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David Pecker is expected to be the first witness called in Trump hush money trial, source says

By Kara Scannell and Jack Forrest, CNN

(CNN) — David Pecker, the former chairman of the National Enquirer’s parent company, is expected to be the first witness called by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Pecker was a central player in the alleged scheme to pay hush money to adult-film star Stormy Daniels to cover up her alleged affair with Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The DA’s office is expected to call him after the completion of opening statements, which are set to begin Monday. The New York Times was first to report on the expected witness.

As the then-chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., Pecker was involved in numerous “catch-and-kill” schemes orchestrated on Trump’s behalf.

In October 2016, an agent for Daniels contacted AMI and said she was willing to go public with her allegations of an affair with Trump. The former president has denied the affair.

Pecker then allegedly contacted Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who negotiated the deal to “purchase [her] silence” for $130,000, according to court filings.

That $130,000 payment, which was reimbursed to Cohen by the Trump Organization, is at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against the former president. Bragg accused Trump in an April 2023 indictment of “falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.” Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Daniels and Cohen are also expected to appear as witnesses during the trial, sources previously told CNN.

In a separate incident, AMI agreed to pay model and actress Karen McDougal $150,000 months before the 2016 election for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump. While this payment is not part of the charges against the former president, prosecutors are expected to use it to establish a pattern of such payments.

AMI was not criminally charged but did admit to making the payment to McDougal. The company paid a $187,500 fine to the Federal Election Commission for making an unlawful campaign contribution.

Pecker has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony, and AMI signed a non-prosecution agreement with prosecutors.

This story story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kaanita Iyer, Zachary B. Wolf and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.

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