Prosecutors reportedly granted immunity to David Pecker, the CEO of the company that publishes National Enquirer, as part of their investigation into President Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
Pecker met with the prosecution to discuss Cohen’s involvement in Trump’s hush-money deals with women leading up to the 2016 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Pecker has emerged as a central figure in the scandal involving the payments. CNN last month released audio of Trump and Cohen discussing payment to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, in which Cohen apparently references Pecker, telling Trump that he needs “to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David.”
Dylan Howard, the chief content officer at American Media, the Enquirer’s publisher, will also not be criminally charged, according to the Journal. Neither the two men nor American Media responded to the newspaper’s request for comment.
Pecker’s possible involvement in the payments first drew attention when The Wall Street Journal reported
in November 2016 that the Enquirer had withheld a story about an alleged affair McDougal had with Trump.
The Enquirer reportedly paid McDougal $150,000 for a story about the alleged affair in 2006, but never published it.
People familiar with McDougal’s account told the newspaper that the affair lasted for approximately 10 months to a year.
The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president, and Pecker has long been on friendly terms with him.
Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges on Tuesday, including one count of making an excessive campaign contribution on Oct. 27, 2016, the same date Cohen finalized a payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels for her silence over an affair she says she had with Trump.
According to the Journal, Pecker’s information seems to have informed the prosecutors’ charging documents, which were revealed Tuesday.
The payment was completed a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election and Cohen said that he did so at the behest of “a candidate for federal office.”
Along with the $130,000 payment to Daniels, Cohen admitted to completing an $150,000 illegal contribution, the same amount McDougal was reportedly paid by publishers at the Enquirer.
Cohen’s plea deal leaves the president open to new legal dangers. On Tuesday, Cohen alluded to the president’s involvement in campaign finance violations, which has led some liberals to push for Trump’s impeachment
Additionally, New York state investigators issued a subpoena
to the president’s former lawyer as part of their investigation into Russian election interference, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.