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Trump says lawyer's tape 'perhaps illegal'

July 22, 2018

Donald Trump has lashed out at his former lawyer, saying he may have broken the law by secretly recording their conversation about a hush payment to a Playboy model. The tape was seized during an FBI raid in April.

Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/Captital Pictures/R. Sachs

US President Donald Trump denied any wrongdoing following reports his former attorney, Michael Cohen, had taped them talking about a payment for a newspaper story about an ex-Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump said it was "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal" for a lawyer to record a client.

Cohen's attorney called the president's statement "false."

Read moreRussia meddling probe expands to Trump's personal attorney

Illegal recording?

The New York Times reported Friday that the two-minute recording was seized by the FBI during a raid on Cohen's office earlier this year. On the tape, the lawyer and his client allegedly discuss buying the rights to the account of ex-centerfold Karen McDougal about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

"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."

"The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!" he added.

Read moreSacha Baron Cohen teases new Trump project

Karen McDougal
McDougal says she began an affair with Trump in 2006 shortly after Trump's wife Melania gave birth to their son BarronImage: Getty Images/D. Kambouris

Trump's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Reuters that Cohen taped the conversation two months before the 2016 presidential election in Trump's office at Trump Tower. In most states, including New York, it is legal to record conversations as long as one party consents.

Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis said on Twitter that Trump and Giuliani's strategy was "flawed," and called the president's comments against Cohen "false."

Michael Cohen
The FBI raided Michael Cohen's offices as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 electionsImage: picture-alliance/AP/dpa/S. Wenig

Read moreDonald Trump says Russia probe 'a disaster' for US

Breach of campaign finance laws?

McDougal sold her story to tabloid The National Enquirer for $150,000 (€128,000) about one month before the recorded conversation took place, but the newspaper never published the story. Giuliani said the potential payment discussed in the recording aimed to reimburse the publication's parent company.

Giuliani said the payment was never made. He also said the president had done nothing wrong and that there was no mention of using campaign funds on the tape, which legal experts say could constitute a violation of campaign finance laws.

A government watchdog group has asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether the payment by parent company American Media to McDougal amounted to an unreported and illegal corporate campaign contribution.

Read moreTrump reimbursed Michael Cohen for Stormy Daniels payment

Stephanie Clifford
Porn actress Stormy Daniels was paid to keep secret an alleged affair she had with TrumpImage: Getty Images/D. Angerer

For months, former longtime Trump lawyer Cohen has been under federal investigation in New York for criminal conduct surrounding his personal business activities. He has not been charged with any crime.

As well as the McDougal case, investigators are looking into a $130,000 pre-election payment the lawyer made on Trump's behalf to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Daniels also alleges she had an affair with Trump, which the president has denied.

nm/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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