Ex-National Enquirer Chief Details 'Catch And Kill' Schemes At Trump Trial

David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, testified at Donald Trump’s hush money trial Tuesday about the “catch and kill” agreements between the former president and the tabloid, detailing arrangements involving Trump’s former doorman and an ex-Playboy model.

Pecker’s testimony comes a day after prosecutors alleged that Trump greenlighted the catch-and-kill schemes in which the National Enquirer would buy exclusive rights to someone’s purported damaging information about Trump in order to stop it from being released by anyone else and then not publishing the story itself. The tabloid’s former chief said he and Trump’s legal team agreed to the schemes in an August 2015 meeting, which prosecutors claim constitutes criminal conspiracy.

The first of those incidents involved Trump’s former doorman, Dino Sajudin, who was peddling a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child with a Trump Tower maid in the 1980s, Pecker told jurors. Pecker said he reached out to Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who told him the story was “absolutely not true” but asked him to look into it regardless.

Pecker eventually agreed to buy rights to the story from the doorman for $30,000. He said Cohen then told him, “The boss will be very pleased,” referring to Trump, who had announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. Prosecutors then showed jurors a copy of the November 2015 agreement.

If the story were true, Pecker testified, “it would be probably the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley.” However, Pecker said that, per a conversation he had with Cohen, the National Enquirer would have waited until after the 2016 election to publish anything if the story could be verified, but he told the jury it turned out to be untrue.

Pecker also testified Tuesday about learning that former Playboy model Karen McDougal was shopping around a story about an alleged romantic affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, while Trump was married to Melania. Pecker said Cohen told him the story was a fabrication but to still look into it. He said Cohen then asked that they move their conversation from a landline to the encrypted app Signal.

After a National Enquirer editor interviewed McDougal, Pecker said, Trump called him to discuss it. Pecker said he suggested that Trump buy the exclusive rights to her story himself but that Trump refused. Pecker added that Cohen “kept on calling me” to ask about the interview with McDougal and that he was “very agitated. It looked like he was getting a lot of pressure to get the answer, like, right away.”

American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, confirmed earlier that it paid McDougal $150,000 for the story specifically to help protect Trump’s 2016 campaign. Prosecutors alleged that Trump and Cohen planned to create a shell company to reimburse AMI but that it fell through, according to Forbes.

Court ended Tuesday with just over two hours of testimony from Pecker. The trial will resume Thursday morning.

Sara Boboltz contributed reporting.