Manhattan grand jury looking into second Trump hush money payment to former Playboy model, report says
The Manhattan grand jury empaneled as part of District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into a hush payment made on Donald Trump’s behalf in 2016 is now reportedly looking at a second payment made to another woman – this time, a former Playboy model.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the investigation has expanded, according to several sources close to the matter, into the “catch-and-kill” effort by the National Enquirer to silence another allegation of extramarital activities on behalf of Mr Trump in 2016. That effort, which occurred two months before the payment to Ms Daniels, was to former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal.
The Journal first broke that story in 2016; now, it has become part of the same investigation previously centred on the $130,000 payment made by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s then-attorney and “fixer”, to porn actress Stormy Daniels in order to silence her claims of an affair with the presidential candidate. Both the “catch-and-kill” effort by the Enquirer and the payment to Ms Daniels were made in mid-to-late 2016, in the final months and weeks of the US presidential election.
News of the expansion of the investigation comes as it was reported a day earlier that the members of the Manhattan grand jury empaneled by Mr Bragg would be going on an extended break. It’s not clear if the entirety of testimony regarding this aspect of the case has concluded, but the Enquirer’s former publisher David Pecker was known to be the final witness to testify to the grand jury before it concluded business this week.
Mr Trump denies having had an affair with Ms McDougal, and his attorneys have also maintained that he did not learn about the payment to Ms McDougal (via the Enquirer) until after it occurred; that, however, seemingly is contradicted by the Journal’s reporting indicating that the president himself reached out to Mr Pecker’s company to buy Ms McDougal’s story.
Mr Cohen, now estranged from his former boss, would also later go on to reveal secret audio recordings of Mr Trump in September 2016 discussing the McDougal payment.
The disbarred attorney would go on to serve prison time for the payments, which were considered illegal campaign contributions, as well as for other criminal charges. He has since been released after serving much of his sentence in home confinement thanks to the Covid pandemic.
Indictments are thought to be looming in the New York investigation, and Mr Trump himself sparked a media frenzy last week by predicting his arrest on that Tuesday; it did not occur, but his campaign raising hundreds of thousands of dollars off the effort regardless.