National Enquirer Boss David Pecker Tiptoes Away From His Pal Trump as Scandal Swirls and Circulation Drops

Shortly after the feds raided the office of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trumps now estranged personal attorney and longtime enforcer, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker went into a state of calculated retreat.

For years, Peckers tabloid had promoted and puffed up Trumps political rise and his presidency. But once a regular fixture on the cover of the National Enquirer, Trump hasnt appeared on it since an issue dated early May. That appearance was for a cover story on the various scandals swirling around… Cohen.

In that same issue detailing Cohens dirty workwork in which the Enquirer itself played a key rolethere was another story showing how the Enquirers lie detector examination supposedly absolved Trump of any Russia-related collusion. Since then, the tabloid's approach to the saga has ranged from muted to silent. The most recent issue of the Enquirer, dated July 30, 2018, doesnt feature a single item on Trump in the entire, 47-page editionthough the issue did have room for a story on how the late James Bond actor Roger Moore SMELLED BAD! due to rampant flatulence.

The presidents disappearance from the pages of Peckers famous, Trump-endorsing supermarket tabloid was no coincidence. It also further demonstrates how so much of what President Trump touches, including the tabloids that relish the drama he produces, seems to suffer under the weight of scandals.

According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Pecker and the Enquirers top brass made a conscious decision to pull back on their pro-Trump coverage, just as Peckers media empire found itself increasingly embroiled in Trumpworlds legal and public-relations woes.

Pecker made a conscious decision to pull back on his pro-Trump coverage, just as his media empire found itself increasingly embroiled in Trumpworlds legal woes.

A month after the Enquirers last Trump cover, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal authorities had subpoenaed Pecker and other executives at American Media Inc. (AMI), which publishes the tabloid. They sought records related to allegations that the company purchased the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougals story of an affair with Trump, then killed the story for Trumps benefit, a practice known as catch and kill. Prosecutors are exploring whether such an agreement may have constituted an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign by AMI.

But the dialing-back of Trump content may have come with a cost. The National Enquirer's circulation numbers declined in the first half of the year, according to industry metrics compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media. The tabloid lost about 4,700 paid subscriptions from January through June, about six percent of its total at the beginning of the year.

An AMI spokesperson acknowledged the downturn in an emailed statement. AMI is not immune to the challenges facing the publishing industry, which is why we have continued to diversify and grow our revenue with new channels and acquisitions, the spokesperson wrote.

The rep also dismissed any implication of its lack of Trump covers or coverage of late, saying, any decisions about our covers are driven by proprietary data on what our readers are most interested in and what is most likely [to] perform well at the newsstand, period.

Nevertheless, the seven National Enquirer issues in the first half of the year that featured Trump on the cover sold, on average, about 13,000 more newsstand copies than issues that did not, according to the data. The president graced the cover of the two most widely circulated issues of the first six months of the year.

As Pecker and his team were distancing themselves from Trump publicly, a more surreptitious effort was underway to cleanse the public record of details of Peckers involvement in the McDougal scandal and the AMI bosss relationship with the president.

Over the course of a week last month, an anonymous Wikipedia user repeatedly tried to scrub Peckers page of damaging information regarding his alleged links to the McDougal hush-money scandal, removing huge blocks of text describing Peckers and AMIs roles in paying the model for her story. The edits also removed references to Pecker as a close friend of Donald Trump and a supporter of his 2016 presidential campaign in addition to scrubbing mention of a federal investigation of the payment that stemmed from the raid of Cohens office (In a recently-leaked tape, Trump told Cohen to make the payment in cash to our friend David, assumed to be Pecker.)

The origin of the edits was even more interesting. They were made by someone using an I.P. address associated with the high-powered Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor, according to publicly-available web database information. The same I.P. address has been used to edit pages for WME itself, the head of the agencys literary division, and a number of WME clients. A Wikipedia editor using a second I.P. address associated with the agency previously attempted to edit the page of agencys chief super-agent Ari Emanuelby scrubbing details of aformer WME employee's sexual harassment lawsuit against the agency (WME denied her allegations, and the suit was settled for $2.25 million). An anonymous editor using that second IP address later said he or she had made other tweaks to Emanuels page at his behest.

