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Former National Enquirer publisher again testifies in Trump inquiry




The grand jury investigating a hush-money case against the former president met again on Monday, but the timing of any potential indictment remained unclear.

David Pecker was a key player in the attempt to keep a porn star’s story of a tryst with Donald Trump out of the public eye. Marion Curtis via AP

The former publisher of The National Enquirer testified Monday before the Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence about Donald Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The publisher, David Pecker, also testified in January, soon after the grand jury was impaneled by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. The grand jury has heard from at least nine witnesses and is expected to vote on an indictment soon.


Pecker, who was seen leaving the building where the grand jury sits at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, was a key player in the hush-money episode. He and the tabloid’s top editor helped broker the deal between the porn star, Stormy Daniels, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer at the time.

Ever since Trump predicted his arrest a little more than a week ago, all eyes have turned to the grand jury, which operates in secret.

And while grand jurors could vote to indict the former president as soon as this week — in what would be the culmination of a nearly five-year investigation — the exact timing of any charges remains a mystery.

It is subject to the quirks of the grand jury process in Manhattan, which include scheduling conflicts and other potential interruptions.

This particular grand jury meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, though it typically has not heard evidence related to the Trump investigation on Thursdays. The panel need not meet each of those days, but only convenes when the Manhattan district attorney’s office summons the jurors.

The timing of an indictment might also depend on the jurors’ availability. Sixteen of the 23 grand jurors must be present to conduct any business (and a majority must vote to indict for the case to go forward). For prosecutors to seek a vote to indict, jurors in attendance that day must previously have heard all key witness testimony.

The prospect of an indictment has raised a number of questions about the contours of the potential case facing Trump, who would become the first former American president to be indicted.


Bragg’s prosecutors are focused on the $130,000 payment to Daniels, who agreed to keep quiet about her story of an affair with Trump in exchange for the payoff. Cohen made the payment during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

In recent weeks, Bragg’s office signaled to Trump’s lawyers that the former president could face criminal charges by offering him the chance to testify before the grand jury, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is near; it would be unusual for prosecutors to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him.

In New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in front of the grand jury before they are indicted, but they rarely testify, and Trump declined the offer.

Prosecutors have now questioned almost every major player in the hush-money episode, again suggesting that the district attorney’s presentation is nearing an end.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing — as well as any sexual encounter with Daniels — and unleashed a series of escalating attacks on Bragg. Trump has referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” and called Bragg, who is Black and a Democrat, a “racist” and an “animal.”

In a post this month on his social network Truth Social, Trump declared, without any direct knowledge, that his arrest was imminent, calling on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” — rhetoric reminiscent of his posts in the lead-up to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

While the focus of Pecker’s testimony is unclear, he could provide valuable information for prosecutors. A longtime ally of Trump, he agreed to keep an eye out for potentially damaging stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign.


For a brief time in October 2016, Daniels appeared to have just that kind of story. Her agent and lawyer discussed the possibility of selling exclusive rights to her story of a sexual encounter with Trump to The National Enquirer, which would then promise to never publish it, a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Pecker didn’t bite. Instead, he and the tabloid’s editor, Dylan Howard, decided that Cohen would have to deal with Daniels’ team directly.

And when Cohen was slow to pay, Howard pressed him to get the deal done, to prevent Daniels from revealing their discussions about suppressing her story. “We have to coordinate something,” Howard texted Cohen in late October 2016, “or it could look awfully bad for everyone.”

Two days later, Cohen transferred the $130,000 to an account held by Daniels’ attorney.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Source: Boston Globe


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