Publisher testifies in Trump hush money trial

April 24, 2024 9:34 am

[Source: Reuters]

The first witness in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, testified on Tuesday that he used his supermarket tabloid to suppress stories that might have hurt Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

Pecker, 72, testified in a New York court that the Enquirer paid two people who were peddling stories of Trump’s sexual misbehavior but never published them — a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Pecker said the decision to bury the stories followed a 2015 meeting at which he told Trump that the Enquirer would publish favorable stories about the billionaire candidate and keep an eye out for people selling stories that might hurt him. He said he told an editor to keep the arrangement secret.

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Pecker said the Enquirer paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006 and 2007. He said he bought the story after Trump refused to do so himself.

The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, said in 2018 it paid $150,000 for the story. Trump has denied having an affair with McDougal.

The tabloid also paid $30,000 for a story peddled by Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, who claimed Trump fathered a child with a maid who worked for him. The story turned out not to be true, Pecker said.

Both payments far exceeded the amounts the paper typically paid for stories, he said.

He is expected to testify further when the trial resumes on Thursday.

Prosecutors say Pecker’s actions helped Trump deceive voters in the 2016 election by burying stories of alleged extramarital affairs at a time when he already faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

They have charged Trump with criminally falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels, who says they had a sexual encounter 10 years earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies having an encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue that Trump did not commit any crimes and only acted to protect his reputation.

The case may be the only one of Trump’s four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before the Republican’s Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

A guilty verdict would not bar Trump from taking office but could hurt his candidacy.