` Murray Waas » murray waas http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com Investigative Reporting Fri, 28 Oct 2016 08:15:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Art of the Deal: How the CEO of the National Enquirer Suppressed Allegations of Donald Trump’s Misogyny http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2016/10/17/the-art-of-the-deal-how-the-ceo-of-the-national-enquirer-suppressed-allegations-of-tumps-misogyny/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2016/10/17/the-art-of-the-deal-how-the-ceo-of-the-national-enquirer-suppressed-allegations-of-tumps-misogyny/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2016 15:46:58 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/?p=778 Continue reading ]]> Story summary:  Only two weeks after Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, a former hedge fund manager informed the Trump Organization that he might publish sexually suggestive photographs of Trump online—which would have early on raised the issue of Trump’s misogyny and treatment of women that has only belatedly come into focus. To suppress the photographs, Trump and his attorney turned to a close friend and political supporter, David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer. Over a period of weeks, the hedge fund manager, Jeremy Frommer, sought out contracts with the National Enquirer worth hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, and lesser favors from Trump personally, according to contemporaneous records, including emails, text messages, and internal company documents. Some National Enquirer executives privately worried that had they followed through, they would be using corporate funds to pay hush money to assist Trump’s presidential campaign, a potential violation of federal campaign finance laws.

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.”


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.


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 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.


–Murray Waas






















http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2016/10/17/the-art-of-the-deal-how-the-ceo-of-the-national-enquirer-suppressed-allegations-of-tumps-misogyny/feed/ 4
My new Boston Globe story: Romney Denied Birth Certificates to Children of Same Sex Parents http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2015/03/28/my-new-boston-globe-story-romney-denied-birth-certificates-to-children-of-same-sex-parents/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2015/03/28/my-new-boston-globe-story-romney-denied-birth-certificates-to-children-of-same-sex-parents/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 05:57:55 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/?p=751 Continue reading ]]> From my new story in the Boston Globe:

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,’’ reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father’’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,’’ in ink.

Divisions between the governor’s office and state bureaucrats over the language on the forms and details about the extraordinary effort by the Republican governor to prevent routine recording of births to gay parents are contained in state records obtained by the Globe this month.

Deliberations about the policies, including dozens of exchanges about the marriages and births of individual families, are recounted in e-mails and legal memos sent between the governor’s office and lawyers at the Department of Public Health, which oversees the Registry of Vital Records….

Read the entire article.

–Murray Waas

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Will Wendy Davis run for governor of Texas? http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2013/06/30/will-wendy-davis-run-for-governor-of-texas/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2013/06/30/will-wendy-davis-run-for-governor-of-texas/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 06:38:04 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/?p=690 Continue reading ]]> Wendy Davis’ conundrum:  Her heightened profile because of her pro-choice filibuster makes her a credible possibility as the Democratic party’s next gubernatorial appointee to run against Rick Perry.  But if she runs, she is likely to lose the race and also lose her State Senate seat.

Ross Ramsey, the editor of the Texas Tribune, has this analysis:

Wendy Davis is never going to see a better moment for a statewide run for office, even though the odds of a Democrat winning statewide in Texas could not be worse.

She would almost certainly lose.

There are always more reasons not to run than to run. But she has emerged as the predominant voice on an issue that pits the party in power against the party out of power…

Vexing the Republicans, frankly, is a quality she shares with none of the Democrats who have run for governor of Texas since Ann Richards: She galvanizes her supporters and makes the other team crazy. Garry Mauro, Tony Sanchez Jr., Chris Bell and Bill White had varying combinations of money, experience, skill and leadership ability. Together, they had almost enough charisma for one candidate, which made them easier for Texans to disregard. Mauro got 31.2 percent of the vote; Sanchez got 40 percent; Bell, with two major independent candidates also in the race, got 29.8 percent; and White got 42.3 percent.

Rick Perry has that same quality. His opposition can’t believe his success. They find him both irritating and hard to ignore. And the Republicans haven’t stopped voting for him since his first race under their banner in 1990.

Davis would probably be defeated in a statewide race…

She has no statewide network, and her political party doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure that parties are supposed to provide to candidates just coming into their own.

Money is a problem, though her ability to raise funds in Texas and, more importantly, from elsewhere in the country, rose tenfold over the last week. She has a hot hand right now and could put some money together.

The Republicans have the governor — if he decides to run again… political infrastructure, lots of money ($18 million at the end of the year) and a party behind him that hasn’t lost a statewide election since 1994.

A bettor would have to go with the Republicans.

The Democrats, meanwhile, need to steal a page from the other party. The Texas GOP ran decent candidates for years through the late 1970s and into the 1980s, hoping that one might break through. Most lost. Most expected to. Bill Clements, a rich oilman, broke through the wall unexpectedly in 1978, and a scandal on the Texas Supreme Court started helping some Republican judges succeed on the ballot.

Their other candidates — the George Strakes and the Rob Mosbachers and so on — never made it to statewide office. The odds changed as the state changed, largely in reaction to national politics. Part of the Republican success of the moment in Texas is tied to the unpopularity of Barack Obama. Every Republican on the ticket, or who wants to be on the ticket, has the president in the first or second paragraph of every press release and fundraising appeal.

2014 would be challenging even if the Democrats were somewhat competitive.

Davis and her advisers have to weigh all of that. The party elders, if they are still talking to each other, have to figure out how to get candidates on the ballot who can actually get some public attention and keep the argument going — even if they lose their elections.

