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At the center of the criminal case against former President Donald Trump in Manhattan is the accusation that Trump took part in a scheme to turn The National Enquirer and its sister publications into an arm of his 2016 presidential campaign. The documents detailed three “hush money” payments made to a series of individuals to guarantee their silence about potentially damaging stories in the months before the election. Because this was done with the goal of helping his election chances, the case implied, these payments amounted to a form of illegal, undisclosed campaign spending. And because Trump created paperwork to make the payments seem like regular legal expenses, that amounted to a criminal effort at a coverup, argued Alvin Bragg, the district attorney of Manhattan. Trump has denied the charges against him.

For Lachlan Cartwright, reading the indictment was like stepping through the looking glass, because it described a three-year period in his own professional life, one that he has come to deeply regret. Now, as a former president faces a criminal trial for the first time in American history, Cartwright is forced to grapple with what really happened at The Enquirer in those years — and whether and how he can ever set things right.


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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Isabella Anderson, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Elena Hecht, Emma Kehlbeck, Tanya Pérez, Frannie Carr Toth and Krish Seenivasan.

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