In July 2015, Michael Cohen, an attorney for Donald Trump, had just learned of some distressing news. A former Wall Street hedge fund manager named Jeremy Frommer, who now ran a small digital media and technology company, had somehow obtained sexually suggestive and salacious photographs of Trump and was about to post them online.
Trump’s presidential campaign was then all of two weeks old, and Trump’s aides were already facing troubling questions about Trump’s divorce from his first wife, Ivana. During their divorce proceedings, allegations had surfaced in which Ivana charged that her husband had sexually assaulted her during their marriage. With the possibility that still other allegations of misogyny and disrespectful treatment of women might surface—a concern that has since been borne out in the course of the long campaign—Cohen was determined that the photos Frommer had obtained would never see the light of day.
As he had done in similar circumstances in the past, Cohen turned for help to a close personal friend to both himself and Trump—David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc. (AMI), and which is the parent company of the National Enquirer. With a great deal of urgency, Pecker and Cohen worked in tandem to make sure that the public would never see the photographs, according to contemporaneous records and interviews.
As it turned out, Pecker and Frommer had done business of this sort before. Three years earlier, Frommer had been trafficking in pornographic photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2003, Pecker and AMI helped support Schwarzenegger’s run for governor of California by buying sexually explicit photographs and videos of Schwarzenegger, and even an account by a former alleged mistress of Schwarzenegger—not with the intent of publishing them, but of suppressing them from the public. When Frommer offered up his photographs of Schwarzenegger, AMI had just signed a new contract with Schwarzenegger to be the public face of the company’s men’s magazines. Among themselves, Pecker and Cohen spoke of the National Enquirer purchasing the photos of Trump from Frommer, so the public would never see them, as had been the case with Schwarzenegger, according to two people who had discussions together on the matter.
But Frommer was seeking an even greater financial windfall. Frommer sought favors from Trump, along with lucrative business from Pecker and AMI for his small digital media company. According to contemporaneous records, Frommer first requested that Trump grant an exclusive interview to him for his company’s website. Not only did Frommer want to post an online transcript of the interview, Frommer also wanted to come to Trump Tower and conduct the interview face-to-face, and then post the video online. He also asked that Trump, his organization, and his presidential campaign publicize it. Later still, Frommer insisted that the interview project be a joint project of the National Enquirer, and his own company, Jerrick Media.
Soon, however, Frommer became even more audacious. At one point, he proposed to Pecker that Jerrick Media take over and run the online presence of the National Enquirer, a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, depending on the duration of the contract.
(The reason that Frommer had pornographic images of Schwarzenegger and sexually suggestive pictures of Trump was because he had a few years earlier purchased the estate of Bob Guccione, the late publishing and pornography magnate. The Schwarzenegger and Trump photos were some of the items that were part of the estate.)
An AMI executive told me that Frommer’s proposal was “unprofessional” and “amateurish.” Yet, they were told to pretend to consider it, or at least go through the motions of doing so, to placate Frommer: “David [Pecker] and Cohen said to play along. They said they felt like they were being shaken down…but they needed to buy time.”
Thus began an often subtle—and sometimes less than subtle dance—between Frommer and Pecker and Cohen, whereby Pecker and Cohen worked to convince Frommer not to publish the photos as Frommer leveraged that desire as much as possible so that his fledgling media company would profit.
Details of their various efforts that were underway between July and November of 2015 are contained in several dozen emails and text messages between Cohen, Pecker, and Frommer, as well as in phone records, business proposals, and other contemporaneous records provided by various people involved in these events. In addition to Frommer and Cohen, more then a dozen people (a smaller number for the record), spoke to me, and at considerable length, about their knowledge of these efforts.
The contemporaneous records do not show a specific quid pro quo, with Frommer agreeing to keep the pictures under wraps in exchange for being considered or awarded lucrative business opportunities by AMI and the National Enquirer. But they show that in numerous instances the men often discussed the photographs and business ventures for Frommer during the very same meetings, the same phone calls and in the very same emails and texts.
Frommer spoke to me numerous times over the course of several months about his interactions with Cohen and Pecker, after November 2015. Cohen answered questions from me over the course of two hours, and during a second phone interview as well. Cohen later abruptly canceled a meeting to talk to me further at his office in Trump Tower, saying that he wanted further questions relayed via email.
In a number of instances, I am convinced that both men—Cohen and Frommer—misled me and even directly lied to me about issues central to this story. Frommer often gave me various accounts of his actions that contradicted his own earlier versions.
Earlier in the year, a national magazine agreed to publish my story. But I pulled back, because so many questions had arisen for me about Frommer’s credibility, both small and large. It was at that point when I double-downed and obtained text messages and emails between the three men, and other contemporaneous records, which detailed a more accurate and true account of what occurred between them, often at odds with the accounts they provided me.
Because of the severe questions about the credibility of Cohen and Frommer, in writing this report I have attempted as much as possible to rely on the voluminous text messages, emails and other contemporaneous records to tell the story in the most accurate and authoritative manner possible. I have often quoted both men in this story, so that they could tell their side, while also describing in detail their credibility issues, so readers can assess for themselves a small number of uncorroborated allegations both men have made. Beyond the times they spoke with me directly, I have quoted them only in instances when their accounts are corroborated by emails, texts, or other contemporaneous records.
Several former and current employees of the National Enquirer also spoke to me, but only on the condition they not be identified, saying that they feared retaliation from Pecker and AMI, and, in some cases, termination of their current employment with the company. Dylan Howard, the editor of the Enquirer reached out to me while I was reporting the story, but then canceled a subsequent meeting. Beside Cohen, one other Trump aide spoke to me, although only Cohen spoke to me for the record. Now, I will tell the story in greater detail than in the above summary of these events.
Two current and past AMI executives told me that even before Trump announced his candidacy for President, Pecker had promised Trump that he would do whatever he could to use the Enquirer and other AMI publications to back Trump’s bid. Pecker, these people say, had long ago boasted to Trump, whether accurate or not, that he had played a central role in electing Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of California in 2003. Pecker said that he would now like to attempt the same thing for Trump:
The AMI executive familiar with conversations between Pecker and Trump said, “I don’t know that David ever explicitly said to Trump ‘Hey—we’re gonna do the same exact thing for you we did for Schwarzenegger,’ but the message was that David would do something similar for Trump.”
