David Pecker set to be called as first witness at Trump’s hush money trial

Prosecutors allege that the former chairman of the a central player in the alleged scheme to pay hush money to adult-film star Stormy Daniels

Martha McHardy
Monday 22 April 2024 12:37 BST
David Pecker
David Pecker (AP)

The former chairman of the company that published The National Enquirer, David Pecker, is set to be called as the first witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

Trump, 77, is currently on trial in New York facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an alleged bid to cover up hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Prosecutors are expected to call Pecker on Monday after the completion of opening statements, according to the New York Times. As the then-chairman and CEO of American Media Inc (AMI), prosecutors say Pecker was a central player in the alleged scheme to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election over an affair Daniels says she had with Trump. The former president denies the affair and all the charges against him.

In October 2016, an agent for Daniels contacted AMI and said she was willing to go public with her allegations of an affair with Trump. Pecker then allegedly contacted Mr Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who negotiated a deal to pay her $130,000 to “purchase [her] silence,” according to court filings.

Prosecutors allege that the Daniels payment was part of a broader “catch and kill” scheme hatched by Trump, Cohen and Pecker to pay off people with potentially damaging information about Trump before the November 2016 election which ended with Trump being voted into the White House.

According to prosecutors, Pecker agreed during an August 2015 meeting with Trump and Cohen to act as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by looking out for negative stories about Trump.

AMI admitted in 2018 – as part of a deal to avoid criminal prosecution – that it paid $150,000 to former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal for rights to her story about an alleged months-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. American Media said it worked “in concert” with Trump‘s campaign, and it never published a story. While this payment is not part of the charges against the former president, prosecutors are expected to use it to establish a pattern of such payments.

The former president also denies having an affair with McDougal.

Pecker has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

If Trump is found guilty, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison, according to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates

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