On Wednesday, AMI chairman David Pecker admitted to paying an ex-Playboy model $150,000 to kill her story about an extramarital affair with President Trump.
On the same day that President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for crimes related to violating campaign finance laws when he paid off two women to stay silent about affairs with Trump, federal prosecutors announced they would not prosecute the National Enquirer for similar actions.
American Media Inc. (AMI), which is the parent company of the National Enquirer, in an agreement with federal prosecutors admitted to using a “catch and kill” scheme to keep ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about her affair with Trump.
Although the deal was made in cooperation with the Trump campaign and agreed upon over a meeting between AMI and Cohen in 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York announced on Wednesday that they had agreed to a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, according to CNN.
According to the agreement, AMI chairman David Pecker who is a longtime friend and supporter of Donald Trump met with Cohen and at least one other “member of the campaign” in August of 2015.
“At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’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 agreement read. “Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories.”
In accordance with the deal with the Trump campaign, AMI signed a deal with McDougal which, the New Yorker reported, gave AMI “exclusive ownership of her account of any romantic, personal, or physical relationship she has ever had with any ‘then-married man” and paid McDougal $150,000. AMI also agreed to publish a regular column by McDougal as part of the arrangement.
In 2018, McDougal sued AMI to get out of her contract. AMI and McDougal reached a settlement that let McDougal out of the contract and allowed her to speak freely about the affair with Trump but also granted AMI the right to $75,000 in any profits McDougal makes about the affair.
In a New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow published in February of 2018, six former AMI employees admitted to Farrow that “catch and kill” was a regular practice used by AMI.
“We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,” Jerry George, a former A.M.I. senior editor who worked at the company for more than twenty-five years, told Farrow.
“Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told Farrow. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”
Other AMI employees corroborated George’s story and said that Pecker would at times use stories as “leverage” over some celebrities which allegedly included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tiger Woods.
When news first broke about the McDougal payment only days before the November election, AMI claimed they did not purchase stories to bury them. Two years later, AMI changed their tune.