Could the word of a former supermarket tabloid publisher be the difference between a world of legal hurt and Donald Trump walking away scot-free?
Maybe so, and that could be the reason behind delays in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office decision over whether to indict the former president, MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin reports.
National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who testified before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case against Trump over alleged hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, could help prosecutors rehabilitate Michael Cohen, the former president’s ex-lawyer/fixer, who himself has a criminal past and may be carrying more legal baggage than prosecutors want to admit, the report said.
According to the report: “After all, as former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori explained this week, with each and every TV appearance Cohen raises the possibility of inconsistencies with his prior testimony and even potentially with his sworn, federal guilty plea. And that, coupled with would-be Cohen lawyer Bob Costello’s own grand jury testimony, might have forced the DA to rehabilitate its case with witnesses beyond Cohen.”
And although Pecker probably doesn’t have first-hand knowledge of falsified business records, he previously communicated with the former president about “catch and kill” schemes, The New York Times reports.
“As Mr. Obama prepared to leave office in 2015, Mr. Trump decided to run for president once more. That August, he sat in his office at Trump Tower with Mr. Cohen and David Pecker, the publisher of American Media Inc. and its flagship tabloid, The National Enquirer,” The Times reports.
“Mr. Pecker, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, had used The Enquirer to boost Mr. Trump’s past presidential runs. He promised to publish positive stories about Mr. Trump and negative ones about opponents, according to three people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Pecker also agreed to work with Mr. Cohen to find and suppress stories that might damage Mr. Trump’s new efforts, a practice known as ‘catch and kill.’”
According to the MSNBC report, Trump in June 2016 sought Percker’s help silencing Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who sought to monetize an alleged affair with Trump, and then in October of that year (the day after “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced) Cohen, Trump and Enquirer editor Dylan Howard spoke after Pecker declined to pay Stormy Daniels $120,000 for her silence.
Prosecutors won’t have much margin for error if they hope to secure a felony conviction against Trump, The New York Times reports, noting “the case against the former president hinges on an untested and therefore risky legal theory involving a complex interplay of laws, all amounting to a low-level felony.”
“If Mr. Trump were ultimately convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of four years, though prison time would not be mandatory.”
The “risky legal theory” prosecutors are considering would require proving not just that Trump was guilty of a misdemeanor for falsifying business records, but that it was “done in furtherance of another felony, another crime,” and that would have to be a New York state crime, according to Cornell Law School adjunct professor Randy Zelin, Rolling Stone reports.
“What you need to do to elevate the misdemeanor falsification of business records to a felony simply is this — [show] that the act of falsifying the business records was done in furtherance of another felony, another crime, that’s it,” Zelin said, noting that . “it would have to be a New York state crime.”
“I think that the district attorney’s office in New York County is running a great risk of diluting the strength of other potential cases brought by other prosecutors, because this is a weak case — legally, it is a weak case.”
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