Donald Trump

Trump was at National Enquirer hush-money meeting, source says

  • President and his former lawyer met tabloid’s publisher to discuss killing unflattering news stories in the early days of his campaign, a source claims
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 11:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 11:18am

Donald Trump was at a meeting in August 2015 when his personal lawyer Michael Cohen and David Pecker, chairman of the publisher of the National Enquirer, discussed a scheme to pay off women to suppress their stories about having had affairs with Trump, NBC News reported on Thursday.

A non-prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors and American Media Inc, which publishes the tabloid, was disclosed on Wednesday in conjunction with the sentencing of Cohen for crimes that included violating campaign finance laws by orchestrating hush payments to women.

As part of the agreement, American Media admitted it had made a US$150,000 payment to silence a woman about her alleged affair with Trump “in concert” with a presidential campaign and with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.

In its “Statement of Admitted Facts”, American Media said in August 2015 Pecker and Cohen met at least “one other member of the campaign” where the scheme to identify and suppress such stories by making hush payments was discussed.

The “other member of the campaign” in that meeting was Trump, NBC reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Charles Stillman, an attorney for American Media, declined to comment to Reuters.

On Thursday, Trump in a series of tweets distanced himself from Cohen, saying that he never directed Cohen to break the law and that the payments were unrelated to his campaign.

Cohen said in a guilty plea in August that he was directed by Trump to arrange a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, and personally pay adult-film star Stormy Daniels, both of whom have claimed they had affairs with Trump before he was president.

The practice of acquiring stories and not running them, common in the tabloid industry, is known as “catch and kill”.

Prosecutors in New York confirmed last week in a court filing that they believed the president ordered the payments to protect his campaign.

Trump has denied the affairs and argues the payments to the two women were not campaign contributions.

In tweets on Thursday, Trump said, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”

The emergence of Trump’s participation in a plot that federal prosecutors described as “secret and illegal” is just the latest in a series of legal and political headaches that have gripped the White House as the Justice Department further probes Trump’s conduct before and after he won the 2016 election.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Associated Press