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Courtroom Bombshells on Day 6 of Trump Hush Money Trial

Pecker testifies to 2015 agreement where Enquirer acted as a propaganda arm for the Trump campaign, killing negative stories about Trump while publishing embellished smears against rivals.

David Pecker hush money
Courtroom sketch showing David Pecker testifying during Donald Trump’s hush money trial on April 23rd.

In damning testimony on Tuesday, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker admitted to actively conspiring with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to kill negative stories and smear his political rivals. 

Pecker detailed this unethical “catch-and-kill” scheme, revealing he pledged to alert Cohen of any forthcoming exposés involving Trump’s indiscretions with women so they could preemptively purchase and kill those stories, regardless of truth. Prosecutors argue such coordination with a supposedly independent outlet to disseminate disinformation represented an unprecedented subversion of press freedom and democratic norms aimed at manipulating voters through deception.

Trump, Cohen, and Pecker Arrange Hush Money Agreement

Pecker’s accounts paint a picture of a systematic, mutually beneficial arrangement hatched in August 2015 at Trump Tower. In Pecker’s own words, he attended a meeting with Trump and his Michael Cohen where they proposed he become the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by killing negative stories about Trump, while pushing false and defamatory hit pieces against his political rivals. 

In his admissions, Pecker laid bare how the National Enquirer effectively functioned as a propaganda arm of the Trump campaign through a secret “agreement among friends” to provide favorable coverage. “None of this was ever put into writing,” he stated.

“The agreement was highly, highly confidential,” Pecker continued, only informing three top editors because “we were going to try to help the campaign.” Those editors were instructed to vet and approve all Trump-related stories through Michael Cohen first.

The specifics of this unscrupulous pact are as insidious as they are unethical. David Pecker testified that Cohen would regularly provide leads and misinformation that the Enquirer would then “embellish” into sensationalized smear pieces targeting figures like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio after successful debate performances. As examples aired in court highlighted, the tabloid maliciously branded Cruz as an adulterous “pervy” philanderer and falsely claimed Carson had botched a surgery, leaving a sponge in a patient’s brain. In addition, Rubio was accused of fathering a “love child.”

These were not mere celebrity gossip stories—they amounted to calculated, factually baseless character attacks meticulously designed by Cohen and Pecker to manipulate voters against Trump’s opponents. Moreover, Pecker acknowledged they readily planned to exploit anything involving Bill Clinton’s past infidelities to inflict maximum damage on Hillary Clinton. 

Equally disturbing were the revelations about the lengths Trump’s campaign went to proactively bury potentially damaging revelations about the candidate’s own indiscretions and personal misconduct. As Pecker confessed, he pledged to secretly alert Cohen about any impending stories from women claiming affairs or other compromising interactions with Trump. This allowed them to implement a systematic “catch and kill” strategy of preemptively purchasing and suppressing such stories.

In one example, Pecker outlined a $30,000 payment to a Trump Tower doorman peddling a false rumor that Trump fathered a child with an employee. Despite acknowledging the story was fabricated, Pecker deemed it worthwhile to spend an exorbitant sum to completely erase any possibility of it surfacing during the heated election cycle. 

Under New York law, Trump’s alleged falsification of business records would only constitute a misdemeanor. However, prosecutors argue these actions were committed to conceal the underlying felony of a conspiracy with the National Enquirer to unlawfully influence the 2016 election.

Specifically, they are invoking state election law 17-152 that prohibits conspiracies between two or more parties to “promote or prevent the election” of candidates through illicit means. By coordinating a deliberate propaganda campaign of burying negative Trump stories while maliciously smearing opponents, Trump and his associates potentially subverted the democratic process itself for personal gain.

Prosecutors Implicate Steve Bannon During Trial

Pecker’s testimony revealed the disturbing extent of coordination between Trump’s campaign, right-wing media outlets, and the National Enquirer. He admitted Trump personally introduced him to Steve Bannon in October 2016, saying they would “work well together” to promote Trump’s candidacy. Pecker stated Bannon even suggested having an Enquirer reporter appear on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News to amplify their smear pieces to millions of viewers.

This is further evidence of a conspiracy to leverage the Enquirer’s tabloid fiction and Fox News’ influential platform as political weapons to disseminate disinformation benefiting Trump. Prosecutors argue such illicit coordination between campaigns, media, and publishing to systematically mislead voters violated New York election laws prohibiting unlawful promotion of candidates.

Gag Order Proceedings 

At the beginning of the day, a hearing on Trump’s potential violations of the gag order took place prior to the jury being brought in. Prosecutors argued Trump’s flagrant violations of the court’s gag order seemed calculated to intentionally undermine the legal proceedings by attacking witnesses. 

They stated Trump’s repeated public attacks on individuals involved in the case, including branding Cohen a “serial perjurer,” amounted to Trump “angling” for potential incarceration through willful contempt. While not seeking jail time yet, prosecutors asked he be held in contempt and fined for at least 10 violations of the judge’s order prohibiting such inflammatory rhetoric.

“Trump is actively undermining these proceedings through unrestrained attacks,” prosecutor Christopher Conroy stated, adding they would file another order citing Trump’s inflammatory comments about Cohen in the courthouse hallway as violating the gag order.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche insisted the order was not “willfully violated,” arguing his client faced a “barrage” of criticism he could not respond to—essentially demanding privileged treatment. Judge Merchan grew visibly exasperated at such assertions of a “two systems of justice,” with Blanche confirming this was indeed Trump’s message. 

Judge Merchan pressed Blanche repeatedly to provide the specific post justifying Trump’s inflammatory comments, but he could not—highlighting the disingenuous nature of their claims. As Blanche feebly insisted Trump was carefully complying with the order, a visibly disinterested Trump appeared to reinforce his contempt for the proceedings.

Merchan repeatedly asked Blanche to substantiate the alleged comments, saying, “I’ve asked you eight or nine times. You’ve been unable to do that even once.”

When asked if they had any other arguments, Blanche claimed they are “trying to comply” with the gag order and insisted “President Trump is being very careful.”

However, the Merchan bluntly rebuked this, snapping, “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”