Former National Enquirer publisher admits paying $150,000 to Playboy model for Trump story despite 'no corroborating evidence'

Pecker said Howard told him "he believed the story could be true, or was true, but she had no corroborating evidence."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Testimony from David Pecker, former chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, continued on Thursday in Manhattan Da Alvin Bragg’s falsified business records case against Donald Trump

Pecker’s testimony began on Thursday morning with prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asking about a conversation Pecker had with former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard after Howard interviewed former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal regarding an alleged sexual relationship she had with Trump, according to CNN. 

Pecker said Howard told him "he believed the story could be true, or was true, but she had no corroborating evidence." 

Pecker said Howard offered McDougal $10,000 to buy her story, but she refused. He testified contacted former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who told Pecker "it’s not true" that he would check out the story.  

Pecker said that ABC was interested in buying the story as well as a "Mexican group" which offered to buy it for $1 million. 

Pecker testified that McDougal did not want the story to be published. "She said that she didn't want to be the next Monica Lewinsky. She wanted to restart her career." 

He said that he received a call from Trump, who allegedly told him, "I spoke to Michael. Karen is a nice girl. Is it true that a Mexican group is looking to buy the story for $8 million?" 

Pecker said Trump asked what he should do, adding that Pecker responded, "I think you should buy the story and take it off the market." 

Pecker said that Cohen told him regarding buying the story, "Don't worry. I’m your friend. The boss will take care of it." 

He said he took this as meaning the Trump Organization or Trump himself would reimburse him, but added, "Over the years that I know, that I worked with Michael Cohen, I know he didn’t have any authorization to spend or to disperse any funds from Trump Organization." 

Pecker said that a contract was signed in the first week of August 2016, with McDougal being paid $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story. McDougal would also get a monthly column in Star and OK Magazines. 

Pecker said that Cohen wanted the lifetime rights of McDougal’s story signed over to him. "Michael Cohen wanted the contract yesterday, and this was going towards the end of September." 

In October, the agreement to sign over the rights of the story fell through, with Pecker telling Cohen to "rip up the agreement." 

"[Cohen] was very angry, very upset. Screaming at me basically," Pecker said. Cohen reportedly told him over the phone, "The boss is going to be very angry with you"." 

The AMI agreement with McDougal was later amended when McDougal’s lawyer called, explaining that she wanted to speak to the press.  This came after the Wall Street Journal published a story on the agreement. Cohen warned against amending the agreement, but Pecker said he amended it. 

Prosecutors on Thursday afternoon began questioning Pecker before breaking for lunch about porn star Stormy Daniels, who has been at the center of the Bragg case against Trump.  

Pecker said Howard approached him about Daniels’ story, with Pecker being told she was "trying to sell a story that she had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump." 

Pecker said that Howard told him they could acquire the story for $120,000. 

"Woman wants 120k. Has offers from Mail and GMA want her to talk and do lie detector live. I know the denials were made in the past - but this story is true. I can lock it on publication now to shut down the media chatter and we can assess next steps thereafter. OK?" Howard texted Pecker on October 9, 2016, CNN reported. 

Pecker responded, "We can’t pay 120k." 

"Ok. They'd need to handle. Perhaps I call Michael and advise him and he can take it from there, and handle," Howard responded, later texting, "Spoke to MC. All sorted. Now removed. No fingerprints. I'll recap with you face-to-face." 

Pecker had explained earlier that "no fingerprints" meant there was no paper trail and "AMI would have no association with the story." 

Pecker, explaining why AMI couldn’t pay the amount for the story, said that he didn’t want the "National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star," adding that Walmart was a main distributor of the magazine and this would cause issues. 

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Pecker why he sent Daniels’ story to Cohen, to which Pecker said it could be "very damaging" and thought it should come off the market. 

"If anyone was going to buy it, I thought Michael and Donald Trump should buy it," Pecker said. 

Pecker told Cohen "I am not purchasing this story. I am not going to be involved with a porn star." 

Cohen allegedly told him that "the boss" would be furious with Pecker. 

"We’re not paying out any more monies," Pecker said he told Cohen. 

Pecker said he later learned that Cohen paid Daniels with his own money. 

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