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Trump-Cohen tape: What is Trump saying on ‘cash?’

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Michael Cohen and Donald Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald
Trump.

Jenny Chang/Business
Insider


  • People now hear at least three difference things at a
    pivotal point in the secret recording of a conversation between
    President Donald Trump and his former longtime lawyer Michael
    Cohen
  • They were discussing buying the rights to the story of
    a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump
    years ago.
  • The answer of what Trump actually said could have
    significant ramifications on what happens next.
  • Some people can only hear “pay with cash.”
  • There is muddled audio right before that
    comment.
  • Trump’s legal team says the president said “don’t pay
    with cash.”
  • A forensic audio expert says Trump said “I’ll pay with
    cash.”

What President Donald Trump said at a pivotal point of a
conversation with his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen has
become the center of a fierce dispute that could have
significant ramifications for what happens next. 

A secret audio recording,
which Cohen is said to have made in September 2016 without the
president’s knowledge, features a conversation between the two
men in which they discuss buying the rights to the story of
a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump
years ago.

The existence of the tape was
first revealed Friday. It was seized by the FBI in its April
raids of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room as part of a
criminal investigation focusing on him. Trump’s attorneys waived
privilege claims over the tape and 11 others seized from Cohen.

On Tuesday night, Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, provided
CNN with the tape. The National Enquirer purchased former Playboy
model Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000 in August 2016 but
never published it. That practice is known as “catch and kill,”
and it effectively silenced McDougal’s allegations.

On the tape, Cohen and Trump discuss a plan to purchase the
rights to McDougal’s story from the outlet’s publisher, American
Media Inc. — whose head, David Pecker, is a longtime friend of
Trump.

Though the tape makes clear Trump was aware of the subject prior
to the 2016 presidential election, his campaign later denied any
knowledge of the topic. While Trump’s legal team conceded the
conversation was about McDougal, it said nothing illegal took
place and no payment was made.

The center of the resulting debate between Trump’s personal
lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Davis centers on what Trump said about
the method of potential payment:

  • After Cohen claimed he spoke with a top Trump Organization
    executive about how to set up a company and the financing for
    such a payment, Trump responded, “What financing?”
  • The only three words clearly audible after that are “pay with
    cash.” Some only hear this on the tape.
  • Muddled audio comes before Trump says “pay with cash.” Some
    hear Trump saying “don’t pay with cash.” At least one
    expert hears him saying “I’ll pay with cash.”

After Trump made the comment in question, Cohen replied, “No, no
no.” The tape then cuts off with a voice that sounds like Trump
saying “check.”

‘The president is not an idiot’

Giuliani told Fox News after the tape aired on CNN that the word
Trump used before saying “pay with cash” was “don’t,” signaling
that he did not want the potential payment to be kept under
wraps. Giuliani pointed to the word “check” as proof that Trump
wanted such a payment to be done the right way.


Donald Trump
Trump.
Kevin
Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images


Giuliani said there was “no way the president is going to be
talking about setting up a corporation then using cash, unless
you’re a complete idiot.”

“And again, the president is not an idiot,” he said.

Alan Futerfas, an attorney representing the Trump
Organization, told The Washington
Post 
on Tuesday that “cash” in the
conversation was referring to making a one-time payment rather
than financing a transaction over time.

“Anyone who knows anything about the company or how the president
does business knows there is no green cash,” Futerfas told CNN. “Everything is
documented. Every penny is documented.”

On Wednesday, CNN commissioned an audio
forensics expert to review the tape. The expert, Ed
Primeau, said he had not read a transcript of the recording
beforehand and did not watch any news reports on the tape. He
said he does not regularly follow the news so he can stay
unbiased. 

Primeau concluded that Trump responded with “I’ll pay with cash”
— not “don’t pay with cash.” Primeau used tools to enhance the
audio, isolate specific words and examine sound waves on a
screen, CNN wrote.

Primeau added that the tape is clearly cut off after “check.”

Wanting to pay for the potential expense in cash — making it
impossible to trace — could suggest Trump wanted to conceal
evidence of a possible campaign finance violation. If he wanted
to pay with a check, however, Trump’s intentions would be viewed
differently.

Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor, told The Post that if such a
payment was “willfully” not disclosed, it’s “a crime.” Even if a
payment was not made, there “could still be conspiracy” to commit
such a crime, she said.

The conversation could become important in relation to another
payment — the $130,000 Cohen paid to porn star Stormy Daniels
ahead of the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about
allegations of a 2006 affair with Trump.

McQuade said the tape “could be used as evidence of intent in the
larger context of other evidence.”

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