Pecker had boasted to others at AMI how he allegedly helped Schwarzenegger win his gubernatorial race: AMI executives told me he’d had the corporation purchase the exclusive rights to the story of an alleged Schwarzenegger mistress—for the purpose of making sure that her story would never be published by the Enquirer or any other news outlet. Pecker also had the Enquirer purchase sexually suggestive pictures and videos of Schwarzenegger for the Enquirer’s exclusive use, only to make sure they went down a kind of journalistic rat hole.
Like Schwarzenegger, Trump also had much in his private life that he would not want revealed during a presidential campaign. Without being explicit in what he might do for Trump, Pecker agreed to the general idea that he would run interference for his friend, Trump, if problems arose, according to the two AMI executives. If anyone approached representatives of Trump or his presidential campaign with material that might harm Trump’s campaign, the Enquirer could purchase the material for its exclusive use, whereupon it would never be published, and the public would never learn about it. Pecker’s involvement with Frommer is an example of that broader effort to support Trump’s campaign, according to one of the two AMI executives who spoke with me.
Jeremy Frommer told me that Cohen exploded in rage against him during an initial phone conversation between the two men early in July 2015 when he first called the Trump attorney about the photographs. According to Frommer, and the second person listening in on the call, which was only to Frommer’s end of the conversation, Cohen began almost immediately to threaten Frommer: “I will fucking bankrupt you!,” he screamed at Frommer, “When I am done, you will have to pay a million dollars in legal fees!”
In sharp contrast, Cohen categorically denied to me that he had ever spoken angrily to Frommer or ever threatened him: “If I was angry at Jeremy he would have known. If I was trying to intimidate him, he would have known that as well,” Cohen told me, “I know how to do those things, but I never did them to Jeremy.”
Frommer says he immediately began to try to calm Cohen down. Frommer told me that he had mixed feelings about making the photographs public, saying he saw little upside in making Trump an enemy and also because he admired Trump. Frommer says he suggested to Cohen that perhaps, instead of posting the photographs online, he could just interview Trump for his website and not even publish the photos at all. Frommer said that this was perhaps better, anyway, for a website catering to millennial investors and businessmen. Frommer told me that he was “surprised” that Cohen would be so upset and on the spur of the moment came up with an idea to back down. During a subsequent conversation, Frommer told me he had a “good time yanking Cohen’s change,” one of only a number of incidents in which he provided me with contradictory accounts, as did Cohen.
Those who know Frommer best told me that in all likelihood he was trying to get a rise out of Cohen. A number of people who know Frommer describe him to me as someone always playing for advantage: “He is someone who has to win,” one of his colleagues told me. In Michael Lewis’ book on flash trading on Wall Street, Flash Boys, Frommer makes a cameo appearance as a Wall Street flash trader. Lewis wrote that happened when Frommer’s firm merged with a Canadian bank. A Canadian woman employee called her boss in some distress, referring to Frommer: “There is a guy in here with suspenders walking around with a baseball bat in his hands.”
Addressing business students at his alma matter, the University at Albany, SUNY, Frommer explained his competiveness this way: “It’s not just enough for me to fly in first class. I have to know my friends are flying in coach.” A friend of Frommer’s told me: “If Michael Cohen really screamed at him and threatened him, Jeremy would need an end to the story where he wins and Cohen loses.”
At some point during their conversation, Frommer and Cohen concur, Cohen was the first to suggest that Frommer could call David Pecker. Cohen and Frommer both told me that was the case, and emails and text messages among the three men appear to confirm that that is the case.
Cohen denied to me, however, that he sent Cohen to Pecker so that the public would never see the pictures:
Indeed, Cohen told me initially when I first spoke to him that the person in the photographs was not Donald Trump, but “another New York businessman who looks like Trump.” Cohen further said, “The photos are not of Mr. Trump. They were of another pubic figure other than Mr. Trump. That’s why I told him they were something I could see in the National Enquirer.”
By this time, Frommer had sent me one of the pictures. Because I’d had the opportunity to see it for myself, I said to Cohen that I believed the person in the photographs was almost certainly Donald Trump. Cohen replied: “It was not Donald Trump! If it was my boss, why do you think I would have had him [Frommer] speak to a tabloid?!”
Yet, very much later during the same conversation, Cohen did concede that the photographs were indeed of Donald Trump. He now said the photos were from a book signing that Trump did for the publication of The Art of the Deal (Random House, 1987). Cohen said the woman bared her breasts with no advance warning, and that someone else put a pen in Trump’s hand to sign the woman’s breasts, also without warning.
A short time after Frommer’s first phone conversation with Michael Cohen, Frommer and a business partner met with Pecker. Frommer said he brought along the pictures to the meeting. Frommer also says Pecker told him, “there was nothing to do with them…. There was nothing we could do with them.”
I asked Frommer if he had any doubts whether Pecker was telling him the truth, given the friendship among Pecker and Trump and Cohen: “No, I mean he was the expert on things like that, and I had no reason to distrust him.” When I pointed out that he was seeking business with American Media during that and similar discussions with Pecker, Frommer told me: “I just did not see a relationship between the two. Not for a moment!” He later told me: “I mean we presented them with legitimate business proposals. I am not an extortionist!”
Frommer and a business partner, Rick Schwartz, then discussed with Pecker their prospective interview with Trump. Frommer at some point proposed that his interview of Trump be a joint project of his own company, Jerrick Media, and the National Enquirer, according to emails and text messages between Frommer and Pecker. Pecker readily agreed, according to the same records.
Frommer was elated at the prospect that this might lead to his own fledgling media company garnering yet other business with the National Enquirer. In an email to Cohen about his plans to interview Trump, copied to Pecker, Frommer told Cohen that he hoped that the interview would be “paving the way for other projects between
Jerrick and AMI [American Media, Inc.]”
The National Enquirer then considered several other business proposals from Jerrick Media, including one to run the National Enquirer’s website—a contract that had the potential to earn hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, in revenue for Frommer’s company, according to records and interviews.
All during this same period of time, Pecker worked to make sure that Frommer would not make the photographs of Trump and the woman public, according to records and interviews.