It would be better for Davis to get this sort of acclaim from Democrats at a time when Democrats had a decent shot at office in Texas. It’s her bad luck that she’s the fastest runner on a team that can’t seem to find its way to the track.

Some observations of my own:  I wouldn’t pretend to know a scintilla of what Ross Ramsey knows about Texas politics.  But I would argue that Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the sate is less a cause but rather a symptom of why a Democrat would face an uphill battle to be elected governor.  Those would include:  The long-term, three-decade long trending of the state to red over decades (although some predict the state turning increasingly purple).  The outsized influence of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and other interest groups that fund Perry and other conservative Republican candidates.  Tom Delay’s successful and illegal scheme to take over the state legislature, which in turn also allowed the legislature to reapportion the state U.S. House seats, consolidating power further for conservatives.  (After engaging in money laundering and illegally accepting corporate money to fund the scheme,  Republicans gained control of the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 130 years.  The legislature then  redrew he state’s congressional districts in 2003 in such a way that Texas Republicans gained five more Republicans seats in Congress in 2004.  Not much understood about that effort was not just that it led to a Republican take over a and consolidation of power of the legislature, but that Delay, the TAB, and others involved eased out more moderate Republicans for much more conservative state legislators.   Texas’ politics have never been the same since.)  And Rick Perry’s formidable fundraising advantage– further enhanced by the alleged propensity by Perry and his top aides to cut ethical corners to raise campaign funds, as demonstrated by this story I wrote with Peter Henderson for Reuters.

By even running for governor and losing, Davis would enhance her profile, both state-wide and nationally, even more a reason she might just run.  But earlier today and tonight, I either spoke or emailed with three former or current legislators who knows Davis, and two state legislative staffers who either know her or have worked with her.  The majority view– or near consensus– is that Davis loves being a legislator.  They don’t think she would too easily give that up.

Update (7/2/13)– What if she were to run again Perry in 2014?

According to Politico:

Despite spending a week in the national news for her high-profile filibuster, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis faces an uphill battle if she were to run against Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, a new poll finds.

Voters prefer Perry over the Democrat in a gubernatorial matchup next year 53 percent to 39 percent, according to Democratic firm Public Policy Polling’s survey.

Perry would also best Democratic San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, 50-43; Houston mayor Annise Parker, 52-35; and Bill White, Perry’s last general-election opponent, 50-40…

Perry has not said whether he plans to run for reelection. His decision was expected by July 1, but he said it would be delayed after he called the state Legislature back into a special session. If he does not run, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is considered a likely nominee by many in Austin.

Those Democrats would not fare much better in a match-up with Abbott for governor next year, the poll says. Voters would prefer Abbott to Davis, 48-40; Castro, 48-34; Parker, 50-31; and White, 48-36.

Perry to say on Monday whether he is running for re-election.

–Murray Waas



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Ecuador: Edward Snowden’s new home censors, jails reporters; closes newspapers http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2013/06/23/ecuador-edward-snowdens-new-home/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2013/06/23/ecuador-edward-snowdens-new-home/#comments Sun, 23 Jun 2013 20:33:25 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/?p=663 Continue reading ]]>

From an old story on Global Post on Ecuador granting Julian Assange assylum:

[A]ccording to numerous international and Ecuadorean human rights and press freedom groups, that is exactly the scenario now unfolding in the tiny South American nation whose support the 41-year-old Australian was eulogizing.

They accuse President Rafael Correa, who last week granted asylum to Assange, of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against any media that have dared to criticize his administration.

The attacks have included the closure of radio stations and magazines, lawsuits resulting in jail terms, and constant verbal broadsides against journalists.

Correa’s detractors claim these have created a climate of fear and self-censorship — and even put lives in danger.

“The government is clearly inciting violence against journalists,” Juan Carlos Calderon, editor of investigative news magazine Vanguardia, told GlobalPost. “And there is a fear of being sued by the government. Bear in mind that the government totally controls the judiciary. Correa uses the courts like a whip. Many media have decided to just survive, and are not doing investigative journalism.”

Also this:

The president routinely refers to journalists in general as “liars,” “corrupt,” “mediocre” and, most creative of all, “ink murderers.” In recent months, he has taken to targeting individual reporters on TV, brandishing their photos, Ricaurte said.

Predictably perhaps, there have been a series of unresolved threats and attacks on journalists, including the slaying of photographer Byron Baldeon last month, the first killing of a journalist in Ecuador in years.

The murder appears to be the work of organized crime, angry at being exposed by Baldeon. Nevertheless, Ricaurte believes the killers may have been emboldened by the government’s hostile rhetoric.

Separately, the Correa administration has come out with a raft of laws making it all but impossible for independent journalists to carry out their work.

One bans electoral coverage “in favor of, or against” a candidate, party or political philosophy. Another prevents anyone owning 6 percent or more of a news outlet from having other economic interests, throttling the flow of private investment to journalism here.

More from Buzzfeed:

Last Friday, Ecuador legislature passed a restrictive media law by a 108-26 margin that was heralded by the country’s President Rafael Correa.

The bill contained 119 articles, according to a report from the Associated Press, one of which outlawed so-called “media lynching” which the law stated was having negative effect on person or institutions image without sufficient evidence. Criminal charges can be brought against journalists who violate the law.

And more about that new law:

Creating official media overseers, imposing sanctions for smearing “people’s good name” and limiting private media to one third of radio and TV licenses, Ecuador’s congress on Friday passed a restrictive new media law championed by President Rafael Correa.

