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Who is David Pecker, testifying against Donald Trump in criminal trial: NPR

Ancient National investigator Publisher David Pecker speaks on the witness stand during the criminal trial of Trump, accused of falsifying business records to conceal money paid to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, before the Manhattan State Court in New York on Monday in this courtroom sketch.

Jeanne Rosenberg


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Jeanne Rosenberg


Ancient National investigator Publisher David Pecker speaks on the witness stand during the criminal trial of Trump, accused of falsifying business records to conceal money paid to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, before the Manhattan State Court in New York on Monday in this courtroom sketch.

Jeanne Rosenberg

David Pecker was once the publisher of one of America’s biggest tabloids. But on Monday, Pecker’s old role took on a new face: that of the first witness to testify in a criminal trial against a former U.S. president.

Pecker is the former CEO of American Media Inc., which until 2019 was the publishing company of National investigator review. He is now the first witness to testify against Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee, in a trial charging the former president with 34 counts of falsifying business records with intent to commit other crimes. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Pecker’s testimony is expected to continue Tuesday.

The prosecution’s opening statements Monday recounted how they believed Pecker, Trump and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen conspired using a so-called “catch and kill” scheme in August 2015 to bury negative stories that could harm Trump’s 2016 election prospects and promote articles in the tabloid that were negative about his opponents.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said the evidence will show Pecker found potentially damaging information through his tabloid network and then reported it to Trump and Cohen.

This includes payments to Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who would publicly allege she had an affair with Trump and allegations of an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.

His testimony could corroborate that of Cohen, whom the defense is already seeking to discredit. Pecker is also likely to testify about the plan to pay McDougal, for which Trump did not reimburse him. This creates the context in which Cohen paid Daniels, which prosecutors say happened because Pecker did not want to pay a second time.

Pecker, who was on the stand less than half an hour before the first day, around lunchtime, testified about the editorial structure of his magazine and the level of oversight he had over the articles. He also confirmed his phone numbers, which the prosecution said could later be relevant.

In 2018, Pecker was granted immunity in exchange for providing federal prosecutors with information about the payments. American Media, Inc. then admitted to helping arrange payments to McDougal and then being sold amid the scandal of their involvement in the Trump campaign and federal investigations.

Andrea Bernstein contributed to this report.

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