National Enquirer Boss Says Trump Knew Details of Stormy Daniels’ Payoff

Donald Trump was back in court on Thursday for the seventh day of his criminal hush money trial. The court heard a third day of testimony from David Pecker — the former National Enquirer boss who used the publication to buoy Trump ahead of the 2016 election. While Pecker’s testimony earlier this week contained plenty of damning evidence, the former tabloid boss dropped an under-oath bombshell when he recalled that Trump complained to him that Stormy Daniels had breached the hush-money deal she’d made with Trump fixer Michael Cohen after the porn star gave a televised interview about her alleged affair with the former president.

Pecker previously testified in detail about working with Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen, to suppress negative stories about the then-candidate that could impact his campaign, while also running bogus stories about Trump’s rivals.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump centers on allegations that the real estate mogul and his associates made hush money payments to women, including $130,000 to Daniels, in order to specifically aid his 2016 presidential election campaign. Key to the prosecution’s argument is painting a picture for the jury that Trump was not only aware of and involved in these payments — but that they were effectively unreported campaign contributions meant to service his political aspirations.

Pecker testified to Trump’s knowledge of the Daniels agreement on Thursday. “He said that we have an agreement with Stormy Daniels that she cannot mention my name or anything like this and that each time she breaches the agreement it is a $1 million penalty, and based on the interview with Anderson Cooper, she owes me $24 million dollars,” Pecker said, according to NBC News.

Months before Election Day in 2016, the Enquirer bought, and then killed, Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with Trump. Pecker said on Thursday that Trump knew about the deal, which sent $150,000 to McDougal in exchange for her silence.

“Do you know whether anyone other than Michael Cohen had knowledge of this contract?” the prosecution asked Pecker. “Yes, I believe Donald Trump did,” he replied.

Pecker also testified that he asked Cohen who would reimburse him for the payment to McDougal, and Cohen told him “the boss will take care of it.”

The boss didn’t take care of it, though, and so when Cohen asked if the Enquirer would buy the rights to Stormy Daniels’ story of her alleged affair with Trump, he refused, according to prosecutors. Pecker said he refused to purchase the story because he didn’t “want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star.”

“I am not a bank,” he said he told Cohen, advising the lawyer to “buy this story and take it off the market, because if you don’t and it gets out, I think the boss is going to be very angry with you.”

This allegedly led Cohen to buy Daniels’ silence himself, and Trump later reimbursed his lawyer for “services rendered.” Prosecutors say this was a crime, as the payment amounts to an illegal campaign expenditure. “They agreed to cook the books,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said during opening arguments, calling the scheme “election fraud, pure and simple.”

Cooking the books wouldn’t have been out of character for Trump and Cohen, according to Pecker. He testified on Thursday that they did it after paying off McDougal, disguising it as a contract for services so they wouldn’t be nailed for violating campaign finance laws, according to the Times.

Before the campaign, Pecker, who had known Trump for decades, said the real estate mogul was often concerned about how negative stories would impact his wife and family. The publisher testified that after he announced his run for office, Trump’s concerns became “basically what the impact would be to the campaign and the election.”

He said that Trump blew up at him over the phone when news of his alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal became public.

When the McDougal story — and the payment negotiated by AMI — became public just days before the 2016 election, Trump was incensed. Pecker stated that the former president had called him and was “very upset, saying how could this happen, I thought you had this under control, either you or one of your people have leaked the story.”

Trump hung up the call without a goodbye, he said.

On Thursday, Judge Juan Merchan also agreed to consider four more alleged violations by Trump of a gag order — which bars him from publicly commenting on jurors, witnesses, prosecutors, court staff, and relatives of Bragg and the judge — in an upcoming decision on potential sanctions against the former president. With the four additional violations, Trump has been accused of breaking the gag order 15 times in the past two weeks.

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