Here’s What To Know About David Pecker, Key Witness In Trump’s Manhattan Trial

Topline

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and longtime friend of former President Donald Trump will reportedly testify first in Trump’s Manhattan hush money trial on Monday—testimony crucial to prosecutors’ claim that Trump, with Pecker’s help, sought to kill allegations he had an affair before the 2016 election.

Alexandra Kazan and David Pecker attend the ‘Shape France’ Magazine cocktail launch at Hotel … [+] Talleyrand on January 19, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

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Key Facts

Pecker promised Trump after he launched his first presidential bid in 2015 he would act as his “eyes and ears” by alerting him to potentially negative stories about him, publishing others about Trump’s rivals, and orchestrating a series of “catch and kill” schemes to silence damning allegations against him, according to prosecutors.

Pecker, who from 1999 to 2020 served as CEO of National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., now A360 Media, alerted Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen that adult film star Stormy Daniels was trying to sell her story of a 2006 one-night stand with Trump, according to prosecutors.

Cohen then negotiated the hush money payment for Trump, both Cohen and prosecutors say.

Prosecutors also allege AMI paid a doorman at a building owned by the Trump Organization $30,000 in exchange for information about allegations Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock (claims the Enquirer ultimately deemed were untrue), and also paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for rights to her story that she had an affair with Trump, also in 2006, but never published—what’s known as a “catch and kill” scheme.

Pecker was granted immunity after aiding federal prosecutors’ case against Cohen for his role in the alleged schemes, and the Justice Department also entered a non-prosecution agreement with AMI in the case that required AMI to admit to making the payment to McDougal.

The payments to McDougal and the doorman are not part of the case, but prosecutors are expected to use them to bolster their claim that the $130,000 Cohen paid Daniels—money prosecutors say Trump’s company reimbursed him for under the guise of legal services—was actually an unreported (and illegal) campaign expense.

Pecker is expected to detail his conversations with Trump about the cover-ups, the New York Times reported, citing a person familiar with his planned testimony.

What To Watch For

Cohen, Daniels and former Trump appointee Hope Hicks are also expected to take the witness stand.

Key Background

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office charged Trump with 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records in April last year, marking the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former president. The trial officially began last Monday with jury selection. Bragg’s office alleged Trump and his real estate company reimbursed Cohen $420,000, accounting for fees, a bonus and taxes, and illegally recorded the payments as legal fees. Proving that the payments were inherently linked to Trump’s political aspirations is critical to prosecutors’ ability to charge Trump with felonies in the case, as the falsifying business records charges are typically misdemeanors. Prosecutors must prove that Trump committed the alleged misdemeanors in conjunction with another crime—in this case violating campaign finance laws since the payment to Daniels exceeded federal contribution limits. Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of charges, including campaign finance violations, for his role in the alleged payments to Daniels and McDougal and admitted that he made the payments at Trump’s direction and on his behalf. Trump has denied allegations of any affair and has pleaded not guilty in the case, which he has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, was brought on behalf of President Joe Biden to hurt his re-election chances.

Tangent

If convicted, Trump could be sentenced to up to four years in state prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the 34 felonies, although it’s unlikely he would receive a prison sentence since he’s never been convicted of a crime.

Further Reading

Trump’s Trial Will Include ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape—But Not Sexual Assault Allegations, Judge Rules (Forbes)

Trump Arrives In Court For First Day Of Criminal ‘Hush Money’ Trial (Forbes)Trump’s First Criminal Trial Starts Today—Here’s Who Could Show Up And What To Watch For (Forbes)

 
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