The National Enquirer paid a former Playboy model $150,000 during the 2016 campaign for the rights to her allegations that she'd had an affair with Donald Trump but then killed the story. Does that amount to an illegal campaign contribution? That's one of the questions federal prosecutors are investigating with a subpoena of the tabloid's publisher, America Media Inc., reports the Wall Street Journal. The company's chairman, David Pecker, is a friend of both Trump and longtime Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen, and authorities are looking into whether Cohen and Pecker coordinated on the "catch and kill" strategy for the Karen McDougal story—and whether the publisher contributed "something of value for the purpose of influencing the election," per the Journal.
American Media insists it did nothing wrong, denying that it paid McDougal in order to kill the story and denying that its payment to her constitutes a political contribution. A First Amendment attorney tells the New York Times that the company's status as a news organization makes the development a tricky one. "The question is, is this related to the editorial enterprise, or is it related to the business enterprise, or even a personal consideration for one of the employees or publishers or owners or executives of the company?" (Another development suggests that Cohen is prepared to cooperate with prosecutors.)