A senior AMI executive told me that the National Enquirer never actually seriously considered the proposal by Jerrick Media, which was after all, only a small Englewood, New Jersey digital media and technology firm. Jerrick was both little known and had no track record to run a website as large of that of the National Enquirer. Rather, this same AMI executive told me, Pecker ordered his colleagues to consider the Jerrick Media proposal while Pecker hoped to “buy some time to find an alternative means” to dissuade Frommer from ever making the photographs of Trump and the woman public.
At least one AMI executive raised concerns within the company that if they gave any money at all to Frommer or Jerrick, they might be using corporate funds to pay hush money in support of Trump’s presidential campaign. They also openly questioned whether any payment to Frommer and Jerrick Media not based on merit might constitute campaign contributions to the Trump campaign that might be illegal because they would not be publicly reported, according to a person present for a discussion on the matter.
At one point, the same person said, “If it was up to me, I would call the police and report that the Trump campaign is being shaken down…. And just get out of this.” Citing Pecker’s and Trump’s close friendship, another AMI executive responded to the effect of, “But it is not our choice.”
The same AMI executive said that Pecker had told him that both Trump and Cohen had spoken before Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, and that Pecker had, in Pecker’s words, “agreed to run interference” for Trump. Trump had expressed concerns to Pecker, this person said, that derogatory information about Trump’s personal life might surface, and Pecker told Trump that he had assisted Arnold Schwarzenegger in getting elected by using the resources of AMI and the National Enquirer just prior to Schwarzenegger getting elected governor of California in 2003.
The National Enquirer’s mission is, of course, to expose the private lives of celebrities and political figures—ranging from their alleged extra-marital affairs, struggles with their weight, or a cancer diagnosis that they would rather not be made public.
In 1987, Gary Hart was a strong contender to be the Democratic party’s nominee to be President when the Miami Herald made allegations of an extra-marital affair public, ending his campaign. But it was the Enquirer that more famously published a photograph of Hart with a 29-year old model named Donna Rice, sitting on his lap and with her arms wrapped around him. The photograph was taken abroad a yacht called “Monkey Business”; Hart, for good measure, wore a T-shirt with the name of the yacht on it. Hart’s candidacy for president was effectively finished, along with his public career running for elected office.
In October 2007, the Enquirer published an article alleging that former Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards had carried on an extramarital affair with a campaign aide, and later, follow-up articles that Edwards had had a child out of wedlock with her. The establishment media was either unwilling to corroborate the allegations or even to attempt to. But the Enquirer was proved to have published a clean hit on Edwards, who would later admit paternity of the child. He would even stand trial on federal criminal charges that he illegally used campaign funds to cover up the affair and his fatherhood. (In May 2013, a mistrial was declared in the case after a jury deadlocked on most of the charges, and a short time later, the Justice Department announced that it would not retry the case.)
But during the tenure of David Pecker as the company’s CEO, AMI had purchased exclusive private accounts videos and photographs, and other embarrassing information regarding the activities of such public figures as Tiger Woods, Bill Cosby, and the aforementioned Arnold Schwarzenegger—not with the intent of publishing the information but making sure no news outlet ever would.
In some cases, such as that of Bill Cosby, the tabloid agreed they would not further pursue allegations that he was sexually assaulting young women in exchange for an exclusive interview. In Schwarzenegger, in 2003 Pecker first hid embarrassing information about Schwarzenegger as he was running for governor, and later agreed to become the executive editor of two men’s fitness magazines published by AMI. For Pecker, former and current AMI executives have told me, the motivation with regard to Trump is their long personal friendship and the possibility he would then have access to the man who might become President of the United States. Says an AMI executive: “The friendship between the two of them is very much for real. But David believes if he helps elect Trump, he will have his own legacy.”
Pecker’s actions to protect Trump parallel, and are in many ways strikingly similar, to those he took to protect Arnold Schwarzenegger when Schwarzenegger first ran for governor of California in 2003. According to a former senior AMI executive, Pecker had boasted to Trump years earlier that he was responsible for Schwarzenegger’s election as governor of California.
As explained to me by a former AMI executive, in his role as editor of the National Enquirer, Pecker had bought a variety of materials that might have harmed Schwarzenegger’s reputation—memoirs, photographs, and a sexually suggestive video—under the pretext of having the exclusive rights to publish them. But, as explained above, none of this material ever saw the light of day. The Enquirer would never publish them, and it was almost certain that no other publication ever would, because the people with the information had signed strict exclusivity and non-disclosure agreements with the Enquirer, triggering steep financial penalties if they ever disclosed the information to other media. Pecker specifically told Trump he could do something similar for him, according to the former AMI executive. A second AMI employee said that they did not know of such a specific arrangement between Trump and Pecker but that Trump’s actions on behalf of Trump “followed the same playbook that David used to help elect Schwarzenegger.”
In the closing days of the 2003 election of Schwarzenegger to be governor of California, Pecker and the National Enquirer paid a woman who allegedly had had an extra-marital affair with the Austrian-born bodybuilder and actor, and also paid for an unrelated video of Schwarzenegger groping a scantily clad woman, according to details or the contract first disclosed by the Los Angeles Times, and confirmed to me by a former and current executive of AMI.
More specifically, Pecker and AMI paid $20,000 to a Malibu, California woman who’d had a sexual relationship with Schwarzenegger, and a far lesser amount in cash to a friend of the woman who knew details of the affair. Current and former AMI employees told me that they had reporters examine allegations that Schwarzenegger had sexually harassed women who had worked or him, but Pecker never published a story in that instance—although the Los Angeles Times would years later.
Pecker’s acquisition of the material assured the embarrassing information would not surface in the final days of California’s 2003 gubernatorial race, and paved the way for the two men to become business partners. Two days after being sworn in as governor, Schwarzenegger signed a contract to be executive editor of AMI’s men’s and fitness magazines. Schwarzenegger would be paid $8 million (which he says he gave to charity), while AMI profited even more. A senior AMI executive told me in an interview:
In 2013, just as Schwarzenegger was negotiating a new contract to return to working for AMI, Pecker and the National Enquirer again purchased salacious photographs of Schwarzenegger—new pictures—so the public would not see them. The seller had been Jeremy Frommer and Jerrick Media, who was now trying to profit from the photographs of Trump as well.
