Sarah Sanders Avoids Denial of Trump Affair With Karen McDougal, Says Instead 'He's Done Nothing Wrong'

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deviated Monday from the White House's previous blanket denials of allegations made by a former Playboy model about an affair with President Donald Trump.

Asked at the daily White House press briefing whether Trump denied the claims made by Karen McDougal, Sanders replied only: "The president maintains that he's done nothing wrong. I'd refer you to [Trump's personal attorney] Rudy Giuliani."

The response came days after reports emerged that the president's former attorney Michael Cohen had recorded a conversation with Trump shortly before the 2016 election in which they discussed making a payment to McDougal in order to ensure her silence. But that point, American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer run by longtime Trump friend David Pecker had already handed $150,000 to McDougal for her story in a so-called "catch-and-kill" payment.

After The Wall Street Journal revealed the payment just days before the election, the Trump campaign, through spokeswoman Hope Hicks, claimed that "We have no knowledge of any of this" and that the claims of an affair were "totally untrue."

The revelation of the audio recording, confirmed by Giuliani, showed that the claim of knowing nothing of the payment was untrue. And it now appears that the White House is shifting its stance on McDougal's story of having a 10-month affair with Trump between 2006 and 2007, shortly after his marriage to third wife Melania Trump.

In February, the White House told ABC News of the allegation: "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal."

It would not be the first time that the Trump's teams stance has shifted on such matters. Earlier this year, Giuliani broke with previous denials that Trump knew anything about a payment made by Cohen to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels's claims of an affair. Instead, Giuliani said that Trump had, in fact, reimbursed his long-time "fixer."

Both the payment to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, and McDougal are the subject of an investigation into possible campaign finance law violations. The recording of Trump and Cohen was obtained during an FBI raid of Cohen's office, home and hotel room in April.

On Monday, a court filing showed that Cohen had 12 audio recordings that are now in the hands of prosecutors. It is not clear whether Trump or others featured on those recordings.