Trump Stares Down Old Pal David Pecker as Trial Testimony Begins

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Former National Enquirer boss David Pecker may have once modeled his management style on Donald Trump, but on Monday, he locked his gaze firmly away from the former president as he testified against him in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Trump, on the other hand, stared a hole right through his old pal during his time on the stand, which ended abruptly in less than 30 minutes due to a juror’s dental emergency.

Trump Pushes the Limits of His Gag Order in Post-Trial Rant

The 72-year-old publishing magnate on Monday became the first-ever witness to appear in a criminal trial over alleged crimes involving a former U.S. president. He told the jury, in response to questioning by the defense, that he was there thanks to a subpoena requiring him to appear. Prosecutors say Pecker, who is not formally charged with any wrongdoing, was part of a conspiracy cooked up by Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to deep-six any unflattering news about the then-presidential candidate so as not to harm his chances of winning the 2016 election that put him in the Oval Office.

Snoozy Trump Wakes Up as Prosecutor Calls Him a Liar

In the run-up to the vote, Pecker was on the lookout for negative stories about Trump, according to Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass. And when he became aware of bad news that could potentially go public, Pecker allegedly employed the “catch-and-kill” method of burying it by buying the information from Trump’s accusers, never for it to appear in print, prosecutors say.

In 2016, Pecker allegedly had Enquirer parent company American Media Inc. (AMI) pay $150,000 to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal for the rights to her tale of a sordid affair with Trump, so it wouldn’t see the light of day. That same year, Pecker helped arrange a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to squash a story she was telling about a one-night stand with the GOP candidate.

As ADA Matthew Colangelo told the jury on Monday, “We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter, if this conspiracy was a difference-maker in the close election. It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Pecker took the stand shortly after 12 p.m. as the trial’s first witness, answering questions from the prosecution about his age, education (Pace University), and his present employer (self). He admitted that the Enquirer engaged in “checkbook journalism,” a pejorative describing the practice of paying sources for stories. Pecker said he had the “final say” over anything AMI published, and that editors were authorized to pay up to $10,000 per story. Above that, Pecker’s approval was required, he said on Monday.

For his part, Trump left the courtroom and immediately ranted to reporters in the hallway about the charges, calling them “very unfair.”

“It’s a case as to book keeping, which is a very minor thing in terms of the law,” he complained. “They called a payment to a lawyer a legal expense in the books. I got indicted for that.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.