Main Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
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Copyright Copyright © 2019 by Ronan Farrow Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact email@example.com. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights. Little, Brown and Company Hachette Book Group 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104 littlebrown.com twitter.com/littlebrown facebook.com/littlebrownandcompany First ebook edition: October 2019 Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher. The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to hachettespeakersbureau.com or call (866) 376-6591. Interior illustrations © 2019 by Dylan Farrow ISBN 978-0-316-48666-8 E3-20190924-JV-NF-ORI CONTENTS COVER TITLE PAGE COPYRIGHT DEDICATION AUTHOR’S NOTE PROLOGUE PART I POISON VALLEY CHAPTER 1: TAPE CHAPTER 2: BITE CHAPTER 3: DIRT CHAPTER 4: BUTTON CHAPTER 5: KANDAHAR CHAPTER 6: CONTINENTAL CHAPTER 7: PHANTOMS CHAPTER 8: GUN CHAPTER 9: MINIONS CHAPTER 10: MAMA CHAPTER 11: BLOOM CHAPTER 12: FUNNY CHAPTER 13: DICK PART II WHITE WHALE CHAPTER 14: ROOKIE CHAPTER 15: STATIC CHAPTER 16: F.O.H. CHAPTER 17: 666 CHAPTER 18: QUIDDITCH CHAPTER 19: SPIRAL CHAPTER 20: CULT CHAPTER 21: SCANDAL CHAPTER 22: PATHFINDER CHAPTER 23: CANDY CHAPTER 24: PAUSE CHAPTER 25: PUNDIT CHAPTER 26: BOY CHAPTER 27: ALTAR CHAPTER 28: PAVONINE PART III ARMY OF SPIES CHAPTER 29: FAKAKTA CHAPTER 30: BOTTLE CHAPTER 31: SYZYGY CHAPTER 32: HUR; RICANE CHAPTER 33: GOOSE CHAPTER 34: LETTER CHAPTER 35: MIMIC CHAPTER 36: HUNTER CHAPTER 37: HEIST CHAPTER 38: CELEBRITY CHAPTER 39: FALLOUT CHAPTER 40: DINOSAUR CHAPTER 41: MEAN PART IV SLEEPER CHAPTER 42: EDIFY CHAPTER 43: CABAL CHAPTER 44: CHARGER CHAPTER 45: NIGHTGOWN CHAPTER 46: PRETEXTING CHAPTER 47: RUNNING CHAPTER 48: GASLIGHT CHAPTER 49: VACUUM CHAPTER 50: PLAYMATE CHAPTER 51: CHUPACABRA PART V SEVERANCE CHAPTER 52: CIRCLE CHAPTER 53: AXIOM CHAPTER 54: PEGASUS CHAPTER 55: MELTING CHAPTER 56: ZDOROVIE CHAPTER 57: SPIKE CHAPTER 58: LAUNDER CHAPTER 59: BLACKLIST EPILOGUE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR NOTES For Jonathan Explore book giveaways, sneak peeks, deals, and more. Tap here to learn more. AUTHOR’S NOTE Catch and Kill is based on two years of reporting. It draws on interviews with more than two hundred sources, as well as hundreds of pages of contracts, emails, and texts, and dozens of hours of audio. It was subjected to the same standard of fact-checking as the New Yorker stories on which it is based. All of the dialogue in the book is drawn directly from contemporaneous accounts and records. Because this is a story about surveillance, third parties often witnessed or surreptitiously recorded conversations, and I was sometimes able to obtain their testimonials and records. I adhered to legal and ethical standards when creating my own recordings. Most of the sources you will meet in these pages have allowed me to use their full names. Some, however, remain unable to do so due to fear of legal reprisal or because of threats to their physical safety. In those instances, the code names used for the sources during the reporting process have been used here. I reached out to all of the key figures in Catch and Kill prior to publication, to offer them an opportunity to respond to any allegations being made about them. If they agreed to speak, the narrative reflects their responses. If they did not, a good faith effort was made to include existing public statements. For the written material quoted throughout the book, the original language, including spelling and copy errors, has been retained. Catch and Kill takes place between late 2016 and early 2019. It contains descriptions of sexual violence that some readers may find upsetting or traumatic. The two men sat in a corner at Nargis Cafe, an Uzbek and Russian restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. It was late 2016, and cold. The place was done up with tchotchkes from the steppes and ceramic depictions of peasant life: grandmas in babushkas, farmers with sheep. One of the men was Russian, the other Ukrainian, but this was a distinction without a difference: both were children of the disintegrating Soviet Union. They looked to be in their mid-thirties. Roman Khaykin, the Russian, was short and thin and bald, with a quarrelsome snub nose and dark eyes. Everything else about him was pale: eyebrows barely there, face bloodless, bald scalp slick and shining. He was originally from Kislovodsk, which literally translates to “sour waters.” His eyes darted around the room, ever suspicious. Igor Ostrovskiy, the Ukrainian, was taller and a little fat. He had curly hair that got unruly when he let it grow. He and his family had fled to the United States in the early nineties. Like Khaykin, he was always looking for an angle. He was also curious, meddlesome. During high school, he’d suspected that several classmates were selling stolen credit card numbers, probed until he proved it, then helped law enforcement disrupt the operation. Khaykin and Ostrovskiy spoke in accented English enlivened with native idioms—“Krasavchik!” Khaykin would say, a word derived from “handsome” but in practice serving as praise for talent or a job well done. Both men were in the business of subterfuge and surveillance. When Ostrovskiy had found himself between private investigation jobs in 2011, he’d googled “Russian private investigators” and emailed Khaykin cold to ask for work. Khaykin had liked Ostrovskiy’s chutzpah and started hiring him for surveillance jobs. Then they’d argued about Khaykin’s methods and drifted apart. As plates of kebab arrived, Khaykin explained how far he’d been pushing the envelope since they’d last worked together. A new and shadowy client had come into the picture, an enterprise he wouldn’t name that was utilizing him as a subcontractor. He was doing big business. “I’m into some cool shit,” he said. “Some dark stuff.” He’d adopted some new methods, too. He could get bank records and unauthorized credit reports. He had ways of obtaining a phone’s geolocation data to track unsuspecting targets. He described how much the phone hijinks cost: a few thousand dollars for the usual approach to the problem, with cheaper options for gullible marks and more expensive ones for those who proved elusive. Khaykin said he’d already used the tactic successfully, in a case where one family member had hired him to find another. Ostrovskiy figured Khaykin was full of shit. But Ostrovskiy needed the work. And Khaykin, it turned out, needed more manpower to serve his mysterious new patron. Before parting ways, Ostrovskiy asked about the phone tracking again. “Isn’t that illegal?” he wondered. “Ehhhh,” said Khaykin. On a tiled wall nearby, a blue-and-white evil eye hung on a string, watching. CHAPTER 1: TAPE “What do you mean it’s not airing tomorrow?” My words drifted over the emptying newsroom on the fourth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, inside the Comcast building, which had once been the GE building, which had once been the RCA building. On the other end of the line, Rich McHugh, my producer at NBC News, was talking over what sounded like the bombing of Dresden but was in fact the natural soundscape of a household with two sets of young twins. “They just called, they’re—no, Izzy, you have to share—Jackie, please don’t bite her—Daddy’s on the phone—” “But it’s the strongest story in the series,” I said. “Maybe not the best TV, but the best underlying story—” “They say we’ve gotta move it. It’s fakakt,” he said, missing the last syllable. (McHugh had this habit of trying out Yiddish words. It never went well.) Airing a series of back-to-back investigative spots like the one McHugh and I were about to launch required choreography. Each of the stories was long, consuming days in the network’s edit rooms. Rescheduling one was a big deal. “Move it to when?” I asked. On the other end of the line, there was a muffled crash and several successive shrieks of laughter. “I gotta call you back,” he said. McHugh was a TV veteran who had worked at Fox and MSNBC and, for the better part of a decade, Good Morning America. He was barrel-chested, with ginger hair and a ruddy complexion, and wore a lot of gingham work shirts. He had a plainspoken, laconic quality that cut through the passive-aggressive patter of corporate bureaucracy. “He looks like a farmer,” the investigative unit boss who had first put us together the previous year had said. “For that matter, he talks like a farmer. You two make no sense together.” “Why the assignment, then?” I’d asked. “You’ll be good for one another,” he’d replied, with a shrug. McHugh had seemed skeptical. I didn’t love talking about my family background, but most people were familiar with it: my mother, Mia Farrow, was an actress; my father, Woody Allen, a director. My childhood had been plastered across the tabloids after he was accused of sexual assault by my seven-year-old sister, Dylan, and began a sexual relationship with another one of my sisters, Soon-Yi, eventually marrying her. There had been a few headlines again when I started college at an unusually young age and when I headed off to Afghanistan and Pakistan as a junior State Department official. In 2013, I’d started a four-year deal with NBCUniversal, anchoring a midday show on its cable news channel, MSNBC, for the first year of it. I’d dreamed of making the show serious and fact-driven, and by the end, was proud of how I’d used the inauspicious time slot for taped investigative stories. The show got some bad reviews at the start, good reviews at the end, and few viewers throughout. Its cancellation was little-noticed; for years after, chipper acquaintances would bound up at parties and tell me that they loved the show and still watched it every day. “That’s so nice of you to say,” I’d tell them. I’d moved over to the network to work as an investigative correspondent. As far as Rich McHugh was concerned, I was a young lightweight with a famous name, looking for something to do because my contract lasted longer than my TV show. This is where I should say the skepticism was mutual, but I just want everyone to like me. Working with a producer on the road meant a lot of time together on flights and in rental cars. On our first few shoots together, the silence would yawn between us as highway guardrails flashed by, or I’d fill it with too much talk about myself, eliciting the occasional grunt. But the pairing was starting to yield strong stories for my Today show investigative series and for Nightly News, as well as a reluctant mutual respect. McHugh was as smart as anyone I’d met in the news business and a sharp editor of scripts. And we both loved a tough story. After McHugh’s call, I looked at the cable headlines on one of the newsroom’s televisions, then texted him: “They’re scared of sexual assault?” The story we were being asked to reschedule was about colleges botching sexual assault investigations on campus. We’d talked to both victims and alleged perpetrators, who were sometimes in tears, and sometimes had their faces obscured in shadow. It was the sort of report that, in the 8:00 a.m. time slot for which it was destined, would require Matt Lauer to furrow his brow, express earnest concern, and then transition to a segment about celebrity skin care. McHugh wrote back: “Yes. All Trump and then sex assault.” It was a Sunday evening in early October 2016. The preceding Friday, the Washington Post had published an article demurely titled “Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005.” There was a video accompanying the article, the kind you used to call “not safe for work.” In a soliloquy captured by the celebrity news program Access Hollywood, Donald Trump held forth about grabbing women “by the pussy.” “I did try and fuck her. She was married,” he had said. “She’s now got the big phony tits and everything.” Trump’s interlocutor had been Billy Bush, the host of Access Hollywood. Bush was a small man with good hair. You could place him near any celebrity and he would produce a steady stream of forgettable but occasionally weird red-carpet banter. “How do you feel about your butt?” he once asked Jennifer Lopez. And when she, visibly uncomfortable, replied, “Are you kidding me? You did not just ask me that,” he said brightly, “I did!” And so, as Trump described his exploits, Bush chirped and snickered in assent. “Yes! The Donald has scored!” Access Hollywood was an NBCUniversal property. After the Washington Post broke the story that Friday, NBC platforms raced their own versions on air. When Access broadcast the tape, it