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Michael Cohen tapes: Here's what we know about the secret recordings

  • July 28, 2018

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The audio, released by Cohen’s attorney exclusively to CNN, allegedly reveals plans between Cohen and President Trump to keep a story about Trump’s affair out of the National Enquirer.
USA TODAY

It was a made for TV moment. 

The breaking news banner stretched across CNN as the network debuted the very first of the secret tapes recorded by Michael Cohen. 

But the wild recording between President Donald Trump and his former attorney is just one of many. The Washington Post reported investigators have more than 100 of Cohen’s recordings, a number Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani seemingly confirmed while appearing on CNN Thursday. 

The tapes include a host of characters, including journalists, and cover a variety of topics, including some revolved around the president’s business. 

Here’s what we know: 

The Trump tape

The most explosive of the known recordings is a nearly three-minute conversation between Cohen and his boss, Trump. The conversation details a few things, including how to purchase the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump. 

Cohen is also heard on the September 2016 tape discussing an effort to unseal divorce documents between Trump and his first wife, Ivana, along with polling numbers. 

In the recording, Cohen tells then-presidential candidate Trump, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David.”

“What financing?” Trump can be heard to ask after a number of other, inaudible comments. 

“We’ll have to pay,” Cohen says. 

Trump then says something about whether or not to “pay with cash” to which Cohen responds, “No. No, no, no, no. I got (inaudible). No, no no.” 

Trump then says the word “check” and the tape suddenly ends.

It’s unclear why the recording stopped.

The David who Cohen refers to is believed to be David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, which owns the National Enquirer. He is a longtime friend of Trump.

The Enquirer paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story about an alleged 10-month affair between herself and Trump that began in 2006. The tabloid never published the story. 

The Chris Cuomo tape

At least one of the tapes pertain to a conversation between Cohen and CNN host Chris Cuomo discussing a payment made to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims to have had an affair with Trump. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the tape but Cuomo talked about the recording live on CNN Thursday night as Giuliani quoted portions of the tape. 

“I set it up with Stormy Daniels. I paid it. I paid it out of my own pocket. I did it for the family. I didn’t do it for campaign purposes,” Giuliani said Cohen is heard explaining on the recording. “That is word-for-word exactly the version we have it.” 

Giuliani said the recording was made surreptitiously without the knowledge of Cuomo, who said the two-hour talk was off-the-record. 

Cuomo acknowledged the tape’s existence but refused to talk about its contents. 

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Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidanteAdult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaks outside US Federal Court with her lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) in Lower Manhattan, New York on April 16, 2018.Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims to have had a consensual sexual encounter with Donald Trump a decade ago, said April 17, 2018 that she is pursuing legal action against the president because she is “done being bullied.””I’m tired of being threatened, intimidating me, and trying to say that you’ll ruin my life and take all my money and my house,” Daniels said on ABC’s “The View.””I’m done being bullied,” Daniels said of legal threats from Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now embroiled in his own legal troubles.”I’m done,” Daniels said. 
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ, AFP/GETTY IMAGESIn this courtroom sketch, Joanna Hendon, right, one
In this courtroom sketch, Joanna Hendon, right, one of President Donald Trump’s lawyers, speaks as the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, left, sits next to one of his own attorneys Todd Harrison, center, with porn star Stormy Daniels visible in the audience between Cohen and Harrison, during a federal court hearing in New York, April 16, 2018. Attorneys for Cohen and Trump tried to persuade U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood to delay prosecutors from examining records and electronic devices seized in the raids on the grounds that many of them are protected by attorney-client privilege. 
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS VIA APAttorney Michael Cohen, US President Donald J. Trump's(L to R) Todd Harrison and Joseph Evans, attorneysMichael Cohen takes a phone call  as he sits outsideCBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King, left, Stormy
CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King, left, Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, CNN news anchor Don Lemon and FOX News talk show host Sean Hannity pose for a selfie at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual 35 Most Powerful People in Media event at The Pool on Thursday, April 12, 2018, in New York.In court hearings on April 16, 2018, it was revealed that the client list of presidential lawyer Michael Cohen also includes Sean Hannity, one of the president’s biggest supporters. 
EVAN AGOSTINI, INVISION/APIn this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, President Trump'sThe actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stageMichael Cohen's lawyer David Schwartz appeared on MegynMichael Cohen, right, President Donald Trump's personalMichael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney,(L to R) Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect

  • Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidante1 of 13
  • Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as2 of 13
  • In this courtroom sketch, Joanna Hendon, right, one3 of 13
  • Attorney Michael Cohen, US President Donald J. Trump's4 of 13
  • (L to R) Todd Harrison and Joseph Evans, attorneys5 of 13
  • Michael Cohen takes a phone call  as he sits outside6 of 13
  • CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King, left, Stormy7 of 13
  • In this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, President Trump's8 of 13
  • The actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage9 of 13
  • Michael Cohen's lawyer David Schwartz appeared on Megyn10 of 13
  • Michael Cohen, right, President Donald Trump's personal11 of 13
  • Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney,12 of 13
  • (L to R) Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect13 of 13

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has a lot to say

More: It will take more than Cohen to bring down Trump, conservatives say

They exchanged emails, text messages and phone calls pretty regularly during negotiations over a $130,000 payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about claims of an affair with Trump. 

During those negotiations, Cohen is accused of secretly recording some of the phone conversations. 

Davidson filed a lawsuit last month that detailed Cohen’s secret recordings, alleging they were unlawful since Davidson is located in California, which requires both parties to consent to be taped. 

Daniels’ new attorney, Michael Avenatti, said there are at least three tapes detailing conversations between Cohen and Davidson. He has demanded the recordings be made public multiple times. 

The tapes are important for a number of reasons. Their conversations could be of use to investigators who are examining whether the payment to Daniels was a campaign finance violation. 

They could also show whether Davidson was working with Cohen and Trump, as Avenatti has alleged, in an attempt to silence Daniels. 

Other taped conversations

Giuliani carefully touched on the contents of some of the other tapes in an interview with CNN Thursday evening, attempting to show Cohen was a liar and wouldn’t have credibility with prosecutors.

He said Cohen is heard complaining about not being given a position in the Trump administration and was jealous of Trump’s children, who were. 

“He didn’t select Michael for government. You know Michael was bitter about that. That’s going to be on tapes, without getting into the detail of that,” Giuliani told CNN’s Cuomo.

He continued: “He’s very, very jealous and bitter about the kids, which also comes across on the tapes. So you got a whole scenario here that’s really, really sick.”

Giuliani did not elaborate who Cohen was talking to at the time of these conversations and what else the conversations encapsulated.

Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY

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