This newspaper reportedly had a safe full of Trump secrets
If anyone can weather a storm, it’s Donald Trump. He’s taken a shot at women, immigrants, Mexicans, the disabled and even insulted the late Senator John McCain - who never gave up information during five and a half years of torture - by stating that he isn’t a war hero because he got caught.
One of Trump’s trigger issues is the media’s apparent misrepresentation of social and political issues. However, one reason why Trump hasn’t yet drowned in a sea of scandal is his ability to influence the news.
In the world of damage control there are super-injunctions, non-disclosure agreements, buried stories and perhaps the most cunning: “catch and kill”. The Associated Press has reported that the National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on damaging stories - including hush money payments - as part of its cozy relationship with Trump.
The CEO of parent company American Media Inc (AMI) is long-term friend of Donald Trump, David Pecker. Exclusive rights to certain stories were purchased by the publisher which would then shelve the story indefinitely.
According to reports, one of these stories centred on an extramarital affair with former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. A decade later, during Trump’s presidential campaign, McDougal detailed the story of her affair to AMI in exchange for $150,000. However, it was never published.
Four days before the election, McDougal's claims were fervently denied. However, a recording made by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has now proven McDougal’s allegations - in particular, payments of hush money - to be true.
On the tape, released in July, Trump can be heard discussing McDougal. Cohen seems to be suggesting that he can’t rely on his friendly relationship with David Pecker forever and therefore a payment must be made. Cohen made the payment to AMI from a shell company - a business which only exists on paper - and was reimbursed by Trump.
"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," Cohen can be heard saying to Trump, on the tape. “You never know where that company - you never know what he’s gonna be—”
“David gets hit by a truck,” Trump replies.
“Correct,” Cohen replies. “So, I’m all over that.”
Firmly caught up in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into election interference, Cohen has pled guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violation. However, David Pecker - the man accused of facilitating multiple “catch-and-kill” operations - has been granted immunity.
As a paper which thrives on scoops and sensationalism, writers at the National Enquirer apparently became frustrated with the practice. Five people familiar with AMI spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, not least because they signed non-disclosure agreements.
While sheltering Trump from potential PR disasters, the National Enquirer mounted an attack on his political opponents - most notably, Hillary Clinton. Claiming everything from her husband being a child molester to her only having six months to live, the paper did everything in its power to discredit her.
“All the hallmarks of classic propaganda appear in the newly politicized tabloids,” writes Jack Schafer on Politico. “First, there is the pure volume of the malicious bunk they churn out. The tabs construct wild story after wild story that ‘entertains, confuses, and overwhelms the audience,’ as one recent report described modern Russian propaganda technique.” He concludes: “The ability of the Enquirer and its weird sister tabloids to feed word-of-mouth.”
Of course, other scandals have have threatened Trump’s career. Such as when he was sued by the federal government for discriminating against black people. “The Government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color,”’ according to the New York Times. “It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available.”
Though “blacks” seems an insulting word for the New York Times to use, this was back in 1973. Trump continued to use the word, stating in 2008: “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks."
After a long legal battle, Trump eventually agreed to offer tenancies to everyone, as opposed to just white people. While abhorrent, Trump nevertheless managed to shake off the criticism and continue his career.
Having built up an unwaveringly loyal following of fans who see him as much as a leader as a politician, one might question whether Trump needs to bury or "kill" damaging stories at all. However, perhaps when you’ve got as much money as Donald Trump, paying a few thousand dollars to keep your aides happy is just a drop in the ocean.