National Enquirer Records of Playboy Model Payout Subpoenaed as Investigators Zero in on Michael Cohen: Report
The publisher of the National Enquirer, an outlet that was exceptionally friendly to President Donald Trump during the campaign, has been subpoenaed for its records related to the payment of a playboy model Karen Dougal in relation to her story about an affair with the president, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The subpoena is reportedly a part of the investigation of Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer who arranged for payments to women to keep them quiet about affairs with the president.
The Enquirer paid McDougal for her story about Trump before the election, but it never published her claims. Reports suggest that this decision may have been part of a "catch and kill strategy," in which outlets pay sources for stories in order to ensure that they stay secret.
If the Enquirer and Cohen engaged in such a scheme to kill the story for political purposes, the Journal reports, it could raise serious questions about campaign finance laws. The Journal notes:
Corporations are barred from making contributions to candidates under federal election law. If investigators find evidence that Mr. Cohen pressed American Media to buy Ms. McDougal’s story to protect Mr. Trump’s campaign, prosecutors could bring charges against Mr. Cohen, the company or both, legal experts said.
In such a case, prosecutors would have to prove Mr. Cohen coordinated with American Media to provide Mr. Trump something of value for the purpose of influencing the election, said Douglas Spencer, a professor of law and public policy at the University of Connecticut. Proving coordination would likely be the most difficult prong of such a case, he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cohen officially resigned from the Republican National Committee, where he served as deputy finance chair. Multiple outlets, including CNN, suggest that Cohen may be preparing to flip on the president if he faces charges from investigators.