Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, secretly recorded a conversation with CNN's Chris Cuomo and admitted in the tape to arranging—on his own—a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.
The recording—which is about two-hours long—included topics ranging from the alleged years-old Trump affair with the former porn star to the payment, the report said. The reported tape could potentially be used by the White House to distance Trump from the Daniels payment and damage Cohen’s character.
Cohen reportedly assured Cuomo that he was not taping their conversation, and put the phone in his desk drawer. The phone appears to record the whole conversation.
“I did it on my own,” Cohen said about the payment in the recording, according to the newspaper. Cohen previously said he “facilitated” the payment with his own money and called it a “private transaction.”
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani previously revealed that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment through a monthly retainer, but insisted Trump wasn’t aware of the deal until much later.
The reported tape doesn’t indicate whether the payment to the adult-film actress was made to help Trump’s presidential campaign, the paper reported.
The report said it would be a campaign finance violation if Cohen made the payment to bolster the candidate’s chances of getting into office because it violates the election law by making in-kind contribution that exceeds the legal limit and was not disclosed to election regulators.
“It wasn’t for the campaign. It was for [Trump],” Cohen told Cuomo when asked if the payment could be understood as an in-kind contribution, The Journal reported.
"It wasn’t for the campaign. It was for [Trump]."
In recent years, Cohen frequently appeared on Cuomo’s show. On Tuesday, the lawyer for Cohen, Lanny Davis, supplied Cuomo with an audio recording of Cohen’s conversation with Trump about purchasing the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of her 2006 affair with Trump.
Trump lashed out at his former attorney. “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad!” the president wrote in a tweet early Wednesday morning.
Giuliani, meanwhile, said it was “outrageous that an audio conversation between Trump and Cohen was leaked to the media. He also questioned why the recording, as aired on CNN, ended at a key part in the conversation, saying the tape would have been “exculpatory” from the point of view from the president had it not stopped.
The Trump-Cohen recording is among a dozen recordings the attorney made in matters relating to Trump, which were seized by Federal authorities in an April raid of his office. The investigators are looking into whether Cohen could be responsible for bank fraud or campaign finance violations over the payment to Daniels.
A former federal judge overseeing a review of materials seized in the sweep released the 12 audio recordings made by Cohen to federal investigators after Trump withdrew objections to the tapes. Cohen’s tape with Cuomo was among the released tapes and other tapes also feature recordings with other reporters.
Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the Cohen-Cuomo tape. “We can’t comment on a tape that hasn’t been released,” Giuliani told the newspaper.
“It was Michael Cohen’s habit for many years to record conversations in lieu of taking notes,” Davis said. “He had no intention of ever publicizing such tapes nor any intention to ever deceive anyone.”