The New Yorker and the Associated Press report that, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, President Trump ally and National Enquirer owner David Pecker killed a story on a rumor that the president fathered a lovechild in the late ’80s. According to both stories, American Media Inc paid $30,000 to former Trump building doorman Dino Sajudin for the rights to a secondhand rumor he heard regarding a child Trump supposedly fathered during an extramarital affair he had in the late ’80s when he was married to his first wife, Ivana Trump.
The purchase appears to be the same kind of “catch and kill” practice that AMI is believed to have practiced when the media company paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her account of an alleged 10-month affair with Trump beginning in 2006, only to shelve the story ahead of the 2016 election. McDougal is now suing AMI in order to nullify the NDA attached to the sale. The Associated Press reports that embattled Trump attorney Michael Cohen was involved in the deal with Sajudin. From AP:
The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.
Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.
The New York Times has reported that McDougal believes that Cohen was working behind the scenes with AMI in the purchase of her story that the company had no intention of running. Cohen also set up an LLC in 2016 to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence regarding an alleged 2006 one-night stand with Trump. Both Cohen and the president maintain that Trump’s fixer paid that fee out of his own pocket.
According to the New Yorker, several AMI employees spent weeks investigating the rumor that Sajudin allegedly heard from high-level Trump Organization employees before orders came down from Pecker to shutter the investigation. Neither AMI reporters nor the New Yorker were able to verify that Trump did indeed have a child through an extramarital relationship. From the New Yorker:
The New Yorker has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization denied the allegations, including the assertion that Calamari told Sajudin the story. When I reached out to the alleged daughter, she declined through a representative of her employer to answer questions. Her mother did not respond to repeated requests for comment. I spoke with the father of the family, who said that Sajudin’s claim was “completely false and ridiculous” and added that the Enquirer had put the family in a difficult situation. “I don’t understand what they had to pay this guy for,” he said. The New Yorker is not disclosing the family members’ names, out of respect for their privacy. Regardless of the veracity of Sajudin’s claims, legal experts said that A.M.I.’s payment to Sajudin is significant because it establishes the company’s pattern of buying and burying stories that could be damaging to Trump during the Presidential campaign.
The AMI sources New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow spoke to didn’t believe that the rumor was true while investigating it, but they were taken aback by what they believed was a concerted effort to cover it up. The sizable payout for an unsubstantiated rumor also raised eyebrows.
“It’s unheard of to give a guy who calls AMI’s tip line big bucks for information he is passing on secondhand,” a source told Farrow. “We didn’t pay thousands of dollars for non-stories, let alone tens of thousands. It was a highly curious and questionable situation.”
On Monday, the FBI raided Cohen’s hotel room and office looking for information about the McDougal and Daniels payouts, Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape, and communications between Cohen, Trump, Pecker, and AMI’s chief content officer Dylan Howard.