Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said, adding that Trump had directed Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Giuliani said.
Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.
“We have nothing to say on this matter,” Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said when asked about the tape.
The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Ms. McDougal sold her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public. The practice, known as “catch and kill,” effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign.
David J. Pecker, the chairman of the Enquirer’s parent company, is a friend of Trump’s, and Ms. McDougal has accused Cohen of secretly taking part in the deal — an allegation that is now part of the F.B.I. investigation.
When the Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of the payment days before the election, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said, “We have no knowledge of any of this.” She said Ms. McDougal’s claim of an affair was “totally untrue.”
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