After the Times’s report, Mr. Giuliani said that the president could be heard saying that the payment should be made with a check rather than cash so it could be properly documented. The audio is not that conclusive, but nor is it as clear as Mr. Cohen’s representatives claim. They say it shows that Mr. Trump directed it be paid in cash.
“Everybody heard just now Donald Trump say the word ‘cash’ after Michael Cohen mentioned financing,” said Lanny J. Davis, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen and a longtime Clinton supporter, said Tuesday on CNN. “Whatever spin Mr. Giuliani is trying to invent, it says cash.”
In April, federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s home and residences. The search deeply unnerved the president, who has since increased his attacks on the Justice Department; the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III; and Mr. Cohen, who, in turn, has told associates he is willing to cooperate with the authorities. During the raid, federal agents obtained the recording, along with business records, emails and documents.
Mr. Trump, who has lately been wary of Mr. Cohen’s willingness to cooperate with federal investigators, said on Saturday morning that Mr. Cohen’s recording was “perhaps illegal.”
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of,” he wrote on Twitter. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of.”
Mr. Giuliani has acknowledged that the situation Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen are primarily discussing on the tape is A.M.I.’s $150,000 payment to Ms. McDougal, which in part gave the tabloid publisher the exclusive rights to her story, which it never published.
Whether Mr. Trump was informed of the deal at that moment or had some familiarity with it ahead of time, Mr. Trump appears familiar with the terms enough to understand that the rights to Ms. McDougal were transferable — a key point in her contract with A.M.I.