"Criminal conspiracy": Jury to hear phone call between Trump and Cohen discussing hush payment

Prosecutors intend to present a recording of a call between Trump and Cohen discussing Playboy model Karen McDougal

Published April 22, 2024 12:01PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Michael Cohen (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Manhattan prosecutors say that they will present a recorded phone call between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump to support their claim that the the former president engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to silence his accusers ahead of the 2016 election.

During his opening statement Monday, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury that Playboy model Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 for the right to her own story of an alleged affair with Trump, CNN reported. Colangelo argued that Trump not only knew about the McDougal payoff, but he also “desperately” wanted to keep it from public knowledge because “he was concerned about the election.”

The phone call between Cohen and Trump took place in 2016. At the time, David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer and longtime friend of Trump, was getting "antsy and frustrated," Colangelo said, concerned that Trump wouldn't pay him back for a payment he had made to McDougal. Prosecutors allege that Pecker had entered into a conspiracy with Trump and Cohen to buy the rights to potentially damaging stories, part of a scheme to illicitly influence the election, Reuters reported.

To show Pecker that he and Trump and were acting in good faith, prosecutors say Cohen recorded him discussing the McDougal payment with the Republican candidate.

This phone call shows that Cohen and Pecker were both used as middlemen "to hide the true nature of the transaction,” Colangelo said. The same arrangement was used to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels.

“This case is about criminal conspiracy," Colangelo said.


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