New Trump-Cohen audio recording captures talk of payoff for Playboy model's story about alleged affair

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time, we're hearing audio between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussing how they would purchase the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair she had with the real estate mogul.

Federal prosecutors investigating President Trump's former personal attorney are now in possession of 12 audio recordings seized during raids of Cohen's home, office and hotel room, according to new court filings.

The recordings offer a glimpse of the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and confirm the president had first-hand knowledge of the proposal to buy Karen McDougal's story from American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer.

McDougal claims she and Trump had a ten-month affair in 2006, shortly after his youngest son Barron was born. The president has denied any inappropriate relationship with McDougal, or any knowledge of payments to her.

McDougal sold her story as an exclusive to the National Enquirer in August, 2016 for $150,000, though the tabloid never published her story -- effectively buying her silence.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," Cohen said in the recording, a likely reference to American Media boss David Pecker.

Trump is heard at one point suggesting the team "pay with cash," before Cohen dismisses the idea by saying, "no, no."

Cohen proposed paying about $150,000 to AMI, and on the tape Trump can be heard telling Cohen to make sure the payment is properly documented in order to keep a record of it. That said, the sources say that payment never happened.

A former judge is reviewing the materials seized from the raids for anything that is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Special Master Barbara Jones wrote in a new court filing released on Monday that the parties involved -- meaning Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization -- had withdrawn their privilege designations on what were described in the court papers as 12 "audio items."

Eleven of the recordings handed over to prosecutors in New York's Southern District are conversations Cohen had with members of the media, two sources familiar with the recordings told ABC News.

Cohen is under criminal investigation by New York federal prosecutors in a case that is separate from the one that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing.

Investigators are looking into whether Cohen violated campaign-finance laws, engaged in illegal lobbying or committed bank fraud or wire fraud.

Cohen has long claimed his loyalty to Trump was unbreakable -- most famously saying "I'm the guy who would take a bullet for the president" -- but in an exclusive interview earlier this month with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Cohen signaled a willingness to cooperate with investigators.

"My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," Cohen told Stephanopoulos. "I put family and country first."

It remains unclear who was recorded on the Cohen audio tapes, and when.

Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani confirmed to Reuters that the recording about McDougal was among the dozen audios, but said that none of the other 11 recordings include conversations Trump. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, said the other 11 recordings are of Cohen discussing Trump with other, unnamed individuals.

Since the search warrants were executed in April, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have been engaged in a laborious process of reviewing more than 4 million items seized in the raids. Under a court supervised plan, the attorneys are reviewing the fruits of the searches for items that are potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.

During that review, the government has had to wait to conduct its own examination of the haul. Only in the last few weeks has the court started to turn over material to prosecutors. Last week, another 1.3 million items were released to the government.
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