The country’s privately owned media, which is largely in opposition hands, joined press freedom groups in calling the bill an authoritarian measure to control dissent.

It passed by a 108-26 margin in the Correa-controlled congress.

Its sponsor, lawmaker Mauro Andino, said the proposal would protect freedom of speech, but “with a focus on everybody’s rights, not just for a group of the privileged.”

Carlos Lauria, Americas director of the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists, said the legislation “could severely limited freedom of expression” by giving the government ample discretion to sanction dissenters and thus “opens the door to government censorship of the press.”

– Murray Waas


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The Big Stone Wall: Nine Bush Era Senior Officials Refused to Cooperate with DOJ probes http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/18/nine-bush-era-officials-have-refused-to-cooperate-with-doj-probes/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/18/nine-bush-era-officials-have-refused-to-cooperate-with-doj-probes/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2009 22:22:26 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/18/nine-bush-era-officials-have-refused-to-cooperate-with-doj-probes/ Continue reading ]]> bush-dojers.png

New piece out on Talking Points Memo:

At least nine Bush administration officials refused to cooperate with various Justice Department investigations during the final days of the Bush presidency, according to public records and interviews with federal law enforcement officials and many of the officials and their attorneys. In addition, two U.S. senators, a congresswoman, and the chief of staff to one of them, also refused to cooperate with the same investigations.

In large part because of that noncooperation, Justice Department officials sought criminal prosecutors in at least two cases so far to take over their investigations so that they can compel the testimony of many of those officials to testify through the use of a federal grand jury.

With the stakes now escalating for both sides — the possibility of grand jury subpoenas for recalcitrant witnesses and the specter of senior government officials invoking their Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination — it remains unclear whether and how many of them will continue to defy investigators.

In one instance, an attorney for former Bush White House chief political strategist Karl Rove recently told TPMmuckraker that even though Rove had refused to cooperate with an earlier Justice Department inquiry into the firings by the Bush administration of nine U.S. attorneys, he would now fully cooperate with a federal grand jury that has been empanelled to hear evidence in the case. But most of the other former senior White House officials, as well as members of Congress and their staffs, declined to say for this article whether they have or will cooperate with the various federal criminal investigations.

Previously, two Justice Department watchdog offices, the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility conducted investigations of the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the politicization by the Bush administration of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. But those two offices do not have the power to compel the testimony of witnesses outside the department itself or to initiate criminal prosecutions. The Inspector General and OPR successfully sought the naming of a criminal prosecutor to take over their probes.

In a report that the Inspector General and OPR made public last September detailing the findings of their investigation of the prosecutor firings, they asserted that their investigation was severely “hampered… because key witnesses declined to cooperate with our investigation.”

In regard to the investigation of the politicization of the Civil Rights Division, investigators sought a criminal investigation in part because four Bush administration appointees refused to cooperate with their initial probe. Two other investigations by the Inspector General and OPR of the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program are also currently underway. It is unclear in those instances whether a criminal prosecutor might eventually take over those investigations as well.

In the case of the firings of the U.S. attorneys, Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, who took over the investigation from the Inspector General and OPR, recently empanelled a federal grand jury in Washington to hear evidence in the matter.

As TPMmuckraker recently disclosed, the federal grand jury probing the firings of nine U.S. attorneys is currently zeroing in on the role played by recently retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former senior Bush White House officials in the firing of David Iglesias, a former U.S. attorney from New Mexico, according to legal sources familiar with the inquiry.

Last week, the Associated Press confirmed that story, reporting that the federal grand jury had subpoenaed records from Domenici and that Dannehy is also about to interview former Rove aide Scott Jennings, whose lawyer said he is cooperating to the “best of his ability.” Domenici’s attorney, K. Lee Blalock, after originally refusing to comment, and then suggesting to the New Mexico media that the TPMmuckraker report was incorrect, confirmed that the records of his client had in fact been subpoenaed. He also told the Santa Fe New Mexican earlier this month: “The investigation exists, but it is not focused on Senator Domenici to the exclusion of all others.”

But despite the fact that Domenici has already been severely criticized by two internal Justice Department watchdog agencies for refusing to answer questions from the Inspector General and OPR, Blalack is refusing to say whether he will cooperate with prosecutors conducting the current federal grand jury probe. The subpoena of Domenici’s records suggests that Domenici may not have voluntarily wanted to turn them over to authorities. Blalack declined to comment regarding this.


Besides the members of Congress, Justice’s Inspector General and OPR said that their investigation was severely hampered because of the refusal of numerous Bush White House officials involved in the firings to cooperate with their investigation.

Among those named in the report who refused to cooperate with investigators, the report said, were Former White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Deputy White House Counsel William Kelley, and Associate White House Counsel Richard D. Klingler.

So will the four former Bush White House officials now cooperate with Dannehy or testify before the federal grand jury if subpoenaed?

Back to a favorite subject of this blog:

Another investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General has focused on misconduct by J. Robert Flores, the Bush administration’s former administrator of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Although little known outside the Justice Department, the OJJDP doles out more than a quarter of a billion in federal grants each year to decrease the number of juveniles in dangerous facilities and to prevent juvenile delinquency. Flores came under investigation by the Inspector General for allegedly setting aside federal laws and government regulations to award federal grants to political allies of the Bush White House and for also allegedly using federal travel funds to play golf.

