In a Fox News interview that aired this morning, the president decried “flippers” (people who take immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against others). Now he has another “flipper” to worry about: his longtime friend and political supporter David Pecker, CEO of American Media, the company that owns National Enquirer and many other tabloids. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Pecker has taken an immunity deal with federal prosecutors. In exchange, Pecker has agreed to testify about hush money paid to women who had sexual affairs with Trump.
As the Wall Street Journal explained on Wednesday night, National Enquirer has served as a shield for the president, protecting him from scandal: “Prosecutors say Mr. Pecker offered to help keep quiet negative stories about Mr. Trump that might come to National Enquirer, a practice in the business known as ‘catch and kill.’”
Pecker’s willingness to testify opens up the possibility that hitherto unrevealed scandals in the possession of the tabloid could become public. We now know that American Media executives had a role to play in two hush money deals: one involving the adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford (popularly known by her stage name Stormy Daniels) and the other involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Pecker became entangled with federal prosecutors thanks to evidence and testimony provided by the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has also flipped on Trump. One worry for Trump is that there is now a domino effect, with many other figures around him likely to become entangled in scandal and motivated to flip as well.
“If somebody defrauded a bank and he is going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” Trump said in his Fox interview. “And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”