HORIST: Is Pecker putting the President in a pickle?
No, this commentary is not about the more famous Pecker of elocution fame – the one named Peter. This commentary refers to David Pecker, chief-executive-officer of American Media, which, in turn, owns and operates the infamous National Enquirer. More importantly, he is a VERY close friend of President Trump.
As a matter of disclosure, I must confess to writing this commentary with a lifelong disdain for the National Enquirer and all those other so-called “checkout counter” publications. Never bought one and probably never will. The Enquirer was about as welcome in my home as head lice. Those of you with school-age children will recognize the level of my disdain in that comparison.
Pecker appears to be journalism’s J. Edgar Hoover. The legendary director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was said to have used his investigative authority to gather dirt on the rich and powerful in business and politics – including presidents of the United States. He would use that information as leverage – okay, blackmail — to influence public policy and to ensure his own job security. His most famous use, or misuse, of such scurrilous information – true or not – was against civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Pecker and his publication have added a new term in the lexicon of journalism, “catch and kill.” It means purchasing a scandalous story and not publishing it. While Pecker did “catch” stories, he did not really “kill” them. Rather, he locked them in a safe, literally, for future reference – more like catching and putting on ice. One of those files in the safe was marked “Donald J. Trump.”
Within the Trump file is a folder named “Karen McDougal,” the sleaze-ball gold digger who claims to have had an affair with Trump for fun and profit. As the theory goes, Pecker paid this particular piper to keep her silent as a favor to Trump.
However, piper McDougal is now causing a peck of problems for both Pecker and the President. Her story did not remain confined to Pecker’s safe but has come out into the public domain – and the Enquirer did not even get to put it on their own front page as an exclusive.
There is a general assumption among the public that the McDougal folder is not the only one dealing with Trump – and that there are a lot of additional files that bear the names of many other of America’s rich and famous. Should the entire contents ever be revealed, it would be like the previous publication of the Manhattan Madam’s client list – but on steroids.
In many ways, Pecker poses the greatest threat to his long-time pal because Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave him immunity from prosecution – sort of like a prosecutorial pardon. It means the once again an assumed criminal will avoid justice in order to keep the crosshairs on Trump. I say “assumed” criminal because immunity is not necessary or given unless the prosecutors already see evidence of crime or the person intends to take the Fifth because they know the committed a crime.
Immunity is different than a plea bargain – and therein lies the danger for Trump. The subject of a plea bargain can always “take the Fifth” rather than talk. In a plea bargain, there will be a conviction with reduced sentencing – sometimes as little as probation.
In granting immunity, however, the subject cannot refuse to testify and cannot take the Fifth. The basis of the Fifth Amendment is to avoid self-incrimination, but once a person has immunity, the risk of self-incrimination is eliminated. Not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth can subject the person to a contempt charge. They can be incarcerated until they do talk. And if they talk and tell lies, they can be charged with perjury. In most cases, those granted immunity wind up singing like Aretha Franklin doing “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
Pecker is now the second person-of-interest who has resided for decades inside the sanctum sanctorum of all that is Trump. They have been the insiders to his businesses, his politics and his personal life. From what we can see of the Trump personality, Pecker is the type of friend to whom Trump would brag and with whom he would conspire. If there indeed are the proverbial “goods” to be gotten on Trump, Pecker is one of the guys who would possess them.
The second person so privy to Trump’s personal affairs is Michael Cohen. The others – Paul Manafort, Steve Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn – only momentarily passed through the Trump atmosphere like political comets. They may have a piece of the puzzle, but not the more complete picture as possessed by Pecker and Cohen. It is likely that the diabolical duo actually knows more about Trump’s secrets than his children – and for sure more than his wife.
The only thing that can be said at this point is that if the President is in a pickle, Pecker is the person to prove it.
FOOTNOTE: My apologies to John Harris, who published the famous tongue-twister in 1813 under the equally challenging title of “Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation.”
POSTSCRIPT: It should also be noted that Trump’s business accountant, Allen Weisselberg has also received immunity from prosecution. He handled the books for Trump’s businesses, his foundation, the family finance and the campaign. Everything said about Pecker in this commentary can be applied to Weisselberg. With Cohen in the mix, there is now a triple threat to Trump.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.