What did Cohen and Trump talk about? An annotation

Michael Cohen (left), was President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer.
Michael Cohen (left), was President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer.Jeenah Moon/New York Times/File 2018

First we learned that President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had his apartment, office, and hotel room raided by the feds this spring. Then we learned that among the things seized were recorded conversations between Cohen and Trump.

Next, we learned that at least one conversation was about Trump discussing a payoff to Karen McDougal, a former Playmate who claims she had an affair with Trump. The payment would go through a third party, David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, for the rights to her story. After they purchased the rights, the Enquirer had no intention of publishing the story.


But Tuesday night, for the first time, we got to hear Trump apparently talking about this arrangement. CNN obtained the audio through Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis.

Davis said the recording — which doesn’t have great sound quality — took place in September 2016, a few months before the election. In the beginning of the tape, Trump appears to be on the phone, and it is unclear what he is discussing. The conversation only makes sense in the context of knowing that it was about McDougal. But to be clear, he could be talking about settling up a bet he lost during a golf game.

We have annotated below to provide some context:

TRUMP: Good. Let me know what’s happening, okay? Oh, oh. Maybe because of this it would be better if you didn’t go, you know? Maybe because of this. For that one, you know — I think what you should do is get rid of this. Because it’s so false what they’re saying, it’s such bulls---. Um. [Cannot hear other end of the phone conversation.] I think, I think this goes away quickly. I think what — I think it’s probably better to do the Charleston thing, just this time. Uh, yeah. In two weeks, it’s fine. I think right now it’s, it’s better. You know? Okay, hun. You take care of yourself. Thanks, [Unintelligible]. Yup, I’m proud of you. So long. Bye.


[Off phone] What’s happening?

COHEN: Great poll, by the way.

TRUMP: Yeah?

COHEN: Seen it. Great poll.

TRUMP: Making progress.

COHEN: Big time.

TRUMP: And, your guy is a good guy. He’s a good —

COHEN: Who, Pastor Scott?

TRUMP: Can’t believe this. No, Pastor Scott. What’s, what’s happening —


TRUMP: Can we use him anymore?

COHEN: Oh, yeah, a hundred — no, you’re talking about Mark Burns. He’s, we’ve told him to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

TRUMP: I don’t need that — Mark Burns, are we using him?

COHEN: No, no.

FEMALE: Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I’m sorry, Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE] just called. He — just when you have a chance, he had an idea for you.

TRUMP: Okay, great.

COHEN: Um, so, we got served from the New York Times. I told you this — we were . . .

TRUMP: To what?

COHEN: . . . To unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. Um, we’re fighting it. Um, [Trump attorney Marc] Kasowitz is going to —

TRUMP: They should never be able to get that.

COHEN: Never. Never. Kasowitz doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to. They don’t have a —

TRUMP: Get me a Coke, please!

COHEN: They don’t have a legitimate purpose, so —

TRUMP: And you have a woman that doesn’t want this.


COHEN: Correct.

TRUMP: Who you’ve been handling.

COHEN: Yes. And —

TRUMP: And it’s been going on for a while.

COHEN: About two, three weeks now.

TRUMP: All you’ve got to do is delay for —

COHEN: Even after that, it’s not ever going to be opened. There’s no, there’s no purpose for it. Um, told you about Charleston. Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that — I’m going to do that right away. I’ve actually come up and I’ve spoken —

TRUMP: Give it to me and get me a [unintelligible].

COHEN: And, I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with …

TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?

COHEN: . . . Funding . . . Yes. Um, and it’s all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yeah, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because — here, you never know where that company — you never know what he’s —

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So, I’m all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing, which will be —

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I’ll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] pay with cash . . .

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it.

TRUMP: . . . check.