Donald Trump and Michael Cohen’s plan to bury and control information possessed by the National Enquirer ran far deeper than the alleged “catch-and-kill” of Karen McDougal’s allegations of an affair with the future president, according to a scoopy New York Times article published Thursday.
The two “devised a plan to buy up all the dirt on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected on him, dating back to the 1980s,” the Times reported, citing “several of Mr. Trump’s associates.”
The existence of the plan helps explain one of the persistent mysteries from the recording Cohen made of the two apparently discussing the McDougal payment before the election. At one point on the tape, Cohen says, “It’s all the stuff — all the stuff, because you never know.” Then Trump says, “Maybe he gets hit by a truck,” apparently referring to National Enquirer head David Pecker and the danger the information could pose to Trump if Pecker was no longer overseeing it. The Associated Press reported last week that Pecker kept a literal vault of stories that might damage Trump.
During the campaign, the Enquirer acted as a virtual arm of the Trump operation, relentlessly attacking his rivals in the primary and general election and dutifully refraining from publishing any potentially embarrassing stories about the man who first became famous for his frequent appearances in the tabloids.
“For the better part of two decades, Mr. Pecker had ordered his staff at American Media to protect Mr. Trump from troublesome stories, in some cases by buying up stories about him and filing it away,” the Times reported. “In 2016, he kept his staff from going back through the old Trump tip and story files that dated to before Mr. Pecker became company chairman in 1999, several former staff members said in interviews with The New York Times.”
The stories, according to the Times, are exactly what you think a cache of tabloid tips about Donald Trump would be: “mostly older National Enquirer stories about Mr. Trump’s marital woes and lawsuits; related story notes and lists of sensitive sources; some tips about alleged affairs; and minutia, like allegations of unscrupulous golfing.”
Trump and Cohen were never able to make any formal deal with Pecker and American Media, the Enquirer parent company, to gain control of their Trump information, the Times reported.