Federal prosecutors are investigating whether the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, broke a cooperation deal with them when it allegedly attempted to blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with embarrassing photos, Bloomberg News and the Associated Press reported Friday.
If AMI did extort Bezos, that means it broke the law — which would put it in breach of a previous “non prosecution” agreement with U.S. prosecutors, Bloomberg News reported. Under the agreement, AMI executives, including CEO David Pecker, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York as they investigated an alleged hush money payment made to a woman who said she had a sexual affair with President Donald Trump. The agreement also requires that they “commit no crimes whatsoever.”
In a shocking blog post published Thursday, Bezos alleged that lawyers for the company tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish some of his private pictures. AMI responded Friday, denying any wrongdoing and vowing to investigate Bezos’ accusations.
The spat between the infamous tabloid and Amazon CEO and owner of the Washington Post reportedly began when Bezos, through a private firm, started investigating AMI after the Enquirer published private messages he’d exchanged with his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. Pecker went ballistic over this, according to Bezos.
“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,” Bezos wrote in the Medium post, which also transcribed email exchanges in which lawyers for the company allegedly threatened him.
Pecker, a longtime Trump confidant, has previously admitted that the National Enquirer worked with the Trump campaign to buy and cover up former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story by not publishing it. AMI signed an immunity agreement with prosecutors in September to fully cooperate with federal investigators’ probe of the alleged hush payment.
The investigation played a part in landing Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, a three-year prison sentence, which he'll begin serving next month.
Cover: This July 12, 2017, file photo shows the cover of an issue of the National Enquirer featuring President Donald Trump at a store in New York. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had a 10-month affair with President Donald Trump, settled her lawsuit Wednesday, April 18, 2018, with a supermarket tabloid over an agreement that prohibited her from discussing the relationship publicly. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)