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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

'Fake news' and peoples' enemies: Trump's old media friends draw heat

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after arriving on Marine One on Friday. Credit: Pool / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Oliver Contreras

Great irony wins the day when President Donald Trump's old pals at a reputed "fake-news" media company come off as peoples’ enemies.

To get the full flavor, you need the background.

Start with the National Enquirer's absurd "scoop" about Sen. Ted Cruz's father's fantasized link to the JFK assassination based on a photo likeness so poor it could have been of any of half the men walking down the street.

The timing was convenient. Trump got to scream this fake news right on the verge of pushing Cruz out of the 2016 presidential primary. He got the last laugh, but poor Cruz got off a good line: "Yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard."

Of course the Enquirer also did Trump-serving hits on Hillary Clinton.

Later we learned of more complicated transactions between the president and the supermarket tabloid. 

According to published accounts, his acquaintance David Pecker at American Media Inc. (AMI) told prosecutors they worked in concert with Trump’s campaign in buying an ex-Playmate’s story of an affair with Trump.

This sleazy so-called catch-and-kill approach allegedly helped Trump kill bad publicity before the election. This and other transactions figured in the case against now-sentenced ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. 

Cohen said he arranged the payment to Karen McDougal, along with a $130,000 payout to buy the silence of the porn star Stormy Daniels, at the direction of Trump. The president denied involvement.

Now consider the eye-popping case of billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO and publisher of the Washington Post. 

Trump doesn't seem to like the richer, younger Bezos or the stories the Post writes about the White House. Trump's spiteful little Twitter claims that the U.S. Postal Service loses money on delivering Amazon packages come up false. So Trump practically peddled the National Enquirer's recent piece on Bezos' extramarital affair.

On Jan. 13, Trump issued one of his nastier personal Twitter taunts:

"So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!"

Now Bezos strikes back.

Last week he went public with a sensational allegation that Pecker and AMI tried to extort and blackmail him, threatening to publish personal photos if he didn't falsely disclaim political motivation on AMI's part. He refused.

Even more intriguing is the suggestion from a Bezos investigator that texts between Bezos and his girlfriend, leaked to the Enquirer, came via a "government entity."

AMI said it acted lawfully, but its board of directors "convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims."

As it happens, one of the board's members, since 2013, is David R. Hughes, chairman of the audit committee.

According to AMI's website, Hughes worked in executive positions at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City from 1988 to 1995. 

Other facts of interest will undoubtedly spill out about Pecker’s tactics as the week goes on. Even without stolen texts the Pecker-Trump links should stand up well compared  to those Elvis-is-alive tales.

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