In a media world full of “fake news,” lying reporters, and made-up sources, David Pecker was one of only newsmen Donald Trump could trust. Throughout the 2016 campaign, the chairman of the National Enquirer used his esteemed publication to promote pseudo-stories that hurt Trump’s rivals — and to silence actual stories that could have hurt Trump.
Pecker helped alert the public to the role that Ted Cruz’s father played in the Kennedy assassination, Ben Carson’s malpractice lawsuits, and Hillary Clinton’s many, many terminal illnesses. And when Playboy model Karen McDougal was about to tell the world about her affair with the Republican nominee and Michael Cohen urged Pecker to buy exclusive rights to her story and then kill it, the media mogul dutifully complied.
But that last move put Pecker in a tight spot: By purchasing McDougal’s story — with the intention of sparing the GOP standard-bearer a political headache — the Enquirer chairman had implicated himself in a potential campaign finance violation. And while Pecker and Trump had been longtime friends, the former wasn’t prepared to risk jail time for the latter. So, when federal authorities offered him immunity in exchange for information about Cohen’s hush payments to both McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels, Pecker told them what he knew.
According to reports from The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and NBC News, Pecker told investigators that Donald Trump knew about the payments to both women, thereby implicating the president in a federal crime. Pecker’s testimony also implicated Cohen in campaign finance violations, and might have contributed to the latter’s decision to plead guilty to such offenses earlier this week.
Trump has lavished praise on Pecker and his publication in the past. In 2016, the mogul reminded the public that “the National Enquirer gave you John Edwards; it gave you O.J. Simpson; it gave you many, many things. I mean, you can’t knock the National Enquirer.” Three years earlier, he tweeted that Pecker should be made CEO of Time magazine. But now Pecker has flipped on Trump, like Cohen and Omarosa Manigault Newman before him.
In hindsight, the president probably should have spent less time worrying about fake news — and more time guarding himself against fake friends.