The Slatest

The Latest Trump Extramarital Affair Allegation Is Weird and May Well Not Be True

Donald Trump with a photo of the Trump World Tower, where the individual attesting to his alleged affair once worked, in Washington D.C. in 2005.
Donald Trump with a photo of the Trump World Tower, where the individual attesting to his alleged affair once worked, in Washington D.C. in 2005.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A former doorman at the Trump World Tower (a Trump-owned Manhattan building distinct from Trump Tower) is alleging publicly that he was told Trump fathered a child out of wedlock with a former employee:

The AP and New Yorker have reports on the circumstances around the allegation, which is said to involve an affair that took place during the late 1980s, when the current POTUS was married to Ivana Trump. There are various reasons to doubt that the affair took place:

• Sajudin doesn’t claim to have firsthand knowledge of the relationship; he only claims he was told about it.

• The New Yorker states flatly that it “has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child.” The woman allegedly involved denied to the AP that Sajudin’s story is true.

• The New Yorker says that reporters at the tabloid media company American Media, Inc. who investigated the story in 2015 “had questions about Sajudin’s credibility.”

• Sajudin’s ex-wife told the New York Daily News that he’s a “pathological liar” who is “infamous for making up stories” and once claimed to have seen the chupacabra, a mythical creature that kills livestock.

What gives this story a layer of newsworthiness, per the New Yorker and AP, is that American Media, Inc. ultimately paid Sajudin $30,000 in 2015 in what was ostensibly a payment for a news tip but seems to have been an effort to keep him from sharing his allegation publicly. AMI, which is run by a Trump crony and ally named David Pecker, is currently being sued by former Playboy model Karen McDougal for its actions in a similar situation. McDougal, whose account of a 2006-era affair with Trump is credible and well-documented, says the company and Trump attorney Michael Cohen conspired to keep her quiet by giving her $150,000* to buy the rights to her story, which it never published, and promising to make her a regular AMI contributor—a promise she says AMI didn’t follow through on. AMI sources told the New Yorker that Cohen was kept abreast of its investigation into Sajudin, and he told the AP that he had “discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it.”

Cohen’s involvement with AMI is allegedly one of the subjects that’s of interest to the federal prosecutors who raided his office and hotel room this week. What’s not clear is what laws he or the company might have broken. Burying newsworthy stories in order to help favored sources and/or friends might be journalistically unethical, but it’s not illegal, and neither is paying people to keep quiet about alleged affairs. It’s possible that there’s evidence that Cohen set up the payments explicitly to preserve the viability of Trump’s run for president, which could make them campaign-finance violations. McDougal also alleges that her original lawyer collaborated with Cohen and AMI with the goal of keeping her story out of the press, which could seemingly constitute fraud on his part, though there’s no hard evidence available publicly to support her claim. In any case, and as with so much other current news involving Trump-related investigations, there’s so much we don’t know yet about prosecutors’ intentions regarding the Cohen/AMI relationship that it’s impossible to draw conclusions about how much it might end up hurting the president legally or politically.

Correction, April 13: This post originally misstated the amount of McDougal’s payment as $130,000.

Ben Mathis-Lilley is Slate’s chief news blogger. Follow the Slatest on Twitter.