It was revealed that President Donald Trump could be heard discussing payment for Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with him with his personal attorney Michael Cohen, on a secret tape recording.
Although Trump’s campaign previously claimed that it had no awareness about the payment, on the tape released by CNN, Cohen could be heard telling the then-Presidential candidate that he planned to set up a company to purchase the rights to the story from American Media, who bought it from McDougal for $150,000 (£114,000).
To keep the affair with the Playboy model a secret, it having taken place from 2006 to 2007 while Trump was married to Melania and after the birth of Barron, the US President is heard telling his attorney to ‘pay with cash’, which sparked a debate with Rudy Giuliani. But who is Michael Cohen?
In the tape, Cohen is heard saying he planned to set up a company to buy McDougal’s story
Who is Michael Cohen?
Many will know Michael Cohen after he claimed that he would ‘take a bullet’ for President Trump in a Vanity Fair interview back in January 2017 and established himself as the US President’s protector, in addition to being his personal attorney.
At the time of the interview, Cohen was about to testify after a Washington Post report had revealed that he had reached out to the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election campaign and asked for help with a potential Trump real-estate project in Russia.
In addition to this, Cohen had already been involved in the infamous Trump dossier on the President’s relationship with Russia. Prior to the hearing, Cohen was on a forced break from the Trumps and was unable to communicate with them.
Dubbed the sixth Trump child, Vanity Fair revealed how the New York City native only sleeps for three hours a night, believes that all press is good press and being discussed on social media just means that he is ‘relevant’.
As the BBC reported, Michael Cohen is the son of an immigrant who escaped a Nazi concentration camp in Poland and grew up in Long Island, before he attended American University in Washington, and later, the Cooley Law School in western Michigan.
On his return to New York, he started working at a law firm, married a Ukrainian immigrant, ran a taxi business and after attempting to run for City Council, met Trump through his son Donald Trump Jr in 2006.
The Cohen and Trump families were known to each other, especially after the former had purchased a number of properties in the Trump World Tower near the United Nations before Michael became the treasurer of the building’s board.
After working for the Trump Organization as counsel, he was made Executive Vice President, a role from which he resigned to serve as the President’s personal lawyer, a dream job after many years idolising Trump, having read The Art of the Deal multiple times.
Trump speaks about the FBI raid at his lawyer Michael Cohen’s office on April 9, 2018
In 2011 Cohen, who was an early supporter of the idea of Trump becoming President of the United States, was involved in the launch of the website, Should Trump Run? and was of course, supportive when the candidacy was officially announced.
Ahead of the hearing in 2017 interview, he said: ‘At times I wish I were there in D.C. more, sitting with him in the Oval Office, like we used to at Trump Tower, to protect him.
‘I feel guilty that he’s in there right now almost alone, especially now that Keith [Schiller, Trump’s former bodyguard and confidante] has resigned. There are guys who are very loyal to him that would have gone in, but there was a concerted effort by high-ranking individuals to keep out loyalists.’
Cohen then went on to say that he would question his loyalty to Trump if he saw the President in a white sheet at a Klan rally, as a Jew and a child of a Holocaust survivor – but later clarified that neither he nor Trump condone white supremacists.
Not referring to the controversy, Cohen said that he had communicated with Russia because he ‘really wanted to see this building go up, because the economics were fantastic’ and revealed his conversation with Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
Cohen described how if you type ‘Kremlin’ into Google, there is a phone number and an email address available, but said that Russia did not respond. ‘I can tell you for certainty that neither I nor the president were involved, at any point in time, with this Russian conspiracy.
‘I’ve never been paid by or colluded with any Russian to hack the D.N.C., to create search-engine optimization tools to cause Trump’s positives up and Hillary’s negatives up, I’ve never been to Prague.
‘I’ve never been to the Czech Republic. This whole thing has been an attack on me for doing my job. That’s all that I did. I did my job,’ he said, referring to what was stated in the infamous Trump dossier. Cohen explained that he was in California touring U.S.C with his son and met with TMZ tycoon Harvey Levin.
However, Cohen’s story about the Steele Dossier began to unravel when it emerged that a hush money payment had been made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump before he became President.
In April 2018, Michael Cohen was thrust into the centre of a federal criminal investigation after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found possible campaign collusion with Russia and a raid was carried out on Cohen’s office to find files detailing payments made to Daniels.
Stormy Daniels exits the United States District Court after a hearing related to Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen Novartis
A month later, Cohen was embroiled in further controversy and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis revealed that its top lawyer Felix Ehrat would be stepping down over the decision to hire Michael Cohen as a consultant.
In a statement, Ehrat said: ‘Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error’ and that he took ‘personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end’.
Cohen was paid $1.2 million (£912,000) for a contract that in the end, boiled down to just one meeting. The deal emerged when Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted explosive details about the payments that were made to Michael.
Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff said they had entered into a one-year agreement with Essential Consultants in February 2017 in order to focus on healthcare policy. He also said that despite initially hiring Cohen for $100,000 (£76,000) a month, after the first meeting, he realised he would not be of use.
This move followed AT&T revealing that its chief lobbyist would be leaving the company after overseeing a $50,000 (£38,000) a month contract hiring Cohen to serve as a consultant for a year. In a memo, CEO Randall Stephenson said that hiring him was a ‘big mistake’ and association was ‘a serious misjudgement’.
Michael Cohen smear campaign
Today, Michael Cohen’s loyalty towards President Donald Trump could be described as questionable, and at the start of this month, said that Stormy Daniels’s attorney is running a ‘smear campaign’ against him and insisted that a federal judge should issue a gag order.
Cohen’s attorney Brent Blakely argued that because Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti frequently appears on television and tweets about the case at hand almost on a daily basis, the comments are ‘aimed at tainting the jury pool’.
Amid Cohen’s fight for a restraining order for Avenatti, Stephanie Clifford is suing Trump while he seeks to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election. However, Avenatti said that a gag order is not necessary.
‘Like a small-town carnival magician who attempts to confuse the audience with smoke and mirrors, Avenatti attempts to somehow justify his conduct by pulling the First Amendment out of his tiny bag of tricks while at the same time pointing his finger at others,’ Blakely wrote.
Trump Michael Cohen
Around the same time, Cohen seemed to untangle himself from Trump and told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his ‘wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty’, in his first sit-down interview after being criminally investigated.
‘I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way,’ Cohen said. He also went on to praise the professionalism of the FBI agent and denied any interference from Russia in the US election.
However, when questioned about whether or not Trump had asked him to make a $130,000 (£99,000) payment to Stormy Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement, he said: ‘I want to answer. One day I will answer. But for now, I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.’
He continued: ‘When they searched my hotel room and my home, it was obviously upsetting to me and my family. Nonetheless, the agents were respectful, courteous and professional. I thanked them for their service and as they left, we shook hands.’
In June, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that Cohen may cooperate with prosecutors: ‘He’s not cooperating nor do we care because the President did nothing wrong. I am absolutely certain of that. Michael Cohen, I think, would tell you he’s got nothing incriminating on the President,’ Giuliani said.
Around this time, Trump said that he hasn’t spoken to Cohen in ‘a long time’ and that he was ‘not my lawyer anymore’. This led to Cohen hiring former special counsel to former President Bill Clinton Lanny Davis to help him defend against a federal investigation in New York.
Trump Cohen tape
On July 25 2018, a secret tape recording was obtained by CNN on which Trump could be heard discussing how they would buy Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with the US President with none other than Michael Cohen.
The recording, which was played during CNN’s ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’ revealed that Cohen planned to set up a company in order to purchase the rights of the story from American Media, who bought it from McDougal for $150,000 (£114,000).
Trump appeared to tell Cohen to ‘pay with cash’, to which Giuliani responded saying ‘don’t pay with cash’ and had previously told the President to pay by cheque so that the money would be documented.
In the recording, Cohen is heard saying: ‘I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,’ referring to American Media head David Pecker. Trump then interjects and asks: ‘What financing?’.
Giuliani has insisted that while the September 2016 recording caught a discussion about buying the rights to a story, the President never paid McDougal any money. He also believed that the tape would be beneficial for Trump.
Trump broke his silence in his usual way and tweeted that perhaps Cohen had recorded him without his knowledge.
‘Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of.
‘Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!’ Trump added.
Retired judge Barbara Jones is currently looking through all the materials obtained by officials in the Cohen office raid and will search for documents that may be protected under lawyer-client confidentiality between Trump and Cohen.
If payments to McDougal emerge and seem to have been made to circumvent campaign finance laws and their strict limits on monetary contributions to a political campaign, it could provide legal exposure for Cohen.
Lawyer Peter Stris, who negotiated the settlement between McDougal and American Media played on Trump’s statement about the Russian election meddling and tweeted: ‘When @realDonaldTrump said we were lying, do you think he meant we WEREN’T?’
In addition to this, Cohen met with MSNBC host and his close friend Rev. Al Sharpton after which he tweeted: ‘Just spent an hour w/ Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. I bet you’re wondering what we could be talking about! Stay tuned.’
Sharpton followed this up with: ‘I’ve known [Cohen] for maybe 20 years. He was a Democrat. He used to broker meetings between Trump and I when we were fighting.’
Cohen replied, writing: ‘I have known Rev for almost 20 years. No one better to talk to!’ However, Michael Avenatti told MSNBC that he knows ‘for a fact that this is not the only tape.
‘I think this is a very serious matter and I think that any or all audio tapes that Michael Cohen has in his possession relating to this president should be released for the public.
‘There’s nothing that’s stopping Michael Cohen from releasing the audio recording that he made between him and the President concerning my client, Ms. McDougal, and others.’
Lanny Davis then stated that ‘any attempt at spin cannot change what is on the tape. When the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen.’