National Enquirer editor talked of being pardoned by Trump for 2016 ‘electoral fraud’

National Enquirer editor talked of being pardoned by Trump for 2016 ‘electoral fraud’

NEW YORK — The onetime editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer discussed potentially being pardoned by former President Trump for “electoral fraud” in 2016, according to text messages read out loud during Trump’s hush money trial Thursday.

In the text messages, Editor Dylan Howard and one of his family members discuss Howard traveling to California in 2016 to talk to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleged that she had an affair with Trump. The family member asked why Howard would travel to California if he was not planning on printing the story, and he responded that having information “is powerful.”

A separate text message has Howard suggesting he might get pardoned if Trump won the 2016 presidential election. The text did not indicate that Trump had discussed any potential pardon with Howard.

“At least if he wins, I’ll be pardoned for electoral fraud,” Howard said in an offhand remark in one of the texts.

The issue came up as Judge Juan Merchan was considering whether to admit certain text messages between Howard and the relative as evidence to the jury. Merchan said he would exclude such text messages for the time being because it was a private conversation with a family member and not a business record. He also said he would be reading up on the case law on the issue.

Among the prosecution’s arguments is that the agreement with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to bury embarrassing news about Trump inappropriately influenced the 2016 election, which Trump won.

The texts were presented while the jury was out of the courtroom.

In a statement to The Hill, Howard’s lawyer said it should be apparent that his actions were at “the behest, and for the benefit of” Pecker and noted that he has not faced criminal charges.

“He regrets that he is unable to travel to New York to testify in order to provide his own knowledge and viewpoint, rather than have his actions characterized by third-parties, including his former employer,” lawyer JB Harris said.

The Howard lawyer added that his comment to a family member regarding “electoral fraud” was viewed by both parties as “gallows humor.”

The discussion of the text came in between testimony by Pecker, who returned to the stand Thursday. His testimony is centered on “catch-and-kill” operations involving McDougal, adult film actress Stormy Daniels and a doorman at Trump Tower, in order to keep bad news about Trump from coming to light while he ran for president.

McDougal was one of the women paid off to keep quiet about an alleged affair with the former president, who has denied the allegation. Pecker described how he communicated with Trump’s ex-fixer, Michael Cohen, about how AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer, would purchase McDougal’s story.

Pecker said during his testimony that he enlisted the help of Howard, the magazine’s editor, to negotiate a deal with McDougal to get the lifetime rights from her about her alleged affair with Trump so that the allegation would never come to light. Pecker said Thursday that AMI purchased the McDougal story so no other organization would.

“We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign,” he said, referring to himself and Cohen.

Pecker’s testimony so far has demonstrated how he used “checkbook journalism” to pay off sources who had unflattering stories about Trump. The hush money case brought against the former president largely stems from payments made by Cohen to Daniels, who has also alleged an affair with the former president.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection to reimbursements made to Cohen for paying Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair.

Updated April 26 at 8:43 a.m.

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