This week, it was reported that David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer, was granted immunity in the FBI’s investigation into whether President Trump paid hush money to two women to influence the 2016 election. The president’s longtime personal lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen, is implicated in the case, along with Pecker.
Who is David Pecker?
David Pecker is the CEO of American Media, Inc., a publishing company that owns the National Enquirer, Us Weekly, In Touch and Men’s Journal, among other publications. He has been a friend and ally of Trump’s for decades.
As the head of the National Enquirer, Pecker is suspected of making “catch-and-kill” payments to people who had damaging information about Trump. The payments gave the Enquirer exclusive rights to those stories, but they never ran, in effect buying the subjects’ silence. The Enquirer ran almost universally positive stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign and almost universally negative (and false) stories about Hillary Clinton.
Porn star Stormy Daniels sued to get out of her agreement and tell her story about a sexual affair with Trump, saying she had been paid $130,000 weeks before the election. That led federal investigators to Cohen, who facilitated the payments. Paying someone in that manner can be a violation of federal election law. (Cohen pleaded guilty to violating election law, along with counts of bank fraud and tax fraud, last week. Under oath, he said Trump directed him to make the payments.)
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal said her story about a 10-month affair with Trump was similarly caught-and-killed, and a former Trump Tower doorman said the Enquirer caught-and-killed his allegations that Trump had fathered a child with his housekeeper while he was married.
“The cooperation of Mr. Pecker is another potential blow to the president from a former loyalist,” reported the New York Times late last week. Vanity Fair said it was unclear if Pecker would face charges in the future. What is certain is that Pecker has key information likely to back up Cohen’s claims directly implicating the president in violating federal law. Even under a tabloid’s funhouse mirror, it’s hard to see how he’ll create good news for the president now.