Apr 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump put at center of "catch and kill" scheme by Ex-National Enquirer publisher

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the hallway outside of the courtroom at the end of the day's hearing. Photo: John Taggart-Pool/Getty Images. )

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the hallway outside of the courtroom at the end of the day on April 23. Photo by John Taggart-Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker told jurors Tuesday how he would suppress stories critical of former President Trump and encourage stories targeting his rivals during the 2016 election.

Why it matters: His two-hour-long testimony placed Trump at the center of a deliberate strategy to pay hush money for exclusive rights to any potentially damaging story about him during his first presidential campaign.

  • "I would describe [him] as very knowledgable, detail-oriented," Pecker said when asked by prosecutors to describe Trump as a businessman. "I would describe him as a micromanager [who] looked at all the aspects, no matter what the issue was."

What we're watching: Pecker, a longtime friend of the ex-president, detailed to the jury how he met with Trump and Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen in August 2015 and agreed to help his presidential bid.

  • "I said I would run positive stories about Trump and I would publish negative stories about his opponent," he said.
  • "I said I would also be your eyes and ears because I know that the Trump Organization had a very small staff."
  • Pecker provided a play-by-play of how he and Cohen — in coordination with Trump — intercepted stories about Trump's alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as an uncorroborated story that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock with a former housekeeper.

The details: Pecker testified that Cohen told him Trump would be willing to take a DNA test to show that ex-housekeeper's story was false, and that "the boss would be very pleased" if Pecker could kill it.

  • Ultimately, Pecker said he decided to buy the story for $30,000 — a much larger sum than the National Enquirer would usually pay for a celebrity story — "because of the potential embarrassment it would have to the campaign and Mr. Trump."

What's next: Pecker is expected to return to the witness stand Thursday and provide details on his role in intercepting the story of Trump's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.

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