I vaguely remember hearing about a doorman who worked at Trump World Tower who claimed to have knowledge that the current president of the United States fathered an illegitimate child with a housekeeper. His story was one of the catch-and-kill jobs that the National Enquirer did on behalf of Donald Trump and he was living under the threat of a million dollar penalty if he spoke about what he claimed to know. Apparently, he’s been relieved of that burden, so we should expect to hear what he has to say in some detail before long.
It appears that there was a safe that contained all the stories about Trump that had been captured and killed over the years. The contents of that safe may have been destroyed, but they may also be in the hands of prosecutors.
Five people familiar with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they signed non-disclosure agreements, said the safe was a great source of power for [David] Pecker, the company’s CEO.
The Trump records were stored alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals, in which exclusive rights to people’s stories were bought with no intention of publishing to keep them out of the news. By keeping celebrities’ embarrassing secrets, the company was able to ingratiate itself with them and ask for favors in return.
But after The Wall Street Journal initially published the first details of Playboy model Karen McDougal’s catch-and-kill deal shortly before the 2016 election, those assets became a liability. Fearful that the documents might be used against American Media, Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration, according to one person directly familiar with the events.
It was unclear whether the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a location known to fewer people.
The problem for Trump is that both American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker and his deputy Dylan Howard have been granted immunity deals, which means that at worst the documents have been turned over and at best (if they were destroyed) that they’ll both testify to what kind of information they contained.
US federal prosecutors have reportedly granted immunity to David Pecker, CEO of company that publishes the National Enquirer, and his top lieutenant, Australian journalist, Dylan Howard, in the investigation into Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Vanity Fair reported that Mr Pecker’s immunity deal extended to the former Channel 7 journalist, Mr Howard, chief content officer of the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Pecker met with prosecutors to describe the alleged involvement of Mr Cohen and Mr Trump in financial deals to two women ahead of the 2016 US election.
This is a nightmare for the president. It’s like all the skeletons he thought were safely locked in the closet have zombified and made their escape. It also seems like everyone and their mother is clamoring to spill the beans on Trump. Probably the most perilous of the “rats” is Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, who has also accepted some kind of immunity deal. The immediate problem is that Weisselberg can verify how Trump handled all his bimbo eruptions, but those are probably minor concerns compared to what Weisselberg can tell prosecutors about Trump’s business dealings over the years.
Mr. Weisselberg’s ties to the Trump family date to the 1980s when he worked for Mr. Trump’s father, Fred. He also serves as treasurer at the Trump Foundation, which has been accused in a lawsuit by the New York Attorney General’s office of repeatedly violating laws governing charities. The foundation has denied wrongdoing.
The accountant was at Mr. Trump’s side when he faced bankruptcy in the 1990s. Mr. Trump later credited the CFO in one of his books as “one of the toughest people in business when it comes to money” who “did whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line.” Mr. Trump has also praised Mr. Weisselberg as a “loyal employee” whose advice he relied on for everything from his finances to carpet swatches.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Weisselberg has already provided testimony and he may be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan could also share their evidence with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Kremlin colluded with the Trump campaign.
Mr. Trump and the Kremlin have denied wrongdoing. Mr. Mueller’s remit gives him the leeway to pursue any matters that arise from his investigation; the probe of Mr. Cohen started, in part, with a referral from Mr. Mueller’s office.
That raises the prospect that Mr. Mueller could incorporate findings from the Manhattan probe into any report he submits to the deputy attorney general about his investigation’s conclusions related to Mr. Trump, legal experts say.
There’s almost no limit to how many problems this can create for Trump. If nothing else, he just discovered that a guy that worked for his father and has been his right-hand man for decades has turned state’s evidence, and that means I presume that the Trump Organization needs a new CFO.
Things have unraveled here rather thoroughly, and it’s not shocking that his aides are preparing for Trump to go rogue:
President Donald Trump’s lawyers and a cadre of informal White House advisers claim they’ve convinced him not to pardon Paul Manafort — but White House officials expect the president to do it anyway.
The president’s characterization of his former campaign chairman as a victim and “brave man” is being read by aides as a signal that Trump wants to use his unilateral authority to issue pardons to absolve Manafort, according to eight current and former administration officials and outside advisers.
Of course, it’s far too late for Trump to solve his problems by pardoning Paul Manafort. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is getting ramped up to look under the hood of the Trump Organization and the New York attorney general is already prepared to go after Manafort on state charges if Trump pardons him.
Trump is not one to blame himself, so it makes sense that he’s making Attorney General Jeff Sessions the repository for all his frustrations. If only that disloyal Alabama cracker hadn’t recused himself, these pesky problems could have been contained.
The loathing, which was never private, continued this week as Sessions sought to defend himself against Trump’s insults. In the span of a day, Trump accused the attorney general he appointed of failing to assume full control of the agency he leads, executing acts of severe disloyalty and allowing injustice to prevail. At one point, he even seemed to question his manhood.
“Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News this week. “He took the job and then he said I’m going to recuse myself. I said what kind of a man is this?”
This is really a matter of Trump discovering that he has been fatally outmaneuvered. Mueller has pawned off investigations into Michael Cohen and Maria Butina making it impossible to shut down the march of justice. Firing Mueller wouldn’t stop the “rats” because they’re being interviewed in other jurisdictions. The way Trump sees it, this is Sessions’s fault for not assuming “full control” of the Department of Justice. After all, making hush money payments to mistresses and committing campaign finance felonies has nothing to do with “collusion.”
Trump’s first mistake was to tell his lawyers that he had done nothing wrong rather than telling them that his legal vulnerabilities went to the moon and back. They took him at his word and crafted a legal strategy designed to get a quick exoneration.
Of course there never was a good legal strategy for a client like Donald Trump. A man like him cannot be president. He wasn’t supposed to win, did not expect to win, did not even write a victory speech, and now everyone he knows is either going to jail or ratting him out to avoid going to jail. Spiro Agnew’s lawyer is right to say that he’d be crazy not to resign. This presidency has been one gigantic mistake, and Trump must realize that now.