July 20, 2018 02:33 PM

The Justice Department is investigating a taped conversation between President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, discussing a potential payment to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, The New York Times reports. The F.B.I reportedly seized the recording — which Cohen secretly made two months before the presidential election — during its raid of Cohen’s office and hotel room in April, the Times reports.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Guiliani, told the Times that Trump did discuss the payments with Cohen but the payment was never made. According to Guiliani, the tape is two minutes long.

The former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, says her affair with the president began around the time Melania Trump gave birth to first son Barron and lasted for almost a year. McDougal sold her rights to the story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 as the presidential campaign ramped up. The tabloid, run by Trump’s friend David Pecker, never published the story.

The White House has denied the affair.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

 

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“The practice, known as ‘catch and kill,’ effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign,” wrote the Times’ Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt in Friday’s report.

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The taped conversation adds a new layer to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of Cohen’s involvement in payments to women who threatened Trump’s public image in the months leading up to the November 2016 presidential election. Federal officials are looking to understand if the payments violated federal campaign finance laws.

“Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors,” the Times wrote.

RELATED: Michael Cohen Says ‘Family and Country’ Come Before Trump in First Interview Since FBI Raid

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty; Getty

The tape may also impact Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who is suing Trump and Cohen to void a contract that bars her from speaking about her alleged affair with the president. Trump denies any affair with Daniels. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC on Friday that he believes the Cohen tape is “the tip of the iceberg.”

The Times’ Maggie Haberman Tweeted that the tape “appears to be the only one.”

The news of the tape comes as nightly protests ensue outside of the White House in the wake of Trump’s controversial trip to Helsinki.

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