The National Enquirer has had a pretty close relationship with President Trump throughout his time in the public eye, but it seems there is even more than meets the eye to their collaboration.
The Associated Press reports that the publication kept a safe with papers detailing hush money payments, as well as lurid details of damaging stories, all stories the publication had killed to maintain its cordial and cozy relationship with then-candidate Donald Trump. Now that he is the president, it seems the relationship continued.
Other media outlets report that longtime Trump pal and National Enquirer head David Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors on Thursday, which could mean that the details contained in the stories and documents are more damaging than Pecker's actions in hiding them. Prosecutors want the information and are willing to grant him immunity in order to hear details, one might surmise.
An anonymous source with ties to American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, said that the safe provided Pecker with a great source of power. Some news outlets have a practice of "catching and killing" stories, where they pay for the rights to the story without ever intending to publish it. Their hope in those situations is that they can then ask the celebrity or public figure involved for favors down the road. Hushing up a major story can be seen as an investment for the future.
The source also stated that the safe contained details of other celebrities' so-called "catch and kill" deals, which seems to bolster the idea that the practice was fairly common at the National Enquirer. However, the lucrative method showed it had vulnerabilities just before the 2016 election, when the Wall Street Journal broke the details of Playboy model Karen McDougal's catch and kill deal. The model reportedly had an affair with Trump early on in his marriage to Melania.
American Media has denied that it has any leverage over the president due to these deals, and initially refused to cooperate with law enforcement, saying they had not disobeyed any laws. However, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's tapes feature a conversation between Trump and Cohen about buying back the rights so they don't have to rely on the relationship any longer.
Court papers in the Cohen case say Pecker "offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump's) relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."
With Pecker's cooperation, more details about catch and kill stories are likely to be brought to light.