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Jurors hear secret recording of Trump and Michael Cohen allegedly discussing hush money payment

Written by on May 4, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Jurors in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Thursday were played a recording found on Michael Cohen’s phone, in which the two appeared to be discussing the alleged plan to pay off a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Trump.

The conversation, which took place on the morning of Sept. 6, 2016, was played Thursday as part of the testimony by expert witness Douglas Daus, who handles the processing of electronic devices for the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, secretly recorded the conversation, which lasts about two minutes, during which he and Trump seem to discuss making a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal to keep her quiet about the alleged affair, which Trump has denied ever took place.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David,” Cohen can be heard saying on the call, appearing to refer to National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Cohen seemed to be speaking about a shell company he created to originally pay American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s publisher, before the deal went through.

On the phone, Cohen is heard saying he had “spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding” referring to the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

“So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Trump can be heard asking in the recording.

At one point during the conversation, Trump suggested making the payment in cash.

“No, no, no, no, no, I got it,” Cohen responded.

American Media Inc. paid McDougal $150,000 to stay silent about her story in the summer of 2016. Trump did not end up reimbursing them, as they’d originally discussed, after Pecker backed out of the deal.

In the defense’s cross-examination of Daus, Trump attorney Emil Bove attempted to raise doubt about the integrity of the material on Cohen’s phone, suggesting it has been “subject to the risk of manipulation” somewhere in the chain of custody.

Bove also questioned Daus on why the recording abruptly ends.

Daus suggested that he heard in the recording that another call was coming in, but could not say with certainty why the call ended.

“You don’t have firsthand knowledge of why it cuts off,” Bove said.

During redirect, Daus told prosecutor Christopher Conroy he did not see any evidence of tampering with Cohen’s phone.

“Did you see any evidence of tampering or manipulation on any of the data that you pulled related to the recording…,” Conroy asked.

“I did not,” Daus said.

The recording is expected to come up again during the trial, potentially when Cohen is called to testify.

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