politics

Doorman Who Sold Trump Love Child Story to National Enquirer Releases ‘Catch and Kill’ Contract

The National Enquirer’s cover in September 2016 repeating an allegation of Donald Trump’s that Hillary Clinton is not healthy enough for the job of president by using a doctored photograph of her (as well as calling for her imprisonment). Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The former Trump World Tower doorman who has alleged that Donald Trump had an affair and child out of wedlock with his former housekeeper has released the “catch and kill” contract he signed in late 2015 with National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. CNN reports that the doorman, Dino Sajudin, is now free to discuss the contract and payoff — which were likely part of an effort by AMI CEO and Trump ally David Pecker to suppress damaging stories about Trump during his presidential campaign.

Other than the above scan of the contract itself, there isn’t much else in the new CNN report that wasn’t covered by the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow (who also had but did not publish the contract) and the Associated Press in April. The cover-up has taken on more relevance, however, following the news this week that Pecker had received immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for information about hush money payments to two at least two women on behalf of Trump by Michael Cohen. Pecker had potentially violated campaign finance laws by paying to conceal stories in an effort to protect Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty to that very crime, in addition to charges of tax and bank fraud, on Tuesday. Both men have said that Trump directed the payments.

There are many good reasons to doubt Sajudin’s credibility regarding Trump’s alleged affair, and no evidence has yet been uncovered to substantiate his claims, but those concerns didn’t prevent Pecker and AMI from paying him $30,000 to kill it, then canceling the Enquirer’s investigation on the subject and working to legally prevent other news organizations from reporting on the story and cover up. In fact, according to Farrow, an AMI source said it was “unheard of” to pay anything like what Sajudin got for an unverified rumor he heard secondhand — indicating that the only purpose of the move was to help Trump. Farrow also outlined a theory as to what Pecker may have wanted from Trump in exchange, other than his appreciative friendship:

Two A.M.I. sources said they believed that the catch-and-kill operations had cemented a partnership between Pecker and Trump, and that people close to the president had subsequently introduced Pecker to potential sources of funding for A.M.I. One A.M.I. source told me, “Pecker’s not going to take thirty thousand dollars from company funds to shut down a potentially damaging story about his buddy without making sure it got back to him so he could get credit.” In 2017, the company began acquiring new publications, including Us Weekly and Men’s Journal. According to the Times, last July Pecker visited the Oval Office and dined at the White House with a French businessman known for brokering deals with Saudi Arabia. Two months later, the businessman and Pecker met with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Jerry George, a former senior editor at AMI, told the Huffington Post on Friday that “it was obvious” from within the organization that Pecker, once he took over the company in the late ‘90s, had ordered an end to negative coverage of Trump. Sources were rarely paid for stories that didn’t run, according to George, though the publication had caught and killed stories to protect politicians before, like then-AMI editorial board member Arnold Schwarzenegger during his California gubernatorial race. Anything AMI published about Trump was first run by Cohen or another representative of the Trump Organization, explained George, and about 10 Trump-related stories were killed under Pecker by the time he left the company in 2013. He also said that hundreds of story leads that came in about Trump were never looked into. Several months after Trump began his presidential campaign, AMI paid $30,000 to buy and quash Sajudin’s.

Sajudin is now free to tell his Trump affair story, but he has yet to arrange any media appearances to do so. When he was contacted by Farrow about the allegation for the article in April, he replied, “My time is valuable. What’s your offer??” — then stopped communicating with Farrow when he found out he wouldn’t be paid. Sajudin’s lawyer told CNN that he was only recently released from his contract, and that the former doorman “hopes the truth will come out in the very near future.”