Leaked Tape Hurts Not Only Trump, But All Americans
WASHINGTON, DC — July 27, 2018
A secret tape featuring Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen discussing a payment for Playboy model Karen McDougal's story was aired on CNN Tuesday night.
The conversation, which isn't the best quality, was recorded in 2016 while Trump was still a presidential candidate.
McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006, something which came to light in the midst of Trump's campaign.
In 2016, the Wall Street Journal revealed American Media, who owns the pro-Trump National Enquirer, bought the rights to the model's story for $150,000, but didn't publish it.
In the recorded conversation, Cohen can be heard telling Trump that he needs “to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," likely referring to American Media Inc. head David Pecker.
Trump interrupts Cohen asking, "What financing?" according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, "We'll have to pay." Trump is heard saying "pay with cash" but the audio is muddled and it's unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, "no, no, no" but it is not clear what is said next.
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, contested Davis's interpretation and released the Trump team's version of the transcript, which contradicts Davis. While Davis said Trump was suggesting the two pay cash, Giuliani's version of the transcript says Trump is saying, "Don't pay with cash... check."
Speaking on CNN after the tape's release, Lanny Davis appeared amused when CNN anchor Chris Cuomo read him Giuliani's version of the transcript.
"Everybody heard just now Donald trump say the word 'cash,'" Davis said. "After Michael Cohen mentioned financing. When Mr. Giuliani... accused my client, Mr. Cohen, of saying the word 'cash,' I said, 'Wait for the tapes.'"
"The tape contradicts Giuliani," Davis continued. "The only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters," he added.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, denied that the audio proved that Trump was offering to pay in cash.
"Whoever is telling Davis that cash in that conversation refers to green currency is lying to him," Futerfas told CNN.
"There's no transaction done in green currency. It doesn't happen. The whole deal never happened. If it was going to happen, it would be a payment to a large company that would obviously be accompanied by an agreement of sale. Those documents would be prepared by lawyers on both sides."
Throughout the interview, Davis painted Cohen as a victim of attacks by Trump, Giuliani and their allies. He said Cohen is ready to "turn a new corner" and tell the truth about what transpired between himself and the president.
What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2018
This represents exactly what we think about you. Your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been destroyed—again. pic.twitter.com/zdppKHhdds— John Hoopes (@jwhoopes2) July 25, 2018
And he definitely has his reasons. But the question is not what kind of a lawyer David Cohen is. The question is who leaked this privileged material? There is no doubt that the conversation was privileged. A former judge, assigned by the presiding judge to evaluate the seized tapes, reportedly concluded that. Yet someone leaked their contents. Who did it? Cohen is an obvious suspect, although I am confident that his excellent and experienced lawyer, Lanny Davis, would not have done so. Perhaps Cohen himself, who ran into Michael Avenatti at a restaurant, told him about the tape. We simply do not know. It is unlikely that any judicial or prosecutorial authority is responsible for the leak, because they would have more to lose than to gain if they were caught.
Nevertheless there seems to be little interest among the participants in determining who leaked the tape. There has been no call for an investigation. Perhaps this is because both sides think they benefited from the leak. So, why should it matter to the public if it is of no concern to the defendants themselves? Why is this issue so important?
The reason this is important to all Americans, beyond the immediate parties to this taped conversation, is that it may well discourage clients, patients, penitents and others from confiding in their lawyers, doctors, priests and the professionals who promise them confidentiality. Cohen promised confidentiality and yet the world heard what his client confided in him. We know he recorded the confidential conversation without the knowledge of his client. That is bad enough.
We believe it is not just an ethical violation, it should be a subject to serious sanctions including disbarment, for a lawyer to disclose, or cause to be disclosed, privileged conversations.
Because now it’s clear who was hurt by the leak: all Americans who rely on confidentiality — which means all of us — were hurt when the world was allowed to listen to a lawyer/client privileged conversation, that no one except the participants should ever have heard.