UPDATE: President Donald Trump, along with his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, attempted to buy all of the negative stories (or “dirt”) that had been accumulated over the years by The National Enquirer.
The process of buying media stories and then refusing to print them — called “catch and kill” — was used by The National Enquirer and its parent company, American Media, for many individuals whose stories would have put Trump in a negative light.
The supposed plan by Cohen and Trump to buy the so-called dirt from American Media would have purchased the rights to stories dating back to the 1980s, according to reporting from The New York Times.
The deal eventually fell apart but came quite close to being finalized. When Cohen pleaded guilty earlier this month to fraud charges, he admitted to entering into a deal with American Media in which he would buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story for $125,000.
Both parties signed the deal, but before Cohen was able to make the payment, American Media backed out. They advised Cohen to shred evidence of the deal, which he didn't do.
Many aspects of the stories related to Trump that American Media had in its safe have yet to be made public. We don’t know yet how many stories the company “killed” for Trump or how many were buried on his request.
Also unknown as yet is whether some or all the evidence of the stories have been destroyed, or if they're all intact; and it’s unclear if prosecutors have in their hands any damaging information that was held by American Media beyond stories related to Trump's affair with McDougal.
What we do know, however, is that David Pecker, the chairman of American Media, has been granted partial immunity from federal prosecutors investigating the matter. He’s also been cooperating with the investigation itself. Cohen is also working with investigators (as part of his plea deal) regarding payoffs to McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump also had an affair.
Neither of those two revelations is good news for Trump. If Pecker is working with prosecutors, and if he’s been privy to information that may incriminate the president in some way or another (including possibly lying about or omitting information on campaign finance disclosures), Trump faces the possibility of being charged criminally for doing so, which could also mean the possibility of impeachment, if enough evidence is brought forward.
Remember the time tabloid National Enquirer, owned by President Donald Trump’s close friend David Pecker, branded the commander-in-chief’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen as a liar and blasted him for all the troubles the real estate mogul is currently facing?
Ironically, Pecker has now reportedly been granted immunity by federal prosecutors investigating payments arranged by Cohen to silence two women who claimed they had extra-marital affairs with Trump.
Pecker told authorities the president knew of the payoffs and even some provided details, reported CNN.
Given the fact Cohen has already pled guilty to eight criminal counts and admitted he arranged payments to the two women for their silence “for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” the media executive’s cooperation with the investigators could further implicate Trump.
However, shortly after the news about Pecker’s immunity deal broke out, the Associated Press published a report detailing the presence of a vault at the National Enquirer that apparently held some rather damaging information about the commander-in-chief – including his hush money payments.
While it’s unclear what’s exactly present in the safe, it is important to mention the tabloid, which is owned by the American Media Inc, has a long and disturbing history of protecting Trump.
For instance, it reportedly paid $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy exclusive rights to a story about her alleged affair with Trump, but never published it. The ex-playmate later filed a lawsuit claiming the company misled her into signing a settlement that was essentially meant to keep her quiet about the whole thing.
However, she is now free from her contract with the media company.
Similarly, the National Enquirer also reportedly paid a hefty amount to an ex-Trump World Tower doorman who was privy to rumor of a relationship between the business mogul and another woman who lived in the building. That relationship allegedly resulted in a child fathered by the president with the unnamed woman in question.
“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,” read the AP report, which cited several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “By keeping celebrities’ embarrassing secrets, the company was able to ingratiate itself with them and ask for favors in return.”
The report also claimed the documents were moved shortly before Trump’s inauguration. However, while their location (and existence, for that matter) remains unconfirmed, the possibility of a vault filled with Trump’s deepest, darkest scandals sounds like a goldmine for special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, which is investigating the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election.