Mysterious pro-Saudi tabloid hits US newsstands
Despite denials, files show pro-Trump publisher quietly shared 97-page fawning magazine with Riyadh officials weeks before it went to press
Why would American Media, best-known for publishing salacious stories of sex and scandal, sink money into printing 200,000 copies of a magazine with a grinning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman splashed across the cover?
Metadata embedded in the PDF file, obtained by the AP from two different individuals, show it was produced by an AMI production employee at 8:41 p.m. on Feb. 19. Shortly thereafter, it started circulating internally among Saudi officials, including the embassy’s military office, according to individuals familiar with the situation. It was also passed to Nail al-Jubeir, the former embassy spokesman and brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, recently named Saudi ambassador to Ireland, the individuals said.
By the next day — Feb. 20 — Saudi officials had started forwarding it to Washington foreign policy contacts, giving them an early look, said the individuals, who weren’t authorized to discuss the situation and requested anonymity.
A month later, on March 19, Prince Mohammed arrived in the US, with the magazine serving as his literary red carpet.
https://www.timesofisrael.com/mysteriou ... ewsstands/
“Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government … After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia … Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
David Pecker will go to prison for a long time, because this extortion attempt will blow up his immunity plea deal with the SDNY.
No thank you, Mr. Pecker
Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.
AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.
And sometimes Mr. Pecker mixes it all together:
“After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…”
David Pecker, Chief of National Enquirer's Publisher, Is Said to Get Immunity in Trump Inquiry
Federal prosecutors reached an immunity deal with the tabloid executive David J. Pecker, a key witness in their…
Federal investigators and legitimate media have of course suspected and proved that Mr. Pecker has used the Enquirer and AMI for political reasons. And yet AMI keeps claiming otherwise:
“American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”
Of course, legitimate media have been challenging that assertion for a long time:
Mystery Grows Over Pro-Saudi Tabloid: Embassy Got Sneak Peek
Mystery grows over pro-Saudi tabloid: Embassy got sneak peek
WASHINGTON (AP) - It landed with a thud on newsstands at Walmart and rural supermarkets last month: Ninety-seven…
I didn’t know much about most of that a few weeks ago when intimate texts messages from me were published in the National Enquirer. I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer. As it turns out, there are now several independent investigations looking into this matter.
To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for twenty years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.
Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.
President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.
(Even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment. The Post is a critical institution with a critical mission. My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.)
Back to the story: Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.
A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.
My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.
AMI’s claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible. I founded Amazon in my garage 24 years ago, and drove all the packages to the post office myself. Today, Amazon employs more than 600,000 people, just finished its most profitable year ever, even while investing heavily in new initiatives, and it’s usually somewhere between the #1 and #5 most valuable company in the world. I will let those results speak for themselves.
OK, back to their threat to publish intimate photos of me. I guess we (me, my lawyers, and Gavin de Becker) didn’t react to the generalized threat with enough fear, so they sent this:
From: Howard, Dylan [firstname.lastname@example.org] (Chief Content Officer, AMI)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:33 PM
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject:. Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell — 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)
In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.
Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here: I will not report embarrassing information about you if you do X for me. And if you don’t do X quickly, I will report the embarrassing information.
Nothing I might write here could tell the National Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below.
These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism. Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.
From: Fine, Jon [email@example.com] (Deputy General Counsel, AMI)
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:57 PM
To: Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)
Subject: Re: EXTERNAL* RE: Bezos et al / American Media et al
Here are our proposed terms:
1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
4. AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
5. The agreement is completely confidential.
6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
Deputy General Counsel, Media
American Media, LLC
Jon P. Fine
Deputy General Counsel, Media
O: (212) 743–6513 C: (347) 920–6541
February 5, 2019
Martin D. Singer
Laveley & Singer
Re: Jeff Bezos / American Media, LLC, et al.
Dear Mr. Singer:
I write in response to your February 4, 2019, letter to Dylan Howard, and to address serious concerns we have regarding the continuing defamatory activities of your client and his representatives regarding American Media’s motivations in its recent reporting about your client.
As a primary matter, please be advised that our newsgathering and reporting on matters involving your client, including any use of your client’s “private photographs,” has been, and will continue to be, consistent with applicable laws. As you know, “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting . . . is not an infringement of copyright.” 17 USC Sec. 107. With millions of Americans having a vested interest in the success of Amazon, of which your client remains founder, chairman, CEO, and president, an exploration of Mr. Bezos’ judgment as reflected by his texts and photos is indeed newsworthy and in the public interest.
