Trump calls Cohen's taping of phone call 'inconceivable,' possibly illegal


President Donald Trump is asserting that his former personal lawyer's taping of their private phone conversations is "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal".

Donald Trump on Saturday said his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen may have acted illegally after it emerged he had secretly taped a discussion about payments to a former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with the U.S. president. He tweeted: "The good news is that your favourite President did nothing wrong!". The recording had been deemed privileged by a former federal judge, known as a special master, one of the sources said, adding that Trump's lawyers have sent a letter to the special master asking to withdraw the privilege.

The newspaper, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the recording this year during a raid on Cohen's office.

The erstwhile Trump loyalist has hired a new attorney, Clinton White House veteran Lanny Davis, and disassociated himself from the president as both remain under investigation.

The Wall Street Journal said the September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen was about buying the rights to McDougal's story, which she sold a month earlier to The National Enquirer for $150,000.

The Justice Department, as part of its investigation into Cohen, is working to determine if he was involved in paying off women making claims about Trump, and whether that violated any campaign finance laws. He also said that Trump told Cohen that any payment should be by check, not cash, so it could be documented properly. They shared the recording with Trump's lawyers as well, The New York Times reported, citing three people briefed on the matter. This gives the FBI access to the recording as part of the United States attorney for the Southern District of NY investigation into Cohen.

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Giuliani also said that no campaign funding was involved in the discussion between Trump and Cohen, who has distanced himself from Trump as the FBI investigates business dealings undertaken by the president's former lawyer. "And any attempt to spin can not change what is on the tape". An attorney for Cohen called Trump's statement "false".

In May, President Trump admitted that he had reimbursed Mr Cohen for a payment he made to another woman to hush up her claims of an affair.

"In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence", Giuliani said.

In her lawsuit against AMI, McDougal said she was happy when AMI bought her story then did not publish it, because she was not anxious for publicity.

When questioned about the allegations, President Trump has denied the affair and said he had no knowledge of any payment.

Trump, who married first lady Melania Trump in January 2005, has repeatedly denied having an affair with McDougal, the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year.