The AMI executive familiar with the discussions between Pecker and Frommer says that the fact that they had “already done a similar deal…. made everyone comfortable that they could do business again regarding the new situation” that had arisen regarding Trump. Just as Pecker had purchased or concealed other embarrassing information about Schwarzenegger and other public figures so it would disappear down a “journalistic rat hole,” he now saw an opportunity to do the same on behalf of a presidential candidate, this same person said.
During his first phone call with Frommer, Cohen, who is an executive vice president and the general counsel for the Trump Organization, repeatedly threatened Frommer with litigation and financial losses to his business, Frommer told me.
That, in part, led Frommer to back down, Frommer says. Frommer suggested that Trump perhaps give his online news site an exclusive interview in lieu of agreeing not to publish the photos. It was then that Cohen suggested that Frommer speak with Pecker. In an interview with me, Cohen denied threatening Frommer in any manner or form, but confirmed that he did indeed steer Frommer to talk to Pecker to discuss the Trump photographs, after first denying he had done so.
Within an hour, both men agree, Pecker and Frommer, who already knew one another from the earlier business they’d conducted, were on the phone. This would lead to several months of discussions between the two men, according to emails, instant messages, and other contemporaneous records.
Frommer later suggested to Pecker that the interview with Trump be a joint project of the National Enquirer and Frommer’s company, Jerrick Media. Pecker, playing good cop to Cohen’s bad cop, readily agreed, text messages and emails indicate. Frommer was elated at the prospect that this might lead to his own fledgling media company garnering other business with the Enquirer. Frommer emailed Cohen, who was monitoring the discussions between Pecker and Frommer, to say that he hoped that the Trump interview would serve in “paving the way for other projects between Jerrick and AMI [American Media, Inc.]”
Meantime, Pecker served as a go-between for Cohen and the volatile Frommer to negotiate the interview with Trump, while the two men also worked on an agreement that would assure the photographs of Donald Trump and the bare-breasted woman never be made public.
The undated photographs of Trump obtained by Frommer portray an unidentified woman exposing her breasts to Trump. In a sequence of four photographs, the woman exposes one breast, then a second, while in a third photograph, Trump, pen in hand apparently prepares to autograph her now partially naked body.
In an interview, Michael Cohen told me that he already knew of the photographs when Frommer first brought them to his attention. Cohen initially asserted to me that the photographs were not of Trump, but rather of another successful Manhattan businessman: “The photos are not of Mr. Trump. They happen to be of another public figure,” Cohen said. Cohen declined to identify that person, or say anything more about them, although he claimed he knew their identity.
But later during the very same interview, Cohen acknowledged that pictures were in fact of Donald Trump. Cohen said that the photographs were taken during an appearance by Trump in a bookstore while promoting his book, The Art of the Deal, which was published in the fall of 1987.
While discussing the photographs with me, Cohen referenced an additional one not owned by Frommer. According to Cohen, an additional photo existed in which Trump did in fact touch and autograph the woman’s breasts. That such a photograph existed, or Cohen believed it to exist, may explain the intensity of his interest in attempting to prevent members of the public from ever viewing the pictures of Trump with the nearly naked woman.
“Frommer told me he was in possession of a series of photographs not of Mr. Trump,” Cohen told me, “My comment to him was ‘Sounds like you have something interesting. If you want to talk to David Pecker, I am willing to make the introduction.’”
Cohen said that because the person in the photographs was a “public figure other than Mr. Trump,” he believed that the Enquirer might pay Frommer for them. He said that Frommer also said that he had other interesting photographs and material from the estate of the late Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse magazine, including nude photos of celebrities, that the Enquirer might be interested in purchasing.
Cohen said that when Frommer “excitedly” told him about his previous sale to Pecker of material that would have been embarrassing to Arnold Schwarzenegger, it even made more sense for him to serve as a point of introduction so the two men might do more business with each other, Cohen said.
Cohen told me that any actions he took to keep the photographs from the public was not because of politics but rather because he “feels protective of the [Trump] family.” Cohen believed that a possible photo Trump signing the unidentified woman’s breasts were “not so good for the family… maybe not so bad, but not so good.”
“I didn’t want the pictures out,” Cohen said, “but what I did for Jeremy was try and do a favor for someone… I will help anyone I can. I was trying to help Jeremy out,” Cohen adds, saying that he now feels betrayed: “Obviously I am very disappointed in Jeremy. The last thing you expect is to get a phone call from a reporter about someone you went out of your way to help.” He meant that Frommer had discussed all these matters with me.
Cohen argues about his actions: “If I was afraid of the photographs, the last person I would have told Jeremy would have put him in touch with would be the editor of the National Enquirer!” He also told me: “Look, if I had meant to convince Jeremy, as he claims, to keep the photographs under wraps, I am sure I would have. If we wanted to buy the photographs, we could have and would have done that.”
A DEAL NOT CONSUMMATED AND A SOURCE’S MURKY MOTIVES
Ultimately, Cohen, Pecker, and Frommer never consummated a deal for reasons that are not entirely clear, except to the various participants. We do know that The National Enquirer declined Jerrick Media’s proposal to run the National Enquirer’s website. Frommer angrily emailed Pecker when his company did not receive any explanation as to why he was turned down, which might serve as a motive as to why Frommer came forward to publicly tell his story. It was indeed not long after that disappointment that Frommer agreed to talk to a reporter, me.
Despite that setback, however, Cohen solicitously wrote Frommer a short time later saying that he still wanted to go forward with Frommer interviewing Trump. Rick Schwartz, Frommer’s business partner advised him that the value of an interview with Trump was of far less value than it once was: “The longer this takes the less of a story it is,” Schwartz
emailed Frommer, complaining that Trump was willing to “whore himself out to every media outlet.”
Around the same time, a consultant to Frommer’s company was giving Frommer very different advice. Rocco Castoro had been the editor in chief of Vice.com, a position he had recently resigned. After he left the news outlet, Castoro worked briefly as a consultant to Frommer. (In full disclosure, Castoro was my editor and boss at Vice, while he was the company’s editor-in-chief, and I was the company’s investigative editor. We were and remain close friends.) Castoro told Frommer he should make the photos public immediately, and not negotiate further with Cohen. Frommer first contacted Cohen to inform him he might publish the photographs, but did follow through and publish them. Instead, he sought favors from Trump and lucrative business from Pecker and AMI.
