On Friday, the New York Times reported that the FBI had possession of a recorded conversation between Donald J. Trump and his fixer, Michael Cohen, which was collected as part of the raid on Cohen’s residences and offices in April. Trump is said to have responded by saying “I can’t believe Michael would do this with me!”
The lawyers for Donald Trump, including Rudy Giuliani, pointed to Michael Cohen as the source of the leak as part of the campaign to discredit Cohen as he is said to be considering flipping. In addition, as the Paul Manafort trial is set to begin this Wednesday, July 25, Trump could also be trying to sell Cohen as the villain in the Trump-Russia scandal, so as to sell the public on what a “witch hunt” the whole investigation against him is.
According to Rachel Maddow and others, there is one problem with the leak of this tape coming from Cohen: the recording purportedly was one of the items designated as privileged under the investigation pending in the Southern District of New York. If that is true, then the only people that could have waived the privilege would have been Trump. The theory is that the Trump lawyers released the information to the New York Times to downplay the tape before it could come out, and to give Cohen less leverage to make a deal. If that is true, it is a naïve approach: Cohen allegedly taped a large number of conversations (see Michael Avenatti’s tweets and statements about tapes and release of same), he has a long history of working closely to address the multitude of legal issues Trump found himself in, and he is a witness to what went down with whom.
Suffice it to say, the release of the conversation is not “exculpatory evidence” for Donald Trump, as Giuliani suggests, but instead raises questions about reimbursement of AMI payments to Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal by Trump, and whether campaign laws might have been violated. Giuliani and the Trump lawyers continue to act like the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.