Trump hush money trial: Ex-National Enquirer publisher testifies about ‘catch and kill’ scheme

NEW YORK — Former American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker returned to the witness stand Tuesday to testify in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

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Trump is accused of illegally covering up hush money payments made to silence allegations of marital infidelity as he ran for president in 2016. He has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

On the stand Tuesday, Pecker testified about the “catch and kill” scheme that he, Trump and former Trump fixer Michael Cohen hatched to keep negative coverage of Trump out of the news in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.

He said that he called Cohen after learning about a Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, who claimed to have information about Trump having fathered a child out of wedlock, CNN reported. He learned about the story in 2015 after telling Trump and Cohen that he would be the “eyes and ears” of the campaign, court records show.

He said he asked then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard “to negotiate a number, a price to buy the story and take it off the market,” according to CNN.

The price for American Media Inc. — the Enquirer’s parent company — ended up being $30,000. After Pecker called to tell Cohen he planned to make the purchase, he said that Cohen told him, “The boss will be pleased,” referring to Trump, CNN reported.

He testified that he told Cohen that if the story was deemed to be true, he’d publish it after the 2016 presidential election. He said several times that he was acting on Trump’s behalf, according to The New York Times.

“I made the decision to buy the story because of the potential embarrassment it would have to the campaign and Mr. Trump,” Pecker said, according to the newspaper.

He also touched on the circumstances surrounding Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed to have had a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. He testified that he told Trump that he should buy McDougal’s story.

He said that Trump demurred, telling him, “Anytime you do something like this, it always comes out,” NBC News reported. Trump said he wanted to talk to Cohen and would get back with Pecker.

Records filed earlier in the case show that AMI ultimately paid McDougal $150,000 in exchange for her keeping her silence about her alleged relationship with Trump. The former president has denied having had an affair with McDougal.

Pecker is also expected to testify about efforts to secure the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. Trump has denied the claim.

Court went into recess at 2 p.m., with plans for testimony to resume on Thursday, according to NBC News.

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