Donald Trump has been subject to much scrutiny throughout his presidency and there have been many controversies regarding leaked tapes that capture the president's private and often sensitive conversations. The nation was rocked in 2016 after the emergence of the widely circulated Access Hollywood tape, which included several questionable statements by Trump outlining how he treated women. Despite the initial backlash, Trump was still able to secure the presidency. However, tapes continued to surface after Trump took office. Here, you'll find a list of leaked Trump tapes in chronological order with the most recent stories first.
Throughout Trump's presidency, various outlets have released several tapes containing sensitive information. From recordings with his then attorney Michael Cohen to conversations between Trump and former White House employee Omarosa Manigault Newman, the recordings have sparked debate and controversy in United States politics. While some find the tapes innocuous accounts of normal Washington dealings, others feel the tapes corroborate accusations against Trump regarding campaign fraud and more. The following are all high profile instances of Trump-related information leaks. Regardless of your political opinion, this list can keep you informed on the issue.
Omarosa Manigault Newman, former White House aide, released four tapes throughout August 2018. The tapes include a recording of John Kelly asking her to leave the White House, a tape of Trump reacting to her departure, a tape of conversations with two of Trump's aides, and a conversation with Trump's campaign manager and daughter-in-law Lara Trump.
Most of the tapes were ambiguous and did not corroborate or contradict assertions Newman has made. In the tape where Newman spoke to Trump, he seemed surprised by her firing and claimed no one told him it was happening. The tape with Trump's aides relates to Newman's claim there is a recording of Trump using a racial epitaph during outtakes from The Apprentice or The Celebrity Apprentice. During the tape, Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton discuss the existence of the alleged recording. Pierson and Patton discuss how to potentially handle the situation if the recording surfaced, but also do not confirm whether it exists. Patton also says Trump denied the incident in question ever occurred.
Newman claimed the Lara Trump tape demonstrated the Trump administration’s efforts to buy her silence prior to the release of her new book Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, which is highly critical of the president. She wrote the book following her resignation from her position in the Office of Public Liaison. Recorded in December 2017, the tape reveals Lara Trump offering Newman a new job with a salary of $15,000 per month, collected entirely from "small dollar" donors. Newman vehemently refused the offer to work within the 2020 Trump campaign, a deal which would have come with a non-disclosure agreement.
In July 2018, CNN released a conversation from September 2016 between Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen. In the exchange, the two discuss the possibility of purchasing the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had an extramarital affair with Trump about 10 years prior.
In the recording, Cohen informed Trump they could start a company and, through that company, secure the rights to McDougal’s story from American Media, the publisher behind the National Enquirer. As the audio in the recording is muddled, some dispute persists between those defending Trump and those denouncing him for the incident.
At one point, Cohen is heard saying, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David.” Many believe he is referencing the head of American Media, David Pecker. The phrase “pay with cash” is heard from Trump, though the poor audio quality leaves room for speculation as to the context and intent of the statement. It's unclear if Trump himself was suggesting they pay with cash or asking for clarification from Cohen regarding the payment.
Trump tweeted about the release of the tape, denouncing Cohen and declaring the entire situation to be “too bad!” Cohen later faced charges regarding possible tax fraud and campaign finance violations and surrendered himself to the FBI on August 21, 2018. He pled guilty to eight criminal counts.
In April 2018, Jonathan Greenberg, a former Forbes investigative journalist, revealed tapes from 1984 in which Donald Trump posed as his own spokesperson, using the alias John Barron, to exaggerate his financial assets.
The audio reveals Trump claiming that “most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump." He went on to say, "I’d say in excess of 90. In fact, well, it’s really closer to even the ultimate, but it’s in excess of 90 percent.” These overstatements were ultimately developed to secure Trump a spot on the Forbes 400, an annual list of the nation’s richest people ranked by net worth.
When interviewed about the tapes by MSNBC, Greenberg claimed that he had only found the tapes “a few months ago.” He then revealed his reasoning for their release, saying, "I want people to know the extent to which, you know, Trump’s entire business empire and reputation as a successful businessman is based upon deception.” In terms of Trump’s grander scheme, Greenberg made further claims that “[Trump] used the Forbes 400 and this statement of inflated assets to borrow billions and billions of dollars which he used to build Atlantic City and over leverage himself."
These tapes surfaced in the midst of the search for Trump’s tax returns, which have still not been located. Greenberg speculated in the MSNBC interview that, because they have not been released, Trump’s net worth is most likely not as substantial as he claims.
Audio obtained by the Washington Post in March 2018 revealed that, in a private meeting, Donald Trump talked about stating false information in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the meeting between the two leaders, Trump allegedly told Trudeau that the two countries ran a trade deficit, while Trudeau insisted that was not the case.
Trump then admitted in the recorded meeting afterwards that he had no idea whether or not there was a deficit, stating:
Nice guy, good looking guy, comes in — "Donald, we have no trade deficit." He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed... So, he’s proud. I said, "Wrong, Justin, you do." I didn’t even know... I had no idea. I just said, "You’re wrong."... He said, "Nope, we have no trade deficit." I said, "Well, in that case, I feel differently," I said, "but I don’t believe it." I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, "Check, because I can’t believe it."