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Ex-Playboy model’s notes on alleged Trump affair written a decade later

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EXCLUSIVE: The centerpiece of a New Yorker story on Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump, is scribbled notes kept by the former Playboy playmate.

These notes, obtained by journalist Ronan Farrow, are presented as her personal reflections on the relationship –“later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to the New Yorker.”

Readers could easily get the impression, as many journalists have, that McDougal wrote these notes during what she describes as a consensual relationship that began in 2006. But that is not the case.

A telltale marking on the entries, reproduced by the magazine, shows that McDougal wrote these pages either during or since the 2016 campaign—relying on memories that were at least a decade old.

The New Yorker does not dispute that McDougal’s notes were written many years after the alleged relationship. Instead, the magazine attempted to tie them to McDougal’s eventual deal with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. 

“The article does not present Karen McDougal’s written account as being made simultaneously with the events themselves,” a New Yorker spokesperson told me. “Rather, the article makes clear that the idea to sell her story to American Media Inc. first occurred in 2016. Furthermore, her written account is supported by additional sourcing and documentation referenced in the article.” 

“The article does not present Karen McDougal’s written account as being made simultaneously with the events themselves.”

– a New Yorker spokesperson

If that was suggested by the story, as the magazine maintains, the implication was rather subtle.

The more recent creation of the notes doesn’t mean that McDougal isn’t telling the truth. The magazine’s view is that the timing has no material impact on her credibility.

But the timing of the notes is revealing about how McDougal came to go public, as well as about the role of the National Enquirer.

The McDougal passages were written on a notebook marketed by fashion designer Izak Zenou, whose name appears at the bottom of one of the pages. He got into the business of creating office supplies in 2016, and the notebook was not available for sale on Amazon until March 2016.

The timing is significant.

Farrow writes that “the interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them.”

But in writing the notes in 2016 or 2017, the onetime Playmate of the Year did not foreshadow, by a decade, similar accusations by other women.  

The notes say such things as: “I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man. We talked for a couple of hours—then, it was ‘ON’! We got naked + had sex.”

After the New Yorker story was published last week, a White House spokesperson said: “This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”

Television personality Ronan Farrow arrives for the opening night of the Women in the World summit in New York April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTX19W5D

Ronan Farrow claimed that former Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal expressed “surprise” that he had her hand-written notes, but confirmed they were hers.

 (Reuters)

The New Yorker expanded on what the Wall Street Journal had reported days before Trump’s election: that the Enquirer’s parent company had paid McDougal $150,000 for limited life rights to her story about any romantic or physical relationship with a married man, and never published it. The practice, in the tabloid world, is known as “catch and kill”—buying a story for the purpose of burying it.

American Media’s CEO, David Pecker, has acknowledged his friendship with Trump. The New Yorker quotes former two former AMI executives on the record as saying that buying and killing stories was a common practice under Pecker.

McDougal and her lawyer met with Dylan Howard, American Media’s chief content officer, to discuss a deal. McDougal told AMI that she had been offered more than $1 million for her story, and also that she was in discussions with ABC News.

The Enquirer maintains that it didn’t publish McDougal’s allegations about Trump in 2016 because it couldn’t confirm them, and that she offered no documentation, texts, receipts or corroborating witnesses. She was even told to search her storage for old phones or other evidence.

The supermarket tabloid also says she did not offer any handwritten notes, which suggests they hadn’t been written at the time.

During the discussions McDougal appeared to change her view about going public with the alleged affair, saying, “I don’t want to be viewed as the next Monica Lewinsky.”

That makes the timing of the Enquirer’s $150,000 deal with McDougal, in August 2016, all the more suspicious, especially given the paper’s pro-Trump coverage under Pecker. The contract, in addition to the limited life rights, called for her to appear on two AMI magazine covers and write a fitness column, but some of those goals have not been met.

So the company paid her big bucks even after concluding she couldn’t substantiate the affair, while making sure she couldn’t tell the story elsewhere.

McDougal’s contract with American Media included a non-disclosure agreement, and that may explain the vital role of the handwritten notes.

The ex-Playmate spoke on the record to Farrow, but the piece says she declined to discuss details of her relationship with Trump “for fear of violating the agreement.”

That obstacle, intentionally or not, was neatly circumvented by the handwritten notes.

Farrow writes that he obtained the document from John Crawford, a friend of McDougal, and “she expressed surprise” that he had it but confirmed that the notes were in her handwriting.

Yet later in the piece, it became apparent that they are more than just friends.

Crawford told Farrow “that selling McDougal’s story was his idea, and that he first raised it when she was living with him, in 2016.” As they watched the presidential candidate on television, Crawford said he told McDougal that her past relationship with Trump “could be worth something about now.”

In an interview with CNN, Farrow called McDougal’s notes “written testimony” and said they exist because “in the course of selling the story, a friend of hers who coaxed her into selling it said sit down and write every detail.”

(Two months after McDougal signed the contract with American Media, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, a former porn star who had claimed in an interview years earlier that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Since that transaction was accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement, the payment has been widely viewed as hush money. Cohen recently told the New York Times that he paid Daniels out of his pocket and was not reimbursed by Trump or his campaign.)

American Media told the New Yorker in a letter last week that a post-election amendment to McDougal’s contract allows her to respond to legitimate press inquiries about Trump. 

An AMI executive has now asked New Yorker Editor David Remnick for a correction, saying he had an obligation to tell readers that McDougal’s notes were written at least 10 years after the alleged affair. The executive said the omission was intentionally misleading.

