Jeff Bezos accusing National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion

Jeff Bezos, founder and major shareholder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, has accused ‘the top people’ at the National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion in trying to stop further investigations by the Washington, and to get Bezos to issue a statement saying they have no knowledge of AMI coverage being politically motivated or ‘influenced by political forces’.

AMI owner David Pecker has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump. In December AMI was entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice over to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. If they have acted illegally with the alleged threats that could affect that immunity deal.

Yesterday Bezos posted 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.

…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

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.

Email sent Howard, Dylan (Chief Content Officer, AMI) to Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker) includes:

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.

The photos are described.

It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.

Bezos:

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.

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 an email on Wednesday from Fine, Jon (Deputy General Counsel, AMI) to Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)

Here are our proposed terms:

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”).

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.

Whether that constitutes blackmail and/or extortion, or whether it will warrant legal action or investigation, will no doubt unfold.

AMI has issued a statement in response:

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, 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. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”

Pecker is one of four AMI board members.

CNBC: National Enquirer publisher believes it ‘acted lawfully’ on Bezos story, vows to investigate matter

AMI’s assertion that it violated no laws in its reporting matters beyond the Bezos affair. In December, the tabloid publisher struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in connection with the $150,000 hush-money payment the supermarket tabloid gave to a Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump.

That agreement requires that AMI “shall commit no crimes whatsoever.” If it turns out that Bezos’ blackmail allegations are confirmed, AMI could lose its immunity.

Brett Kappel, a lawyer specializing in political finance and ethics at Akerman LLP, said AMI’s immunity deal could be at risk.

“AMI is looking at the very real possibility that it may be found to have breached the nonprosecution agreement and could be prosecuted both for the crimes that were the subject of the nonprosecution agreement and any subsequent crimes,” Kappel told CNBC.

“In addition, the lawyers involved will almost certainly face disciplinary proceedings by the New York State Bar and could be disbarred,” Kappel added.

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein told CNBC that Bezos’ accusation “certainly sounds like extortion or blackmail.” But he cautioned that “sounding like something and actually filing charges are two different things. AMI will undoubtedly argue that their statements were simply litigation negotiation strategy.”

This raises the tensions between media and politics in the US. There is big money and big power in both politics and the media there. The whole kaboodle looks dysfunctional and a corruption of power.

Whether this latest move from Bezos lifts a scab or just adds more puss is yet to be seen.

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54 Comments

  1. Bill Brown

     /  9th February 2019

    Enquirer

    Reply
  2. Patzcuaro

     /  9th February 2019

    And I thought it was just the young generation that was sexting.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  9th February 2019

      His ardour must have got the better of his common sense, Mrs Bezos must be having a quiet chuckle. His kids however will be mortified, parents aren’t supposed to have sex.

      Reply
  3. Gerrit

     /  9th February 2019

    None of these things would have happened if Bezos had just kept his trousers on before he ditched his wife for his friend Patrick Whitesell wife.

    https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/pictures/jeff-bezos-divorce-and-cheating-scandal-everything-we-know/wedding-ring/.

    Mind you he will still have 75 Billion dollars after the divorce settlement so he wont be penniless.

    Reply
  4. David

     /  9th February 2019

    What is up with well known people photographing their bits and pieces and texting them, how many of them have been caught now. Bezos who literally has a company that collects vast amounts of private info on people not just through Amazon but other entities you would think would be more sensible. He makes Alexa for goodness sake, keep your pants on man.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  9th February 2019

      he could always say thats photo shopped …thats not my…’hickory’!

      Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  9th February 2019

    If this can be prosecuted as extortion how can any negotiation over trade-offs not be? There have to be some legal boundaries put around this.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  9th February 2019

      They want money, otherwise they will cause harm by releasing photos.
      Wheres the ‘legal part ‘ to negotiations over amounts of money.
      Its really blackmail, and yes people do negotiate with blackmailers but doesnt mean its right.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th February 2019

        In any negotiation what benefits one party may harm the other – financially or by embarrassment. If the definition of news is information someone doesn’t want made public then all news harms someone.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  9th February 2019

          Think about about .
          They are demanding money or we publish. News doesnt work that way. Normally its checkpoint journalism means they give money to the person for exclusive
          I suppose if they dont explicitly ask for money but you offer money for the story to die, that could work. But that do could cause trouble unless they are very careful

          The example with Trumps mistresses, where he paid them off not to tell their storys. You have to be very very careful you didnt ask for money or you would publish, thats extortion.
          The way to go around that would be to contact Trump and say we are doing a such and such story , do you want to comment . That would alert him to the need to ‘do a deal’ Since its at the US tabloid end of the media, he arranged for a friendly paper to pay for the rights and lock the story away. I dont know how he could get a non disclosure agreement out of it.

          Reply
      • Joe Bloggs

         /  9th February 2019

        Duker, they don’t want money. Amongst other things AMI wants the WaPo to lay off its investigation of Annan Kashoggi’s murder at the hands of the Saudis.

