Donald Trump on Saturday said his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen may have acted illegally after it emerged he had secretly taped a discussion about payments to a former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with the US president.
In his first direction reaction to a report broken by the New York Times a day earlier, Trump added: “The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”
The Times reported the FBI had seized the recording during a raid on Cohen’s office earlier this year, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording. Cohen has not yet been arrested or charged.
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of,” Trump tweeted.
“Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal claims she had a months-long affair with Trump after they met in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. She told CNN previously that he tried to pay her for sex.
The Wall Street Journal said the September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen was about buying the rights to McDougal’s story, which she sold a month earlier to The National Enquirer for $150,000.
The tabloid ultimately sat on it, preventing it from becoming public. The chairman of its parent company, American Media, is a friend of Trump.
Friday’s reports raised questions about why Trump’s campaign denied knowledge of the deal between McDougal and American Media when it became public and fanned speculation about how much damage Cohen can inflict on the president.
Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had confirmed to the Times that the Cohen tape existed, but said it showed the president had done nothing wrong.