If Jeff Bezos’ claims against the National Enquirer prove true, it would constitute a violation of the National Enquirer’s deal with prosecutors to avoid prosecution previously, for which its publisher, Trump ally David Pecker, “may end up doing time”, according to a former editor of the National Enquirer, as reported by The Hill. The National Enquirer has long had a reputation for tabloid journalism, but Jerry George, the National Enquirer’s former Los Angeles bureau chief, says the Enquirer’s current activities go beyond that reputation, saying on CNN, “It’s looking less and less like yellow journalism and more like organized crime” and asserting that “there’s a very strong chance that David Pecker may end up doing time”.
The National Enquirer, and publisher David Pecker in particular, were already in trouble with federal prosecutors over the $150,000 they paid Karen McDougal, who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump, in order to ‘catch and kill’ the story, i.e. obtain exclusive rights and then not publish the story, in order to protect then-candidate Trump. In December, as part of a deal to cooperate with federal prosecutors, American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, admitted, according to The Hill, that it made that payment “in concert with” President Trump’s campaign “to stop her (McDougal) from publishing information about an alleged affair with the then-candidate.” But that deal also stipulated that AMI must not commit any crimes for three years, or it could be subject to prosecution for any federal crime, including the original violation of campaign finance laws related to McDougal’s story. According to The Hill:
“There’s a very strong chance that David Pecker may end up doing time,” Jerry George, the Enquirer’s former Los Angeles bureau chief, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “It’s looking less and less like yellow journalism and more like organized crime,” he added. American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, is facing new legal questions after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused it of extortion and blackmail this week…Last year, AMI agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York after it admitted to paying former playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 “in concert with” President Trump‘s campaign “to stop her from publishing information about an alleged affair with the then-candidate.” Pecker, who is chairman and CEO of AMI, is a longtime friend of Trump’s. That cooperation deal could be in jeopardy if AMI is found to have committed a crime, because it stated that AMI “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years or it would be “subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.”
Now Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos alleges that AMI has committed extortion and blackmail by threatening him with publishing nude photos related to an alleged affair unless Bezos, partly through the Washington Post, stops investigating how the National Enquirer acquired text messages related to the affair, stops suggesting a political motivation in the Enquirer’s actions, and stops investigating Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The political angle of Pecker possibly using the National Enquirer to protect President Trump, and Saudi Arabia, which also appears to be unusually protected by Trump, is particularly troubling, as is the National Enquirer going after Bezos, whom Trump has cast as his enemy. According to USA Today:
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published an explosive letter Thursday accusing National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc. of extortion and blackmail. In the letter, Bezos accuses the Enquirer and AMI of a plot to publish racy images of Bezos and love interest Lauren Sanchez in exchange for statements saying their investigation into the duo’s relationship was not politically motivated. “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,” wrote Bezos in a blog post published on Medium…Bezos references the Post’s coverage of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed inside a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last year. Although Trump has condemned the murder, he remains close to the Saudi family and has questioned claims from intelligence implicating the Saudis in his murder…According to Bezos, a representative from AMI said Pecker was “apoplectic” about the investigation into the Enquirer story. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” said Bezos.
Federal prosecutors are now investigating Bezos’ accusations against AMI to see if they constitute one or more crimes. If so, that could also void the agreement AMI and Pecker have with federal prosecutors under which AMI and Pecker avoided prosecution over campaign finance violations related to quashing McDougal’s story in order to help Trump’s campaign. Mind you, voiding the deal doesn’t cancel out that AMI admitted to working “in concert with” (The Hill) Trump’s campaign to help Trump by quashing the story.