Donald Trump Witness Reveals New Info About Meeting

The only witness the jury has heard from in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan Criminal Court revealed new information about the 2015 meeting that prosecutors claim was the catalyst of Trump’s plan to influence the 2016 presidential election.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, returned to the stand on Tuesday to testify about his involvement in Trump’s alleged scheme. Pecker served as the CEO of American Media Inc (AMI) between March 1999 to August 2020.

Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to claims that he orchestrated the payment of hush money to former adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election in return for her silence about an alleged sexual relationship in 2006. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies Daniels’ claim that she had sexual relations with him.

Pecker was sworn in on Monday, but the 72-year-old publishing executive gave only about a half-hour of testimony before court adjourned early for the Passover holiday. On Tuesday, he resumed his position on the stand wearing a dark gray suit, blue shirt and pink tie.

Donald Trump Trial Witness
Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 23 in New York City. Trump met with former fixer Michael Cohen…

Curtis Means/Getty Images

At the center of the case is a meeting that prosecutors said took place at the Trump Tower between Trump, Pecker and former Trump fixer Michael Cohen in August 2015, during which the three men “orchestrated a cover-up to interfere” with the presidential election by concealing negative information about Trump.

Pecker told the court on Tuesday that he has known Trump “since the late ’80s” having met him at Mar-a-Lago through a client. He described a “great” relationship with Trump over the years and recalled that Trump, who was “a celebrity in his own right,” introduced him to other high-profile people in New York and invited him to parties and events. He remembered Trump being one of the first people to call him and congratulate him when he purchased AMI.

When Trump launched The Apprentice, and subsequently The Celebrity Apprentice, Pecker said they started a “mutually beneficial relationship” in which Trump would send him the show’s ratings or give him scoops on which celebrity was being fired, which he then published in his tabloids.

In June 2015, Pecker received an invitation from Cohen inviting him to Trump’s presidential campaign announcement. He attended and watched Trump announce his candidacy at Trump Tower. Then in August, he was asked by Cohen to return to the Fifth Avenue condominium because “the boss wanted to see me.”

“Most of the time, when I received a call from Michael Cohen, he wanted something,” Pecker said from the stand. “So, I assumed I was going to be asked for something. I didn’t know what it was going to be before I got there.”

“At that meeting, Donald Trump and Michael, they asked me what I can do and what my magazines could do to help the campaign,” Pecker testified. “Thinking about it as I did previously, I said what I would do is I would run or publish positive stories about Mr. Trump and I would publish negative stories about his opponents.”

Pecker also told Trump and Cohen that he would be the “eyes and ears” for the campaign so that if he heard there was anything negative being shopped around about Trump, he would notify Cohen and Cohen would have those stories killed. Pecker said he had anticipated that a lot of women would try to sell their stories about Trump.

“Mr. Trump was well known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women,” Pecker recalled. “Based on my past experience that when someone is running for public office like this, it’s very common for these women to call up a magazine like the National Enquirer and try and sell their stories.”

David Pecker Trump Witness
David Pecker (right) attends the Shape France magazine cocktail launch with Alexandra Kazan on January 19, 2012, in Paris, France. Pecker testified in Trump’s criminal trial on April 23, 2024.

Francois Durand/Getty Images

The former publisher also said that he agreed to keep running negative stories about Democrat Hillary Clinton, which “pleased” Trump.

The three men met for about 20 to 25 minutes, after which Pecker returned to his office and told Dylan Howard, the National Enquirer‘s editor-in-chief, about the meeting. He said he made it clear to Howard that the agreement was to remain “highly, highly confidential” because he didn’t want any leaks within the organization.

During his testimony, Pecker was presented with several headlines that the National Enquirer ran about then-GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, all of which he confirmed the magazine published when those Republicans were seeing a surge in the primary polls.

Pecker then went into detail about how the National Enquirer purchased a story from a doorman at the Trump Tower who claimed that Trump had fathered an illegitimate child with the maid of his penthouse apartment. After buying it for $30,000, he learned it was “1,000 percent untrue” but was told by Cohen not to release the doorman from the agreement that he would not shop the story to other outlets until after the 2016 election.

Pecker also recalled the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had a romantic relationship with Trump for a year. Pecker said he had sent Howard to California to interview and vet her claims.

Before he testified about what Howard discovered in his two- to three-hour interview with McDougal, court adjourned for the day. Pecker is expected to resume his testimony on Thursday.