During that investigation, Flores’ then-chief of staff, Michele DeKonty, took the Fifth Amendment rather than answer questions from Congress about the awarding of federal grants for political reasons, and similarly refused to be interviewed by the Justice Department’s Inspector General — leading to her immediate firing by then-Attorney General Michael Muksasey.

The Inspector General’s probe has reportedly since transformed into a criminal investigation. DeKonty’s attorney, David H. Laufman, declined to comment for this article as to whether his client has since cooperated with the criminal inquiry.

And finally:

In another investigation in which Justice’s Inspector General and OPR faced uncooperative witnesses — regarding the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — they also sought a criminal probe to compel testimony of officials and also to determine if there was any evidence of any crimes committed.

Four officials in that probe refused to cooperate with investigators as well– at least until a criminal prosecutor took over the probe and empaneled a federal grand jury.

Update:  Since I originally posted this story on TPM Muckraker, I learned that a tenth former Bush administration appointee at the Department of Justice refused to cooperate with a Justice Department inquiry of their conduct:  Monica Goodling, the former counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, refused to be interviewed by both the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility during their joint inquiry into the firings by the Bush administration of nine U.S. attorneys.  Goodling’s refusal to cooperate with the two Justice Department watchdog agencies was mentioned in their public report on the firings– a reference I missed when I wrote the TPM story.  

Related stories:

Murray Waas, “A U.S. Attorney’s Story,” the Atlantic, April 20, 2009.

Murray Waas, “The Ninth Man Out:  A Fired U.S. Attorney Tells His Story,”  Huffington Post, June 4, 2007.

Murray Waas, “Administration Withheld Emails About Rove,” National Journal, May 10, 2007.

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Karl Rove to Cooperate with federal grand jury probing firings of U.S. attorneys; As for Congress, that’s another story http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/03/karl-rove-to-cooperate-with-federal-grand-jury-probing-firings-of-us-attorneys-congress-another-story/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/03/karl-rove-to-cooperate-with-federal-grand-jury-probing-firings-of-us-attorneys-congress-another-story/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2009 08:02:26 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2009/02/03/karl-rove-to-cooperate-with-federal-grand-jury-probing-firings-of-us-attorneys-congress-another-story/ Continue reading ]]> I have a story posted tonight on Talking Points Memo quoting Karl Rove’s attorney saying that Rove will cooperate with the federal grand jury probe of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. The lede to the story:

Karl Rove will cooperate with a federal criminal inquiry underway into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and has already spoken to investigators in a separate, internal DOJ investigation into the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his attorney said in an interview.

Rove previously refused to cooperate with an earlier Justice Department inquiry into the firings. The Justice Department’s Inspector General and its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) said in a report released last September detailing their earlier probe of the firings of the U.S. attorneys that their investigation was severely “hindered” by the refusal by Rove and other senior Bush administration officials to cooperate with the probe.

Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said that Rove, however, will cooperate with a federal criminal probe of the firings being led by Nora Dannehy, the Acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut who was selected by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to lead the investigation. Dannehy has recently empaneled a federal grand jury to hear evidence in the matter.

Luskin told me that Rove had earlier not cooperated with the Inspector General and OPR probe into the firings because “it was not his [Karl's] call… it was not up to us decide.” Luskin said that Rove was directed by the Bush White House counsel’s office not to cooperate with the Inspector General and OPR.

Regarding the more recent probe by Dannehy, Luskin said: “I can say that he would cooperate with the Dannehy investigation if asked.”

In recent days, according to legal sources, two former Bush White House officials, including one former aide to Rove, have been contacted by investigators working for Dannehy and asked for interviews. One of the two has agreed to be interviewed.

Regarding the decision to cooperate with Dannehy, Luskin said that Rove “has not and will not assert any personal privileges.” He also said that in regard to the earlier probe, Rove had not done so, but had rather only “followed the guidance of the White House.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Whether Rove will testify before the House Judiciary Committee, however, is another story.

As Dan Froomkin has reported:

Just four days before he left office, President Bush instructed former White House aide Karl Rove to refuse to cooperate with future congressional inquiries into alleged misconduct during his administration.

“On Jan. 16, 2009, then White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin. The message: should his client receive any future subpoenas, Rove ‘should not appear before Congress’ or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House. The letter told Rove that President Bush was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove—even after he leaves office.”

That letter, and a nearly identical one to a lawyer for former White House counsel Harriet Miers, reasserted the White House position that the two former aides have “absolute immunity” from testifying before Congress about anything they did while they worked at the White House — a vastly more extreme and legally unsupportable assertion than, say, a limited claim of executive privilege.

The letters set the stage for what is likely to be a highly contentious legal and political battle over an unresolved issue: whether a former president can assert ‘executive privilege’—and therefore prevent his aides from testifying before Congress—even after his term has expired.

“‘To my knowledge, these [letters] are unprecedented,’ said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in executive-privilege issues. ‘I’m aware of no sitting president that has tried to give an insurance policy to a former employee in regard to post-administration testimony.’ Shane likened the letter to Rove as an attempt to give his former aide a ‘get-out-of-contempt-free card’.”

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin “said that he forwarded a copy of Fielding’s letter, as well as the subpoena he got from Conyers, to Obama’s White House counsel, Greg Craig, and essentially asked for the new president’s position on these matters.

“So far, he said, Craig hasn’t responded.

The Obama White House will soon weigh in. As Zachary Roth has reported, the Obama administration is due in court on Feb. 18 to argue the matter one way or the other.

