Trump asked National Enquirer CEO to help campaign by silencing women

President Donald Trump personally asked the publisher of the National Enquirer, his longtime friend David Pecker, to help his presidential campaign by silencing women who might come forward with details of his sexual relationships with them, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

According to the Journal, then-candidate Trump asked Pecker during an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower, "What can you do to help my campaign?"

Pecker responded by offering to use his tabloid to buy off women who might attempt to go public with their past sexual experiences with Trump by acquiring the exclusive rights to the stories but never publishing them, a practice known as "catch and kill."

At more than 3,000 words, the Journal's article is the most detailed account to date of Trump's alleged involvement in the payoffs that were made to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. The Journal said it based its reporting on interviews with three dozen people with "direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents."

In mid-2016, Trump requested that Pecker kill a story from McDougal, who'd said she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago, by buying her silence, the Journal said.

After Trump's 2016 request, Pecker's company, American Media Inc., paid $150,000 to McDougal to keep her from going public with her story.

26 PHOTOS
Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
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Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmates Katie Lohmann (top) and Karen McDougal attend the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmate Karen McDougal attends the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
382949 09: Playboy playmate Karen McDougal strikes a pose as a pinup girl similiar to a watercolor painting by Alberto Vargas December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
Karen McDougal during Movieline's Hollywood Life 7th Annual Young Hollywood Awards - Arrivals at Music Box at The Fonda in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Hugh Hefner, George Maloof, Christine Santiago, Karen McDougal, Julie Cialini (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
382949 04: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, center, poses with playmates, left to right, Carrie Stevens, Kalin Olson, Karen McDougal and Deanna Brooks dressed as pinup girls December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 15: Actress Karen McDougal arrives at the launch party to celebrate Diane von Furstenberg's limited edition designer mobile phone at Astra West in the Pacific Design Center on October 15, 2004 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Cherie Steinberg/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Karen McDougal, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1998 attend Playboy's Super Saturday Night Party presented by Bacardi at Sagamore Hotel on February 6, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Bacardi)
5/28/98 Beverly Hills, Ca Hugh Hefner and Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal at the Playboy Mansion.
Newly named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with her new Shelby series Mustang which she received May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine.
Newly-named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with Playboy magazine founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine. SSM/RC
7-10-98 Los Angeles, Ca Playboy Launches Search For Playmates For The Mellennium. Lead Singer Of 'Janes Addiction' Perry Farrell With Stacy Sanches And Karen Mcdougal. (Photo By John Chapple/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during Miramax Films, Archie Comics and Kitson Launch New Apparel Line Featuring 'Betty & Veronica' at Kitson Retail Store in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Playboy Playmates Karen McDougal and Carrie Stevens *exclusive* ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic)
Karen McDougal (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
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The Associated Press reported in August that the National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its close relationship with Trump. The documents were removed from the safe in the weeks before the president's inauguration and the AP could not determine their whereabouts.

NBC News reported in August that Trump was directly involved in the payments after Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, including two counts related to hush-money payments made to women that he said he made at the direction of Trump. Cohen's lawyer said on MSNBC that his client is willing to share information about Trump with special counsel Robert Mueller.

The payoffs to the women may have broken campaign finance laws, but that remains unclear.

The Journal cited Richard Hasen, a campaign finance law expert, who said Trump's involvement wouldn't necessarily mean he broke campaign finance laws. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said a criminal conviction would require evidence Trump knowingly broke campaign finance laws.

Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in their investigation into Cohen, NBC News reported in August.

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