July 19, 2024

David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, painted a remarkable scene for jurors at Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial Thursday, describing a meeting he attended at the soon-to-be president’s office with people who would hold key roles in his administration.

Mr. Pecker, who had helped Mr. Trump suppress damaging stories during the campaign, said he was outside Trump Tower in January 2017 when Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’ll get you upstairs.”

When he walked into Mr. Trump’s office, he saw Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Mike Pompeo and James Comey. Mr. Comey was the director of the F.B.I. at the time and would later publicly turn against Mr. Trump. Mr. Priebus was the chairman of the Republican National Committee and soon to be Mr. Trump’s chief of staff. Mr. Spicer would become White House press secretary, and Mr. Pompeo would be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Trump introduced me to each of them,” Mr. Pecker testified. “He said, ‘Here is David Pecker. He is the publisher of The National Enquirer.”

Mr. Trump, in the presence of the F.B.I. director and the incoming C.I.A. director, then added slyly that Mr. Pecker probably “knows more than anyone else in this room.”

“It was a joke,” Mr. Pecker testified. “Unfortunately, they didn’t laugh.”

But in the courtroom, Mr. Trump chuckled. His lawyer, Todd Blanche, guffawed.

Mr. Pecker said that at the same meeting, Mr. Trump thanked him for purchasing stories for him during the campaign. The president-elect also inquired about Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model whose story of an affair Mr. Pecker’s company had suppressed in exchange for $150,000.

“How’s our girl?” Mr. Pecker said Mr. Trump had asked, to which he replied: “She’s cool. She’s very quiet. No issues.”

It is unclear whether the other men heard those remarks.

In his testimony, Mr. Pecker also spoke of an earlier postelection meeting at Trump Tower, in December 2016. Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s lawyer and fixer, asked him to persuade Mr. Trump to pay out his holiday bonus, Mr. Pecker said. He also testified that Mr. Cohen had told him he had not yet been repaid for the $130,000 he had spent on a hush-money deal with a porn star, Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Pecker told the jury that he did raise the issue of a bonus for Mr. Cohen with Mr. Trump. “He’s been working very hard, from my perspective, and I believe that he would throw himself under a bus for you,” Mr. Pecker said he had told Mr. Trump.

The publisher recalled that Mr. Trump replied that Mr. Cohen had plenty of money; he owned 50 taxi medallions, valuable licenses to operate a cab in New York City, as well as apartments in Trump buildings. Still, Mr. Pecker testified, Mr. Trump said he would take care of the bonus.

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