Donald Trump’s former attorney made multiple recordings of their private conversations, according to the lawyer for a woman suing the president.
Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her suit against the president, said he was aware of “multiple tapes” of Mr Trump’s conversations with his former attorney, Michael Cohen, and that he knew the substance of some of them. He also claimed they will “prove to be a big problem” for Mr Trump.
“You know, that old adage, ‘You’ve lived by the sword, you die by the sword,’ is going to be true in this case, because the president knew that his attorney, Michael Cohen, had a predisposition toward taping conversations with people,” Mr Avenatti told ABC.
The New York Times has reported the existence of one recorded conversation between Mr Trump and his attorney from two months before the election, in which they discuss making payments linked to a model who claimed to have had an affair with the president.
Mr Trump has previously denied having any knowledge of payments to the model, Karen McDougal. He also denies her claims of a 10-month extramarital affair that she says started in 2006.
Ms McDougal sold her story to the National Enquirer – a publication friendly to Mr Trump – for $150,000 in the months before the election, but the story was never published. Ms McDougal claims that Mr Trump and Mr Cohen conspired with the Enquirer’s parent company to purchase the story and bury it.
On the tape, the two men reportedly either discuss making a payment directly to Ms McDougal or discuss making a payment to the Enquirer regarding her story.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of [the payment] in advance,” an attorney for the president told the Times, adding that the payment never went through.
Mr Trump also entered the fray over the weekend, tweeting that it would be “totally unheard of and perhaps illegal” for an attorney to tape a client, and adding that “your favourite President did nothing wrong!”
But Mr Avenatti said that the tape shows Mr Trump “knew that these payments were being made prior to the election”.
“He was a participant in it. He was advising as to how it was going to be done,” Mr Avenatti said. “And none of that is going to prove to be helpful to him or to Michael Cohen, especially as it related to campaign finance violations.”
Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether Mr Trump or Mr Cohen violated campaign finance laws by paying women not to speak out about then-candidate Trump during the election.
Mr Avenatti also suggested that Mr Cohen was cooperating with him, saying he thought the president’s longtime personal fixer was ultimately “going to assist us in our search for the truth”.
An attorney for Mr Cohen disputed this, telling ABC that neither he nor his client had “provided any information to Mr Avenatti, are in any way cooperating with Mr Avenatti, or have any interest whatsoever in cooperating with Mr Avenatti to the detriment of President Donald Trump”.
“Mr Cohen’s legal matters,” said the attorney Brent Blakely, “will not be tried in the court of public opinion, but in a court of law.”