The source who provided the National Enquirer with personal text messages Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had exchanged with his mistress, news anchor Lauren Sanchez, was Sanchez’s brother, Michael, the Daily Beast reported on Sunday night. Sanchez — a Trump supporter who is friendly with Trumpworld “dirty trickster” Roger Stone and another Russia investigation target, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — has denied that he had anything to do with the scandal, but “multiple sources” within American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s embattled parent company, have told the Beast that he was indeed the one who provided the messages which formed the basis for the Enquirer’s January exposé.
The apparent confirmation came less than three days after Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, publicly accused AMI of trying to blackmail him in a Medium post. On Thursday night, the Amazon founder shared emails from AMI officials in which they threatened to publish several racy photographs Bezos and Ms. Sanchez had texted each other if he did not call off his investigation into why AMI had targeted him and how it had obtained his text messages.
It is not clear how Mr. Sanchez obtained the texts or why he would have been willing to violate his sister’s privacy in such a way, but the Beast reports that the act appears to have been politically motivated:
Documents reviewed by the Daily Beast show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued its story about Bezos with “President Trump’s knowledge and appreciation” — a chase encouraged, in Sanchez’s estimation, by Republican operatives “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a [Washington Post] meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”
Bezos has been a frequent target for President Trump, who regularly blames the billionaire for the Post’s critical coverage of him and his administration. Trump has had a decades-long friendship and alliance with AMI CEO David Pecker, who has admitted to using the Enquirer to buy and bury damaging stories about Trump.
The president gleefully celebrated Bezos’s embarrassment after the Enquirer story was published last month.
Working with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign, Pecker and AMI helped to “catch and kill” Playboy model Karen McDougal’s allegation that she had had an affair with Trump, and helped set up Cohen’s pay-off of porn star Stephanie Clifford, who had made a similar allegation. Last year, Pecker, Howard, and AMI were granted immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for admitting that they had worked in concert with the Trump campaign, and testifying about the deals, which violated campaign finance laws.
Security consultant Gavin de Becker, who led the Bezos–funded investigation into the source of the texts, told the Beast that his team had finished their investigation and forwarded their conclusions to law enforcement officials, but he did not reveal what those conclusions had been. The Beast had previously reported that de Becker had interviewed Mr. Sanchez, and that the Bezos team considered him to be the most likely culprit.
On Thursday, Bezos shared emails from AMI’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, and a company attorney, in which they described the images of Bezos and Ms. Sanchez that they had — including “d*ck pics” — and indicated that the Enquirer would publish the intimate images if Bezos did not call off de Becker’s investigation as well as the one being conducted by the Post. It’s hardly a secret that AMI and the Enquirer employ such tactics, but it’s far from clear why anyone thought they would have leverage over the richest man in the world.
According to the emails, the company was specifically focused on silencing suggestions that exposing Bezos’s affair “was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.” Bezos said that his investigators were examining the possibility that Saudi Arabia has been involved in the Enquirer exposé, and that this inquiry appeared to have hit a “particularly sensitive nerve” at AMI.
David Pecker has reportedly sought to do business in Saudi Arabia in recent years, and has leveraged his relationship with the president to raise his profile with Trump’s wealthy allies in the Middle East. AMI even published a glossy magazine celebrating Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ahead of the prince’s visit to the U.S. last year.
The Saudi regime, meanwhile, is not only a major ally of President Trump’s, but has also been defending itself against the Post’s aggressive reporting about the brash and brutal assassination of Saudi dissident and Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the personal direction of the crown prince. The effort to push back against the Post reportedly included an online campaign targeting Bezos and Amazon by Saudi Arabia’s notorious troll army last November. The regime has denied having had any involvement in the Enquirer story, however, which is probably true if Michael Sanchez was the one who gave AMI the Bezos texts.
On Sunday morning, David Pecker’s attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, appeared on ABC’s This Week to defend Pecker and AMI following Bezos’s bombshell blog post. He denied that Saudi Arabia, Trump, the White House, or Roger Stone had been the source of Bezos’s texts, and instead insisted that the company’s source was someone who had worked with the publication for years and was “well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez.” He also claimed that the threat to publish the sexted photographs was not extortion or blackmail, but “journalism” and a “legitimate negotiation.”
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicated on Friday that they were looking into whether or not AMI’s conduct towards Bezos violated its non-prosecution agreement. Their judgement, as well as what role anyone in the Trump camp may have had in pushing Sanchez or the story, will hopefully become clear soon.