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At the Trump trial, a witness recounts his hunt for scandals to protect the billionaire

Photo: Yuki Iwamura Pool Getty Images via Agence France-Presse Donald Trump awaiting the start of his trial Tuesday in New York

Maggy Donaldson – Agence France-Presse and Andréa Bambino – Agence France-Presse in New York

Posted at 12:23 p.m. Updated at 6:56 p.m.

  • United States

The first witness called to the stand at the trial of Donald Trump, the former boss of an American tabloid, detailed Tuesday in the New York court how he had put himself at the service of his campaign in 2016 to hunt for scandals, claiming to have discussed this plan in front of him.

Pale pink tie, mustache, receding hairline and slicked back hair, David Pecker, who owned The National Enquirer, one of those magazines with shocking headlines that you find on supermarket shelves, took the jurors behind the scenes of his friend “Donald”’s conquest of the White House. Key testimony for the prosecution, which wants to see the Republican candidate in 2024 convicted for concealing the $130,000 payment made to former porn actress Stormy Daniels at the end of the 2016 campaign.

The money was used to buy the silence of the woman who claims to have had a sexual relationship in 2006 with the Republican billionaire – which he denies – while he was already married to Melania Trump. However, David Pecker played a role in this type of bargaining, known as “ catch and kill“.

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Silence the scandals

The two men have known each other since 1989 and like each other, says Mr. Pecker. The 72-year-old newspaper boss bought The National Enquirer in 1999, and his newspaper is benefiting from the success of the reality TV show The Apprentice and its variation with stars from the world of entertainment.

In 2015, after the announcement of Donald Trump's candidacy for the White House, “I saw him more frequently, maybe once a month”, he explains to the jurors under the eyes of the former President of the United States, with drawn features and a tired look on Tuesday .

August 2015, David Pecker has a meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Present are Donald Trump, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his advisor, Hope Hicks. “Donald Trump and Michael Cohen asked me what I could do, what my magazines could do to help his campaign. […] I said I would publish positive articles about Trump and negative articles about his opponents,” says Mr. Pecker. “And I also said that I would be eyes and ears” to monitor the community for any scandal ready to come out.

“It was clear, according to my experience, that when someone runs for such public office, women call a magazine like The National Enquirer< /i>to try to sell their stories,” he says again. “All I said was I’d go see Michael Cohen,” he continues. “When I informed him of a negative article, he would try to see if it was true or not. He would then contact the publication concerned to ensure that the article was buried,” assures David Pecker.

How did Donald Trump react to this service offer ? requests the prosecutor. “He was satisfied,” replies David Pecker.

The pressman gets to work when he learns that a doorman at Trump Tower is selling “a story of an illegitimate child” by Donald Trump. “I immediately called Michael Cohen. » Subsequently, $30,000 was paid to the doorman to keep quiet. $150,000 was also paid to a former Playboy magazine model, Karen McDougal, for her silence about a relationship with the White House candidate.

For the prosecution, these episodes are crucial to show that a ploy existed to cover up any scandal. Donald Trump is being prosecuted for 34 counts of falsifying accounting documents from his group of companies, the Trump Organization, to conceal payments to Stormy Daniels. Donald Trump's lawyer, Todd Blanche, insisted on the legality of the payments: far from a conspiracy, he saw it as the normal functioning of a “democracy”.

Possible contempt ?

On Tuesday, the court also examined possible sanctions against Donald Trump for contempt, because of his online attacks on witnesses and jurors. Prosecutors believe that the Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election repeatedly violated the magistrate's ban on attacking them.

They called for maximum fines ($1,000 per offending post) and a reminder to Donald Trump that incarceration remains “an option if necessary.” The judge has not made a decision on the matter, although he has already issued a warning to the former US president.

The trial of Donald Trump , like the testimony of David Pecker, continues Thursday, after a one-day break.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116