AP: National Enquirer kept damaging Trump stories locked in safe

In this Jan. 31, 2014 photo, David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer, addresses attendees at the Shape & Men's Fitness Super Bowl Party in New York. | Associated Press file photo by Marion Curtis, St. George News

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump leading up to 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press.

The detail came as several media outlets reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors had granted immunity to National Enquirer chief David Pecker, potentially laying bare his efforts to protect his longtime friend Trump.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty this week to campaign finance violations alleging he, Trump and the tabloid were involved in buying the silence of a porn actress and a Playboy model who alleged affairs with Trump.

President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable on the “Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act” in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 23, 2018, in Washington. | Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci, St. George News

Several people familiar with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they signed non-disclosure agreements, said the safe was a great source of power for Pecker, the company’s CEO.

The Trump records were stored alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals, in which exclusive rights to people’s stories were bought with no intention of publishing to keep them out of the news. By keeping celebrities’ embarrassing secrets, the company was able to ingratiate itself with them and ask for favors in return.

But after The Wall Street Journal initially published the first details of Playboy model Karen McDougal’s catch-and-kill deal shortly before the 2016 election, those assets became a liability. Fearful that the documents might be used against American Media, Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration, according to one person directly familiar with the events.

The AP cannot say whether the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a location known to fewer people.

American Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pecker’s immunity deal was first reported Thursday by Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources. Vanity Fair reported that Howard also was granted immunity.

Court papers in the Cohen case say Pecker “offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump’s) relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The Journal reported Pecker shared with prosecutors details about payments that Cohen says Trump directed in the weeks and months before the election to buy the silence of McDougal and another woman alleging an affair, porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels was paid $130,000, and McDougal was paid $150,000.

While Trump denies the affairs, his account of his knowledge of the payments has shifted. In April, Trump denied he knew anything about the Daniels payment. He told Fox News in an interview aired Thursday that he knew about payments “later on.”

In July, Cohen released an audio tape in which he and Trump discussed plans to buy McDougal’s story from the Enquirer. Such a purchase was necessary, they suggested, to prevent Trump from having to permanently rely on a tight relationship with the tabloid.

“You never know where that company – you never know what he’s gonna be,” Cohen says.

“David gets hit by a truck,” Trump says.

“Correct,” Cohen replies. “So, I’m all over that.”

Former Enquirer employees who spoke to the AP said that negative stories about Trump were dead on arrival dating back more than a decade when he starred on NBC’s reality show “The Apprentice.”

In 2010, at Cohen’s urging, the National Enquirer began promoting a potential Trump presidential candidacy, referring readers to a pro-Trump website Cohen helped create. With Cohen’s involvement, the publication began questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and American citizenship in print, an effort that Trump promoted for several years, former staffers said.

The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president in 2016, the first time it had ever officially backed a candidate. In the news pages, Trump’s coverage was so favorable that the New Yorker magazine said the Enquirer embraced him “with sycophantic fervor.”

Positive headlines for Trump, a Republican, were matched by negative stories about his opponents, including Hillary Clinton, a Democrat: An Enquirer front page from 2015 said “Hillary: 6 Months to Live” and accompanied the headline with a picture of an unsmiling Clinton with bags under her eyes.

Written by JEFF HORWITZ, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    More left wing trash from the AP! (All Progressive!) What a joke!

    • Bender August 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      I know! It’s crazy how only Fox News is able to tell the truth and the other 99% of the news world are big fat liars.

      • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        Nobody said anything about fox ,libby! You just can’t handle the truth, snowflake!

        • Bender August 23, 2018 at 8:27 pm

          I’m guessing that if Trump tweets it or it dribbles out of a Fox News commentator’s pie hole you’ll trust it over what almost everyone else in the news media is reporting. Am I right or am I right.

          • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 8:44 pm

            You clearly have not been burdened by an overabundance of education.

  • Bender August 23, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    It’s cool how Trump has hired only the best people. What a role model he is for our young priesthood-age youth! Wonder if he’ll do a fireside at the stake center?

    • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Brains aren’t everything. In fact, in your case they’re nothing.

      • mesaman August 23, 2018 at 9:14 pm

        An interesting “tete a tete” between you and Bend. Assuming he is a stark raving socialist-liberal, it would be acceptable to agree with his conclusion that every publication of the media, save Fox News, is lying, deceiving, and denying the reality of what is happening in this great nation. Question Mr Bend, how many hours, each week, do you spend watching the ultra left channels (aka MSM), and how many seconds do you spend watching Fox News? Add them up and report back to us, Okay?

        • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 9:46 pm

          Bender does not pay any attention to anything other than what’s on Rachel Maddow, then he spouts of like he just got an enema of education from the arrogant tv …!
          Ed. ellipsis

        • Bender August 24, 2018 at 12:23 am

          Gladly. None. I don’t watch TV.

        • Red2Blue310 August 24, 2018 at 11:13 am

          Hey, numby. Even Fox reported on this. Trump is a crook, only crooks hang out with criminals using criminal services. He projects when he calls out ANYONE for lying or crookedness and speaks out against the “rats” and “flipping” as and mob boss would. The GOP is complicit by its silence. Im republican, so your stupid libtard argument doesnt work here.

  • dogmatic August 23, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    I would be more surprised to find out that a billionaire bachelor did not pay for escort services and that he wouldn’t lie about it. It’s common for folks to lie about their sex lives, really 😳.
    Sometimes I feel like I’m teaching children. Scum bags like the National Enquirers staff and D. Pecker has a big fat nothing Burger locked up in the safe along with the dirty blackmail money.
    This story will make headlines in the National Enquirer under Angelina Jolie’s weight lose drama.

    • Bender August 24, 2018 at 12:29 am

      Bachelor? Not paying attention, are you?

  • Red2Blue310 August 23, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Pecker has goods on the Trump criminal enterprise and he has flipped like any other corruption ring leader would do. Saving his sorry butt and giving Trump the finger. Down with these crooks.

    • Happy Commenter August 23, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      Keep watching the MSM! You’re not paying attention just like they want all the little clueless sheep to do! Nobody knows what the Pecker has or doesn’t have and that’s a FACT! Sheep are so easy!

      • Bender August 24, 2018 at 12:27 am

        Clue me in on exactly who is included in the main stream media and who is not. I’m curious especially about Fox News. Since Fox is generally number one in viewership aren’t they the very definition of “main stream”?

        • Happy Commenter August 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

          Bender, it’s better if you don’t know. you couldn’t handle it! Keep watching the mad cow! It’s at your level>

      • sheepobserver August 24, 2018 at 5:50 am

        As an observer of sheep myself, (the kind that see with their ears more than their eyes) here’s what I’ve seen.

        Trump’s supporters seem to be from two camps. The ultra rich conservative types that people follow, and the greatest flock of followers ever taught to follow (religious, hard working, salt of the earth people……..you know, the uneducated country folk forced to go to church, susceptible to scams, always do as their told, and don’t question authority).
        The average conservative is a sheep through and through, it’s been taught into them their whole lives, and they can’t help but follow the other sheep.

        The free thinking, high i.q., evil heathens seem to not like Trump. I happen to be one of those…..except for the high iq part.

        There are of course exceptions, but as a general rule, I feel very comfortable with the above statements.

        I’m not saying one is better than the other, it’s just an observation.

  • Bender August 24, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Trump is a dark stain on the executive office. His enablers fail their basic civic duties. The whole episode is an embarrassment on the world stage.

    • Happy Commenter August 24, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Are you always this stupid or is today a special occasion?

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