The criminal case against former President Donald Trump, unveiled on Tuesday, rests not just on his high-profile alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels but also on a separate liaison with Playboy model Karen McDougal.
A 52-year-old former model and actress from Indiana, McDougal was a Playboy magazine Playmate of the Year in the late 1990s.
She has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Trump has denied having a sexual relationship with her.
American Media Inc (AMI), corporate parent of the National Enquirer, has acknowledged paying McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story to prevent her from going public with it ahead of the 2016 presidential election – a practice known in the publishing industry as “catch and kill.”
AMI admitted to the arrangement in a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 2018.
Prosecutors said in a charging document on Tuesday that Trump did not want the woman’s story to become public “because he was concerned about the effect it could have on his candidacy.”
They said Trump, his lawyer Michael Cohen and AMI former chief executive David Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump, agreed that Trump would reimburse AMI. But Pecker ultimately opted not to seek repayment after talking with a company lawyer.
The U.S. Federal Election Commission ruled in 2021 that AMI’s payment to McDougal amounted to an illegal campaign contribution that benefited Trump, and fined its successor company $187,500.
Pecker has testified before the Manhattan grand jury that investigated the case and indicted Trump.
McDougal later sued AMI and reached an agreement that allowed her to discuss her relationship with Trump.
The transaction is one of two involving alleged affairs that are at the heart of the criminal case against Trump.
The other involves porn star Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 from Trump’s lawyer Cohen shortly before the 2016 election as well.
Daniels and Cohen both say the payment was to buy her silence about a 2006 affair with Trump.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign-finance charges related to his payments to Daniels.
Trump has denied having had sexual relationships with either woman, but has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen.
(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous words in paragraph 9)