Remnick, a widely respected journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is also an ardent critic of Trump, responded that his magazine stands by its story. He said the story made clear the long time lapse between the alleged affair and the effort to sell the story. Remnick also said the New Yorker had disclosed Crawford’s role and included AMI’s responses.

Farrow has gained enormous journalistic credibility for his meticulous New Yorker exposes of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein by numerous actresses and the movie mogul’s attempts to intimidate the press. His detailed reporting on McDougal and Trump fits that pattern.

Still, some journalists reached the understandable conclusion that McDougal’s notes were composed back in 2006. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote this week that McDougal “handwrote a contemporaneous account of her alleged affair.”

Time, in a common formulation, said that “a former Playboy model kept handwritten notes about an alleged nine-month affair with President Donald Trump that began in 2006.”

The Week said that “McDougal’s friend John Crawford supplied Farrow with McDougal’s handwritten notes from the time, which detail the affair.”

The reality is that at least a decade had passed before Karen McDougal wrote those notes, after her friend and roommate urged her to peddle her story for money.

 

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Oh dear, Angela! Merkel will be forced to break OWN debt limits as economy faces slump

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ANGELA MERKEL continues to face huge economic challenges as Germany will fail to stick to its strict debt limits for years, the Chancellor has been warned.

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With a new open seat in Ohio, 2022 Senate map begins to take shape

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WASHINGTON — After Sen. Rob Portman’s, R-Ohio, announcement Monday that he won’t seek re-election, the 2022 Senate map is coming into focus — even with more than 600 days until Election Day.

Republicans will be defending 20 Senate seats, including the open ones in North Carolina (Richard Burr’s), Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey’s) and now Ohio (Portman’s).

The GOP also will have to defend Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat in Florida and Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat in Wisconsin.

President Joe Biden won two of those five states — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — last November.

Democrats, meanwhile, will be defending 14 seats, with the top GOP targets being those held by Arizona’s Mark Kelly and Georgia’s Raphael Warnock (both men will be running for full six-year terms in 2022), as well as Sen. Maggie Hassan’s in New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto’s in Nevada.

Biden won all four states last year.

Bottom line: With a 50-50 tie in the Senate, this is a map where Democrats definitely need to have success if they want to keep their majority.

In particular, the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seats are ones that Dems should have won in 2016.

Then again, midterm cycles are usually rough for the party controlling the White House.

Follow the leader

Here’s something else to consider for those open GOP-held Senate seats in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania: The Republican state parties have become as Trump-y — or even more so — than Donald Trump himself.

Last weekend, the Arizona GOP censured Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake and current Gov. Doug Ducey.

Also over the weekend, a Hawaii GOP official resigned after using the party’s Twitter account to support QAnon conspiracy theorists.

In Oregon, the state Republican Party falsely called the Capitol riot a “false flag” operation meant to discredit Trump.

And in Texas, the state GOP once again used the Q-linked phrase “We Are The Storm,” though the party denies it’s associated with QAnon.

As the Republican Party tries to figure out a future after Trump, its state parties sure look more like him than not.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

25,371,729: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 134,914 more than Monday morning.)

422,289: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,773 more than Monday morning.)

109,936: That’s the number of people currently hospitalized from Covid-19 in the United States.

296.8 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

At least 19.3 million: The number of Americans who have received one or both vaccine shots so far.

1: The number of candidates that former President Donald Trump has endorsed since he left office — Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his former press secretary who is running for governor in Arkansas.

2: The number of Democratic senators who publicly defended the filibuster, prompting Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to agree to a power-sharing agreement with Democrats, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema.

1.5 million: The number of daily coronavirus vaccines President Joe Biden believes America can begin administering in the coming weeks.

Tweet of the day

What Biden means by “unity”

President Biden clarified on Monday what he means when he calls for unity — which was a strong theme of his entire campaign and inaugural address.

“Unity requires you to eliminate the vitriol, make anything that you disagree with about the other person’s personality or their lack of integrity, or they’re not decent legislators and the like. So, we have to get rid of that,” Biden said.

But the president made clear that “unity” can’t get in the way of legislation — wink, wink, his Covid-19 recovery package.

“If you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines, but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity. It just means it wasn’t bipartisan. I would prefer these things to be bipartisan, because I’m trying to generate some consensus and take sort of the — how can I say it — the vitriol out of all of this.”

One vote that was bipartisan on Monday was Janet Yellen’s confirmation to serve as the first woman to head the Treasury Department. She won confirmation by an 84-15 vote.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

Biden’s day

At 2:00 p.m. ET, President Biden speaks on his racial equity agenda and signs executive orders. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds her briefing at 12:30 p.m. ET.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden upped his vaccine goal saying the country can administer 1.5 million shots a day in the coming weeks.

China says it will conduct military exercises in the disputed waters of the South China Sea this week.

Twitter permanently suspended the account of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for repeated violations on spreading misinformation.

The Biden administration suspended some of the terrorism sanctions placed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Minnesota reported the first U.S. case of the Brazil-based coronavirus variant.

President Biden will move forward with plan to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

While there’s no specific research on how well masks work against Covid variants, it may make sense to wear two masks.

And Jimmy Fallon tried to clean Steve Kornacki’s office.



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Boris Johnson press conference: PM to make major address from No10 TODAY

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BORIS JOHNSON is to hold an unexpected televised coronavirus briefing tonight after misinformation surrounding UK coronavirus vaccines was spread in Germany.

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