Former Tabloid Publisher Testifies Before Trump “Hush Money” Grand Jury 

March 28, 2023

On Monday the Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Trump’s role in a hush money payment to the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels heard testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. 

It was at least the second time Pecker had appeared before the grand jury. He also testified in January. 

Since being impaneled earlier this year by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the grand jury has heard from at least nine witnesses, including Pecker. 

The then-publisher of the National Enquirer, Pecker was a key player in the 2016 hush money incident. He and the tabloid’s top editor helped broker the deal between Daniels and then-Trump attorney and self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen. 

According to reports and Cohen’s previous testimony, Daniels’ agent and lawyer discussed the possibility of selling exclusive rights to her story of a sexual encounter with Trump to the Enquirer, which would then promise to never publish it in a practice known as “catch and kill.”

However, Pecker and editor Dylan Howard turned down the offer, saying Cohen would have to deal with Daniels and her team directly. 

Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 for arranging a nondisclosure agreement with Daniels, for which he paid her $130,000, a campaign contribution violation during the 2016 election cycle, since the payment was made in service of the Trump campaign and exceeded the federal limit.

Trump, who has announced he’s running for reelection in 2024, has long asserted that Manhattan prosecutors are engaged in a “witch hunt,” and has denied ever having an affair with Daniels.

On his Truth Social site, Trump has also called D.A. Bragg, who is Black, a politically motivated “racist.” Last week, he posted that there would be “potential death and destruction” if he is charged in the hush money case. Soon after it was reported that Bragg had received a letter containing white powder along with a death threat typewritten in all caps that was postmarked from Orlando, Florida.

It’s not clear what charges Manhattan prosecutors might be exploring. In order for falsifying business records to be a felony, not a misdemeanor, Bragg’s office must show that Trump’s “intent to defraud” included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime.

Cohen has reportedly testified that he paid the $130,000 in hush money out of his own funds, then was reimbursed by Trump in a way that was misclassified as a legal expense.

That crime could be a violation of election law, under the theory that the payout served as a donation to Trump’s 2016 campaign, because it silenced Daniels and shut down a potential sex scandal in the final stretch of the election season.

The grand jury could potentially next meet on Wednesday.

PHOTO: Manhattan Criminal Courthouse

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