(Bloomberg) -- The public-interest group Common Cause asked U.S. authorities to investigate reports that a former doorman at a building developed by the Trump Organization was paid $30,000 in 2015 to stay silent about a potentially damaging rumor regarding Donald Trump’s personal life.
American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, paid ex-doorman Dino Sajudin for rights to the story and never published it, the Associated Press and the New Yorker reported on Thursday. AMI Chief Executive Officer David Pecker, a Trump friend, ordered Enquirer reporters to stop investigating the story, the news service and magazine reported.
Common Cause filed complaints Thursday with the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Election Commission against Trump, his presidential campaign and AMI, claiming the Sajudin payment was an improper contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.
The group has filed similar complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department regarding non-disclosure payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump: the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen; and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 by AMI for exclusive rights to her story, which was never published.
Sajudin had told the Enquirer about a rumor he heard that Trump may have fathered a child in the 1980s with an employee at Trump World Tower, a New York building his company developed near the United Nations, the AP reported. Sajudin signed a contract with AMI that subjected him to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed the payment or terms of the deal to anyone, according to the AP.
Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, told the AP that he discussed Sajudin’s story with the tabloid when its reporters were working on it in late 2015. Cohen told the AP that he didn’t know about the payment to the ex-doorman at the time.
On April 9, FBI agents seized documents from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. Prosecutors are investigating whether Cohen violated bank fraud or campaign finance laws relating to the payments to McDougal and Daniels, the AP said. Cohen’s attorney called the raids “unnecessary and inappropriate.”
Among the evidence that agents sought were communications between Cohen, Pecker and the Enquirer’s top editor, the New York Times reported.
AMI said in its statement that it “categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a ‘love child’ that it determined was not credible. The suggestion that David Pecker has ever used company funds to ‘shut down’ this or any investigation is not true.”
Dylan Howard, chief content officer of AMI, said in the statement: “Paying for information has long been a practice of the National Enquirer, and to suggest that it has only paid for, and not run, stories about any particular person is absurd. Fortunately, the First Amendment does not play politics. The fact that no other news organization has subsequently been able to validate the story after AMI released the subject from his exclusivity clause confirms the basis for our editorial decision.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.