Ok. It’s Friday and given the week President Trump has already had, one has to wonder if things will cool down for the weekend.
I don’t know, but after the news broke on Thursday, regarding Trump’s close friend (and possible co-conspirator), David Pecker signing an immunity deal with prosecutors, you have to know the president didn’t get much sleep last night.
Pecker, for those who missed yesterday’s news, is the CEO of American Media Inc.(AMI), the parent company of supermarket tabloid magazine, The National Enquirer.
Throughout the 2015-2016 campaign season, the Enquirer had Donald Trump’s back, posting glowing stories about him, while trashing his opponents.
Something else they did for Trump was a move they call “catch and kill,” which means they’d buy the exclusive rights to a story that was “troublesome,” then bury that story, to make sure it never got out to the public.
It was just such a deal that was made with Playboy model Karen McDougal.
McDougal claims she carried on a nearly yearlong affair with Donald Trump a decade ago, while his third wife, Melania, was home with their newborn son.
American Media Inc. bought the exclusive rights to the story in 2016 for $150,000 – a deal that was uncovered in November 2016 by the Wall Street Journal – and then that story was never published.
McDougal was also promised her own column with the Enquirer and that arrangement never materialized, either, so she is suing AMI.
Earlier this week, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer” entered guilty pleas to wire fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance law violations. In doing so, he pointed to Donald Trump as directing his efforts that amounted to the campaign finance law violations. Those charges stem from the $150,000 payment to McDougal, as well as the $130,000 payment to porn star, Stormy Daniels.
It would be more of a case of Cohen’s word against Trump’s word, if Trump had not gone on television afterwards, and in an interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, admitted that he was responsible for those payments.
As I’ve said so often: He can’t get out of his own way.
The question becomes: Were the payments illegal?
Well, Cohen pleaded guilty to facilitating them, and David Pecker made an immunity deal with prosecutors because of them, so there might be an issue.
It gets better.
When the news about Pecker’s deal broke on Thursday, it was quickly followed by other, more intriguing bits of news about the long relationship between he and our president.
What about the safe?
Yes. According to sources, somewhere within the National Enquirer offices is a safe containing hard copy documents that could prove most uncomfortable for Trump.
From the Associated Press:
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 the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press.
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.
Sure, they’ve been friends for a long time, but these aren’t the kind of relationship, nor are Trump and Pecker the kind of men who put relationships above their own self-interests.
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.
It was unclear whether the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a location known to fewer people.
I can just about guarantee they weren’t destroyed. They’re too valuable.
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.”
These seems to suggest that there are more than just the two stories we all know about. Given Trump’s past, that makes sense.
So what other stories might be in that safe? More affairs? Abortions?
These are things that have been rumored for some time, as far as Cohen’s job within the Trump Organization. He handled the payoffs and did the janitorial services required when some of the nastier elements of Trump’s reprobate activities bubbled to the surface.
Seriously. Why else does a man of Trump’s alleged wealth hire and retain a shifty-eyed weasel like Michael Cohen, who got his law degree from a strip mall law school, the worst in the nation?
Because he needed somebody with the kind of situational morals and standards to handle the unsavory business that might arise when everything from your business to your personal life is steeped in corruption.
It was Cohen who made all the arrangements with Pecker.
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.”
It may have been that “David gets hit by a truck” line that lit a fire under Pecker, who has previously refused to work with authorities.
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.
So Pecker is dirty. Cohen is dirty. It only stands to reason that Trump is dirty, as well.
The difference here is that Pecker and Cohen are not in the White House. Trump is.
When all the books are written about this period in our nation’s government, it’s going to be a wild and cautionary tale about electing based on bombast and emotion, rather than character and commonsense.