Lanny Davis, the lawyer of Donald Trump’s embattled former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, declared Tuesday night that his client’s secretly recorded tape of the then-presidential candidate is proof that Trump operates like a “mobster.” But lawyers from team Trump had far different takes on the tape: It’s another nothingburger.
In a tape Cohen secretly recorded back in fall 2016, Trump and his then-personal lawyer are heard talking about buying the rights from American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, to the story of Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with Trump. Trump’s alleged affair with McDougal and attempt to keep her from discussing it has long been known, but this private conversation with Cohen had never before been heard publicly until CNN aired it Tuesday.
In the recording, Cohen says he needs to “open up a company” to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story. “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David [Pecker, AMI chair and CEO],” said Cohen.
“What financing?” Trump asks.
Cohen responds by saying, “we’ll have to pay.” At this point, the audio becomes difficult to understand. Trump says something about “pay with cash,” which Trump’s team says was “Don’t pay with cash…check,” while Cohen’s team insists that Trump is trying to convince him to “pay with cash.”
Cohen responds by saying, “no, no, no,” but again the audio is muffled.
Cohen’s lawyer says the audio is proof that Trump is attempting to act in an illegal manner by insisting on paying with cash.
“When Mr. Giuliani … accused my client, Mr. Cohen, of saying the word ‘cash,’ I said, ‘Wait for the tapes,'” said Davis. “The tape contradicts [Rudy] Giuliani…The only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters.”
But Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, says that the tape actually proves his client is innocent. “There’s no indication of any crime being committed on this tape.”
Alan Futerfas, a Trump Organization lawyer, agrees. In fact, the whole debate about what exactly Trump said about “cash,” he suggested, is nonsense.
“Whoever is telling Davis that ‘cash’ in that conversation refers to green currency is lying to him,” the lawyer told CNN Tuesday.”There’s no transaction done in green currency. It doesn’t happen. The whole deal never happened. If it was going to happen, it would be a payment to a large company that would obviously be accompanied by an agreement of sale. Those documents would be prepared by lawyers on both sides.”
He continued: “The word ‘cash’ came up in the context of the distinction between financing, which is referenced, and no financing, which means a full payment, a total one-time payment. That’s the context in which the word cash is used. Anyone who knows anything about the company or how the President does business knows there is no green cash. Everything is documented. Every penny is documented.”
Trump has also shrugged off the tape, pointing instead to the fact that Cohen secretly recorded a private conversation with his own client.
“What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Is this a first, never heard of it before? 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!”
Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz also suggested that the response to the tape has been overblown, saying the kind of arrangement Cohen and Trump are trying to work out with AMI “happens all the time”:
Below is the segment of the recording released by CNN Tuesday:
Partial transcript via CNN.