When Frommer eventually contacted me (Castoro had been urging him to talk to an investigative reporter for some time), he told a story that cast him as a brave whistleblower: “I knew that Donald Trump could hurt my business, but it became more and more troubling to me that this person might become President.”
Emails, texts, and other contemporaneous records suggest that Frommer may have had other motives in talking to a reporter, after keeping his photographs under lock and key for so long. The records indicate that Frommer became angry and agitated when AMI declined to offer him a contract to run the Enquirer’s website. Frommer angrily emailed Pecker, seeking out an explanation, but received none to his liking, the records show. Only days after yet another highly agitated email to Pecker, Frommer finally contacted me.
In his accounts to me, Frommer said nothing of soliciting business with David Pecker, which I only learned about from other sources. Over several interviews, Frommer gave me false and misleading accounts about his dealings with Cohen and Pecker, contradicted by his own emails and texts. Over time, he complained that this story was going in a direction he did not like.
Later during my reporting—over the course of which Frommer had sent me the photographs—his business partner, Rick Schwartz, demanded to read a copy of the article in advance, and insisted that I agree not to write about Frommer’s dealings with David Pecker. When I refused, and explained it would be unethical to do either of these things, Schwartz angrily emailed me: “Please arrange to get our photos back and remove Jeremy from the story’s narrative.”
Frommer said it was “coincidental and nothing more” that he sought an interview with Trump and contracts with AMI while he also discussed what to with the pictures: “I don’t see any connection between the two. They were totally separate.”
In some conversations, Frommer hinted about a possible libel suit if this story didn’t turn out the way he wanted. In other conversations and emails, he said, to help me with my story, he offered to “gift” me the Trump photographs. He told me that that might increase the value of the article—or that I might make tens of thousands of dollars by selling the pictures to Gawker or TMZ. I politely declined and said that the photos were not the story—only whether Donald Trump or people close to him were offering financial inducements to him to not make them public.
As I tried to publish my story, however, Frommer stymied my efforts. He would not talk anymore to reporters, editors, or fact checkers. At one point, he said that he had sold his entire collection of artifacts from the estate of Bob Guccione, including the Trump photos, and no longer had access to them. As best as I can determine, this was not true. Frommer posted one of the Trump photographs online only recently.
Later, he posted one of the Trump photographs online with a first-hand account as to why he was now making them public. In his story, posted on his website, Frommer said nothing of seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars, of business with the National Enquirer. His own text messages, emails, and company records also demonstrably contradict much of that account.
I am among those Frommer writes about. About me he wrote: “Ironically, in early 2016, just around the time I started thinking about auctioning off the original Trump photos on eBay, I was contacted by a prominent journalist. The award-winning reporter was working on an important piece on Donald Trump, and had heard there were ‘rumored photos of Trump he had traced back to me.’”
What Frommer said was not true: Castoro had been urging him not to have any further dealings with Cohen and Pecker and talk to the media. I was the reporter Castoro recommended. Frommer ignored Castoro’s advice until AMI sent him a letter saying that they had no further interest in Jerrick Media’s running the National Enquirer’s website. Records indicate that Frommer then angrily texted and emailed Pecker, who did not respond. Days later, Frommer called me and told me his story.
Frommer also wrote this about me: “I have not spoken to the journalist in months. He is a writer of the highest integrity, who spent months developing a story that one way or another was suppressed. I know this to be true because I spoke directly to the news organizations, who would always get excited, but would drop the ball after communication with the Trump group and its pit bull Michael Cohen.”
It is true that Cohen worked hard to convince myself and various editors not to publish a story. But on the eve of my deadline for one national magazine, I pulled back as more questions arose about Frommer’s credibility. As my deadline approached, I asked Frommer to review his records to see how much they would independently corroborate his account. He would make excuse after excuse not to provide them, not return phone calls, and make additional excuses. Later, he would refuse to talk to other reporters I worked with, saying he no longer wanted any publicity, or did not trust the other journalists. Later, he approached other journalists with his story and photographs, who he believed would be more sympathetic to him and credulous of his account, saying that I had been taken in by Cohen to believe that he had attempted to leverage the photographs for business with American Media.
FROMMER’S MATERIAL ALLEGDLY USED TO “BLACKMAIL” TRUMP 20 YEARS EARLIER
Extraordinarily, Frommer’s material had been previously used—by Bob Guccione himself and Penthouse—to “blackmail” Trump some twenty years earlier.
In 1990, Bob Guccione, Trump, and Sands Hotel & Casino were suing each other in New Jersey courts regarding their respective efforts to build casinos in Atlantic City. Guccione had purchased land and began construction of a casino only to have to stop when gaming authorities refused to grant him a license.
The Sands alleged that Guccione had agreed to sell his land and the partly built casino to them, only to have Trump improperly interfere with the deal so he could have the land for himself and slow down the growth of Sands’ presence in Atlantic City.
In court papers in the case, the Sands alleged that Guccione and Penthouse had made “a blatant threat to blackmail Trump.” It is unclear how they did so, but the Sands apparently obtained records from inside Trump’s organization detailing the alleged threat.
At the time of the case, a young reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, David Cay Johnston, who would later go to work for the New York Times and recently published a best selling book on Trump about it, wrote a breaking news article about the case.
Johnston’s story is worth quoting at length:
ATLANTIC CITY — Penthouse Magazine threatened to expose Donald Trump as a womanizer unless he stopped trying to block its $40 million deal two years ago to sell its abandoned casino site to a Trump rival, the Sands Hotel & Casino, according to court documents here.
The documents were filed by the Sands as part of an antitrust suit it has brought in Atlantic County against Trump. The suit contends that Trump tried to eliminate a prospective competitor by keeping the Sands from buying the casino site. The site is at the center of the Boardwalk, between Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and Caesars Atlantic City Hotel-Casino, the prime commercial real estate site in Atlantic City.
The Sands has also brought suit against Penthouse, contending that it violated a contract to sell the property to the Sands by actually selling it to Trump. On the site is the rusting steel framework for the casino Penthouse began building.
The Sands alleged in court papers that David Myerson, president of Penthouse International, made “a blatant threat to blackmail Trump” during a July 19, 1988, dinner with Al Glasgow, a $10,000-a-month Trump consultant and newsletter publisher.
