Progressive Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg reportedly possesses secret recordings of former President Donald Trump and an unnamed witness discussing details of the 2016 "hush money" payments that Trump has been criminally indicted in relation to.
That information was publicly revealed in a recent court filing in the case by DA Bragg which also stated that Trump's attorneys had already been notified of the recording, NBC News reported.
The filing, known as an automatic disclosure form, was dated Tuesday, May 23, the same day that Trump made a virtual appearance at a hearing in a Manhattan courtroom in which the judge presiding over the case set a trial start date of March 25, 2024 -- right in the middle of the Republican primary elections schedule.
In addition to the secret recording that involves former President Trump, DA Bragg also revealed that his office possessed other relevant audio recordings that did not include Trump, which purportedly included conversations between unidentified witnesses with each other, with other third parties, and "various recordings saved on a witness’s cell phones."
The filing also made note of statements about the alleged "hush money" crimes made in several published books about Trump that could be used against him at trial.
ABC News reported that while DA Bragg's filing to disclose the secret audio recording did not reveal the identity of the witness speaking with former President Trump, it is nonetheless suspected to be Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who facilitated the 2016 payments to buy the silence of two women who alleged prior affairs years earlier with the then-candidate that Trump has steadfastly denied.
If that is the case, the recording has already been publicly reported since 2018 and involves a discussion between Trump and Cohen on the details of how to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 through the National Enquirer for the rights to her story in order to keep it from being published anywhere else.
Per a transcript of that conversation, Cohen had wanted to make the payment in cash while Trump had insisted that it be made with a check -- ostensibly to properly document that particular expenditure, according to Trump's current team of attorneys.
Trump was criminally indicted by DA Bragg in March on 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records in relation to the "hush money" payments to McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty to those criminal charges.
As noted, the filing was dated the same day that former President Trump made a virtual appearance in a Manhattan courtroom for a hearing in which the trial's March 2024 start date was set and the front-running Republican presidential candidate was told to not make any other plans for that crucial period of time during the primary season, according to The Washington Post.
Presiding Judge Juan Merchan said during the hearing, "All parties including Mr. Trump are directed to not engage or otherwise enter into any commitments, personal or professional or otherwise" that might conflict with the trial.
The judge also warned Trump against publicly exposing any of the evidence provided to his attorneys by prosecutors through the discovery process and said, "Any violation of a court order or a violation of a court mandate could result in sanctions," including being held in contempt of court.
Per The Post, Trump appeared visibly annoyed during the hearing with regard to the trial start date and the protective order against publicly disclosing evidence in the trial but did not say anything.
However, the former president certainly lashed out later in a post to his Truth Social account which asserted that the trial date set amid the 2024 primary season constituted "election interference" and that the protective order was a violation of his First Amendment-protected free speech rights.