National Enquirer defends its actions

Jermaine Castillo
February 9, 2019

American Media Inc (AMI), the National Enquirer's parent company, also says it believes it acted lawfully in its reporting on the world's richest man.

Last month Trump took aim at Bezos - referring to him as "Bozo" - in what appeared to be an allusion to National Enquirer reporting of the billionaire's relationship with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez.

"In light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims". The company then intentionally suppressed the story until after the election.

Federal prosecutors considered the payment an illegal corporate contribution.

The agreement requires AMI commit no crimes for three years.

It promised in the agreement not to break any laws.

Bloomberg News said Manhattan prosecutors had already been given information about the company's exchanges regarding Bezos. They were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

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But Levenson said it was too hard to tell if the case amounted to blackmail or extortion without additional context and some prosecutors may be reluctant to charge someone for threatening another with embarrassing material.

Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn lawyer representing revenge-porn and sex-crime victims, said Bezos' account laid out a clear case of criminal coercion.

"My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me".

The Enquirer has "weaponized journalism and made it into this bartering, brokering thing where it's like, 'If I can blackmail you with the threat - I'll expose this unless you've got something better, '" Goldberg said.

Amateur sleuths not on Bezos' security team belive that Trump using the national security apparatus to spy on someone he considers to be his nemesis is entirely consistent with Trump's behavior.

Former New York federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers said prosecutors are probably weighing the pros and cons of keeping the cooperation agreement in place. Also, thanks a lot, Howard, for making us inadvertently picture Bezos in the nude (*shudder*). His post, entitled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker", included copies of emails from AMI.

Trump has often railed against Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, on Twitter. He says the Enquirer chief threatened to publish revealing personal photos of Bezos unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.

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In an interview with the Daily Beast, De Becker said that "strong leads point to political motives" and that he was interested in Lauren Sanchez's brother Michael, a vocal supporter of Trump with links to his inner circle, as a possible perpetrator.

Representatives for Chatham, Cooperman, AMI and the White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. De Becker proceeded to tell media that the leak was politically motivated.

Mr Bezos noted in his blog post how the publisher had confessed to a "catch and kill" deal to bury Karen McDougal's politically embarrassing story.

In his Medium post, Bezos wrote: "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've made a decision to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten".

"When I see allegations like that, the first question I have is, did they reach out to the DOJ, did they ask for an investigation from any US government entity before they made their public claims", Eddington added.

Balsamo and Miller reported from Washington.

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