excised some of Bush’s more piquant remarks. Some critics asked when NBC executives became aware of the tape and whether they deliberately sat on it. Leaked accounts presented differing timelines. On “background” calls to reporters, some NBC executives said the story just hadn’t been ready, that it had required further legal review. (Of one such call, a Washington Post writer observed tartly: “The executive was unaware of any specific legal issue raised by airing an eleven-year-old recording of a presidential candidate who was apparently aware at the time that he was being recorded by a TV program.”) Two NBCUniversal lawyers, Kim Harris and Susan Weiner, had reviewed the tape and signed off on its release, but NBC had hesitated, and lost one of the most important election stories in a generation. There was another problem: the Today show had just brought Billy Bush into its cast of hosts. Not two months earlier, they’d aired a “Get to Know Billy” video, complete with footage of him getting his chest hair waxed on air. McHugh and I had been editing and legally vetting our series for weeks. But the trouble was apparent the moment I began promoting the series on social media. “Come to watch the #BillyBush apology, stay to watch #RonanFarrow explain to him why an apology is necessary,” one viewer tweeted. “Of course they moved sexual assault,” I texted McHugh an hour later. “Billy Bush must be apologizing for the pussy grab convo right within spitting distance of our airtime.” Billy Bush did not apologize that day. As I waited in the wings at Studio 1A the next morning, looking over my script, Savannah Guthrie announced: “Pending further review of the matter, NBC News has suspended Billy Bush, the host of Today’s third hour, for his role in that conversation with Donald Trump.” And then it was onward and upward to cooking, and more caffeinated laughter—and my story on Adderall abuse on college campuses, which had been rushed in to replace the one about sexual assault. The years before the release of the Access Hollywood tape had seen the reemergence of sexual assault allegations against the comedian Bill Cosby. In July of 2016, the former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson had filed a sexual harassment suit against the head of that network, Roger Ailes. Soon after the tape was released, women in at least fifteen cities staged sit-ins and marches at Trump buildings, chanting about emancipation, carrying signs with reappropriated “pussy” imagery: cats, howling or arching, emblazoned with “PUSSY GRABS BACK.” Four women publicly claimed that Trump had groped or kissed them without consent in much the fashion he’d described as routine to Billy Bush. The Trump campaign denounced them as fabulists. A hashtag, popularized by the commentator Liz Plank, solicited explanations of why #WomenDontReport. “A (female) criminal attorney said because I’d done a sex scene in a film I would never win against the studio head,” the actress Rose McGowan tweeted. “Because it’s been an open secret in Hollywood/Media & they shamed me while adulating my rapist,” she added. “It is time for some goddamned honesty in this world.” CHAPTER 2: BITE Since the establishment of the first studios, few movie executives had been as dominant, or as domineering, as the one to whom McGowan was referring. Harvey Weinstein cofounded the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, helping to reinvent the model for independent films with movies like Sex, Lies, and Videotape; Pulp Fiction; and Shakespeare in Love. His movies had earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and at the annual awards ceremonies he had been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, ranking just below Steven Spielberg and several places above God. At times, even this seemed a fine distinction: Meryl Streep had once jokingly referred to Weinstein as God. Weinstein was six feet tall and big. His face was lopsided, one small eye in a habitual squint. He often wore oversize tee shirts over drooping jeans that gave him a billowing profile. The son of a diamond cutter, Weinstein was raised in Queens. As a teenager he and his younger brother, Bob, had snuck off to see The 400 Blows at an arthouse theater, hoping it was a “sex movie.” Instead, they stumbled into François Truffaut and a burgeoning love of highbrow cinema. Weinstein enrolled at the State University of New York at Buffalo partly because the city had multiple movie theaters. When he was eighteen, he and a friend named Corky Burger produced a column for the student newspaper, the Spectrum, featuring a character they called “Denny the Hustler,” who menaced women into submission. “‘Denny the Hustler’ did not take no for an answer,” the column read. “His whole approach employs a psychology of command, or in layman’s terms—‘Look, baby, I’m probably the best-looking and most exciting person you’ll ever want to meet—and if you refuse to dance with me, I’ll probably crack this bottle of Schmidt’s over your skull.’” Weinstein dropped out of college to start a business with his brother, Bob, and Burger, at first under the banner of Harvey and Corky Productions, which specialized in concert promotion. But at a Buffalo theater he acquired, Weinstein also screened the independent and foreign films he’d come to love. Eventually, he and Bob Weinstein started Miramax, named after their parents, Miriam and Max, and began acquiring small foreign films. Weinstein turned out to have a flair for making the movies into events. They received awards, like the surprise Palme d’Or win at Cannes for Sex, Lies, and Videotape. In the early nineties, Disney acquired Miramax. Weinstein spent a decade as the goose that laid egg after golden egg. And in the 2000s, when the relationship with Disney faltered and the brothers started a new enterprise, the Weinstein Company, they quickly raised hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Weinstein hadn’t quite recaptured his glory days, but did win back-to-back Best Picture Oscars for The King’s Speech in 2010 and The Artist in 2011. Over the course of his ascent, he married his assistant, got a divorce, and later wed an aspiring actress he’d begun casting in small roles. Weinstein was famous for his bullying, even threatening, style of doing business. He was deimatic, capable of expanding to frighten, like a blowfish inflating itself. He’d draw up to rivals or underlings, nose-to-nose, red-faced. “I was sitting at my desk one day and thought we were hit by an earthquake,” Donna Gigliotti, who shared an Oscar with Weinstein for producing Shakespeare in Love, once told a reporter. “The wall just shook. I stood up. I learned that he had flung a marble ashtray at the wall.” And then there were stories, mostly whispers, of a darker kind of violence against women, and of efforts to keep his victims quiet. Every few years, a reporter, alerted to the rumors, would sniff around, to see if the smoke might lead to fire. For Weinstein, the months before the 2016 presidential election looked like business as usual. There he was, at a cocktail party for William J. Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner. There he was, laughing with Jay-Z, announcing a film and television deal with the rapper. And there he was, deepening his long-standing ties to the Democratic Party politicians for whom he had long been a major fund-raiser. All year, he’d been part of the brain trust around Hillary Clinton. “I’m probably telling you what you know already, but that needs to be silenced,” he emailed Clinton’s staff, about messaging from Bernie Sanders’s competing campaign to Latino and African American voters. “This article gives you everything I discussed with you yesterday,” he said in another message, sending a column critical of Sanders and pressing for negative campaigning. “About to forward some creative. Took your idea and ran,” Clinton’s campaign manager responded. By the end of the year, Weinstein had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Clinton. A few days after McGowan’s tweets that October, Weinstein was at the St. James Theatre in New York City for a lavish fund-raiser he’d co-produced for Clinton, which put a further $2 million in her campaign’s coffers. The musician Sara Bareilles sat bathed in purple light and sang: “your history of silence won’t do you any good / Did you think it would? / Let your words be anything but empty / Why don’t you tell them the truth?”—which seems too on the nose to be true, but that’s what happened. Weinstein’s influence had dwindled somewhat in the preceding years, but it was still sufficient to sustain public embrace from the elites. As the latest awards season kicked off that fall, a Hollywood Reporter movie critic, Stephen Galloway, ran an article headlined “Harvey Weinstein, the Comeback Kid,” with the subhead, “There are a lot of reasons to root for him, especially now.” Around the same time, Weinstein sent an email to his lawyers, including David Boies, the high-profile attorney who had represented Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election dispute and argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Boies had represented Weinstein for years. He was in his late seventies by then, still trim, with a face that had creased, with age, into something kind and approachable. “The Black Cube Group from Israel contacted me through Ehud Barak,” Weinstein wrote. “They r strategists and say your firm have used them. Gmail me when u get a chance.” Barak was the former prime minister of Israel and chief of the General Staff of the Israeli military. Black Cube, the enterprise he’d recommended to Weinstein, was run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. It had branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, and offered its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature. Later that month, Boies’s firm and Black Cube signed a confidential contract, and Boies’s colleagues wired 100,000 U.S. dollars for an initial period of work. In the documents around the assignment, Weinstein’s identity was often concealed. He was referred to as “the end client” or “Mr. X.” Naming Weinstein, an operative from Black Cube wrote, “will make him extremely angry.” Weinstein seemed excited about the work. During a meeting in late November, he pressed Black Cube to keep going. More money was wired, and the agency put in motion aggressive operations referred to as “Phase 2A” and “Phase 2B.” Soon after, a reporter named Ben Wallace got a call from a number he didn’t recognize, with a UK country code. Wallace was in his late forties, and wore narrow, professorial glasses. He had published, a few years earlier, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, a history of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine. More recently, he’d been writing for New York magazine, where he’d spent the preceding weeks talking to people about the rumors swirling around Weinstein. “You can call me Anna,” said the voice on the other end of the line, in a refined European accent. After graduating from college, Wallace had lived in the Czech Republic and Hungary for a few years. He had a good ear for accents, but he couldn’t quite place this one. He guessed she might be German. “I received your number through a friend,” the woman continued, explaining that she knew he was working on a story about the entertainment industry. Wallace tried to think of what friend could have made such an introduction. Not many people knew about his assignment. “I might have something that might be of importance for you,” she continued. When Wallace pressed her for more information, she was coy. The information she had was sensitive, she said. She needed to see him. He hesitated for a moment. Then he thought, What’s the harm? He was looking for a break in the story. Maybe she’d be it. The following Monday morning, Wallace sat in a coffee shop in SoHo and tried to get a read on the mystery woman. She looked to be in her mid-thirties, with long blond hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, and a Roman nose. She wore Converse Chucks and gold jewelry. Anna said she wasn’t comfortable giving her real name yet. Frightened, she was grappling with whether to come forward. Wallace had been picking up on this theme in his exchanges with other sources. He told her she could take her time. For their next meeting, not long after, she chose a hotel bar in the same neighborhood. When Wallace arrived, she smiled at him invitingly, even seductively. She had already ordered a glass of wine. “I won’t bite,” she said, patting the seat next to her. “Come sit