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Report: National Enquirer Shredded Trump Docs Before 2016 Election

The National Enquirer may have done more than act as a friendly “catch and kill” service for Donald Trump, burying an account of his alleged affair with a former Playboy model that had been set to emerge during his 2016 run for president. According to journalist Ronan Farrow, the tabloid also destroyed a trove of Trump-related documents it had been keeping in a secret safe ahead of the election—further evidence of how American Media Inc. and its CEO, David Pecker, allegedly conspired to help the president.

According to Farrow’s new book, then-Enquirer editor Dylan Howard directed a staffer to “get everything out of the safe” and to “get a shredder down there” on the day the Wall Street Journal called for comment about its November 2016 piece about how the publication paid Karen McDougal for her story about an affair with Trump but didn’t publish it. “The staffer opened the safe, removed a set of documents, and tried to wrest it shut,” Farrow writes in Catch and Kill, which publishes Tuesday. “Later, reporters would discuss the safe like it was the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but it was small and cheap and old.”

AMI, which had come under legal scrutiny for its involvement in the McDougal matter, denied Farrow’s reporting. “Mr. Farrow’s narrative is driven by unsubstantiated allegations from questionable sources and while these stories may be dramatic, they are completely untrue,” a spokesperson told Politico. But there is reason to be suspicious of the tabloid. Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump, told Michael Cohen in 2015 that he would help find and spike negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women that could hurt his nascent presidential bid, according to prosecutors. As my colleague Gabriel Sherman has reported, the Enquirer also frequently ran articles attacking Trump’s rivals, including Hillary Clinton and Republican opponents like Ben Carson—who’d go on to serve in Trump’s cabinet. Pecker and Howard were later granted immunity from prosecution after providing information about Cohen’s hush-money agreements with McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels; their testimonies helped form the basis for the campaign finance charges against the former Trump attorney, who implicated the president—“Individual-1”—in federal crimes. (Trump has denied alleged affairs and sexual harassment claims involving some two dozen women.)

Farrow’s reporting appears to underscore the scale of the Enquirer’s efforts to run cover for Trump. It also, of course, suggests that there are more damaging stories floating around about the president. Jerry George, an ex-Enquirer reporter, told Farrow that Pecker “killed perhaps ten fully reported stories about Trump, and nixed many more potential leads during George’s twenty-eight years at the Enquirer.” Whether those nixed stories were about Trump storied affairs—or, perhaps, sexual misconduct allegations like the ones leveled against him by E. Jean Carroll—isn’t clear. But the reporting is likely to reignite scrutiny both of the Enquirer’s sketchy practices and of Trump’s long, checkered personal history.

By |2019-10-15T14:19:24+00:00October 15th, 2019|

“Total Chaos”: Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Has Become A Full-Fledged Disaster

Everything Donald Trump’s critics warned would happen when he capitulated to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and cleared the way for the Turkish incursion in Syria is bearing out, with the Kurdish death toll continuing to climb. The region had already been shaken by the retreat of U.S. troops from northern Syria earlier this month, allowing Turkish fighters to target the American-allied Syrian Democratic Forces. But his decision Sunday to direct all troops to withdraw has exacerbated the disaster, forcing the Kurds to partner with a Russian-backed U.S. enemy and potentially allowing for the resurgence of ISIS. As a senior Trump administration official told the Washington Post Sunday, “This is total chaos.”

Abandoned by the U.S. and under siege from Turkey, SDF turned to Damascus for help, announcing a deal with Bashar al Assad’s Russia-backed government to push back against Erdogan’s offensive. As the New York Times noted Sunday, that will allow government forces into Northern Syria for the first time in years, and gives Moscow significant influence over the region—something U.S. policy had long aimed to limit. It’s a stunning shift in the conflict, and has put a onetime American ally into an agreement with a sworn American enemy. But Trump has remained defiant, promising sanctions against Turkey and dismissing criticism that his improvised foreign policy has shattered the region’s delicate peace. “The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Never ending wars will end!” he added Monday morning.

While Trump and his administration have outwardly maintained that they have the situation under control, reports reveal chaos behind the scenes. U.S. officials told the Times that the military was unable to transfer “high value” ISIS detainees out of the country before the retreat. (Trump sought to shift the blame on Sunday, tweeting that “Turkey and the Kurds must not let them escape.”) The incursion has not only resulted in the slaughter of Kurdish fighters and civilians, but has also endangered the U.S. military. American troops have come under fire from Turkish forces, the Pentagon said last week, and Turkey’s capture of a key road may complicate their withdrawal process, as the Times reported. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Face the Nation on Sunday that the planned full withdrawal came as the scope of Turkey’s offensive became clear, with U.S. troops “likely caught between two opposing advancing armies.” He added, “it’s a very unstable situation.”

As usual with the president, the entire imbroglio is reportedly the result of a strategic miscalculation. According to Axios’ Jonathan Swan, Trump had been “calling…Erdogan’s bluff for more than 2 years;” he and other officials didn’t think the Turkish president would actually go through with an offensive. But he also essentially communicated to Erdogan that the border was his for the taking, once U.S. troops were out. “Trump basically said, ‘Look, if you want it you own it, but don’t come looking to me for help. You can take it, it’s yours,’” a former senior administration official recalled to Axios of a conversation between the two leaders in 2017.

Left with a rapidly unfolding crisis, the president has vowed that “very severe sanctions” against Turkey would be forthcoming. Still, critics have suggested that would be too little, too late to clean up the mess he made in Syria. “I think the likelihood of Turkey invading Northern Syria with U.S. troops there was zero,” Tim Kaine, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN on Monday. “With the U.S. pulling out, now they feel like they have a green light. They’re doing exactly what everybody told President Trump that they would do.”

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By |2019-10-14T17:13:28+00:00October 14th, 2019|