Once a longtime confidant of Donald Trump, Michael Cohen — the president's former personal lawyer — escalated their recent feud on Tuesday by releasing a recording in which they appear to be discussing payments to a former Playboy model. In the recording, which initially aired on CNN, Trump and Cohen are heard discussing apparent hush money payments to Karen McDougal, who alleged that she had an affair with Trump. In retaliation, Trump's tweet responding to Cohen's tape release slammed Cohen for being "the kind of lawyer" who "would tape a client."
"What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?" Trump tweeted on Wednesday, the day after the tape disclosure. "So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped — can this be so? Too bad!"
The tape in question features Trump and Cohen apparently having a discussion about buying the rights to McDougal's story about an affair she allegedly once had with Trump. McDougal, a former Playboy model, alleged in November 2016 that she had an affair with Trump back in 2006 — allegations that the Trump campaign denied at the time.
According to CNN, the tape was among 12 recordings that federal prosecutors had obtained from Cohen. Cohen's Tuesday release of the tape, however, was not the first time Trump publicly expressed anger over its existence. Last week, The New York Times broke the news that Cohen had secretly recorded a conversation with Trump just two months before the presidential election. Trump subsequently took to Twitter to describe Cohen's decision to record his client as "inconceivable," "totally unheard of," and "perhaps illegal."
In the same tweet, which he posted four days prior to the tape's release, Trump also mischaracterized the way in which federal authorities obtained that and other recordings. Trump argued that it was "inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office," when in fact the FBI had obtained the tapes during searches that had been authorized by court-approved warrants.
Trump is also not the only person vocally criticizing Cohen. Rudy Giuliani — the former mayor of New York City and another Trump lawyer — suggested that the tape wasn't as damaging as it appeared, and criticized Cohen for recording the conversation in the first place.
"The major point is, it’s outrageous that someone would tape his client surreptitiously and number two, it’s also foolhardy for them to try to yell and scream and make believe what’s on the tape," Giuliani told Fox News.
Giuliani added that he had "dealt with much worse tapes than this," and downplayed the recording's significance.
Meanwhile, Cohen's lawyer — Lanny Davis — told The New York Times that his client had decided to release the tape despite the expected retaliation because he is “on a new path — it’s a reset button to tell the truth and to let the chips fall where they may.”