

Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal,
however, that nothing on the tape definitively proved Trump knew
of the McDougal deal with AMI before that conversation with
Cohen.

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