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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

National Enquirer executives granted US immunity in Michael Cohen probe

Vanity Fair magazine reports that federal prosecutors have made offer to American Media Inc’s CEO David Pecker

Reports said immunity had been given to Enquirer chief executive David Pecker, a long-time Trump friend. Marion Curtis via AP
Reports said immunity had been given to Enquirer chief executive David Pecker, a long-time Trump friend. Marion Curtis via AP

Prosecutors have granted immunity to two executives at the National Enquirer tabloid for testimony about President Donald Trump’s involvement in payoffs to silence women about his liaisons, media reports said Thursday.

The reports said immunity had been given to Enquirer chief executive David Pecker, a long-time Trump friend, and the newspaper’s chief content officer Dylan Howard.

The Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc did not respond to an AFP inquiry on the reports.

The two could offer evidence on Mr Trump’s knowledge of payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, according to the reports in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

The executives at the supermarket tabloid were some way involved in both hush money deals, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper said that the executives would not face criminal charges in the investigation into possible violations of campaign finance laws and Mr Trump’s involvement in the scheme.

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Read more:

Trump insists he did no wrong after aides convicted

Trump’s longtime fixer admits he paid hush money to women on president’s behalf

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Bringing a media company into the investigation could prompt concerns over the First Amendment or press freedom. But several reports said the newspaper may not be able to use that defence because it was acting more as a political operation than a news organisation.

The New York Times said the company did not challenge the subpoena and agreed to cooperate where they deemed First Amendment rights were not violated.

The revelations come days after Cohen implicated Mr Trump in pleading guilty this week to making hush payments during the 2016 campaign to the two women, who said they had had affairs with the Republican candidate.

Although Cohen did not name them, the women were believed to be Ms Daniels and Ms McDougal.

Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, putting Mr Trump in legal jeopardy.

Mr Trump claimed in a Fox News interview that his former lawyer “made the deals,” and insisted that Cohen’s actions were “not a crime,” while going on to claim that “campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly.”

The president then said the hush payments were financed with his own money – to which Cohen had access – and that while he had no knowledge of them at the time, he had since been fully transparent.

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