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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.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
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Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
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George97718
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Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
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