I first started highlighting the National Enquirer's support for Donald Trump a year and a half ago, after noticing at the grocery-store checkout line a series of embarrassingly complimentary headlines for the Republican. I didn't realize at the time how much further this would go.
We've known for a while, for example, about the tabloid's parent company, American Media Inc., paying former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story about her extra-marital affair with Trump. Once AMI brought the exclusive rights, the company buried the story so no one would hear about it.
The Associated Press published a related report overnight, highlighting AMI's $30,000 payment to Dino Sajudin, a doorman at one of Trump's buildings, which also happened during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumor he'd heard about Trump's sex life -- that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations.The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.
Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney, acknowledged to the Associated Press that he'd spoken to the National Enquirer's parent company about the doorman's story.
That's the same Cohen whose office and hotel room was raided by the FBI this week, with federal law enforcement reportedly seeking information on, among other things, Cohen's role facilitating hush-money payments to protect Trump.
The AP article added, "The parallel between the ex-Playmate's and the ex-doorman's dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump's image during a hard-fought presidential election."
I have no idea if the rumor the doorman heard had any merit, and ultimately, I don't much care. What's of far greater interest is coming to terms with the scope and scale of the mechanisms that may have been in place to buy the silence of those who might have been able to embarrass Donald Trump during his campaign.
We know, for example, about Michael Cohen's role in paying hush money to Stormy Daniels. We also know about American Media Inc. and its role in financing a classic "catch-and-kill" deal with another alleged Trump mistress. Now we're learning about an instance in which the National Enquirer's parent company reportedly sought to silence a Trump doorman.
It hardly seems outrageous to start wondering about possible campaign-finance law violations.
Postscript: An Enquirer editor told the AP that the tabloid bought the rights to the story, pursued it, but ended up abandoning the story because it lacked credibility. Four longtime Enquirer staffers, however, told the AP they were "ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story before completing potentially promising reporting threads."
Second Postscript: The New York Times had a related report today on the deep ties between Trump, American Media Inc., and the company's chairman, David Pecker, who is a close friend of the president's.
The article noted, "Since the early stages of his campaign in 2015, Mr. Trump, his lawyer Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies."
One More Postscript: An AMI spokesperson told NBC News, "AMI categorically denies that President Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a 'love child' that it determined was not credible. The fact that no other news organization has subsequently been able to validate the story after AMI released the subject from his exclusivity clause confirms the basis for our editorial decision. For a fuller and more accurate portrayal of the facts, please read Dylan Howard’s article on RadarOnline."