The Wall Street Journal (the relatively reputable sister company to Fox News) has now broken two stories about porn stars who were paid off by Trump supporters during his presidential campaign shortly before the 2016 election to keep them quiet about their affairs with Trump after both had been negotiating with ABC News to publicize their affairs. Both shared the same lawyer and secured similar payouts. It isn’t illegal to commit adultery with porn stars, but it is illegal to get huge in-kind campaign contributions that are not reported and it is illegal to funnel campaign funds into secret bribe payments. Numerous politicians (notably John Edwards which the National Enquirer first exposed) have had their political careers wrecked for this kind of thing over the years.
The company that owns the National Enquirer, a backer of Donald Trump, agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy centerfold model for her story of an affair a decade ago with the Republican presidential nominee, but then didn’t publish it, …Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year …told friends was a consensual romantic relationship she had with Mr. Trump in 2006. At the time, Mr. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania. Quashing stories that way is known in the tabloid world as “catch and kill.”
…In July, Ms. McDougal was in talks with producers at ABC News to tell her story, but she ultimately agreed to the deal with AMI, guided by her lawyer Keith Davidson… Mr. Davidson also represented …a former adult-film star whose professional name is Stormy Daniels and who was in discussions with ABC’s “Good Morning America” …to publicly disclose what she said was a past relationship with Mr. Trump… [but she too] cut off contact with the network without telling her story.
After the above story was published, the WSJ likewise discovered that Stormy Daniels used the same lawyer to negotiate $130,000 from Trump’s lawyer to keep her affair with Trump quiet too. Like the previous story, she has also been negotiating to publicize her story on ABC News.
The WSJ explained that the CEO of the Enquirer is Trump’s personal friend and political supporter who had an incentive to pay the Playboy centerfold to keep quiet during Trump’s campaign about their affair:
Mr. Trump and American Media Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David J. Pecker are longtime friends. Since last year, the Enquirer has supported Mr. Trump’s presidential bid, endorsing him and publishing negative articles about some of his opponents.
In a written statement, Mr. Pecker said that it is no secret that he and Mr. Trump are friends and that he greatly admires him.
…Mr. Trump’s relationship with Mr. Pecker, the chairman of American Media, is well-documented. In the 1990s, when Mr. Pecker was president and chief executive of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, the publisher put out “Trump Style,” a custom quarterly magazine distributed to guests at Trump properties.
As the presidential race ramped up last year, the Enquirer published a series of columns by Mr. Trump. One began, “I am the only one who can make America great again!” Another was headlined, “Donald Trump: The Man Behind the Legend!”
Mr. Pecker claimed that the money was not just to keep the former porn star from telling her story anymore, but also for her to write a column in the National Enquirer. I was unable to find any evidence that they have published any columns in my Google searches, so it is hard to imagine that the columns were worth $150,000 if nobody can read them. On the other hand, the story about the affair generated a huge amount of publicity and could have earned the Enquirer a lot of money if they had published it rather than hiding it. The Enquirer could still make a lot of money by publishing the salacious details that they are normally so good at reporting, but the Enquirer has continued to forego these profits for some strange reason.
Again, this LOOKS a lot like a secret, in-kind $150,000 illegal campaign contribution to Trump from his friend, just like the $130,000 hush payment that Trump’s lawyer admits he paid. With so much of the story already in public Stormy Daniels’ manager now says that despite the hush money, “Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story.” Can you even imagine Pence having problems with this kind of corruption? It is inconceivable. Pence for President, 2018.
One of the most thought provoking factoids of these stories is this quote: “Quashing stories that way is known in the tabloid world as ‘catch and kill.'” This is such a common practice in the tabloid world that they need a special name for it? Why would there gossip papers like The Enquirer regularly pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for salacious stories just to keep them out of print? There are only two logical answers. Either they CEOs of the tabloids have lots of sleazy friends that they regularly pay hush money to protect or else they regularly make extortion money on the side by asking rich people for money to keep their lurid stories out of print. Given the overall ethical standards of the tabloids, I’d put money on the second explanation and I’d love to see an exposé about this practice. But so far, there seems to be more evidence for the first explanation. The only other example of catch and kill I could find was surprisingly similar to the Trump story. The Enquirer also kept a Schwarzenegger affair quiet during one of his first gubernatorial election at a time when he was allied with their business!
UPDATE: It turns out that “catch and kill‘ is mainly used to get leverage over famous people and get them to do what the business wants. In other words, extorsion. And the Enquirer bought secret leverage to extort influence over the President of the United States! Something similar happened with Trump’s Stormy Daniels affair. A shadowy Russian is offering to sell Trump’s infamous “pee tape” for influence purposes too. How many more people have bought influence over Trump? This is why Pence will be a much more reliable President. His sexual life is not complicated and compromising and Pence doesn’t have lots of shadowy business deals either. Pence2018!
This problem is why Rob Porter was denied a security clearance too. He was secretly horribly abusive to his past spouses and girlfriends and lies related to this led to his resignation or perhaps his firing depending on which official White House story you believe. Trump would not get a security clearance if he were any ordinary member of his administration and he would get fired for his behavior if he were working for Trump, just like Flynn, Porter, and others. 130 more Trump officials lacked security clearances. I wonder what additional skeletons will come out of the White House closets related to why they haven’t secured security clearances. As Maya Kosof reports, the biggest problem is that, “the president of the United States is vulnerable to blackmail”:
While some of the seedier allegations in Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier have not been verified, the central thesis of the dossier seems increasingly likely: that Trump’s long history of alleged affairs make him uniquely susceptible to blackmail. Pecker’s A.M.I. told The New Yorker, “the suggestion that A.M.I. holds any influence over the President of the United States, while flattering, is laughable.” But the real worry isn’t whether the president’s friends, like Pecker or attorney Michael Cohen—who told the Hive he spent $130,000 to keep another alleged affair quiet—have power over the president. It’s whether additional alleged affairs and cover-ups are known to foreign governments, like Russia. If Rob Porter’s alleged history of domestic abuse and Jared Kushner’s mountains of debt were concerning enough to delay their ability to get permanent security clearances, then Trump’s history is a five-alarm fire.
Update: The reason sleaze like this is illegal is that it makes public servants vulnerable to blackmail and bribery. Trump’s well-documented behavior makes him particularly vulnerable. Circumstantial evidence is building that Trump also had an affair with Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard who got paid $1.6 million by Trump fixer Michael Cohen to buy her silence and pay for an abortion at about the same time Cohen was paying Heather and Stormy and Shera was represented in this sordid affair by the same lawyer who represented Trumps other two ex-girlfriends. That lawyer’s name is:
Keith Davidson. (Davidson has since been fired by McDougal, Daniels, and Bechard, as all three women have apparently come to the all too plausible conclusion that Davidson was actually working with Michael Cohen to protect Trump, rather than independently representing their interests, as he was legally required to do after he accepted them as clients.)
According to the official Trumpworld story, Elliott Broidy, a wealthy Republican fundraiser had the affair with Shera, but none of the details of that story fit with Broidy’s character and history. Broidy doesn’t have a history of sexual affairs with adult entertainers, Trump does. But Broidy does have a history of corruption and so the simplest story is that Trump actually had the affair with Shera and Broidy illegally bribed Trump by paying for Shera’s hush money and helping Trump distance himself from the affair shortly before the election. That could also explain Broidy’s sudden closeness with Trump after the hush money was paid.