Beyond the copyright issues you raise, we also find it necessary to address various unsubstantiated defamatory statements and scurrilous rumors attributed to your client’s representatives in the press suggesting that “strong leads point to political motives”1 in the publication of The National Enquirer story. Indeed, you yourself declared the “politically motivated underpinnings” of our reporting to be “self-evident” in your correspondence on Mr. de Becker’s behalf to Mr. Howard dated January 31, 2019.
Once again, as I advised you in my February 1 response to your January 31 correspondence, American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. Simply put, this was and is a news story.
Yet, it is our understanding that your client’s representatives, including the Washington Post, continue to pursue and to disseminate these false and spurious allegations in a manner that is injurious to American Media and its executives.
Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist such defamatory conduct immediately. Any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril. Absent the immediate cessation of the defamatory conduct, we will have no choice but to pursue all remedies available under applicable law.
As I advised previously, we stand by the legality of our newsgathering and reporting on this matter of public interest and concern. Moreover, American Media is undeterred from continuing its reporting on a story that is unambiguously in the public interest — a position Mr. Bezos clearly appreciates as reflected in Boies Schiller January 9 letter to American Media stating that your client “does not intend to discourage reporting about him” and “supports journalistic efforts.”
That said, if your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.
All other rights, claims, counterclaims and defenses are specifically reserved and not waived.
1 https://www.thedailybeast.com/bezos-inv ... Attributed to your client Gavin de Becker)
https://medium.com/@jeffreypbezos/no-th ... 6e3922310f
Bezos’ Paper Accuses Trump of Leaking his Affair to National Enquirer
by Brian McNicoll on February 7, 2019
Mainstream media’s efforts to blame everything on President Trump took a bizarre turn this week when the Washington Post ran a story that appears to accuse the president of orchestrating a hit job on the Post’s publisher that led to the end of his marriage.
Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post and is widely thought to be the world’s richest man, announced in mid-January that he and his wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Bezos, were divorcing.
The announcement came just a day before the National Enquirer released an expose’ on Bezos that revealed the affair and provided numerous photographs of him with Lauren Sanchez, a former news anchor from Los Angeles with whom he is believed to be involved.
The photos were taken over a period of months, the Enquirer said, after one of its reporters noticed Sanchez with Bezos at a ceremony for a space rocket launch. But the article also included romantic text messages from Bezos to Sanchez, and Bezos has launched an investigation to learn how the Enquirer obtained the texts.
On Wednesday, the Post ran a piece headlined, “Was tabloid exposé of Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job?” by Marc Fisher, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison.
“When the National Enquirer published explicit text messages between Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos and the woman he was having an affair with, the world’s richest man made clear he wanted to find out how the tabloid got hold of his private communications,” the Post wrote.
“Bezos commissioned and investigation into the Enquirer’s investigation of his love life, thereby leaping into a roiling mix of political attacks and conspiracy theories featuring the president of the United States, key figures in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, minor Hollywood celebrities and the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos himself.
“Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s expose’ on Bezos affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.”
The Post’s evidence Trump was involved in its publisher getting caught by a tabloid having an affair is that the Enquirer “has acknowledged taking actions during the last presidential campaign that benefited Trump politically” and that Trump “has repeatedly lodged attacks on the Post’s coverage of him and on Bezos, who bought the news company in 2013.”
Moreover, Michael Sanchez, brother of Bezos’ mistress and “a pro-Trump Hollywood talent manager who is also an acquaintance of provocative Trump backers Roger Stone and Carter Page,” is among those accused of providing the info to National Enquirer. He denies any involvement and said Gavin de Becker, who is head of security for both Bezos and the Washington Post, is accusing him in an effort to deflect from his own failures to protect the boss.
He also claims he was “told by multiple people at American Media, the Enquirer’s parent company, that the Enquirer set out to do ‘a takedown to make Trump happy.’”
De Becker, ordered by Bezos to investigate how the tabloid obtained his texts, told the Post he concluded Bezos was not hacked.
“Rather, de Becker said in an interview, the Enquirer’s scoop about Bezos’s relationship with … Sanchez began with a ‘politically motivated’ leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post – an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.’”
https://www.aim.org/aim-column/bezos-pa ... -enquirer/
Was tabloid exposé of Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job?
When the National Enquirer published explicit text messages between Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos and the woman he was having an affair with, the world’s richest man made clear he wanted to find out how the tabloid got hold of his private communications.
