What did Trump’s doorman say about his alleged lovechild?

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Whatever other sins Donald Trump may have committed, there is little evidence that he fathered a secret child with his former housekeeper.

Reporters from the Associated Press and The New Yorker who investigated the claim in 2017 and 2018 found little to back it up, and the housekeeper herself explicitly denied it.

But that did not stop the publishers of the National Enquirer paying one of Mr Trump's former doormen $30,000 in 2015 – allegedly at the behest of Mr Trump and his aides – with the goal of suppressing his story.

Now that claim is part of Mr Trump's ongoing hush money trial in New York City, where prosecutors allege that the former president engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to bury unflattering stories in advance of the 2016 election.

So what did Mr Trump's doorman really say, and why does it matter now?

‘When you have Trump’s kid, you can do whatever you want’

Dino Sajudin started working at Trump Tower in 2008, according to his self-published memoir Trump Doorman.

The Trump Organization, he wrote, reminded him of "the gangsters of Brooklyn", where he grew up.

At one point, Mr Sajudin claims that he complained about the rude behaviour of the tower's concierge, a Colombian-born woman who spent ages away from her post on lunch breaks and luxury shopping sprees.

That was when a man known as "Mr C" told him that the woman was Mr Trump's secret daughter.

"Dino when you have Trump’s kid, you can do whatever the hell you want to," Mr C supposedly told Sajudin. "Little Tiffany and Ivanka are not the only girls out there carrying the big guy’s DNA."

Dino Sajudin said the $30,000 he received for his story made for a ‘a very merry Christmas’ (Ronan Farrow/Instagram)
Dino Sajudin said the $30,000 he received for his story made for a ‘a very merry Christmas’ (Ronan Farrow/Instagram)

Once again, journalists have not found anything that corroborates this claim. The alleged mother of the child told the AP that it was "all fake" and that the Enquirer "lost their money", and the father of the family told The New Yorker that it was "completely false and ridiculous".

Nevertheless, at some point in 2015, Mr Sajudin reportedly began talking with the Enquirer's parent company, then known as American Media, Inc (AMI), about a potential exclusive. And that's where things become really interesting.

‘There’s no question it was catch and kill’

According to the AP and court documents, Mr Sajudin called the Enquirer's tip line some time in October or November, offering a juicy rumour about his former boss.

The magazine quickly put reporters on the story and administered a polygraph test to Mr Sajudin in a hotel near his home in Pennsylvania, which he passed.

Later, according to The New Yorker, the ex-doorman met with an Enquirer reporter in a local McDonald's to finalise their agreement. Mr Sajudin would get $30,000 for his story, but would pay a $1m penalty if he ever disclosed it to anyone without AMI's permission.

It made, Mr Sajudin reportedly said, for "a very merry Christmas".

That, the reports say, was when AMI's chief executive David Pecker – an outspoken Trump supporter – abruptly swooped in and stopped the investigation. Reporters who worked there at the time said that it had all the hallmarks of a "catch and kill" operation, in which a news organisation buys up a dangerous allegation then sits on it as a favour to the subject.

"There’s no question it was done as a favor to continue to protect Trump from these potential secrets. That’s black-and-white," one employee told The New Yorker.

In fact the reporters had major doubts about the story, with many concluding that it was nonsense. And in 2018, the Enquirer’s editor in chief told its sister publication Radar Online that it had released Mr Sajudin from his contract after the details did not pan out.

But that’s not what New York state prosecutors say.

Not just Stormy Daniels

Today Mr Trump stands accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of what prosecutors have described as a months-long scheme to protect Mr Trump’s reputation and deceive voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The most famous alleged example of this was Stormy Daniels, the porn star who was paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen to prevent her speaking publicly about her affair with Mr Trump (though Mr Trump has denied every having sex with her).

But prosecutors say that was just one example of the scheme. They allege that in August 2015, soon after Mr Trump launched his campaign, Mr Pecker agreed to be his "eyes and ears" by "looking out for negative stories" and "alerting [Mr Cohen] before they were published".

Contrary to the Radar Online report, prosecutors allege that when the Enquirer tried to release Mr Sajudin from his agreement, Mr Pecker once again intervened on the instructions of Mr Trump’s then-lawyer – and now avowed enemy – Michael Cohen.

When this episode was mentioned in court on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Mr Trump was "visibly displeased" and "strongly shook his head".

Mr Trump's lawyers say that he "did not commit any crimes" and accuse Mr Cohen of being "obsessed" with taking down his former client.

The Independent has asked AMI’s successor company, a360, for comment. The trial continues.