Attorney Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., (Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg)

Michael Cohen Prosecutors Get 12 Audio Recordings to Review

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors probing Michael Cohen are reviewing 12 audio recordings seized in an April raid of the home, office and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer.

The president is heard on only one of the 12 recordings, according to people familiar with the matter. The others are of individuals discussing Trump, according to the people, who declined to comment on confidential details of the investigation.

Disclosure of the new recordings came in a Monday court filing by the retired judge who is deciding whether prosecutors may review the thousands of items seized in the raid. The judge said “the parties” -- presumably Trump and perhaps Cohen -- no longer object to the government listening to “12 audio items.” The parties had previously claimed the 12 recordings were “privileged” and couldn’t be seen by the government.

Trump can be heard on a recording in which he and Cohen discuss payments to a former Playboy model who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump -- an audio whose existence became known on Friday. On it, Trump and Cohen discuss a plan to buy the rights to Karen McDougal’s story from American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, the Washington Post reported. AMI paid $150,000 for her story.

News of that recording spurred speculation that Cohen recorded other conversations.

It was Trump’s legal team that initially asserted privilege over all 12 audio recordings, according to people familiar with the matter. But Trump’s legal team later withdrew the claim, they said.

A lawyer for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment. Lanny Davis, a lawyer and spokesman for Cohen, said in a statement posted to Twitter: "The tapes will speak for themselves -- spin can’t change facts."

The recordings were given to the government on Friday, Barbara Jones, the retired judge and so-called special master overseeing the review, said in her one-page order.

She didn’t specify what’s on the recordings.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are probing Cohen’s business dealings and his involvement in paying women to keep quiet about their alleged relationships with Trump.

Michael Avenatti, who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against Trump and Cohen, said in an email that Monday’s filing “confirmed” what he said in May: that “there were multiple recordings.”

It’s unclear why Trump’s team decided to abandon the privilege claims. His lawyers may have wanted to avoid potentially adverse rulings that the conversations weren’t protected -- either because they sought to advance a crime or fraud or because Cohen wasn’t acting as Trump’s lawyer at the time. Or they may have concluded that the discussions simply weren’t privileged, said Harry Sandick, a white-collar defense lawyer at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP in New York.

The case is In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018, 18-mj-3161, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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