As Pecker distancing himself from Trump publicly, a more surreptitious effort was underway to cleanse the public record of details of Peckers involvement in the McDougal scandal.

Theres no way of gleaning from Wikipedia edit logs whether any of those changes were the work of the same person, or even how many different people have edited the various pages using WME IP addresses. WME declined to speak on the record about the edits, but a source familiar with the agencys work downplayed their significance, saying they were not undertaken on behalf of a client or in any official capacity.

The source, however, said that the stealth-edits purging the page of Trump scandal could have been made by any individual with access to the companys wireless internet network.

A representative for AMI claimed that neither Pecker nor AMI had requested the Wikipedia stealth-editing campaign. WME subsidiary IMG only represents AMI in regard to various licensing opportunities for its brands, as it has for many years, an AMI spokesperson told The Daily Beast in an email. All of the anonymous users edits were subsequently reinstated by other Wikipedia editors.

WME is a noteworthy nexus between Pecker and Trump. The agency currently counts AMI as a client. It also formerly represented the president. Emanuel, the oft-branded King of Hollywood, has a history with both men and, like other power players of his stripe, he has often leveraged his relationship with AMIs chief executive to kill negative or potentially embarrassing stories about his rich and famous friends and clientele.

Emanuel and Pecker are known in tabloid and entertainment circles as chummy, reportedly socializing and dining together over the years. In a 2014 interview with The Native Society, an exclusive club for New Yorks elite power brokers, Pecker named both Emanuel and Trump as close friends he admired.

Last year, Emanuel introduced Pecker to a French businessman, Kacy Grine, at a White House meeting hosted by Trump. Grine has acted as a middleman between Pecker and members of the Saudi royal family, whom Pecker has subsequently approached about business opportunities in the Kingdom. AMI would later publish a glossy magazine hailing the greatness of Saudi Arabia and its autocratic rulers.

Pecker is also a longtime financial supporter of Chicagos Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel, Aris brother, who courted the AMI chiefs business during his tenure at investment firm Wasserstein Perella & Co. Trump, too, is a Rahm campaign booster, having donated $50,000 to his mayoral campaign in 2010, reportedly at Aris request.

An unnamed associate of Pecker told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year that both Ari and Rahm previously worked for Peckers magazine publisher Hachette Filipacchi in the early 90s, with Ari representing its magazine editors on the talent side, and Rahm as an advisor to the Hachette business.

Trumps business and personal relationship with Emanuel has also been comparably warm in recent years, despite their political differences. Emanuel served as the president and former reality-TV stars former agent. And during the presidential transition, following Trumps shock election victory, he met with the president-elect despite having supported Trumps Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. A few months later, Emanuel followed Trump into the political arena, co-founding a political action committee with WME co-CEO Patrick Whitesell to engage politicians on civic issues during the Trump presidency.

Trump campaign sources recounted to The Daily Beast that Trump would talk about Emanuel in glowing terms, with one former senior official likening Trumps admiration of the Hollywood power player to a man crush. The president is especially fond of Emanuels notoriously hard-charging, take-no-prisoners (and often loudly vulgar) business style, and his unique brand of celebrity, power, and financial successtraits that inspired the character Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter mid-2016, Trump claimed that Emanuel is a very good friend of mine who calls me a lot, and, according to Trumps version of a conversation, had even offered to help make a pro-Trump mini-movie to be played at the Republican National Convention.

I call him a lot and we talk, Trump added. He gets it. You're shocked to hear that, right, [about the alleged convention movie offer]? But, yeah, I might do something with Ari."

Even before THRs piece had run, Clintons campaign had heard rumors of an Emanuel-Trump collaboration, according to two Clinton-world sources. And aides began making calls to figure what the hell was actually going on, said a former senior aide. The aide recalled asking, Would Ari really do that [to us]?

In the end, the 2016 GOP convention came and went without any Ari Emanuel-produced short film.

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