On Tuesday night CNN aired what they’re calling a “secret Trump-Michael Cohen tape” that reveals a conversation between then-private citizen Donald Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen.
You can listen to the tape here:
Full audio: Presidential candidate Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording "https://t.co/YmC0QuDqTx pic.twitter.com/fBbq7r1Lq9
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) July 25, 2018
Here’s how CNN is spinning it:
Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”
The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer.“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay.” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.
A recording of President Trump and his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, discussing a possible payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal was provided to CNN Tuesday by Cohen’s attorney and longtime Clinton confidant Lanny Davis.
Fox News and other outlets confirmed the existence of the tape on Friday. A source has told Fox that no payment was ever made to McDougal.
On the recording, which was made prior to the 2016 election, Cohen tells Trump: “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David” and adds that he has consulted Trump Organization CFO Allan Weisselberg “about how to set the whole thing up.”
Cohen then starts to say: “When it comes time for the financing,” at which point Trump cuts him off and says,” What financing?”
What Trump says next is not clear, but it ends with the phrase “with cash.”
“No, no, no, no, no, no,” Cohen responds before the tape cuts off.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” that Trump told Cohen, “don’t pay with cash” and slammed Cohen for making the recording “surreptitiously.”
“There’s no way the president is going to be talking about setting up a corporation and then using cash unless you’re a complete idiot,” Giuliani said, “and the president’s not an idiot.”
Rudy Giuliani is on Fox right now defending Trump by citing his experience with mobsters: 'I've dealt with much worse tapes than this'
— Aidan McLaughlin (@aidnmclaughlin) July 25, 2018
It’s obvious from these two snippets that competing narratives are emerging:
This Cohen Tape’s like “Yani versus Laurel” debate. Some people will hear Trump guilt, some will hear Trump innocence.
The real question is, how does this tape fit into the puzzle Mueller is putting together, piece by piece?
In the mean time, I’m gonna go watch “Shark Week”. 🦈
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) July 25, 2018
Not surprisingly, Hannity dismissed the whole sordid affair:
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) July 25, 2018
Lanny Davis, who is representing Cohen (what?), appeared on Chris Cuomo’s show on CNN and blasted Trump, saying that the “only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters.” The Clinton scandal veteran portrayed Cohen as the victim in this saga.
It's 2018 and Lanny Davis is on CNN discussing a sex scandal potentially imperiling a presidency
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) July 25, 2018
Davis told Cuomo the tape clearly shows that it’s Trump who says “cash” and declared, “Richard Nixon couldn’t spin the tape that did him in, and there’s no way that Mr. Giuliani, who knows from being U.S. Attorney, the only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters. Cash is not what you do, and it was Michael Cohen who said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ And Donald Trump, despite what Rudy Giuliani said publicly, the tape contradicts Mr. Giuliani and the word ‘cash’ is heard by everyone.”
Cuomo noted that Trump’s legal team is disputing that is what is being said, telling Davis that they believe Trump is saying Trump said “Don’t pay with cash.”
Most pundits and legal analysts (including Alan Dershowitz) are saying there’s not really any “there” to the tapes, at least from a legal perspective.
George F. Will reacts to the Trump-Cohen recording on @TheLastWord: “I’m hearing redundant evidence that Mr. Trump is a seedy man … this is not news at this point for the president.” George Will later refers to Trump as a "low-life from Queens."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 25, 2018
A notable (and predictable) exception was Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
AVENATTI: "My BS detector's off the chart right now. Cohen could have issued a written statement even if he didn't want to go on TV about what happened here. Where are the rest of the tapes? You don't get to claim love of country & being a patriot unless you do the right thing." pic.twitter.com/IiBvjOPbh6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 25, 2018
Mr. Davis is a good lawyer but his client Mr. Cohen is not innocent nor is he a victim. He is a co-conspirator dishonest thug who continues to refuse to come clean & do the right thing. They are playing you & aiming for a pardon. Where is the rest of the evidence & tapes? #Basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) July 25, 2018
Rep. Adam Schiff was also quick out of the box to make it sound like the end of the line for Trump:
As former prosecutor, 3 things notable about Cohen tape:
1) Clear Giuliani was untruthful when he said Trump didn’t know
2) Goal was to kill story before election, so campaign motivated
3) Regardless of cash or check, whole point of phony corp. was to hide campaign expenditure
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 25, 2018
There’s plenty of speculation about whether the release of the tape signals Michael Cohen’s intention to “turn” on Trump, but there’s been no indication from Cohen (yet) that he plans to do so.
But the best tweet of the night goes to WikiLeaks, where they’re suddenly very, very concerned about privacy breaches:
CNN publishes Trump-Cohen tape fragment. Though the recording reveals little new, its circumstances are extraordinary: Cohen recording his client with a covert pocket recorder; president's lawyer raided by police, recording seized. Police or Cohen then shipping tape to CNN.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 25, 2018
The end result of the airing of the tape will likely be a week’s worth of hysterical media coverage (on both sides) after which Americans will yawn and resume their daily lives completely unaffected by this news.
The burning question that remains is what’s in the tapes that have yet to be released. Did Lanny Davis lead with the most damaging tape or is there some highly incriminating information lurking in the remainder of the cache?