American Media, Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, destroyed various documents related to then-candidate Donald Trump just before he was elected president in 2016, according to an excerpt from a new book by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow.
According to Farrow, Dylan Howard, the Enquirer‘s editor in November 2016, demanded that a staff member “get everything out of the safe” and told them “we need to get a shredder down there.”
Howard’s order to delete the evidence allegedly occurred the same day that a Wall Street Journal reporter called for comment on how the publication’s parent company paid $150,000 to keep a damaging story about Trump’s extramarital sexual activity from being published.
As Law&Crime previously reported, those long gone documents likely included several negative and damaging stories about Trump’s personal life–which were acquired by the tabloid powerhouse in an effort to benefit the candidate’s long shot presidential bid.
The Enquirer obtained such information through the ethically suspect practice known as “catch and kill” whereby an outlet pays for the rights to stories with the intent of not actually publishing them, effectively keeping the stories and bad news out of the public eye.
In August 2018, federal prosecutors granted immunity to American Media CEO David Pecker in exchange for his help with the Southern District of New York’s (SDNY) investigation into Trump’s former friend and longtime attorney Michael Cohen.
In December 2018, American Media worked out a deal with the SDNY to avoid prosecution after they admitted to helping coordinate an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign by capturing and killing a story about hush money payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The efforts of American Media effectively kept McDougal silent about her alleged affair with Trump. The company told federal investigators that their purchase and shelving of that story was meant to keep McDougal’s bombshell from influencing the 2016 presidential election.
Farrow claimed that there was internal debate about the shredding decision:
There was an internal debate: some were starting to realize that surrendering it all would create a legally problematic paper trail, and resisted. Nevertheless, Howard and senior staff ordered the reporting material that wasn’t already in the small safe exhumed from storage bins in Florida and sent to [American Media, Inc.] headquarters.
When the negative material on Trump was first in AMI’s possession, it was reportedly put into the above-noted small safe, but scandals about Trump soon mounted and the stories were moved to a larger safe located in the office of AMI’s head of human resources.
“It was only later, when one of the employees who had been skeptical started getting jumpy and went to check, that they found something amiss: the list of Trump dirt didn’t match up with the physical files,” Farrow continues. “Some of the material had gone missing.”
Howard’s attorneys have threatened foreign booksellers and Farrow’s British publisher with defamation lawsuits over the allegations contained in “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” which is being published next week by Little, Brown and Company.
In response to the charges that negative Trump stories were shredded, Howard attorney Paul Tweed told Politico: “We have advised Mr. Howard to make no further comment at this stage, while all legal options and jurisdictions are being considered.”
In the book, Farrow quotes former Enquirer journalist, Jerry George, who claims that Pecker “killed perhaps ten fully reported stories about Trump, and nixed many more potential leads during George’s twenty-eight years at the Enquirer.”
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]