I don’t ordinarily make predictions on my blog. (Oops, there goes my invitation to appear on the McLaughlin Group!) But in this case, I think I know what is going to happen.

The Obama White House will not invoke executive privilege for the chief political advisor for a Republican President, not because of politics, but for these reasons:

1. The federal judge who has been considering the Bush White House’s executive privilege claims– an ideological conservative who was appointed by Bush– has been scathing in his criticism of the claim in this instance.

2. It would simply be bad case law to continue defending the claim of executive privilege, as Jack Balkin explains.

3. Nobody in the White House counsel’s office or DOJ will want to twist the law in any case. To consider the changes that have come to Washington, a former attorney for CREW, now works in the Obama White House Counsel’s Office. Norman Eisen who is the president’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, as a co-founder of CREW, had sued the Bush administration to recover and disclose missing White House emails. It would not seem that he is much of an advocate of radical expansions of executive privilege for presidential aides of former administrations.

And one of Jack Balkin’s former blogging partners at Balkinization now works in the Obama Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Finally, there is President Obama himself: a former constitutional law professor.

Update: Buck Naked Politics’ take.

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Our Democracy in Action… (or perhaps better alternatively entitled) Memories of Miami-Dade http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/30/our-democracy-in-action-or-alternatively-memories-of-miami-dade/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/30/our-democracy-in-action-or-alternatively-memories-of-miami-dade/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2008 08:15:30 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/30/our-democracy-in-action-or-alternatively-memories-of-miami-dade/ Continue reading ]]>

This is obviously worth watching for its entertainment value alone. I was trying to figure out who was who and follow the arguments. What I would like to know is whether the Franken and Coleman camps ever argued (even a single time) against the interest of their own camp. If anyone knows, or has any other feedback, leave a comment either here below or on my Facebook page. (I’ve just figured out that people like to leave comments on Facebook because they want a face and name attached to their comment and because it is easier for people to get in a discussion there than in the comments section of a blog.)

I will probably update this post later. But until then, I think the video clip above should probably include this warning: If you were personally involved in the 2000 recount in Florida– as a participant or journalist or in any other manner– watching this video might cause a post-traumatic episode for you. For everyone else, please enjoy.

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Christmas Morning, 2008– “The Birds of St. Marks” http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/25/christmas-morning-2008-the-birds-of-st-marks/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/25/christmas-morning-2008-the-birds-of-st-marks/#comments Thu, 25 Dec 2008 09:14:42 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/25/christmas-morning-2008-the-birds-of-st-marks/

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Exclusive: Cheney’s admissions to the CIA leak prosecutor and FBI http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/23/exclusive-cheneys-admissions-to-the-cia-leak-prosecutor-and-fbi/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/23/exclusive-cheneys-admissions-to-the-cia-leak-prosecutor-and-fbi/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2008 18:14:33 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/12/23/exclusive-cheneys-admissions-to-the-cia-leak-prosecutor-and-fbi/ Continue reading ]]> Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a still-highly confidential FBI report, admitted to federal investigators that he rewrote talking points for the press in July 2003 that made it much more likely that the role of then-covert CIA-officer Valerie Plame in sending her husband on a CIA-sponsored mission to Africa would come to light.

Cheney conceded during his interview with federal investigators that in drawing attention to Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s Africa trip reporters might also unmask her role as CIA officer.

Cheney denied to the investigators, however, that he had done anything on purpose that would lead to the outing of Plame as a covert CIA operative. But the investigators came away from their interview with Cheney believing that he had not given them a plausible explanation as to how he could focus attention on Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s trip without her CIA status also possibly publicly exposed. At the time, Plame was a covert CIA officer involved in preventing Iran from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and Cheney’s office played a central role in exposing her and nullifying much of her work.

Cheney revised the talking points on July 8, 2003– the very same day that his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and told Miller that Plame was a CIA officer and that Plame had also played a central role in sending her husband on his CIA sponsored trip to the African nation of Niger.

Both Cheney and Libby have acknowledged that Cheney directed him to meet with Miller, but claimed that the purpose of that meeting was to leak other sensitive intelligence to discredit allegations made by Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, that the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information to go to war with Iraq, rather than to leak Plame’s identity.

That Cheney, by his own admission, had revised the talking points in an effort to have the reporters examine who sent Wilson on the very same day that his chief of staff was disclosing to Miller Plame’s identity as a CIA officer may be the most compelling evidence to date that Cheney himself might have directed Libby to disclose Plame’s identity to Miller and other reporters.

This new information adds to a growing body of evidence that Cheney may have directed Libby to disclose Plame’s identity to reporters and that Libby acted to protect Cheney by lying to federal investigators and a federal grand jury about the matter.

Still, for those in search of the proverbial “smoking gun”, the question as to whether Cheney directed Libby to leak Plaime’s identity to the media at Cheney’s direction or Libby did so on his own by acting over zealously in carrying out a broader mandate from Cheney to discredit Wilson and his allegations about manipulation of intelligence information, will almost certainly remain an unresolved one.

Libby was convicted on March 6, 2007 of four felony counts of lying to federal investigators, perjury, and obstruction of justice, in attempting to conceal from authorities his own role, and that of other Bush administration officials, in leaking information to the media about Plame.

One of the jurors in the case, Dennis Collins, told the press shortly after the verdict that he and many other jurors believed that Libby was serving as a “fall guy” for Cheney, and had lied to conceal the role of his boss in directing information about Plame to be leaked to the press.

