The owner of the National Enquirer has agreed to settle with the Federal Election Commission, and will pay a $187,500 fine for its role in giving actress Karen McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story about an alleged sexual relationship with former President Donald Trump and keeping the news suppressed in order to help Trump during the 2016 election.
The FEC determined that by paying this money, American Media Inc., now known as A360 Media LLC, made an illegal corporate contribution to the Trump campaign, Politico reports. Attorneys for AMI and its former head, David Pecker, originally argued that they were acting as journalists when they entered the agreement with McDougal, but in 2018, both AMI and Pecker entered into a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and admitted they paid off McDougal as a way to influence the presidential election.
The FEC said it found that when the money was paid to McDougal, AMI and Pecker spoke with Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and he said the expenses related to McDougal would be reimbursed, Politico reports. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to arranging illegal campaign contributions.
Republican appointees on the FEC panel have blocked the commission from taking action against Trump. Paul Ryan, vice president for policy and litigation at the watchdog group Common Cause, told Politico that Cohen "went to prison for these violations. AMI has been fined. But the former president has not yet been held accountable. The Department of Justice has until August to prosecute Trump for orchestrating this illegal campaign finance scheme."