Bezos commissioned an investigation into the Enquirer’s investigation of his love life, thereby leaping into a roiling mix of political attacks and conspiracy theories featuring the president of the United States, key figures in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, minor Hollywood celebrities and the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos himself.
Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s exposé on Bezos’s affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.
The saga might have been easily dismissed as little more than tabloid fare, but it has taken on a more serious cast in recent days. A volley of charges and countercharges about how and why the Enquirer launched its investigation has emerged for several reasons, including the history of the Enquirer, which has acknowledged taking actions during the last presidential campaign that benefited Trump politically. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly lodged attacks on The Post’s coverage of him and on Bezos, who bought the news company in 2013. And Bezos, the head of a retail giant that is famously loath to comment to the media, has authorized his security chief to speak about his investigation.
Bezos’s longtime private security consultant, Gavin de Becker, has concluded that the billionaire was not hacked. Rather, de Becker said in an interview, the Enquirer’s scoop about Bezos’s relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez began with a “politically motivated” leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post — an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
As the Daily Beast first reported last week, de Becker has publicly named only one subject of his investigation, Michael Sanchez, Lauren’s brother and a pro-Trump Hollywood talent manager who is also an acquaintance of provocative Trump backers Roger Stone and Carter Page.
“We are studying many people who might have been involved in this, and Michael Sanchez is one we’ve spoken with and been looking at,” de Becker told The Post.
But de Becker — who provided security for President Ronald Reagan’s guests and whose private security firm is popular among celebrities — is not the only one looking into who leaked the text messages to the Enquirer.
Michael Sanchez, whose Twitter feed colorfully defends Trump and slams reporting critical of the president as “fake news,” said in an interview that he has launched his own investigation into the origin of the Enquirer’s story and has sought advice from Stone and Page about the security of text and phone communications.
Stone, a longtime Republican operative and Trump adviser, has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Page is a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser whose trips to Moscow have drawn scrutiny from congressional investigators.
Sanchez firmly denies playing any role in the revelation of his sister’s affair. He said in interviews with The Post that his priorities are to protect his sister’s relationship with Bezos and “to clear my name by telling the truth.”
Sanchez said he was told by multiple people at American Media, the Enquirer’s parent company, that the Enquirer set out to do “a takedown to make Trump happy.”
Through a spokesman, the company declined to comment on how the tabloid obtained the text messages but said that “American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. End of speculation — and story.”
Sanchez, who said he is his sister’s manager and publicist, said he learned of the affair last spring and first met Bezos on April 20 at a dinner with Lauren Sanchez, Bezos and others at a Hollywood restaurant, the Hearth and Hound. Michael Sanchez said he has socialized with Bezos and his sister multiple times during their relationship.
In the aftermath of the Enquirer story, Sanchez offered a variety of theories to explain how texts between Bezos and his sister made their way to the tabloid, including spying by foreign governments, rival tech companies or “deep state” actors within the U.S. government, according to a compilation of emails between Sanchez and de Becker that were provided to The Post.
In a Jan. 21 email to de Becker, Sanchez offered a “brief summary of the info I gathered from Carter [Page] and Roger [Stone]” and included links to news articles that outlined the National Security Agency’s ability to collect metadata on phone calls.
Both de Becker and Sanchez at various points theorized that government or foreign hacking could have been behind the leak of Bezos’s texts, according to email and text exchanges between the two. Sanchez discussed with de Becker a theory in which Trump might have enlisted the help of British intelligence or the Israeli Mossad.
Now, as de Becker has cast suspicion on Sanchez, Sanchez is hitting back.
In a written statement to The Post, Sanchez accused de Becker of “lies, half-truths, sloppy tabloid leaks, [and] crazy conspiracy theories.” Sanchez said de Becker sought to finger him as the source of leaks because de Becker wanted to deflect attention from his own failure to protect Bezos.
Sanchez said he believed de Becker, Bezos’s security chief for two decades, was involved in the leaks to the Enquirer “to sabotage Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez’s love affair.” The brother argued that de Becker was trying to keep Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos, together.
Michael Sanchez said de Becker has asserted a “strange control” over Bezos and Lauren Sanchez and has “forced” the two to stay physically apart from each other since the Enquirer’s article appeared.
De Becker declined to address Michael Sanchez’s allegations individually, saying only, “Since subjects of investigations often accuse their investigators, even the craziest litany of claims doesn’t surprise me.”
Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president for global corporate affairs, declined The Post’s request for an interview with Bezos.
Lauren Sanchez also declined to comment, according to her representative.
