Michael Cohen and the publisher of the National Enquirer forged an alliance over the years, looking out for the interests of Donald Trump and each other. Now, federal investigators are examining those ties as part of a wide-ranging probe into Mr. Cohen’s personal business dealings and his self-described role as Mr. Trump’s fixer.
In previously unreported interactions, some of which are memorialized in emails now under review, Mr. Cohen mediated a dispute between Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who had been a star on Mr. Trump’s “Apprentice” reality TV show, and the Enquirer over a story about her brother’s murder. He intervened in a separate legal case on behalf of David Pecker, chief executive of Enquirer parent American Media Inc. And when American Media paid a doorman who alleged that Mr. Trump fathered a child with one of his employees, a company executive ordered reporters to stop investigating after speaking with Mr. Cohen.
The revelations show a relationship characterized by mutual benefit and favor-trading on a greater scale than was previously known. The shared history could expose American Media, Mr. Cohen and by extension, Mr. Trump, to criminal campaign-finance charges. [...]
One looming issue for both prosecutors and AMI is the publisher’s status as a media organization, which would afford it First Amendment protections. The Justice Department is examining whether American Media at times acted more like an extension of Mr. Trump and his campaign, a person familiar with the matter said. The legal bar is high to strip any media organization of its constitutional protections.