President Donald Trump on Wednesday ripped into his former lawyer Michael Cohen just hours after a secretly recorded conversation between the two men from 2016 was played on national television.
"What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before?" Trump tweeted.
"Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?" he added. "I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? Too bad!"
The tweets came after Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, released a secretly recorded conversation between Cohen and Trump from 2016 to CNN that made clear the future president was aware of a former Playboy model's allegation of an affair and a plan to buy her silence. The network aired the tape Tuesday night, and NBC News has authenticated the audio recording.
Davis said the taped conversation shows Trump mentioning "cash" in relation to a possible payment involving ex-Playmate Karen McDougal, who alleges she had a year-long affair with Trump.
Made two months before the presidential election, the tape appears to show Cohen, who was Trump's personal attorney at the time, discussing "how to set the whole thing up with funding." At one point, Trump appears to ask "what financing?" and seems to ask "pay with cash?"
Cohen, Trump's former "fixer," who is under federal investigation, is heard saying, "No, no, no, no, no, no, I got ..." before Trump is heard saying, or asking, "check," and then the recording abruptly ends. Although the exact wording on the tape is unclear at times, it does make it clear that Trump was aware of the model's allegation of the affair and the plans to pay to ensure her silence.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the conversation took place in September 2016, shortly before the election and a month after American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, had purchased the rights to McDougal's story of an alleged extramarital affair she says she had with the future president 10 years ago. Trump has denied any affair.
Davis said the recording shows Trump discussing whether to pay "hush money" to McDougal, and suggested in an interview that Cohen has more damaging information on Trump.
Cohen also made a payment shortly before the election of $130,000 to another woman, adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged a past one-night affair with Trump.
In the recording aired by CNN, Cohen appears to say at one point, "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," which CNN reported was probably a reference to David Pecker, chairman and chief executive of American Media.
Pecker, a friend of Trump's, had paid McDougal for the rights to her story, but the Enquirer never published an article, a tabloid industry practice known as "catch and kill," which is intended to bury a story by allowing no other media organization to have it. On the tape, Trump and Cohen appear to talk about acquiring the rights to McDougal's story themselves in case something happens to Pecker, like being hit by a bus, which Trump suggests on the tape. It is not believed Trump made any payment to do so.
Meanwhile, first lady Melania Trump refused to weigh in on the emergence of the tape.
Responding to a request for comment about the audio recording and whether she was watching CNN aboard Air Force One, upsetting the president — as The New York Times reported on Tuesday — Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, referred simply to a series of unrelated health statistics.
“Did you know that every 15 minutes a baby is born with NAS?" Grisham said in a statement, referring to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a set of symptoms experienced by babies exposed to drugs in the womb. "Maybe you’d like to talk about the 160,000 kids who skip school every day for fear of being bullied, or that 280,000 students are physically attacked in schools every month."
"Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV (any channel she wants btw) or if she heard some recording on the news," Grisham added.