Former tabloid king David Pecker gave testimony Tuesday as Donald Trump looked on. Some of his most imaginative headlines about political rivals were shown to the court

You don’t become the tabloid king of America without knowing a thing or two about women, human nature and powerful men like Donald Trump.

So as David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, was asked about the pivotal Trump Tower meeting and a so called ‘catch and kill’ scheme to help the Trump campaign fend off hit pieces, he came clean about his role.

‘I was the one who thought that a lot of women would try to sell their stories because Mr. Trump was well known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women,’ he said in his Bronx drawl.

‘It is very common for these women to call up a magazine like the National Enquirer to try to sell their stories.’

The former president has plenty to fear from the testimony of his estranged friend. But he enjoyed that moment and the reference to his days as a man about town.

Former tabloid king David Pecker gave testimony Tuesday as Donald Trump looked on. Some of his most imaginative headlines about political rivals were shown to the court

Former tabloid king David Pecker gave testimony Tuesday as Donald Trump looked on. Some of his most imaginative headlines about political rivals were shown to the court

Pecker testified that he had been friends with Trump for decades, and had helped stamp out negative stories during the 2016 election after a key meeting at Trump Tower

Pecker testified that he had been friends with Trump for decades, and had helped stamp out negative stories during the 2016 election after a key meeting at Trump Tower

He leaned across to lead defense attorney Todd Blanche and whispered in his ear. HIs lawyer grinned, looking for all the world as if they were two schoolboys sharing a joke.

Pecker was the only witness Tuesday. He delivered his testimony in grave tones, talking seriously and slowly about the risqué business of buying up ‘kiss and tell’ tales and inventing lurid magazine covers that would sell in their millions.

The prosecution case revolves around the business he once ran, American Media Inc and its stable of supermarket tabloids.

Prosecutors allege his long relationship with Trump put him at the heart of a scheme to buy up and then kill stories that were damaging to his friend’s 2016 campaign.

But as he delivered his evidence, the 72-year-old also revealed the inner workings of a muckraking industry that produced mindbending headlines to order.

It also meant a dilemma for the court as it sought to get to the facts of the case without distracting the jury from the job at hand. So each time National Enquirer headlines were shown to the jury, they received a warning from the judge.

‘The exhibits are not evidence that any of the assertions in these headlines are true,’ intoned Judge Juan Merchan. 

Cue headlines that included, ‘Ted Cruz shamed by porn star,’ at a time when he was emerging as the main challenger to Trump’s effort to secure the 2016 Republican nomination.

‘Bungling surgeon Ben Carson left sponge in patient’s brain,’ was another one timed to coincide with the neurosurgeon’s surge in the polls.

Pecker wore a dark gray suit, with blue shirt and pink tie when he appeared Tuesday. He has not finished giving evidence and will return when the court sits next week

Pecker wore a dark gray suit, with blue shirt and pink tie when he appeared Tuesday. He has not finished giving evidence and will return when the court sits next week

During the 2016 campaign, the National Enquirer frequently ran headlines knocking Trump's rivals such as Ted Cruz in the race for the Republican nomination, and his general election opponent Hillary Clinton among others

During the 2016 campaign, the National Enquirer frequently ran headlines knocking Trump’s rivals such as Ted Cruz in the race for the Republican nomination, and his general election opponent Hillary Clinton among others

Pecker delivered his testimony with the calm assurance of the accountant he once was.

He arrived in magazines when he landed as an accountant in CBS’s magazine division in the late 70s. He stayed with the division, moving up through the ranks as it was sold and resold, eventually becoming president of Hachette in 1990 when it owned the portfolio.

He even worked with Trump, launching a magazine called ‘Trump Style,’  

But it was with American Media Inc and the National Enquirer that he developed his deep reach into the nation’s celebrity culture and politics.

‘When I bought the National Enquirer in March of 1999, one of the first calls that I received was from Mr Trump …’ he said in court, recalling how the future president told him: ‘Congratulations, you’ve bought a great magazine.’

Their relationship deepened after that. They developed a mutually beneficial tie-up: Trump would give him exclusive details about his Apprentice TV show, such as ratings, or juicy titbits from the celebrity version, boosting circulation for the magazine and keeping Trump in the public eye. 

Pecker was a frequent visitor to Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago estate and traveled on his private plane.

In June 2015, Pecker was invited to Trump Tower to watch the famous ride down the golden escalator when Trump announced his White House run.

Donald Trump has denied 34 counts of business fraud in Manhattan criminal court

Donald Trump has denied 34 counts of business fraud in Manhattan criminal court

The prosecution case revolves around a 2015 Trump Tower meeting between Trump, his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen (pictured) and Pecker

The prosecution case revolves around a 2015 Trump Tower meeting between Trump, his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen (pictured) and Pecker

Two months later, he described returning to the building for the meeting with fixer Michael Cohen and Trump, where they made a plan for handling media coverage.  

He would be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the campaign, using his editors’ network of sources to sniff out and then snuff out stories that could hurt Trump.

It was mutually beneficial, he said, because he would get story tips in return.

‘Michael Cohen would call me and say, “We would like you to run a negative article on a certain” … let’s say for argument sake … on Ted Cruz then he—Michael Cohen— would send me information about Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Marco Rubio,’ he said, ‘and that was the basis of our story and then we would embellish it from there.’

At different times each of the three Republicans emerged as the biggest challenger to Trump in winning the party nomination. 

2016 stories from the National Enquirer included one accusing Ted Cruz (l) of having multiple affairs and another accusing his father Rafael (r) of having links to the JFK assassination

2016 stories from the National Enquirer included one accusing Ted Cruz (l) of having multiple affairs and another accusing his father Rafael (r) of having links to the JFK assassination

Before introducing National Enquirer headlines, Judge Juan Merchan warned the jury: 'The exhibits are not evidence that any of the assertions in these headlines are true'

Before introducing National Enquirer headlines, Judge Juan Merchan warned the jury: ‘The exhibits are not evidence that any of the assertions in these headlines are true’

The result was headlines like: ‘Ted Cruz Sex Scandal: Five Secret Mistresses’ or ‘”Family Man” Marco Rubio’s Love Child Stunner.’ 

Cruz always maintained that Trump had planted the outlandish tales, including one about his father having a role in the assassination of JKF. On Tuesday, he received vindication.

Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was allegedly pictured with assassin Lee Harvey Oswald  in New Orleans in 1963, just before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. 

On the witness stand, Pecker described how his research team was set on the task

‘We mashed the photos and the different picture with Lee Harvey Oswald. And mashed the two together,’ he said, indicating that the whole thing was fabricated. 

‘That’s how that story was prepared — created I should say.’

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