Although they occasionally perform actual journalism, the National Enquirer has operated as more of an extortion ring. Trump was not the first celebrity for whom David Pecker killed stories, and he won't be the last.
Joe Scarborough discusses last night's breaking news that Pecker kept the Trump stories in an office safe with Jonathan Lemire.
"According to the Wall Street Journal, Pecker's assistance appeared to have played a vital role in what transpired with (Michael) Cohen earlier this week. Then also the new reporting on the power that David Pecker may hold over the president," Scarborough said.
"Five people familiar with the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media, say the company kept a safe containing damages stories on the president. You kind of wonder how big that safe was. It had to be a big safe. Including documents of the hush money payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. They say the safe was a great source of power for the tabloid's CEO and former employees also tell the A.P. the tabloid has been protecting the president more than a decade and negative stories about Trump were dead on arrival dating back to his time on The Apprentice and the A.P. is also reporting fearful the documents might be used against American Media, David Pecker removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump's inauguration, according to one person directly familiar with the events. It's not exactly clear whether the documents were destroyed, or simply moved, to a safer location.
"The A.P. also obtained a March letter to House Democrats in which American Media's general counsel wrote 'any suggestion it would seek to president of the united states through the exercise of its editorial discretion is outrageous, offensive and wholly without merit.'
"Jonathan Lamire, the Associated Press obviously breaking this story. Again, here's another example of a guy who was an acquaintance or a friend with Donald Trump, who's now flipped on him. Of course, to protect himself, but also showing the transactional nature of every one of Donald Trump's relationships through the years," Scarborough said.
"That's right. This is great reporting by colleagues at the A.P., it continues to trend," Lamire said.
"We've seen for a president who talks so much about loyalty, who tells people around him he wants his own Eric Holder, Bobby Kennedy in terms of attorney general, and he's upset that Jeff Sessions betrayed him, in his words, by recusing himself in the Russia situation," Lamire said.
"This is happening more and more frequently. Whether Omarosa, David Pecker, people are out to save themselves and realize loyalty with Donald Trump is a one-way street. He doesn't show much for them and here in a time of true crisis, they're not going to show much in return. The role of the National Enquirer, in AMI, is really fascinating. Positive story after positive story during the early months of the campaign to help him block out of the sun in terms of others running for president in 2015 and into 2016," Lamire said.
"We talked about it on the show a good bit. It was pretty remarkable how during the campaign, Ben Carson goes ahead in Republican polls. Suddenly you have the National Enquirer doing a story saying he left a sponge inside the brain of one of his patients, and almost killed them," Scarborough said.
"When Michael Flynn, in fact, inside the White House, when Michael Flynn was about to get fired, that week, early that week, you had the National Enquirer saying 'Trump rooted out the Russian spy in his White House' and it's none other than than General Flynn. And, of course, Trump fires him a couple days later. It was pretty easy to see. and pretty easy, if we saw it, then I'm sure the special counsel has seen it, that whenever David Pecker went after somebody, that person would be a target of Donald Trump's. You're right. it's been incredibly valuable for Donald Trump."
"And remember, earlier this year, the National Enquirer put out a negative story about Michael Cohen, soon after the raid into his office and house," Lamire pointed out.
"I know he interpreted it as a warning shot from the president, like, 'be careful.' Look, the contents of this vault remain a mystery to this point. Trump is not the only celebrity, apparently, who has perhaps damaging stories locked away by the Enquirer who David Pecker has potentially wields influence over them and the reports we've done, it's a great frustration to the reporters who work there, some who do very good work and felt like they've had career-making stories squashed."