Two state police intelligence detectives invited by Glasgow monitored the conversation from the adjoining booth but did not tape-record it, according to sources close to the situation.
Glasgow, according to court records, wrote memos following this meeting, held at Orsatti’s Restaurant in Atlantic City, and at least 13 other conversations he had between April and August 1988 with Myerson and other Penthouse representatives. The memos were sent to Steve Hyde, who was then Trump’s gaming chief and who was later killed in a helicopter crash, and to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. The Sands declined to say how it had acquired those memos.
In one of them, put in the court record by the Sands, Glasgow wrote that Myerson “implied that Penthouse was prepared to do an expose on Trump if he tried to stand in their way by appealing and dragging out zoning approvals. . . . ”
Myerson, Glasgow wrote, asked for derogatory information on Trump. Glasgow said he gave no reply. Then, Glasgow wrote, Myerson made “certain innuendoes about Trump’s personal life and to be more specific they were as follows:
” ‘Check out the fourth floor at the St. Moritz. . . .’
“All the implications at this time (were) about girlfriends,” Glasgow wrote.
“Myerson asked me how do I think Donald’s wife (Ivana) would take all of this . . . and he asked me whether I was aware that there were community property rights in New York even though everything was in Donald’s name.”
According to published reports, Marla Maples, the woman linked to the developer in the Trump divorce case, lived in the St. Moritz Hotel in Manhattan in 1988, when Trump owned it. Donald Trump and Maples have publicly denied having an affair….
The Sands contends that the memo contains “smoking gun” evidence that Penthouse and Trump conspired to keep the Sands from obtaining the land it had contracted to buy.
That evidence, the Sands contends, lies in Glasgow’s suggesting that Trump be viewed as a potential purchaser of the abandoned casino site.
“Initially, the conversation . . . consisted of Myerson’s blatant threat to blackmail Trump if he continued to oppose the Sands-Hollywood,” the Sands legal brief contended. “Glasgow, however, responded with a different suggestion for solving Myerson’s problems.”
Glasgow, according to his memo, offered to arrange a meeting between Myerson and Trump. Myerson offered to sell the casino site “to Trump for the same deal he had made with the Sands,” Glasgow wrote.
How real was the alleged blackmailing of Trump by Guccione and Penthouse? It is hard to tell. The judge overseeing the case issued a gag order while it was being tried. Johnston’s report in the Philadelphia Inquirer is apparently the only published account of the alleged blackmail. That case and related cases were later settled, with many of the crucial records sealed, and the parties agreeing not to discuss the cases further.
A person involved in the case told me that besides evidence of Donald Trump’s affair with Marla Maples, private investigators hired by Bob Guccione uncovered evidence of several other extramarital affairs with yet other women—as many as a half dozen.
When Jeremy Frommer later contacted Michael Cohen to tell him about now owning Guccione’s material, Frommer told both Cohen and Pecker that besides photographs, he had reports prepared for Guccione written about Trump. It is easy to understand the distress that such private investigators’ reports would provoke in Cohen and the Trump campaign just as Trump was only then beginning his bid to run for President.
In the end, Frommer apparently had only two pages of the private investigators’ reports prepared for Guccione—both of which Frommer gave me. Frommer also brought these same two pages along to his first meeting with David Pecker, and showed them to Pecker, according to text messages and mails between the two men. The two pages contained no allegations regarding Trump’s alleged extramarital activities. Rather, they were about Trump’s business dealings.
Despite the fact that Frommer had only those two pages, Pecker and Cohen were still suspicious and worried that Frommer had additional pages or material that he would leverage at a later date. This person told me: “Frommer was playing with us…. Playing games. And you could never tell what was what because he did not want you to know.”
The four photographs of Trump that Frommer possessed had almost certainly been part of Guccione’s material that he might have used to allegedly blackmail Trump at the time. But I was unable to obtain any evidence or anyone to say this was the case.
THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER PROMOTES TRUMP
The relationship between Donald Trump, David Pecker, and the National Enquirer first emerged as a major public issue in the 2016 presidential campaign after the Enquirer published a story, based on scant evidence, alleging that Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest rival for the Republican nomination, had engaged in no less than five extramarital affairs.
Cruz returned fire, calling the Enquirer story a “tabloid smear…. A smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.” Cruz pointed out: “The CEO of the National Enquirer is an individual named David Pecker. Well, David is good friends with Donald Trump. In fact, the National Enquirer has endorsed Donald Trump.”
Trump, in a statement, denied any involvement with the story: “I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer…Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”
The National Enquirer similarly denied any involvement by Trump: “No one influences the reporting that The National Enquirer does other than our own reporters and editors. We stand by the integrity of our coverage.” AMI said in a statement. They declined further comment for this story.
Independently, Enquirer staffers complain that the tabloid has published stories so favorable to Trump that they believe them to be little more than propaganda for the Trump campaign, while assailing Trump’s rivals for alleged extra-marital affairs, flings with prostitutes, and illegal drug use, all based on the flimsiest of evidence. For the record, Trump and the National Enquirer have denied any relationship. But the incident regarding the salacious photographs and the role that David Pecker played in attempting to suppress the photographs of Trump during a critical point in Trump’s campaign appears to contradict those denials.
While it is unclear whether Trump or his campaign played any role in providing information to the Enquirer about the alleged extramarital affairs of Ted Cruz, Trump aides did in fact provide other information to the newspaper about Cruz’s wife, Heidi—a police report that the newspaper reported showed police had been concerned to find Heidi Cruz allegedly disoriented and alone near a busy Texas highway, according to a senior Enquirer executive and a second person familiar with the incident. (Other news organizations, among them BuzzFeed, also reported on the incident—and Heidi Cruz has since spoken openly about having suffered with depression.)
Several sources say that even before he announced he would run for the presidency, Trump privately financed an aggressive investigative effort against his Republican opponents that was conducted outside Trump’s formal presidential campaign. Private investigators aggressively scoured public records about several of Trump’s then potential opponents.
Among the material they uncovered was the police report regarding Heidi Cruz. In addition, New York magazine reported last year that an Enquirer story alleging that surgeon and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson had accidentally left a surgical sponge in the head of a patient was similarly based on information provided to the Enquirer by the Trump campaign.
