Cohen recorded Trump discussing payments

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen secretly recorded him discussing payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal before the 2016 election. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman and CNN's Dana Bash report.

Posted: Jul 21, 2018 5:59 PM
Updated: Jul 21, 2018 6:13 PM

The story, on its face, seems to be this: In the waning months of the 2016 election, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen talked about paying off former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, who alleged an affair with Trump, to keep her quiet.

Pretty big news, right? (Kudos to The New York Times for breaking it.)

And it is! But the bigger story here isn't that one conversation between Trump and his fixer. After all, we know that Cohen did this sort of dirty work for Trump; Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 11 days before the 2016 election to ensure her silence about an alleged tryst she says she had with Trump in the 2000s. And we know, despite the initial denials from Cohen and Trump, that Trump paid Cohen back for that payout.

The big story here -- and it is a B-I-G story -- is that Cohen secretly recorded a conversation with Trump. And that this wasn't the only conversation with Trump he taped. And certainly not the only conversation that might be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller that Cohen taped. These two paragraphs, from CNN's report on the taping, hit the nail on the head:

"Cohen has other recordings of the President in his records that were seized by the FBI, said a source with knowledge of Cohen's tapes and Giuliani, who described the other recordings as mundane discussions.

"There are other tapes of Cohen and other "powerful" individuals that the FBI seized beyond the President that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with the tapes. The source said the people are of "significance and consequence."

First of all, mundanity is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the rest of the Cohen-Trump tapes are just the two of them talking about the dismal state of the Knicks. Or about "Hamilton." Or whatever.

But maybe they are slightly less innocuous than that. That's not to say there is anything illegal contained in the tapes -- but remember that Cohen was Trump's longtime fixer, the Michael Clayton-figure in Trumpworld. Cohen was so valuable to Trump because he was willing to do what had to be done -- whatever had to be done -- to take pressure or problems off of his boss's plate. That means any recorded conversations between him and Trump are potentially problematic for Trump.

It also means that Cohen's conversation with other "powerful" individuals has the potential to contain a bombshell or two as well. It's not clear whether those revelations -- if they are indeed on tape -- would boomerang back onto Trump or anyone else in the President's inner circle. But, given Cohen's reputation as a secret-keeper willing to walk very, very close to the line of what's legal -- the fact that he secretly recorded a series of conversations with the man who is now President of the United States (and other "powerful" people) is a very big deal.

The fact that the existence of the recorded calls leaked should also be worrisome to the Trump White House and anyone else who said anything to Cohen over the phone that might be problematic if it went public. The news that the FBI is in possession of these audio records -- likely obtained in the massive search and seizure operation conducted against Cohen's hotel, house and office in April -- almost certainly came from one of two places: The FBI or Cohen (or one if his allies).

If it came from the Cohen side, that's yet more evidence that the man who once said he would take a bullet for Trump may be softening in his commitment to his former boss amid the possibility of significant jail time. Earlier this month, Cohen told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "my wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first."

Lanny Davis, Cohen's newly hired attorney, made very clear what Cohen meant. "This is a new Michael Cohen with a new attitude about speaking his mind," Davis said in an interview with The Hill.

A Cohen freed from his almost-sycophantic relationship with Trump could be a dangerous thing for Trump -- not to mention the likes of Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. And that Cohen with possession of recordings he secretly taped of conversations with Trump as well as other "powerful" people is a prospect that should send a shiver of fear through Trump world.

That's the real story here. Don't miss it.

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 49°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 47°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 47°
Decatur
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 47°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 42°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 490220

Reported Deaths: 9744
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson704661342
Mobile35810721
Madison32203443
Tuscaloosa23961409
Montgomery22417489
Shelby21773211
Baldwin19635272
Lee14883147
Morgan13571248
Etowah13118312
Calhoun13090283
Marshall11212203
Houston10036257
Limestone9321133
Elmore9313179
Cullman8864177
St. Clair8771220
Lauderdale8570210
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7450162
Walker6492249
Jackson6466102
Autauga617285
Blount6072125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5229100
Dale4614106
Russell401431
Franklin397675
Covington3948105
Chilton383196
Escambia376670
Tallapoosa3559139
Clarke342749
Dallas3396140
Chambers3393103
Pike292771
Lawrence281284
Marion280793
Winston245665
Bibb243759
Marengo238554
Geneva238468
Pickens223554
Barbour209550
Hale208464
Fayette199356
Butler195165
Henry182341
Cherokee176338
Monroe165638
Randolph162740
Washington156233
Crenshaw143353
Clay143254
Macon140543
Cleburne136539
Lamar131632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120825
Bullock116534
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98231
Coosa86823
Greene86732
Choctaw54723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768946

Reported Deaths: 11266
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby866001472
Davidson80790841
Knox45241571
Hamilton39979454
Rutherford37906375
Williamson25011202
Sumner21166312
Montgomery17207207
Out of TN1667091
Wilson16194209
Unassigned15662125
Sullivan14169273
Blount13929178
Bradley12734138
Washington12671231
Maury12141159
Sevier11889161
Putnam10537168
Madison10049226
Robertson8886118
Hamblen7958161
Anderson7893155
Greene7258144
Tipton6896101
Coffee6264114
Gibson6168140
Dickson6148103
Cumberland6072117
Carter5926152
McMinn586289
Roane581795
Bedford5756117
Loudon563164
Jefferson5580116
Lawrence554681
Warren529875
Monroe526389
Dyer5222101
Hawkins518793
Franklin470684
Fayette463771
Obion435794
Rhea411773
Lincoln410561
Cocke396192
Marshall388354
Cheatham385743
Campbell378158
Weakley377559
Giles371095
Henderson361173
Carroll346881
Hardeman337663
Macon335073
White333965
Hardin329762
Lauderdale309342
Henry298975
Marion290244
Wayne286430
Scott285042
Overton283757
Claiborne273666
McNairy265051
Haywood264359
Hickman262840
DeKalb261548
Smith253336
Grainger240746
Trousdale237922
Morgan228537
Fentress228344
Johnson215038
Chester200647
Bledsoe198210
Crockett196946
Unicoi179347
Cannon173628
Polk173621
Union168930
Lake167326
Grundy166330
Sequatchie153927
Decatur153137
Humphreys151321
Benton149939
Lewis145724
Meigs125421
Jackson124834
Stewart123124
Clay106230
Perry102527
Houston102330
Moore93616
Van Buren79120
Pickett74723
Hancock49312

Community Events