President Donald Trump on Saturday described as "totally unheard of" the action of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen after it emerged that he had secretly taped a discussion about payments to a former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with the president.
The Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation had seized the recording during a raid on Cohen's office earlier this year, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording.
On his Twitter handle, Trump wrote; "Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) - nearly unheard of". He tweeted: "The good news is that your favourite President did nothing wrong!".
The New York Times reported yesterday that Mr Cohen made the secret recording of a conversation with Mr Trump before the 2016 presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model. Trump's campaign had said it knew nothing about any payment to ex-centerfold Karen McDougal.
Federal prosecutors in NY are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to Daniels and other matters related to Trump's campaign, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters.
Trump had initially said publicly that he believed his longtime fixer would remain loyal to him, but Cohen has increasingly suggested he's preparing to cooperate with the feds as he grows more and more isolated from his former boss. "And any attempt to spin can not change what is on the tape". 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. New York, where the taping reportedly took place, legally requires only one person's consent for such a recording.
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But he said no money was actually ever transferred, and the recording itself amounted to "powerful exculpatory evidence".
Before the election, the Trump campaign denied any knowledge of payment to McDougal, but the taped conversation could undermine those denials. As part of the deal, McDougal signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from revealing the affair.
"I think we need to bring this in-house", Cohen tells Trump, according to one person with knowledge of the recording.
Trump and Cohen's discussion came a month after AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, bought the rights to McDougal's story for $150,000, then shelved it.
The White House has said Trump denies having sex with Daniels. He said the tape would show that Trump makes it clear that if there is going to be a payment, it should be done by check, which would be easily traced.
McDougal, 47, alleges that she had a 10-month romantic affair with Trump in 2006.