Trump trial: David Pecker says he declined to pay for Stormy Daniels affair story

Daily News
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Trump trial: David Pecker says he declined to pay for Stormy Daniels affair story

Donald Trump sits in a Manhattan Criminal Courtroom with members of his legal team for the continuation of his hush money trial in New York City  on April 25, 2024.

Spencer Platt | Via Reuters

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker said Thursday he refused to protect Donald Trump before the 2016 election by paying porn star Stormy Daniels for her story of having sex with the then-presidential candidate years earlier.

Pecker, the first witness to testify in Trump’s New York criminal hush money trial, said he declined to kill Daniels’ story by acquiring it for $120,000 and then burying it.

“I am not a bank,” Pecker said he recalled telling the tabloid’s editor in chief, Dylan Howard.

Pecker noted on the stand that his publishing company had already paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman and $150,000 to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal to silence negative news about Trump during the 2016 election.

Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen asked Pecker to pay for Daniels’ story as well, but Pecker said he refused. “I am not going to be involved with a porn star,” the former CEO of American Media testified.

Pecker added that Cohen, who ultimately paid Daniels $130,000 with his own money, later complained to him that he had not yet been reimbursed by Trump.

Pecker gave that testimony just feet away from Trump, who is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying Daniels’ silence.

Pecker also testified Thursday that he believed Trump would reimburse him if he bought the story from McDougal, who claimed she had an extramarital affair with the former president.

Pecker testified that he told the then-presidential candidate in a June 2016 phone call that he should buy the story to “take it off the market.”

Cohen, in a follow-up conversation, told Pecker to purchase McDougal’s story, saying, “don’t worry, I’m your friend — the boss will take care of it,” according to the ex-CEO’s testimony.

Pecker, who believed the story to be true, said he understood that to mean “that I would be either reimbursed by the Trump Organization or by Donald Trump.”

The former tabloid publisher also testified that the purpose of buying McDougal’s story was to suppress negative news about Trump before the 2016 election.

“We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign,” Pecker said.

He testified that American Media was never reimbursed for the $150,000 payment to McDougal.

While Pecker testified Thursday morning, lawyers for Trump argued before the Supreme Court that he cannot be prosecuted in a federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., because he was president at the time the alleged crimes took place.

In this courtroom sketch, former U.S. President Donald Trump watches as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass questions David Pecker during Trump’s criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City on April 25, 2024.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

The courtroom split-screen underscores the extent to which Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is weighed down by his copious legal battles while campaigning to unseat President Joe Biden.

Trump is required to be in Manhattan Supreme Court for his criminal trial. Judge Juan Merchan denied Trump’s request to skip at least part of the trial day Thursday to attend the Supreme Court oral arguments.

The trial, which began in earnest Monday with opening statements, is expected to last six weeks.

Thursday’s testimony marked Pecker’s third day on the witness stand. On Tuesday, he detailed how he agreed to help Trump’s 2016 campaign by alerting the then-candidate of damaging information and working to keep it from the public.

He described his involvement in a deal to pay a former Trump Tower doorman $30,000 for his story that Trump had fathered a child with his maid.

While he would conclude the story was untrue, Pecker said he bought the exclusive rights to the story in order to have it “removed from the market.”

“I made the decision to buy the story because of the potential embarrassment to the campaign and Mr. Trump,” he testified.

Pecker also said he and his tabloid would “embellish” negative stories about Trump’s political rivals after being asked to do so by Cohen.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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