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Michael Cohen had 12 audio tapes, recordings seized by the government

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Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen.
Brendan
McDermid/Reuters


  • There are at least 12 audio tapes the government seized
    from President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer,
    Michael Cohen.
  • The tapes were turned over to the government after
    either Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization withdrew
    privilege claims over the tapes, according to a Monday court
    filing.

There are at least 12 audio tapes the government seized from
President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, a
Monday court filing revealed.

Special master Barbara Jones wrote in a court filing to US
District Judge Kimba Wood on Monday that privilege claims were
withdrawn over 12 audio tapes in review — an action that could’ve
been taken by either Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization.

As special master, Jones is tasked with overseeing the document
review for privilege designations in the ongoing Cohen
investigation taking place in the Southern District of New York.

Because the parties released their privilege claims over the
tapes, they’ve been turned over to federal investigators probing
Cohen, she wrote. It is unclear who appears on the tapes.

The existence of one of those 12 tapes was revealed on Friday
when The New York Times
reported
 that Cohen recorded a
conversation with Trump just two months ahead of the 2016
election in which they discussed payments to former Playboy model
Karen McDougal. That recording was among several the FBI seized
in April when it raided Cohen’s properties. Reporting of the
tape’s contents seemed to contradict the Trump campaign’s past
denial of any knowledge of such payments to McDougal.

Cohen is the focus
of
 a criminal investigation into whether he
violated campaign-finance laws, committed bank fraud or wire
fraud, engaged in illegal lobbying, or
participated in other crimes. The FBI seized more than 4 million
documents in the April raids.

In a payment that Cohen helped
negotiate, the National Enquirer purchased McDougal’s story of an
affair with Trump for $150,000 in August 2016. But the outlet
never published the piece. That practice is known as “catch and
kill,” and it effectively silenced McDougal’s allegations.
Federal investigators had sought documents in the Cohen raids
related to that payment and similar payments to other women.


Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
Mark
Wilson/Getty Images


David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., which publishes
the National Enquirer, is a longtime friend of both Trump and
Cohen. Citing a person familiar with the
recording, The Washington Post reported
Friday
 that Cohen and Trump discussed a
plan to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story from Pecker’s
company for about $150,000.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed to The Times
that Trump discussed payments to McDougal with Cohen, but he said
that ultimately no payment was made. Giuliani said the recording
was less than two minutes long, and that there was no indication
based on it that Trump knew of the payment to American Media Inc.
beforehand.

Giuliani said that Trump told Cohen that if he did pay McDougal,
it should be in the form of a check instead of cash so that it
could be properly recorded, The Times reported.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory
evidence,” Giuliani said.

Other reporting has differed from Giuliani’s
description. 
CNN reported, citing a source
familiar with the recording, that when Trump was
informed about the tape he said he couldn’t “believe Michael
would do this to me.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s own legal
team decided to revoke the privilege designation on that tape,
multiple publications reported over the weekend. A source with
knowledge of the withdrawal confirmed to Business Insider that
the Trump legal team removed the privilege designation over the
tape.

Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment
from Business Insider.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted about the tape, saying
it was “inconceivable that the government would break into a
lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of.”

The government — acting on a search warrant — did not break into
Cohen’s office.

“Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client —
totally unheard of & perhaps illegal,” Trump added. “The good
news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

New York, where the taping reportedly took place, legally
requires only one person’s consent for such a recording,
suggesting such a recording would not be illegal. However, the
New York State Bar Association considers such a practice
unethical.

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