Federal prosecutors have announced that they have struck a non-prosecution agreement with National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., effectively ruling out charges for the tabloid publisher over its role in securing hush money from President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
AMI, as part of the agreement, admitted that it paid $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her quiet about Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The company pledged to "truthfully and completely disclose all information" sought by the Manhattan US Attorney's Office, and also cooperate with "any other law enforcement agency" specified by prosecutors. These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.
Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for lying to investigators about the operation.
Pecker reportedly received immunity in discussions with prosecutors investigating the McDougal payment.
AMI entered an agreement with McDougal on August 5, 2016.
Pecker agreed to sell the rights to McDougal's story to Cohen for $125,000.
Pecker also directed a consultant to complete the transaction through "a company unaffiliated" with AMI, prosecutors said, a technique that presumably helped mask the transaction.
The invoice attributed the $125,000 payment to an "agreed upon flat fee for advisory services", when in fact it was to ensure McDougal's silence at a pivotal moment in the campaign.
Trump has denied that the affair took place. "When you have both people saying that it was to influence the election, and that they knew that and that they coordinated with the campaign, that gets you very far". He also instructed Cohen to tear up the paperwork, prosecutors said.
The "Morning Joe" host digested news that Trump participated in efforts to buy up negative stories about him by National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and to pay off his past mistresses just ahead of the 2016 election - which amounts to felony crimes.
The agreement raises the possibility that Trump's presidential campaign, which is now making early preparations for his re-election bid, could be indicted for violating campaign finance laws through its involvement in the payout.