Pecker.

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It’s all too tempting, and too easy, to make fun of National Enquirer boss David Pecker for having the name that he has. After all, Pecker does traffic in (often fictional) sex scandals for a living. Now it turns out he was illegally conspiring with Donald Trump to bury some very real sex scandals during the election, including one involving a Playboy Playmate. In fact it may take a moment for everyone to get past the “Pecker” jokes to step back and consider just how big of a deal it is that David Pecker has cut a plea deal against Trump.

Robert Mueller has rarely handed out immunity to anyone in the Trump-Russia investigation. He tends to use it on one far end of the scale or the other. In the Manafort trial, he gave immunity to some bank employees he was never going to waste time prosecuting anyway, so they’d testify about their complicity in Manafort’s financial crimes. On the other end of the spectrum, Mueller gave immunity to shadowy international figure George Nader, whose alleged history reads like that of a Bond villain, because Nader had just that much dirt on key Trump-Russia players.

Now we can add David Pecker to the rare air of immunity. If this guy was willing to violate federal election law by conspiring with Donald Trump to dole out hush money, how many other laws has he eagerly broken during the course of running the National Enquirer? We learned yesterday that he had a habit of buying up scandalous stories about various public figures, and using them as de facto blackmail material in order to get various “favors” from them. This sounds like the kind of guy who could have ended up going to prison for a long, long time.

But Robert Mueller apparently decided that David Pecker’s incriminating evidence against Donald Trump is so crucial to taking Trump down, he doesn’t even care about trying to put Pecker in prison. That’s how big of a deal this is. Pecker may still get what’s coming to him. These new revelations could open him up to so much civil liability that he and the National Enquirer could end up being bankrupted over this. We’ll see. In any case, Pecker was a close friend of Trump, yet he sold Trump out in a heartbeat. He won’t be the last. Smart villains know when to cut bait.

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