next to me.” Wallace said he had a cold and ordered tea. If they were going to work together, he told her, he needed to know more. At this, Anna broke down, her face twisting in anguish. She seemed to hold back tears as she began to describe her experiences with Weinstein. That she’d gone through something intimate and upsetting was clear, but she was cagey about details. She wanted to learn more before she answered all of Wallace’s questions. She asked what had motivated him to take on the assignment and what kind of impact he sought. As he replied, Anna leaned in, conspicuously extending her wrist toward him. For Wallace, working on the story was becoming a strange, charged experience. There was a level of noise, of keen outside interest, to which he was unaccustomed. He was hearing from other journalists, even: Seth Freedman, an Englishman who’d written for the Guardian, got in touch soon after, suggesting he’d heard the rumors about what Wallace was working on and wanted to help. CHAPTER 3: DIRT In the first week of November 2016, just before the election, Dylan Howard, editor in chief of the National Enquirer, issued an unusual order to a member of his staff. “I need to get everything out of the safe,” he said. “And then we need to get a shredder down there.” Howard was from southeastern Australia. He had a troll-doll tuft of ginger hair over a round face, and wore Coke-bottle glasses and loud ties. That day, he appeared to be in a panic. The Wall Street Journal had just called the Enquirer for comment about a story involving Howard and David Pecker, the CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. The story alleged that AMI had taken on a sensitive assignment at Donald Trump’s behest, chasing a lead with the objective not of publishing it, but of making it go away. The staffer opened the safe, removed a set of documents, and tried to wrest it shut. Later, reporters would discuss the safe like it was the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but it was small and cheap and old. It sat in an office that had belonged, for years, to the magazine’s veteran executive editor, Barry Levine. It had a tendency to get jammed. It took several tries and a FaceTime video call to the staffer’s significant other for advice to get the safe properly closed. Later that day, one employee said, a disposal crew collected and carried away a larger than customary volume of refuse. A Trump-related document from the safe, along with others in the Enquirer’s possession, had been shredded. In June 2016, Howard had compiled a list of the dirt about Trump accumulated in AMI’s archives, dating back decades. After the election, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen requested all the tabloid empire’s materials about the new president. There was an internal debate: some were starting to realize that surrendering it all would create a legally problematic paper trail, and resisted. Nevertheless, Howard and senior staff ordered the reporting material that wasn’t already in the small safe exhumed from storage bins in Florida and sent to AMI headquarters. When the reporting material arrived, it was placed first in the little safe and then, as the political temperature around the magazine’s relationship with the president turned white-hot, in a bigger one in the office of human resources head Daniel Rotstein. (The HR offices of the Enquirer’s parent company, one person familiar with the company cracked with mock surprise, were not, in fact, in a strip bar.) It was only later, when one of the employees who had been skeptical started getting jumpy and went to check, that they found something amiss: the list of Trump dirt didn’t match up with the physical files. Some of the material had gone missing. Howard began swearing to colleagues that nothing had ever been destroyed, an assertion he maintains to this day. In one sense, destroying documents would be consistent with a baseline of malfeasance that had, for years, defined the Enquirer and its parent company. “We are always at the edge of what’s legally permissible,” a senior AMI staffer told me. “It’s very exciting.” Illicitly obtaining medical records was one standard maneuver. At major hospitals, the Enquirer cultivated moles. One such mole, who had spirited the records of Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett, and others out of UCLA Medical Center, ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony charge. AMI routinely engaged in what employee after employee called “blackmail”—withholding the publication of damaging information in exchange for tips or exclusives. And the employees whispered about an even darker side of AMI’s operations, including a network of subcontractors who were sometimes paid through creative channels to avoid scrutiny, and who sometimes relied on tactics that were hands-on and intrusive. In another sense, however, something new seemed to be happening in AMI’s offices in Manhattan’s Financial District. Pecker had known Donald Trump for decades. When a reporter said to Pecker, after the election, that criticism of Trump was not synonymous with criticism of AMI, he’d replied, “To me it is. The guy’s a personal friend of mine.” Over the years, the two had enjoyed an alliance, to their mutual benefit. Pecker, a graying former accountant from the Bronx with a broad mustache, got proximity to power and Trump’s many perquisites. “Pecker got to fly on his private jet,” said Maxine Page, who worked at AMI on and off from 2002 to 2012, including as an executive editor at one of the company’s websites. Howard, too, enjoyed Trump’s favors. On the eve of the 2017 inauguration, he sent excited texts to friends and colleagues, with pictures of his access to the festivities. The fruit of the relationship, for Trump, was more consequential. Another former editor, Jerry George, estimated that Pecker killed perhaps ten fully reported stories about Trump, and nixed many more potential leads during George’s twenty-eight years at the Enquirer. As Trump mounted his run for office, the alliance appeared to deepen and change. Suddenly, the Enquirer was formally endorsing Trump, and it and other AMI outlets were blaring sycophantic headlines. “DON’T MESS WITH DONALD TRUMP!” one issue of the Globe declared. “HOW TRUMP WILL WIN!” added the Enquirer. When the Enquirer tallied the “Twisted Secrets of the Candidates!,” the tabloid’s revelation about Trump was: “he has greater support and popularity than even he’s admitted to!” Screaming covers about Hillary Clinton’s supposed treachery and flagging health became a mainstay. “‘SOCIOPATH’ HILLARY CLINTON’S SECRET PSYCH FILES EXPOSED!” they howled, and “HILLARY: CORRUPT! RACIST! CRIMINAL!” The exclamation points made the headlines look like budget musical titles. A favorite subplot was Clinton’s impending death. (She miraculously defied the tabloid’s prognoses and kept right on almost-dying all the way through the election.) Not long before voters went to the polls, Howard had colleagues pull a stack of the covers for Pecker to present to Trump. During the campaign, Trump associates, including Michael Cohen, called Pecker and Howard. A series of covers about Trump’s competitor in the Republican primary, Ted Cruz, which chronicled a wild conspiracy theory about Cruz’s father being linked to the assassination of JFK, were planted by another Trump associate, the political consultant Roger Stone. Howard even made contact with Alex Jones, a maniacal radio personality whose conspiracy theories had helped lift Trump’s candidacy, and later appeared on Jones’s show. And sometimes, AMI staffers were told not merely to kill unflattering leads about the magazine’s favored candidate but to seek out information and lock it up tight in the company’s vaults. “This is fucking nonsense,” one of them later told me. “The operation became like Pravda.” The pact with Trump wasn’t the only alliance Howard and Pecker nurtured. In 2015, AMI had struck a production deal with Harvey Weinstein. Nominally, the deal empowered AMI, amid declining circulation numbers, to spin off its Radar Online website into a television show. But the relationship had another dimension. That year, Howard and Weinstein drew close. When a model went to the police with a claim that Weinstein had groped her, Howard told his staff to stop reporting on the matter—and then, later, explored buying the rights to the model’s story, in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement. When the actress Ashley Judd claimed a studio head had sexually harassed her, almost but not quite identifying Weinstein, AMI reporters were asked to pursue negative items about her going to rehab. After McGowan’s claim surfaced, one colleague of Howard’s remembered him saying, “I want dirt on that bitch.” In late 2016, the relationship deepened. In one email, Howard proudly forwarded to Weinstein the latest handiwork of one of AMI’s subcontractors: a secret recording of a woman whom the subcontractor had enticed to make statements damaging to McGowan. “I have something AMAZING,” Howard wrote. The woman had “laid into Rose pretty hard.” “This is the killer,” Weinstein replied. “Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.” “They are not,” Howard wrote. “And the conversation—between you and I—is RECORDED.” In another email, Howard sent a list of other contacts to be targeted in a similar manner. “Let’s discuss next steps on each,” he wrote. The National Enquirer was a tabloid sewer, a place to which much of America’s ugly gossip eventually flowed. When stories were abandoned or successfully buried at the behest of AMI’s friends in high places, they came to rest in the Enquirer’s archives, in what some staff called “kill files.” As his collaboration with Weinstein deepened, Howard had been scrutinizing this historical repository. One day that fall, colleagues recalled, he requested that a specific file be pulled, related to an anchor at a TV network. CHAPTER 4: BUTTON Matt Lauer sat with his legs crossed just so: right knee over left, with a slight lean forward, allowing his right hand to grip the top of the same shin. Even in casual conversation, he looked as if he might effortlessly throw to a commercial break. When I tried to emulate Lauer’s relaxed-yet-composed seating position on air, I just looked like someone new to yoga. It was December 2016. We were in Lauer’s office on the third floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. He sat behind his glass-topped desk. I was on the couch opposite. On shelves and credenzas, Emmys loomed. Lauer had worked his way up from local television in West Virginia to his current position as one of the most prominent and popular figures in network television. NBC paid him in excess of $20 million a year and ferried him by helicopter to and from his house in the Hamptons. “It’s really good stuff,” Lauer was saying, of the most recent story in my investigative series. He had his hair buzzed close, which suited him, and tufty salt-and-pepper facial hair, which suited him less. “That leaking nuclear plant, where was it—” “Washington State,” I said. “Washington State. That’s right. And that government guy sweating bullets.” He shook his head, chuckled. The story was about the Hanford nuclear facility, where the United States government had buried several Olympic swimming pools’ worth of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project. Workers were getting sprayed with that waste with alarming frequency. “That’s what we need more of on the show,” he said. We’d talked a lot about his belief in serious investigative reporting. “Plays well on set. And it rates,” he continued. “What have you got coming up?” I glanced at the sheaf of papers I’d brought with me. “There’s one on Dow and Shell seeding California farmlands with toxic chemicals.” Lauer nodded appreciatively, sliding on horn-rimmed glasses and turning to his monitor. Emails scrolled by, reflected in the lenses. “There’s a series on addiction, one on truck safety reforms being blocked by lobbyists,” I continued. “And one about sexual harassment in Hollywood.” His eyes snapped back to me. I wasn’t sure which story had caught his attention. “It’s for a series about undercovered stories in Hollywood,” I said. “Pedophilia, racism, harassment…” Lauer was wearing a neatly tailored suit with a gray windowpane motif and a striped navy tie. He smoothed it down and shifted his attention back to me. “They sound terrific.” He was eyeing me appraisingly. “Where do you see yourself in a few years?” he asked. It had been nearly two years since MSNBC euthanized my cable program. “Ronan Farrow Goes from Anchor’s