A recording of then-candidate Donald Trump talking about a payment to a woman who claimed they’d had an affair is just one of a dozen audio files released to prosecutors last week, a court filing on Monday revealed.
Court-appointed Special Master Barbara S. Jones, a former judge, is overseeing the review of materials the FBI seized during a raid on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office in April. Jones announced in a filing dated July 23 that she’d granted prosecutors access to 12 audio files from the raid.
Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, taped and stored conversations with his associates and has argued that the seized recordings and documents are protected under attorney-client privilege. But in a separate filing on July 19, Jones determined that “Out of 4,085 items designated privileged by the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors [...] 1,452 items are not privileged.”
The following day, Jones ordered that 12 of those files be released to prosecutors, including the recording of Trump and Cohen discussing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she began a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006.
Jones’ filing did not indicate the content of the other tapes.
In the recording of Trump and Cohen, first reported by The New York Times on Friday, the men reportedly discussed $150,000 that the National Enquirer paid McDougal for the rights to her story. Thereafter, the tabloid prevented her claims from becoming public in a practice known as “catch and kill.”
The Enquirer is owned by American Media Inc ― whose CEO, David Pecker, is a friend of Trump’s. According to the Times, the Justice Department’s raid on Cohen’s office was partly meant to investigate whether payments to women who said they’d had affairs with the president constituted illegal campaign contributions or violations of federal campaign finance laws. The AMI payment to McDougal, for example, could be considered an illegal campaign contribution.
Asked about the deal just days before the 2016 election, the Trump campaign’s then-spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Wall Street Journal: “We have no knowledge of any of this.”
Yet the recording suggests that Cohen and Trump had discussed McDougal’s payment two months before the election.
In a tweet on Saturday, the president denied any wrongdoing and expressed surprise at the tape’s existence.