The owner of the National Enquirer has agreed to pay a fine of $187,500 for its role in paying $150,000 hush money to a former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump.
American Media Inc. and its former president David Pecker struck a deal with Trump campaign officials to buy Karen McDougal’s story in order to suppress it and ‘prevent it from influencing the election,’ according to a ruling by the Federal Election Commission.
But, in a summary of its findings, the FEC said it would not pursue any other respondents and had closed the matter.
The FEC ruling, seen by DailyMail.com, lays bare how Pecker and AMI met with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to help make negative stories about Trump and his relationships go away.
And it concludes that AMI ‘co-ordinated’ with the Trump campaign in paying $150,000 to McDougal.
Federal Election Commission found that American Media Inc, owner of National Enquirer, and David Pecker (pictured) ‘knowingly and willfully’ broke election finance law by making undeclared payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal of $150,000 to help Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign
McDougal said she met Trump in 2006 at the Playboy mansion when he was filming an episode of Celebrity Apprentice. She said she broke off the affair because she felt guilty. Trump has always denied the relationship
The FEC released details of its vote, revealing that two other respondents – known to be former President Trump and the Trump Campaign – will not face further action
The FEC found that the money, paid ahead of the 2016 election, should have been declared as an ‘in kind’ campaign contribution.
But it also said there were insufficient votes among the commissioners to take action against the Trump campaign and Trump himself.
Paul Ryan, vice president for policy and litigation of Common Cause, which brought the case, said: ‘It’s disappointing that Donald Trump has still not been held accountable
‘Michael Cohen went to prison, American Media Inc pays a fine, but the mastermind of an illegal scheme, Donald Trump, has not been held accountable,’ he said.
‘That’s bad news for democracy and a bad precedent for campaign finance law.’
Cohen said New York investigators were closing in on Trump.
“Despite the FEC again allowing Trump, the Trump Organization and others to escape campaign finance violations, their luck has run out with the pending cases by the NY district attorney and attorney general,” he told DailyMail.com.
The case was one of a number of payments made as part of a ‘catch and kill’ program to protect Trump’s reputation.
Last month the FEC said it was dropping an investigation into whether Trump violated election law with a payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels.
And on Friday it also emerged it was not taking any further action on allegations the National Enquirer paid $30,000 to a former doorman at one of Trump’s New York City buildings, effectively silencing Dino Sajudin and his story about Trump fathering a child with an employee at Trump World Tower.
AMI paid McDougal $150,000 for her story in August 2016, a month after Trump secured the Republican nomination for president, in an effort to ‘suppress her story from becoming public before the 2016 presidential election for the purpose of influencing that election,’ according to the Federal Election Commission
Karen McDougal (second left) posing with Hugh Hefner (center) during her career as a Playboy bunny.
AMI is now known as A360 after a merger
But the FEC is working its way through a string of other 2016 campaign allegations, including Trump’s public invitation for the Russian government to ‘find’ Clinton’s emails and accusations that the former president illegally endorsed a super PAC backing his run
McDougal has said she first met Trump in 2006 at the Playboy Mansion.
The result was a 10-month affair, she claimed, which ended when she felt guilty about Trump cheating on his wife.
Trump has always denied the affair.
In June 2016, an attorney for McDougal reportedly contacted the National Enquirer with a story about the model’s alleged relation with Trump.
A month later he secured the Republican nomination for president.
And in August, according to the FEC document, AMI bought the rights to McDougal’s life story including her relationship with ‘any then married men’ for $150,000.
They were later transferred to a company set up by Cohen.
‘Further, AMI admits that its principal purpose in entering into the agreement was to suppress the model’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election” and that “at no time during the negotiation for or acquisition of [McDougal’s] story did AMI intend to publish the story or disseminate information about it publicly,’ said the document.
It also detailed how a year earlier, Pecker had met with members of the Trump campaign and Cohen.
‘Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about [Trump’s] relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided,’ according to a non-prosecution agreement reached by AMI earlier.
Cohen later admitted arranging payments to two women during the 2016 race. He was sentenced to prison for campaign finance violations as well as tax evasion and lying to Congress.
A360, which succeeded AMI after a merger as the owner of the National Enquirer, did not respond to a request for comment.
A Trump spokesman declined to comment.