Trump And The National Enquirer: A New Kind Of Collusion.
A free press is supposed to be an independent press. We all understand various media outlets may have their own political biases and preferences, but we don’t expect them to be actively beholden to a particular candidate. The Michael Cohen plea agreement, with its Statement of Charges, details stunning, deliberate, and highly planned collusion between the Trump Campaign, the parent company of The National Enquirer, and the CEO of that company, to hide scandal from the American people. For all Trump’s talk about “fake news” it was he who acted, in collusion with a major media company, to hide from the voters of America, real news.
As I quote from the Statement of Charges I shall substitute the generic terms appearing within it with the names of the actual people or organizations involved, using brackets to indicate that is what I am doing. Translations include:
Corporation-1: AMI (America Media Inc), the parent company of the National Enquirer.
Chairman-1: David Pecker, the CEO of AMI. Longtime friend of Donald Trump.
Woman-1: Karen McDougal, a Playboy Model who claims to have had a nine month affair with Trump starting in 2006.
Woman-2: Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims to have had an affair with Trump in 2006.
Magazine-1: The National Enquirer.
Editor-1: Editor in Chief of the National Enquirer.
Individual-1: President Trump.
The Company: A real estate company owned by Trump that employed Cohen as counsel.
In a nutshell, here is what happened. David Pecker contacted Cohen stating that he expected the National Enquirer, would get advance notice of potential scandals against then Candidate Trump. Pecker offered to contact Cohen if that happened so they could work out a means to suppress embarrassing stories against Trump.
Pursuant to that understanding Pecker contacted Cohen about both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels with their pending stories. Together, and with the knowledge and direction of Trump, they arranged payments to the women aimed at silencing them. Since the payments were, by Cohen’s admission, aimed at influencing the election they were illegal contributions to the Trump Campaign. Cohen was later repaid through a fraudulent scheme falsely characterizing the repayments as retainer fees.
I’ll quote from the Statement of Charges, substituting names of organizations and people to make it more understandable.
In or about August 2015, [David Pecker], in coordination with MICHAEL COHEN, the defendant, and one or more members of the campaign, offered to help deal with negative stories about [Donald 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. David Pecker agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories.
With the conspiracy formed, it only awaited execution. The Statement of Charges continues:
Consistent with the agreement described above, [AMI] advised MICHAEL COHEN, the defendant, of negative stories during the course of the campaign, and COHEN, with the assistance of [AMI], was able to arrange for the purchase of two stories so as to suppress them and prevent them from influencing the election.
First, in or about June 2016, a model and actress [Karen McDougal] began attempting to sell her story of her alleged extramarital affair with [Donald Trump] that had taken place in 2006 and 2007, knowing the story would be of considerable value because of the election . . .
On or about August 5, 2016, AMI entered into an agreement with Karen McDougal to acquire her “limited life rights” to the story of her relationship with “any then-married man,” in exchange for $150, 000 and a commitment to feature her on two magazine covers and publish over one hundred magazine articles authored by her. Despite the cover and article features to the agreement, its principal purpose, as understood by those involved, including MICHAEL COHEN, the defendant, was to suppress McDougal’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.
The Statement of Charges discusses how the payments were made, and a similar scheme for paying off Stormy Daniels. For McDougal, AMI at one point asked Cohen to tear up the agreement, but he didn’t. The Statement of Charges also makes clear this was all done in coordination “with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.”
In all the talk about a corrupt media and fake news this story of a media conglomerate working with a politician to protect him from embarrassing news needs much more attention. I realize The National Enquirer is not exactly highly respected for its journalistic standards. However, peddling in salacious gossip is quite different from actively conspiring with a politician to suppress salacious truth.
At the time The National Enquirer described any assertion it engaged in a “catch and kill” stories to influence the election was “laughable.” They claimed they didn’t publish McDougal’s story because they couldn’t prove it was true. This same “newspaper” published a claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in assassinating JFK. The notion they didn’t publish McDougal’s story because of some sort of journalistic standards is laughable.
The episode provides insight into the kind of treatment Trump expects to receive from the press. Trump expects CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, New York Times, and all the others he so viciously attacks, to treat him like his friends at The National Enquirer do. When they don’t suppress the negative stories Trump labels them “the enemy of the people.”
As the Statement of Charges makes clear, AMI/National Enquirer flat out intentionally, and with advance planning, acted, not to inform the American public, but rather to participate in an illegal scheme to keep Americans uninformed. As part of this conspiracy, it’s conceivable that indictments against David Pecker and AMI may be forthcoming.
Edit & Update
Since publishing the above news has broken that David Pecker testified to investigators under an immunity agreement. As a practical matter that would make any such indictment of Pecker very difficult. When immunity is granted the burden is on prosecutors to prove they didn’t use the immunized testimony. Proving that negative can be tough and makes prosecution very difficult.
AMI might still be indicted, but it is unlikely David Pecker will be.
Additional Edit & Update
AP is reporting David Pecker stored Trump’s records were stored in a safe, alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals. David Pecker, AMI, and The National Enquirer used this secret cache of celebrity secrets to enhance their power and influence.
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.
Was the National Enquirer ultimately just an extortion racket? One that selected favored celebrities (often influential politicians) to protect while raking others over the gossip coals?
If so, the big question then becomes whether Donald Trump was their biggest catch.
I’ve said all along that the true concern of the McDougal and Daniels stories was not about their affairs. It was about how these two women so easily blackmailed the President of the United States. Was the National Enquirer in on that game too?
Which gets to the point. This President is a security risk. If he were not President he could never qualify for a security clearance with the crap in his record.
If a porn star could so easily blackmail the President of the United States, do you really think it is beyond the capacity of the Russian intelligence apparatus to do so?