The Enquirer would go on to publish stories alleging that Florida Senator Marco Rubio may have fathered a “love child” out of marriage and may be secretly gay, that Jeb Bush snorted cocaine on the night his father was sworn in as president, and that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was involved with a prostitute.
The Enquirer has reported that Hillary Clinton has been suffering simultaneously with brain cancer, multiple sclerosis, and alcoholism. Long before Donald Trump made Bill Clinton’s infidelities a central issue in his campaign, the National Enquirer published a long story with pictures of women with whom they alleged the former President had affairs.
It was no coincidence that the Enquirer made issues of Hillary Clinton’s health and Bill Clinton’s infidelities before Trump ran with them himself. AMI sources told me that former Trump aide Roger Stone worked closely with David Pecker and others at the Enquirer, feeding them information, and encouraging their reporting on the Clintons. Stone would later point Trump to the Enquirer and the response to the stories, urging him to make them his own themes. In a telephone interview, Stone told me that he may have been a source for the Enquirer but that that had nothing to do with his work for or advice to Trump.
From the very first days he was contemplating a run for the Presidency, Trump foresaw how the tabloid Enquirer might prove helpful. In 1999, Trump suggested that readers of the National Enquirer were his natural constituency: “I think the kind of people who support me are the workers, the construction workers, the taxicab driver… Those are the real people. That is the Trump constituency.”
In July 2015, only about two weeks after Trump announced his candidacy to be President, an assistant to Jeremy Frommer first contacted Trump’s office saying that he was planning to post embarrassing photographs of Trump online, according to records and interviews. Cohen angrily called back the young employee of Jerrick Media making the inquiry, and when Frommer was told how angry Cohen was, he took the phone call himself.
Cohen was enraged upon hearing that the photographs might soon go online, Frommer and a second person listening in only to Frommer’s side of the conversation, Rocco Castoro, said in an interview.
According to Frommer, Cohen began almost immediately to threaten Frommer: “I will fucking bankrupt you!,” he screamed at Frommer, “When I am done, you will have to pay a million dollars in legal fees!” Although there are serious questions about Frommer’s credibility, Rocco Castoro confirmed that Frommer’s account of the call is accurate. Additionally, contemporaneous emails and texts, while not confirming that those exact words were spoken, corroborate that Cohen had indeed attempted to intimidate Frommer.
In sharp contrast, Cohen denied to me that he ever expressed anger towards Frommer or that he threatened him: “You and everybody else see that I have no problem expressing myself. If I thought he was out of line I would have had no problem in engaging in that type of conversation with him or anyone… I have had lots of rough conversations with people over the years, but that was not the type of conversation we had.”
Still, Cohen does not mind having a reputation for having sharp elbows in defending Trump: Cohen long ago, for example, embraced the nickname of “Donald Trump’s pit bull,” explaining once that when anyone “does something that Mr. Trump doesn’t like… I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I am finished.”
Cohen explained to me that he considers it part of his job in helping run Trump’s real estate empire to counter criticism of Trump: “Various projects we do have Trump’s name on them. Every venture has his name on it. That’s where there is a crossover between attacks on him and the business. I’m not going to let someone disparage him.” Add to that Trump is one of Cohen’s closest friends and a person he has worked for most of his working career, he says: “So when they disparage him personally it can be personal to me.”
Frommer’s approach to Cohen about the photographs could not have come at a worst time for Cohen and the Trump campaign. The Daily Beast had resurrected an account from a biography of Trump, about Ivana Trump’s deposition in her divorce case with her husband in which she said Donald Trump had sexually assaulted her. The online news outlet reported that Cohen threatened a reporter when he learned that the allegations might be published: “I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have…So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
Cohen told me he had that a “heated conversation” with a reporter because the reporter had said that he was going to publish allegations that “Donald Trump raped his wife Ivana, and he knew that she had made the allegation in terms of talking about emotional rape which he conveniently decided to leave out.”
The controversy was largely diffused after Ivana Trump put out a statement supportive of her ex-husband—contradicting her past claims under oath. But stories about Trump’s divorce—and other more recent allegations about Donald Trump’s harassing and mistreating women—show why Cohen was so sensitive to such pictures being published.
Cohen told me: “Look, what I cared about what was Mr. Trump’s family. They were going to read that their father raped their own mother. Mr. Trump is my friend…and [I regard] every member of that family as if they were my own.” When Frommer called, Cohen said, the same instinct kicked in, he says: “I wanted to protect the family from seeing something possibly embarrassing to their father.”
Frommer told me that during their phone conversation he asked Cohen why he was angry with him. If Frommer’s account can be believed, Cohen exploded, screaming at him: “You’re talking about the next President of the Untied States!”
At another point in the conversation, Frommer says Cohen told him: “We know about these photos. They have been around for a while. Why would you do anything with them now?”
Cohen emphatically denied to me that he ever expressed anger towards Frommer or threatened him: “You and everybody else see that I have no problem expressing myself. If I thought he was out of line I would have had no problem in engaging in that type of conversation with him or anyone… I have had lots of rough conversations with people over the years, but that was not the type of conversation we had.”
Frommer told me that he reacted to the alleged anger he claims Cohen directed toward him by trying to calm Cohen down. In an interview, Frommer said that he had mixed feelings about making the photographs public, saying he saw little upside in making Trump an enemy and also because he admired Trump.
Frommer says he suggested to Cohen that perhaps, instead of posting the photographs on line, he could just interview Trump for his website and not even publish the photos at all. Frommer said that this was perhaps better, anyway, for a website catering to millennial investors and businessmen. Emails and text messages between Frommer, Cohen, and Pecker appear to corroborate this.
At some point in the conversation, Cohen and Frommer talked about David Pecker brokering a deal between the two of them to arrange for the interview of Trump, and also discussed further what would be done with regard to the photographs.
Frommer says that he does not recall who brought up Pecker’s name first—him or Cohen. But Castoro, who was listening in to Frommer’s side of the conversation says that it was Cohen who first raised Pecker’s name and suggested that he become involved.
