Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused the publisher of the tabloid National Enquirer, who has been described as a close friend of President Donald Trump, of trying to blackmail him over lurid photos.
Bezos, the world’s richest person, owns The Washington Post, a frequent target of Trump as he assails the US media as “enemy of the people” and a source of fake news.
The Post was also one of the leading news outlets in coverage of the murder last year of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist.
Trump has refused to criticize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been widely accused of ordering the murder.
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.
“So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post,” he tweeted.
“Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”
The National Enquirer accessed private text messages and last month reported that Bezos had an extramarital affair with Sanchez — a leak that led to his divorce.
On Thursday, Bezos said the tabloid’s parent company had threatened to publish intimate photographs he sent to his mistress.
In a post on the online platform Medium, Bezos said Enquirer publisher American Media Inc (AMI), led by David Pecker, a friend of Trump, had threatened to publish the photos if he did not halt an investigation into the motives behind the leak.
The Enquirer had demanded that he and security consultant Gavin de Becker, who is leading the probe, publically state they had “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces”, Bezos added.
De Becker mentioned in a recent Daily Beast interview 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.
In his Medium post, Bezos pointed to AMI and Pecker’s previous cooperation with Trump — including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors. One involves a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.
The hush-money payment, and a similar one to another woman, was made on the eve of Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.
Trump is suspected of campaign finance violations because of the disbursements on grounds they were made to affect the outcome of the vote and should therefore have been reported to government campaign monitors.
In a deal announced with federal prosecutors late last year, AMI said it would cooperate with those prosecutors. It admitted that before the election it had paid $150,000 to the ex-model, Karen McDougal, to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. Prosecutors said they would not charge AMI.
Bezos, his newspaper and Amazon are all regular targets of Trump on Twitter.
Bezos, in his post, also raised what he called AMI’s links to Saudi Arabia.
“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote in the blog post.
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”
He added: “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,” Bezos wrote. His post, entitled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker”, included copies of emails from AMI.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practise of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” he added.
Border Patrol blocking Americans from donating toothbrushes and diapers for detained children
On Sunday, Austin Savage and five of his friends huddled into an SUV and went to an El Paso Target, loading up on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys.
About $340 later, the group headed to a Border Patrol facility holding migrant children in nearby Clint with the goal of donating their goods. Savage said he and his friends had read an article from The New York Times detailing chaos, sickness and filth in the overcrowded facility, and they wanted to help.
But when they arrived, they found that the lobby was closed. The few Border Patrol agents — Savage said there were between eight and 10 of them — moving in and out of a parking facility ignored them.
Michael Flynn’s legal team is making bizarre moves — signaling he’s still hoping for a Trump pardon
When disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn recently hired a new firebrand lawyer, Sidney Powell, it suggested he could be maneuvering to change his legal strategy.
And on Monday, new signs emerged that his legal team is looking to shake things up. Flynn had another status hearing on Monday before Judge Emmet Sullivan as he awaits sentencing for charges brought by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In the hearing on Monday, Powell, who had been publicly critical of the Russia investigation before joining Flynn’s team, requested a security clearance to review documents in the case. This was a surprising move, because the government said that there was no classified information in the documents it had turned over to the defense.
GOP aide — who was arrested for child pornography — jailed for 5 years
Republican political consultant Carter Ballmann received a five-year prison sentence on Monday.
"A former state legislative aide will spend five years in prison for trying to elicit sex from someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, but was actually an undercover detective," the Columbia Tribune reported. "U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark on Friday sentenced 25-year-old Carter Clinton Ballmann to five years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons on a single count of attempted receipt of child pornography."
At the time of his arrest, Ballmann served as an aide to Rep. Mark Matthiesen, a Republican of Maryland Heights, Missouri.