Desk to Cubicle,” a recent Page Six headline had offered. Turns out, my desk was in the background shot of MSNBC’s daytime news coverage. There I was, typing behind Tamron Hall and on the phone behind Ali Velshi. I was proud of the work I was doing for Today. But I was struggling to find a niche. I considered everything, even radio. That fall, I met with Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Melissa Lonner, a vice president there, had departed Today a few years earlier. Trying to sound bullish, I told her that I figured Today would be a better platform for investigative reporting than cable anyway. “Yes,” Lonner said, with a tight smile. “I loved it there.” But the truth was, my future felt uncertain, and it meant a lot to me that Lauer was giving me this time. I thought about his question about the future and said, “I’d like to get back to anchoring at some point.” “I know, I know,” he said. “That’s what you think you want.” I opened my mouth. He cut me off. “You’re searching for something.” He slid his glasses off, inspected them. “Maybe you’ll find it. But you’re going to have to figure out yourself. What you really care about.” He smiled. “You excited for next week?” I was scheduled to fill in when he and the other anchors departed for the Christmas holiday. “I am!” I said. “Remember, you’re the new guy on set. Interaction is everything. Write your Orange Room tags with bait for conversation.” The Orange Room was the part of Today where we aired slideshows of Facebook posts, for some reason. “Personalize the scripts. If it were me, you’d mention my kids. You get the idea.” I scribbled a few notes, thanked him, and began to leave. As I reached the door, he said wryly, “Don’t let us down. I’ll be watching.” “You want this closed?” I asked. “I’ve got it,” he said. He pushed a button on his desk. The door swung shut. Not long after, I sent a copy of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults to Lauer’s house in the Hamptons. On air, I followed his advice in earnest. I stood in the Today show plaza and spread holiday cheer, breath clouding in front of me. I sat on the semicircular couch in Studio 1A with the other pinch hitters for intros and outros, and gripped my shin, and looked not much like Matt Lauer at all. One morning, we closed out the show with a reel of outtakes and bloopers from the preceding year. We’d all seen the video: when we’d aired it once before, and then again at the show’s nondenominational holiday party. When the tape began to play and the studio lights dimmed, most of the team wandered off or checked their phones. There was just one senior Today employee who remained in front of the monitor, transfixed. She was one of the hardest-working people I’d encountered in television. She’d worked her way up from local news to her role that day. “I don’t envy you,” I said. “Having to watch this over and over.” “No,” she said, still fixed on the screen. “I love this. This was my dream job.” I was startled to see tears in her eyes. A few weeks after my conversation with Matt Lauer, around the corner in the NBC News executive suite, I sat opposite the executive in charge of the Today show, Noah Oppenheim. That day, the views of Rockefeller Plaza from his corner office were obscured by fog and drizzle. I was flanked by McHugh and Jackie Levin, the senior producer overseeing our next investigative miniseries, the one I’d told Lauer about, on Hollywood. “So, what have you got?” asked Oppenheim, leaning back on a couch, and I prepared to give him an update. Oppenheim, like Lauer, supported hard news. When he was tapped to run Today, he’d come to see me before he even had a desk, and told me to deal with only him, not the other executives at the show. He’d put me on the Today show more frequently and greenlit my increasingly ambitious investigations. When Ronan Farrow Daily became Ronan Farrow Rarely, it was Oppenheim who arranged to have me stay at the network and continue my Today show series. Oppenheim was in his late thirties, with affable, boyish features and body language that seemed forever in a slouch, waiting for you to lean in before he did. He had a quality I lacked and envied, which was this: he was insouciant, laid-back, cool. He was a doe-eyed stoner whose mellow seemed impossible to harsh. We’d laughed about his stories of getting high and ordering entire Thai delivery menus and we’d planned to spend a night in with edibles at some point. Oppenheim was smart, with an Ivy League pedigree. Early in the 2000 presidential campaign, MSNBC personality Chris Matthews and his executive producer, Phil Griffin, who would go on to run that cable channel, encountered a snowstorm during a commute from New Hampshire back to New York and stopped off at Harvard. That night, Griffin and a colleague found Oppenheim, a senior who wrote for the Harvard Crimson, drunk in a corner. They ended up offering to put him on TV. “They stopped off at Harvard Square and started talking to some undergraduate girls at a bar,” Oppenheim later told a reporter. “They followed them to a late-night party at the newspaper building and one picked up a copy of the paper and read an article I’d written about the presidential race.” That chance encounter with Oppenheim eventually led him from conservative punditry to producing on MSNBC, and then to a senior producer role on Today. But he always had wider ambitions. He co-authored a series of self-help books called The Intellectual Devotional (“Impress your friends by explaining Plato’s Cave allegory, pepper your cocktail party conversation with opera terms,” read the jacket copy) and boasted that Steven Spielberg had given them out as holiday gifts, “so now I can die happy.” In 2008, he left the network and moved his family to Santa Monica to pursue a career in Hollywood. Referring to journalism, he said, “I had an amazing experience through my 20s doing that but had always loved the movie business, and movies, and drama.” He worked briefly for the media heiress Elisabeth Murdoch’s reality television empire, then transitioned to screenwriting. “I did that,” he said of reality TV, “then got antsy because it still wasn’t getting me to my real love: scripted drama.” Oppenheim had enjoyed a charmed ascent in each of his careers. He sent his first screenplay, Jackie, a morose biopic about the days between Kennedy’s assassination and funeral, to a studio executive who had been a friend at Harvard. “Less than a week later, I find myself sitting with Steven Spielberg in his office on the Universal lot,” he later recalled. The movie, which featured a lot of dialogue-free long shots of the woman in question pacing around with tear-streaked mascara, had been embraced by critics and, I was finding, less so by the public. “What was that movie he did again?” McHugh had said as we walked over to the meeting. “Jackie.” “Oof.” Oppenheim had also co-written an adaptation of the young adult postapocalyptic adventure The Maze Runner, which made money, and a sequel to the Divergent series, which did not. The years between Oppenheim’s departure from Rockefeller Plaza and his return had been challenging for Today. The anchor Ann Curry, beloved by audiences and not beloved by Matt Lauer, had been fired. Ratings slipped behind the competition, the more caffeinated Good Morning America. The stakes for NBC were high: Today was worth half a billion dollars in advertising revenue a year. In 2015, NBC brought Oppenheim back to Today to perform a rescue operation. In June 2016, I’d gotten a green light from Oppenheim on a series I had dubbed, in the exaggerated manner of morning television, The Dark Side of Hollywood?, but getting support on specific topics had presented some difficulty. The earliest pitch I sent to the brass focused on allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, including the ones ultimately reported in the Atlantic about director Bryan Singer, which he has long denied, as well as claims about pedophilia raised by the actor Corey Feldman. An interview with Feldman had been secured: Today’s head of booking, Matt Zimmerman, had cut a deal whereby the former child star would perform a song and stay on to answer my questions. But Zimmerman had later called to say Oppenheim considered the pedophilia angle “too dark,” and we’d scrapped the plan. The stories I proposed as replacements presented their own obstacles. Levin, the senior producer, told McHugh and me that a story about celebrities performing for dictators, referencing Jennifer Lopez’s seven-figure gig for Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, totalitarian leader of Turkmenistan, was a nonstarter in light of the network’s relationship with Lopez. No one seemed to even want to acknowledge a story I proposed about racial discrimination in Hollywood. Oppenheim finally said, with a chuckle, “Look, I’m ‘woke’ or whatever, I just don’t think our viewers want to see Will Smith complain about how hard he has it.” Network television is a commercial medium. Conversations about the palatability of stories are commonplace. You pick your battles, and none of these were battles worth picking. We’d set aside the Hollywood series for a few months, reviving it late in the year, with an eye toward airing it around Oscar season early the next year. As we sat in Oppenheim’s office that January, we mulled more potential topics, including a pitch about plastic surgery. Then I returned to one of my proposals that seemed to have withstood the development conversations so far: a story about the Hollywood “casting couch”—performers being harassed or propositioned for transactional sex at work. “We’ve been making steady progress,” I said. I’d already begun talking to a few actresses who claimed to have stories. “You should look at Rose McGowan, she tweeted something about a studio head,” Oppenheim said. “I hadn’t seen that,” I replied. I pulled out my phone and loaded a Variety article. The actress’s tweets slid by under my thumb. “Maybe she’ll talk,” I said. “I’ll look into it.” Oppenheim shrugged hopefully. CHAPTER 5: KANDAHAR A few days later, Harvey Weinstein was in Los Angeles, meeting with operatives from Black Cube. The operatives reported that they had been making headway, encircling agreed-upon targets. Weinstein’s lawyers had quickly covered the last payment, for Phase 2A, but they had been sitting on an invoice for Phase 2B for more than a month. It took several tense exchanges before another payment was delivered and the next, more intense, riskier stage of the operation began. Our reporting at NBC was growing more intense, too. Over the course of January, the Hollywood series took shape. I had begun to report out a story on rigged awards campaigns, along with one about sexist hiring practices behind the camera and another about Chinese influence on American blockbusters. (The adversaries in Red Dawn turned North Korean in postproduction; doctors in Beijing saved Iron Man while sipping Yili brand milk.) The sexual harassment story was proving to be a booking challenge. One actress after another backed out, often after involving prominent publicists. “It’s just not a topic we want to talk about,” went the responses. But the calls were kicking up dust, and Harvey Weinstein’s name was coming up in our research again and again. One producer, Dede Nickerson, arrived at 30 Rock for an interview about the China story. We sat in a bland conference room that you’ve seen on a hundred Datelines, beautified with a potted plant and colored lights. Afterward, as McHugh and the crew broke down our equipment and Nickerson strode off to the nearest elevator bank, I trailed after her. “I meant to ask one more thing,” I said, catching up to her. “We’re doing a story about sexual harassment in the industry. You used to work for Harvey Weinstein, right?” Nickerson’s smile slackened. