NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Federal prosecutors have granted immunity to the executive in charge of the National Enquirer amid an investigation into hush money payments made on behalf of Donald Trump, his longtime friend, media outlets reported on Thursday.
Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, were first to report the development involving David Pecker, CEO of the tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc. Subpoenas were previously served at the company’s Los Angeles offices seeking information about a payment to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who says she had a relationship with Trump shortly after his wife gave birth to his youngest child, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Court papers connected to ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea on Tuesday to campaign finance violations, bank fraud and tax evasion say Pecker offered to help Trump fend off negative stories during the 2016 presidential campaign.
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,” the court papers say.
The Journal reported Pecker shared with prosecutors details about payments that Cohen says Trump directed in the weeks and months before the election to buy the silence of McDougal and another woman alleging an affair, porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels was paid $130,000. McDougal was paid $150,000.
While Trump denies the affairs, his account of his knowledge of the payments has shifted. In April, Trump denied he knew anything about the Daniels payment. He told Fox News in an interview aired Thursday that he knew about payments “later on.”
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.”
Vanity Fair reported that American Media’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, also was granted immunity.
AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)