As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Jeff Bezos published a piece on Medium outing David Pecker and The National Enquirer for attempting to extort the richest man in the world over dick pics. The Enquirer told Bezos if The Washington Post didn’t stop investigating The National Enquirer that they’d publish a bunch of intimate and embarrassing photos. Jeff Bezos said, “Be my guest,” and published emails The Enquirer and its attorneys sent trying to extort Bezos.
This is textbook extortion, and very illegal. Recall that Joe Halderman went to prison for a very similar extortion attempt back in 2009 when he threatened to reveal that David Letterman was having an affair with an assistant if Letterman didn’t give him $2 million. Letterman called his bluff.
What’s interesting here, however, is that David Pecker and AMI are already in a prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York over its payments to Karen McDougal for that piece they bought and buried to keep a Trump affair secret. That means that the immunity that Pecker and AMI had for revealing any of their own criminal activities as a part of that investigation is now gone, and those charges could be added upon these extortion charges, which means that David Pecker could be going to prison for a very long time. I would imagine it also puts the future of The National Enquirer in doubt, as well. Oh, and by the way: The Enquirer online is hosted on Amazon’s servers. Jeff Bezos is a much stronger man than I because I’d have already killed The National Enquirer. “Oops! The server got seized by Homeland Security. So sorry!”
If you think that this extortion attempt is limited to Jeff Bezos, however, you were probably dumb enough to vote for Donald Trump as the President of the United States. Ronan Farrow and The Daily Beast have already revealed that The Enquirer attempted to extort them, and AMI (the parent company of The Enquirer) also sought to dig up dirt on Associated Press reporters over their reporting. And those are just the reporters willing to admit that the Enquirer attempted to extort them.
I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar “stop digging or we’ll ruin you” blackmail efforts from AMI. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.) https://t.co/kHQdWIkVjV— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) February 8, 2019
The Enquirer went after Farrow, by the way, for — among other things — publishing a story about how The National Enquirer also bought and buried a story about a doorman for Trump who knew that Trump had secretly fathered a child.
How David Pecker came into the intimate photos of Jeff Bezos is still unclear. There’s speculation that it came from the brother of Bezos’ mistress, David Sanchez, who is close to David Pecker and other Trump loyalists like Roger Stone (Jesus, it is a small world when you’re a billionaire). It’s possible, however, that the White House helped AMI retrieve those photos — Trump has a history with Amazon and Bezos, and obviously, Trump has been involved in these catch and kill stories in the past. If it turns out that this extortion attempt was a politically motivated hit job by the President of the United States … well, 2019 is going to get a lot more interesting.
It’s worth remembering, too, that this is precisely why Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump campaign and its involvement with Putin and Russia in the first place because if it turns out that Putin has leverage over Trump, it could easily explain a lot of Trump’s foreign diplomacy decisions. What kind of leverage could AMI have on Trump? What could AMI have on a number of Republicans (or even Democrats). Why did Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham turn from enemies of Donald Trump into loyalists almost overnight? Does this extortion attempt get prosecutors into The National Enquirer’s “safe”? How many stories are they going to find?
As an aside: This is not unlike the Bryan Singer situation — he’s still a working director, potentially because of information he has on other Hollywood figures.
It’ll be interesting to see, over the following days, who comes out and tries to defend The Enquirer or help them cover this up. And wouldn’t it be richly ironic if Trump’s feud with Jeff Bezos is the thing that ultimately brings him down?
The Saudi Arabia angle in the Jeff Bezos/David Pecker/National Enquirer story is very intriguing, and it seems highly likely that there's a whole lot more information about this, almost certainly involving the White House, that we don't yet know.— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) February 8, 2019
AMI, David Pecker and the National Enquirer are in some really, really deep shit.— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) February 8, 2019
To go this far they have to be covering up something massive.
And now Jeff Bezos has blown them out of the water.
Are Donald Trump and the murderous Saudi Prince bin Salman co-conspirators with David Pecker and AMI in a failed criminal plot to blackmail and extort Jeff Bezos as owner of the Washington Post? Asking for a friend in the Southern District of New York.— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) February 8, 2019
Jeff Bezos goes full on Keyser Söze on AMI. Good for him! Now it’s time for law enforcement to finish the job. https://t.co/8Abd4va7g7— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 7, 2019
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