Bezos and Trump — two wealthy business executives who became famous as billionaire disrupters upending the worlds of retailing and politics — have traded Twitter barbs in the past. And Trump often lumps Bezos’s separate ventures, Amazon and The Post, together in an effort to discredit the newspaper’s reporting.
Bezos’s ownership of The Post was highlighted on the cover of the unusual, 12-page spread on the Bezos-Sanchez affair that the Enquirer published last month.
The Enquirer reported that it spent four months on what it called the “largest investigation” in its history, following Bezos and Lauren Sanchez “across five states and 40,000 miles . . . in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, [and] five-star hotel hideaways.”
Last July, Dylan Howard, American Media’s chief content officer, saw a photo of Lauren Sanchez standing next to Bezos on the VIP viewing platform for a rocket launch by Bezos’s space exploration company, Blue Origin, and decided to look into a relationship between Bezos and Sanchez, according to a person who spoke to Howard at the time.
Howard declined to comment to The Post. Howard’s byline appears with that of other Enquirer reporters atop the paper’s articles about the Bezos affair.
The salacious report came as prosecutors have examined the Enquirer’s role in helping Trump. In September, federal prosecutors reached an agreement with American Media in which the company, chief executive David Pecker and Howard, his top deputy, would cooperate with authorities and acknowledge that the Enquirer worked with the Trump campaign to kill stories “about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women.”
According to three people familiar with the tabloid’s discussions, the Enquirer was ready to publish a story on Bezos and Lauren Sanchez in early autumn but held off because Pecker, a longtime associate and supporter of the president, wanted to wait until after the midterm elections and did not want to feed the public impression that he was a tool for Trump. One of those people said the Enquirer published only when it was confident in its reporting.
During the 2016 campaign, Enquirer executives sent pre-publication digital copies of articles and pictures related to Trump to the candidate’s attorney, Michael Cohen, The Post reported last year. Cohen has said part of his job was trying to head off negative reporting about Trump. The Enquirer denied ever sharing such material ahead of publication.
In 2016, American Media bought former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s account about her alleged affair with Trump for $150,000 — not to publish the story but to kill it.
De Becker said his investigation ended up focusing on political motives for the Enquirer report because “I would be blind if I didn’t register the fact that Michael Sanchez is an associate of people like Roger Stone, Carter Page and Scottie Nell Hughes,” a frequent TV surrogate for Trump during the campaign.
“Learning that was a major surprise in our investigation,” de Becker said. “Naturally, that raised questions about whether [Enquirer publisher] David Pecker, the National Enquirer and others intended to do a hit piece on The Washington Post and Jeff Bezos.”
Stone, Page and Hughes denied to The Post that they had any role in exposing Bezos’s affair.
The Post also has a business relationship with de Becker; one of the security consultant’s employees serves as the newspaper’s director of security at its Washington headquarters, according to Kristine Coratti Kelly, The Post’s vice president for communications.
The Post’s relationship with de Becker’s company “allows us to utilize their vast resources and training programs rather than trying to build them in-house,” Kelly said.
Michael Sanchez said he spoke to Stone and Page about his sister’s relationship with Bezos only after the tabloid published its exposé. Early last fall, Michael Sanchez told a political acquaintance that his sister and Bezos were traveling together, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Over the past month, a behind-the-scenes PR battle has raged as each side has sought to push back against critical media accounts and to promote reporting that favors its version of how the Enquirer story came to be.
On Jan. 7, Bezos and Lauren Sanchez received almost identical emails from the Enquirer, Howard and his deputy, James Robertson, American Media’s news director, according to copies of the emails obtained by The Post.
“I write to request an interview with you about your love affair,” the messages read. The Enquirer asked Bezos and Sanchez to respond to dozens of questions.
Michael Sanchez told The Post that, acting as his sister’s representative, he agreed to meet with Howard at American Media’s offices in New York to review the Enquirer’s reporting.
On the morning of Jan. 9, Bezos tweeted an announcement that he and wife MacKenzie Bezos “have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”
The announcement surprised Michael Sanchez and enraged Howard, who felt, according to two people who spoke to him at the time, that Bezos had preempted his scoop.
After the Bezos tweet, the Enquirer, which was not due to publish its next edition until Jan. 16, rushed its report about the affair into print a week early, allowing it to appear on newsstands Jan. 10, according to a person familiar with the Enquirer’s work on the report.
The Enquirer article led quickly to dueling investigations and lawsuit threats.