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t help you.” We’d reached the elevators. “Sure, okay. If there’s anyone you think I should talk to—” “I have a flight to catch,” she said. As she got in the elevator, she paused and added, “Just… be careful.” A few days later, I hunched over a desk in one of the glass cubes set aside for private calls on the margins of the newsroom, dialing Rose McGowan, whom I’d reached over Twitter. We’d met once before, in 2010, when I was working at the State Department. Pentagon officials had announced she was visiting and asked if I’d join them for lunch, like they were looking for a language specialist and figured I spoke fluent actress. McGowan had met the officials on a recent USO tour. In pictures, there she was, at Kandahar Air Field or in Kabul, in neon, low-cut tees and skinny jeans, long hair blowing in the wind. “I looked like a stylized bombshell,” she’d later recall. McGowan was a charismatic screen presence, exuding a quick wit and an acid sense of humor in a series of early performances—The Doom Generation, Jawbreaker, Scream—that made her an indie film darling. But in recent years the parts had been fewer and schlockier. When we met, her last lead appearance had been in Planet Terror, a B-movie homage directed by her then-boyfriend Robert Rodriguez, in which she played a stripper named Cherry Darling with a machine gun for a leg. At that lunch in 2010, McGowan and I hit it off. She whispered quotes from the film Anchorman, and I served them back. She knew I’d grown up in a Hollywood family. She talked about acting—the fun roles, and the sexist or exploitative ones, which was most of them. She made it plain that she was tiring of the business and its oppressively narrow view of women. The next day, she emailed: “Whatever I can do in the future, I will make myself available. Please do not hesitate to ask.” In 2017, McGowan picked up my call from the newsroom. Her counterculture streak was still evident. She told me Roy Price, the head of Amazon’s nascent movie and television studio, had greenlit a surrealistic show she was creating about a cult. She forecast a battle over the patriarchal power structures in Hollywood and beyond. “Nobody’s covered what Hillary losing means to women,” she said. “The war against women is real. This is ground zero.” She talked, unflinchingly and far more specifically than in her tweets, about her allegation that Weinstein had raped her. “Would you name him on camera?” I asked. “I’ll think about it,” she said. She was working on a book, and weighing how much to reveal in its pages. But she was open to beginning the process of telling the story before then, too. The media, McGowan said, had rejected her, and she had rejected the media. “So why talk to me?” I asked. “Because you’ve lived it,” she said. “I saw what you wrote.” About a year earlier, the Hollywood Reporter had put out a laudatory profile of my father, Woody Allen, with only a glancing mention of the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against him by my sister Dylan. The magazine faced intense criticism for the piece, and Janice Min, the Hollywood Reporter’s editor, decided to face it directly, asking me to write about whether there was merit to the backlash. The truth is, I’d spent most of my life avoiding my sister’s allegation—and not just publicly. I did not want to be defined by my parents, or by the worst years of my mother’s life, of my sister’s life, of my childhood. Mia Farrow is one of the great actors of her generation, and a wonderful mom who sacrificed greatly for her kids. And yet so much of her talent and reputation was consumed by the men in her life, and I took from that a desire to stand on my own, to be known best for my work, whatever it might be. That left what happened in my childhood home frozen in amber, in ancient tabloid coverage and permanent doubt—unresolved, unresolvable. So I decided to interview my sister about what happened, in detail, for the first time. And I dove into the court records and any other documents I could find. By the account Dylan gave when she was seven years old and has repeated precisely ever since, Allen took her to a crawl space in our family’s home in Connecticut and penetrated her with a finger. She’d already complained to a therapist about Allen touching her inappropriately. (The therapist, hired by Allen, did not disclose the complaints until later, in court.) Immediately before the alleged assault, a babysitter had seen Allen with his face in Dylan’s lap. When a pediatrician finally did report the allegation to the authorities, Allen hired what one of his lawyers estimated to be ten or more private detectives through a network of attorneys and subcontractors. They trailed law enforcement officials, looking for evidence of drinking or gambling problems. A prosecutor in Connecticut, Frank Maco, later described a “campaign to disrupt the investigators,” and colleagues said he was rattled. Maco dropped the effort to charge Allen, attributing the decision to his desire to spare Dylan the trauma of trial, taking pains to state that he’d had “probable cause” to proceed. I told Min I would write an op-ed. I made no claim to be an impartial arbiter of my sister’s story—I cared about her and supported her. But I argued that her claim fell into a category of credible sexual abuse allegations that were too often ignored by both the Hollywood trade outlets and the wider news media. “That kind of silence isn’t just wrong. It’s dangerous,” I wrote. “It sends a message to victims that it’s not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about who we are as a society, what we’ll overlook, who we’ll ignore, who matters and who doesn’t.” I hoped it would be my one and only statement on the matter. “I was asked to say something. I did,” I told McGowan, trying to get off the subject. “That’s the end of it.” She laughed bitterly. “There’s no end to it.” I wasn’t the only journalist trying to get to McGowan. Seth Freedman, the same English writer for the Guardian who’d called Ben Wallace offering to help with his reporting, had been emailing HarperCollins, the publisher of McGowan’s book. Freedman was persistent, reaching out repeatedly to express support and lobby for an interview. When he got on the phone with Lacy Lynch, a literary agent advising McGowan, he was vague about his reporting. He said he was working with a group of journalists on a story about Hollywood. He wouldn’t say whether there was a specific publication attached. But Lynch told McGowan she thought the writer was benign, and that it seemed like an interesting opportunity. Not long after my conversation with McGowan, she and Freedman were on the phone. He told her he was outside the farm his family owned in the English countryside, speaking quietly to avoid waking anyone. “What did you want to talk to me about?” McGowan asked. “We’re looking to do a snapshot of what life is like in 2016/17 for people in Hollywood,” he explained. He broached McGowan’s sharp criticism of Donald Trump, suggesting that there might be an opportunity for “a kind of spinoff piece,” about her activism. It sounded like a lot of resources were being put into his efforts. He repeatedly mentioned other, unnamed journalists who were helping him gather information. McGowan had seen more than her share of betrayal and abuse, and she was usually guarded. But Freedman was warm, candid, even confessional. Several times, he referenced his wife and their growing family. Slowly, McGowan warmed to him, talked about her life story, at one point cried. As she heaved off plates of armor, he grew more specific. “Obviously everything we say is off the record, but I’ve spoken to people who’ve worked at, you know, say, Miramax, who’ve told me ‘I’m NDA’d’ and they can’t talk about anything that’s happened to them but they’re desperate to say ‘X person abused me or X person made my life hell.’” “My book is gonna address a lot of these things,” McGowan said. Freedman seemed very interested in her book, and what she planned to say in it. “How can you get the publisher to publish it?” he asked, referring to her allegation. “I actually have a signed document,” she said. “A signed document from the time of the attack.” But what would the consequences be, he wondered, if she said too much? “Most people I talk to in Hollywood, they say, you know, I’m not allowed to talk about it on record,” he said. “Because they’re all too scared,” McGowan replied. “And if they do say it,” Freedman continued, “then they’ll never work again or they’ll never—” But he didn’t get to say what else. McGowan was talkative by now, on to her next point. One, two, three times, Freedman wondered who in the media she planned to talk to before the book, and how much she planned to tell them. “Who would your ideal platform be right now to tell that message?” he asked. “Does that mean you keep the name out of the press because you would suffer,” he said, alluding again to those consequences, “if you put the name out there and then someone came back at you?” “I don’t know. I’ll see how I feel,” McGowan said. Freedman sounded full of empathy, an ally. “So,” he asked, “what would make you kind of call it quits?” CHAPTER 6: CONTINENTAL “They have been fighting for years on this,” I said. A week after my call with McGowan, I sat at the anchor’s table in Studio 1A, Today show cameras rolling. I’d just wrapped a segment on the battle between safety advocates and the trucking industry over whether to require side guards on tractor-trailers, to stop cars from slipping under them. The safety advocates said the move would save lives. The lobbyists said it would be too expensive. “Ronan, great job,” Matt Lauer said, and turned briskly to the next segment. “Really strong,” he added, as he filed off set during the next commercial break, production assistants swarming, handing him his coat, gloves, script pages. “And good engagement afterwards, got people talking.” “Thanks,” I said. He stepped closer. “Hey, how are those other stories coming along?” I wasn’t sure which ones he meant. “There’s the big one on the contaminated California farmlands. I think you’ll find it interesting.” “Sure, sure,” he said. There was a beat of silence. “And I’ll be on around the Oscars for the Hollywood one I mentioned,” I tried, tentative. He frowned a little. Then his smile snapped back on. “Great,” he said, clapping me on the back. Over his shoulder as he walked toward the exit, he added: “Anything you need, you come to me, okay?” I watched him step into the cold air of the plaza, a burst of shrieks from the fans sounding as he passed through the revolving door. It was early February 2017. McHugh and I were ensconced in meetings with the network’s legal and standards departments as they scrutinized every element of the upcoming Hollywood stories. Editorial oversight fell to an NBC veteran named Richard Greenberg, who had recently been appointed interim head of the network’s investigative unit. Greenberg wore crumpled tweeds and reading glasses. He had spent nearly seventeen years at NBC, ten of them as a Dateline producer, several more vetting pieces for the standards department. He was quiet, bureaucratic. But he also professed strong moral convictions. In his Dateline producer’s blog, he called sexual abusers “perverts” and “monsters.” After working with Chris Hansen of To Catch a Predator on a story in a Cambodian brothel, Greenberg wrote: “often, when I lie awake in bed at night, I am haunted by the faces of the girls we saw who were not rescued and who are still being violated.” The lawyer vetting the series was a Harvard Law alumnus named Steve Chung, who was studiously serious. That week in February, McHugh and I sat with Greenberg in his office near the fourth-floor newsroom and outlined our shooting schedule for the following week, including some interviews to be conducted with the subjects obscured in shadow, as was frequent practice in my investigative work and so many Dateline stories Greenberg had worked on. He nodded approvingly. “And you’ve talked all this through with Chung?” he asked. I had. Greenberg then swiveled to his computer monitor and pulled up a browser. “I just want to double-check—” He typed in both of my parents’ names and Weinstein’s. “Good idea,” I said. “Hadn’t thought of that.” The results were what we’d expected: like most studio heads, Weinstein had touched movies both of my parents worked on. He’d distributed several Woody Allen movies in the nineties, and, more recently, a few my mother appeared in during the 2000s. Movie distribution tends to be an arm’s length business: I’d never heard Weinstein’s name from either of them. “Looks good,” Greenberg said, after scrolling through several articles. “Just double-checking to make sure there’s no secret axe to grind there. Clearly not.” “Other than caring about the issue, no,” I said. I’d liked Weinstein the one time I’d met him, at an event hosted by the CBS News anchor Charlie Rose. A few days later, I sat in a Santa Monica hotel room. Dennis Rice, a veteran marketing executive, perspired heavily. Studio lights with cube-shaped shades threw him into shadow. Initially, we had planned only to discuss the story on rigged awards campaigns. Then I’d asked him about his time as Harvey Weinstein’s president of marketing at Miramax in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and he’d grown nervous. “You have no idea how