11:06am PT by Eriq Gardner
'National Enquirer' Owner Admits Paying Off Ex-Playboy Model for Donald Trump
American Media Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer, won't be arguing that its "catch and kill" approach to unflattering news about Donald Trump is protected by the First Amendment. On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that AMI has admitted that a $150,000 payment to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal was made in concert with Trump's presidential campaign for the purpose of influencing the election.
In return for this historic admission plus pledges to improve internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws, AMI won't be prosecuted.
SDNY revealed the non-prosecution agreement shortly after Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years for his role in Trump payments to McDougal and Stormy Daniels. He also earned his sentence after lying to Congress about Trump's efforts to build a tower in Russia.
Back in April, The New York Times reported that AMI was facing a federal probe as well as a complaint at the Federal Election Commission. At the time, the company denied that expenditures amounted to illegal campaign contributions and asserted a First Amendment right to run stories — or not run them — as it saw fit. AMI took that position, too, in a since-settled lawsuit brought by McDougal.
The pressure from prosecutors has apparently changed AMI's stance.
According to SDNY, AMI is now offering "substantial and important assistance" in an ongoing investigation.