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick Fitzgerald, said in both opening and closing arguments that because Libby did not testify truthfully during the course of his investigation, federal authorities were stymied from determining what role Vice President Cheney possibly played in directing the leaking of information regarding Plame that led to the end of her career as a covert CIA officer, as well as jeopardizing other sensitive intelligence information.

Speaking of the consequences of Libby’s deceit to the FBI and a federal grand jury, Fitzgerald, who is also the U.S. attorney for Chicago, said in his Feb. 20, 2007 closing argument: “There is talk about a cloud over the Vice President. There is a cloud over the White House as to what happened. Do you think the FBI, the Grand Jury, the American people are entitled to a straight answer?”

The implication from that and other comments made by Fitzgerald while trying the case was that Libby had lied and placed himself in criminal jeopardy to protect Cheney and to perhaps conceal the fact that Cheney had directed him to leak information to the media about Plame.

Although it has been widely reported in the media that Cheney and Libby have denied that Cheney directed Libby ever to speak to reporters about Plame, those reports have been erroneous. As Washington Post.com columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in this largely overlooked column, Libby instead had told both the FBI and a federal grand jury that he was uncertain as to whether or not Cheney had directed him to talk to reporters about Plame.

An FBI agent testified at Libby’s trial, as Froomkin pointed out, that Libby had told the FBI that during a July 12, 2003 conversation that Libby had with Cheney, the two men possibly discussed “whether to report to the press that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA.”

That conversation occurred exactly four days after Cheney ordered the revision of the talking points and Libby had his conversation with Judith Miller about Plame.

And immediately after that July 12, 2003 conversation between Cheney and Libby, Libby spoke by phone with Matthew Cooper, then a correspondent for Time magazine, and confirmed for Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA and that she had played a role in sending her husband to Niger.

A contemporaneous FBI report recounting the agents’ interview with Libby also asserts that Libby had refused to categorically deny to them that Cheney had directed him to leak information to the press about Plame. A heavily redacted copy of Libby’s interviews with FBI agents was turned over this summer to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) wrote Attorney General Michael Mukasey on June 3, 2008, reiterating an earlier request that Mukasey turn over to the committee the FBI report of its interview of Vice President Cheney in regards to the Plame matter:

“In his interview with the FBI, Mr. Libby states that it was `possible’ that Vice President Cheney instructed [Libby] to disseminate information about Ambassador Wilson’s wife to the press. This is a significant revelation and, if true, a serious matter. It cannot be responsibly investigated without access to the Vice President’s interview.”

Mukasey declined to release the Cheney report to Waxman in particular, and Congress in general.

But a person with access to notes of Cheney’s interview with federal investigators described to me what Cheney said during those interviews. Later the same person read to me verbatim portions of the interview notes directly relevant to this story.


At the time of the leak of Plame’s identity, Cheney, Libby and other Bush administration officials were attempting to discredit Wilson because of the charges that he was making that the White House had manipulated intelligence information to take the nation to war with Iraq. Wilson, a retired career diplomat and former ambassador, had traveled to Niger in February 2002 on a CIA- sponsored mission to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein’s regime had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation. Wilson reported back to the CIA that the allegations were most certainly untrue.

Despite numerous warnings from the CIA and elsewhere in government that the Niger allegations were most likely false or even contrived, President Bush cited them in his 2003 State of the Union address as a rationale to go to war with Iraq.

On July 6, 2003, Wilson published an op-ed in The New York Times charging that the Bush administration had “twisted” intelligence when it cited the alleged Niger-Iraq connection in the president’s State of Union earlier that year. At the time, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq could not find out weapons of mass destruction. Wilson’s allegations were among the first from an authoritative source that the administration might have misled the nation to go to war.

A central part of the effort to counter Wilson’s allegations entailed discrediting him by suggesting that his slection for the trip had been a case of nepotism. Cheney, Libby, then-White House political adviser Karl Rove, and other White House officials told reporters that Wilson’s wife, who worked at the CIA, had been primarily responsible for selecting him to go to Niger.

The day after Wilson’s op-ed, on July 7, 2003, Cheney personally dictated talking points for then-presidential secretary Ari Fleischer and other White House officials to use to counter Wilson’s charges and discredit him.

A central purpose for writing the talking points was to demonstrate that the Vice President’s office had played little if any role in Wilson being sent to Niger and that Cheney was not told of Wilson’s mission prior to the war with Iraq.

In talking points Cheney dictated on July 7, Cheney wrote as his first one: “The Vice President’s office did not request the mission to Niger.” The three other talking points asserted that the “Vice President’s office was not informed of Joe Wilson’s mission”; that Cheney’s office was not briefed about the trip until long after it occurred, and that Cheney and his aides only learned about the trip when they received press inquiries about it a full year later.


About a month prior to Wilson having written his own op-ed for the Times, he had told his story of his mission to Niger to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote a detailed account of Wilson’s trip and his allegations.

In reaction to that column, Cheney personally made inquiries about the matter to both then-CIA director George Tenet and then-CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, apparently on either June 11 or June 12, 2003, according to evidence made public at Libby’s federal criminal trial. Both Tenet and McLaughlin told Cheney of Plame’s role (in reality, a tenuous one) to the selection of her husband for the Niger mission.

On June 12, Cheney and Libby spoke, and Cheney told Libby about Plame’s supposed role.