tough this gets for me if I say anything,” he told me. But Rice sensed there was an opportunity to help with something important, and agreed to come back for the follow-on interview in front of the harsh lights. “There was money available in the event that there was an indiscretion that needed to be taken care of,” he said of his time at Miramax. “What kinds of indiscretions?” I asked. “Bullying, physical abuse, sexual harassment.” He said he’d witnessed, firsthand, his boss “inappropriately touching” young women, and regretted not saying more. “They were paid off,” he said of the women. “They were encouraged to not make this a big deal, otherwise their career may end.” He said he knew of specific cases of retaliation and, when the cameras stopped rolling, glanced around and said, “Find Rosanna Arquette.” The actress had come to prominence with her leading role in Desperately Seeking Susan. In Pulp Fiction, which Weinstein distributed, she’d had a small but memorable part as the heavily pierced wife of a drug dealer. “I don’t know,” Rice said, wiping the accumulated sweat from his forehead. “Maybe she’ll talk.” Reviewing the footage later, I rewound to an exchange about the culture around Weinstein and hit Play again. “And for all of the people around this man who saw this sort of thing going on,” I asked, “did anyone speak up against it?” “No,” he said. That evening and in the days that followed, I worked the phones. I was assembling a growing list of women, often actresses and models but sometimes producers or assistants, who were rumored to have voiced complaints about Weinstein. Certain names kept recurring, like McGowan’s, and that of an Italian actress and director, Asia Argento. I called back Nickerson, the producer who’d been hesitant to talk about Weinstein before. “I’m so tired of what happens to women in this industry. I want to help, I do,” she said. “I saw things. And then they paid me off and I signed a piece of paper.” “What did you see?” A pause. “He couldn’t control himself. It’s who he is. He’s a predator.” “And you can speak to having witnessed that?” “Yes.” She agreed to go on camera, too. Sitting in shadow at the Encino estate where she was staying, she independently recalled a pattern of predation eerily similar to the one described by Rice. “I think that happened all the time, the groping,” she said in the interview. “This wasn’t a one-off. This wasn’t a period of time. This was ongoing predatorial behavior towards women—whether they consented or not.” She said that it was almost ludicrously embedded in the corporate culture; that there was essentially a pimp on company payroll with only the thinnest job description to cover for his role procuring women for their boss. “Was it common knowledge that he was being, to use a term you used, ‘predatory’ around women?” I asked. “Absolutely,” she said. “Everybody knew.” “FYI, that story is evolving into a pretty serious reporting job on HW,” I texted Oppenheim. “Both execs are naming him on cam, but one is asking me not to show actual footage of him saying the name,” I wrote, referring to Rice. “People are pretty freaked out about reprisals.” Oppenheim wrote back: “I can imagine.” The more people I called, the more Rice and Nickerson’s claims were borne out. I was also looking for defenses of Weinstein. But those I found rang hollow. Nickerson had named a producer whom she believed to be a victim. I finally tracked her down in Australia, where she’d gone to start a new life. When she told me that she had nothing to say about Weinstein, there was strain and sadness in her voice that suggested I’d placed her in a difficult situation. A conversation with Donna Gigliotti, the Shakespeare in Love producer, went much the same way. “I mean, have I heard things? Maybe. But have I seen things?” she asked. “What did you hear?” An exasperated sigh, as if the question were ludicrous. “The man is not a saint. Trust me, there is no love lost between us. But he isn’t guilty of anything worse than what a million other men in this business do.” “Are you saying there’s not a story there?” “I’m saying,” Gigliotti said, “that your time is better spent elsewhere. Others have looked at this, you know. They all come up empty.” I did not know. But soon enough I was encountering references to other outlets that had circled the story. Two years earlier, a New York magazine writer, Jennifer Senior, had tweeted: “At some pt, all the women who’ve been afraid to speak out abt Harvey Weinstein are gonna have to hold hands and jump.” And then later: “It’s a despicable open secret.” The comments had generated a few blog items, then faded away. I sent her a message asking to talk. “I wasn’t reporting on it,” she told me. “David Carr, my office spouse when he was at NYMag, did a feature about him and came back with story after story about what a pig he was.” Carr, the essayist and media reporter, who died in 2015, had recounted to Senior anecdotes about Weinstein flashing and groping women, but never got enough to render them publishable. “Lots of people have been trying to get this story,” Senior told me, and wished me luck, like she was encouraging Don Quixote about a windmill. I called other people close to Carr who added something else: he had become paranoid while working on the story. His widow, Jill Rooney Carr, told me that her husband believed that he was being surveilled, though he didn’t know by whom. “He thought he was being followed,” she recalled. Other than that, Carr appeared to have taken his secrets to the grave. After the interviews with Rice and Nickerson, I met with a friend who worked as an assistant to a prominent NBCUniversal executive and who passed me contact information for another round of potential sources. “My question is,” she texted, “would Today run something like this? Seems kind of heavy for them.” “Noah, the new head of the show,” I wrote back, “he’ll champion it.” The next week, on the morning of February 14, Igor Ostrovskiy, the pudgy Ukrainian who’d met with Roman Khaykin, the bald Russian, at Nargis Cafe, sat in a hotel lobby in Midtown Manhattan. Khaykin had dispatched him there, on one of the jobs for the mysterious new client. Ostrovskiy pretended to be engrossed in his phone, while discreetly capturing video of a graying middle-aged man in a trench coat shaking hands with a tall, dark man in a suit. Then he followed the two men to the hotel restaurant and sat at a table nearby. The last few days had been busy with these assignments in fancy hotel lobbies and restaurants, surveilling meetings between operatives sent by the mysterious client and what appeared to be unsuspecting marks. Ostrovskiy’s task was “countersurveillance”: he was supposed to make sure the client’s operatives weren’t followed. That day in the hotel restaurant, Ostrovskiy texted a picture of the proceedings to Khaykin, then ordered a continental breakfast. The food was a perk of the assignment. “Enjoy yourself,” his boss had said. “Have a nice meal.” As juice and rolls arrived, Ostrovskiy strained to hear the conversation at the next table. The men had accents he couldn’t quite place. Eastern European, maybe. He overheard snatches of dialogue about far-flung locations: Cyprus; a bank in Luxembourg; something about men in Russia. Mostly, Ostrovskiy spent his days hunting collectors of worker’s compensation with fake limps or trying to catch straying spouses violating their prenuptial agreements. The suited operatives involved in these new assignments, some of whom seemed to have a military bearing, were something else. He swiped through the footage of the men and wondered who it was he was watching, and for whom. CHAPTER 7: PHANTOMS I was in a car, threading my way through West Hollywood toward my next shoot, when the announcement came over the wires: Noah Oppenheim had been promoted to president of NBC News. He was taking on a slate of make-or-break projects alongside his boss, Andy Lack, who oversaw both NBC News and MSNBC. Their first order of business: launching Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor, in a new role at NBC. Several positive profiles highlighted Oppenheim’s Ivy League luster and screenwriting career and rapid ascent through the cutthroat world of television. Oppenheim’s and Lack’s predecessors had both been women. Deborah Turness, who preceded Oppenheim, was described in lightly sexist profiles as having “rock-chick swagger,” which as far as I could tell just meant she sometimes chose to wear pants. Patricia Fili-Krushel, whom Lack replaced, was an executive with a background in human resources and daytime television. The chain of command was now all male, all white: Noah Oppenheim, and above him Andy Lack, and above him Steve Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal, and Brian Roberts, the CEO of its parent company, Comcast. “I am pretty, pretty, pretty into this announcement. Congrats, my friend!” I texted Oppenheim, sucking up a little but also sincerely meaning it. “Hah—thanks,” he wrote back. I flicked through my contacts, hovered over my sister Dylan’s name, then called her for the first time in months. “I’m headed into an interview,” I told her. “It’s with a well-known actress. She’s accusing a very powerful person of a very serious crime.” In family photographs, Dylan, two and a half years my senior, often sheltered behind me: there we were, in Huggies on the ugly brown couch in the living room; before my first kindergarten play, her in a rabbit onesie, knuckles mid-noogie, grinding into my head; in front of various tourist attractions, laughing, usually hugging. I was surprised she’d picked up. She usually didn’t keep her cell on her. In frank moments, she’d confessed that ringing phones made her heart race. Men’s voices on the other end of the line, especially, were a challenge. She’d never held a job that involved lots of phone calls. Dylan was a talented writer and visual artist. Her work was rooted in worlds as far from this one as she could manage. As kids, we’d invented an elaborate fantasy kingdom, populated with pewter figurines of dragons and fairies. Fantasy remained her escape. She wrote hundreds of pages of minutely described fiction and painted faraway landscapes. These sat in drawers. When I suggested that she build a portfolio or submit a manuscript, she’d freeze, get defensive. I didn’t understand, she’d say. On the phone that day in February, she paused. “And you want my advice?” she asked, eventually. Her allegation, and the questions that swirled between us as to whether I’d done enough, soon enough, to acknowledge it, had introduced a space between us that hadn’t been there in the childhood photos. “Yes, I want your advice,” I said. “Well, this is the worst part. The considering. The waiting for the story. But once you put your voice out there, it gets a lot easier.” She sighed. “Just tell her to hang tough. