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catch and kill

National Enquirer shredded files from its secret Trump vault before the 2016 election, Ronan Farrow reports

American Media Inc. and its soon-to-be-sold tabloid National Enquirer shredded secret documents potentially damaging to President Trump right before the 2016 election, Ronan Farrow writes in his new book, Catch & Kill. After reporters for The Wall Street Journal called AMI to ask about a $150,000 payout to a former Playboy model whose story about an extramarital affair with Trump was never published in the pro-Trump tabloid, a panicked Enquirer editor in chief Dylan Howard ordered a staffer to "get everything out of the safe," adding, "we need to get a shredder down there," Farrow writes, according to Politico and CNN.

"The staffer opened the safe, removed a set of documents, and tried to wrest it shut," Farrow recounts, and an Enquirer employee said a trash crew collected "a larger than customary volume of refuse" that day. After the news of AMI's secret Trump files came out, Farrow says, "reporters would discuss the safe like it was the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but it was small and cheap and old."

The Journal published its article Nov. 4, 2016, and along with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, it formed the backbone of a post-election scandal that eventually ended in a three-year jail sentence for Cohen. AMI cooperated in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

As scrutiny of Trump's close relationship with AMI and its publisher, David Pecker, grew, the materials were moved to a bigger safe. It was then that an employee "found something amiss: the list of Trump dirt didn't match up with the physical files," Farrow writes. "Some of the material had gone missing." Howard, who has retained a lawyer and is considering legal action, declined to comment on Farrow's reporting. AMI said in a statement that "Mr. Farrow's narrative is driven by unsubstantiated allegations from questionable sources and while these stories may be dramatic, they are completely untrue."