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Reports: Tabloid Executive To Get Immunity In Trump Inquiry

NOEL KING, HOST:

David Pecker is a longtime friend of President Trump. He's also the CEO of American Media, Inc. That's the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Now Mr. Pecker has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors in exchange for some information concerning the president. That's according to multiple news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, which reports Pecker provided information about payments made to two women who alleged they had affairs with Donald Trump. The Wall Street Journal's Lukas Alpert has been breaking news on this story, and he's with me now. Good morning, Lukas.

LUKAS ALPERT: Good morning.

KING: So this is quite a doozy - the head of a tabloid getting immunity in a case involving the president of the United States. Tell us a little bit about the significance of this.

ALPERT: Well, the primary significance is that what David Pecker can provide is a corroboration of Michael Cohen's story about what had happened in terms of the payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. So in that case, AMI played sort of a middleman role in one case. In Karen McDougal's case, they actually made the payment, bought her story on behalf - you know, working on behalf of Michael Cohen and the president. And in Stormy Daniels' case, they connected Michael Cohen with Stormy and her lawyers to - and Michael Cohen made that payment himself. But they were in the middle. They were the middleman.

KING: They were the middlemen.

ALPERT: Yeah.

KING: And Mr. Pecker can tell prosecutors that as a fact. Let me ask about the relationship between President Trump and David Pecker because the Enquirer endorsed Trump for president in 2016. It was notable. It was the first time the tabloid had ever officially backed a candidate. What is the relationship between these two men?

ALPERT: Well, they've known each other for at least 20 years. Dave Pecker's run AMI since the very late '90s. You know, he has a long history, used to be the CEO of Hachette Filipacchi, you know, a European magazine conglomerate. And he - you know, they made a Trump magazine in the '90s that was sort of distributed on Trump's resorts and properties. So, you know, he knew him from back then. He's a - you know, AMI used to be headquartered in Florida. And Dave Pecker was a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago. You know, so they - people who know them said that, you know, David would fly down to Florida on Trump's private jet often. So, you know, they're friends. That's - he wouldn't deny that. So he's always been pretty straightforward about that.

KING: You mention these catch-and-kill arrangements where the tabloid buys a story from somebody with the intent of never, ever publishing it to protect the person who it would make look bad. Now, the Associated Press reported last night something really interesting - that the National Enquirer kept a safe for documents like that...

ALPERT: Right.

KING: ...Documents about payments. Can you tell us more about this practice? Do we know how full that safe might be?

ALPERT: I mean, unclear. I mean, what they kept in the safe, you know, were the contracts, effectively.

KING: OK.

ALPERT: You know, so, you know, how deep this went, you know, how much skullduggery was really involved in all of them, you know - it's not entirely clear at this point. But yes, certainly, the contract related to Karen McDougal would have likely been in there. There was another story that they bought that was never proven by a driver named Dino - or a doorman at the Trump Tower named Dino Sajudin. That contract was in there. You know, there have been other people that they've done this for - this kind of service, if you will, you know, that are not, you know, Donald Trump. So, you know, obviously, there are those kind of contracts in there. And the safe was in the editor's office.

KING: Let me ask you to pull back 3,000 feet for a second.

ALPERT: OK.

KING: I mean, this all happened in a week in which the president's former lawyer pled guilty to charges that implicate the president. In the same week, his former campaign chairman was convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud. Do you have a sense of where this is heading and what we should make of all this?

ALPERT: Well, I mean, I would think that this would - you know, it doesn't bode well for the president. I mean, he, obviously, has been implicated in a kind of a criminal matter here to some degree. You know, how it plays out in the long run is a little unclear, and how quickly that may move is also unclear. But, you know, things are moving quickly. That's for sure.

KING: Lukas Alpert covers the media for The Wall Street Journal. Lukas, thanks so much.

ALPERT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.