Conspiracy

Tabloid admits to covering up ‘damaging’ stories about Trump in bid to guard his presidential hopes

A.M.I. CEO David Pecker on January 19, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s ongoing legal troubles escalated on Wednesday after prosecutors revealed that the owner of The National Enquirer admitted to buying stories from women alleging affairs with Trump — including one from former Playboy model Karen McDougal — in order to aid and protect the real estate mogul’s 2016 presidential prospects.

The revelation confirmed previous news reports that A.M.I. CEO David J. Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump’s, paid $150,000 for the rights to McDougal’s story as part of a deal that would have seen former Trump fixer Michael Cohen reimburse the company for its trouble with a bogus fee for “advisory services.” In return for legal immunity from charges relating to their testimony, Pecker and A.M.I. cooperated with investigators and “admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” The company also acknowledged that they had tipped off Cohen when they learned that Stormy Daniels was trying to sell her story about her alleged affair with Trump.

In addition to “catching and killing” McDougal’s story, Pecker’s National Enquirer in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election also ran several wildly negative headlines about Hillary Clinton on its covers.

News of prosecutors’ deal with A.M.I., which was signed in September, was made public the same day that Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in arranging payments to silence McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels. In the legal filing, prosecutors said that Cohen violated campaign finance laws by making the payments — and that he did so “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump. Trump is unlikely to face legal repercussions from the Justice Department, whose chief officials have previously indicated that they do not believe the organization has the legal authority to indict a sitting president. But Manhattan prosecutors could potentially charge him with election law violations once he leaves office.

According to ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, A.M.I. could “potentially be the critical corroborating witness” were Trump to be charged.

“Campaign finance laws are unique in that you have to knowingly violate the law — it has to be done on purpose,” he explained. “So you got Michael Cohen going, ‘I did this at the direction of the President of the United States.’ That pretty much implicates the president. Now you’ve got A.M.I. also saying it was done in coordination with the Trump campaign … The other question becomes: what else might A.M.I. know?”

Watch ABC News’ coverage of the story below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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