The chairman of the company that owns the National Enquirer and a longtime friend of President Trump has been granted immunity in the case surrounding payments made to women who alleged that they had affairs with Trump.
The news comes as Trump told Fox News in an interview aired today that he thinks providing evidence to the state should possibly be illegal, and two days after former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s surprise guilty pleas to eight felonies including campaign finance violations.
Cohen told the judge in court that a $130,000 payment — what porn star Stormy Daniels said Cohen paid her — was made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and was later repaid by the candidate. Cohen also admitted to arranging a $150,000 payment through American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, which purchased yet did not publish former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story alleging an affair with Trump before the election.
The Daniels payment was charged as an excessive personal contribution and the National Enquirer money was charged as an unlawful corporate contribution, both “for the principle purpose of influencing the election,” Cohen said in court.
David Pecker, chairman of AMI, along with AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard have been granted immunity to tell prosecutors what they know about the arrangement, reported Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal.
Pecker and Trump have been friends since the 1990s and the Enquirer boss visited the White House last year, but Vanity Fair reported that the two had a falling out and haven’t spoken for eight months. Still, VF reported, friends thought Pecker “would be the last one to turn.”
Pecker and his company were subpoenaed in April, when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room.
Trump told Fox that “one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial” instead of turning state’s evidence. Manafort faces another trial in D.C. next month on seven charges surrounding his lobbying for foreign clients and alleged witness tampering.
“This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail, and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair, because if somebody’s going to give — spend five years, like Michael Cohen, or 10 years or 15 years in jail because of a taxicab industry, or because he defrauded some bank — the last two were the tiny ones. You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly,” Trump said.
“But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years — which is the deal he made — in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” the president added. “And I’ve seen it many times. I’ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.”
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by Trump, tweeted in response, “The man who says he wants to drain the swamp and eradicate MS-13 wants to outlaw flipping. Good luck with that.”