Last night, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, dropped a bombshell editorial piece on Medium detailing an extortion/blackmail scheme by American Media International (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, over additional salacious photos of Bezos and his mistress Lauren Sanchez.
Read the full letter here.
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.
AMI has an agreement with the federal lawyers in the Southern District of New York. The federal lawyers agreed not to prosecute AMI in the campaign finance violation case related to Trump and Michael Cohen as a reward for AMI cooperating, Rachel Maddow explains in the video below.
Part of AMI’s agreement with federal prosecutors is that it would “truthfully and completely disclose all information with respect to the activities of itself and its officers shall fully cooperate with this Office.”
AMI is also supposed to “provide to this Office upon request, any document, record, or other tangible evidence relating to matters about which this Office or any designated law enforcement agency inquires of it” and “shall commit no crimes whatsoever.”
Should AMI break the agreement, the company would “be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this Office has knowledge.”
Rachel Maddow, as she does, connected all the dots in the AMI-Bezos-Trump-Saudi affair.
Said Maddow: “The bottom line here is Jeff Bezos, the richest man on the earth, the guy who owns the Washington Post, he has just blown this up by publishing what he says is this extortionate, threatening, blackmailing, panic button stuff from the National Enquirer and AMI.
She added: “AMI declined to comment tonight, but there are questions here. Why is AMI freaking out like this? Why are they going nuclear against Jeff Bezos now? They’ve already exposed his affair, they’ve already set his divorce in motion, they’ve already caused him pain and embarrassment, the president has already danced on his divorce, right?”
Specifically they appear to be quite panicked about him turning up any evidence or credible allegation that they may have acted once again with political intentions,” Maddow explained. “And we know, because we follow the news, that when AMI panics like that, about that, we know they’re doing so in the context of their still-active non-prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York (still valid until at least the fall of 2021).”
Maddow went on: “It sounds like all the prosecutions may not be over when it comes to those campaign finance felonies that AMI is implicated in, that they have been fulsomely open with prosecutors about already, under the protective umbrella of a non-prosecution agreement. They are currently benefiting from this non-prosecution agreement……as long as they are still holding to it.”
“So the wheels do appear to be coming off here a little bit.”
CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin agreed: “When you cooperate with the Southern District of New York, they have a blanket rule that you cooperate about everything. You answer any question they have. The condition of that agreement is always — you don’t commit any other crimes or the deal is off. So what they have to be concerned about is the prosecutor saying, ‘you’ve now committed blackmail, you’ve now committed extortion, we’re going tear up that agreement and prosecute you the same way we prosecuted Michael Cohen for an illegal campaign contribution. I don’t know if they’re going to do that, but it’s possible.”