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TMZ: “Access Hollywood” staffer who leaked Trump tape wanted it out before the debate

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“Access Hollywood” was ready to run the now-famous Donald Trump/Billy Bush tape on Friday, October 7th, TMZ is reporting — but “Access Hollywood” officials made a decision to delay it because of Hurricane Matthew.

That apparently upset a staffer — who leaked the tape to The Washington Post, sources connected with NBC tell TMZ.

TMZ was told the bosses at “Access Hollywood” decided the Trump story could get buried if it ran Friday, when the hurricane seemed most ominous. But members of the staff were upset because they wanted the piece to run before Sunday’s debate, and Monday was too late for them.

After the decision was made to wait, someone leaked it to The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the NBCUniversal corporate story is that “Access Hollywood” dug up the tape and notified NBC News about it on October 3rd. But rumors are flying about who knew what about the tape before then.

Some top Republicans have accused NBC of keeping the tape a secret until after the primary campaign, thereby hurting Trump’s GOP rivals and helping Democrats.

Billy Bush apparently “bragged” about the existence of the recording to entertainment division colleagues while he was in Rio for the Olympics in August, according to the New York Post. If true, this raises questions about why Bush didn’t tell his new bosses at NBC News about the tape.

One obvious answer is that Bush knew his jocular behavior with Trump would hurt his reputation, particularly with the women who make up the majority of the “Today” show audience.

Bush moved from the entertainment show “Access Hollywood” to “Today,” a product of NBC News, in August. NBC made him a co-host of the 9 a.m. hour — signaling that Bush would be a big player in the future of the massively profitable morning show franchise.

Bush moved his family from Los Angeles to New York for the new job. He was just beginning to acquaint himself with his “Today” show colleagues — that’s why a plan was hatched for the surprise party, which was to be held at a restaurant called El Toro Blanco this coming Saturday, October 15th.

That party has been canceled, and Bush’s exit from the “Today” show is now a matter of “when,” not “if,” according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

One of the sources said his departure will be announced “in the coming days.”