Manhattan federal prosecutors who investigated Mr. Cohen are now examining business dealings by the Trump Organization.
Mr. Howard spent hours interviewing Ms. McDougal, pressing her for every detail of the alleged affair. Ms. McDougal seemed reluctant to go public with her story.
After the meeting, Messrs. Pecker and Howard learned McDougal had also been meeting with investigative reporters at ABC News about sharing her story in a televised interview.
Mr. Pecker researched campaign-finance laws before entering into the McDougal deal. The question was: Would AMI’s payment amount to an illegal campaign contribution to Trump?
Mr. Cohen assured Mr. Pecker that Mr. Trump would reimburse the publisher, and they began to devise a repayment plan at the end of that month.
Mr. Cohen said he would be getting “all the stuff,” meaning the other files on Mr. Trump he had been seeking.
Clifford gained more leverage on Oct. 7, when The WaPo published the previously unaired “Access Hollywood" tape.
Cohen asked American Media to buy Ms. Clifford’s story. Mr. Pecker refused on the grounds that he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star.
Within days, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Davidson had negotiated a nondisclosure agreement for Ms. Clifford.
Cohen offered a suggestion: Why not have Weisselberg make the payment? “You’re the CFO,” he told the longtime Trump aide, according to Cohen’s account to prosecutors.
Mr. Cohen had told Mr. Davidson to expect a $130,000 wire transfer by Oct. 14, but missed the deadline, as well as an extension, prompting Ms. Clifford to walk away.
Out of options and time, Mr. Cohen decided to cover the payment himself.
He drew down his home-equity line and transferred $130,000 to Mr. Davidson on Oct. 27. Ms. Clifford signed a fresh nondisclosure agreement the next day.
As Mr. Trump headed to victory on Nov. 8, Mr. Howard joined Mr. Cohen at the candidate’s election night celebration at the New York Hilton.
Mr. Weisselberg soon completed the reimbursement plan.
It would turn out to be a costly deal for Mr. Trump.
In the first year of Mr. Trump’s presidency, American Media continued to feature him on the Enquirer cover.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” the president said. “Michael is my attorney.”
The three men no longer speak to one another.