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David Pecker Will Testify in Trump Hush Money Trial

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Prosecutors have been reluctant to reveal the order in which witnesses will testify in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York. However, the New York Times has discovered who will open the trial.

According to The Times, following the opening arguments, David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, whose tabloid used “catch and kill” tactics to suppress critical articles about Trump, will be the first to speak.

Prosecutors will argue that the payments made to Stormy Daniels in exchange for hush money amounted to election meddling. Pecker “is expected to recount for the jury several conversations with Mr. Trump about the hush money, according to a person familiar with the plan,” according to Times reporters Ben Protess and John Bromwich, who covered the testimony.

Prosecutors fear that despite a gag order prohibiting him from disparaging the witnesses in the case, Trump will still target them. Trump has decried the gag order on numerous occasions.

As noted by Reuters, here’s a look at Pecker’s role and what he may testify about:

–Pecker was the chief executive of American Media and publisher of tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer from 1999 until August 2020.

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–He was a longtime friend of Trump who helped cover up potentially damaging stories about the businessman and candidate ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

–Prosecutors say Pecker met with Trump and his former attorney Michel Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 to discuss using the National Enquirer to suppress negative stories about Trump by buying exclusive rights to them and never publishing them – a practice known as “catch and kill.”

–One of those instances involved adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump and was paid $130,000 not to tell any other media about it.

Trump is on trial in New York City on felony charges regarding a 2016 payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

In April of last year, Trump entered a not guilty plea to a 34-count indictment that accused him of fabricating business records concerning a hush money payment to Daniels that his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to her in an attempt to improve his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.

In addition to denying the meeting with Daniels, Trump claimed the payment was for personal use and had nothing to do with the campaign.

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Federal investigators subpoenaed Pecker and American Media in April 2018, and the companies gave prosecutors information regarding Cohen’s payment to Daniels. Afterward, Pecker received immunity in return for testifying about Trump’s awareness of the payment.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass announced that Pecker would also testify about running stories in the tabloid to support Trump’s 2016 campaign.

According to a person familiar with the situation, Pecker testified before the Manhattan grand jury that looked into Trump at least twice, in January and March of 2023.

In 2018, Cohen entered a guilty plea to federal charges related to the payoff and was sentenced to prison for a variety of offenses, including violations of campaign finance laws.

In 2018, American Media Inc. (AMI), the company that published the National Enquirer at the time, admitted to giving former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal $150,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged relationship with Trump before the 2016 election.

Trump, who denies any wrongdoing in the New York criminal case, has repeatedly criticized it as a politically motivated witch hunt.

An attorney and spokeswoman for Trump attacked the New York justice system and those involved in prosecuting Trump in a so-called “hush money” case.

Alina Habba alleged that there is a “coordinated effort” between officials in the Democratic super-majority state and the Biden administration to legally hamstring the current president’s political rival.

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