David Pecker testified that Trump stories were 'National Enquirer gold.' He said he killed them to help Trump

The tabloid publisher was the first witness in Trump's hush money trial.

In their cross-examination of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on Friday, defense attorneys in Trump's hush money case sought to reframe the tabloid's motivation for coordinating with Trump and his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, ahead of the 2016 election, suggesting that Pecker was just trying to boost magazine sales.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as part of a "catch and kill" arrangement to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Defense attorney Emil Bove on Friday zeroed in on the Enquirer's earlier $30,000 payment for Trump World Tower doorman Dino Sajudin's story about Trump fathering an illegitimate child, which was later proven to be false.

Bove suggested the purchase was not arranged to protect Trump's campaign, but rather because it was simply too juicy of a scoop to pass up.

"Sajudin threatened to go somewhere else ... that is why you paid him $30,000? It would be too great a loss to AMI to lose the story, if true?" Bove asked.

"Yes," Pecker replied.

"You could not walk away from that possibility?" asked Bove.

"Yes," Pecker said again.

PHOTO: David Pecker is cross examined by Emil Bove during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan state court in New York City, April 26, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.
David Pecker is cross examined by Emil Bove during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan state court in New York City, April 26, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg via Reuters

Earlier, during his direct examination, Pecker said the catch-and-kill scheme was made with the goal of benefiting Trump's campaign.

On Tuesday, Pecker said the doorman's story "probably would be the biggest sale" for the paper since the death of Elvis Presley if it turned out to be true. But due to his agreement with Cohen, he said he would have waited until after the election to publish it.

The Enquirer debunked the story, but still paid for the rights, which Pecker said they did "because if the story got out to another publication, it would have been embarrassing for the campaign."

"So this was a way to lock it up?" prosecutor Josh Steinglass asked.

"That's correct," Pecker responded.

On Friday, Bove also cross-examined Pecker about negative stories he said Cohen planted about Trump's political opponents, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"It was a business decision that it was good for the National Enquirer to run those stories" Bove said, suggesting the decision to run the stories helped sell copies of the National Enquirer, rather than just help the Trump campaign.

As a business model, Bove argued, it was "quick, efficient, and cost-effective."

Though Bove's line of questioning attempted to distance Trump from the catch-and-kill plan, Pecker previously acknowledged that buying up scoops and killing them did nothing for the tabloid's bottom line.

"How was that going to boost sales of the National Enquirer?" Steinglass asked Tuesday.

"No, that part didn't help," Pecker said.

On Friday, the defense also suggested that Pecker's cooperation with federal prosecutors was also financially motivated.

When the Enquirer's parent company AMI signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in New York in Sept. 2018, AMI was negotiating to sell the tabloid to Hudson News Group for $100 million, Pecker said.

Bove suggested the pending sale put Pecker under pressure to resolve a federal campaign finance investigation over its payment to quash stories damaging to Donald Trump's presidential ambitions.

"You knew to finalize that deal, to consummate it, you had to clear out the investigations?" Bove asked.

"Yes," Pecker responded. "From a timing standpoint it would have added stress to the transaction."

During questioning by prosecutors Friday, Pecker reiterated the unusual nature of the arrangement between Trump and the Enquirer.

Though the story about Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal would have been "National Enquirer gold," as Steinglass put it, Pecker confirmed he would not have published it.

"You killed the story because it helped the candidate Donald Trump?" Steinglass asked.

"Yes," Pecker said.

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