Citing sources familiar with the matter, The New York Times reported that Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, played a pivotal role in planning how Trump could gain the rights to the negative stories the National Enquirer, and by extension AMI, had collected. However, that plan was never completed.
It is unclear if the stories, which reportedly date back to the 1980s, are still in the possession of AMI. It was reported by the Associated Press last week that David Pecker, CEO and chairman of AMI, hid scores of damaging Trump stories inside a safe for years before he decided to either trash them or place them elsewhere ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Sources told AP that Pecker opted to do away with the files because he feared them being used against him.
Per the Times, Trump, who was at the time the Republican candidate for president, called on Cohen to begin working on a plan sometime in August 2016, when AMI bought the exclusive rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal's story detailing her 2006 love affair with Trump. McDougal was paid $150,000 for the story, which was never published.
Once the McDougal arrangement was a done deal, Trump reportedly began to question what would happen to the explosive documents Pecker had helped collect if he were to leave AMI or die. Trump's concerns were also highlighted in a recording Lanny Davis, Cohen's lawyer, released in July. Besides discussing payment arrangements for the McDougal case, Trump is also heard on the tape suggesting that anything could happen to Pecker, including getting "hit by a truck."
AMI sources told the Times that the majority of the stories were about Trump's marriage troubles and lawsuits, as well as tips on alleged affairs and "lists of sensitive sources." Officials at AMI also suggested that the amount of dirt they had on Trump would've put the Enquirer in a "prime position to dominate on coverage of Mr. Trump's scandalous past."
Cohen pleaded guilty last week on Tuesday to eight charges, including one count of campaign finance violations. Cohen, who played a role in paying McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels $150,000 and $130,000, respectively, submitted false invoices to the "candidate's company" to receive reimbursements for the payoffs. Although court documents do not name the Trump Organization outright, it has been suggested that this is the company that's being referred to.
In the days since Cohen agreed to a plea deal, Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, and Pecker have been granted immunity by federal investigators in exchange for information about Cohen's dabbling in nondisclosure deals with Trump's former lovers.
It was also revealed on Wednesday that Pecker had resigned from the board of Canadian media giant Postmedia. In a statement regarding Pecker's resignation, Peter Sharpe, lead director of the board, indicated Pecker wanted to "focus his efforts on ensuring that his businesses are best positioned for continued growth."