Federal prosecutors said National Enquirer's parent company, American Media, admitted that it made a $150,000 payment to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal "to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations" about Donald Trump in advance of the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen was on Wednesday sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to the campaign finance violations, lying to Congress about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Russian Federation, and personal financial crimes.
News of the AMI deal came less than an hour after Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for charges brought by prosecutors in the Southern District of NY.
While Trump has focused his wrath on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference, the NY probe of campaign finance violations is a significant threat to the president since prosecutors in their filings on Cohen have tied Trump to the scheme.
Federal prosecutors allege that Cohen violated campaign finance laws by paying off women who allege to have had affairs with Donald Trump acting "in coordination with and at the direction of" the then-candidate.
Employees of the campaign who were involved in arranging the payout with AMI could also be vulnerable to prosecution.
A spokesperson for AMI declined to comment.
"This agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI's acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violation of the federal campaign finance laws", the statement added. Under the deal, AMI admitted it worked with the campaign to kill stories "about the presidential candidate's relationships with women" and agreed to cooperate.
Cohen, Pecker and Trump are no longer in contact with each other.
In August 2016, McDougal cut a deal with AMI, in which she sold her rights to speak publicly about allegedly having a 10-month extramarital affair with Trump in 2006. That amount was substantially more than the company would otherwise pay because of Cohen's assurances to Pecker that AMI would be "substantially reimbursed". At no time did AMI intend to publish the story, and the company failed to report the $150,000 payment to McDougal to the Federal Election Commission, the company admitted.
AMI also copped to making the payment in order to "suppress" McDougal's story for the specific goal of influencing the election.