Washington — The Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s involvement in a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels is also probing the circumstances surrounding money paid in the run-up to the 2016 election to a second woman who alleged an affair with Trump, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Witnesses who have appeared before the grand jury have fielded questions about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model and actress, these sources said. McDougal has alleged she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, and sold the rights to her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 in August 2016. The tabloid never published her account, a practice known as “catch and kill.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the grand jury’s interest in the payment to McDougal on Thursday.
American Media, Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, later admitted it had acquired the rights to McDougal’s story in order to bury it and help Trump’s campaign. David Pecker, who was the company’s CEO until 2020 and a staunch Trump ally, testified before the grand jury earlier this week.
The payment to McDougal preceded a $130,000 payment to Daniels, who also claimed to have had sex with Trump in 2006. That payment was made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and “fixer” at the time, and Daniels agreed not to disclose her allegations in exchange for the money.
Prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office are believed to be investigating whether Trump directed the falsification of business records to conceal payments reimbursing Cohen for the Daniels transaction. Trump has denied all wrongdoing and said he never had an affair with either Daniels or McDougal.
After the Enquirer obtained the rights to McDougal’s story, Cohen reached an agreement with Pecker to purchase the non-disclosure portion of McDougal’s deal for $125,000, which would be paid through a shell corporation Cohen had established. That agreement was never finalized after Pecker pulled out of the deal, federal prosecutors would later say.
After he was indicted on federal charges stemming from his involvement in the payments, Cohen released a recording of a conversation he had with Trump in which they appear to discuss the payment to McDougal. On the tape, Cohen mentioned the need to “open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his involvement in the payments and served several years in prison.
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