Tabloid Boss David Pecker Dishes on Killing Trump Love Child Rumor

Yuki Iwamura/Getty
Yuki Iwamura/Getty

Former National Enquirer boss David Pecker testified on Tuesday that he agreed to be Donald Trump’s “eyes and ears” during the then-presidential candidate’s campaign for the White House, describing in detail a “highly, highly confidential” effort to bury bad stories about Trump and promote negative ones about his political rivals.

The bombshell moment about the so-called catch-and-kill scheme came amid Pecker’s hours-long time on the stand, during which he explained the levers his tabloid pulled in helping get Trump elected.

Pecker said it all began in mid-August 2015, when he attended a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump and his former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen. According to Pecker, Cohen invited him there, saying “the boss” wanted to see him.

At the meeting, Cohen and Trump asked him to “help the campaign,” Pecker told prosecutor Joshua Steinglass.

“I would publish positive stories about Mr. Trump and negative stories about his opponents,” Pecker testified as a peevish-looking Trump sat at the defense table. “I would also be the eyes and ears of… the Trump Organization.”

Pecker promised Trump that if he heard anything untoward about Trump, or if he became aware of “women selling stories,” that he would notify Cohen, who would then “be able to get them killed.”

Trump “was pleased” about this, Pecker testified.

“I thought there would be a lot of women trying to sell their stories,” Pecker said. “Mr. Trump was well-known as the most-eligible bachelor, and dated the most beautiful women, and it was clear, based on my past experience, that when someone’s running for public office like this, it was very common for these women to call up a magazine like the National Enquirer to try to sell their stories.”

Negative stories about other candidates were “of mutual benefit,” Pecker said, noting a bump in newsstand sales when those articles hit the front page. Conversely, purchasing a story to suppress negative information about Trump did not benefit the Enquirer at all, but did protect the Trump campaign, Pecker explained.

None of this was ever put into writing, it was “just an agreement among friends,” he said.

The agreement was “highly, highly confidential,” Pecker went on, saying he informed only his top three lieutenants at the Enquirer about it. Pecker said he wanted to keep the arrangement secret because “we were going to try to help the campaign.”

Pecker told the Enquirer’s chief content officer and the publication’s top two East Coast and West Coast editors that “any stories out there, commenting about Donald Trump, commenting about his family, commenting about the election, whatever it may be, I want you to vet the stories, bring them to me, and then we’ll have to speak to Michael Cohen.”

The Enquirer subsequently published a series of pro-Trump articles, Pecker testified. One of those many headlines, which were displayed to the jury on Tuesday, read, “Donald Trump: The Man Behind the Legend.”

Steinglass then walked Pecker through the thinking behind a series of negative articles the Enquirer published about Trump’s opponents. He asked Pecker how these subjects were chosen, to which he said the decisions stemmed from the Republican debates leading up to the November 2016 election. Those who turned in successful debate performances would be targeted for nasty coverage, according to Pecker.

“Michael Cohen would call me and say, ‘We would like for you to run a negative article on a certain—let’s say, Ted Cruz—and then he would send me, ‘he’ being Michael Cohen, would send me information about Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson, or Marco Rubio. And that was the basis of our story, And then, we would embellish it from there.”

The “we” in these instances, Pecker testified, meant himself and “Mr. Trump.”

Prosecutors projected some of those negative stories onto a handful of courtroom TVs.

One of the negative headlines shown to jurors read, “BUNGLING SURGEON BEN CARSON LEFT SPONGE IN PATIENT’S BRAIN!”



Beyond his intraparty rivals, Pecker said he also helped Trump slam presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Her name, along with husband Bill’s, came up during the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting, according to Pecker.

He said that the Clintons always translated into massive sales for the Enquirer, and that anything about “Bill Clinton’s womanizing” was especially popular.

In October 2015, Pecker said he orchestrated a plot to deep-six an unflattering tip brought to him by ex-Enquirer Editor-in-Chief Dylan Howard. It involved a doorman at Trump Tower named Dino Sajuda, who “was in the market selling a story that Donald Trump fathered an illegitimate girl with a maid at Trump Tower, and [that] the maid worked in Mr. Trump’s penthouse.”

Pecker testified that he “immediately called Michael Cohen” to fill him in, and asked him to verify that Sajuda and the housekeeper were on the Trump Organization payroll. Cohen said they did indeed work there, but that the story was “absolutely not true.”

Still, Pecker said he’d pay $30,000 for the rights to the story because he “believed it should be removed from the market.” Trump said he’d take a DNA test, but Pecker said that wouldn’t be necessary because the story would never see the light of day while Trump was running. To this, Cohen replied, “The boss would be very pleased.”

If the tale was eventually verified, Pecker said he would have held off on publishing until after the election.

“If the story was true, and I published it, it would be the biggest sales of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley,” Pecker said.

During his time on the stand, Pecker said he first met Cohen in early 2000 at the bar mitzvah of the son of one of his company’s vendors. He then saw Cohen again in 2007, Trump told Pecker that he hired Cohen, who lived in one of his condos, and that he’s “done great things” for him.

Pecker said his own friendship with Trump at first involved monthly or quarterly phone calls. After Trump announced his candidacy, however, their communications became far more frequent, with the two sometimes checking in daily with each other. Pecker said the Enquirer conducted a poll, and that 80 percent of its readers “would like to see Mr. Trump run for president.” Trump later cited the poll in an interview with Matt Lauer as one of the reasons he decided to run.

When Trump planned to formally announce his candidacy, Pecker said he got an email from Cohen, asking him to attend.

“No one deserves to be there more than you,” Cohen said in an email displayed to the jury on Tuesday. He told Pecker that he would save him a seat “next to me on the atrium floor.”

“I was there when Mr. Trump and Melania came down the staircase [sic], and went up to the podium,” Pecker recalled.

Although Pecker referred to the ex-president as “Mr. Trump” during his testimony, he said the two were on a first-name basis in their regular lives.

“When you spoke to Mr. Trump, what did you call him?” Steinglass asked, to which Pecker replied, “I would call him Donald.”

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