In any case, Frommer and Pecker already knew each other and had conducted business together, over the lewd photographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It should be noted that
Frommer said the photos were simply of a nude Schwarzenegger. But Cohen told me that Frommer boasted they were pornographic in nature, and three other people who have seen the photos said they are actually pornographic in nature
Cohen said that although Frommer spoke to him at length about selling a photo of Schwarzenegger to Pecker and the National Enquirer, he claimed he knew absolutely nothing about the earlier history of Pecker purchasing other salacious material about Schwarzenegger for the purpose of keeping these materials from the public.
Not long after speaking with Cohen, Frommer and Pecker were on the phone with one another. Pecker agreed to meet Frommer and a business partner a few days later, records indicate. Frommer made reference to this when he emailed Pecker on July 4th, 2015 to set up his meeting with Pecker: “I thought maybe [my partner] and I could stop by and bring them [the pictures] to you in person, and give us a chance to update you on our growing media company.”
Shortly thereafter, the men agreed to meet at Cipriani’s, a bar and eatery on Wall Street. The bar was once the home of the New York Stock Exchange, and prior to that, the United Customs House. It still has its original Greek revival architecture, complete with 70-foot high vaulted ceilings.
Just prior to the meeting, Pecker texted Frommer with some good news: “I relayed the message to Cohen just as we discussed. All calm.”
The reference to “All calm” was apparently to relay that Cohen was no longer angry with Frommer and no longer threatening to initiate legal action against him. And for good measure, Cohen wanted to move forward Trump granting an interview with Jerrick.
During their meeting at Cipriani’s, according to Frommer’s account, Pecker took a look at the Trump photos, but told Frommer he did not think much of them and believed them to have little financial value. Pecker was much more engaged in helping broker an interview that Trump would give Frommer’s website. More importantly, Frommer told me he grew excited when he learned that Pecker seemed open to other potential joint business ventures between their two companies.
Frommer says that he took Pecker at his word that the photographs were of no value and that his interest in doing business with his company, Jerrick Media, was sincere. He now says: “Perhaps I was a bit naïve. But we had several meetings and phone calls. We prepared an extensive proposal.”
“When I first spoke to David Pecker—and we determined that there really wasn’t anything we could do with the pictures—from that point forward, all we did was deal professionally with one anther,” Frommer says, “We talked about working on the National Enquirer website, other ideas about how we might work together, and the Trump interview. The
pictures never came up again.”
Frommer grew agitated days after his first meeting with Pecker, however, because Pecker had asked for a formal proposal on paper but then angrily indicated that he was no longer interested.
Learning this, Pecker texted Frommer, claiming a misunderstanding: “I think you are making a major mistake based on what Dylan told me. I think we can do a lot of business together based on our meeting yesterday. We have to know what you can do for us and what we can do for you, which is why we need a proposal.” (“Dylan” was a reference to National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.)
“I know and agree,” Frommer texted back, “I will put a good proposal together as you know I am very interested in both working with you and learning from you. Can you text me Michael Cohen’s number and text him that I want to call him directly?”
Pecker shortly thereafter, also texted back with Cohen’s phone number and added, “He knows you will be calling.”
“Spoke to Cohen and we are all set. Well done!” Pecker emailed a short time later.
Frommer and Cohen emailed back and forth numerous times discussing setting up the interview with Trump, with Pecker copied on each one, records show.
At some point, Frommer texted Pecker, regarding such an interview: “I think we should do this together.”
“Agreed”, Pecker texted Frommer back.
Over time, senior executives had several meetings with Frommer and others at Jerrick Media to consider a proposal to take over and run the website of the National Enquirer and other AMI websites, records indicate. AMI and Jerrick Media employees had numerous telephone conferences about the proposal as well during the same period, the records show. Jerrick Media did provide a detailed proposal. If approved, it would have been the single largest piece of business for the young company.
Cohen said he was vaguely aware of these discussions between Pecker and Frommer: “Jeremy was starting up a new business. I thought he might have a good platform to them to explore….But I never followed up. It had nothing to do with me… I had made the introduction.” Records confirm that although Frommer told Cohen in a general sense about his discussions regarding business between Pecker and Frommer, he was not involved in any substantive way.
On Sept. 7, Frommer sent Trump eight softball questions via Cohen.
Frommer said in the email: “Our main focus is to have it more of an interview between me, an entrepreneur running a media company with forty employees, and Mr. Trump, the greatest entrepreneur of our time.”
Frommer also wrote: “American Media will have the exclusive on any part of the interview they want to publish as part of paving the way for other projects between Jerrick and AMI [American Media, Inc.].
Among the questions were these:
What’s the most important thing people should take away from The Art of the Deal?
Which entrepreneurs—living or dead—do you admire?
(Regarding this question, according to Frommer, Cohen requested during their very first conversation that
Frommer specifically suggested that it be asked—and revealed ahead of time what Trump’s answer would be—Trump’s father.)
Are there any lessons from “The Apprentice” that can be applied to your candidacy?
Another question, however, may have likely appeared unsettling to Cohen and Trump’s campaign, and reminded them of the leverage that Frommer had over them—the photographs he had of Trump: “You know Bob Guccione—what are your recollections of him?”
In a September 25, 2015 email to Cohen, copied to Pecker, Frommer wrote: “Please confirm that we are still on for an interview with Mr. Trump. I have ccd Rick [Frommer’s business partner] and David [Pecker] on this as well, as I have already seen this as one of the first projects Jerrick Media would jointly create with the National Enquirer.”
Cohen wrote back on Sept 29: “I have received this email and will work to set up the interview. Currently, between travel and meetings, Mr. Trump has no free time. You are on the schedule.”
On Oct. 1, however, Eric Klee, a Senior Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel of AMI delivered some bad news via email to Frommer: “Thank you for sending over your launch plan and instructions… We reviewed the information [and have]… decided not to move forward with Jerrick Media on this project.”
Frommer was clearly irked: “Not even a courtesy call to give us some feedback?” he emailed Pecker.
Meanwhile, Frommer also was not hearing back from Cohen regarding the interview with Trump.
On October 5, Frommer emailed Michael Cohen at 8:41 P.M: “I appreciate the effort, but it seems for Mr. Trump’s schedule it will be difficult, if not impossible to get an interview. Thanks for the effort. Good luck with the campaign.”
Only eleven minutes later, Cohen emailed back: “No, no… relax. I am on it and will make it happen.”
The two men have not spoken again.