        Why? Because AMI went from being stony broke to a whirlwind of buy-outs in 2017, funded in part by Saudi money. Now there are concerns that the WaPo focus on Khashoggi will uncover other shady Saudi deals.

        There are also suggestions that illegal surveillance methods have been used against Bezos and Pecker is “apoplectic” at the possibility those methods will be revealed by Bezos’s investigation.

        If any of that is proven then the attempt at extortion is a mere side-show…

        Is AMI’s action slimy? Yes. Is it consistent with some of the questionable practices that AMI engaged in on behalf of trump and others? Yes. But is this the sort of case federal prosecutors would charge as extortion? Unlikely.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  9th February 2019

          Want ‘something’ in return , still blackmail
          “They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”

          They are wanting ‘to harm his business”

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  9th February 2019

            According to one legal commentator extortion is obtaining something of value through fear. However the newspaper already had something of value – the pictures which it could publish as an exclusive gaining readership and publicity. It is trading that value for something else it values which is the essence of all trades and negotiations.

            Reply
            • Joe Bloggs

               /  9th February 2019

              There is “something of value” that AMI doesn’t have – the much more valuable cover-up of the political motivations behind the various attacks on Bezos.

              Readership and publicity are squirrel-fodder when the Saudis are secretly funding AMI’s expansion or when there are indications that a US government entity secretly surveilled Bezos and turned the texts over to the National Enquirer.

              I always found it odd that trump bully-tweets everyone in Mueller’s Investigation (Cohen, Gates, Manafort, etc), yet even though Pecker & AMI signed immunity deals, trump has never badmouthed them. He even praised the Enquirer in his 13 January tweet predicting Bezos’s downfall.

              Individual 1 is going to have a rough few days … but not as rough as Kushner, the bag-man between Mohammed bin Salman, trump, and AMI

            • Duker

               /  9th February 2019

              The newspaper had pictures – they had 2 choices publish or not.
              There was no legal 3rd choice , use the fear of publication to get something else of value to the paper.
              Im sure your business life has involved a lot of what technically is extortion, and maybe against you as well. Doesnt make it legal.

              eg this US example :

              Q: We discovered a bookkeeper of ours was embezzling money. We fired her and sent a letter indicating that if she didn’t pay us back in full, we would have no choice but to report her crimes to the police. A lawyer wrote back indicating he represents her and may now sue us for extortion. We can prove what she did, so isn’t the lawyer bluffing?

              A.S., Wilmington

              A: It’s unclear whether the lawyer is bluffing, but I would not be thrilled with making a claim against you on behalf of the former employee. However, there is case law that says even if a person committed a crime, the threat to report it may be extortion when accompanied by a demand for money.

              A proper letter to your former employee could set forth what wrongful behavior has been discovered, and why there was substantial cause for her firing. But it would be ill-advised to indicate that unless she pays you back, you will report her to law enforcement. A demand letter for payment can include an indication that legal action may go forward absent resolution of the debt, but should be worded to avoid risk of overreaching.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  9th February 2019

      Of course the ultimate extortionist is the Government, especially via its tax operations.

      Reply
  6. bjoneskiwi

     /  9th February 2019

    The adage – ‘Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel’ springs to mind, but in this case I think its Bezos who manufactures the ink, paper and barrel!

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  9th February 2019

      hes a store keeper, oh and runs PCs by the million to keep track of it.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th February 2019

        Owns WaPo. Both parties have barrels of ink and truckloads of paper.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  9th February 2019

          he says he doesnt direct the newspaper on how to cover the news. hes no murdoch and anyway WaPo editors wouldnt oblige. The people who own the NY Times are in a better position as they run the company, and they directed the NY times to take a ‘tough love’ position , as they called it, on the Hilary Clinton presidential candidacy. Just the other day Sulzberger arranged an oval office meeting with Trump and he bought along 2 reporters.
          Bezos has nothing like that day to day control

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  9th February 2019

            Doesn’t really matter so long as you have employed people with your political ideology.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  9th February 2019

              It was the other way round. he bought WP because of its political ideology and or political influence.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th February 2019

              Same thing. You can hire people directly or buy the company that they work.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th February 2019

              work for.

            • Duker

               /  9th February 2019

              We dont know that. Compared to the Sulzbergers control and influence at NY Times hes a hands off owner.
              When that changes and hes replaces current Publisher ( a former CoS for Ronald Reagan) with ‘his own man who isnt a republican’ , Ill let you know
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Ryan

              Things Bezos has changed?
              ‘In January 2016, Bezos set out to reinvent the newspaper as a media and technology company by reconstructing its digital media, mobile platforms, and analytics software
              NZ Herald uses its ‘platform’ for its online ‘conversations’

          • Blazer

             /  9th February 2019

            My understanding is that Mexican oligarch/billionaire Carlos Slim pulls the strings at the NYT.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  9th February 2019

              Thats not so , yes he did buy shares but since sold some/all?