Documents obtained by The Post show that attorneys for American Media sought to persuade the Daily Beast not to publish its initial report suggesting that Trump’s allies may have been involved in the effort to expose the Bezos affair. According to a draft legal complaint, Enquirer attorneys threatened to sue the Daily Beast if it used any information provided by a former Enquirer executive who had been hired by the website.
The Daily Beast published two articles about the affair last week. Its editor did not respond to a request for comment.
Stone, whose campaign trickery has been the stuff of movies, books and political folklore since Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, had sought to preempt the Beast’s stories. On Jan. 29, the day of his arraignment in the Mueller probe, Stone appeared on Infowars, the conspiracy-minded Internet talk show run by Alex Jones.
“Breaking news here,” Stone said. He claimed, incorrectly, that the Beast would report that “I, working with President Trump and the NSA, hacked the cellphone of Lauren Sanchez, the paramour of Jeff Bezos — or that we hacked Bezos’s cellphone and that we gave the information to the National Enquirer. This is a conspiracy that allegedly involves Michael Sanchez — Lauren Sanchez’s brother, a very hot Hollywood manager, [who] happens to be a friend of mine.”
Meanwhile, de Becker’s attorneys have discouraged tabloids such as the New York Post and the Sun in London from reporting Michael Sanchez’s assertion that the leak to the Enquirer resulted from de Becker’s failure to protect Bezos’s privacy, according to documents obtained by The Post. An attorney for de Becker also threatened legal action against American Media over the same issue, the documents show.
The complex web of purported explanations for the Enquirer’s focus on Bezos’s love life was, Stone asserted, an example of “the insanity of the left.”
As Stone tells it, he got involved with the Bezos story only last month, just days before his arrest, when he got a phone call from the West Coast.
On the line was John Phillips, a talk-show host at KABC radio in Los Angeles. Phillips had interviewed Stone numerous times, and they had become friends, getting together periodically for dinners, Stone said, speaking in detail about the Bezos matter for the first time.
Phillips, who declined to comment for this report, was not calling to arrange a meal but to see whether Stone would talk with his manager and friend, Michael Sanchez. Suspecting that his sister had been under surveillance, he wanted to talk to people he thought of as experts on how that is done, such as Stone and Page, according to Stone.
Michael Sanchez helped Page land a gig speaking in October at Politicon, a nonpartisan political convention, in a discussion titled “Sex, Spies and Videotape: Russian Hysteria in Context.”
Page and Sanchez spoke about business opportunities and developed a friendly relationship, Page said Monday. But Page said he did not learn that his new friend had a sister who was involved with the world’s richest man until the Enquirer report appeared.
When reports began appearing suggesting that Sanchez might be responsible for the leaks, Page said he saw a parallel to his own experience. “I think there are a lot of similar lessons learned,” he said.
Page contended to Sanchez that he became embroiled in the Russia investigation because someone was out to get Trump. Page told Sanchez that something similar might be happening to him.
“Realize that people have agendas,” Page recalled telling Sanchez. “There are bigger fish whose reputations they are trying to fry in the media.”
Meanwhile, the Enquirer report led de Becker and Sanchez to conduct a lengthy text exchange, and de Becker appeared incredulous that Sanchez was consulting with Stone.
“Do you really know Roger Stone?” de Becker asked.
Not long afterward, Sanchez told Stone about de Becker’s theory of what happened. In this telling, de Becker posited that since there was no evidence that Bezos’s or Lauren Sanchez’s phones had been hacked, the information could only have been extracted by the government. Sanchez claimed that de Becker believed Trump had a vendetta against Bezos because of his ownership of The Post and because Bezos is a “big opponent of Donald Trump,” Stone said.
Stone said he thought the scenario Sanchez spelled out was “crazy. Just crazy.” Stone’s theory about the leak to the Enquirer was one that Michael Sanchez also offered — that de Becker hadn’t protected Bezos’s communications, so he needed someone to blame and came up with the notion of a political hit job.
De Becker stood by his theory. “This inquiry has been about crime, not journalism,” he said. “Again and again, political motives became evident.”
For his part, Stone said he was not surprised to become embroiled in the Bezos story.
“At the moment, I’m a very convenient punching bag — for obvious reasons,” Stone said Friday, hours after he was in federal court for a hearing on the charges against him, of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics ... 2db258be19
Saudi crown prince wanted to go after Jamal Khashoggi 'with a bullet' – report
US media report quotes intelligence sources who intercepted a conversation between Mohammed bin Salman and an aide in 2017
Julian Borger in Washington
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ ... ed-nations