In notes that Libby took of the conversation, Libby wrote that Cheney said he been told by the CIA officials that Wilson’s mission to Niger “took place at our behest”-in reference to the CIA. More specifically, the notes indicted the mission was undertaken at the request of the CIA’s covert Counterproliferation Division. The notes said that Cheney told Libby that he had been informed that Wilson’s “wife works in that division.”

Cheney then instructed Libby, according to the notes, to ask the CIA to set the record straight by saying that the Vice President’s office “didn’t known about [the] mission” and “didn’t get the report back”, in reference to the fact that Cheney’s office never received a copy of a CIA debriefing report of Wilson after he returned from Niger.

Surprisingly, despite the prominence of Kristof in particular, and the Times in general, the column was largely ignored– at least for a while.

But Wilson’s own July 6, 2003 Times op-ed column by rekindled the issue. Stoking the flames, Wilson then also appeared on Meet the Press that same morning to discuss his column.

Wilson’s column, prosecutor Fitzgerald asserted at Libby’s trial, ignited a “firestorm.”

Wilson’s charges, Fitzgerald went on to say, “came in the fourth month of the war in Iraq, the fourth month when weapons of mass destruction were not found. Coming as they did, they ignited a media firestorm… the White House was stunned.”

In a handwritten notation at the bottom of the July 6 op-ed, Cheney wrote out several rhetorical questions regarding Wilson and Plame: “Have they [the CIA] done this before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro-bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?”

The next day, July 7, Cheney crafted talking points to be distributed to the media which emphasized that his office had not requested that Wilson go to Niger, that the CIA had not told him about Wilson’s findings, and that he personally only learned of the matter long after the U.S. invaded Iraq– from press reports.

The four talking points dictated by Cheney to his press aide, Catharine Martin, stated:

*The Vice President’s office did not request the mission to Niger.
* The Vice President’s office was not informed of Joe Wilson’s mission.
*The Vice President’s office did not receive a briefing about Mr. Wilson’s mission after he returned.
*The Vice President’s office was not aware of Mr. Wilson’s mission until recent press reports accounted for it.

Martin, in turn, sent those talking points on to, among others, Ari Fleischer, the-then White House press secretary, who utilized them in his briefing or “gaggle” for the press that morning.

Fleischer told reporters that same day, according to a transcript of the briefing: “The Vice President’s office did not request the mission to Niger. The Vice president’s office was not informed of his mission and he was not aware of Mr. Wilson’s mission until recent press accounts… accounted for it. So this was something that the CIA undertook… They sent him on their own volition.”

Also hat same day, Fleischer, who was planning to leave his position as White House press secretary, had lunch with Libby, during which, according to Fleisher’s testimony at Libby’s trial, Libby spoke extensively about the role of Plame in sending her husband on the Niger mission.

At the lunch, Fleischer would testify, Libby told him: “Ambassador Wilson was sent by his wife. His wife works for the CIA.” Fleischer testified that Libby even referred to Wilson’s wife by her maiden name, Valerie Plame.

“He added it was `hush-hush’, and on the QT,’ and that most people didn’t know it,” Fleisher testified.

The very next morning, on July 8, Libby met with reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times for two hours for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington in an effort to staunch the damage done by Wilson’s column.

Miller testified at Libby’s trial during the breakfast Libby told her that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and that Plame had played a role in selecting him for his Niger mission.

In testimony before the federal grand jury in the CIA leak case, Libby testified that Cheney had instructed him before the breakfast to “get everything out.” Regarding the allegations that he leaked information to Miller about Plame, Libby told federal investigators that he had never done so.

During the same breakfast, Libby also disclosed to Miller portions of a then-still classified National Intelligence Estimate which Cheney believed demonstrated that the CIA was to blame for robustly endorsing the Niger information as accurate.

President Bush had personally and secretly declassified portions of the NIE for the specific purpose of leaking them to Miller. In disclosing selective portions of the NIE to Miller, only the President, the Vice President, and Libby knew about the secret declassification.

“So far as you know, the only three people who knew about this would be the President, the Vice President, and yourself,” Libby was asked by Fitzgerald during one session by Libby before the federal grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case,

“Correct, sir,” Libby answered.

Also that same day, July 8, 2003, Cheney met again Cathy Martin– this time on Cheney’s office on Capitol Hill. During the meeting, according to an account Martin gave federal investigators, Cheney told Martin that he wanted some changes and additions made to the talking points devised the previous day that had already been disseminated to Fleischer and other White House communications aides.

Martin told investigators that Cheney dictated the changes to her, and in each case, she took down word for word what the Vice President said. (Martin later repeated this same account under oath during Libby’s trial.)

Cheney told Martin that he wanted the very first of the talking points to now read: “It is not clear who authorized Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger.”

Cheney, of course, knew that the CIA had authorized Wilson’s trip and had sent Wilson to Niger. Both Cheney and Libby had been told by a large number of CIA and State Department officials by then that such was the case, according to the sworn testimony of those officials at Libby’s trial. And the day before, Fleisher had told the press that Wilson’s mission to Niger was “something that the CIA undertook” and that they had also “sent him on their own volition.”

Why would Cheney change the talking points from the day before if he knew that the CIA had sent Wilson and he and his staff had encouraged Fleischer to say that the day before? Obviously, saying it was unclear who had authorized Wilson’s trip to Niger was not only untrue, it also pointed reporters in the direction of asking about Plame.

