US President Donald Trump deplanes Air Force One upon arrival in Morristown, New Jersey, US, July 20, 2018 - REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters): US President Donald Trump on Saturday denied any wrongdoing a day after reports that his onetime attorney Michael Cohen had recorded them both discussing buying the rights to a story by a woman who said she had an affair with Trump.
The President said in a tweet it might be illegal for a lawyer to record a client. An attorney for Cohen called Trump’s statement “false”.
“Inconceivable that the Government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) - almost unheard of,” Trump tweeted, in an apparent reference to an FBI raid on Cohen in April.
“Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of and perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favourite President did nothing wrong!” Trump added.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters on Friday that Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump in September, two months before the 2016 election, in which they discussed buying the rights to a story by a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump.
On Saturday, Giuliani told Reuters the conversation was held at Trump’s office in Trump Tower and that Cohen used a hidden device to record the conversation. In New York State, it is legal to record a conversation if one party consents.
Giuliani said no campaign funding was involved in the discussion between Trump and Cohen, who has distanced himself from Trump in recent months as the FBI is investigating Cohen’s business dealings. If campaign funds were used, that could run afoul of federal election law, legal experts say.
In a tweet on Saturday, Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, called Trump and Giuliani’s strategy “flawed” and the President’s Twitter statement against Cohen “false”.
Before the election, the Trump campaign denied any knowledge of payment to McDougal, but the taped conversation could undermine
Giuliani said the conversation involved reimbursing the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid for McDougal’s story rights. The payment was never made, he said.
“It’s pretty clear from the tape; it’s the first time Trump is finding out. AMI had bought the rights from McDougal,” Giuliani said in a short interview on Saturday.
Giuliani had earlier denied Trump had an affair with McDougal. He said the tape would show that Trump makes clear that if there is going to be a payment, it should be done by check, which would be easily traced.
Speaking on Friday, Giuliani said the FBI seized the recording this year during a raid on Cohen’s office.