The tape of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen that surfaced on CNN this week captured Trump knowingly conspiring to commit a felony violation of federal election law by trying to arrange to buy the silence of his mistress Karen McDougal while he was running for office. Trump’s legal culpability here is clear, and Cohen is also in trouble. But there’s another individual who appears to have been directly incriminated by name on this tape.
Upon first glance, it sounds like Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are debating over how to pay off McDougal. But upon closer listen, the beginning of the tape gives something away. They’re discussing “our friend David” which some initially thought was a reference to the “David Dennison” alias that Trump used to try to obscure his affair with Stormy Daniels. But Trump and Cohen go on to make clear they’re discussing reaching an agreement with David, before then concluding that they should instead make the agreement with David’s company, in case David hypothetically gets hit by a truck.
In this context, it’s not difficult to figure out that they’re referring to Trump’s friend David Pecker, the head of the National Enquirer, which ultimately made the $150,000 payment to McDougal. Accordingly, Trump and Cohen very much appear to be debating how to make the $150,000 payment to Pecker and the National Enquirer, presumably so that the National Enquirer could then be used to pay McDougal’s story. Why does this matter? It may have just sent Pecker to prison.
It’s perfectly legal, if dishonest and unethical, for the National Enquirer to have purchased the exclusive rights to Karen McDougal’s story for the sake of keeping it from seeing the light of day. However, Donald Trump committed a felony by involving himself in the payoff while he was a candidate. If it can be proven that Cohen really did pay the $150,000 to Pecker for the purpose of paying off McDougal, and if it can be proven that Pecker knew Trump was in on it, then it would prove that Pecker knowingly and illegally conspired with Trump. We’ll see what other evidence the Feds have – but it might be time for David Pecker to consider seeking a plea deal.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report