Newspaper chief was Donald Trump’s ‘eyes and ears’ and ‘killed unfavourable stories about him’, court hears

Newspaper chief was Donald Trump’s ‘eyes and ears’ and ‘killed unfavourable stories about him’, court hears
  • PublishedApril 24, 2024

Donald Trump is the first former US president to face a criminal trial, accused of falsifying business records to pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up their alleged affair in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A newspaper chief was Donald Trump’s “eyes and ears” and killed unfavourable stories about him in the run-up to the 2016 election, a court has heard.

Trump has made history as the first former US president to face a criminal trial.

He stands accused of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels in an effort to cover up their alleged affair and falsifying business records in order to do so.

David Pecker, the former boss of publisher AMI, took the stand as the first witness in the trial, as he described participating in a “catch and kill” scheme with Trump and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to bury unfavourable press coverage during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Manhattan’s criminal court also heard Mr Pecker, who signed a “non-prosecution” agreement with prosecutors after AMI admitted to making hush-money payments, describe his role as being the “eyes and ears” for Trump.

Mr Pecker said he would flag stories to Mr Cohen, who would check if they were true or not. This agreement was never put in writing but Mr Pecker divulged it to Dylan Howard, editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, one of his publications.

Donald Trump waits for the start of proceedings in Manhattan criminal court.
Pic Reuters
Image:Trump waits for the start of proceedings. Pic Reuters

Mr Pecker told the court of a meeting he attended in August 2015 with Trump, Mr Cohen, and Hope Hicks, the communications director for the former president.

‘I would be the eyes and ears’

He said: “At that meeting with Donald Trump, they asked me what can I do to help the campaign.

“I said what I would do is I would run or publish positive stories about Mr Trump, and I would publish negative stories about his opponents.

“I said that I would also be the eyes and ears.”

In particular, Mr Pecker said that he would notify Cohen if he heard any negative stories relating to Trump and alleged relations with any women “because Mr Trump was well known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women”.

He added: “It was clear that, based on my past experience, that when someone was running for public office like this, it is very common for these women to call up magazines like the National Enquirer to try to sell their stories.”

The court heard of one such example where Mr Pecker paid $30,000 (£24,000) to buy a story about Trump allegedly fathering an illegitimate baby with a maid.

Pic: Reuters
Image:Trump was accused of hatching a “catch and kill” scheme to bury unfavourable press coverage during the 2016 presidential campaign. Pic: Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump departs as his trial continues over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, outside Trump Tower, in New York City, U.S. , April 23, 2024. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Image:Trump waves to crowds outside court. Pic: Reuters

Mr Pecker said: “I immediately called Michael Cohen and told him exactly what I was told.

“I gave the name of the housekeeper in the penthouse and asked him to verify it first with the Trump Organisation payroll.”

Buying off negative press

Mr Pecker bought the story but said investigators found the story to be untrue and says Cohen told him it was “absolutely not true”.

He added: “I made the decision to buy the story because it could have been embarrassing to the campaign and Mr Trump.”

Hanging over today’s proceedings were allegations that Trump violated a gag order in social media posts and on his campaign website.

The gag order restricted Trump’s public speech on jurors, potential witnesses and some others involved in the case.

Prosecutors asked the judge to fine Trump $10,000 (£8,000) for ten online posts they say violated the order, but the judge hadn’t made a decision by the end of the day’s proceedings.

Political opponents targeted

However, alongside protecting Trump’s image, the court heard that Mr Pecker allegedly targeted his political opponents.

He said: “I would run a Hillary Clinton story as being the enabler to a womaniser.”

The prosecution asked: “Did you believe it helped Trump’s campaign?”

Mr Pecker told the court it was mutually beneficial because it led to newspaper sales and benefited Trump’s campaign.

The court was told that Mr Pecker’s publisher would also run stories about Trump’s Republican opponents “based on the success of some of the candidates”.

He added: “I would receive a call from Michael Cohen, and he would direct me and direct Dylan Howard which candidate and which direction we should go.”

National Enquirer headlines

Some headlines published by the Enquirer included:

• Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge in Patient’s Brain!

• Ted Cruz Shamed by Porn Star

• Boozin’ Ted Cruz Fixin’ To Lose

• Shocking Claims: Pervy Ted Cruz Caught Cheating – With 5 Secret Mistresses

• Anonymous Threat! Hackers Threaten Ted Cruz with Alleged Prostitution

• Donald Trump Blasts Ted Cruz’s Dad for Photo with JFK Assassin

Also amid today’s proceedings, it emerged that Mr Pecker was one of the first people to encourage Trump to run for president.

In early 2015, Mr Pecker says he told Trump that 80% of the readership of the National Enquirer wanted him to run for president.

He received an invitation to the announcement that Trump would run, made in June 2015, which the court heard read: “No one deserves to be there more than you.”

SOURCE: SKYNEWS

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