National Enquirer executives granted US immunity in Michael Cohen probe

Vanity Fair magazine reports that federal prosecutors have made offer to American Media Inc’s CEO David Pecker

In this Jan. 31, 2014 photo, David Pecker, Chairman and CEO of American Media, addresses those attending the Shape & Men's Fitness Super Bowl Party in New York. The Aug. 21, 2018 plea deal reached by Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen has laid bare a relationship between the president and Pecker, whose company publishes the National Enquirer. Besides detailing tabloid's involvement in payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, court papers showed how David Pecker, a longtime friend of the president, offered to help Trump stave off negative stories during the 2016 campaign. (Marion Curtis via AP)
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Prosecutors have granted immunity to two executives at the National Enquirer tabloid for testimony about President Donald Trump’s involvement in payoffs to silence women about his liaisons, media reports said Thursday.

The reports said immunity had been given to Enquirer chief executive David Pecker, a long-time Trump friend, and the newspaper’s chief content officer Dylan Howard.

The Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc did not respond to an AFP inquiry on the reports.

The two could offer evidence on Mr Trump’s knowledge of payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, according to the reports in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

The executives at the supermarket tabloid were some way involved in both hush money deals, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper said that the executives would not face criminal charges in the investigation into possible violations of campaign finance laws and Mr Trump’s involvement in the scheme.

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Bringing a media company into the investigation could prompt concerns over the First Amendment or press freedom. But several reports said the newspaper may not be able to use that defence because it was acting more as a political operation than a news organisation.

The New York Times said the company did not challenge the subpoena and agreed to cooperate where they deemed First Amendment rights were not violated.

The revelations come days after Cohen implicated Mr Trump in pleading guilty this week to making hush payments during the 2016 campaign to the two women, who said they had had affairs with the Republican candidate.

Although Cohen did not name them, the women were believed to be Ms Daniels and Ms McDougal.

Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, putting Mr Trump in legal jeopardy.

Mr Trump claimed in a Fox News interview that his former lawyer “made the deals,” and insisted that Cohen’s actions were “not a crime,” while going on to claim that “campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly.”

The president then said the hush payments were financed with his own money – to which Cohen had access – and that while he had no knowledge of them at the time, he had since been fully transparent.