Trump dodges questions about Cohen tapes

President Trump dodged multiple questions by reporters about secret audio recordings made by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Jul 26, 2018 12:14 PM
Updated: Jul 26, 2018 12:35 PM

With the release of Michael Cohen's secret recording of Donald Trump, a huge mucky rock was overturned. We can hear then-presidential candidate Trump saying "pay with cash," raising the question of whether he was referring to buying the silence of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, with whom he allegedly had an affair shortly after his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son.

To be fair, the audio is muddled, so it's not clear exactly what Trump is talking about.

But in the recording, which Cohen's lawyer gave to CNN, when Trump raises the notion of using "cash," Cohen, his attorney, says, "No, no, no, no." Big cash payments signal shady business and Cohen, who was well adapted to Trump's environment of intrigue and deception, was obviously trying to save the boss from himself.

The word "cash" may reveal Trump's intent to keep secret a scheme that was designed to protect him from a shameful truth -- his betrayal of his wife -- and might also violate election laws that require every campaign-related expenditure be made public.

In response to the released recording, Trump's legal team disputed what was being said and released their own transcript of the tape. His legal team said Trump said "do not use cash...check."

Instead of debating about whether he meant "cash" or "check," the President and his team should be worried about the names of his confidants mentioned on the tape and whether they will also turn on him.

True to form, the President is also trying to change the subject, using Twitter to say, "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?..."

What would be the "positive things" Trump could say about the scheme? To presume that something reasonable was said is to ignore the fetid world of manipulation Trump created for himself and the nature of the people who inhabit it.

Trump was attended by a coterie of fixers and enablers who thrived by playing the roles he gave them, often in violation of the norms that others observe.

Beneath Cohen's overturned rock, we heard the name David. Given what we know about the National Enquirer's payment of $150,000 to McDougal, it is reasonable to believe this is American Media Inc. chief executive David Pecker, the tabloid's publisher. Pecker, who has said in court filings that the decision to buy and bury McDougal's story was his First Amendment Right, defiles the journalism profession.

Real journalists, who are devoted to giving the public every bit of reliable information they can deliver, do not pay for the rights to a story to keep it secret. Although he poses as a news publisher, Pecker's corrupt practices are intended to distort reality, not reveal it. A former AMI senior editor told The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, "We never printed a word about Trump without his approval." The Wall Street Journal reported that Pecker has been subpoenaed to testify in a criminal probe of Cohen's payoff activities. AMI has not confirmed the report.

In the recording, Cohen also mentioned Allen Weisselberg. On the tape, Cohen said Weisselberg advised him on "how to set the whole thing up with funding." First employed by Trump's father, Fred Trump, Weisselberg has long served as chief financial officer of the entire Trump Organization. He is one of the few people who knows more about Trump's activities than Cohen. He even helped manage the Trump Foundation that is now under investigation by the New York attorney general. Weisselberg has not made a comment, but Alan Futerfas, a lawyer from the Trump Organization, told CNN, "I don't even know what Michael Cohen would have said to Allen Weisselberg because all Allen does is bookkeeping and process requests for transactions that are given to him."

Although he has long served one of the most controversial businessmen in America, Weisselberg had previously managed to avoid the light of publicity. However, the tape mentions his name in one of the murkiest episodes in Trump's life. Weisselberg could be of great interest to the New York federal prosecutors who are looking into Cohen's activities, and to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is trying to get to the bottom of Russia's interference with the 2016 election and Trump's relationships with various Russians.

But the critical muck-dweller in this scheme was, of course, Donald Trump himself. The allegation of the affair is entirely consistent with the man heard uttering the words "grab 'em by the pussy" in the infamous tape recorded by the "Access Hollywood" TV show, and who is the subject of sexual harassment claims made by more than a dozen women.

This is the same Trump who allegedly paid to keep secret an alleged sexual encounter with porn star Stormy Daniels.

Altogether, the swampy goings-on referenced in Cohen's recording suggest that people who helped Trump in the past -- Cohen, Pecker and Weisselberg, to name just three -- pose a danger to him now. They, too, could start overturning rocks, including those that hide the truth about Trump's finances.

The President, who relied on this cadre of fixers and enablers in the past, has a new one in his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is leading the counterattack. The former mayor of New York went on TV to tell us to ignore what we hear on the recording. Unfortunately for Trump, Giuliani is not a perfect fit in the role he now occupies. He can't help saying things like, "I've listened to lots of Mafia tapes. I've dealt with much worse tapes than this."

Sharing thoughts about organized crime as you address the problems of your client, who is President of the United States, doesn't help.

Surely Trump misses the good old days when he could turn to Michael Cohen to fix things for him. But Cohen has abandoned the slimy confines where he once dwelled and discovered he can function in the light. Trump should fear that others will be joining Cohen there.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 30°
Columbus
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 33°
Oxford
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 30°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 41°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather