This July 12, 2017, file photo shows the cover of an issue of the National Enquirer featuring President Donald Trump at a store in New York.
Mary Altaffer/AP Photo, file

Why the prosecutors’ deal with National Enquirer parent is so important

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/12/18, 9:52 PM ET

National Enquirer pay-off eyed as 'catch and kill' to help Trump

Jeff Horwitz, reporter for the Associated Press, talks with Rachel Maddow about the befuddling story of the National Enquirer paying a source $30,000 apparently to quash a rumor about Donald Trump, and the role of Michael Cohen in that transaction.
Michael Cohen receiving a 36-month prison sentence is unwelcome news for his former boss, Donald Trump. But today’s revelations, also from prosecutors in New York, about the president’s former tabloid, are almost certainly worse.

The company that publishes the National Enquirer admitted that it paid $150,000 hush money to silence alleged mistresses of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election, prosecutors said Wednesday.

American Media Inc. will avoid prosecution by stipulating that it worked with Trump’s campaign to buy the silence of women – who have identified themselves as adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – ahead of the vote two years ago, prosecutors said.

In a press statement, federal prosecutors explained the terms of agreement with AMI – the National Enquirer’s parent company – in connection with the company admitting making the hush-money payoff to one of Trump’s alleged former mistresses.

Specifically, prosecutors said AMI also admitted it made the payment “in concert with” the Trump campaign, in order to “suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

The company would apparently be facing prosecution for campaign-finance crimes, were it not for “its substantial and important assistance in this investigation.”

All of this is coming to light now, despite the agreement between the company and prosecutors being reached months ago, because the case against Cohen included his work with AMI to make the illegal payment to Karen McDougal.

As for why today’s revelations are so important, there are a few angles to keep in mind as the story continues to unfold. First, this represents additional evidence of Donald Trump’s political operation acting outside the law before the president’s election.

Second, many of Trump’s allies, including several Republican senators, have made the argument that they’re skeptical of criminal allegations against Trump because Cohen is a dubious source. As of today, we need not take Cohen’s word for it: federal prosecutors also have proof provided by the publishers of Trump’s favorite tabloid.

And third, one of the keys to Trump’s legal defense is the John Edwards argument: sure, there were hush-money payoffs to alleged mistresses, but they were, the argument goes, about personal embarrassment, not the campaign.

AMI has now admitted to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York that they worked “in concert with” the Republican campaign in order to “suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

So much for the John Edwards defense.

* Postscript: A round of applause for the Wall Street Journal, which got every inch of this story right from the start.

* Second Postscript: If you’re brand new to this story and want some background information, take a look at our coverage from August.

Donald Trump and Scandals

Why the prosecutors' deal with National Enquirer parent is so important

Updated