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A $30,000 rumour? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip before election

A $30,000 rumour? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip before election
From CBC - April 12, 2018

Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she'd had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid's parent made a $30,000 US payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul's New York City buildings.

As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump's campaign for president.

The payout to the former Playmate, Karen McDougal, stayed a secret until The Wall Street Journal published a story about it days before election day. Since then, curiosity about that deal has spawned intense media coverage and, this week, helped prompt the FBI to raid the hotel room and offices of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, has not been told until now.

The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc.

Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumour he'd heard that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumour or the terms of the deal.

Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin's story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.

The parallel between the ex-Playmate's and the ex-doorman's dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump's image during the campaign.

'Lacked any credibility'

American Media has not said whether federal authorities have sought information from it, but said this week that it would "comply with any and all requests that do not jeopardize or violate its protected sources or materials pursuant to our First Amendment rights."

On Wednesday, an Enquirer sister publication, RadarOnline, published details of the payment and the rumour that Sajudin was peddling. The website wrote that the Enquirer spent four weeks reporting the story but ultimately decided it was not true. The company only released Sajudin from his contract after the 2016 election amid inquiries from the Journal about the payment.

During AP's reporting, AMI threatened legal action over reporters' efforts to interview current and former employees and hired the New York law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which challenged the accuracy of the AP's reporting.

Asked about the payment last summer, Dylan Howard, the Enquirer's top editor and an AMI executive, said he made the payment to secure the former Trump doorman's exclusive co-operation because the tip, if true, would have sold "hundreds of thousands" of magazines. Ultimately, he said the information "lacked any credibility," so he spiked the story on those merits.

But four longtime Enquirer staffers directly familiar with the episode challenged Howard's version of events. They said they were ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story.

They said the publication did not pursue standard Enquirer reporting practices, such astabloid tactics designed to prove paternity.

In 2008, the Enquirer helped bring down Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards in part by digging through a dumpster and retrieving material to do a DNA test that indicated he had fathered a child with a mistress, according to a former staffer.

Woman denies affair with Trump

The woman at the centreof the rumour about Trump denied emphatically to the AP last August that she'd ever had an affair with Trump. The AP has not been able to determine if the rumour is true and is not naming the woman.

"This is all fake," she said.

Tabloid endorsed Trump

Big penalty

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