Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

US President Donald Trump sought to buy all the "dirt" that the National Enquirer, a leading scandal sheet, had collected on him over the past decades, The New York Times has reported.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified associates of Trump, said on Thursday that the plan was concocted with Trump’s then lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has implicated him in hush money payments made before the 2016 election.

Cohen agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors earlier in August that included an admission that he made payments to silence two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump before he ran for the White House. The Times said there was a plan to go even further — purchasing all of the information collected on Trump since the 1980s by the National Enquirer and its parent company, American Media.

The Times said the scheme, however, was "never finalised".

The Times said the plan was alluded to in taped conversations between Trump and Cohen which were released in July. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to making a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claim to have had with affairs with Trump.

The Times said it was unclear how much information on Trump, a fixture on New York’s social scene since the 1980s, is still in American Media’s possession. American Media is owned by David Pecker, a longtime Trump ally who has reportedly been granted partial immunity to talk with prosecutors.

According to the newspaper, Pecker for decades ordered staff to buy up troublesome stories about Trump and to bury them. That was the case with McDougal’s story, which was never published, it said.

Cohen pleaded guilty to two counts of violating campaign finance laws, along with six counts of fraud. He identified Trump as his co-conspirator in the hush payments.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong, telling Fox and Friends that the payments were not a "campaign violation". "They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me and I tweeted about it." The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

AFP