To the delight of headline writers everywhere, a man named David Pecker turns out to be the editor of the National Enquirer and other trashy tabloid media outlets. We learned this last week when Mr. Pecker (snicker) was granted immunity in exchange for, presumably, answering questions about Donald Trump.
My father spent nearly three decades as a prosecutor. I enjoy having conversations with him about criminal investigations, high profile trials in the media, etc because he always seems to know what is going to happen. And over time he has confirmed all of the prosecutorial cliches about criminal matters – the foremost among them being that individuals refusing to testify against their colleagues in crime is almost entirely a creation of fiction writers and Hollywood. In real life, "First to talk, first to walk" applies almost without exception.
Trump seems legitimately upset about some of the people – including attorneys, former legal counsel, and fellow celebrity gossip column types whom he probably thought really, unironically were his friends. Oddly enough, all of these people like Pecker most likely are sincere believers in Trump and allies in whatever the Great Man has done throughout his life.
But here's the thing: just like all animals are innately afraid of fire, I believe all humans are innately terrified of prison. David Pecker probably never had any intention of spilling dirt on Trump, but I'd be willing to be David Pecker also never thought of himself as a person who might be charged with a serious crime. Unlike, say, a drug trafficker or a murderer who knows he/she has broken the law and is potentially in very deep shit, a lot of these white collar types live in a fantasy world in which nothing they have ever done is wrong. Or, more charitably, they may sincerely be unaware of white collar laws they've violated.
So here's David Pecker, Trump ally, sitting in a conference room somewhere with his high-priced lawyer and ten Federal prosecutors. The Feds explain to him, calmly and coldly, that they have enough evidence to charge him with a grab bag of felonies – violating IRS or SEC reporting requirements, for example. The kind of technical-details crimes that I'm assuming most of the truly wealthy could be charged with if some prosecutor were willing to dig hard enough.
And now David Pecker, Trump ally, who has lived a wealthy and "successful" and immensely privileged life and is now an old man, is for the first time in his life picturing himself in prison. Or even simply picturing himself in a courtroom facing the remote possibility of prison. It must be, in a way few of us can appreciate first-hand, terrifying. I believe without judgment that all of us would do just about anything to avoid going to prison. Because going to prison seems fucking horrible, minimum security white collar prison or not.
And so he talks. As soon as immunity is offered he jumps on it without a second thought, encouraged enthusiastically by his high priced attorney. What seems like yet another example of the total absence of loyalty among the rich is, in the cold light of reality, a natural reaction to a set of circumstances you or I would react to identically. If they were face to face, I have no doubt that Pecker could tell Trump without lying, "I like you, Donald, but I can't go to prison to protect you."
Everybody talks. And I understand completely why everybody talks, because I have no illusions that I would do the same thing in similar circumstances. I don't think that makes me a bad person; I think it makes me a human being who is afraid of things that are horribly unpleasant.