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Here’s How Trump’s Allies Paid Off His Alleged Lovers

The New Yorker published a story Friday detailing how Donald Trump allegedly carries on and hides his extra-marital relationships. The report features an eight-page handwritten diary entry by former Playmate Karen McDougal, submitted to the magazine by a friend, detailing an alleged 2006 affair that overlapped with Trump’s reported relationship with Stormy Daniels, the methods he used to keep it under wraps, and the extensive nondisclosure agreement American Media, Inc. had her sign while purchasing the exclusive rights to McDougal’s story before ultimately killing it.

The reporting of Daniels’s and McDougal’s alleged affairs suggest that the president typically buys silence via one of two ways: His personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen makes a payout which requires a non-disclosure agreement or the National Enquirer’s parent company — helmed by Trump ally David Pecker — purchases exclusive rights to the story and then shelves it. Either way, a substantial amount of money changes hands and an ironclad confidentiality agreement is signed. According to the New Yorker, both Daniels and McDougal received payments and and signed NDA’s around the same time in 2016:

On November 4, 2016, four days before the election, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to McDougal’s story, which it never ran. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.” As part of the agreement, A.M.I. consented to publish a regular aging-and-fitness column by McDougal. After Trump won the Presidency, however, A.M.I.’s promises largely went unfulfilled, according to McDougal. Last month, the Journal reported that Trump’s personal lawyer had negotiated a separate agreement just before the election with an adult-film actress named Stephanie Clifford, whose screen name is Stormy Daniels, which barred her from discussing her own affair with Trump. Since then, A.M.I. has repeatedly approached McDougal about extending her contract.

The difference in the arrangements is in who has the ultimate leverage in the arrangement. If one of Trump’s intermediaries is writing the check, then Trump isn’t left as vulnerable as when Pecker buys the rights to a story and can ostensibly use that knowledge to invoke some kind of influence or power over the president.

Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,” Jerry George, a former A.M.I. senior editor who worked at the company for more than twenty-five years, told me. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.” Maxine Page, who worked at A.M.I. on and off from 2002 to 2012, including as an executive editor at one of the company’s Web sites, said that Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods. (Schwarzenegger, through an attorney, denied this claim. Woods did not respond to requests for comment.) “Even though they’re just tabloids, just rags, it’s still a cause of concern,” Page said. “In theory, you would think that Trump has all the power in that relationship, but in fact Pecker has the power—he has the power to run these stories. He knows where the bodies are buried.”

The National Enquirer claimed that it didn’t run the McDougal story, for which it paid $150,000, because it didn’t find her account credible, but it did amend the agreement allowing her to respond to “legitimate press inquiries” after Trump won the election. For her part, McDougal is frustrated by an agreement she feels is exploitative.

“It took my rights away,” McDougal told the New Yorker. “At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”

The Trump administration’s official position is that the affair never happened.

“This is an old story that is just more fake news,” a White House spokesperson said. ” The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”

As for Daniel’s, she’s interpreting Cohen’s claim that he paid her $130,00 out of his own pocket as a violation of the NDA and a green light for her to openly discuss her alleged affair with the now president.