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid.” I thanked her. Another pause. “If you get this,” she said, “don’t let it go, okay?” Rose McGowan lived in the quintessential movie star’s house: a stack of tan midcentury modern boxes tucked into a grove of cypress trees high in the Hollywood Hills. Outside, there was a wide terrace with a hot tub overlooking a sweep of Los Angeles. Inside, it was staged as if for resale: no family photos, just art. By the front door there was a salvaged neon sign in the shape of a bowler hat that read “THE DERBY: LADIES ENTRANCE.” Just beyond, atop a set of stairs to the living room, there was a painting of a woman in a cage, engulfed in light. By a white brick fireplace in the living room, a bronze model of McGowan’s character from Planet Terror aimed its machine-gun leg. The woman who sat opposite me was not the one I’d met seven years before. McGowan looked tired, a hard tension across her face. She wore a loose beige sweater and little makeup. Her head was shaved, military-style. She’d mostly abandoned acting in favor of music, sometimes accompanied by surreal performance-art footage of herself. She’d tried her hand at directing, with a short film, Dawn, that screened at Sundance in 2014. In the film, a repressed teenage girl circa 1961 is lured by two young men into a secluded area, brained with a rock, then shot dead. McGowan had a rough childhood. She’d grown up in the Children of God cult in the Italian countryside, where women had been harsh and men brutal—one, she later told me, sliced a wart off her finger, without warning, at age four, leaving her stunned and bleeding. For a period of time, as a teenager, she was homeless. When she made it in Hollywood, she thought she had put the risk of exploitation behind her. She told me that shortly before Weinstein assaulted her, during the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, she’d turned to a camera crew following her and said, “I think my life is finally getting easier.” In the living room, as cameras rolled, she described how her business manager set the meeting where the alleged assault happened and how it had been abruptly moved from a hotel restaurant to a hotel suite. She recalled the routine first hour with the man she then considered only her boss, and his praise for her performance in one film he’d produced, Scream, and in another she was still working on, Phantoms. Then she relived the part that still visibly shook her. “On the way out, it turned into not a meeting,” she said. “It all happens very fast and very slow. I think any survivor can tell you that… all of a sudden, your life is like ninety degrees in the other direction. It’s—it’s a shock to the system. And your brain is trying to keep up with what’s going on. All of a sudden, you have no clothes on.” McGowan tried to stay composed. “I started to cry. And I didn’t know what was happening,” she recalled. “And I’m very small. This person’s very big. So do that math.” “Was this a sexual assault?” I asked. “Yes,” she said simply. “Was this a rape?” “Yes.” McGowan said she contacted a criminal attorney and considered pressing charges. The attorney told her to shut up. “I’d done a sex scene,” she remembered the lawyer pointing out. “No one was ever gonna believe me.” McGowan decided not to press charges, and brokered a financial settlement instead, signing away her right to sue Weinstein. “That was very painful,” she said. “I thought $100,000 was a lot of money at the time because I was a kid.” She considered it, on his part, “an admission of guilt.” McGowan described a system—of assistants and managers and industry power brokers—that she furiously accused of complicity. She said staffers averted their eyes as she walked into the meeting, and out of it. “They wouldn’t look at me,” she said. “They looked down, these men. They wouldn’t look at me in the eyes.” And she remembered her costar in Phantoms, Ben Affleck, seeing her visibly distraught immediately after the incident, and hearing where she’d just come from, and replying, “God damn it, I told him to stop doing this.” McGowan believed she’d been “blacklisted” after the incident. “I barely worked in movies ever again. And I was on a great trajectory. And then when I did do another movie—it got sold to him for distribution,” she said, referring to Planet Terror. For any survivor, memories haunt. For those with high-profile perpetrators, there’s an added quality of inescapability. “I would open the newspaper,” McGowan told me. “And there’s Gwyneth Paltrow giving him [an] award.” He was “omnipresent.” And then there were the red carpets and press junkets where she’d have to pose with him, smiling. “I just left my body again,” she said. “I pasted the smile on my face.” The first time she saw him again after the alleged assault, she threw up in a trash can. On camera, McGowan wasn’t yet saying Weinstein’s name. She was steeling herself, getting ready. But she referred to him during the interview again and again, urging viewers to “connect the dots.” “Did Harvey Weinstein rape you?” I asked. The room went pin-drop silent. McGowan paused. “I’ve never liked that name,” she said. “I have a hard time saying it.” Off camera, she’d already used his name with me. Partly, she’d said, her concern was making sure she had a news organization that would go all the way with the story if she exposed herself to legal jeopardy. I was frank with her: this would be a delicate legal process at NBC. I’d need to be armed with every detail she could give me. “Have the lawyers watch this,” she said. “Oh, they will be,” I said, with a grim laugh. “Watch it,” she said, looking into the camera, tears in her eyes. “Not just read it. And I hope they’re brave, too. Because I tell you what, it’s happened to their daughter, their mother, their sister.” CHAPTER 8: GUN “The Rose interview is shocking,” I texted Oppenheim. “Wow,” he replied. “Felt like a bomb going off. Plus two Miramax execs on cam saying they saw pattern of sexual harassment. This’ll be fun for legal.” “Geez,” he wrote. “It sure will be.” As we finished our shooting for the Hollywood stories, McHugh and I traded calls with Greenberg, the head of the investigative unit, and Chung, the attorney. By then, I’d spoken to two people on McGowan’s management team with whom she’d raised her complaint immediately after the meeting with Weinstein. If she was lying, she’d been doing so since that day in 1997. “She does sound a little… flighty,” Greenberg said. McHugh and I were back in the same hotel in Santa Monica, on a sunny day, preparing to interview a Chinese filmmaker. “Well, that’s why we line up a lot of corroboration,” I told Greenberg. “And she said she’ll give us the contract she has with Weinstein—” “Careful about that,” Greenberg said. “What do you mean?” McHugh asked. “I don’t know that we can be interfering with contracts,” Greenberg said. “Let’s just be careful if those are being handed over.” McHugh looked frustrated. “We should run this,” he said. “It’s explosive. It’s news.” “I just don’t see it being ready in time for this series,” Greenberg replied. The stories were due to run a week later, just before the Oscars. “I think I can get other women to talk in time for air,” I said. “Give it the time it needs,” Greenberg said. “The other stories can go now, and you can expand the reporting here.” I got along well with the network’s legal and standards staff. I defended my stories in a, shall we say, caffeinated way. But I was a lawyer myself, and I admired the old-fashioned care that went into producing a piece for programs like Nightly News. NBC was a serious place that valued the truth, an institution that had leapt from radio, to broadcast, to cable, to the internet—that mattered when it was one of three networks half a century ago and, in our fractured and fractious era, mattered still. As long as we were using the time to strengthen the reporting, I didn’t mind a delay. “Okay,” I said. “We’ll hold it.” The reporting expanded like an inkblot. The day after the shoot with McGowan, we were at the offices of the Hollywood Reporter for an interview with their journalist on the awards beat, Scott Feinberg. Harvey Weinstein was inescapable in that conversation, too: he had essentially invented the modern Oscar campaign. Weinstein ran his campaigns like guerrilla wars. A Miramax publicist once ghostwrote an op-ed praising the company’s movie Gangs of New York and passed it off as the work of Robert Wise, the director of The Sound of Music, who was, at the time, eighty-eight. Weinstein orchestrated an elaborate smear campaign against rival film A Beautiful Mind, planting press items claiming the protagonist, mathematician John Nash, was gay (and, when that didn’t work, that he was anti-Semitic). When Pulp Fiction lost a Best Picture Oscar to Forrest Gump, he’d publicly threatened to arrive on director Robert Zemeckis’s lawn and “get medieval.” Before leaving the Hollywood Reporter, I met its new editor, Matt Belloni. I’d heard rumors that Janice Min, his predecessor who persuaded me to write the op-ed about the need for tougher coverage of sexual assault allegations, had pursued the Weinstein allegations for years. When I asked whether the outlet had come up with anything, Belloni shook his head. “No one will talk.” But he did have ideas about industry figures who might know of other women with allegations. He suggested I call Gavin Polone, the former agent and manager—a “Ferrari-driving tenpercenter,” as Variety had described him. He’d since become a successful producer, and developed a reputation as a firebrand. In 2014, he’d written a column for the Hollywood Reporter entitled “Bill Cosby and Hollywood’s Culture of Payoffs, Rape and Secrecy.” In it, he’d referenced a set of allegations against an unnamed studio head who “used his power and money to keep it all quiet.” He accused journalists of avoiding the story because they were “afraid of being sued and more afraid of losing advertising.” No one, it seemed, had taken him up on the challenge. Polone had appeared as an occasional commentator on my MSNBC show. By the end of the day, I was on the phone with him. “It needs to be exposed,” he told me. He’d heard about a number of allegations against Weinstein. Some he’d heard directly from accusers, others he’d become aware of secondhand. “The most egregious example, the holy grail of this story, is Annabella Sciorra,” he said. “This wasn’t harassment. It was rape.” I asked him to see if the women who’d told their stories to him would talk to me. He promised he would. “One more thing,” he said, after I thanked him for his time. “Watch your back. This guy, the people protecting him. They’ve got a lot at stake.” “I’m being careful.” “You don’t understand. I’m saying be ready, in case. I’m saying get a gun.” I laughed. He didn’t. Sources were scared. Many refused to talk. But others seemed willing. I reached the agent of an English actress who McGowan and others had suggested might have a complaint. “She told me the story in detail, as soon as we started working together,” the agent told me. “He took out his penis and chased her around a desk during the shoot. He jumped on top of her, he pinned her down, but she got away.” I asked if the actress would talk. “She was very open about it at the time,” the agent replied. “I don’t see why not.” A day later, he called back with her phone number and email address: she’d be happy to discuss sitting for an interview. An agent who worked with Rosanna Arquette appeared to know what the request was about immediately. “Hard topic for her,” that agent said. “But I know she cares about the issue. I’m sure she’ll talk.” I had reached Annabella Sciorra on Twitter. I told her it was about something sensitive. She seemed apprehensive, a little guarded. But we set a time for a call. I was also chasing the only allegation against Weinstein that had entered the criminal justice system. In March 2015, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a Filipina-Italian model and onetime finalist in the Miss Italy pageant, had emerged from a meeting with Weinstein at his Tribeca offices and gone straight to the police to claim she’d been groped. New York law enforcement had brought Weinstein in for questioning. The tabloids set about fevered coverage. Then something curious happened: the items about Weinstein were replaced with derogatory ones about Gutierrez. The tabloids reported that, in 2010, when Gutierrez was a young contestant in the Miss Italy pageant, she had attended a “Bunga Bunga” party hosted by Silvio Berlusconi, who was then the Italian prime minister, where he was accused of having sex with prostitutes. The items claimed that Gutierrez herself was a hooker, with wealthy sugar daddies back in Italy. The day after the alleged incident, she’d attended Finding Neverland, a Broadway musical Weinstein produced, the Daily Mail observed. Later, she’d demanded a movie role, Page Six reported. Gutierrez said she’d never been a prostitute, that she’d been brought to Berlusconi’s party as a professional obligation and extricated herself as soon as its seedier dimensions became apparent, and that she’d made no demand for a movie role. But her denials were printed as an afterthought, or not at all. The pictures of Gutierrez shifted: there she was, day after day, in lingerie and bikinis. Increasingly, the tabloids seemed to suggest that she was the predator, ensnaring Weinstein with her feminine wiles. And then, all at once, the charges went away. So did Ambra Gutierrez. But the name of a lawyer who represented Gutierrez had made it into public reports, and lawyers have phones. “I’m not at liberty to talk about that,” he told me. “Okay,” I said, having paid just enough attention in law school and more than enough in real life to know an allusion to a nondisclosure agreement when I ran into one. “But can you pass on a message?” Gutierrez texted almost immediately. “Hello, my lawyer said you wanted to contact me. Just wanted to ask about what,” she wrote. “I’m a reporter with NBC News, and this is for a Today show story I am working on. I think it’s probably easiest to talk through on the phone, if you’re comfortable with that,” I replied. “Could you be a little more precise on what is about ‘I am working on’?” she wrote. Ambra Gutierrez, it was immediately apparent, was no fool. “It involves a claim being made by another