The FBI seized recordings President Donald Trump's attorney made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.
The recordings could prove valuable to the government's criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. The President's personal attorney is under scrutiny in part for his role in seeking to suppress the alleged affair through a hush deal with porn star Stormy Daniels. The warrant sought information about that payment along with any information that connected Cohen with efforts to suppress disclosure of Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The warrant for the raids also specified that Cohen was being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance issues, CNN reported earlier this week.
While Cohen has admitted to no wrongdoing, the intensity of the government's investigation will put significant pressure on one of the President's closest confidants. If Cohen chooses to cooperate rather than fight a potential case against him, then his knowledge about the President's activities could create serious problems for Trump as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.
The source said Cohen recorded some calls he had with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. Davidson no longer represents either woman. Their deals to keep their stories about alleged affairs quiet are now the subject of litigation, with each seeking to be released from their agreements.
Another source tells CNN that in at least one conversation between the two men, "Cohen was being unusually simplistic, like he had bullet points that he was reading from to try and make himself look good. He was trying to clarify the timeline of the agreements made with Davidson in his (Cohen's) favor."
"Attorney Davidson never consented to any recordings of his conversations with Mr. Cohen. If they in fact do exist, Attorney Davidson will pursue all his legal rights under the law," Dave Wedge, a spokesman for Davidson, said. Recording phone conversations without the consent of both parties could be a legal issue if Davidson was in a state that has such laws, like California.
Prosecutors are "going to be very excited at the prospect of having an independent means of corroborating what was said between the two parties," CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said. "If all that stuff gets recorded, then they are in deep hurt because if it was just oral between them, it could be a conspiracy of liars but the tapes undermine that."
Zeldin said a conversation between attorneys for different clients would most likely not be considered covered by attorney-client privilege.
McDougal alleges in a lawsuit that Cohen has a cozy relationship with Davidson. She argues Davidson was part of a "broad effort to silence and intimidate her and others." Davidson denies that claim.
In an exclusive interview with CNN last month, Davidson described several calls he had with Cohen about striking a deal for Daniels to keep her story quiet.
Davidson also said he was contacted in recent weeks by Cohen, who encouraged him to go out and reveal what he knew about his clients and their agreements. Davidson said Cohen argued that the women had waived attorney-client privilege by going public with their stories.
"He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts," Davidson said.
There was no discussion of recordings during a court hearing on Friday to argue over Cohen's filing of a temporary restraining order that seeks to suppress the evidence gathered in the raid.
The Davidson recordings may not be the only conversations the FBI gathered in the raid. Cohen often recorded telephone conversations both before and during the 2016 presidential campaign that also could have been scooped up in the FBI raid on his apartment, office and hotel room, sources told CNN.
One source said Cohen played to Trump and some associates conversations that he had with political and media figures during the exploratory part of the campaign.
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