National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was reportedly granted immunity to dish on Trump's porn star hush money
David Pecker, the chairman of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., has been given immunity by federal prosecutors who are seeking information about payments arranged by Michael Cohen to women who claimed they had affairs with President Trump, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Sources told the Journal earlier this week that Pecker was providing details to federal prosecutors, but he's apparently doing so with the promise of immunity, meaning prosecutors won't seek criminal charges against him if he admits wrongdoing. Pecker reportedly helped facilitate the payments that kept porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal from speaking publicly about the alleged relationships ahead of the election, and documents from Cohen's guilty plea show that the payments were made specifically in an effort to "assist" the campaign.
Pecker is a longtime friend of Trump's, who used to publish Trump Style, a quarterly magazine for guests at Trump properties. Now, he's reportedly an important part of the investigation into Cohen, who pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws at the "direction" of Trump. Pecker told prosecutors that "one or more members" of the Trump campaign knew about the payments in advance and reportedly discussed Trump's "knowledge of the deals." Trump was recorded speaking to Cohen about whether to make the payments via cash or check. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza
David Pecker, the chairman of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., gave federal prosecutors information on payments arranged by Michael Cohen to women who claimed they had sex with President Trump, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
Pecker also said Trump knew about the deals. Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion. In court, Cohen said he was directed by Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election to pay off two women who said they had sexual encounters with him, in violation of campaign finance laws. Prosecutors said Pecker, a friend of Trump's, offered to keep any negative stories sent to the National Enquirer under wraps.
Last weekend, Cohen's lawyers met with federal prosecutors who revealed they had bank records, tax filings, home loan applications, and testimony from Cohen's accountant and business partners that implicated him and his wife of potential criminal activity, the Journal reports. They said Cohen would face close to 20 criminal counts, and perhaps years in prison.
Cohen, who once declared he'd take a bullet for Trump, said in July he would put his family and country first, not Trump, and the Journal reports that his father, a Holocaust survivor, told him he didn't fight for his life in order to have his name ruined by Trump. Read more about what pushed Cohen to plead guilty at The Wall Street Journal. Catherine Garcia
Michael Cohen has been subpoenaed by New York investigators as part of their probe into the Trump Foundation, a spokesman for the state's tax department confirmed to The Associated Press Wednesday.
Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to financial crimes, and during an interview on CNN, his attorney, Lanny Davis, said Cohen had information about Trump that would "be of interest both in Washington as well as New York state." Investigators are trying to determine if Trump and his charity broke state law or lied about tax liability. Catherine Garcia
President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, is negotiating a possible plea deal with federal prosecutors, sources told NBC News on Tuesday.
The potential guilty plea could protect Cohen from some of the fallout from the investigation into whether he committed tax fraud and bank fraud. The plea deal could be made as early as Tuesday, though sources clarified that no deal has been agreed upon yet. It was previously reported that federal prosecutors were considering filing charges against Cohen by the end of August, as the probe enters its final stages.
If Cohen agrees to a plea in the fraud case, "any cooperation agreement would likely extend to other federal investigations," NBC News noted — like Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference in 2016. Summer Meza
Over the last several months, Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, has been having regular conversations with John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel who took part in the Watergate coverup and then became a witness for the prosecution.
"I reached out to my old friend John Dean because of what he went through with Watergate, and I saw some parallels to what Michael Cohen is experiencing," Davis told Politico. "I wanted to gain from John's wisdom." He added that he's not asking him for legal advice and doesn't want to "raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the level of deep involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon's crimes, but I did see some similarities and wanted to learn from what John went through."
Davis said he became friends with Dean in the late 1990s, when they appeared on cable news together to discuss President Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings. Dean confirmed to Politico that the two have been speaking to each other frequently, and said he'd also like to talk to Cohen's criminal defense lawyer, Guy Petrillo. Catherine Garcia
Federal investigators are looking into whether Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, committed bank and tax fraud when securing more than $20 million in loans and if he violated campaign finance laws when arranging financial deals with women who said they had affairs with Trump, several people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
Two people said the probe is in its end stages, and prosecutors are mulling filing charges by the end of August. Investigators are trying to figure out if Cohen misrepresented the value of his assets in order to obtain loans from two banks for his taxi business, and if he failed to report income from that same business to the IRS, the Times reports. Read more about the investigation and what might happen if Cohen decides to take a plea agreement at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen is under investigation for possible tax fraud, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Cohen has been under intense scrutiny ever since federal agents raided his home and office in April, seizing hundreds of thousands of items to investigate the attorney for potential bank fraud and campaign finance violations. That probe is apparently even wider-ranging than previously reported, with Cohen's taxi medallion business entering as a possible crime scene as well.
Federal authorities are investigating whether Cohen underreported income from his medallion holdings, the Journal reports, as well as whether he improperly obtained loans. The additional risk of a tax fraud sentence could make Cohen more willing to comply with investigators, former federal prosecutors noted. Cohen has renounced his loyalty to Trump, but is not cooperating with federal authorities in the probe. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza
Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, has been called to testify in front of a federal grand jury as part of the criminal investigation into Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
Weisselberg is considered a witness, the Journal says, and it's unknown if he's already appeared before the grand jury. Weisselberg, who once worked for Trump's father, has been described as being very loyal to Trump, and former Trump executives said he also oversaw many of Trump's household expenses and for several years prepared his tax returns.
On Tuesday, Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, released a tape of a conversation Cohen had in 2016 with Trump, which he secretly recorded. Cohen and Trump discussed buying the rights to a former Playboy model's story about an affair she said she had with Trump, and Cohen is heard saying he would set up a company to make the payment. "I've spoken with Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up," Cohen says, but it's not clear if he did ever actually talk to Weisselberg about it; the payment was never made. People with knowledge of the matter told the Journal Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. Catherine Garcia