individual—and potentially several of them—that may have some similarities to the one you brought, in the NYPD investigation in 2015. It could be a great service to others with claims if I could talk to you.” She agreed to meet the next day. Before meeting with Gutierrez, I started methodically calling people who’d been involved in the case. One of my contacts in the district attorney’s office called to say staff there had found Gutierrez credible. “There were… certain things presented about her past,” the contact said. “What kind of things?” “I can’t get into that. But none of it made anyone here think she was lying. And I heard we had some evidence.” “What kind of evidence?” “I don’t know exactly.” “Can you look into it?” “Sure. And I’ll just hand in my resignation right after.” CHAPTER 9: MINIONS When I arrived at Gramercy Tavern, Gutierrez was already sitting in a back corner, ramrod straight and perfectly still. “I’m always early,” she said. That wasn’t the half of it. She was, I came to find, a formidably organized and strategic person. Gutierrez was born in Turin, Italy. She’d grown up watching her Italian father, whom she described as a “Dr. Jekyll–and–Mr. Hyde person,” beat her Filipina mother. When Gutierrez tried to intervene, she was beaten as well. As an adolescent, she became the caretaker, supporting her mother and distracting her younger brother from the violence. She had an exaggerated beauty, like an anime character: vanishingly slender with improbably large eyes. That day at the restaurant, she seemed nervous. “I want to help,” she said, a tremor in her Italian accent. “It’s just I’m in difficult situation.” It was only when I said that another woman had gone on camera with a complaint about Weinstein, and that still more were considering doing so, that she began to tell her story. In March 2015, Gutierrez’s modeling agent had invited her to a reception at Radio City Music Hall for New York Spring Spectacular, a show that Weinstein produced. As usual, Weinstein had rallied industry friends to support the show. He’d talked to Steve Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal, and Burke had agreed to provide costumes of characters from the ubiquitous Minions franchise. At the reception, Weinstein stared at Gutierrez openly across the room. He approached and said hello, telling her and her agent several times that she looked like the actress Mila Kunis. After the event, Gutierrez’s modeling agency emailed her to say that Weinstein wanted to set up a business meeting as soon as possible. Gutierrez arrived at Weinstein’s office in Tribeca early the next evening with her modeling portfolio. As she and Weinstein sat on a couch reviewing the portfolio, he began staring at her breasts, asking if they were real. Gutierrez said that Weinstein then lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt while she protested. He finally backed off and told her that his assistant would give her tickets to Finding Neverland later that night. He said he would meet her at the show. Gutierrez was twenty-two at the time. “Because of trauma in my past,” she told me, “being touched for me was something that was very big.” After the encounter with Weinstein, she remembered shaking, stopping by a bathroom, and beginning to weep. She caught a cab to her agent’s office and cried there, too. Then she and the agent went to the nearest police station. She remembered arriving, and telling the officers Weinstein’s name, and one saying, “Again?” Weinstein telephoned her later that evening, annoyed that she hadn’t come to the show. She picked up the call while sitting with investigators from the Special Victims Division, who listened in and devised a plan: Gutierrez would agree to see the show the following day and then meet with Weinstein. She would wear a wire and attempt to extract a confession. “It was a scary decision, of course,” she said. “And of course I had a sleepless night.” Anyone asked to do something risky to expose something important has to balance a complicated mix of self-interested and altruistic incentives. Sometimes, in some stories, the two coincide. But in this story, there was almost no upside. Gutierrez faced legal and professional annihilation. She wanted only to stop Weinstein from doing it again. “Everyone told me the guy could close all the doors for me,” she said. “I was willing to risk this for the fact that this guy should not have done this to anyone anymore.” The following day, Gutierrez met Weinstein at the Tribeca Grand Hotel’s Church Bar, a plush room with golden stars and clouds stenciled on its blue walls. A team of undercover officers kept watch. Weinstein was flattering. He said, again and again, how beautiful she was. He told her he’d help her get acting jobs, if she would just be his friend, and named several other prominent actresses for whom, he said, he had done the same. The accent would need work, of course, but he said he could arrange lessons. Weinstein excused himself to go to the restroom, then returned, demanding with sudden urgency that they go up to his penthouse suite. He said he wanted to take a shower. Gutierrez, frightened that he would touch her again or discover that she was wearing a wire, resisted. Undeterred, he tried to bring her upstairs repeatedly. The first time, she used a tactic the officers had suggested, leaving behind a jacket and insisting they go back downstairs for it. The second time, one of the undercover officers, posing as a TMZ photographer, started peppering Weinstein with questions, sending him to complain to hotel staff. Gutierrez kept trying, and failing, to extricate herself. Finally, Weinstein got her upstairs, leading her toward his room. By this time, they’d lost the undercover officers. Adding to her problems, her phone, which officers had instructed her to keep on and recording in her purse as a backup, was running out of power. With increasing belligerence, Weinstein demanded that she go into the room. Gutierrez, terrified, pleaded and tried to draw away. In the course of the interaction, Weinstein copped to groping her the previous day: a full, dramatic confession, caught on tape. She kept pleading, and he finally relented, and they went downstairs. Officers, no longer concealing their identities, approached Weinstein and said the police wanted to speak to him. Had he been charged, Weinstein could have faced a count of sexual abuse in the third degree, a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail. “We had so much proof of everything,” Gutierrez told me. “Everyone was telling me, ‘Congratulations, we stopped a monster.’” But then the tabloids began to publish their stories about Gutierrez’s supposed past as a prostitute. And the office of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. began to raise the same points. When Martha Bashford, the head of Vance’s Sex Crimes Unit, questioned Gutierrez, she grilled her about Berlusconi and her personal sexual history with unusual hostility, according to two law enforcement sources. The district attorney’s press office later told the New York Times that the questioning was “a normal, typical interview” intended to anticipate questions that would be raised in a cross-examination. The law enforcement sources disagreed. “They went at her like they were Weinstein’s defense attorneys,” one of them told me. “It was weird,” Gutierrez recalled of the questioning. “I’m, like, ‘What is the connection? I don’t understand. Just listen to the proof.’” On April 10, 2015, two weeks after Gutierrez reported Weinstein to the police, the district attorney’s office announced that it wasn’t going to press charges. It released a brief statement: “This case was taken seriously from the outset, with a thorough investigation conducted by our Sex Crimes Unit. After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported.” The NYPD was incensed by the decision—so much so that the department’s Special Victims Division launched an internal review of the last ten criminal complaints in Manhattan stemming from similar allegations of groping or forcible touching. “They didn’t have a quarter of the evidence we had,” still another law enforcement source said of the other cases. “There were no controlled meets, and only rarely controlled calls.” Yet, that source said, “all of them resulted in arrests.” The public had never learned of the damning evidence Vance possessed. Law enforcement officials began to whisper that the DA’s office had behaved strangely. Vance’s staff had been receiving new information about Gutierrez’s past on a regular basis, and hadn’t been disclosing where it was coming from. It was, one official told me, as if Weinstein had infiltrated Vance’s office personally. At the time of the Gutierrez incident, Weinstein’s legal team was stacked with political influence. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was closely involved. “Rudy was always in the office after the Ambra thing,” one Weinstein Company employee recalled. “He still had his mind then.” Giuliani worked so many hours on the Gutierrez matter that a spat arose afterward over billing. These fights over invoices were a leitmotif in Weinstein’s business dealings. Several members of Weinstein’s legal team made donations to Vance’s campaigns. One attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, was a partner at the firm that formerly employed Vance, and had contributed $26,450 to Vance’s campaigns since 2008. I recognized Abramowitz’s name. When my sister reiterated her claim that Woody Allen sexually assaulted her, Allen dispatched Abramowitz to the morning shows to smile affably and deny the allegations. That history made my feelings about Abramowitz less personal, not more. This wasn’t about any one victim; this, for Abramowitz and many other lawyers, was a cottage industry. David Boies had also worked on the Gutierrez imbroglio, and also kept the Manhattan district attorney close. He’d been a longtime donor. He would give $10,000 to Vance’s reelection campaign in the months following the decision not to press charges. After that decision, Gutierrez was shaken, then worried about her future. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,” she told me. As Weinstein leaned on his tabloid contacts to drum up items portraying Gutierrez as a hustler, she felt like history was repeating. She believed that the stories from Italy about her having worked as a prostitute were a product of her having testified in the corruption case against Berlusconi. She told me Berlusconi had used his power to smear her. “They said that I was a Bunga Bunga girl, that I was having affairs with sugar daddies,” she said. “Anyone who knows me knows those things are completely fake.” Slut shaming, it seemed, was a universal language. Several tabloid editors later told me they regretted their coverage of Gutierrez, and felt it laid uncomfortably bare Weinstein’s transactional relationships in their industry. Weinstein particularly exploited his bond with Pecker and Howard at the National Enquirer. Weinstein’s employees recalled an uptick in calls from him to Pecker. Howard ordered his staff to stand down on reporting about Gutierrez’s claim, then inquired about purchasing her story in order to bury it. And then there was the item the Enquirer ultimately ran, claiming, apparently based on its own entreaties to Gutierrez, that she was flogging the story on the open market. It was as if “just because I am a lingerie model or whatever, I had to be in the wrong,” Gutierrez said. “I had people telling me, ‘Maybe it was how you dressed.’” (She had dressed in professional office attire to meet Weinstein, with thick tights because of the cold weather.) Her reputation was curdling. “My work depends on image, and my image was destroyed,” she said. Casting calls evaporated. Paparazzi laid siege to her apartment. Her brother called from Italy to say reporters had found him at work. When attorneys Gutierrez consulted urged her to accept a settlement, she at first resisted. But her resolve began to crack. “I didn’t want to make my family suffer anymore,” she said. “I was twenty-two years old. I knew if he could move the press in this way, I couldn’t fight him.” On the morning of April 20, 2015, Gutierrez sat in a law firm office in Midtown Manhattan with a voluminous legal agreement and a pen in front of her. In exchange for a million-dollar payment, she would agree to never again talk publicly about Weinstein or the effort to charge him. “I didn’t even understand almost what I was doing with all those papers,” she told me. “I was really disoriented. My English was very bad. All of the words