              “The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded and is controlled by the Sulzberger family through a dual-class share structure”
              What that means is that shares are issued which no no votes or much reduced voting power- all they get is dividends and cant vote on board members
              “The Ochs-Sulzberger family, through several trusts, controls about 91 percent of the stock that elects 70 percent of the company’s board members.”
              They arent just passive owners like Bezos is , many family members have senior jobs in the Company.
              The Publisher is the term used for the Chief Executive of a newspaper in US.

              Ford Family has a similar situation at Ford Motor. , but their level of ‘control’ is just below 50%- which still is enough to have the biggest say.

            • Duker

               /  9th February 2019

              Facebook is another business with 2 classes of stock, with one class having a bigger share of control , and owned by Zuckerberg

              and Amazon?
              ‘How can Jeff Bezos be in control of Amazon when he only owns 17% of it?
              But Amazon doesnt have different stock classes, and Bezos shares have same say as any on elses. But of course non one wants him to leave Amazon anytime soon.
              Thats where the big mistake comes from saying Bezos ‘owns Amazon’ . he doesnt.

  7. Blazer

     /  9th February 2019

    drive a bus through this…

    ‘3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).

    delicious to see a wrassle that involves 2 mainstays of Capitalism American style.

    Maybe they both can lose.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  9th February 2019

      Its a crime . Bezos isnt going to lose. The Feds will lock up the blackmailers, being the US could be 5 years , and no parole in the Fed pen.

      Reply
  8. duperez

     /  9th February 2019

    It’s all so Trumpish. And a dick being involved is only part of that.

    Reply
  9. Pink David

     /  9th February 2019

    Doesn’t it seem very quaint and old-fashioned for a newspaper to still think that someone in this age would care about preventing them showing his ‘pecker’?

    Retired muck-rakers must have shed a tear of nostalgia for the 1950’s.

    Reply
  10. Patzcuaro

     /  9th February 2019

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  9th February 2019

      his cheese and kisses has a terrible jawline…looks like a trannie.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  9th February 2019

        Can you post a photo of who you are currently banging so we can make a suitable judgement on his or her jawline and conformance with gender norms.

        Reply
      • Joe Bloggs

         /  9th February 2019

        that’s appalling, Blazer – fuck toxic masculinity.

        And an uptick to Pinky for calling you out.

        Reply
  11. Joe Bloggs

     /  9th February 2019

    I’ma just going to leave this here. Might as well enjoy this shit-show:

    2 Tbsp butter
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 Tbsp sriracha
    cayenne or hot paprika or smoked paprika
    fine salt

    Heat butter, olive oil, and sriracha together until butter has melted; stir until evenly blended.

    Pour over freshly popped popcorn to taste. Sprinkle with pepper to increase heat as desired along with fine salt.

    Enjoy with an icy cold beer.

    Reply
  12. Joe Bloggs

     /  9th February 2019

    off a thread from @dcpoll:

    the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.

    // AMI sources say that in return for the catch & kill operation, Trump introduced Pecker to funding sources: Prince MBS.

    //Israeli spyware Pegasus [for whom Flynn was a paid advisor], acquired by MBS for $55M in 2018, allows customers to secretly listen to calls on victim’s phone, see texts & photos, and use phone’s mic & camera as surveillance devices

    //the Israeli company that developed Pegasus sold it to foreign governments specifically to spy on journalists. According to the @IgnatiusPost piece, that’s exactly what MBS used to spy on Khashoggi

    Reply
  13. Bezos wrote that “numerous people” have contacted his investigative team about “similar experiences” with the National Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc.

    A person familiar with the National Enquirer’s operation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNN Business that there were indeed similar situations between the National Enquirer and other individuals.

    Ronan Farrow, the New Yorker’s Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has reported on the National Enquirer, said in a tweet Thursday night that AMI attempted to blackmail him.

    “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,” Farrow tweeted.

    Farrow said that he “did not engage” because he does not “cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.” CNN Business has reached out to AMI for comment regarding Farrow’s claim.
    Farrow isn’t the only one who has spoken out.

    In June 2017, MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski accused President Donald Trump of threatening them with a hit piece in the National Enquirer in order to gain more favorable coverage on him on their show “Morning Joe.”

    Trump denied the allegation from Scarborough and Brzezinski at the time, calling it “FAKE NEWS.”

    Reply
  14. Federal prosecutors are reviewing Mr. Bezos’ claim that he has been extorted, according to two people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. And those prosecutors have planned a meeting with Mr. Bezos’ representatives, one of those people said.

    If American Media is found to have broken a law — any law — it would be in violation of a deal with federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. The agreement was struck in September after American Media admitted paying hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign to protect Donald J. Trump from allegations of an affair. Under the deal, the company would not be prosecuted for its Trump-related efforts as long as it stayed out of legal trouble for the next three years.

    Reply

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