The hits keep coming for President Donald Trump. First it was his former campaign chief Paul Manafort’s criminal conviction for tax evasion at the hands of a jury on Tuesday. Later that day, it was his longtime attorney, confidant, and fixer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea for various financial crimes, in which he implicated Trump himself. And now, it’s close ally and media mogul David Pecker, who has reportedly been granted immunity by prosecutors who are investigating the president’s hush money payments to women with whom he allegedly had an affair.
Pecker, who chairs The National Enquirer’s parent company American Media, Inc., has reportedly corroborated Cohen’s testimony that Donald Trump was aware of and involved in payments made to women, including former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels, in exchange for their silence about their alleged sexual encounters. News of Pecker’s cooperation with authorities was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday evening, with Vanity Fair confirming details of the immunity deal on Thursday morning.
Pecker’s immunity—and his subsequent claims—represent another major blow to the president, who just this week insisted that he had no part in the payments to the women, and he only learned about them “later.”
While it’s unclear just what Pecker specifically told investigators, what’s known is that under his leadership The National Enquirer engaged in “catch and kill” journalism, in which they would pay for the exclusive rights to the women’s stories, and then essentially sit on them—ensuring they never saw the light of day. The Enquirer also reportedly paid $30,000 to quash stories about an alleged Trump love child in 2015, and essentially gave Cohen veto power over Trump-related stories.
Oh, and they also endorsed Trump’s presidential run, cementing their role as the one of the most Trump-friendly media outlets.
Pecker’s immunity deal, therefore, presents significant problems for the president, who has steadfastly (if hilariously) refused to admit any wrongdoing—even though he was caught on tape discussing the hush money payments with Cohen.
In addition to Pecker, AMI’s Chief Content Officer, Dylan Howard, was also granted immunity. According to sources who spoked with Vanity Fair, the once-close Pecker and Trump haven’t spoken in months, while Howard feels “used and abused” by the president. Meanwhile, in a rambling and legally perilous interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, an angry Trump decried “flipping” and said it should be illegal.
Pecker’s defection is sure to brighten his mood.