Law & the Courts

Prosecutors Gain Access to Tapes Seized in Raid on Cohen’s Office

Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, N.Y., May 9, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Government prosecutors gained access on Friday to twelve audio recordings seized from Michael Cohen’s office after President Trump’s attorneys dropped their claim that the recordings were covered by attorney-client privilege.

The retired judge tasked with deciding which materials seized from Cohen’s home and office are privileged said in a Monday court filing that “the parties,” believed to be Trump and possibly even Cohen, no longer object to prosecutors’ listening to the “12 audio items.”

“On July 20, 2018, the parties withdrew their designations of ‘privileged’ as to 12 audio items that were under consideration,” said Barbara Jones, the so-called special master brought on to mediate the dispute over what seized materials are in fact privileged. “The special master released the 12 items to the government that day.”

The filing comes days after Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said one of the seized audio files was a secret recording of a conversation between Trump and Cohen about a potential hush-money payment to former Playboy model Karen Mcdougal, who claims to have had an affair with the president.

Trump responded Friday to news that his longtime personal attorney secretly recorded him discussing the payment to Macdougal.

“Inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal,” Trump said of the revelation.

The recording reveals that Trump discussed the possibility of purchasing the rights to McDougal’s story from the tabloid company American Media Inc., according to the Washington Post.

Giuliani said Friday that the conversation, which reportedly took place in September 2016, does not implicate Trump in trying to silence McDougal, adding that there is “no point in objecting” to its release.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.”

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