Michael Cohen may have initially been President Donald Trump‘s connection to the National Enquirer, but Jared Kushner eventually replaced Cohen in this role, it was reported Friday.
According to The Daily Beast, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser became close with David Pecker, the chief executive of the Enquirer tabloid’s publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) during the early months of the Trump administration. Pecker is known for also being friends with Trump.
It was also reported that Kushner is campaigning to replace out-going Chief Of Staff John Kelly, which would be a big upgrade from his current position as an advisor to the president.
The Daily Beast reported that in early 2017, Kushner had phone conversations with Pecker about several topics, “including everything from international relations to media gossip.” The pair also allegedly discussed relations with Saudi Arabia and potential damaging information the Enquirer had on MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Meanwhile, AMI’s chief executive reportedly “bragged” to several people that he was talking to Trump’s son-in-law.
On Wednesday, AMI struck a non-prosecution deal in Cohen’s case, on the same day Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer” was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen was charged for multiple counts including bank and tax fraud and campaign finance violations related to his hush money payments to several women with whom Trump had extramarital affairs. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who was one of the women who had a sexual encounter with Trump around 2007, settled a lawsuit with AMI earlier this year after it was revealed the publisher bought the rights to her story about her alleged affair with Trump.
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Eearlier this year, the Enquirer was revealed to have sent Cohen many of its stories about Trump in advance before publishing. Trump was reportedly in the room when Cohen and the publication made the plans to arrange a $150,000 hush money payment to McDougal, but has denied sharing any blame in the scandal. The president said in a series of tweets Thursday that Cohen was simply trying to “embarrass” him and get a reduced sentence.
The Enquirer also reportedly published many other Trump-related stories over the years that helped the former Apprentice host settle “personal scores.” In late 2016, for example, actress Salma Hayek-Pinault alleged on a conference call hosted by Hillary Clinton‘s campaign that Trump had attempted to date her and that when she rebuffed his advances, he ordered a defamatory story to be written about her in the tabloid.
Kushner has already found himself under the close watch of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Trump’s 37-year-old son-in-law also recently drew criticism for meeting one-on-one with acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker aboard presidential helicopter Marine One.