According to New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the “catch and kill” — to kill a news story — scheme that led to a historic indictment of a president didn’t start with Stormy Daniels.
“As part of this scheme, Donald Trump and others made three payments to people who claimed to have negative information about Mr. Trump,” Bragg said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The first payout was to stop former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom Bragg called “Woman #1”, from revealing in a TV interview what she claimed was a 9-month affair with the married president. Brian Ross, then chief investigative correspondent for ABC News, and I were the reporters Trump wanted to silence, to “catch and kill” our story.
It wasn’t until 2020 that McDougal finally broke his silence, speaking with Ross now at the Abrams Media Law&Crime Network, about the “catch and kill” operation.
Brian Ross: As you remember, before you signed the deal, you were talking with me and Rhonda Schwartz about doing an interview when we were working at ABC News then. And then it was cancelled.
Karen McDougal: The deal was canceled because we had signed an agreement with AMI for me to work and never talk about it again. We never speak of the relationship again.
In October 2016, just days before she was to be interviewed by Ross at ABC about what she claimed was a 9-month affair that began shortly after the birth of her son Baron, McDougal called off. “due to family issues”. It was a few weeks before the presidential election.
Brian Ross: So Karen, looking back on this four-year saga, would you perhaps wish you had done the interview with us and called it over?
Karen McDougal: Yes, actually. It was quite a big ordeal. I just wish I had been clear at the start. Let it out and relax after that, because it was kind of a nightmare for a while. In every sense of the word and from A to Z, it was a real nightmare.
Karen McDougal: Brian, that was very scary. In fact, I went into hiding for a while. Even though he is hiding, I have had strange people following me and knocking on my door.
We had spent months corroborating McDougal’s story, talking to his friends and then-attorney Keith Davidson, who provided us with McDougal’s detailed and contemporary diary – sex with Donald Trump was labeled “DT”. Davidson later represented Stormy Daniels in a similar negotiation, also part of the indictment.
But perhaps the most intriguing detail were photographs of gifts Trump gave her that McDougal shared with us. McDougal, a religious woman, described them as “cheap religious artifacts”. Trump told her they were from a Beverly Hills home he intended to buy for their dates.
The owner was a religious woman who kept an altar in her room. Her son Richard Cavalli then sold the house to Trump after his mother passed away.
“He told me it was very important to him. It meant everything to him. He needed the sanctuary,” Cavalli said in an interview with Brian Ross Investigates.
When contacted by Brian Ross Investigates, Cavalli said he did indeed recognize the artifacts and said it finally explained a mystery to him.
Trump had insisted on keeping his mother’s altar or the real estate deal was called off. Cavalli said he now feels betrayed by Trump.
“It absolutely shocked and horrified me. I feel betrayed. They meant a lot to me,” Cavalli said. would go elsewhere.”
McDougal insisted she hadn’t been taken advantage of by Trump — she thought she was in love with Trump and he with her. In meetings with National Enquirer editors, she was told that Trump had asked them to find out “Does she still love me?”
Following the revelation of the “catch and kill scheme,” first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2018, and an initial interview with CNN, McDougal has not spoken further about his relationship with Trump. And unlike Stormy Daniels, McDougal’s career languished and she fell on hard times financially.
McDougal has become an advocate for women’s health, sharing images online of her surgery to remove breast implants that she says were making her sick. She is active on social media, posting religious and inspirational messages on Facebook where she recently posted about a trip to New York which raised speculation that she was there to testify before the Grand Jury.
“Went out and enjoyed God’s Country…Hope I didn’t miss a thing,” she tweeted today.
Trump has repeatedly denied the affair with McDougal, and neither McDougal nor his last attorney on file returned messages from Law&Crime. Attorney Keith Davidson, when contacted by Law&Crime, declined to comment.
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