U.S. President Donald Trump was secretly taped by his longtime lawyer discussing payments to a former Playboy model, with whom he allegedly had an affair, and the recording is in FBI hands, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The lawyer, Michael Cohen — who no longer represents Mr. Trump — is being investigated over payments made to women to hush up embarrassing news stories about the now commander-in-chief ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether such payments violated campaign finance laws, and whether Mr. Cohen committed other financial crimes.
He has not yet been arrested or charged.
The FBI seized the recording earlier this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office, t he Times said in a bombshell revelation, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording.
Damage to Trump
The report will fuel speculation about how much damage Mr. Cohen — who has signalled a potential willingness to cooperate with prosecutors against the President in order to avoid arrest — could cause for Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the veracity of the recording to the Times , but added that the payment was never made, and said the President had not been party to any wrongdoing.
The FBI raided Mr. Cohen’s home and office in April on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of a review of the materials seized in the raid and shared it with Mr. Trump’s attorneys, the Times reported.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal says she had a months-long affair with Mr. Trump after they met in 2006, shortly after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. She told CNN previously that he tried to pay her for sex.
Ms. McDougal’s story echoes allegations of an affair between Mr. Trump and porn actress Stormy Daniels during the same period.