CNN reports that the FBI has seized secret recordings of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and the former California attorney representing porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.
This report about Cohen’s secret recordings of hush money deal discussions with Beverly Hills lawyer Keith Davidson, about multiple “David Dennisons”, could be a criminal violation of California’s strict 2-party consent for recording privacy laws.
Michael Cohen was involved in at least three hush money deals with Davidson’s client, the third of which was revealed today on behalf of RNC national fundraiser Eliott Broidy, who just resigned his position.
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The source said Cohen recorded some calls he had with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. Davidson no longer represents either woman.
“Attorney Davidson never consented to any recordings of his conversations with Mr. Cohen. If they in fact do exist, Attorney Davidson will pursue all his legal rights under the law,” Dave Wedge, a spokesman for Davidson, said.
Another source tells CNN that in at least one conversation between the two men, “Cohen was being unusually simplistic, like he had bullet points that he was reading from to try and make himself look good. He was trying to clarify the timeline of the agreements made with Davidson in his (Cohen’s) favor.”
California penal code 632 makes it a crime punishable by up to one year in a county prison for recording a phone call that is presumed to be confidential without the consent of all parties.
“This creates a potentially criminal legal liability in the state of California,” says California attorney Ben Meiselas at the Geragos & Geragos Law Firm in Los Angeles, when we asked him about a hypothetical phone call placed from New York to California for a negotiation about non-disclosure agreements.
“Michael Cohen may ultimately make the infamous case of feared Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, who is in jail now for wiretapping and extortion, look like small potatoes,” says Meiselas, who represents Colin Kaepernick in his lawsuit against the NFL
The emergence of Michael Cohen’s secret tapes is reminiscent of the wiretapping charges filed against Whitewater antagonist Linda Tripp, who was indicted for wiretapping to obtain the Lewinsky tapes used in a highly-partisan impeachment of President Clinton. Her criminal case was dropped.
But Cohen secretly recorded a lawyer, not a 23-year-old White House intern.
Now, all Keith Davidson has to do to land Cohen in another criminal investigation is to submit a complaint to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Even worse, the tapes probably would have minimal value to Cohen or Trump in their own civil litigation, since illegally obtained evidence is usually inadmissible in court, except as evidence in a criminal case for wiretapping.
“For someone who presumes to be qualified to practice law in the state of California,” says the California lawyer Meiselas, “Michael Cohen doesn’t demonstrate even a basic competence in the state’s privacy laws.”
The President cannot pardon a state crime.