U.S. federal prosecutors have reportedly granted immunity to the owner of a tabloid that is a central focus of the investigation into President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
The CEO of the company that owns the National Enquirer, David Pecker, met with prosecutors to describe his involvement with Cohen, Trump, and the hush money that was paid to two women before the 2016 presidential election, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter.
As a result of the information provided at the meeting, Pecker was granted immunity and will not be criminally charged, the Journal said.
Cohen reached a plea agreement with prosecutors earlier this week after detailing the tabloid’s role in payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to remain silent about alleged affairs with Trump.
Court papers showed how Pecker offered to help Trump prevent the publication of negative stories about Trump during the campaign. The documents said Pecker “offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump’s) relationships with women … by identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”
Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight criminal charges, including campaign-finance violations that are linked to the payments.
Pecker, who owns the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., is a long-time friend of Cohen’s.
The Wall Street Journal report said at Cohen’s urging the Enquirer started promoting a potential Trump presidential candidacy in 2010 and referred readers to a Trump-friendly website that Cohen helped develop. Former staffers said the tabloid began questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and his U.S. citizenship, a campaign Trump promoted for several years.
The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president in 2016, the first time it had officially supported a candidate.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.