Asked about this during his FBI interview, Cheney was at a loss to explain how the change of the talking points focusing attention on who specifically sent Wilson to Niger would not lead reporters might lead to exposure of Plame’s role as a CIA officer.

There was a matter, as well, as to why Cheney changed the talking points to say it was unclear who sent Wilson when in fact he had admitted earlier during the same interview with investigators that he clearly knew it was the CIA.

Finally, of course, there was the fact that on the very same day that Cheney changed the talking points that Libby was meeting with Miller and telling Miller that Plame worked for the CIA and had sent her husband to Niger.

In his closing argument during the Libby trial, however, Fitzgerald did mention the issue briefly. None of the media covering the trial, however (with the sole exception once again being Dan Froomkin), appeared to understand its significance or broader context, and did not report it.

Noting the change of Cheney’s July 7 and July 8, 2003 talking points, Patrick Fitzgerald said: “The question of who authorized became number one. That’s a question that would lead to the answer: Valerie Wilson.”


Four days later, on July 12, 2003 Cheney and Libby strategized again as to how to beat back Wilson’s allegations. They had traveled together, and with thier families, to the Norfolk Naval Station for the commissioning of the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

On the flight home, Cheney pressed Libby to talk to reporters to once again, hoping to beat back Wilson’s allegations and discredit the former diplomat. Immediately after landing, Libby spoke to then-Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper and confirmed for him that Plame worked for the CIA and had played a role in sending her husband to Niger. It was regarding that conversation that Libby told the FBI it was “possible” that Cheney might have told him to discuss Plame.

On July 2, 2007, President Bush commuted Libby’s thirty month prison sentence, saying he was doing so out of compassion for Libby’s family and because he believed that he believed that the sentence was excessive. The White House declined to say whether Bush might consider a full pardon for Libby.

In the next few days, it will become known whether Libby will in fact be pardoned by President Bush in his final days in office.

In the meantime, what the Vice President and the President told the FBI during their own FBI interviews during the Plame investigation will not be officially disclosed by the White House. Despite the fact that prosecutor Fitzgerald has said told Congress that he has no objections to the provision of the reports to Congress, the Bush administration has refused to follow through.

Special thanks to David Neiwart for editing assistance.

Related articles by Murray Waas:

Murray Waas, “What Did Bush Tell Gonzales?” the Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas, “The Case of the Gonzales Notes,” the Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas, “Cheney’s Call,” National Journal, Feb. 15, 2007.

Murray Waas, “Inside the Grand Jury,” National Journal, Jan. 12, 2007.

Murray Waas, “Cheney`Authorized’ Libby to Leak Classified Information,” National Journal, Feb. 8, 2006.

Murray Waas, “Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel,” National Journal, Nov. 22, 2005.

Barton Gelman, “A Leak, Then a Deluge,” Washington Post, Oct. 30, 2005.

Murray Waas, “The Meeting,” American Prospect,  Aug. 6, 2005.

Readers can contact Murray Waas by leaving a comment below or through his Facebook accountWaas was, with Jeff Lomonaco, the co-editor of the United States v. I. Lewis Libby, published in the spring of 2007 by Union Square Press.

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Dustin Pedroia AL MVP http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/11/19/dustin-pedroia-al-mvp/ http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/11/19/dustin-pedroia-al-mvp/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2008 13:10:11 +0000 http://murraywaas.crooksandliars.com/2008/11/19/dustin-pedroia-al-mvp/ Continue reading ]]> Everyone is making a big deal out of the fact that Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is only the second second baseman in nearly half a century to be an MVP.

But how many players win an MVP while hitting just 19 home runs (other than a pitcher, of course)? Not that I am saying that Pedroia didn’t deserve the award. Hardly. I am pretty sure he would have been my first ballot selection if Major League Baseball allowed bloggers who intermittently write about baseball to vote instead of some not so bright Texas sportswriter. (At least the guy had the grace to publicly eat some crow.)

Pedroia is the type of old school player I loved to watch in my youth. Players like Larry Bowa or Roberto Clemente who would not have gotten as much attention in the until recently ended steroid era. With home run numbers having come back down to earth because it is harder to do steroids– and probably for other reasons as well, among them recent crops of good young pitching arms– players like Pedroia are as much, hopefully, the wave of the future instead of just a reminder for baseball of another era.

Besides hitting just 19 home runs, Pedroia also just batted .326. But this year that was still second in the league only to Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (.328 B.A.).

So what else did Pedroia do except just being edged out as having the league’s highest batting average? He hit 54 doubles. He scored 118 runs. He won the gold glove at second base. He stole 20 bases– which is not that high a number. But he was only caught stealing once. Not only fans but baseball writers and even baseball GMs probably don’t consider the statistic of how many steals in comparison to how many times a player is caught stealing.

Would you rather have a player like Pedroia who stole 20 out of 21 or one who had stolen 39 bases but caught 16 times? Players like Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran are perhaps slightly underrated because they steal a moderate number of bases but hardly ever get caught.

The selection of Dustin Pedroia hopefully is a symbol that the steroid era of baseball is over. No more 60 plus home run and even 70 plus home run seasons by players who cheated and one– like Barry Bonds who is under indictment for allegedly committing perjury for lying to a federal grand jury about his steroid use.

We can now enjoy the finesse and fudamentals and small things about baseball– the bunt single, the play made by the short stop deep in the hole– instead of just over sized home runs by players with over sized heads.

And maybe next year… for Joe Mauer!

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