Karen McDougal: Manhattan DA asks about money paid to ex-Playboy model

New York

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has asked questions during grand jury proceedings about a so-called “catch-and-kill” hush-money scheme to cover up an alleged affair between former President Donald Trump and a former Playboy model before the 2016 presidential election. , two people familiar with the matter said.

Prosecutors have asked at least one witness about a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, the publisher of the National Enquirer, to buy a story about an alleged affair with Trump, the people said. A grand jury is investigating Trump’s role in a $130,000 hush-payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The witness was also asked about other stories bought by American Media Inc. — which publishes the Enquirer — and then killed. Trump has a history with longtime friend and former AMI president David Becker of buying negative stories and planting positive ones, the people said. Becker testified Monday before a Manhattan grand jury for the second time.

Trump has denied both claims.

It is not clear whether prosecutors consider the payment as part of its investigation or use it to establish a pattern of entering into such contracts.

The district attorney’s renewed interest in paying McDougal was first reported The Wall Street Journal.

Trump attorney Joe Tacobina declined to comment.

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to two federal campaign finance charges related to paying McDougall and Daniels to silence their accusations before the election. AMI received a non-prosecution agreement for cooperating with federal prosecution. Becker testified and was granted immunity at the federal trial.

As part of a non-prosecution agreement, AMI admitted to paying $150,000 in cooperation with some members of Trump’s campaign to prevent claims about McDougal’s affair from becoming public. Becker met with Cohen “and at least one other member of the campaign” in August 2015, the agreement states.

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The contract said Cohen, Becker and “one or more members of the campaign” met in August 2015. At that meeting, Becker “offered to help the campaign deal with negative stories about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women, among other things. In identifying such stories, they could be bought and their publication avoided.”

After that meeting, AMI acknowledged that Becker agreed to “review” Cohen for negative stories about Trump.

Trump has denied involvement in hush-money schemes and said Thursday that he “has done nothing wrong with campaign finance laws.”

In 2019, CNN reported that prosecutors subpoenaed the Trump Organization for information about Daniels and McDougall.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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