Investigators discovered recordings made by Michael Cohen that include then-candidate Donald Trump talking about making a payment to a former Playboy model, sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News.
The recordings were found as part of the raid on Michael Cohen’s home office and hotel carried out earlier this year in New York, the sources told ABC News. The news comes fresh after the special master announced that over 1,000 more seized materials from an F.B.I. raid are not privileged material and were turned over to prosecutors.
The New York Times first reported the news of the recordings around noon Friday.
The Playboy model in question is reportedly Karen McDougal, who has previously claimed that she had an affair with Trump. The White House previously denied McDougal’s claims, with then-campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks even doubted McDougal and denied any payouts when asked about the matter not long before the 2016 election.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by New York federal prosecutors in a case that is not being handled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Sources said that investigators were looking into Cohen’s personal business dealings as well as those with Trump’s alleged mistresses and media organizations as well as the 2016 campaign, ABC News reports.
Cohen, the president’s longtime fixer and personal attorney, was known for his loyalty to Trump, but that may be changing as he could potentially face serious charges. Though the feds are poking their heads around and looking through seized materials, Cohen has not been charged with a crime yet. He recently told ABC News’ chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos that he puts “family and country first.”
Rudy Giuliani, who is now Trump’s personal attorney, confirmed to ABC News Trump did have a discussion with Cohen before the election but he said that the payment to McDougal that was being discussed was never made. Giuliani also said the recording in question is less than two minutes long.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said to ABC News.
McDougal did eventually receive payment through American Media Inc., though she later sued for the rights to tell her story and settled with the company earlier this year, The Independent reports.
“My goal from the beginning was to restore my rights and not to achieve any financial gain, and this settlement does exactly that,” McDougal said. “I am relieved to be able to tell the truth about my story when asked, and I look forward to being able to return to my private life and focus on what matters to me.”
McDougal claimed to have begun an affair with Trump in 2006, a year after he married Melania Trump, and was first offered money in exchange for sex with the future president. In an interview with CNN, the former model said she felt “guilty” and ended the affair nearly 10 months later in April 2007, according to The Independent.
Stormy Daniels, an adult film star and director, also said she received payments to remain silent about her alleged affair with Trump and even alleges she was confronted in person by a man who made veiled threats against her as her young daughter stood beside her. She and her lawyer Michael Avenatti have been cooperating with prosecutors in recent months, sending investigators files related to the payments she received throughout the 2016 election, according to The Independent. The news also comes as New York State opens a tax probe into The Trump Foundation.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.