Hillary Clinton can finally stop her exhausting search for the reason she lost the 2016 election despite having an overwhelming political advantage over her former reality TV star opponent: The National Enquirer's special safe where they'd lock up damaging stories on Donald J. Trump, longtime pal of the paper's chief, David Pecker.
Just after news broke that Pecker, chairman and CEO of the Enquirer's parent company American Media Inc., had been granted immunity by federal prosecutors so he could spill the beans on his buddy, the Associated Press published yet another "bombshell" in a week filled with bombshells: "National Enquirer hid damaging Trump stories in a safe."
According to "people familiar with the arrangement ," the tabloid kept any stories that could've potentially undermined candidate Trump — like his "hush money" pay-offs to a former Playmate and a touring porn star — locked in a special safe, along with stories involving other celebrities' "catch-and-kill deals." AP reports:
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 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.
One unnamed source told AP that Pecker and chief content officer Dylan Howard removed the Trump stories weeks before Trump's inauguration, fearing they'd become a "liability" after details about the $150,000 payment to former Playmate Karen McDougal. Where the stories are now is "unclear," AP notes.
According to one former Enquirer reporter, Jerry George, the "catch-and-kill" approach "took root" at the Enquirer under Pecker, AP notes. The tabloid would sometimes pay the hush money, he explained, in order to get something in return from the celebrity. So far, no response from American Media on AP's claims.
The claims about the safe follow reports by The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair about Pecker's immunity deal. Court documents for the case against Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who "flipped" on him Tuesday, say that Pecker had helped Trump handle negative stories about women by "assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."
Pecker reportedly shared information with federal prosecutors about the payments Cohen says he made at Trump's direction to McDougal and Stormy Daniels.