Karen McDougal can talk about Donald Trump.
The ex-Playboy model reached a settlement with National Enquirer’s publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) that releases her from an agreement that barred her from speaking publicly about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007.
McDougal had sued to get out of the “catch and kill” deal she made with AMI in August 2016, ahead of the election. She had sold the rights to her story about Trump to the tabloid for $150,000 and the promise it would publish some of her fitness columns. McDougal said she was misled and pressured to sign the deal. AMI chief David Pecker is a friend of Trump’s and has allegedly helped intercept negative stories about him before, but the lawsuit also alleged that longtime Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had been involved in the negotiations over the agreement with AMI.
According to the New York Times, McDougal can now freely talk about Trump, but AMI will get 10 percent, or up to $75,000, of any future profits from her story about the alleged affair. McDougal does not have to return the $150,000, and AMI will retain the rights to publish photographs and fitness columns authored by her. The Washington Post reports that Men’s Journal, also owned by AMI, will feature McDougal on its cover in September 2018.
Trump has denied the affair with McDougal, but Wednesday’s settlement solves at least one of the president’s looming legal troubles. He still faces a lawsuit from porn star Stormy Daniels, who is suing to get out of her “hush agreement” with the president. Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006, and received $130,000 from Michael Cohen shortly before the 2016 election to stay quiet about the encounter.
The timing of McDougal’s settlement is certainly notable. The FBI seized documents related to the hush money payments made to McDougal and to Daniels during a raid on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room last week. Cohen is the subject of a federal criminal investigation and his role in facilitating payoffs to the two women appear to be part of it.
All of that is likely much worse news for Trump than McDougal’s ability to discuss him freely. McDougal has already given interviews about the alleged affair, including to CNN, in which she said they were together “many dozens of times” while the president was married to his current wife, Melania. (AMI said it had amended the agreement after the election so McDougal could respond to press questions, per the Times.)
McDougal said in a statement after the settlement that she was “relieved to be able to tell the truth about my story when asked.”
“My goal from the beginning was to restore my rights and not to achieve any financial gain, and this settlement does exactly that,” she added.