Why is David Pecker still in Trump’s good graces?

Former President Trump has many enemies — or so he says.

But it seems that David Pecker, the ex-National Enquirer publisher and lead witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s case against Trump who has an immunity agreement with the very prosecutors targeting him, is not among them.

“David’s been very nice,” the former president said Thursday morning, hours before the publisher would retake the witness stand for a third day, where he would reveal even more details of the backroom deals at the heart of the case. “He’s a nice guy.”

Across four total days of testimony in Trump’s first-ever criminal trial, Pecker gave a damning account of the tabloid’s role in helping stifle negative stories about Trump and elevating bad press — often untrue — about his political opponents.

His testimony — which Trump has called “breathtaking” — largely bolstered the state’s overarching theory of the case: that Trump and his allies attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 election with Pecker’s help.

Despite his damaging attestations, Pecker shared similar sentiments about Trump.

“Do you have any bad feelings or ill will about the defendant?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked the publisher as the last question of his direct examination.

“On the contrary,” Pecker said. “I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor.”

A former Trump White House official suggested that Trump and Pecker’s long-standing relationship, dating back to their time together in New York circles, has likely kept things from getting combative.

“They’ve known each other for decades,” the ex-White House official said. “And it’s not like anyone thinks David Pecker came into this trial with any sort of vendetta against Trump.”

Pecker was not the only longtime ally of Trump’s to elicit a positive reaction from the stand as the former president observed.

On Friday afternoon, when his longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff began her testimony, the former president was smiling and chuckling at Graff as she spoke positively of her former boss, calling him “fair and respectful.”

Trump’s relationship with Graff also dates back decades, as she began working for the Trump Organization in 1987.

Graff was in Trump’s close orbit during his 2016 campaign, when the hush money deals were arranged, and after he entered the White House, she still reportedly served as a go-between for Trump’s friends and associates.

Pecker and Trump were first introduced in the late 1980s at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, which Pecker pinpointed as the start of their “great, mutually beneficial relationship.”

Early on, Pecker pitched to the then-business mogul — and later launched — a magazine called Trump Style, which focused on Trump’s flashiest properties like hotels and casinos. A decade later, when Pecker had acquired the National Enquirer, Trump was a “celebrity in his own right,” the publisher said.

Trump would introduce Pecker to other New York executives and tip him off about news from his show, “The Apprentice,” which Pecker’s magazine readers would “religiously” follow.

“He helped me throughout my career,” Pecker testified.

The publisher scratched Trump’s back, too. For 17 years he gave Trump a heads-up about potential negative publicity, beginning in the 1990s with an unflattering story about his second wife, Marla Maples. Trump was dubbed a “F.O.P.” by Enquirer staffers, according to The New York Times — a “Friend of Pecker.”

Decades later, after Trump in June 2015 announced he would run for president, the then-candidate summoned Pecker and his fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Trump Tower.

It’s there that prosecutors say the alleged conspiracy to clear Trump’s path to the White House was hatched, after Trump asked Pecker what his magazines could do to “help the campaign” and the publisher promised to be the campaign’s “eyes and ears.”

Pecker testified that, at the behest of Cohen, and therefore Trump, he helped kill a Trump Tower doorman’s story that Trump purportedly had an illegitimate child and helped silence ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had a yearlong affair with Trump.

Despite the doorman’s story being proven untrue, Pecker said he bought it for $30,000 anyways, knowing it would be “very embarrassing” to Trump’s campaign if it got out. He paid $150,000 to McDougal — and provided her with opportunities within his company — for the rights to her story.

But when it came to paying Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her allegations of an affair with Trump, Pecker refused, at one point recalling to the court he told Cohen: “I am not a bank.”

Cohen at the time told him “the boss” — Trump — “would be furious.”

“Did you suppress the stories to help a presidential candidate?” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked bluntly on his redirect examination of Pecker, the presidential candidate in question being Trump.

“Yes I did,” Pecker replied.

Pecker is on a very short list of people Trump has opted not to lash out at, despite reaching an immunity deal in late 2019 with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, protecting him from prosecution in Trump’s New York hush money case.

Other people once considered allies to Trump are also poised to take the stand, including former White House and campaign aides and Trump Organization employees. They include Hope Hicks, his former confidant and spokeswoman, and Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization’s former comptroller. Other than Cohen, Trump has mostly kept silent about other witnesses poised to testify.

Some loyalists to Trump — despite his many controversies, particularly since Jan. 6 — have been swept up in their own legal troubles due to their work on behalf of the former commander in chief, the most notable being Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump legal adviser, and Mark Meadows, a former White House chief of staff.

Giuliani and Meadows are each fighting two separate election-related indictments, one in Georgia, alongside Trump as a defendant, and now one in Arizona, for their alleged efforts in trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election in Trump’s favor. Giuliani still fiercely defends Trump, but Meadows has almost entirely fallen out of the public eye.

Pecker’s apparent relationship with Trump stands in stark contrast to other onetime allies’ fates — perhaps none clearer than that of Cohen, who transformed from one of Trump’s most loyal aides to his most vocal detractor.

When the federal probe into the alleged plot picked up in 2018, Cohen’s office, Park Avenue hotel room and home were raided. Federal agents seized millions of electronic files, including emails and bank records, plus eight boxes of documents.

Though Trump initially told Cohen to “stay strong” and paid for his lawyer, the then-president began to distance himself from his onetime lawyer as the investigation continued. After Trump stopped paying for Cohen’s legal representation, he’d had enough.

Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations and other charges soon after and was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the deal.

“Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,” Cohen said of Trump at his 2018 sentencing hearing.

Cohen and Trump have since become sworn enemies, taking verbal shots at the other whenever the opportunity arises.

Pecker and Trump have not spoken since early 2019, when the investigation into their alleged scheme began to ramp up, he said Thursday.

And yet, his fondness for Trump remains.

“Even though we haven’t spoken, I still consider him a friend,” Pecker testified.

Brett Samuels contributed.

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