Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to the National Enquirer’s publisher for records pertaining to a $150,000 payment the magazine made before the 2016 presidential election to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who has said she had an affair with Donald Trump.
The subpoena, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was issued this spring by prosecutors in the southern district of New York, who are investigating the former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for alleged wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher, is a friend and supporter of Trump. After paying McDougal six figures for exclusive rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump, the magazine, which bolstered Trump throughout his presidential campaign, declined to publish the story.
Prosecutors reportedly want to know whether a side deal was attached to the payment from Pecker to McDougal.
Phone records show that Cohen and Pecker were in frequent contact around the time of the payment to McDougal in August 2016, the Journal quoted an unnamed source familiar with the matter as saying.
Two months after the McDougal deal, Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who had her own story of an alleged affair with Trump to tell. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued Trump to be released from a hush agreement.
Both McDougal and Daniels were ostensibly represented in their respective six-figure deals by the same lawyer, Keith Davidson, whom Daniels has sued, alleging that Davidson “acted in concert” with Cohen to “manipulate” her. Davidson has denied all wrongdoing.
It is unclear what involvement, if any, Cohen had in the National Enquirer deal with McDougal.
FBI agents raided residences and an office tied to Cohen, who worked closely with Trump for 10 years, in April. Cohen has not been charged with a crime but is waging a court battle to limit prosecutors’ access to documents seized in the raid.
The parent company of the National Enquirer, issued this statement to the Journal: “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 right.”