While pleading guilty to eight felonies on Tuesday, President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen said that, in collaboration with the National Enquirer, he paid $150,000 in hush money to a woman who'd claimed to have had an affair with Trump years earlier. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that the National Enquirer kept Trump's hush money documents in a locked safe, along with other potentially damaging information about him.
American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, did not respond to the Associated Press' media request. Bustle has reached out to the both the White House and American Media for comment.
The news comes the same day as reports that David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer's parent company and reportedly a close friend of Trump, has been granted immunity in exchange for giving federal prosecutors information about Trump and Cohen.
The Wall Street Journal first reported in 2016 that in the buildup to the presidential election, American Media paid Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story about an affair she allegedly had with Trump a decade earlier (Trump denies he had an affair with McDougal). In his plea hearing Tuesday, Cohen acknowledged that he facilitated this payment, and Trump, in an interview the next day, acknowledged reimbursing him for it.
But American Media never published McDougal's story, and allegedly made McDougal sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her from speaking about the alleged affair. This is a practice known as "catch-and-kill," wherein media companies purchase exclusive rights to stories with no intention of actually publishing them as a means of preserving their own positive relationships with the subjects of those stories.
According to the Associated Press, the National Enquirer maintained a safe full of documents regarding hush money and other stories about Trump that it had killed. Sources told the Associated Press that the safe was "a great source of power" for Pecker, who is close friends with Trump.
However, the Associated Press also reports that once news outlets reported about American Media's deal with McDougal, Pecker came to view those particular hush money documents as more of a liability than an asset, and so he removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump's swearing in. It's unclear what he did with them.
Cohen's guilty plea centered not only on McDougal but on adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who also says she had an affair with Trump (Trump denies this). Cohen says he paid Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about it in the buildup to the election, and that he made this payment at the direction of a candidate for federal office for the purpose of influencing the upcoming election.
Although Cohen didn't name the candidate in question, it's safe to say that it's Trump. His guilty plea says that "in or about January 2017, Cohen left the Company and began holding himself out as the 'personal attorney' to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States." This could not possibly refer to anybody else, as Cohen never represented himself as the "personal attorney" for Barack Obama, the only other person who was POTUS "in or about January 2017."