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Who is 'our friend David?' Meet tabloid king David Pecker

"Um," Michael Cohen said on his tape with Donald Trump, "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that ...

Posted: Jul 25, 2018 6:09 PM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 6:09 PM

"Um," Michael Cohen said on his tape with Donald Trump, "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David."

Who is the friend? All signs point to "David" being David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., the owner of the National Enquirer.

Trump and Pecker have a long and mutually beneficial history. Although American Media Inc. says the two men do not speak "regularly," they have a friendship that dates back decades.

American Media Inc. has been accused -- by former employees and others -- of buying and covering up stories that could have hurt Trump. This tactic, known as "catch and kill," has been highlighted in the case of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who alleged an affair with Trump. Pecker's company bought the rights to her story, but never published it.

Related: 'Catch and kill': How a tabloid shields Trump from troublesome stories

On the Trump-Cohen tape from September 2016, which was broadcast by CNN on Tuesday night, Cohen seems to be bringing up the McDougal case, although he never says so explicitly.

"So what are we gonna pay--" Trump asks.

"Yes, um, and it's all the stuff," Cohen says. He repeats: "All the stuff, all the stuff because you never know where that company -- you never know where he's gonna be."

What if, Trump suggests, Pecker "gets hit by a truck?" Meaning, what if his friend is no longer in charge of the company that owns some of his secrets?

"Correct," Cohen says, "so I'm all over that."

To be clear, Trump didn't name Pecker, but it's been well established that Pecker was involved in discussions about potentially damaging Trump stories in the weeks before the presidential election.

Left unsaid on the tape is what "all the stuff" is. What else did American Media have in its possession, beyond the life rights to McDougal's story?

A spokesman for American Media Inc. has not responded to requests for comment about the tape. Cohen did not respond to a request for comment about what the "all the stuff" is.

Prosecutors may already know. American Media Inc. executives are caught up in the ongoing federal investigation of Cohen.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Pecker and the company's chief content officer, Dylan Howard, were subpoenaed earlier in the year. The Journal said prosecutors were seeking "records related to its $150,000 payment" to McDougal.

The company did not confirm the subpoena, but said "American Media Inc. has, and will continue to, comply with any and all requests that do not jeopardize or violate its protected sources or materials pursuant to our First Amendment rights."

The Wall Street Journal first wrote about the Enquirer's agreement with McDougal a few days before the election in 2016. At the time, the Enquirer claimed that "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump." The money, the company said, is for two years' worth of her fitness columns and magazine covers.

More recently, The New York Times reported that the federal investigators examining Cohen "have come to believe" that American Media "at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization."

The Enquirer plays it both ways: Promoting Trump while attacking his opponents. There's nothing subtle about it.

Related: Former AMI editor describes 'favor bank' of killed Trump stories

Earlier this year Jerry George, a former senior editor at American Media, told CNN that Pecker had a "favor bank" of stories that were buried to benefit Trump.

George said "Pecker is all about money and, you know, the next big acquisition and who's going to fund it. I'm not saying he doesn't sincerely revere President Trump, but I guess it's sort of a favor bank where he can say to the president -- I have an arsenal of stories that I have kept out of print, so these scandals never saw the light of day."

To George's point about "money," The New York Times described Pecker using a meeting with Trump at the White House last summer to woo Saudi business. American Media Inc. later published a promotional magazine all about Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. AMI reportedly said it did not receive outside help on the publication. The State Department told the Daily Beast at the time that it was unaware of any involvement by the department and the White House did not address questions about its involvement with the magazine.

Pecker has avoided saying much about his relationship with Trump. But the two men have traveled in the same social circles for decades. They have promoted each other -- Trump once said "David would be a brilliant choice as CEO of TIME Magazine" -- and have socialized at Mar a Lago.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
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Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
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Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
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Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
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