After seeing both his lawyer, Michael Cohen and then a central figure in his business empire both agree to cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for immunity, US President Donald Trump then learned that David Pecker, a long-time friend and a key media player has done the same.

Pecker is chairman of American Media Inc, which owns the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid not known for stellar journalistic standards.

Federal investigators have provided ample evidence that Trump was involved in deals to pay two women to keep them from speaking publicly before the 2016 election about affairs that they said they had with him.

The Enquirer is part of the Trump story, not just because of the stories it published but because of the ones it didn't. The practise is known as "catch and kill". If someone had a potentially damaging story about Donald Trump for sale, the Enquirer would buy it and bury it so that news would never see the light of day.

"The National Enquirer is a trashy, a trashy tabloid. It's not even political," says Elisabeth Anker, Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Sciences at George Washington University. "...it does have a prominent place in US culture, both for the kind of just pleasure of reading the salacious gossip that it propounds, and also because physically, in all supermarkets across the nation, the National Enquirer is found right at the checkout line."

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, the Enquirer's support for Donald Trump was flagrant. It lauded the candidate, went after his Republican rivals with dubious allegations, then did the same with Hillary Clinton.

"It was very obvious the National Enquirer through Donald Trump's friendship with David Pecker was an arm of the Trump campaign. In fact they were doing things that a campaign wouldn't dream of trying to get away with," according to John Ziegler, radio host and columnist for Mediaite.

The National Enquirer is also where stories go to die, when those stories are potentially damaging to Donald Trump.

"What David Pecker does is he buys the rights to those stories but then he never publishes those stories," explains Amanda Terkel, Washington Bureau Chief at the HuffPost. "Those stories never see the light of day. He keeps them in a safe. But in return, David Pecker gets other things from Trump, other stories, other bits of gossip, and he trades on that with Donald Trump."

According to the New York Times, Trump has a lot to worry about. It reported this past week that Trump tried to buy those stories from AMI just prior to the 2016 election, but that an agreement between him and David Pecker was never reached.

And Trump isn't the only American concerned by the fact that the Enquirer is under investigation and the potential legal precedent this case could set. Newspapers, even ones like the Enquirer are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press.

These days the Times is among the outlets Trump accuses of peddling in fake news and labels the enemy of the American people. Now, as the prosecutors appear to be closing in, the biggest threat posed to the president comes not from the Times, CNN or the Washington Post. It comes from a tabloid, and all the news the National Enquirer did not consider fit to print.

Contributors 

John Nichols - writer, The Nation
Amanda Terkel - Washington bureau chief, HuffPost
Elizabeth Anker - associate professor of American Studies and Political Sciences, George
Washington University
John Ziegler - radio host and columnist, Mediaite

Source: Al Jazeera