Even for the Age of Trump this story by the failing NY Times is a bit of a "wow":
Investigators Focus on Another Trump Ally: The National Enquirer
President Trump has long had ties to the nation’s major media players. But his connections with the country’s largest tabloid publisher, American Media Inc., run deeper than most.
A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors, and an adviser joined the media company after the election. The company’s chairman, David J. Pecker, is a close friend of the president’s.
And in the Trump era, A.M.I.’s flagship tabloid, The National Enquirer, has taken a decidedly political turn, regularly devoting covers to the president’s triumphs and travails with articles headlined “Trump’s Plan For World Peace!” and “Proof! FBI Plot to Impeach Trump!”
Since the early stages of his campaign in 2015, Mr. Trump, his lawyer Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies.
Yeah, yeah - in consequence, the National Enquirer's decision to pay for but not publish former Playmate Karen MacDougal's story becomes a suspect campaign contribution. The Times really pounds the table in defense of editorial discretion:
The federal inquiry could pose serious legal implications for the president and his campaign committee. It also presents thorny questions about A.M.I.’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Mr. Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.
"Thorny questions". My goodness, the Times was bailed out in 2009 by Carlos Slim, a wealthy Mexican. Does this raise "thorny questions" about their commitment to undocumented immigrants? Of course not, because they say it doesn't.
Now obviously, Mr. Slim knew the Times was reliably progressive when he bought them, so he didn't need them to change their views on anything. But the National Enquirer has been making money off of Clinton scandals for decades. Maybe the AMI people simply decided that, in mirror image to the Times Upper West Side readership, their readers wanted material that bashed Hillary and praised Trump. They do tell the Times it was a business decision driven by the popularity of Trump with their readership. Plausible? Sure. Legal? Say what now?
If all AMI did was pick a side in pursuit of an audience, my goodness. That is well worth investigating because we all know that the mainstream media would never trade sympathetic coverage for access that can boost prestige, circulation and ratings. Please.
As to aggressive coverage of sex scandals by the mainstream media, well, that may be ideologically contingent - back in 2007-08, John Edwards and Rielle Hunter were a tabloid-based open secret (gullible Media Matters link) for months before the "responsible" media decided to jump in. Why they might today rush to bash Trump based on mere allegations is hard to understand. No it's not. Is the National Inquirer being investigated for spiking a story which the Times would never lower itself to touch? Too thorny!
At this juncture, I must glumly acknowledge that the DoJ, with some establishment Republicans at the top, did persuade a judge to issue a warrant because something was afoot. I just hope that whatever they find is serious and convincing.
As to the 'thorny questions', the Times concludes with this:
At the center of the campaign finance inquiries will be whether the ties between Mr. Cohen, Mr. Howard, Mr. Pecker, Mr. Trump and others led A.M.I. to act more like a political supporter than a news organization.
The group that brought the federal election complaint, Common Cause, claims the payment for Ms. McDougal’s story was not a “legitimate press function” and therefore was not protected by rules exempting news organizations from campaign finance regulations.
The question represents tricky terrain for federal officials, given the protection journalists have under the First Amendment. “We always worry when investigators are making those judgment calls about whether your editorial process is legitimate or not, or is this legitimate journalism or not,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Yet even the staunchest defenders of the press say fraudulent activity is not protected by journalistic freedoms.
“We are not, as media organizations, immune from the civil and criminal laws of the country,” said Sandra S. Baron, a senior fellow at Yale Law School and the former executive director of the Media Law Resource Center.
Hmm. Is paying for stories a "legitimate press function"? That is how the National Enquirer broke the case of the murderer of Bill Cosby's son. They also paid Rush Limbaugh's housekeeper for the scoop that got Rush busted for his oxycontin habit - I bet that looked legit to Common Cause.
To paraphrase slightly, the dark night of fascism is always descending on the right yet arriving from the left.