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Trump Tape Debate Over ‘Pay With Cash’ vs. ‘Don’t Pay With Cash’ Is a High-Stakes Yanny vs. Laurel

The secretly recorded audio includes Trump and attorney Michael Cohen discussing a payment

leaked tape in which Donald Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen discuss a payment to a former Playboy model has set off a high-level debate about whether Trump said the word “don’t” before saying the words “pay with cash.”

The debate resembles the recent viral “Yanny vs. Laurel” argument about what name was pronounced on a particular audio clip. Except this time, the question of what is heard on the tape is relevant to the question of whether the president tried to hide a payoff to conceal an extramarital affair.

The conversation was recorded about two months before the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported. Lanny Davis, a Democrat and attorney for Cohen, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump is clearly heard on the tape saying “pay with cash.”

Cash payments, unlike payments by check, are hard to track.

“The only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters,” Davis said.

But Trump’s legal team pushed back on that narrative, releasing its own transcription of the tape in which they say Trump said: “Don’t pay with cash… check.”

The payment is for a deal involving someone Cohen describes on the tape as “our friend, David.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2016 that the National Enquirer, which is led by Trump friend David Pecker, paid $150,000 to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal for her account of what she says was an extramarital affair with Trump. The tabloid never ran the story. Critics use the phrase “catch and kill” to refer to the practice of buying stories only to be bury them.

Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, told the Journal at the time that the campaign had “no knowledge of any of this.” She also said McDougal’s claim of an affair with Trump was “totally untrue.”

But the tape shows Trump clearly was aware of the payment — whether he asked that it be paid in cash, or that it be paid by check. (You can listen to the audio above and decide for yourself.)

Unsurprisingly, Trump supporters said they heard him say, “Don’t pay with cash… check,” while Trump critics said they heard him say only, “Pay with cash.”

“Sounds to me like said ‘Don’t pay with cash,'” Joel Pollack, host of “Breitbart News Tonight,” tweeted. “Cohen says ‘No,’ in agreement, then Trump says, ‘Check.’ This is a giant nothingburger so far, except that and his Clinton lawyer are declaring war on Trump.”

CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju tweeted: “Trump interrupts Cohen asking, ‘What financing?’ according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, ‘We’ll have to pay.’ Trump is heard saying ‘pay with cash.'”

Others said the question of cash or check was not the issue.

“Regardless of cash or check, whole point of phony corp. was to hide campaign expenditure,” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

See more reactions below.