Publisher admits hush payments

NEW YORK • The National Enquirer's parent company has acknowledged paying hush money to a woman who alleged an affair with Mr Donald Trump, in order to "suppress the woman's story" and "prevent it from influencing the (presidential) election".

The admission came as federal prosecutors announced on Wednesday that they would not prosecute the company, American Media Inc, or AMI, for its role in a scheme to tilt the presidential race in favour of Mr Trump. In the agreement, AMI said it would cooperate with prosecutors and admitted it paid US$150,000 (S$206,000) to Ms Karen McDougal before the 2016 election to silence her allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.

The deal signalled the unravelling of the deep relationship Mr Trump and AMI chief executive David Pecker had forged over decades.

AMI agreed to cooperate with the Southern District of New York in September, and the deal became public on Wednesday as Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's longtime fixer, was sentenced over campaign finance violations for his role in arranging payments to Ms McDougal and Ms Stormy Daniels, the pornographic-film actress who also allegedly had an affair with Mr Trump.

The moves put additional pressure on the President as he faces multiple investigations and finds himself losing the protection of some of his long-standing allies.

In 2011, AMI helped manage a website, shouldtrumprun.com, which Cohen decided to launch with several partners. "Pecker has a deep industrial knowledge of how Trump and Cohen operated," said a former Enquirer employee.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'Publisher admits hush payments'. Print Edition | Subscribe