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Trump and Michael Cohen on tape: Did Trump say "cash" or "check?"

Secret Trump-Cohen tape made public

The secret tape with Donald Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen discussing payments related to an alleged affair was revealed on Tuesday night, and plenty of questions remain. 

The approximately 2 minute recording, aired by CNN, has Cohen telling Trump that he'll have to set up "financing." Mr. Trump initially says "what financing?" He then says the word "cash" and later the word "check." But some words on the tape are unclear. 

The context matters. Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis who provided the tape to CNN, stressed repeatedly that Mr. Trump said "cash." Mr. Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, maintains the president is saying, in effect, don't pay with cash, pay with a check. Giuliani says that shows Mr. Trump was trying to be above board. 

Giuliani provided a transcript to CNN that Trump told Cohen, "Don't pay with cash ... check."

"The transcript that we provided CNN accurately reflects the taped conversation," Giuliani told CBS News.

The discussion involves former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. 

At issue is a potential payment to American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer whose chairman, David Pecker, is a longtime Trump ally. In the weeks before the election, AMI purchased the rights to McDougal's account of the alleged affair for $150,000, but never published the allegations. Giuliani has said that Mr. Trump never paid AMI for the story rights. 

Trump slams Michael Cohen over audio tape

The recording was made just two months before the presidential election. Federal investigators uncovered the recording in April during raids on Cohen's home and offices. 

The Justice Department is investigating Cohen's role in paying women to stay silent about their claims of affairs with Mr. Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election. If the payments were made to help get him elected, they may be violations of federal campaign finance laws. 

McDougal says she began a nearly year-long affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. Just a few months before the election, the publisher of the National Enquirer purchased her story but never published it.

"He always told me he loved me," McDougal told CNN earlier this year. She told Anderson Cooper that she believed National Enquirer's purchasing of the story was a favor for Mr. Trump in the last few months of the presidential election.

Payments to women have become a topic the White House and Mr. Trump's lawyers have had to address in recent months. In May, Giuliani revealed on Fox News that Mr. Trump repaid Cohen for a $130,000 payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the election in 2016. Daniels, like McDougal, claims to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. Giuliani insisted that there was no campaign finance violation in that instance.