Karen McDougal: Who is the other woman paid hush money over Trump affair?
Donald Trump was arrested and charged on Tuesday for his role in a hush money scheme during the 2016 election. Much of the attention on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against the former president has concerned Mr Trump allegedly falsifying business records on hush money payments made through his former fixer, Michael Cohen, as part of a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from revealing claims of a decade-old affair with Mr Trump in the waning days of the 2016 election.
Mr Cohen, who served a year in federal prison and two additional years of home confinement for his part in the deal, has provided testimony and documentary evidence to the DA probe, where prosecutors ultimately charged Mr Trump with 34 felonies related to the hush money schemes.
The twice-impeached and indicted ex-president was arraigned on Tuesday 4 April before New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the same jurist who presided over the criminal tax fraud trial of two of Mr Trump’s companies last year.
While Ms Daniels may now be something of a household name, another lesser-known woman who recieved payments to stay silent about her alleged affair with Mr Trump may also play a significant role in the unprecedented criminal charging of a former American commander-in-chief.
That woman is Karen McDougal, a former model for Playboy who was voted “Playmate of the Year in 1998”.
Ms McDougal isn’t named in the Manhattan DA’s indictment, but court documents describe a scheme between Mr Trump and American Media, Inc (AMI), which puts out the National Enquirer tabloid, “to identify and suppress negative stories about him” through buying the rights to various allegations as exclusive stories but never publishing them, a practice known as “catch and kill.”
New York prosecutors allege that AMI paid $150,000 to an individual listed as “Woman 1” in court records, who “alleged she had a sexual relationship with the Defendant while he was married,” in exchange for the accuser remaining silent and for AMI publishing “two magazine cover features of Woman 1 and a series of articles that would be published under her byline.”
These details match up with Ms McDougal’s alleged experience with the president and his allies.
She has told The New Yorker and other outlets about allegedly having an affair with Mr Trump, then being paid off by the media company to stay silent.
She has since appeared on the cover of AMI property Muscle and Fitness Hers and has written health and fitness columns.
In 2018, the model settled a lawsuit with the owner of the National Enquirer, restoring her right to tell her life story. Ms McDougal said she was urged to sign her original deal with AMI under false pretenses, which the company denies.
Ms McDougal has not spoken out publicly about the New York charges against Mr Trump since he was arrested.
A recording obtained by CNN of a 2016 conversation between Mr Trump and Cohen — which has been made public by the former fixer — shows the two men discussing Mr Trump reimbursing the tabloid publisher for hush money payments.
“So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Mr Trump says at one point in the call.
While it’s unclear if that reimbursement ever happened, Mr Trump denied being aware of any such arrangement during a 2018 interview with Fox News.
But what is known is that Ms McDougal does claim to have had an affair with Mr Trump.
In a handwritten note obtained by The New Yorker, she described one encounter with the future president.
Ms McDougal wrote that they had dinner, with Mr Trump ordering steak and potatoes but no alcohol.
“We talked for a couple of hours, then it was ‘on!’ — we got naked and had sex,” she wrote.
She added that Mr Trump offered her money afterwards, to which she responded that she was “not that kind of girl”.
In response, she said Mr Trump told her she was “special”.
Prosecutors argued in the indictment unsealed on Tuesday is that because the alleged payments were made amid the 2016 election season, they amounted to “criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
One witness who could shed light on the agreement is ex-American Media Inc boss David Pecker, a friend of Mr Trump’s, who testified before the grand jury that indicted Mr Trump as recently as 27 March.
Mr Pecker previously testified before federal grand jurors as part of the investigation which led to Cohen’s indictment and guilty plea, though he recieved immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving evidence.